2007 Mazda 3 – Engine Replacement

Mazda 3

Today’s featured service is an engine replacement on a 2007 Mazda 3, brought to us by a client from West End, Vancouver.

Mazda 3

2007 Mazda 3 with 2.3 liter engine.

We service many Mazda 3s at our shop and have found them to be extremely reliable vehicles. The problems with these cars are few and those that do occur are very predictable. They happen with such clockwork that a budget of repairs and maintenance could be accurately drafted.

It was quite unusual when this vehicle was towed to our shop dead with a blown engine. There was no compression in all cylinders and coolant was present inside #1 and #2 cylinders. Clearly something had gone badly wrong though the owner’s only experience was that the car lost power on a highway drive and wouldn’t run any more: no strange noises, smoke or high reading temperature gauges were present.

Mazda 3

View of timing chain and cam gears with timing cover removed. These components must be removed and reinstalled with a cylinder head gasket replacement.

Mazda 3

View of overhead camshafts with valve cover removed. These must be removed to access cylinder head bolts.

Exploratory surgery was called for. We removed the cylinder head from the engine, an arduous task due to the chain driven dual overhead cams. With the head off we found something amazing: the engine block had melted between cylinders 1 and 2, and 3 and 4. The cylinder head gasket was also burned between these two cylinders and the cylinder head was damaged beyond repair. Only a severe overheating could have caused this damage but it seemed strange based on our client’s experience of driving the car and the fact that it had been serviced within the past few weeks.

Mazda 3

Engine block with cylinder head off. The red arrows point to the melted areas between cylinders.

Mazda 3

Close up view of burn between cylinders. So much heat was generated that the metal melted.

Mazda 3

View of cylinder head and engine valves. The red arrow points to another severely damaged area.

Replacement of the engine was our only option at this point and the client opted for a good used engine. While rebuilt engines are usually the better option due to their use of new parts and one to three year warranty, they are expensive and there are many good used engines available these days. The disadvantage of used engines is that you are never certain of what you are getting until it is running. The warranty is also much less , so while the bill is cheaper you are taking a risk. Generally it’s a good risk, as 99% of used engines we have installed have been good.

Firing up a replacement engine and doing final road tests is both a nerve-wracking and exciting time. This 2.3 liter engine roared to life after some extended cranking and immediately ran well, though there was one hitch: the exhaust system was filled with antifreeze and engine oil from the previous engine’s melt down. From the moment the engine started there were billowing clouds of white smoke coming from the tailpipe. These continued for several embarrassing kilometers into the road test. Eventually they stopped but it was certainly a testament to the fate that had befallen the original engine.

Mazda 3

White smoke caused by an exhaust system full of antifreeze. It took 15 minutes of driving to burn it out.

Out of Province Vehicle Inspections

Provincial vehicle inspections in BC are required in a few circumstances: for commercial vehicles over 8200 kg GVW and passenger carrying vehicles like taxis they are mandatory every 6 months to 1 year.

For cars and light trucks the only time you are required to perform an inspection is if the vehicle is brought in from out of province or you receive a notice from a police officer to have an inspection.

While all the light duty inspections are the same the most common cause for this service is for out of province vehicles being registered in BC.

What do we look at during the inspection? There are strict guidelines and criteria to be following during an inspection but the focus of the inspection is entirely on safety and compliance with the BC motor vehicle act.

The safety inspection is essentially a snap shot of the vehicle’s current condition. It is not a preventative maintenance inspection.

Brake pads for example will pass the provincial inspection with 3mm remaining because the minimum spec is 2mm. 3mm for all intents and purposes is nearly worn out but it still passes though we would certainly recommend service soon.

One area of the inspection manual features a very large and complete chapter and that is the section about lighting. Any vehicle brought into BC that was originally sold in Canada should have no issues. Ditto for US vehicles except that they generally don’t come with daytime running lights. The large lighting section is targeted primarily to vehicles sold outside of the North America market. Cars from elsewhere in the world have different lighting standards and must be modified to Canadian specs. The headlamps on a right hand drive vehicle point in slightly different directions but are enough to illuminate the wrong area of the road.

For many older vehicles brought in from out of province this inspection can be a life-altering moment for this car or truck. If maintenance and repairs have been badly neglected in the past, the cost of compliance may be too high. For a vehicle with excessive rust or structural damage the inspection is probably a blessing in disguise to get the vehicle off the road; unless of course it is a valuable and rare vintage car.

If your vehicle does not pass the inspection you are free to perform the repairs at a shop of your choice or even do it yourself. The vehicle must be reinspected to be certain that repairs were done to standards.

