Category Archives: Tech

Ford Spark Plug Problems

Ford is having some major spark plug problems. The 5.4 before 2004 is the worst but there are several other engines having the same problem. When the heads were machined the spark plug threads were not cut to the bottom of the hole and this causes a plug to blow out. Usually a tap or in worse cases a heli coil will fix the problem. 99% of the time cranking the engine over will blow out the majority of the material left in the cylinder. Be careful the crud comes out with a lot of force. When Ford corrected the problem they used a plug with 2 pieces and a little too long causing carbon to build up on the end and making the plug almost impossible to remove if left in for the 100K recommended replacement. To remove a stuck plug warm up the engine so the head just feels barely warm to the touch. Spray a penetrating oil, I use sea Foam deep creep do not use WD40, to fill the hole and back out the plug a 1/8 of a turn then let it sit for an hour or so. When removing the plug you may have to turn in and out while applying more chemical. If you do break it off there are several tools available to assist in removal. Be sure you use the newest Ford part as a replacement they are of 3 piece construction. Using anti seize is personal preference but be sure to torque them.

Traveling Miss

One of the hardest problems to diagnose is the traveling miss. It’s when a cylinder misfires and seems to move from one cylinder to another almost at will with no obvious reason. The primary and secondary ignition all check OK and the fuel delivery system shows no problems. You may think a vacuum leak is the problem and this is a possibility but rarely is it the problem.2 things can cause a traveling miss and the first is a defective ignition module which is easy to diagnose. Hook a lab scope to the power wire for the module and it should show the same number of spikes as the number of cylinders. If one is missing replace the module after checking the ground. The second is rare but we seem to be seeing it on a regular basis lately and that is AC voltage from the alternator. Here again it is easy to check and you don’t need a lab scope which is becoming rare when diagnosing problems lately. With a voltmeter hooked to the battery and set to the AC range of millivolts you should see no more than 0.4 or 400 millivolts. To further check and a easy quick check is to unplug the alternator and if the problem goes away then check for AC voltage at the battery to confirm your diagnosis.

Burn Time

Burn time seems to be a term that many do not understand. I used it in my Vacuum gauge topic and it has brought up a lot of discussion. It is simply the length of time that the fuel in the cylinder burns as measured by a scope or engine analyzer. The longer the burn the less efficient the cylinder is performing, usually caused by low compression. With today’s cramped engine compartments it helps to narrow down a problem cylinder rather than do a compression test on all cylinders. I think more techs are using a leak down test on problem cylinders as this provides more information than a compression test. If I had my vehicle in a shop and they wanted to do an outdated wet and dry compression test I would consider going elsewhere, sure it works but there are tests that will provide more accurate info. Many shops are at $100 an hour so any time saving tool they use is saving money. I do think that many of these new tools and test equipment that are necessary to work on the modern vehicle is slowly moving the DIY out and forcing them to go to a shop. More on this later.

Techs & Tools

I took some heat for my topic on the Gates belt inspection tool. One of the reasons I do this is to stir the pot and bring forth controversy. As I have said before Techs have a hard time agreeing on anything that has more than one option. One item of discussion that I agree with is that the vacuum gauge is also a tool that is not high tech but is a very useful diagnostic tool. Yes, there is a vacuum transducer that connects to a lab scope to help in locating a miss but to quickly determine engine condition or help diagnosis a no start you can’t beat the ease of use of a vacuum gauge. I also agree that we use a lot of flashy tools that could be performed by a simpler one. One case in mind is the non-contact stat many times we could use a regular stat but we grab the non-contact, because of ease of use and why have it if you are not going to use it. A recent tools magazine showed a techs new tool box and it was over 6 feet high, how do they access those top drawers without a stool, it was at least 15 feet plus long. I would guess he had more invested then my first house cost. But then our tools were worth about the price of a car so with that in mind they are about equal. I do wish I still had a shop so I could justify buying some of the cool new tools. Labor rates exceeding $100 an hour in many places, with the cramped engine compartments and complicated systems in today’s vehicles today’s techs need every tool they can put their hands on to make their job easier.

