Automotive Tips Easy Automotive Maintenance
Automotive Diagnostics And Care:
First, do a visual check of your vehicle. The following will assist you in where to look, and for what:
•Look at your tires. Do they look low? A tire pressure gauge, available inexpensively at any discount store of auto parts store will help you make sure tire pressure stays dead on. Maintain as necessary. Better tire pressures will make your vehicle safer, and more fuel efficient. There are some very inexpensive air pumps for sale at discount stores – should you really want to stay on top of air pressure in your tires. Motorcyclists and moped riders need to be exceptionally concerned about their tire pressures.
•Look closely at your tires and inspect for severely worn edges, areas missing chunks of rubber, or objects sticking into the tire. Maintain or replace as necessary. If your tires are relatively new, and they seem to be wearing unevenly, take you vehicle into the shop for an alignment, and likely a tire rotation. These two things are frequently lumped together in less costly automotive service “specials.”
•Look under the vehicle for liquids. One drop usually means nothing. Look for consistent drip marks. Remember that during summer months your vehicle’s air conditioning will steadily drip water when in use – no worries. Your coolant system may also spew an occasional bit of water/anti-freeze, and that’s okay too. If you find a stain indicating long-term or consistent leaking, trace the leak to its source: engine oil, transmission fluid, rear end oil, etc. Maintain or repair as necessary. Sometimes, just getting under the vehicle with a pressure hose at the car wash will clean off years of old oil and debris that causes many ‘driveway’ leaks.
•Visually check your engine oil. Check it according to the manufacturer’s instructions, and also feel it with your fingers. Engine oil is the life blood of your vehicle’s power plant. Does the oil feel thick, or does it feel watery. Thick is good, watery is bad! Change watery oil (and be sure to use an Engine Sentry when you do change oil and filter). Add the appropriate oil if the level registers low. NEVER overfill your oil!
•Check the coolant level. Be sure to use caution, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions to avoid injury from hot, pressurized liquids. Maintain as necessary. If you haven’t had your coolant/anti-freeze checked lately, it might be advisable. Be sure to never add coolant or anti-freeze that is not recommended by your vehicle’s manufacturer. Some radiators require special products so as not to erode or corrode them.
•Visually check your engine compartment. Tighten caps, firmly tug/test hose connections, look for worn things, things that have blown into the engine compartment, etc. Maintain or repair as necessary. This is also a good time to do light engine cleaning. Nothing too serious, just some rags and some degreaser: ammonia and water make a cheap, great degreaser, but it shouldn’t be used on aluminum – certainly not left on it. A toothbrush is also an excellent tool here – it makes quick work of much engine debris.
•Visually check your automotive battery and connections. Make sure the connections feel tight at the battery. If you have green or white build-up on the battery, mix some baking soda with tepid water (1/4-cup of baking soda to one quart of water) and stir it thoroughly. Now, slowly pour it directly over the affected areas. Don’t worry about all the fizzing and crackling – it’s just cleaning. Make sure you do this where the runoff won’t harm anything. An old toothbrush will make this go faster. When the terminals are clean and dry, apply a thin coating of automotive grease onto each battery terminal, and connection. Automotive grease comes in small, plastic tubs that weigh about a pound each. They’re cheap, so get a good brand name. I use popsicle sticks to spread it with. Grease is good to have around for many automotive fixes and preventive maintenance actions.
Some people are incredibly sensitive to the sounds their vehicles make. This is especially true of motorcyclists, those who refurbish vintage automobiles, and experienced mechanics. It’s a very worthwhile skill to develop. There are mechanics who can listen to a running car engine and tell if the timing is slightly off, or the injectors are not operating properly. While this is a very neat thing to be able to do, you do not have to elevate your listening skills to that lofty place in order to get benefits from listening to your vehicle.
Listen To the Engine
(This is best done in relatively quiet surroundings until you get really good at it.) Open up the hood of your vehicle’s engine compartment. If necessary on your model, be sure to use the metal rod to lock the hood in the upright/open position. Now, start your engine. Allow the engine to run for 30-60 seconds before you start listening too hard. Also, there are many moving parts inside of engine compartments, don’t wear loose clothing, and mind all your fingers and hair! Safety first.
A brief word about engine sounds…
All engines make sounds. Some sound like jets, and other have constant clicking noises, or humming, or clattering. Which sounds are consistently made, and are okay, are unique to your specific vehicle’s engine. The point being, don’t be alarmed the first time you really take a good listen to your engine. You’ll quickly learn the sounds that are okay, and the ones that are not.
You’re going to listen to your engine from three different positions: 1) Directly in front of the car. 2) On the left (driver’s side) side of the engine compartment. 3) On the right (passenger’s side) side of the engine compartment. I like to start I like to start on the left – right in front of the driver’s door.