There is a fee for the inspection and the decal. Depending on what failed and how or who repaired it there may be a reinspection fee.

For the technician doing the inspection there is a lot at stake: It must be honest and truthful, and to the book. If something should happen to the vehicle such as severe crash caused by a mechanical defect and the inspector said it was safe he or she could be found liable.

As for inspection facilities they are not all created equally. In the past there have been media sting operations looking at facilities that barely inspected a vehicle but grant a pass: this done on a car or truck with an obvious safety defect. Also some facilities may be over zealous in their recommended repairs. If you feel like your inspection was unfair you can contact the CVSE and they will have one of their officers follow up.

If you are needing a vehicle inspection for an out of province vehicle or for any other reason please contact us to set an appointment. Should repairs be required we can generally do anything that you need to bring it to compliance.

Pawlik Automotive Expanding Automotive Technician Opportunity

Mark: Top Local Lead Generation and we’re here with Mr. Bernie Pawlik of Pawlik Automotive - award winning “Best in Vancouver” for auto repair - 15 times running as voted by their customers. How’re you doing today Bernie?

Bernie: Excellent.

Mark: So, Pawlik Automotive is expanding and you need some new technicians. What are the benefits of working at Pawlik Automotive?

Bernie: Well, thank you for asking. We are looking for two technicians starting for November 30th. Some of the benefits, well we’re a well equipped shop, we’ve got 5 bays - we’ve just expanded to 5 bays, we’ve got 5 new hoists, we’ve got up-to-dat scan tools, a variety of good equipment to make the job easy and efficient.

We have an awesome clientele at Pawlik Automotive, happy people, positive attitude, some of our clients have been with us 20 years or more and we keep getting a steady stream of new customers as well. These people are awesome because they like having their vehicles fixed properly which is great.

We work on a variety of cars from light trucks to Porsche’s, Fords, Japanese cars, European. We do a variety of work from oils changes to inspections to electronic diagnosis. There is always something to challenge you and keep life interesting. It’s not the same old same old everyday.

We’re a regular hour shop, we’re open Monday to Friday from 8:30am-5:00pm. Never open on weekends. One thing that I love about what we’ve created here is a positive work environment, with a focus on team work. Your voice and contribution are very valued and encouraged. We really like team work here and I’m really about creating an awesome work space.

We also offer benefits - medical, dental and long term disability. This is a salaried position, we have performance bonuses. So performance is important at Pawlik Automotive.

A couple of other things on the side - we have great repair information to make your job as a tech easy, we’ve got Mitchell, All data, Identifix and a variety of tools. Whatever we need to get the job done and work as a team.

So as I’ve already said, we’re looking for two new techs; 3rd year apprenticeship minimum or Red Seal and we’re starting November 30th. So put your resumes in. You can email it directly to me - bernie@pawlikautomotive.com or you can phone me at 604-327-7112 and we can discuss the positions.

Mark: Great, so that’s Mr. Bernie Pawlik at Pawlik Automotive looking for - if you have your 3rd year apprenticeship in automotive repair or are a red seal person with that ticket then this is the place to call 604-327-7112 or send Bernie an email bernie@pawlikautomotive.com. Check out their site www.pawlikautomotive.com
Thanks Bernie

Bernie: Thank you

Proper Effective Tire Repair

Every once in a while you will get a flat tire: it’s an inevitable part of driving. 95% of the time the cause is a nail or screw that was lying on the road and made its way into your tire. If you are lucky the offending object will have lodged itself into the center of the tread, you notice it quickly and have it repaired.

Flat repairs are a frequent service at most auto service and tire shops. There are several ways to repair a flat, and there is a right way and a wrong way.

The wrong way is to use a plug. A plug is a rubberized ‘string’ that can be inserted into the hole left by the nail or screw. The repair procedure is simple and cheap which explains its attractiveness: simply pull out the nail or screw, insert the plug, trim off the excess with a knife, fill the tire with air and then drive away.

The very simplicity of this repair is the major thing that makes it wrong. In order to do a proper flat repair the tire must be taken off the rim and inspected. Many times we find that the nail has damaged the tire’s sidewall or that the vehicle was driven for an extended time with low pressure before seeking out the repair. This leads to sidewall damage. By simply plugging a tire and continuing to drive you could be sitting on a potential time bomb.

So what is a proper flat repair? If all looks good from the inepection then a patch or a combination patch/plug can be installed, the tire remounted and reinstalled on the car. This is a trouble free, safe repair and is the type approved by tire manufacturers the world over.

