Addressing Auto Problems: Troubleshooting an Automatic (Part II)

September 24, 2008

As I mentioned in my previous post, transmission problems are usually too complicated for a regular DIY-project. You’ll need expensive specialized tools to perform various operations on your automatic transmission. But it is possible for you to determine the possible cause/s behind your transmission problems.

There are usually five main auto problems that could result in automatic transmission troubles. These include bad engine performance, problems with your car’s mechanical components, hydraulic problems, engine onboard computer problems or errors, and electronic problems. To find out what’s wrong with your transmission, start with these following tips.

Check Your Transmission Fluid Regularly and Look for Leaks

It’s highly recommended that you check your transmission fluid at least every six months. Like all the other fluids found inside your car, the transmission fluid helps lubricate your gears. Having very low transmission fluid levels can make shifting your car very difficult, if not impossible. It can also lead to transmission damage, which may require you to rebuild the entire system.

If you notice that you’re losing transmission fluid too quickly, then it’s highly probable that you have a leak.

You don’t really have to do much to check for leaks. Since the transmission system is a closed system, there are just a few places in the entire system that could spring a leak. And if you’re using transmission fluid, then all you basically have to do is look for signs of red fluid dripping from under your ride.

Check for leaks in the following places:

  • Check your radiator. If you have a transmission cooler, then transmission fluid may have leaked and mixed with the coolant inside your radiator. Because these two fluids don’t mix well, spotting a leak through your radiator should be pretty easy.
  • Locate your filler tube base and check for leaks. Is there red fluid pooling underneath your filler tube base. Is the device damp? If yes, then you have a leak.
  • Look at the Selector Shaft. The selector shaft refers to the small rod that attaches your gear shift to your transmission system.
  • Check between your engine and transmission.
  • Have a look at the area where your speed (electronic) sensor is mounted. The speed sensor is usually bolted to your transmission housing or is screwed into the housing itself.
  • Check out the transmission’s drain hole. The drain hole should be located directly under your transmission.

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Addressing Auto Problems: Troubleshooting an Automatic (Part I)

September 20, 2008

Driving a car with an automatic transmission? While making modifications and replacements to this transmission is best left to the professionals, it’s still crucial that you troubleshoot your transmission once in a while or the moment you notice problems every time you shift gears. By correctly identifying your transmission problem, or at the very least getting a rough idea where the problem lies, you save yourself from getting ripped off by a shady mechanic. While there are a lot of honest repair shops out there, there are still some who would try to take advantage of the situation by replacing your entire transmission when the problem is something as simple as needing more transmission fluid.

So, before you send your car to be checked by any mechanic for the littlest trouble, protect yourself from overcharging brought by over-repairing by brushing up on your auto transmission knowledge.

Four of the most basic complaints coming from car owners regarding their transmissions go:

  1. I can’t move my gear stick!
  2. The entire car refuses to move even when I shift to Drive/Reverse!
  3. It takes a while for the transmission to work. I usually have to wait a while before I can actually move forward or in reverse.
  4. Some of my gears refuse to work.

Sounds familiar? Before you start actually troubleshooting your vehicle, it’s important that you first take note of all your transmission’s different parts. And no, you won’t have to open that mysterious black box inside your car to do this.

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Car Maintenance 101: Checking your Rotor and Distributor Cap

September 13, 2008

When it comes to vehicle repair, the distributor cap is hardly mentioned as one of the main sources of vehicle problems. But despite being a relatively low-key part of your ignition system, the distributor cap is actually one of the most important parts of your ride.

If you have a damaged distributor cap, expect to have problems starting your car. While if your distributor cap is damaged beyond repair or if it’s missing from your ride completely, your engine simply won’t turn over. In short, your vehicle won’t start at all.

Your car’s distributor cap is usually easy to locate. You can find it at the other end of your ignition wires and spark plugs. It is designed to act as the main covering of your ignition system’s distributor. And while replacing your distributor cap and its rotor isn’t necessarily a part of your tune-up process, you still need to inspect this auto component and clean it if it shows signs of clogging or dirt buildup.

Because your vehicle’s distributor cap is a crucial part of your ignition system, not to mention the fact that it carries voltage, this part automatically becomes prone to damage. The following are some signs of damage that may indicate that you need to replace your distributor cap as soon as possible:

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Auto Enhancements: All About the Cold Air Intake

September 12, 2008

For car enthusiasts, there’s nothing more satisfying than driving a high-performance ride equipped with an extremely powerful engine. While engine modifications may require an overhaul of your engine system, one way by which you can enhance your vehicle’s performance without having to make drastic alterations on your engine is by using a high-quality cold air intake.

To help answer any questions you may have about the cold air intake, I’m making this post a multi-section entry. Simply read through the sections which you’re interested in.

What is a Cold Air Intake?

The cold air intake is basically an air intake system designed to lower the temperature of the air that moves into your vehicle. By lowering the air, the cold air intake slightly increases the power of your engine. This device also increases the amount of oxygen available to your engine for better fuel combustion.