Lean over the engine compartment (again – be careful with clothing, hair, and appendages) and listen carefully. Try closing your eyes to heighten your hearing. Listen for things that don’t sound ‘right.’ Such things might include: clattering, metal rubbing metal, clanging, and squeaks. If you hear such a thing, open your eyes and try to focus in on it – moving the position of your head and ears as your track the sound to its source. Repeat this process at all three positions previously described.
This method of checking your engine can reveal loose caps, loose fan belts, loose fans, missing bolts, nuts, and many other things. Correct what you are able to, and have anything else dealt with by a service technician. Don’t put your hands into your engine compartment to tighten something or check something while it is running. If you notice that the stays on the overflow tube are loose and rattling, turn off the engine before tightening.
Driving your car for a short distance over a good road with the radio and air conditioning off and the windows down is a good way to hear some other sounds. Clattering might mean you have a lug nut that came off, and it’s stuck inside the hubcap. A metal-rubbing-metal sound may be a stuck brake.
The last listening project/technique is the best – or at least so people tell me. This one requires a willing and able assistant. The two of you climb into the vehicle together – you drive, the assistant rides shotgun. The assistant will require four things: some WD-40, a notepad, a small can of 3-in-1 oil, and a good rag. Head for a road that isn’t so smooth, and simply drive along. The assistant listens for those irritating squeaks, squeals, and rattles.
The assistant should move around inside the vehicle, focusing on the sounds to locate their sources. One of the two lubricants will fix almost any squeaking – and the rag ensures a nice, tidy application of the chosen lubricant. Some things, such as loose or missing screws or bolts, should be recorded on the notepad for maintenance or repair later, when you get back home to the tools. You won’t believe how quiet your cockpit becomes after you perform this process once or twice.
It may sound strange that smelling your vehicle can be a useful maintenance activity, but believe me it is. And I’m not just talking about needing to buy one of those cute little green trees that permeate every inch of your vehicle’s interior with the smell of pine – or something like that. Actually, you really already do this in at least one instance – the smell of gasoline. And we’ll cover that herein.
Let’s begin with the smell of smoke. If your vehicle is smoking anywhere at any time it’s time to get some service – immediately. It doesn’t matter if you smell the smoke, or see it – you need to deal with the problem ASAP. Smoke coming from anywhere is never ‘okay’ in a vehicle, though you may just have some spilled fluids on a hot engine surface, or some oil that splashed into your wheel assembly. No matter – get it checked and make sure.
The smell of gas is most often associated with a flooded engine: too much gas for the spark to ignite. The gas sits in the engine, and the odor becomes more noticeable for a short time, and then starts to rapidly dissipate. This tends to happen only when you are starting the engine. The smell of gas at any other time, or the constant smell of gas is indicative of another type of problem, and one that is potentially serious, or dangerous: a leak in the fuel system. You should have this checked out by a qualified mechanic as soon as possible.
The smell of rotten eggs, usually associated with sulfur or burning sulfur, is likely a problem with your catalytic converter. Servicing a catalytic converter is highly technical, and will require the attention of a trained technician or mechanic. You should make an appointment for your vehicle as soon as possible. A maladjusted or failing catalytic converter can be costing you precious mileage!
The smell of burning bread, sometimes referred to as ‘burnt toast,’ is most often associated with an electrical short circuit or possibly the burning/melting of the insulation around the affected wires, fuses, or connections. If there are any secondary signs, then you should not run the engine until a qualified technician resolves the issue. Left unchecked, electrical shorts can affect many of the systems in your vehicle.
A sweet odor, especially when mixed with the smell of hot rubber, usually means there’s a coolant leak, or a problem with the cooling system. If you are driving, stop and visually check the engine and the radiator. Driving a vehicle with an overheated engine can do untold damage to all sorts of things, and turn a simple repair with a modest cost into a nightmarish expense that prevents you from using your vehicle for days, or even weeks.
The smell of burning oil is a pungent, acrid stench that can be very slight, or quite pronounced. In either case, you need to check your engine to make sure you don’t have an oil leak, and also to ensured that you have the recommended amount of oil in your engine. Usually, the smell of burning oil is something minor, such as a small spill on the engine, a slight overflow that got blown onto a hot engine part, or low engine oil.
While you drive your vehicle regularly, you are quite familiar with the term ‘Fuse’. As the name suggests, this is a key part of your car or automobiles electronics system. It is typically a small piece of equipment that is associated with the electronics system and is placed to blow out or fuse when something in the system goes wrong.
This part is designed in such a way that it does not create a crisis when it blows out or fuses but will make something on the automobile no longer working. Although the part of your automobile to quit working will be relatively minor, like for instance, it can be the turn indicators, the radio, or even the interior lights. Whatever the condition, if a fuse blows, the devices in question will no longer function.
If ever, you encounter, any malfunction in your vehicle the fuse is the first place to check. For most of us, locating the fuse box in the vehicle might be relatively easy, whereas, still some may have problem locating the error. However, correcting the problem is relatively easy and you will get a feeling of satisfaction knowing you were able to troubleshoot on your own.
