Winter Reminders for Every Driver: The Right Maintenance Steps (Part II)

November 26, 2008

Note to Reader 1: So we’ve learned from the previous post that it’s important to keep your ride spick and span during the winter season and that you need to have a great set of snow tires available for your trips around town… In this follow-up post, we’ll be discussing other maintenance tips. Some of which are winter-specific, and other helpful reminders that you should note down and conduct even after the winter season. So, without further ado, I present to you Part II of “Winter Reminders for Every Driver: The Right Maintenance Steps”.

Tip # 3: Keep Your Headlights Clean and Snow-Free As Much As Possible, Even If You Don’t Think You’ll Be Using Them. During the winter season, days generally become shorter. If it’s snowing pretty bad in your area, then you can expect inches of snow to cling to your headlights, limiting your driving visibility greatly. One of the downsides of snowy weather is how your surroundings can become dark as night in a matter of hours—sometimes even just minutes! You’re driving and just minutes after light snow coats your hood, it becomes more and more difficult to see oncoming vehicles. And we all know how difficult it is to trust your brakes when your vehicle is crawling through icy streets. This is why it pays to have fully-functional headlights which you can use during poor visibility conditions. (Fog lights are generally used during the winter, but it pays to have an awesome pair of headlights too.)

Another reason why it pays to clean out your headlights before you travel is that it helps prevent the buildup of snow, sand, salt, and other debris which could cause long-term damage to your headlights. These harmful agents can easily diminish the effectiveness of your headlights in the long run, requiring you to replace both headlight assemblies come spring. Save more by keeping your headlights in tiptop condition instead.

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Winter Reminders for Every Driver: The Right Maintenance Steps (Part I)

November 24, 2008

Winter’s here! And for most of us, it’s sure to be a white Christmas. This may not be the happiest Christmas for everyone, what with all the problems most of us are facing, but the best way to somewhat enjoy the holidays is to make the best out of what we still have—for some good health, for others a great family, others still excellent friends, and I’m hoping that you, like me, are still thankful that you have a car to drive to town with.

For me, the best thing about winter is snow. I usually stay over at my sister’s place with the rest of my family to celebrate the holidays with them. Snow is almost-always present especially during the latter parts of December. So I have to remember to take extra-care of my vehicle and to drive really slowly, or to not drive at all when the streets are icy.

One of the most amusing driving reminders I’ve ever gotten from a close friend is that: “If the roads are wet, drive like it’s snowing. If the streets have snow, then drive like they’re icy. And if the roads are icy, then don’t drive at all.” The cool thing about this tip is that it’s actually a great way to avoid accidents! And while this tip doesn’t just apply to the winter season, it’s more recommended during the colder parts of the year.

We all know that during winter, starting your car is generally harder than usual. Especially if you park it overnight outside your garage where snow can make a car-cicle out of your ride. During winter, inspecting and repairing your vehicle also becomes ten times harder than normal, especially if you don’t have enough room in your garage. When your garage is too small, you’ll have to conduct your auto-check outside your house—and the next thing you’ll know, you’re knee-deep in freezing snow with little or absolutely no access to your chassis components. Car care also becomes a problem, because no amount of outdoor heating methods could prevent the water you use to clean your vehicle from turning into ice upon contact. One way you can keep your ride well-prepared for the winter season is by conducting all the auto checks and maintenance processes before snow falls.

To complete your winter auto checklist, I’ve compiled some of the best tips I’ve gotten in all my years of driving and repairing automobiles. Let’s start this multi-post topic with regular and winter-specific auto maintenance steps.

Winter Car Care and Auto Maintenance Tips

I’d like to start this multi-entry post with basic car maintenance tips and reminders that are generally winter-specific. So without further ado…onto the first tip!

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Car Maintenance 101: Troubleshooting Your Engine for Problems (Part 7)

November 19, 2008

Note to Reader 9: My final post on troubleshooting your engine. I know that sometimes looking at these symptoms can be a bit confusing, after all, stalling is staling, whether you’re running at high speeds or idling. But the fact is, you need to accurately pinpoint your auto symptoms to find out the possible factors behind your engine problems. Remember that the moment you experience engine problems, it’s always best to clear your schedule as soon as possible for a complete auto check or tune-up.

If your vehicle uses up more oil than normal, but almost no smoke is exiting from your exhaust… You may notice this symptom between oil changes. You notice that your car’s oil level is becoming suspiciously low, too quickly. It’s never happened before, and it doesn’t seem like your engine is consuming more oil than usual. The weird thing is that you can’t find even the smallest amounts of smoke in your exhaust. If your vehicle is exhibiting these symptoms then…

Possible Cause: Your engine’s gasket seals or the gaskets themselves may be broken or damaged.

Possible Solution: Check your gaskets for signs of damage. Damaged gaskets always require replacing, so if I were you, I’d start looking around for replacement gaskets and seals. Make sure your gaskets and gasket seals meet your vehicle’s specifications and requirements. To find out which seals and gaskets will work best with your car, do consult your owner’s manual. (This little tip holds true for any replacement part you’re planning on installing in your ride.)

Possible Cause: You may have a malfunctioning or damaged PCV valve.

Possible Solution: Locate your PCV valve and look for signs of damage. Check to see if this component is really malfunctioning, and if it is, replace this part as soon as you can.

Possible Cause: Your engine’s valve seals may no longer be working as well as they should.

Possible Solution: Check your engine valve seals for signs of damage. Replace your valve seals if needed.

