Subaru Brakes

Mark: Hi it’s Mark from Top Local Lead Generation and we’re here with Mr. Bernie Pawlik of Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, they are multiple year award winners as Best Auto Repair in Vancouver and we’re going to talk about Subaru brakes today. How’re you doing Bernie?

Bernie: Doing very well.

Mark: Subarus, anything unique about Subaru brakes?

Bernie: Nothing much, I mean, most Subarus use a four wheel disc brake system. Some lower end models use , or more basic models use drum brakes on the rear but that’s fairly uncommon. So yeah, four wheel disc brakes all around, almost all of them are ABS brakes. Yeah, generally Subarus are in the compact car category so they brakes that are appropriate size for the vehicle. There are a variety of models of Subarus, generally most of the brakes are the same except when you get into the WRX which is a high performance car. These use a larger rotor, calliper and pad for the extra braking for the rally driving.

Mark: So how long do Subaru brakes usually last?

Bernie: Generally the disc brakes last about 40 to 60,000 km, depends to on whether you have a standard transmission or automatic. Standard transmission models will last longer than automatics so the 40-60K is more appropriate for automatic models which are the most common for the Subarus. Yeah, so that’s basically the general life span.

Mark: So what parts get changed when performing, when you guys do a Subaru brake job?

Bernie: 99% of the time it’s pads and rotors if it’s just brakes. If it does have drum brakes which I said are fairly rare, the shoes wear out, the wheel cylinders will leak unless you grind the brakes metal on metal, the drums are usually good for quite awhile and we do machine the drums. They’re good for a long time. Brake rotor warpage is fairly common on Subarus as well, so you’ll notice this if you apply your brakes especially going down a hill, the steering wheel starts to shake or the car starts to vibrate, that’s normally a sign of warped brake rotors. So warped rotors are somewhat common on Subarus but most of the time it’s pads and rotors - front and back every 40-60,000 km and brake fluid flushes every two to three years.

Mark: So when you guys are doing a maintenance inspection, is there anything different about a Subaru inspection compared to your regular brake inspection?

Bernie: No, Subaru is generally the same as pretty much any vehicle. There’s not much else to look at other than our normal brake inspection routine.

Mark: Great, so if you have a Subaru and need your brakes done, the guys to go see are Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, BC. You can reach them at 604-327-7112 or check out their website Thanks Bernie

Bernie: Thanks Mark

How Often Should I Get my Brakes Inspected

Mark: Hi, it’s Mark from Top Local Lead Generation, we’re here with Bernie Pawlik of Pawlik Automotive, they’re an award winning shop in Vancouver, 15 times voted by their customers as Best Auto Repair in Vancouver. How’re you doing today Bernie?

Bernie: Really well.

Mark: So we’re going to talk about brakes, it’s a very common thing, all cars have brakes unless you have a Fred Flintstone car, how often should I get my brakes inspected?

Bernie: Very good question and actually if you have a Fred Flintstone car you still use your feet, those are your brake pads, and they may not last too long. Anyways, brake inspections, generally a good rule of thumb is once a year or 12,000 kilometers but it really depends upon how you drive. If you only drive 5,000 kilometers a year, every couple years is good. If you drive more frequently like a taxicab then every six months would be more appropriate but for most people once a year is the time.

Mark: So does it change much with where I live if somewhere with harsh winters or there’s lots of salt put on the roads, does that make any difference?

Bernie: I would say that it doesn’t in terms of getting brake inspections but you will find that if you live somewhere that uses a lot of salt on the roads your brakes will wear out faster, more parts and pieces will wear: things like brake lines will rust out, brake rotors take a lot more of a beating in those kind of climates so getting an annual brake inspection is absolutely crucial in those kinds of climates. If you live in milder areas you might be able to get away with a little more.

Mark: So what about most modern cars, don’t they have a warning that says when the brakes are almost worn out?

