Category Archives: Tips

Cheap Oil Filters

Be careful of the oil filters that many shops offering cheap oil change or coupons are using. Quality oil filters have a drain back valve which keeps the oil from draining, this feature is missing or cheaply produced causing early failure, in some of the lower priced filters. This allows the oil to drain out of the filter so there is no oil at start up. The indication is that it takes longer them normal for the oil pressure to come up and may also cause noisy lifters. This problem seems to be more prevalent in Toyota and some Chrysler products. As the price of oil increases many shops are looking for a way to cut costs and are switching to cheaper filters.

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Traction Control

tractionLittle rain, sleet and 6 inches of snow here yesterday. My wife said her traction control light kept coming on; hello you should not use traction control on ice. It works great in snow and in some wet conditions but not on ice. Traction control uses the anti-lock brake system by Appling the brake on the spinning wheel thus transferring power to the wheel with traction. It is really a simple system all controlled by computer along with the ABS system. The problem is if you are on ice and the brakes are applied to the slipping wheel it grabs for a split second and it starts spinning so the system applies that brake and so on, causing a sliding situation called crab walking. It keeps going from one wheel to another very quickly kind of like ABS only applied to one wheel. Certain types of 4 wheel drive and in a rare instance some all wheel drive can do the same thing. There will no doubt if it ever happens to you as you will be totally out of control. Imagine one brake being applied on ice not a fun ride. I am not a big fan of ABS either but as I get older and a little slower in my reaction time I have been using it more, I also hate the warning light when it is turned. For many years you did not drive with a red light on and I just cannot shake that idea.

WD-40 New Products

In 1953, Rocket Chemical Company, on the 40th try perfected WD-40. In 1993 a can of WD-40 could be found in 2 out of 3 homes. In 2005 they introduced the Smart Straw, which I think is a better idea then the product itself. I am not a big fan of the product, I think the best use is for cleaning, it will remove glue residue and tar better than any other product. It is also great for water protection. Want to make garage tools look great, use it, Drain pans are the grungiest thing in a shop , spray on a little wipe it off and you have a new pan. It will work in a pinch as a rust penetrant or a lubricant, but there are better products. Be careful if you use it on a switch as it will not conduct electricity. For the last 50 plus years they have touted it as a cure all in one can, and if you only want one can this is somewhat true. So why would they come out with the Specialist line of products including a silicone spray and a penetrant, among others. I have heard that the rust remover soak works great. Almost all these new products come with the smart straw which is a great idea. I also think they are a little spendy compared to other products. I haven’t used any of them yet but next time I need a new can of one of these products I will give it a try, why not at worst it will probably be a better cleaner.

Junky Key Chain

What do you have on your key chain, if it looks like it belongs on a jailer’s belt, you have way too many keys and or junk on it. That Mickey Mouse doll or the bling chain may look cute but the extra weight can and will in time do damage to your ignition switch. Think about it every time you hit a bump the switch and or key tumbler gets jarred. The heavier the weight the amount of force increases. Depending upon your vehicle this may or not be a major expense, on some it is a simple tumbler replacement, still not cheap with air bags and other items to be removed. On some vehicles it can be a major repair involving security systems and modules, keys can run in excess of $100. Drop your keys in the snow or ice, do not put then in the ignition without drying them off. When you insert the key the snow and ice go with it and this melts and next time you start a cold car this can freeze. Many keys also have security feature built into them and if water is introduced it can cause major problems. Many of keys are sealed but this is not a positive protection. If you do drop your key into a wet mess, or the toilet do not use the remote feature. Remove the battery and dry it by a heat source a heat register is a good spot. Not the oven or the microwave. A hair dryer on low will also work but use caution. This holds true for all electronic devices including remotes and cell phones.

Tire Info

I think it is time for a quick tire refresher. I will follow up with a involved topic later. The tire pressure on the sidewall of your tire is NOT the proper tire pressure it is the max pressure and remember you can gain 4 # or more on a hot day when on the road. You can even gain a pound or two driving to your favorite air supply. Check your tires cold before driving and take into consideration the increase when bringing your tires to the proper pressure. The placard on the door jamb or the glove box door will list the correct tire pressure and size. The owner’s manual does not usually list tire pressures due to the many options available. Purchase a decent tire gauge Sears’s sells a digital for less than $10.The rest of the info on the sidewall refers to tread ware, traction, max speed and manufactures info as to build info and a serial number. This will be discussed in a future topic. The 2 that you should pay attention too are tread ware and traction, they are a sliding scale the harder the tire the better the ware and the worse traction and ride and the opposite for a softer tire, better traction and ride but a shorter tread life. Many of the newer materials have lessened the impact of this problem but it is still a factor. I think you get what you pay for and this is true with tires, buy the best you can afford but not more then you need for your driving habits. Many tire stores will use the old bait and switch so buyers beware. There are several sites that sell and rate tires, but there are little if any savings when you pay shipping and mounting and balancing, but they are an excellent source of information. When buying tires I find several I like and then shop, my recent purchases have been at Sears and Sams, both strictly based on price. I was impressed with the service at both, Sears even put chrome shields and valve caps on the Bonneville. Tried to sell me a few things but that I expected.

