Common automotive repair complaints.
Today we will touch upon some common complaints that will have the customer
bring the car in for repairs and their most likely causes. These are the types of
complaints that many times have the customer trying to imitate the noise when
explaining what they want check, this can be quit entertaining at
times. Remember a complete inspection of your car will be needed to verify the
exact cause of your complaint. This list is just intended to give some insight
on the common causes of these problems.
Some overlooked general maintenance
1. Brake flush. Your brake system is one of the most important safety
features of your car, but also has one of the most overlook maintenance items on
the car. The brake fluid itself. Everyone knows to periodically have the brakes
check for wear, but did you know the brake fluid must be changed too. All non
silicone brake fluids like DOT 3 & 4 are hydroscopic and absorbed moisture.
Over time this will lower the boiling point and effectiveness of the fluid.
Basic no start checks
Before you throw in the towel and call AAA or your best friend that knows
all about cars, take the time to do a few basic checks on your no start car. Who
knows you may get it running, you will gain some insight on what's wrong at the
very least. First we can break down the no start complaint into two
categories. First is the engine that cranks normally and doesn’t start and then
there is the turn the key and nothing happens no start.
Lets start with the turn the key and nothing happens situation. When you
turn the key and attempt to start the engine do all the dash lights come on for
their normal bulb check? If not the battery may be completely dead or you have a
bad connection at the battery. A good place to start looking is making sure
there was nothing left on that would have drained the battery since you last
used the car. Headlights left on, dome light on due to a door not closed all of
the way, glove box light, anything obvious. Next give the battery cables a
little twist to make sure they are tightly connected to the battery terminals.
If they are loose tighten them up and give it another try. Still nothing? now
it’s time to get an idea of what the battery voltage actually is. If you have a
volt meter its time to break it out. A fully charged battery will have about
12.6 volts on a static no load test. If the voltage is low you may just want to
charge the battery or jump start it at this point. No voltmeter available, try
turning on the headlights and see if they illuminate at their normal brightness,
if they do your battery probably has close to 12.6 volts. If they are dim its
time to recharge or jump start. If your car starts now make sure the charging
voltage is good. Once the jumper cables are removed or the battery charger is
disconnected and the car is running you should have around 13.5-14 volts at
idle. 12.6 or less would indicate your charging system is not functioning and
the car is not going to stay running for long without it.
The battery charge or jump still yielded a no start condition, you may have
a starter or wiring problem. Don’t overlook the stupid things, like is the car
in park or neutral, clutch pushed down all the way? Anything that will cause the
neutral safety switch to prevent the engine from cranking. Don’t laugh, I have
seen cars towed in for things like this on more than one occasion.
Now lets take a look at the car that cranks normally, but will not fire up.
All gas spark ignition engines need three basic things to run, fuel/air,
ignition and compression. Start from the easiest position first, the driver’s
seat. Turn the key to the on position and look and listen. You should hear the
fuel pump prime for a few seconds and shut off. You should see the check engine
light come on during the bulb check. Now crank the engine. Does the engine crank
faster than normal? Your looking for clues to the problem here. If the engine
cranks faster than normal you may have a compression problem. A broken timing
belt will cause this. Can’t hear the fuel pump prime? could be an electrical
problem to the pump or more commonly a failed pump. If you have a helper try
banging on the bottom of the fuel tank as your helper cranks the engine. This
will sometime bring a stuck electric fuel pump to life temporarily. Keep in mind
this only works on in tank pumps. If it fires up, you need to replace the pump.
If you don’t see the check engine light come on during cranking you may have a
power problem to the computer. Now its time to get a little dirty if you want to
keep going. If you can access a spark plug lead you can check for spark. Pull
the lead off of a spark plug and hold the end of the lead to a good safe ground
like the engine block. You want to have the metal part of the lead about a half
inch from the ground. A good ignition system will jump this gap easily with a
nice bright spark when your helper cranks the engine. Be careful that you are
not a better ground than the one you chose or you will find out what 30 thousand
volts feels like as it shoots through you, it wont kill you, but it will wake
you up! If you have good spark and still no start you can add some fuel to the
intake to see if it will fire on that. Again be careful here, you want to try
and diagnose the problem, not burn the car and you to the ground. Pull off the
duct going to the throttle. Spray a little carburetor cleaner in there, you may
want to open the throttle a little so it gets into the intake. Give it a crank
now, if it sputters to life you can be pretty sure it’s a fuel problem.