Bernie: Some cars do, some cars don’t. You’ll usually find warning systems in one of two ways, one of them is an actual mechanical device, it’s usually a little piece of wire metal stuck onto the brake pad and it will usually cause a squealing noise when the brakes are nearly worn out, some cars have these and some don’t. It’s important to know whether your car has them or not. I don’t even know if you can find that information in an owner's manual.  Those are only found on disc brakes so if your car has drum brakes, which some vehicles do, there’s no warnings and these are kind of unreliable anyway so again it is best to get inspection on an annual basis. Now the other wear indicator which is found mostly on European cars have an electronic system where they have an actual wire, electric wire that attaches to the brake pads and when they wear to a certain point it’ll turn a light on your dash. These are fairly accurate but they’re not perfect. Some cars like a Porsche that we recently serviced had every single brake pad connected to a wire, whereas other makes have only one wire connected to one brake pad in the front and one to the rear or they’ll only do the fronts but not the rears, so unless you know for certain it’s still good to get the brake inspection done because it gives you peace of mind to know, you know where things are at.

Mark: So what does a brake inspection cost?

Bernie: At our shop generally it’s about $67 for cars and light trucks, medium trucks and larger the cost is higher. That’s, that’s the general cost.

Mark: And the brakes will wear differently on like the front and rear brakes?

Bernie: They do, there’s a wide variation and every vehicle wears differently. It’s just really a matter of inspecting to know how things are going and as a car gets older surprises happens, things like calipers will start to stick or brake hoses will deteriorate. These are some of the joys of owning on older car so again inspections are even more important as a car gets older.

Mark: So when I bring my vehicle in what’s included with the brake inspection?

Bernie: Excellent question. So the first part of the brake inspection is asking you, the owner and driver how the brakes are working for you,  interviewing you and getting your opinion. From there a good long, thorough road test to see how the brakes feel and then from there we do a hoist inspection, we remove all the wheels, we measure the brake pads, the rotors, remove the drums, we measure the drums, the thickness of the brake linings, inspect all the hydraulic components like the wheel cylinders, we test the brake fluid for water concentration, look at all the brake lines and hoses. From there we can make an estimate if you need any repairs or just let you know that everything’s fine and you can be on your way or when you’re going to need to do your brakes next.

Mark: And when you do a recommendation you will literally go through and say to people, you have to get your brakes done or you can wait a few months or give them an idea of what’s involved, what’s actually going to happen before you do the work?

Bernie: Absolutely, you know one thing I don’t like to do is pressure anyone but if your brakes are like about to go metal on metal or they’re grinding, we’re going to say that you have to do these right now; but anything else, you know if there’s 2 or 3 millimeters left on the brakes pad. I’ve got a sample here actually if you can see that, this is a sample brake pad that you know, on the green side, this is good, this is on the red side that’s worn out 2 or 3 millimeters: even if you have 2 millimeters you still have a little bit of life if you can’t afford to do your brakes today but you know can do them in a month so we’ll let you know, we’ll give you an idea.

Mark: Awesome, so if you need a good brake job in Vancouver the guys to call are Pawlik Automotive. You can book an appointment at 604-327-7112. Come and check out their new shop with five bays and many mechanics to serve you, they’re expanding and growing because business is great or you can check out their website at Thanks Bernie.

Bernie: Thanks Mark, talk again soon.

Range Rover Brakes: Inspections and Repairs

Range Rover

Pawlik Automotive are 15 time winners of "Best Auto Repair in Vancouver, BC" as voted by their customers.

Mark: Hi, it’s Mark from Top Local Lead Generation, we’re here with Bernie Pawlik of Pawlik Automotive they’re 15 time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver as voted by their customers. We’re talking about Range Rovers brakes today. How’re you doing Bernie?

Bernie: I’m really well.

Mark: So we titled this Inspections and Repairs on Range Rovers, is there anything unique about Range Rover brakes?

Bernie: Well I’d say the one unique thing about Range Rover brakes is they’re really big, I mean Range Rovers are really a sports car, sport utility vehicle, a lot of them have supercharged engines, lots of horsepower, luxury items galore, air ride suspension, lots of options and controls and these vehicles weigh a lot so they put big brakes in so you can be going 100 miles an hour and stop the car really fast. So that’s what’s unique about Range Rover brakes. Actually I have a couple samples from a job we did the other day so you can just get an idea how big these are: this is a Range Rover brake pad and it’s huge, I mean just for comparison’s sake, this is a brake pad out of a Nissan Versa which is a small car but none the less, it’s a pretty good size brake pad, it’s sort of an average Japanese car brake pad. I don’t have any American vehicles to compare but this Range Rover brake pad is larger than you’ll find in a Ford F350 or for a Chevy Suburban, this brake pad is twice the size. The brake rotors are also massive on a Range Rover as I grunt as I lift this thing. I don’t have a comparison rotor but this is a huge brake rotor so, a lot of work lifting that.