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Car Maintenance 101: Troubleshooting Your Engine for Problems (Part 6)

November 14, 2008

*** Shown in the picture is a Toyota Alternator.

Note to Reader 7: I’m happy to say that we’re nearing the end of this particular topic. Feel free to ask me questions that you’d like to have addressed or posts that you want to see written.

And now, on with the rest of the show. Here are more tips on how to troubleshoot your engine properly.

If your engine has a tendency to idle almost-immediately after running This situation shows a scenario wherein you have an engine that’s already “warm enough” but still has idle speeds that refuses to return to “normal”. In this situation, you really have to stomp on your brakes hard to prevent your car from surging or lurching forward. If this is a common scenario for you, then you might have:

Possible Cause: An overheating engine.

Possible Solution: Check your engine’s operating temperature, is it way above normal? Noticing light smoke coming from under your hood? Pull over immediately and let your engine cool a bit before popping your hood open. After another quarter of an hour or so, have a look at your engine cooling system. If you can make it home, do so. Otherwise wait until your engine cools or call a tow truck. You’re going to have to inspect your engine cooling system for signs of damage. Inspect your radiator, radiator hoses, thermostat, and fan belt. Repair or replace damaged component/s if there are any.

Possible Cause: Worn carburetor or dying power circuit or accelerator pump.

Possible Solution: Inspect your carburetor and its nearby components for signs of damage. Make the necessary reparations and replacements if needed. You may have to replace your actual carburetor or its accelerator pump.

Possible Cause: Low pressure coming from your fuel pressure regulator.

Possible Solution: While replacing a fuel pressure regulator should be generally left to professional mechanics, what you can do is inspect your regulator for signs of damage. You can do this by checking your fuel pressure using a great fuel pressure gauge.

Possible Cause: Malfunctioning alternator. The alternator is the part of your vehicle that keeps your car’s battery in tiptop shape. Aside from keeping your battery charged, this auto unit also provides power to your vehicle’s numerous electrical units and accessories.

Possible Solution: Replace your alternator if needed.

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Car Maintenance 101: Troubleshooting Your Engine for Problems (Part 5)

November 11, 2008

Note to Reader 6: This is just a side note, but I’m a bit worried about the current crisis being faced by huge automakers in the country. Although I’m not selling new cars, more like repairing old ones really, it still kinda smarts to see the Detroit Big Three (Ford, Chrysler, and General Motors) take a stumble. Here’s to hoping those companies get the aid that they need to continue creating good cars.

That being said, onto our usual route. Troubleshooting your engine part 6. Bear with me, there’s just two or three more scenarios which I hope can help you guys sort things out when it comes to your rides. By the way, since most of the causes presented in this post have already been discussed in the previous entries, I’ll try to keep this post as short and sweet as possible.

***The picture shows a Scan Tool or DTI (Diagnostic Trouble Code) Reader

If your engine stalls while idling or can’t idle smoothly after running for a while… Your car may run fine at high speeds, sure. But what happens when your vehicle starts to crawl? Here’s one quick way to test if your vehicle truly is exhibiting this symptom. After traveling for a quarter of an hour or so, release your step on the gas pedal to see how your engine’s gong to run. If it bucks or it stalls then…

Possible Cause: You may have a vacuum leak.

Possible Solution: Conduct a full check on your vacuum lines and try to determine if there’s leakage somewhere. If there is, locate the faulty vacuum line/s and replace if necessary.

Possible Cause: If your ride is still sporting a carburetor (in short, if you don’t have a fuel injection system), then it’s possible that you have a faulty power circuit or accelerator pump.

Possible Solution: Locate your accelerator pump and check for damage. If the damage is extensive, replace the entire carburetor. If the damage is contained, meaning it’s found in the pump itself, then simply replace your accelerator pump.

Possible Cause: Your idle speeds are set incorrectly.

Possible Solution: Set things right by adjusting your idle speed according to your vehicle’s specifications.

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Car Maintenance 101: Troubleshooting Your Engine for Problems (Part 4)

November 7, 2008

Note to Reader 5: Apologies to you guys for not being able to update my blog too often. Been down with the flu and up with all the excitement of the elections and all… But what I do have for you is more tips on troubleshooting your engine for possible problems. Don’t worry, there’s just a few more posts regarding this topic. But if you do have any questions, please feel free to ask away.

**BTW: That’s a close-up of the EGR Valve.

If your engine stalls each time you try idling while the engine is still cold, or if the engine refuses to idle smoothly… When your engine is still a bit cold, usually immediately after starting your car in the morning, it naturally runs a bit rougher than usual. But if it tends to be overly rough or if you experience jolting and stalling then that’s indication of a bigger problem—even if your engine does run fine each time you drive at higher speeds.

Possible Cause: Ignition timing issues.

Possible Solution: Minor adjustments should do the trick!

Possible Cause: Problems with some of your ignition parts.

Possible Solution: Conduct a full ignition tune-up. Meaning, check your distributor rotor and cap (if you have them), spark plugs and ignition wires. If there is damage on any of these units, replace them as soon as possible. I usually keep a spare ignition tune-up kit with me, in case I forget to purchase a kit until my next tune-up. This way, I won’t have to wait for my kit to get delivered before I could go about my usual vehicle maintenance procedures.

Possible Cause: **If your car has a carburetor, then you may have a malfunctioning power circuit or a faulty accelerator pump.

Possible Solution: Check your accelerator pump and power circuit for signs of damage. Replace either your entire carburetor or just the accelerator pump depending on which part requires prompt replacing.

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