Category Archives: Tips

Pick 2

Many times I have used the adage that you can have your vehicle repaired.- Cheaply- Quickly- CorrectlyYou may pick two IE you can have it repaired cheaply and quickly but not correctly, or you can have it cheaply and correctly done but not quickly. I think this applies more so in todays repair shops than ever before. There is too much emphasis on selling and not enough on doing the repair correctly. As auto repair becomes more and more complicated and techs are paid on a commission basis and they are forced into selling to make a decent living. This has become more prevalent as dealerships struggle to survive and look to the service and parts departments to pay more of their cost of doing business. Car sales continue to fall and dealerships are forced to offer more money for trade-ins. You can buy gap insurance to pay off you loan if you car is totaled and you owe more than it is worth. Sounds like a scam waiting to happen as I am sure someone would find this as a way to get out of a bad car loan. Three service stations have closed on the main street by where I live in the last several years and repair shops that I trust are becoming harder to find. One I liked overfilled my oil on every oil change and you would think with the price of synthetic they would be more careful. I have been going to the dealership quick lube and have been very satisfied so far and maybe will give then a try for my next repair. Oil changes are cheaper then many shops. Never thought I would go that route but I done see any alternative.

Vacuum Gauge Basics

Several enquires about the use of a vacuum gauge. I think I covered this before but it is important. I mentioned a vacuum transducer hooked to a lab scope, this will display the vacuum in a wave form. It is very useful to locate a bad cylinder and eliminate the need to check compression in all the cylinders valuable time saver in today’s cramped engine compartments. It takes some trial and error to understand the wave but after using it you will find it an invaluable tool. Burn time as shown on a scope is also a useful tool in locating a bad cylinder. Do not short out any cylinders to see what they look like as this can cause a lot of problems.A vacuum gauge can also tell you the condition of the engine check a known good engine to obtain the correct vacuum and anything under this is usually an engine problem. Usually low compression or just a worn out engine. A bouncing vacuum gauge is also a telltale sign of a problem usually valves or one cylinder not performing correctly. Valve timing can also cause low vacuum. With older engines the carb and timing has to be correctly adjusted before checking for low vacuum. Cranking vacuum on a no start can also tell you if you have a valve timing problem among other problems anything above 3 In is usually Ok but here again check a known good engine for comparison. The altitude of your location is the reason for checking for a known good value.

Cold Weather Starting

Where I live it has been bitterly cold, wind chills in the -45, but nice weather is coming this week. So a few words about some maintenance that should be done during the break. Check your tires they seem to drop in pressure during cold weather more so with aluminum rims. Check the wiper blades and washer fluid, the washer fluid may be frozen and the blades may have been damaged during snow and frost removal.  Check all fluids PS, transmission and coolant, paying extra attention to the coolant as during extreme cold anti freeze will leak where it normally would not. Give the lights a quick walk around older bulbs were affected by the cold but the newer halogen and LED seem not to be. Inspect the belts for glazing that may have been caused by snow build up.  Check the key cylinders and lube if necessary if you have remote unlock this is critical as they are used infrequently and can become sticky very quickly.Some advice about cold weather starting, with fuel injection it is not necessary to do anything but turn the key or in some cases push the button. If you have auto start this is the best way to start a cold engine the compute or PCM knows what the engine needs to start.

New EDPM Belts

The new serpentine belts that are constructed of EPDM construction, which stands for ethylene propylene diene M-class rubber. Visually, it’s hard to tell the two types of belts apart, but EPDM belts far outlast and outperform any of their predecessors. Older belts last 50-60 K but I have seen them go a lot farther if they stay clean. The newer EPDM belts will go a 100K easily. The problem is they will not show cracking and materials lose as the older belts do. The valley of the belts wears out making the use of a gauge mandatory to check a belt. They will then begin to make noise and slip the good news is they are very quiet otherwise, even when starting in cold weather with the AC on which has been a problem for years. When the valley wears the length of the belt also will increase causing problems.A gates wear gauge can be obtained at this site.[url”>