Mark: So that’s definitely bigger than the rear rotor on the Nissan Versa.

Bernie: Oh absolutely, yes much so and I mean even the thing about a Chevy Suburban you know which is a big truck, you know the brake rotors are substantially smaller.

Mark: So how long will they last?

Bernie: Well you’d think with big brakes that they would last a long time but the interesting thing is they don’t. We see Range Rovers sometimes with as little as 20 thousand, 25 thousand kilometers where the brakes are worn out. They don’t last a long time. I ofter wonder to myself because they are so large why they wouldn’t last longer but I can only assume that just the weight of the vehicle wears them out quickly, they’re big brakes, there’s lots of area to dissipate the heat so they should last a long time. The rotors wear along with the pads as well so it’s not like they use a really soft pad you know because the rotors are wearing at the same time so um, they don’t last, they don’t last as long as you think they would.

Mark: So what parts do you replace on the Range Rover?

Bernie: Well typically I’ve just shown you pretty much everything that we do: the brake pads and the rotors usually get changed every time. Brake fluid gets flushed every 2 to 3 years and also on the Range Rovers these vehicles do have an electronic brake pad wear sensor and you know as long, if the lights on and they’re worn out then we replace those as well. Usually calipers last a long time in these vehicles, it’s very important not to let these get metal on metal though like to wear them fully out because the calipers are just outrageously expensive but we’ve yet to do one. They last a long time but you know if you have one that’s 10 or 15 years old at that point you may need to start changing calipers or brake hoses but other than that it's pads and rotors.

Mark: Sorry, any difference on your inspection times?

Bernie: No, they’re the same, yeah it’s the same, the same inspection we give on you know any other vehicle, same techniques and measurement. As for inspection intervals, you know they’re generally due for a service around every 10 to 20 thousand kilometers so you know if it has a 20 thousand kilometer oil change interval you definitely want to be inspecting the brakes every time that comes around.

Mark: So if you’re looking for service for your Range Rover the guys to call are Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver. To book your appointment give them a call at (604) 327-7112. They’ve just expanded, they’ve got a lot more space so give them a call or check out their website Thanks Bernie.

Bernie: Thanks Mark.

Range Rover

2006 Range Rover

2008 Mercedes ML320 – Exhaust Fume Repair

Mark: Hi, it’s Mark from Top Local Lead Generation and we’re here with Bernie Pawlik of Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver they are 15 time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver as voted by their customers. How’re you doing today Bernie?

Bernie: Really well.

Mark: So we’re going to talk about a Mercedes Benz ML320, it had some exhaust fumes - what was going on there?

Bernie: What was going on, well so our client brought, it’s an ML320, it’s a diesel engine vehicle, a 3L diesel and they were getting diesel exhaust fumes in the cabin of the vehicle. We did some diagnosis and first step was road testing the vehicle to verify that concern and could smell it right away in the car, it was pretty noxious, we could understand why they were concerned about it. So we proceeded to do the diagnosis on the exhaust system and what we found was interesting was it wasn’t actually an exhaust problem at all. The problem was actually a crankcase breather valve at the back, right near the engine, right where the cabin air would be sucked into the engine and it was leaking crankcase blow by gases which are, you know when an engine runs, there is a certain amount of combustion gas that escape past the piston rings, these are called blow by gases. Every engine, any internal combustion engine has to deal with that whether it’ gas or diesel and they have a ventilation system where it sucks the gas back into the engine and re-burns it. The crankcase vent valve was leaking so it was leaking exhaust fumes, even worse than car exhaust, more noxious right by the cabin air filter area. So that’s the first thing we found. We’ll just go to a couple pictures here.

Mark: Are these common problems on this engine?