Unfortunately there are times when we find tires that can’t be repaired even before taking them off the rim. This occurs because the sharp object has entered the sidewall or is in the tread but too close to the sidewall to repair. In this case replacing the tire is the only option and frequently this leads to replacing more that just the damaged tire. It is critical on most modern cars to keep tire treads depths very close to the other tires. Tread match is also critical. With antilock brakes and all wheel drive systems consistent tires are that much more critical.

Is there ever a good time to plug a tire? The only instance that I can think of is if you are on an off road trip and are miles from proper tire repair. Of course you will need your own plug kit and an air compressor, so this is a well preplanned and thought out strategy. Otherwise always insist on having a proper flat repair for your safety and peace of mind.

BMW Service and Maintenance

BMW Service

Today’s feature is a maintenance service on a 2011 BMW 550ix, brought to us by a client from Richmond, BC.

BMW Service

2011 550i Xdrive

The BMW 550ix is an amazing vehicle, and with its twin turbo V8 engine and all wheel drive system moves incredibly quickly and sticks to the road. While all that technology is great, routine maintenance keeps it running well and holds repairs to a minimum.

BMW has used a maintenance reminder system for several decades. The original system featured several green lights for the oil change and amber lights for a general inspection. After service was performed the reminder lamps on the dash could be reset with a special tool or in later years by a scan tool.

With their newer models, from the mid 2000s and newer, BMW has come up with a more sophisticated system. Maintenance status is accessed with the idrive: that large round knob on the console and illuminated on a display panel.

BMW Service

The maintenance display on the dash information panel. Each item can be scrolled through to indicate the date and/or mileage that the service is due.

The system now advises you of more than just oil change and inspection. It reminds you of when your brake pads need to be changed and your brake fluid flushed. After service is performed a scan tool is required to reset the related service.

What BMW has done here is taken the critical service items and put them on display to make sure that they are handled as needed. Add the convenience of tire pressure monitoring and you can pretty much just drive your BMW until a warning lamp comes on to tell you something is wrong or a service is required.

Sounds pretty fantastic, however it still leaves many vehicle system unattended. What about the level and quality of drivetrain fluids? What about the steering and suspension? What about a worn belt or an about to fail cooling system component? A routine comprehensive inspection performed annually on an over five year old vehicle is critical to keep your car running well, safe and reliable.

BMW Service

BMW 550iX twin turbo V8 engine

One concern that I have is that BMW’s oil change interval is too long; 24,000 kilometers is really pushing it. By the time we change oil with this long usage it is extremely dirty and contaminated. Changing oil every 15,000 kilometers is more prudent if you want long life out of your vehicle. If you drive lesser amounts an annual inspection and maintenance is still critical.

It is great to appreciate and embrace the technology of modern cars however just remember that automobile manufacturers are in the business of selling new cars. Their primary concerns are that the car is trouble free in the warrantee period and somewhat trouble free for a few years after that. Most vehicles are built far better than most people think and will easily last 20 years with little trouble, provided you maintain them well.

Keeping a car on the road for a long time minimizes the carbon footprint and resource usage in the manufacturing of that vehicle: it’s better for our planet. This is what we do at our business: prolong the life of your vehicle to save you money and our environment.

VW TDI’s – What Can Owners Do?

Mark: Good morning, it’s Mark at Top Local Lead Generation in Vancouver and we’re here with Mr. Bernie Pawlik of Pawlik Automotive - Vancouver’s 15 time winners of “Best Auto Repair” in Vancouver as voted by their customers. How are you doing today, Bernie?

Bernie: Really good

Mark: So we’re going to talk about a subject that’s unfortunately near and dear to my heart, VW TDI’s and the massive fraud that’s been perpetrated on 11 million customers worldwide and what can we do about it. So what have you found out so far in your research Bernie?

Bernie: Well a couple of things, but I want to put a questions to you as I know you own one of these vehicles, so obviously it’s important to you. So you have said you found out a couple of things, what can you share with us?

Mark: Sure, so I called VW, actually I was going to call the dealership and VW has a intercept phone number on there now, that if you’re calling about the TDI click this number, so I did and it of course goes to a call centre in I believe, Montreal somewhere and you know, they have no answers. We are as in the dark as you are sir was their final response, so who knows. Further research turned up they have a web page where they basically go through all the different questions you might ask, what if they detune it and if your mileage goes down, we don’t know, we don’t know, we don’t know, we don’t know. We don’t know answers as of today October 16, 2015. So it’s been about a month, so not much progress as far as actual let’s do something about this. That’s what I found.

