Category Archives: DYI

Brake Repair

Recently seen an article about popular tools for the DIY and they said a brake bleeder wrench was a good addition to the tool box. I disagree with this, with ABS and traction control being
standard on many vehicles I think that the DIY repair of brakes is a safety factor as well as a cost actor if proper repair procedures are not followed. On many a scan tool has to be used to bleed the brakes and many of the home models do not include this option. Also the many steps that need to be taken to properly do a brake repair is quite long, including flushing the system or at least blocking off the brake hoses. There are also several special tools required on many models and a minor error can result in huge problems.

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EGR Valve problems

Hearing of problems with the Chrysler 6 cylinder EGR valve. My 1986 had EGR problems but it was carbureted and didn’t have a transducer, so the CEL never came on. I did have to clean the EGR several times because of a rough idle. Cleaning the EGR valve is a simple procedure. Remove the vacuum and electrical connector, unbolt the valve. Place the valve upside on a paper towel and fill it with a liquid, carb cleaner works the best. If any fluid leaks you need to clean the valve. I would clean it anyway as you have it removed. Checking for a leak will tell you if you are on the right track. Remove all traces of the gasket. Using a cleaner scrub the valve, I use seafoam deep creep spray cleaner, there are several other good ones but Seafoam seems to work the best. A soft bronze bristles brush is a big help. Be sure to open the ports and clean them as this is where the problem is. While your hands are a mess of carbon and seafoam now is a good time to clean the throttle body. This is also an easy procedure. Remove the air tube and clean the carbon from around the tube where the throttle plate meets the tube. Pay attention to the bottom of the tube as there is a port there for bypass air. A old tooth brush , not the wife’s ,works here the bronze brush is a little rough IF you have a mass air flow sensor installed in the body be very careful when cleaning around it. They are spendy, but usually only found in the body on GM’s. I always include cleaning the throttle body as part of a tune up and on certain models cleaning the EGR valve. All it takes is some time and gaskets and it is good insurance against future problems.

Head Bolt Replacement

This is a recent post on Forums and I thought it was worth posting here as many DIY are doing head gaskets on older vehicles.Some techs think that head bolts on all turbo engine should be replaced I agree with this to an extent. Depending on price, some head bolt sets are spendy, then i would use the old. All stretch to torque should be replaced, check manual if they have one torque then they don’t have to be replaced if they have a torque followed by a series of tightening specs usually in degrees then replace the bolts. There is no spec as to length Sealant should be put on any bolts that enter the cooling system, oil should be used on the remainder, do not over oil so you have oil in the bottom of the threads as this can affect the torque, also all threads should be cleaned and or chased with a bottoming tap. Be sure all coolant is removed from the threads as this can cause a premature failure. On stretch to torque the original torque is often quite low so it doesn’t take much to affect the tightening sequence. You are also going to have to clean the cooling system of the oil residue. Dawn detergent works the best for this and flush and then flush some more and then again and again. I would also change the oil and again at 200 miles, Oil should be changed at 200 miles after any head gasket repair as it is almost impossible to keep a small amount of anti freeze from entering the oil.

AC Servicing

They are selling AC service kits everywhere but in the grocery store. They make it sound so easy and it generally is except when you run into problems. It is impossible to troubleshoot your AC using only one gauge; you need to know the low and high pressure and the difference is the most effective way to find a problem. When you hook up your kit if the gauge reads low it is OK to add Freon until the pressure reaches the normal area. If it does not increase as you add Freon or goes high quickly then I suggest it is time for a pro. You can do serious and expensive damage and may even cause some bodily harm. Safety is key to servicing AC always wear gloves and a facemask, Freon is COLD and will freeze skin on contact and believe me it hurts. The 134 connections are better than the old R12 screw on connections but accidents can happen very quickly. Many times the high and low side are confused but it is simple to tell them apart. The low side is the larger of the 2. Do not hook up to the wrong line.If you do have a problem visit our forums, I can sometimes help by knowing the temps of hoses or if some are frosting up. 9 times out of 10 AC repairs are quite simple and can be performed by a competent DIY

Headlamp Adjustment

With the newer brighter head lights that are on the newer vehicles headlight aiming is becoming a greater problem. If you are having problems seeing at night or oncoming cars are blinking at you I would suggest having it checked. This is something a competent DIY can do. Newer vehicles tend to spread out there light whereas older ones had more of a spotlight in the center which made them easier to align. You will need a level place with a flat wall about 20 feet away. A shopping center is a god place if you don’t have one around the house. I do mine by backing my vehicle into the garage and shining the lights on the door this tends to be a little close but I have done several so I can get pretty close. I always seem to do a little fine tuning even when I do them at a longer distance.Your driver side light should be slightly to the inside and down about a ¼ of the height. The passenger should shine directly to the front with a slight down slant.The first couple of adjustments will need to be played with but after some fiddling you can get fairly accurate. As I said older vehicles are easier because they tend to have more of a spot. This is not that expensive of a repair so if you are not comfortable with playing the adjustment leave it to a professional. Some vehicles the adjustment screws are difficult to get to and here again you may want to have it done, really would not be worth buying special tools for unless you are like me and any excuse to buy a tool is a good excuse. Most body shops perform head lamp alignment.