Gates Belt Tool

Gates came out with a gauge to use in inspecting there new belts, they have a square groove, and can wear without the tell tale signs of a regular belt. I have waited for this tool for some time, I know I need to get a life; it is a little plastic rod with a thumb hole on the end. I was totally disappointed in today’s shops there is a ton of sophisticated very expensive equipment and this is what I am expected to use to check one of the major parts on a vehicle. Next to brakes and steering I feel the belt is an important part of the vehicle. This does not even look like it would be a decent selling tool as I think to buy something customers like to touch or at least see what they are buying. IE Transmission fluid looks dirty, fuel filters are rusty but this little plastic thingy looks like it belongs in the drawer with the obsolete tools that you just can’t bring yourself to throw away. It is designed to be a selling tool but I still think the old visual inspection is still the best way to. I can see it being used if you have a noisy belt and cannot locate a cause and want to eliminate the belt as it will take some time for us to learn the traits of this new belt.Look on the bright side I got something free from gates and it brightened my day.

Checking Injectors

From a latest post it seems some DIY are having problems checking for a bad injector. It is really not that difficult. One tech recommended warming up the engine and removing fuses and draining the pressure from the fuel system. None of this is necessary to check the injectors, if they are accessible it doesn’t hurt to warm up the engine for a few minutes but in most cases by the time you gain access the engine has cooled off. It is necessary to remove the fuel pump fuse and drain the pressure if you are going to replace the injectors or remove the fuel rail.The simplest method is to listen to the injectors with a stethoscope if there is a bad one it usually will have a different sound you can also use a long extension or screwdriver as a stethoscope but this will not work as well and a stethoscope is cheap. This method will find a bad injector but will not rule out the possibility of a defective one as they do not always have a strange sound. You can also ohm the injectors at the connector that feeds all the injectors easy to get to and you can usually determine which bank the bad injector is on thereby possibly eliminating some unnecessary parts removel.Here again will usually locate a defective one but will not eliminate the possibility . The only positive method is to gain access to the injectors and check them individually I won’t go into the readings here as they vary by manufacture but usually the defective one will be way off from the rest. Be careful I have seen many with several defective injectors. If you have access to a lab scope this is an excellent method also cool to watch the injectors fire. A scope with a burn time option can also find a defective one . I know injectors are expensive but think about replacing them all as with plug wires sure as the sun will rise in the AM another will go bad soon after your repair is finished. There are several aftermarket suppliers and remans are an excellent replacement choice.

Techs & Wrenches

We have had some terrible weather lately it either snows or is -20 or worse, highest snowfall for any month in Dec. I think a word of praise to the automotive techs and mechanics is in order. There is a difference between a technician and a mechanic or wrench. I don’t know how the techs of today keep up with the technology; today’s cars have more lines of computer code that the first manned satellite. Many of them have a PCM, ABS and body module and some have HVAC and security, among others. I have been retired for 4 years now but I still get involved in problem cars at several shops around town so I do keep my fingers in but I can see a time when I will no longer be able to do this. You have be involved on a daily basis or it is impossible to keep up. Today’s techs have to have computer knowledge and a thorough understanding of troubleshooting electrical systems. They also have to have training in AC, Power Steering, transmissions, brakes, security and sound systems. As all of these are computer controlled on many vehicles. Most techs will focus on 1 or 2 systems, but what do the smaller shops do. With ground controlled, low voltage and now hybrid. They deserve a pat on the back for the job they do. Add to this a minimum of 10,000 to 15,000 dollars in tools or in many cases more. They are severely under paid for what they do. I know several that have degrees and can make more repairing cars than they could be working in their field but I still think the majority are under paid and underappreciated. A wrench is the back breaking work R&R transmissions, engines repairing leaks or the lesser skilled repairs. They are definitely underappreciated, more so during the cold weather we have had. As far as pay goes it is all over the scale. This is where I started but then there was no such thing as a tech. I remember when the Dodge Charger came out with a lean burn controlled carb and ignition system, About 35 years ago, I was a service Manager in a Dodge dealership and one mechanic threw up his hands and quit saying there was no way he was going to work on it. What would he say today, I know several times I have opened a hood and wanted to say the same thing on some of the newer vehicles.I was lucky to have been involved with computers both in the home and auto version since the beginning and I feel this has helped a lot in my understanding and repairing problems over the years.A big pat on the back to all the techs and wrenches out there and thank you and keep up the good work.