Bernie: Awesome. Well, I can speculate on a few ideas that Volkswagen has to fix it and obviously they’re probably working hard somewhere and they don’t want to say anything until they come up with their strategy. I see they really have 2 options.

One is simply to detune the engine to meet the EPA emissions standards they claim the vehicles going to have. Cost of that of course is going to be decreased gas mileage and engine performance; how much, it’s hard to say but it will definitely not be the same car that you were driving before. From Volkswagen’s perspective it’s probably the cheapest way to do it, I mean once they rewrite the software which is probably not all that difficult, it’s simply a matter of driving to the dealer, plugging it in, they reprogram it, it’s out the door in half an hour and really the cost is pretty minimal to them.

The other option and the better one I think for consumers would be to put an Urea system in, this could be, I heard somewhere speculating about $5,000 and I don’t really know, could be more, could be a bit less but this would involve pretty extensive work, they’d have to obviously reprogram the vehicle as well to accept the system but there would have to be a tank put in the trunk, plumbing, electrical components, exhaust system changed over to a different type of catalyst so that would be a lot more work; probably a day’s type of work for each car – there’s eleven million cars out there, that’s a lot, $5,000 I did a little rough calculation it’s $5.5 billion not to mention all the administrative costs and all the other things that are may occur.

For the consumer, the downside is you have to add some urea to your tank, it’s not very expensive, it would probably cost you depending upon how much you drive 20 to 50 bucks a year, it’s really very minimal and probably the best option but those from what I can tell are probably the two best things, the two ways it’s going to happen.

Mark: So would the urea option impact the performance and the mileage?

Bernie: I don’t believe so, I think you probably will be able to keep that intact and it’s possible it might even find some improvements in mileage and performance by adding that system which would actually be a nice little bonus for the consumer but I wouldn’t want to say, it might just be the same as.

Mark: Sure, so one of the things that I mentioned to you that I thought was an immediate fix, is let’s just put it on biodiesel and that will cure it and so what’s the problem with that?

Bernie: Well, biodiesel is definitely less polluting than petroleum diesel but it still doesn’t eliminate the knocks issue because knocks is a formation of a lot of combustion temperature pressure and diesel has a lot of pressure, it has a lot of temperature and that’s why knocks is so high in diesel. So knocks comes from the air basically it’s nitrogen in the air, there’s oxygen in the air and that’s what happens so diesel does create a lot of knocks, that’s the downside of it but the hydrocarbon and carbon monoxide emissions I believe would be decreased by using biodiesel from what I’ve read, plus it smells a whole lot better too.

Mark: Well I’ve done it on previous cars and there’s more power too because the CT rating is actually higher for biodiesel compared to petroleum, compared to dead dinosaur bones.

Bernie: Yeah, that’s certainly an option.

Mark: I guess there’s other options, I don’t know, I haven’t researched it yet, I don’t know if you have yet but I know Mazda has a low compression diesel 14 to 1 compression and I’m not sure what kind of system, they didn’t even bring them into Canada, I think they’re in the United States, certainly in other parts of the world. I have no idea how they get a nitrous oxide or if it even makes as much nitrous oxide because the compression is so much lower.

Bernie: I don’t know much about that diesel engine but I would speculate that having that lower compression there’s probably a few advantages, one would be lower nitrous oxide because the combustion pressure and temperatures would be lower but I think the other reason they make the engine like that is that they can make it lighter and diesel has to be make pretty robust because pressures are so high that that the engine could explode pretty easily so diesels tend to be a lot heavier than gas engines so I think one of the reasons they went for that lower compression was a lighter weight engine which is more economical.

One other area you were mentioning to me, as an owner of a Volkswagen and I’ve had a couple people call about this type of thing, what do I do, do I just get rid of the car and I would just encourage you if you own one of these cars, the sky isn’t falling in, it’s a bad thing that Volkswagen did and I’m sure they will come up with a solution and there’ll certainly be some financial compensation and it’s going to be hard on the company and I wouldn’t have wanted to buy shares in the company before this happened, it definitely would not have been a great scenario but they’ll come up with a solution, they’ll be forced to and they’ll do something to make it right.

As far as the value of the cars, I did speak with a friend of mine who’s an independent car dealer and he said, well I might pay a little less for them but I’m not overly concerned about it for the time being so there’s probably a slight drop in value in the cars but I don’t think it’s huge and if you plan on keeping the car for the long term which a lot of people who buy these cars are, I’d just say hang in there with it, Volkswagen will come up with a solution, I mean it still drives, you still got the great mileage and power and they will come up with an emission solution. So that’s my thought, it’s a bit of a bad blip but I’d say don’t just get rid of the car right away, there’s other solutions, things will come.