Bernie: Well, this is the first one we’ve seen but there are a number of issues with the crankcase vent systems on these vehicles. The other issue that we found that was interesting… so here is the engine cover that you would see when you open the hood of the vehicle. Not much to see, the crankcase vent valve is hidden actually, well if you’re looking down at the hood, at the back left corner of the engine and this is what things look like with the cover off. There’s an awful of of bits and pieces, there’s a lot of complexity with this engine as I talked about before, that yellow arrow points to the crankcase vent valve and unfortunately you can’t see it because it’s kind of in that darker corner of the engine compartment but that’s where the vent valve was. Now to get to it and check things out, we had to remove a number of other items where the green arrow points, that points to a fuel injector, sorry that points to the air filter box and underneath that is a nice foam cover, a noise reduction cover and we found something interesting under that cover as well - you were asking about common problems. We found this. This is the centre fuel injector and all that black guck in that area is not normal. That is combustion gas and a bit of diesel fuel that has leaked from a blown injector seal at the bottom of the injector. So this is another thing that we found that is contributing to the smell in the customers vehicle. Is this common? This is the first time we’ve actually seen this particular concern on this vehicle but from what we’ve read it does happen from time to time. This engine is a commonly used engine, it’s in Sprinter vans, it’s in Jeeps, so this is the first time we’ve found it but it is something definitely that happens from time to time.

Mark: Wow, it doesn’t look good.

Bernie: No it isn’t and unfortunately it’s an expensive repair which gets me to the other interesting question about where to buy parts for these engines. So you shop around, because we’re an independent shop we can shop a variety of sources and actually the cheapest place to buy this fuel injector, and is brand new is directly from the Mercedes Benz dealer. Substantially cheaper from any other source we can find and everyone else sells remanufactured fuel injectors which are good but not as good. It’s one advantage that people don’t think about dealing with an independent auto repair shop, a good one that’s conscientious, we’ll shop around for the best price on parts and based on what the best quality and price is, which is an option you don’t get when you go to the dealer, you’re only going to get what they sell, the dealers brand and sometimes they are cheaper but if they’re not then you’re stuck with that anyways.

Mark: So what else did you find?

Bernie: Well, what else we found was interesting. This is a picture of the turbo air inlet duct and I’ll just go back to our original picture, that’s the red arrow, points to where this photo was taken with the duct off. Now there’s a lot of oily guck there and this is another common problem on this 3L Mercedes engine. There are some big rubber seals, the red seal you see on the left, that’s the small seal from the vent valve which we’ll replace when we replace the crankcase vent. But there is also a very large rubber seal where the duct, and I’ll go back to this picture, that sort of Y shaped piece that goes across the engine, there’s a big rubber seal in there as well that leaked. What happens when these leak, and I believe we’ve done a post on these before, the oil leaks down and there’s an expensive valve underneath called a Swirl Valve and if enough oil leaks down it eventually gets into the valve and wrecks the valve. So this is something that you want to fix on one of these 3L Mercedes engines, you want to keep an eye on them, you want to make sure you fix these seals. Another thing that is good about the Mercedes engine is you can buy these rubber seals for a very reasonable price from the Mercedes dealer, whereas with a Jeep they use a different type of air intake duct and you have to buy the complete duct pipe which is substantially more costly. But fixing it is infinitely cheaper than waiting until it leaks and wrecks your swirl valves. So with just one last picture to look at, this is the fuel rail with the new injector in and you can see where that black guck was once has now been cleaned and removed and everything is all good. That is our picture show for today!

Mark: How did the vehicle run after you repaired everything?

Bernie: Oh it was great, ran really well, no more fumes. We also changed the cabin air filters because these filters were right near by the area where these fumes were being sucked in and they do need to be changed on a routine basis. But we figured it was a good time to change them with any extra particles that got in there and they were quite dirty. But yeah, the engine ran great. With that fuel injector leaking as well there was undoubtably some engine performance being lost but these engines have very sensitive management systems so if anything was severe the check engine light would of come on and nothing did. But definitely the vehicle ran great, no more fumes and makes for a happy customer.

Mark: So if you’re looking to be a happy customer with your vehicle and it could have problems even before the check engine light comes on because they are not foolproof, the computers are just computers Give Bernie a call, you can reach him at 604-327-7112 or check out their amazing website - give them a call. Thanks Bernie

Bernie: Thanks Mark, talk again soon

Audi S4 Clutch Replacement

Audi S4

Our featured post is clutch replacement on a 2010 Audi S4

Audi S4

2010 Audi S4

While this article is about clutch replacement what inspired its writing was not the dual mass flywheel or modern clutch technology but the use of innovative weight saving materials related to this job.