We will certainly help to brush you up for the task in hand. Lets start with the automobile fuses. Generally, there are two type of fuses found in most of the automobiles. The first type is a glass, cylinder-shaped with stainless steel on the ends and glass in the middle. The other type is a plastic housing with the fusible link encased in the housing. The fuse box is generally located behind a cover, under the dashboard, or below the steering wheel.
For checking it by yourself you will need to take help from the user manual that accompanies your vehicle. The vehicles manual will help you to identify and position the fuse box a guide on how to access it. Check the cover, with most of the vehicles you can remove with your hand and with the rest follow what the user manual suggests. Once you find the box carefully go through the owners manual to locate the exact fuse number, which might not be functional.
For instance, if the turn indicators are not working find the fuse for it through the numerical chart. When you are able to locate the exact fuse for the task, remove it as suggested in the owner’s manual. With most of the vehicles you can remove it with your hands. Take out the particular and determine if it’s blown. If the metal coil inside it is separated, it is blown and no longer working and will need replacement. While you look for the replacement of the fuse, look exactly for the amperage rating as the blown fuse.
Using it with different amperage rating may risk either blowing it again, or damaging the equipment it is designed to protect. Once you lay your hands on the exact replacement, you can easily replace it back into the slot given. So identifying and replacing a blown fuse is relatively easy and can be done at home.
One of the most overlooked parts of a vehicle, and one of the most common automotive repairs is the timing belt. Your car’s timing belt may look like an accessory, but the fact is that if it fails, your car will suddenly stop, and, if you’re lucky, you will find yourself stranded on the side of the road waiting for a tow truck.
Timing belts are typically made of nylon reinforced rubber, with square teeth located on the inside surface. While you drive, the belt transfers the rotation of the crankshaft the camshaft, which in turn activates the valves that provide air and fuel to the cylinders and expel combustion gases to the exhaust system.
Inside your car, the valves and pistons move up and down rapidly, and most engines are not built to allow clearance between a valve that is down and a piston that is up and this is where the timing belt comes in, since it is what keeps the valves and pistons for colliding.
If your timing belt fails, and a collision occurs, the damage to the cylinder head, cylinder walls, valves, and pistons can be extensive, and expensive, as well.
During an automotive repair, the timing belt is often overlooked, since they are typically protected by a cover, and a quick visual inspection isn’t a possibility. Over the past several years, cars have been built to rely on a timing chain as opposed to a belt.
While these are typically longer lasting, they operate on essentially the same principal, and require replacement and maintenance, which varies by car. Typically, you can expect to have to replace your timing belt or chain every 60,000 to 90,000 miles.
Replacing a timing belt or chain requires the removal of the engine drive belt, the component responsible for operating the alternator, water pump, power steering pump, and air conditioner.
When you visit your mechanic, be sure to ask them about how often the timing belt or chain on your car should be replaced. Your vehicle’s owners manual will also be able to provide guidelines as to timing belt replacement and maintenance.
Remember, the care you take of your car today ensures its continued health, and your safety while on the road. Automotive repair problems, if caught early, are less expensive and require less time to repair than those that are overlooked in the initial stages. Doing a good job with preliminary care and maintenance can really help your automobile to go along way.
Increase Automotive Performance:
In these days of high gasoline prices, it may seem ridiculous to consider ways to increase your car’s performance as they are almost always associated with increased fuel consumption. However, there are four ways to increase performance that do not have to negatively impact your gas mileage. Let’s take a closer look at each one.
1. Reusable Air Filters. Landfills are stuffed with items we use once and then throw out. Auto air filters are one such item and through the life of a car you can go through 6-12 of them with no problem. For approximately three times the price, washable and reusable air filters are a great alternative. When you purchase one it likely will be the last air filter your car will ever need. Reusable air filters enable you to gain slight increases in horsepower and acceleration as well as to impact the environment in a positive way.
2. Performance Chips. All new cars are operated by a computer chip that tells how much torque and horsepower can be displaced. Performance chips or re-calibrations of your current chip can produce significant increases in horsepower and torque for your vehicle.
3. Performance Exhaust Systems. Cat-back or “catalyst-back exhaust systems” are a great way to free up trapped torque and to unleash horsepower. Keeping all the important emissions parts in place, a cat-back system incorporates large width exhaust pipes and low restriction performance mufflers into your car thereby lowering exhaust back pressure. A side benefit is the really awesome sound emitting from the exhaust system.
4. Cold Air Intake. A cold air intake is an under the hood mod that helps to reduce the temperature of the air entering the car for the sole purpose of increasing the power of the engine. Side benefits include enhancements to the appearance of the engine bay as this part can be attractive and colorful; the sound the unit makes is also appealing.
Costs for each of these performance enhancements can vary greatly. Shopping online with a trusted wholesaler is one of the best ways to find top quality parts at the lowest possible prices. By doing the work yourself, you can save a bundle and enjoy the fruits of your labor in no time.