Mark: Yeah, so that’s kind of my, as much as I’d like to have the problem go away, it’s funny how you are sort of proud about driving the car one day, you find out something and the next day, it’s the same car, drives, the same way and now I’m not so proud. That’s not my problem really, that’s not Volkswagen’s problem, Volkswagen’s got to fix the car and they will, one way or another, you know whether it’s we get compensated as an owner from Volkswagen, from class action lawsuits by forcing them to pay people for their mistake for their fraud, they’re going to pay a lot of money, they’ve really put the company at risk so stay the course.

Bernie: I think so; I just think stay the course and it will work its way through. It kind of brings me to the point with cars, there’s a lot reasons people, people buy cars for different reasons and a lot of people buy, most people bought the TDI Jetta for the economy, it’s got some performance and it’s good for the environment, not necessarily good but it’s the best one of the better options for the environment as far as an automobile goes so when you, it’s understandable you wouldn’t feel so good about driving your car after you find out, it’s like your spouse cheating on you, it’s like even if you have a 20 year marriage and it’s been fabulous it like all of a sudden like there’s something in the way and it needs to be worked out so let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water, just get it fixed up and then move on.

Mark: So one of things I will do is we’ll collect up some URL’s, we’ll put them in below in the comments on this and we’ll share those on social media so other owners have resources to check and I’m sure other people are kind of wondering what the heck’s going on, as am I; so we’ll try and share all that information and if we find anything more, if there’s other solutions we’ll check and share those, maybe we’ll revisit this in the future when Volkswagen comes up with their solution.

Bernie: I think that makes sense once Volkswagen actually comes up with a plan then we can discuss that from there. Keep your eyes and ears open.

Mark: Awesome. So anything further Bernie?

Bernie: That’s it.

Mark: Summing up they’re good cars, they still get good mileage, they still have power, they’re polluting a little bit more than we thought but they’ve been polluting that way right from the day we bought the darn thing so that hasn’t changed, so continue until they fix it. It’s up to Volkswagen now and if you need service on yours the guys to go see are the guys at Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver. You can reach them at pawlikautomotive.com or give them a call to book your next appointment 604-327-7112. Thanks Bernie.

Bernie: Thanks Mark, talk to you soon.

Follow Up Links

Vin Numbers​ Find if your car is affected

Recall issued in Europe - Fixes start in 2016​

VW and the TDI Emission Trickery

Mark: Hi it’s Mark from Top Local Lead Generation, we’re here with Mr. Bernie Pawlik - of the award winning Pawlik Automotive - just winners again as voted by their customers as “Best Auto Repair” in Vancouver. How are you doing today, Bernie?

Bernie: I’m good

Mark: I have a forced smile on my face - we’re going to talk about VW TDI’s - I’m an owner of one of these cars, when we last talked about these we both had high praise for these vehicles and it turns out it was an illusion. They are very fuel efficient but they’re also polluting like crazy because of what Volkswagen has done so maybe you can tell us a little bit about what happened, what’s gone on.

Bernie: Yes, essentially the TDI was sold as a green diesel car. It had everything that people wanted; power, performance, excellent fuel economy and low emissions. High emissions are a common thing in diesel engine along with excellent fuel economy. Power and performance weren't there in the past; but now VW (along with most other manufacturers) combined all three but VW had a few tricks up their sleeve and the emissions weren’t what we excepted them to be.

Mark: So how was VW able to make the emissions low on an emission test and yet have cars that are emitting up to 40 times the regulated amount of nitrous oxide?

Bernie: Well they did some interesting, kind of crafty software programming:  - they were able to write code so that when a vehicle was on a dynamometer being tested for emissions it would perform differently. The vehicle used a combination of the GPS system, the steering angle sensor input & wheel speed sensors to tell the computer that “hey this vehicle is not going anywhere, it’s being emission tested.” It would perform what was best for emissions, but as soon as the car started moving up the road, it would go back to its other programming for better fuel economy and performance.

Mark: So there are lots and lots of diesel cars and trucks on the road, how does everybody else deal with nitrous oxide, fuel economy and engine performance - those ultimate 3 things that we all want out of our vehicles?