Depending on the make and model of your car there can be many different
causes of lost fuel or spark. I’m not trying to give the fix for the problem
here, just some direction to narrow down the cause of your no start condition.
Your mechanical ability and tools available will be the determining factor in
how far you will take your diagnoses and when you will give AAA a call for the
tow to the shop. Also never overlook the basics. Is there fuel in the tank? is
there an alarm system installed that is killing the ignition? Sometimes a no
start is a minor problem, give it a look before you send out that SOS, you may
surprise yourself and get back on the road quickly and save a few bucks in the
Check Engine Light Basics
People have different reactions to the Check Engine Light (CEL) when it
suddenly illuminates for what seems to be no reason. These range from, if I
ignore it, it will go away, to stopping dead in their tracks thinking the car is
going to explode. These days its easy to have the codes read for free at your
local auto parts store or you can purchase an inexpensive code reader to the
job. Keep in mind the codes only give direction in diagnosing and don’t always
indicate what part has failed.
More useless automotive trivia.
1. Toyota is not the only foreign make to win in NASCAR. In 1954, Al Keller
drove a Jaguar to victory during a NASCAR race at the Linden Airport in New
2.There was no 1998 Mazda Miata in the US.
3. VW only sold two Beetles in the USA in 1949
4. 1967 was the first year for dual circuit master cylinders preventing
complete loss of braking if one circuit failed.
5. Chevrolet first produced their small block V8 in 1955.
6. Ford’s Mustang “California Special” was only made one year in
Spring Time A/C Check
Now that the hot weather is very close it’s time to start thinking of your
air conditioning system. Most people think you just turn it on and if it works
your good to go. That’s only part of the story, there is some maintenance that
should be done to ensure the system is at it’s full capacity. First lets take a
quick look at the system itself. Open the hood and take a look at all the hoses
and compressor, is there any trace of oily deposits at hose connections or
anyplace in the system? If so you may have a leak at that point. The refrigerant
in the system carries oil in it to lubricate the compressor, as the refrigerant
leaks out it will leave a tell tail sign in the form of an oily deposit. Check
the condenser to make sure it is clear of dirt and leaves. A blocked condenser
can lead to excessively high, high side pressure, reducing cooling efficiency.
Make sure the compressor drive belt is in good condition and not loose. You may
also want to check the evaporator drain tube for any blockage. A clogged drain
tube can lead to some very wet carpets and a musty smell inside the car. This is
also a great time to check and replace the cabin air filter if your car is
equipped with one. If the system still does not cool properly or not at all it’s
time to check system pressures. Low or no pressure would indicate a low or empty
system. It is extremely important to have the correct type and amount of
refrigerant charge in the system, to little or too much refrigerant will
adversely effect performance. It is highly recommended taking your car to a
trained pro to take care of the recovery and charging of refrigerant. It is
against the law to vent CFC refrigerants into the atmosphere. Remember White
Horse Auto is fully equipped to service you’re A/C system.
Now that Spring is finally here it’s time to give your car it’s Spring
check up. Stop in for a complete vehicle inspection. Make sure all of your cars
vital systems are in good condition and ready for the added driving most of us
do in the nicer months ahead. This is also a great time to treat your car to a
good cleaning, especially the undercarriage. For those of us living in the snow
belt now is the time to remove all remaining traces of road salt to prevent rust
and corrosion. If you are unable to do it yourself look for a carwash that
offers undercarriage cleaning, also make sure all of you body drains in the
doors and fender areas are clear of dirt. Blocked drain holes allow water and
salt to remain trapped in the car’s body causing sever rust. A little maintenance now will go a long way in keeping you car or truck in top condition.
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