Overpriced Cables

I know this post is going to create a lot of controversy. As I have said before everyone has their personal taste in engine oils and many other products. Cables are another area where everyone has an opinion.I have considerable experience with cables, speaker HTMI or whatever. I have 8 TV’s in my house, yes I know I am addicted, 3 rooms with surround sound with a variety of Media centers TIVO and replaytv’s. Yes I do hate to watch commercials, I like to control my own time, not have it controlled by a TV schedule. In my defense one room is mainly for my grandkids. When they have a sound system with a DVD, as it is meant to be watched. Their attention span is longer. Monster cables or any other overpriced cable is not worth the money. With HTMI and optical the cost of the cable has no bearing on the quality digital is either on and perfect or off and no amount of money you spend for a cable is going to help. All other cables RG 6, S-Video, composite, coaxial RCA and speaker the cost can make a difference. The amount of shielding is the biggest concern with an S-Video cable a metallic shield is the best option. Insulation is important on RG 6, All others except for speaker wire the connector, wire size, remember the smaller the number the bigger the wire, and insulation are factors to consider. Composite and component should be molded together. Speaker wire size is a concern but more important is the number of strands of wire. Special alloys, magical filaments or direction specific are all a waste of money. Sound is carried on the outside of the wire so the more surface you have the better the sound. I have used the flat molded wire for surround with success and it is very small about 24 gauge but it has numerous strands. 14 gauge is the one I usually use any bigger and it becomes a problem to connect and route. I do plate all connections with solder including the ones at the component. The exception is sub-woofer wiring use the biggest wire that will fit in the component connector usually this is a 12 but with some of the new style connectors it is a tight fit. Computer cables RJ-45 are rated, cat 5 and 6 which rates there transmission speed and connectors are rated by their contacts most quality are 50u. All of this is little concern to the average person very few homes need a 550MHz RJ-45 cable or above 50u rated connectors. At some point in time, as more and more services are available on the net, this may change so consider this if doing new construction. I buy the majority of my cables from Monoprice, there are other sites with equal quality and fair pricing, I just like there cool colors and I would like to know why they use them. Buy several cables at one time to keep shipping costs down. Cables will develop problems they can come loose RG 6 cables are the worst for this and I wish I knew why, they never move I actually use a wrench to snug mine up and this helps. All cables will develop problems over time and usually the sound or picture deteriorates slowly, with the exception of digital, until you notice a difference. With any feed use as few splitters as possible, and a booster if necessary. Always use a surge protector including cable feed and phone if used.

Fuel Filter Change Interval

Recently read on a site where they recommended replacing the fuel filter at 12K. Then I started thinking when was the last time I replaced my fuel filters and I couldn’t remember. I do recall the one for my wife’s Buick was spendy, but everything on that car was spendy. I replace my fuel filters when they look old and cruddy and can’t remember the last time I replaced them. I always replace them when I replace a fuel pump which I have only had to do once in recent memory and that was due to a bad bearing not foreign material the filter was not plugged or even dirty, I did cut in half to check it. I checked several manufactures sites and they all had different intervals suggestions to replace the fuel filter. I do use only brand name high grade fuel, at the present Mobil; I have never had a filter problem or even a thought that it could be causing a problem. Maybe I just been lucky but for now I am going to stick to my current schedule for replacing the fuel filter. I do check it now and again with my lab scope but have never seen a problem. I do recommend periodic replacement as electronic fuel pumps are not cheap and it is good insurance against failure. I don’t think I could afford, even doing the work myself, to adhere to some of the service schedules some shops are recommending. I had over 200K on my wife’s Buick and 120k on my pickup and have never had a serious problem, knock on wood, I probably will now.