Bernie: Well what everyone else does and actually Volkswagen does on certain models but not the two litre engines that they sell to North America is use a urea system. It’s basically a tank with an extra chemical that is injected into the exhaust system, into a special catalytic converter and that eliminates the oxides of nitrogen. Volkswagen was originally planning on using the Mercedes BlueTEC system back around 2005, at least some people at VW wanted to use that but others decided, hey let’s develop our own system. They worked on developing their own system and it obviously didn’t turn out as good as they thought. The urea system is an add on, and there is an added cost, however it is very minimal but there is the added hassle of having to add extra fluid to your vehicle every once in a while. It's what everyone else does, even heavy trucks use an urea system for emission reduction.

Mark: So going forward, what kind of options does VW have? I guess it’s VW and Audi and Seat - there’s a bunch of companies that use these same motors.

Bernie: Yes, exactly. Well as far as I see it, they’ve got one of two options. They reprogram the vehicle so it runs all the time for the reduced emission standards; of course the cost of this will be lower fuel economy and reduced performance. This will disappoint the owners who bought the cars for the performance and the economy. Secondly; they can add a urea system which will be extremely expensive for Volkswagen. It will probably take up a bit of trunk space in your vehicle and then you’ll have to add the urea to the vehicle as well. As I said the cost for urea is really minimal unless you buy it at the Mercedes dealer.

Mark: So do we just give up on the idea of clean diesel?

Bernie: I don’t think so, I mean it seems like it works well with the urea system but it’s obviously not quite as what the VW TDI was advertised as being. So yeah, I think the clean diesel works and you and I have talked about the biodiesel option as well as it’s much cleaner than petroleum diesel.

Mark: Well it’s far less polluting. So I guess the big question is how does Volkswagen - why’d they think they could get away with it, why’d they have the nerve to pull off such a stunt - I guess we can’t really know for sure but what is your expert opinion not that, why do you think they did it?

Bernie: Well I think they, as I was saying earlier, were going to use the Mercedes BlueTEC system and then decided, no let’s do our own system. So they obviously did their research and they did their development and found that their system didn’t quite match up to what they expected and they made the choice - let’s just fudge it on the emission test because you know, there’s probably a cost factor involved. You and I were talking earlier: the Jetta’s and a lot of these cars, maybe not the Audi, but the Jetta is a lower end car, they’re a cheaper car so they don’t have the profit margins so, they screwed up and decided to fudge things instead of spending an extra $5000 on the car and putting a urea system in. They probably started with a few cars and they just got so deep into it they keep on going with the “fudging” as I like to say.

Mark: So you mentioned that other vehicles have this, that are using the urea type systems - I know that my dad’s old diesel truck used to get really good mileage and I know that from talking to you that some newer ones for a time there didn’t get as good mileage. So what was going on there?

Bernie: So in the late 2000’s, I think it was a hard time for the diesel industry, the US put some very stringent emission regulations that the manufacturers had to meet. A lot of American trucks, if we can move away from Volkswagens for a minute, went from having minimal emission equipment to now having to add catalytic converters and items for NOx reduction and it just threw the gas mileage in the toilet. They went from twenty miles a gallon on a lot of trucks to eight miles a gallon which is extremely annoying for a lot of owners; and there were lots of problems associated - the diesels just weren’t as reliable.

I might add, we blame Volkswagen the corporation, for doing these kinds of things but there are a lot of diesel truck owners who have removed their own emissions equipment. It’s completely illegal, but we think "well you know, it’s my own truck, I’ll just do what I want" and who cares about the emissions. There are many companies that sell exhaust systems to bypass the catalytic converters and there is software made to bypass the whole system. So there are a lot of polluting diesel vehicles out there, not just Volkswagens, but people do it individually and after-market companies do it.

Mark: And then when, what was the change? That’s kind of resolved itself with the newer vehicles, is that right?

Bernie: Yeah so going forward there are basically the newer generation of diesels, at least the American trucks and pretty much all the diesel vehicles out on the road except for the Volkswagens that use the urea system. That gives you the best combination. You can make an engine that has good power, good fuel economy and then just deal with the excess NOx emissions in the exhaust system with the urea and catalytic converter. It seems to work out well.

Mark: So any final thoughts?

Bernie: You know sometimes it seems innocuous, "oh well, it’s just a little more pollution, whatever." But there are statistics, there are people actually out there dying because of this. It’s not like being shot with a bullet or being run over by a car where the results are immediate. It’s slow, it’s hidden - I mean I don’t know anyone who's died from car pollution, and most of us don’t, but it’s out there. I was just reading that apparently in London, they’re saying 3000 people a year die from pollution of diesel exhaust. I know London is kind of a dirty city and it’s big - but you know, the results are real.