Timing Belt Inspection

I just read a article where it said you should inspect your timing belt every 10,000 miles. Obviously the fellow who wrote this has never inspected a timing belt. The majority are difficult at best to inspect. True a few models have an easy to remove upper cover but this is the exception. I would suggest inspecting the belt every 25,000 miles after the original replacement. Then replace it at 100,000 no matter how good it looks.When inspecting look for hairline cracks along the face of the belt, a few are OK but any more replacement is in order, also check the drive side of the belt for missing teeth, if any are missing, replace before starting the engine you have already lived on bored time. Also check for cracks on the drive side. If the belt feels brittle, hard to twist, or has a dull color or is very shiny replace also. Usually one quick glance you can tell a belt that is due replacement. They just look defective. One more thing to check if for any anti freeze on or around the belt. Belt replacement on some vehicles can be very expensive but it is worse to put it off and have it break, it can cause serious valve train damage which on some vehicles can exceed the worth of the vehicle very easily.I only have one vehicle that has a belt and that is my convertible which I seldom drive and I will replace that belt every 3 or 4 years and I don’t inspect I just replace it. But it is an easy one to replace. Timing belts work great, they are quiet, easy to flex so they can drive several cams plus in some situations the water pump. But they do require replacement

rebuilt, remanufactured, or used parts?”

You’re faced with a major auto repair such as an engine, transmission, or differential replacement. Your service provider asks you, “Do you want rebuilt, remanufactured, or used parts?” Such factors as heat stress and cracks, as well as other factors, cause wear that is invisible to the human eye. The price differences are significant. To make an educated decision, you first need to know how these three solutions to the same problem compare. And secondly, which one is best for your situation?First, let’s identify the differences between these three choices.Rebuilt parts If you choose rebuilt parts, the rebuilder will use your vehicle’s old part and replace just the worn components. If your vehicle’s old part cannot be rebuilt because it is too worn, he/she will use a part from another vehicle (referred to as a ‘core’). If a core is used, than he will replace only what is needed in the core. For example, if an engine is rebuilt, maybe just the bearings and piston rings need replacing (the original crankshaft, pistons, and connecting rods would be used). This approach, in lieu of using new or remanufactured parts, usually saves the customer money. There’s just one glitch. Mechanical wear is relative. Before rebuilding, all of the components within the unit are equally worn. After rebuilding, some of the components are new, and some are ‘used.’ Although the ‘used’ components still function and do not need replacing, they are worn to some degree. Such factors as heat stress and cracks, as well as other factors, cause wear that is invisible to the human eye. Consequently, other problems could crop up later, resulting in premature failure of the ‘repair.’ What is a remanufactured part? The term remanufactured usually (not always) refers to a part that, for all practicable purposes, has been completely remanufactured to the standard of a new part. Using a remanufactured engine as an example, mechanical tolerances have been restored either by re-machining, or by installing the necessary mechanical inserts to restore original mechanical tolerances. Either way, the engine meets the standard for OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) tolerances, durability, and quality. New pistons, connecting rods, rings, bearings, camshafts, lifters, and oil pump are installed. All related bearing surfaces are restored, and the upper half of the engine, such as the cylinder heads, are rebuilt. Usually the only component from the old engine that is used is the body (or casting, usually referred to as a ‘core’). And this part is only used if it is in top-notch condition, to assure longevity of the service. These same rules apply to other remanufactured auto parts, whatever they may be. You will find that remanufactured auto parts usually carry a longer and stronger warranty, covering parts and labor for longer periods of time, compared to rebuild parts. AOL Autos: Best car deals of the month Used parts What about used auto parts? Let me start with a well known Latin expression, “Caveat Emptor.” Translation? “Let the buyer beware.” YES, used auto parts have their place in auto repair. And NO, I am not discouraging the use of used parts. BUT, be careful when buying them! AOL Autos: Sporty used coupes for under $15,000 When selecting a salvage yard from which to purchase used auto parts, look the place over! Is it clean and well organized? Are the parts in order and sheltered from the environment? (Too many times I have seen delicate electrical components laying out in the weather and then picked up off the ground and sold to an unsuspecting customer.) What kind of cars does the salvage yard have in its inventory? Late model, import, or old clunkers? There’s nothing wrong with a good mix of all of the above. However, if the yard is loaded with outdated rust buckets, move on! There are many respected salvage yards that take pride in their businesses and in serving their valued customers. And be especially careful when buying certain used auto parts, specifically engines, transmissions, differentials, hydraulic units, and electrical parts. They are subject to the environment and can rust and wear away internally where you can’t see it. Look for a salvage yard that has an organized dry storage building on the premises, with everything neatly stacked and categorized. In addition, I like to see an up-to-date computer system used to cross reference parts. And I also like to see the salvage yard connected to a network of salvage yards via computer across either the region or nation. This is especially helpful if you need a hard-to-find part for a particular year, make, and model.In selecting used parts, ask about the warranty and the return policy. Also, watch the way in which the part(s) is removed from the vehicle. I’ve seen yard attendants use oxygen-acetylene torches to remove parts that should have been removed with wrenches and hand tools. AOL Autos: Best and worst resale value cars I’ve also seen yard attendants use forklift trucks to carry parts across yards, and then drop them in front of the facility, denting and/or damaging the part. Am I condemning salvage yards? No, just the ‘chop shops.’ Ask around, you’ll find out who they are.So what should you use? Rebuilt parts, remanufactured parts, or used parts? When selecting auto parts for an effective auto repair, first determine exactly what plan you have in mind for your vehicle. To keep it long term? Mid term? Or to “get by” until next spring when you replace it? For most of us who do not work on our own vehicles, it is our service advisor’s job to determine what we need based on our plan for the vehicle. Our responsibility lies in communicating this information! Only then can he/she find the right parts for an effective repair based on our budget, needs, and goals. When I was a service manager, I always asked my customers a lot of questions. Who drives the car? How often? Will the car be expected to make long trips frequently or periodically? Is it your son or daughter’s car and are they going to college? All these factors come into play to help you make a wise repair decision. So make sure that you have a trusted advisor leading you through such significant repair decisions. News source: CNN