Carbon Build Up

Is it necessary to “as my Dad used to say blow out the carbon” with a high speed road trip of a few miles. If you are reading this and need an excuse to go for a speedy road trip, or if your engine has a carburetor the answer is yes, But in reality it is not necessary for today’s computer controlled fuel injected engines. If there has been a problem with the system causing a carbon buildup or you use cheap gas, which will cause problems in time. Many times the check engine light is ignored, with the tough economic times we are seeing more of this, the engine seems to be running fine but it is actually causing all kinds of problems and one of these is excessive carbon build up. You are also doing damage to the atmosphere. The build can become severe enough that the engine needs to be disassembled to remove the carbon. There are several products on the market that do a decent job of removal. The only ones that work are the ones you run directly through the throttle body. Insert a vacuum hose into the can and the other end to a vacuum source or many air tubes have a hose or two in the tube itself this is most effective spot. Be sure to follow the instructions to the letter as many problems can result if improperly used IE engine damage, converter can be damaged, the O2 sensor can fail this may happen anyway. If in doubt have it done by a shop it is not that expensive also most shops know which chemical works the best in your area. Do not use water or diesel fuel as someone may tell you is OK but it will tear up an engine very quickly. I would also clean the throttle body covered here. [url”>

To Buy A Car Or Not

Is now a good time to buy a car? As far as new goes it is kind of a tossup, many dealers are going out of business, some by choice some not, and there should be some deals. The manufactures are still out producing sales and this is causing inventory problems. Many would be buyers are waiting to see what the presidents plan of a refund on a new vehicle when you trade in a gas guzzler is going to be. The dealers need to move inventory so I would say this is a good time to shop, there are some excellent deals but they may be hard to find. I would set some parameters as to what I would spend and the least I would take for my trade in. Be ready to walk no run away if you don’t like the deal there is a lot of high pressure sales tactics taking place right now, it is a tough time for car salesman and some will do almost anything for a sale. Take some time and do a lot of shopping and don’t buy anything without sleeping on it. The one time offer translates to I will call tomorrow with a better offer. Waiting may be a mistake as the cost of new cars is going to have to go up to pay for the newer mileage and emission standards, but they are down the road at least a year or two.It seems to be a buyer’s market for used right now but as new car sales continue to fall the inventory has to suffer in time. The 2-5 year old market is prime for buyers a 2005 Pontiac Bonneville has decreased in price by over 25K from new. Many of the used cars also have a ton of miles on them over a 100K is not unusual. Here again shop hard and sleep on any deal unless it is a private party and a vehicle you like and a good deal as another buyer may swoop it up while you are sleeping on it. Beware of warranties many may not be around to honor them. They also tend to be expensive but more on this at a later time. Good luck and good shopping. warranty

Noisy Brakes

After a recent topic on brake squeak there have been several questions about the swishing or maybe even a slight grind during the first few applications. This is not a problem it is the crud, rust or whatever that has built up on the rotor while sitting. This can be worse if you have driven through a rain storm or on a gravel or even a dirty road such as one in a construction zone. Under certain conditions, hot rotors humid and cool conditions more rust then you would think builds up on your rotors when sitting. When you first apply your brakes the pads are cleaning off the gunk and this is the noise you are hearing. When driving next to a barrier on the driver’s side apply your brakes slightly you will be amazed at the noise you will hear bouncing off the barrier. This is one of the reasons I recommend synthetic brake pads they are quieter in these situations. I once hit a post with my convertible by turning a corner to fast, after I had just removed it from storage, the gunk mostly rust affected the brakes to a point where I had very little stopping action. This was an extreme situation but none the less possible.

Snow Blower Service

Once again it is that time of year to store the snow blower and break out the lawnmower, here are some hints Grease the fittings on your snow blower, usually on the wheels and auger mounting points.Change the oil Spray off the entire machine and let dry thoroughly. I use a spray wax on a few spots. Lube the cables and pivot points and pulleys. Check the belts, and clutch.Spray some WD-40 on the augers and chute pivot points; I also spray the augers and any rust spots.A couple of cap full’s of Sea Foam in the gas tank and let it run for several minutes to get it into the carb. If you serviced,changed the oil and put Sea Foam into your mower last fall it should fire right up fill it with gas and start cutting.When I was in Arizona I said I was not coming home until I heard lawnmowers’ running, but I had to come home to face the flood.