It’s going to be interesting to see what Volkswagen does going ahead: they’ve got a big hill to climb to fix this problem and restore their credibility with their customers and it is probably going to take a long time. The V6 Volkswagen diesels are all fine. There are no issues with those, it’s just the 2 litres in North America that you need to be concerned about. We’ll do another hangout where we’ll talk about what specific things you can expect if you have a TDI Jetta and what you might need to do going forward.

Mark: Awesome. So we’ve been talking with Mr. Bernie Pawlik of Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver. They are an award winning shop, 15 times voted Best Auto Repair in Vancouver . Bernie is a worldwide expert on auto repair and auto maintenance and you can reach them www.pawlikautomotive.com or give them a call and book your next appointment today at 604-327-7112. Thanks Bernie

Bernie: Thanks Mark, talk to you soon.

Subaru Oil Leaks – Diagnosis & Repair

Subaru Forester

Our featured service today is an oil leak repair on a 1999 Subaru Forester, brought to us by a client from Fairview, Vancouver.

Subaru Forester

1999 Subaru Forester

Subaru’s are great cars: very reliable, durable and practical. Like all cars they have repairs that are needed from time to time and on Subarus oil leaks are a common concern. While head gaskets are the most infamous, and expensive leak, this post features a less common one: the engine oil separator plate.

The oil separator plate is located at the back of the engine and requires removal of the transmission and flywheel to access. The part is inexpensive but the labour cost is high. If the vehicle is equipped with a standard transmission repairing this leak offers a good opportunity to inspect the clutch and replace it if required.

Subaru Forester

Rear of engine with clutch and flywheel removed exposing the oil separator plate. The red arrow points to the crack in the plastic plate which is visible just below the screw.

What function does the oil separator plate perform? It is part of the crankcase breather system and prevents engine oil from being sucked into the PCV valve and burned by the engine. The engine crankcase consists of the engine block plus the crankshaft, pistons and connecting rods: all major moving components of the internal combustion engine. During the combustion process a small amount of gases escape past the piston rings and valve seals into the crankcase: the breather system deals with these gases. In the ‘good old days' several decades ago engines had a road draft tube and these highly noxious crankcase gases would escape to the environment. The PCV system was the first major engine emission control device, developed to contain the blowby gases in the engine and reburn them instead of polluting the air.

On our featured Subaru the oil separator plate had cracked and caused a very large engine oil leak. The original plates were made of plastic and have been superseded by a metal plate that will last forever.

Subaru Forester

New oil separator plate installed. The rear crankshaft oil seal was also replaced at this service

Is this a common leak on Subaru’s? Not very. We replace head gaskets, valve cover gaskets, front engine oil seals and oil pan gaskets at a far higher rate. As a preventative maintenance service it is a good idea to replace the original plastic oil separator plate with the upgraded metal unit when your clutch is replaced. This oil separator system is used on many Subaru engines from 1993 to 2011.

How would you know if the oil separator plate is the cause of your Subaru’s oil leak? Only by performing an oil leak diagnosis. This leak can be tricky to see because it comes out the back of the engine right above the oil pan and is hidden by tin shielding at the bottom of the engine. The diagnosis involves removing the shield and viewing the leak is best done with a borescope inspection camera.

For more information about Subaru Foresters click here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subaru_Forester

For more information about crankcase ventilation systems click here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crankcase_ventilation_system

1997 Chevy Van – Complex Diagnosis

Chevy Van
Chevy Van

1997 Chevy Van

Today’s featured service was performed on a hardworking 97 Chevy Van with 260,000 kilometers. The vehicle serves as a carpet cleaning van, and consequently has a lot of engine run time due to operate the large carpet cleaning machine. Several driveability concerns were present with this van requiring two stages of diagnosis to return the vehicle to a good state of repair.

I consider this to be a complex diagnosis: complex because it takes the repair of one thing to reveal other underlying issues. Complex diagnosis is fairly rare and occurs about 5% of the time, but it happens almost exclusively with neglected vehicles. Our featured van was one such example, but not the fault of the current owners for they had just purchased the vehicle.

Let’s look at our featured Chevy van: as I mentioned this vehicle was recently purchased and while out driving to a job it lost power and wouldn’t climb hills well. They were able to drive it to the shop and we proceeded to perform diagnosis. On our road test it seemed likely that the lack of power might be due to the engine being starved for fuel. We connected a fuel pressure gauge and verified that the pressure was below spec. We also noted that the fuel pump volume was very low: the engine was starving for fuel and we traced this to a worn out fuel pump.

The pump was replaced and while at it we also replaced the fuel filter. This was found to be partially plugged. Here was the first sign of neglected maintenance. The pump failure was more than acceptable given the age and mileage of the vehicle however had the filter been changed sooner the pump may have lived a longer life.