Transmission Flushes

Transmission flushes are a huge profit center for many shops. They usually remove a cooling line pump in the old and out with the new. Would you change the oil in your engine without changing the filter? I doubt it so why not change the filter in the tranny. This is a messy job but one that can be done easily. If you have a pump with a small enough hose your can pump out some of the fluid through the filler tube, if not it is going to be messy to remove the pan but then that is what floor dry is for. You can remove most of the fluid from the tranny by disconnecting one of the cooler lines and pumping out the fluid. Some techs will add a couple quarts of fluid as it is pumping to run some clean fluid through the system. I also add a container of lube guard when changing fluid, this will darken your fluid some but this is not a problem. I don’t think there is a tried and true change interval as this depends on the abuse the tranny gets. If you pull a trailer or 4X4 a lot then change it more often. Check your owner’s manual for the proper fluid and don’t take an aftermarket counter persons word that this is a one fits all fluid. I have fixed many transmission problems by installing the correct fluid. This is a major problem with Chrysler products and many rice burners. As far as synthetic goes I am not sold on it in automatic transmissions just too many variables. However it is great for manual transmissions, differentials and transfer cases.

Differential Problems

The differential is really simple but yet a feat of engineering. A pinion gear supplies power to a ring gear that goes through a set of spider gears and turn the wheels. The spider gears are the key to its performance as they allow the outside wheel to turn faster and the inside to turn slower on corners. A Differential has to be properly set up as there is nothing more annoying than a ring gear whine on the highway or a clunk when put in gear. There are several tricks that can help these problems without a complete overhaul. If the differential is noisy IE a high pitched whine there are 2 solutions one is to add GM posi traction additive to the gear lube and the other is to add a high pressure lubricant JB makes an excellent one. These will help lubricant adhere to the ring gear so it is not dry when it comes down the back side. A clunk is another matter if you have a crew cab pickup or a large maxi van you may never completely cure the clunk as the drive shaft is too long. One cure is to put a small dent in the shaft this removes some of the harmonics that the longer shaft creates. Be careful you can cause a vibration by doing this. The other is to drill holes front and rear and fill with insulating foam this method seems to have the best result. I worked in a dealership when the Dodge maxi van first came out and they had terrible drive train problems. Drive shaft angle was a critical adjustment in many of these. Switched complete rear end assemblies to cure a vibration once and in the end neither van had a vibration. When new differentials use the material in the lube to self polish the gears so if you are going to switch to synthetic run the original for several thousand miles before switching. The newer the vehicle the less important this is a machining has improved over the yearsDo you have posi and what is your ratio? Jack up both rear wheels and turn one if the other side turns the same way you have posi if they turn in opposite direction then you don’t. To find gear ratio check what different options your vehicle has then mark the drive shaft and a rear wheel with a chalk line. Turn the drive shaft one full turn and the number of turns that your wheel makes is the ratio. This is not accurate but if you know what ratios your vehicle came with you can come close enough to find the correct ratio.


You receive an offer in the mail that your warranty is running out and they are offering a opportunity for you to extend your warranty coverage. Many different options are offered, bumper to bumper, power train some with and without deductible. Run don’t walk to the trash can and throw it away this is the biggest rip off you will ever receive. To begin with they are a not the insurer but a second party seller once you send them a check you will never deal with them again but you will deal with the company who is supposed to pay your claim but who’s main mission is to pay as few as possible. The fine print is designed to get them out of paying. Good luck finding a repair shop, that will do the work as they probably have been ripped off already by their cost cutting and they decide what they will pay and won’t pay many even set their own flat rate. Also the cost is more than you would spend in repairs unless you really hit a terrible run of luck. Properly service your vehicle and I assure you will come out in the long run dollars ahead.

Hoses & Clamps

Hose clamps come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and each of them have a specific task. The general use clamp uses the slots in the body of the clamp as threads, this works well for coolant hoses.The solid clamp has a nut plate installed on the end of the clamp and is a solid body. These are used for high pressure applications, power steering, transmission, and fuel. The stainless steel one is the best choice for fuel lines. This clamp also comes in a special AC clamp that has a connector to hold two clamps together. There is a new clamp that is a shrink fit for cooling systems gives a very clean look and will work on damaged connectors.There are two types of crimpable clamps that are used for CV boots both work quite well but need a special tool to install. Over the years manufactures have used various clamps to ease installation during build. The worst was the snap ring style that Chrysler used; it was a SOB to remove now there is a special tool for it. Hoses also come in a variety of sizes shapes and materials. Hoses designed for cooling system use should only be used on the cooling system they are not designed to meet any other application. Power steering and transmission for the most part are can be interchanged but fuel is a different hose it must withstand more pressure and chemicals more so in areas where oxygenated fuel is used. Some of the older hoses rated for fuel cannot withstand these fuels.Vacuum hoses including the brake booster hose are also basically the same hose construction except brake hoses must withstand slightly higher in. /Hg and possible brake fluid contamination. . PCV hose must be able to withstand fuel and oil contamination. Of course AC hoses are for AC application only.

Oil Choices

Once again I return to the subject of oil. As it is the most important of all the fluids in a vehicle, some will say brake fluid is. I don’t think we can learn about it or discuss it too much. As I have said before every tech has their own preference as to brand or type.For a time I have been against using synthetic oil, just could not leave my oil alone, now I am having my oil changed and I am using synthetic in all but my convertible. I put on two few miles to justify the expense and it is never driven in cold weather. I have purchased a truck recently and a car for my wife last fall and they both used synthetic oil so I am going to stick with it. Synthetic oil major advantage is that it lessens wear on startup which is the leading cause of engine wear more so on cold starts. The jury is still out on how long I plan on going between changes some sites recommend as high as 100K I know I won’t go that long. One of my vehicles has an oil life indicator I will probably run that 2 cycles and change or about 12K or 6 months and my pickup I will probably change at around 6 months also. Pennzoil has a new synthetic they callPlatinum Plus which sounds OK but they are claiming a complete cleaning of the engine after 2 changes so I would be careful on a high mileage engine. I think I will stick with Mobil one I like the Amzoil but as it is hard to find I am not going to use it.