How Does the Cold Air Intake Work?

As I mentioned earlier, the cold air intake increases the amount of “cold” oxygen that is made available to your engine system. The intake is usually installed on a location where colder air can flow into the engine system—usually on the bumper or even hood of the car.

Cold air is usually preferable when it comes to fuel combustion since cold air tends to expand more once heated. It’s also a bit denser compared to warm air, thereby encouraging better fuel combustion.

What Are the Benefits of Using a Cold Air Intake?

As I mentioned before, a cold air intake can slightly increase your engine’s power. But aside from increasing power, this ingenious device also helps promote better fuel economy. While it may not lessen your engine’s fuel consumption, it’s a known fact that a well maintained engine eats up less fuel. And since the cold air intake supplies your engine with an abundance of oxygen, your engine doesn’t have to work so hard each time you drive, resulting in better fuel consumption and less engine damage.

Another advantage brought by the cold air intake is that it prevents engine problems, prolonging your engine’s life. Because the cold air intake introduces “colder” air into the engine system, it lowers the operating temperatures under your vehicle’s hood, preventing damage caused by overheating.

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Car Maintenance 101: Bleeding your Brakes (Two-Person Brake Fluid Flushing)

September 6, 2008

While brake bleeding is a crucial part of auto maintenance, it’s not really something that people like to do. Bleeding your brakes can be an extremely messy affair, plus if you’re the guy (or girl) who gets stuck removing the bleeder screws or brake bleed screws, it requires a lot of contorting just to gain access to the auto parts that you need to remove.

It’s going to be an extremely taxing affair, so if you’re not up to it or if after reading this post, you’re still not sure about what to do, then I suggest you have a professional mechanic assist you while you bleed your brakes.

The Importance of Bleeding Your Brakes

With all that said, you’re probably wondering why you actually have to do this in the first place. When you bleed your brakes, you’re basically removing your old brake fluid that may be contaminated or may have air bubbles. Once air gets into your brake fluid, your braking system’s performance decreases dramatically. This could also result in a “too-soft” braking pedal that heads to your floorboard with the slightest pressure.

So How Does Air Get Into Your Braking System?

Leakage at the fittings where your hoses and lines connect with your master cylinder can introduce air to your braking system. Air can also enter through corrosion on your calipers, brakelines, and wheel cylinders.

What You’ll Need:

  • a willing and helpful assistant
  • transparent, plastic tubing
  • a box wrench
  • a couple of 8 oz. Brake Fluid cans
  • spacer (usually in the form of 1×4 wood)
  • transparent plastic bottle
  • a turkey baster
  • a bunch of clean rags

Why You’ll Need an Assistant:

While you can choose to bleed your brakes alone, bleeding your car’s brakes with an assistant makes the job a lot easier and simpler. When you have an assistant, one of you will have to step on the brake pedal while the other opens the bleeder screws to drain your brake fluid.

Make sure your assistant can hear you while you give out instructions. It’s crucial that the brake pedal is never released while the bleeder is open. If this happens, expect air to enter your braking system immediately.

Where Do You Start?

The sequence of wheels being bled depends on the type of vehicle you have. To make sure you’re doing the right thing, do consult your owner’s manual or even your service manual. Don’t forget to check for specific ABS-procedures and DOT-grade brake fluid suggestions. Keep in mind that the brake fluid you’re going to be using should meet your vehicle’s specifications.

As a general tip, remember that front-wheel drives are usually bled in a diagonal sequence. If you have a rear-wheel drive vehicle, it’s always a good advice to start on the wheel that is farthest from your master cylinder.

Other Reminders Before You Start:

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Addressing Auto Problems: Replacing Worn Brake Lines

September 5, 2008

As a follow-up to my previous entry on how to check your braking components, here are some steps on how to replace worn brake lines. As we’ve discussed in my previous post, when it comes to your braking system, it’s best to conduct repair and part-replacement before the problem worsens. So if you’ve noticed corrosion on your brake lines or if they’ve become rigid and they’re sporting some cracks, then it’s best to start shopping for new brake lines to avoid getting into any accidents.

When buying a new brake line kit, be sure to find one that meets your vehicle’s specifications. If you don’t know what type of kit to get, then a professional mechanic should be able to help you out.

Remember, when it comes to your brakes, it’s best to find a high-quality part as opposed to settling for something cheaper but less dependable. Seriously, now’s not the time for you to scrimp.

That being said, here are some of the materials you’ll need when replacing your brake lines.

  • a vehicle jack
  • 2 open-end wrenches
  • a couple of rags
  • some brake fluid
  • your replacement brake lines

Note: While you may need to replace just a single line, based from experience (and other people’s experiences as well), it pays to replace your brake lines in pairs. Because when one brake line becomes corroded or damaged, it’s only a matter of time before the other one follows.

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