After pump replacement the engine started right up and driving it was a treat: there was lots of power. The next day however the engine wouldn’t initially start but eventually did, and it appeared flooded. We assumed that perhaps the engine computer was injecting too much fuel with the pump now working properly. Engine computers adapt to different conditions and sometimes take a few days of driving to readjust.

Chevy Van

Modern gasoline fuel injection system diagram. Note the numerous sensors and components. All of these and potential failure items.

Going forward a couple of days the van had starting problems and we towed it back to our shop to rediagnose it. Our first test was to verify that our new fuel pump was not the problem and it was not: fuel pressure was good. Unfortunately the van started up after being towed to our shop so we had to drive it for a couple of days and let it sit until the symptom reoccurred. This added another level of complexity to the diagnosis: when a concern is intermittent we need to test the vehicle when the problem is occurring to be sure that we find the cause.

When the no start finally reoccurred we were able to trace the problem to worn out spark plugs and spark plug wires. Under certain conditions the spark plugs were not able to ignite the fuel. During the spark plug replacement we found the spark plugs to be an old design of Bosch Platinum spark plugs that were problematic. The plugs and wires were again an example of poor maintenance.

After this two part diagnosis and repair the van runs great, and I’d like to leave you with a two important points:

1- Most vehicle diagnosis is a straight forward procedure if you address it quickly after the concerns start. It is often more complex when left and the vehicle is neglected. Performing routine maintenance: replacing fuel filters & spark plugs at the recommended interval is critical and will increase vehicle reliability and reduce diagnostic costs. When buying a used vehicle there may be repairs involved to deal with the previous owner’s neglect. This is often found in a prepurchase inspection.

2- With a diagnosis like this it is very important to trust the shop that you are dealing with and be sure they are trust worthy. If you don’t understand why you have to do multiple repairs be sure they are able to explain what is happening. A car or truck is a very complex machine and many things can and do go wrong: sometimes simultaneously and at other times in rapid succession. Some problems, once repaired will reveal other underlying issues.

For more information about the Chevy Van click here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chevrolet_Express

For more information about engine management systems click here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Engine_control_unit

2006 Subaru Outback – Control Arm Bushings

Subaru Outback

This week’s featured service is control arm bushing replacement performed on a 2006 Subaru Outback.

Subaru Outback

2006 Subaru Outback

Control arm bushing replacement is becoming a frequent service at our shop. The increased wear seems to center around the design of the bushing which has changed over the past 10 or 15 years.

A bushing, in case you were wondering, is a flexible coupler. They are used in many areas of the automobile and are always found in the suspension system. A control arm bushing connects the control arm to the vehicle frame. Depending on the design of the control arm there can be up to 2 bushings. The other end of the control arm connects to the wheel hub, essentially the area where the wheel bolts on.

Subaru Outback

Control arm (red arrow), New control arm bushing (yellow arrow)

There are many different shapes and designs of bushings but all of them have the same basic components: an outer metal sleeve and an inner metal sleeve coupled together by a piece of rubber. The rubber is designed to flex and twist which is essential for proper suspension operation.

Subaru Outback

Old control arm bushing. The blue arrow points to a large crack in the rubber.

As you might guess the flexing rubber can only happen for so long before it breaks, and that is exactly why these bushing need replacement.

As I eluded to earlier there have been design changes in bushings and some of these are more susceptible to wear. The high wearing bushings are generally vertically installed and feature a rubber section that has some air gaps. My guess as to why this design is used is to allow more flexibility in the suspension.

Looking at our featured Subaru Outback this model year has this vertical bushing on the rear of the control arm and seems to wear out by around 100,000 kilometers. The previous generations of Outbacks used a different bushing design that is much more robust. I own a 2001 Outback with well over 200,000 kilometers and control arm bushings are still solid. It is unfortunate to see this very reliable design being replaced by something less reliable; though I guess I shouldn’t complain because it does benefit our business.

Subaru Outback

New bushing installed in control arm and onto vehicle

How would you know that your control arm bushings are worn? When they are badly worn you will hear clunks and creaks when you go over bumps. We recently serviced a Nissan Murano that had a very distinct clunk and pulling when the brakes were applied. Ideally it is best to replace them before this point. Routine inspections and service are the best way to find worn bushings. The good news is that these parts will not fail to the point of your wheel falling or breaking off, unless they are worn and clunking for years, which would probably be intolerable.

For more about the Subaru Outback click here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subaru_Outback

For more about bushings click here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bushing_%28isolator%29

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