Increasing DIY Repairs

PEP Boys revenue increased 5% last year and this is only sales from parts through there store and does not include any labor or parts sales from their shops. Many other aftermarket suppliers are showing comparable or higher results. RockAuto has grown by leaps and bounds the last few years. When O”Reilly bought up CSK I thought they were making a huge mistake but in retrospect it was a smart move. I thought dealerships would try to become competitive to increase their absorption, the amount of total expense it costs to operate, thus decreasing the markup needed on vehicles sales . Sadly the opposite has happened. They have tried the overselling route. I have seen estimates of $500 to $700 repairs suggested and even needed to continue the warrant on vehicles with 30 to 40K. Except for some repairs, and there are very few, no service should be required for the first 80 to 100K. I have run vehicles well over 200K with no problems. I seem to have a problem with heater motors but otherwise no serious repairs.One instance was with a 3.8 Buick, my wife was putting on a bunch of in town miles, a valve picked up a chunk of carbon and rather than clean up the valves I replaced the engine. A slight case of overkill but she loved the car and I gained some major points with her. With labor rates running over a hundred dollars an hour in many places it is no wonder more and more DIY are doing their own repairs. The one problem they are having is equipment such as scanners and lab scopes among other special tools required to do the repair. I think this was planned by the manufactures to eliminate any at home repairs. The same as they are trying to keep the independent shops from certain information. The freedom of information act is an important for independent shops to survive. Hiring of qualified techs is also a problem but with perservance this can be resolved.

New Tools

There are 2 new tools on the market which I think are worth a mention.Black and Decker has introduced a ReadyWrench that is a set of sockets on one handle. I think this is a great idea. I carry a small assortment of tools in my vehicle, I don’t know how much use they would be with the cramped engine compartments, but I carry them anyway. Which sockets to include has always been a question. This tool will not replace a socket set but it will do in an emergency. It is rather bulky for some applications but the ability to hold it vertically and spin it like a screwdriver is rather useful. The Gator Grip has been around for awhile but the one recently released by Endeavor Tool Company has a total of 54 rods that do the work and this is a vast improvement as the early models had fewer and larger rods which made it useless. For removing rusted, rounded or odd shaped bolts and nuts this is a great addition to your toolbox. Normally I would not have given this s second look but when it was in with other Craftsman tools at a Sears I Figured it was worth a second look and once again Sears comes across with a winner.

Blown Head Gasket Tips

Blown head gasket are 2 of the most dreaded words a car owner can hear, well next to blown engine, but if you catch it earlier you may cut the cost of repair some. With the advent of 2 different medals used for the head and for the block the different expansion and contracting of the metals cause gasket problems. There really is no maintenance except for coolant service that can prevent head gasket problems. Keep your coolant full and repair any leaks no matter how small ASAP. If you have Dexcool in your system any amount of air in the system can be fatal. A black lite used with a leak detecting additive is useful in finding small leaks. You may not notice antifreeze on your floor as it may burn off a hot engine. Be careful if using pressure not to exceed the pressure of the cap. Indications of a head gasket problem – Loosing coolant with no obvious leaks- A hissing or bubbling in the overflow tank- Oil in the coolant – Coolant in the oil but this may also be a manifold gasket or cooler problem- Bubbling in the radiator or lack of flow- Rubber hoses feeling very hard to the touch and possibly blowing out – No heat If you do have heat your cooling system is probably OK- White smoke out the tailpipe, worse when cold Keeping your cooling system clean and full is the best prevention.

Diagnostics Made Easy

Diagnostics is not as difficult as most techs make out it is. Being on commission tends to have them looking at the most expensive options first. Many times I have repaired a problem with a visual inspection of the item in question. That is why I always say “start with the basics” it can save a lot of headaches. Sure with the computer controlled systems of today there are many times when only an experienced tech can find the problem. But before going that route do a visual inspection, looking for such things as a disconnected wire or hose corrosion or excessive grease or dirt where it would not normally be. Just use some common sense it can go a long way. I cannot stress enough checking the battery, both positive and negative, also where the negative attaches to the body for corrosion. If it accessible check the ground for the item in question they can be hidden and I think the manufacture does this on purpose. I suggest removing the battery terminals and they should be shiny without a hint of corrosion. The same with the ground connections I always clean them no matter how clean they look.It also is a good idea to check for correct voltage as it is critical to the operation of many systems as the required voltage drops some as low as .5 volts. Ford and all magnetic starters require battery voltage to perform correctly be sure to check this at the starter as well as the battery wires and battery cables can have internal corrosion that is hard to see and can cause many problems. Engine will not crankIf you hear a click- Corrosion- Battery voltage and condition- Voltage at the battery and starterNo click- Ignition switch engaging the starter- Neutral safety switchLoud thunk- Locked up engine or stuck starterNo start- Spark (you have to have spark to have fuel pressure)- Fuel, pressure and quantity- Timing, valve and ignitionThis is brief chart

Vortec No Start

The vortex engine is perhaps the best engine GM has with the exception of the 3.8 and in my opinion that can’t be beat. However the Vortec has some problems mainly with the fuel. The pressure and volume has to be right on specs. If you have spark and you have to have spark or at least a tach signal for the PCM to power the fuel pump relay and is improbable but not impossible to have a tach signal and no spark. Check the fuel supply. If you have a Vortec engine that will not start cold at times but always starts hot it is usually a fuel problem and it may be a filter but this should also cause problems at highway speeds. Spray carb cleaner into the throttle body and if it starts it is a fuel problem. I have a refillable spray can that I put fuel in but as most DIY will not have this carb cleaner will work just do not use too much 3 or 4 short squirts should do it. It may not start but if it tries to you know you are on the right track. The other problem the Vortec has is the lines in the fuel distribution system crack or the poppet valves stick this usually causes a no start or extended crank with a hot engine it may also set a rich fuel code. You do have to remove the upper manifold to check this Distribution rail, or octopus, it has come down it price some but it is still expensive. You can pull the plugs and check for excessive fuel in a cylinder and this is an indication of a stuck poppet valve.FYI If you have a jerking problem that feels like a transmission or torque converter problem replace the fuel filter 9 times out of 10 it will solve your problem.If your engine not a Vortec, starts fine cold but has an extended crank time hot check the Fuel regulator.