Women In Auto Repair

As customers, women play a significant role in the field of auto repair. While they make up just more than half of the US population, they deliver up to two-thirds of the vehicles brought in for maintenance or repair, according to Volvo. However, the number of female technicians is another matter entirely. Out in the shop or up front where they could work as service writers or as service managers, women are significantly underrepresented in the field. “I think this is because [car repair”> has never been considered a woman’s field, but that is changing,” says Jennifer Tio, president of the Car Care Council’s Women’s Board. Old MethodologyFor years, auto mechanics have been overwhelmingly male. Both men and women who have considered employment in the field have noted that the work was physically taxing, involving frequent heavy lifting and often requiring brute strength. It was dirty work, too. Mechanics could always be spotted by the grease and dirt under their fingernails. Times Have ChangedToday’s cars are different, and they require different approaches to servicing them. Mechanical systems that once required more muscle than intelligence to fix have become far more reliable and less needy of a mechanic’s attention. Today, car problems are more likely to be caused by a defective electronic sensor than a bad transmission. As Wade Hoyt, Toyota’s northeastern public relations manager, puts it, “The world of auto repair has gone from nuts and bolts to ohms and volts.” Auto service is now a brain game. Even the title of the people doing the work has changed — mechanics are now technicians. For many in the field, this transition has been difficult or even impossible. People skilled with a wrench may be stymied by a computer or voltmeter. Auto service departments increasingly need people with technical training in electronics, and the physical barriers women may have once felt when entering the field have largely disappeared. Women Are RespondingDrawn by good pay and ample challenges, there are now more female auto technicians than ever. “Over the last five years, we’ve seen an increase in the number of women [training to be auto technicians”>, but the number still isn’t where we’d like to see it,” says Mark Berardi, an admissions representative for the New England Technical Institute, a private vocational school that trains auto technicians. For those who do enter the field, the prospects are bright, according to Berardi. “There is absolutely a strong demand,” he says. “Service stations and dealers want to diversify.” They’ve noticed that most of their customers are women. The Car Care Council has also seen more women noticing the auto repair field. “Last year, the Car Care Council’s Women’s Board gave out its first scholarships, and we had many applicants,” Tio says. “Auto repair is becoming much more of a high tech field, and many women are becoming ASE certified.” Today, there is no reason why female auto technicians cannot be just as successful as, or even more successful than, male auto technicians. “The females in our program run circles around some of the guys,” Berardi says. He also notes that women often do much better with the communications skills increasingly necessary to succeed in the field. “This is a terrific, well-paying career for women,” Tio says. “I’ve been in the field for 18 years, and I’ve seen tremendous growth [in opportunities for women”>.” Think auto repair may be for you? Learn how to break into the field. News source: Monster Comm cast