Auto manufacturers are constantly looking for ways to save weight for improved fuel economy and engine performance. It only makes sense that shaving a few hundred pounds from the car will require less fuel, and that a 300 horsepower engine will move a lighter car much faster.

On many high end cars, aluminum frames and body metal are utilized; this is moving down to vehicles like the Ford F150 pickup which now utilizes an aluminum frame.

Our featured Audi certainly has aluminum in the body but it was while doing this clutch replacement that we saw some additional weight reduction features. First was the transmission to engine bolts which are made of aluminum. It’s quite bizarre to hold these large bolts in your hand: they are feather weight. From years of working on cars we definitely get a feel for the weight of a bolt and these are so light. Its like holding nothing.

Audi S4

Photo of transmission bell housing show 3 new aluminum bolts

The only disadvantage of these bolts is that they are one time use only. We notice this happening with more European cars, and for many jobs, bolts must be costed into the service.

The other weight reduction part that we noted from this job was the clutch slave cylinder which was made entirely of plastic. It too was feather weight.

These are just a couple examples of what manufacturers are doing to reduce weight. While the bolts and slave cylinder probable reduce the weight by a kilogram at most when these materials are used throughout the car the reduction can be impressive.

Clutch replacement on this Audi S4 is time consuming and expensive. As with most high end European cars many hours are required to remove the transmission and clutch, replace the parts and perform the reinstallation. It seems that German car makers just have a way of making things more complex than they need to be. This clutch utilizes a dual mass flywheel and there is no single mass conversion kit available. With all the labour involved in removing and reinstalling the transmission it makes no sense to risk not changing the flywheel at the same time as the clutch.

Audi S4

Clutch assembly all bolted together and ready for installation.

This Audi S4 is a beautiful car to drive: it’s handling is tight, the engine is agile and powerful and the manual transmission shifts beautifully. All of this expensive and complex clutch technology along with lightweight materials is just a small part of what make this happen.

For more about the Audi S4 click here

For an interesting study on vehicle weights and reduction options click here

2011 Range Rover Sway Bar Replacement

Talking Range Rovers with Bernie Pawlik, owner and master mechanic at Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, BC. Pawlik Automotive are 15 time winners of best auto repair shop in Vancouver as voted by their customers!

Friday’s featured post is a rear sway bar replacement on a 2011 Range Rover Sport, brought to us by a client from Vancouver.

Range Rover Sway Bar

2011 Range Rover

Many items found on Range Rovers are far from simple, and the rear sway bar is no exception. The Range Rover’s sway bars are part of the vehicle’s stability control system and incorporate a hydraulic unit capable of isolating both sides of the bar.

Our featured vehicle came to us with the dash warning light on for a stability control malfunction. Diagnosis found the fluid level low in the underhood reservoir and we traced the cause to a leak in the rear sway bar hydraulic unit. This is a non-repairable part and must be replaced as a complete unit. As you might guess, it is pricey. Though the labour is not outrageous the part is buried deep under the rear of the vehicle above the differential and requires the body to be lifted from the frame to remove and reinstall the unit.

Range Rover Sway Bar

Rear sway bar assembly: Note the hydraulic unit which isolates both sides of the bar.

Sway bars are found on most cars and light trucks: their primary purpose is to reduce body roll while cornering and making high speed maneuvers. System components include a metal bar attached to the vehicle frame and extending to each control arm or strut by an end link. Bars connect both sides of each axle together. While this generally works just fine this is a mechanical component that functions the same under all conditions. Sometimes it is advantageous to change the tension of the sway bar, even disconnecting the two sides of the car completely. This is what the Range Rover’s system does.

Range Rover Sway Bar

Rear sway bar showing close up of the hydraulic unit.

When you buy a Range Rover among the many amazing features that you receive is a very advanced suspension system. The vehicle features air suspension which allows the driver to adjust the vehicle’s height. Terrain control is another huge feature. As the driver you can adjust a knob located on the center console for different road and climate conditions: steep hills, snow & sand, rocks or just normal pavement. This system incorporates a number of components and controls the transfer case and differentials; it controls suspension height and response, and it also controls the sway bars. It can even decouple them to allow individual, extra travel in the suspension system: very useful for extreme off road use.

While 99% of Range Rovers in the Vancouver area never go off road they are one of the most capable vehicles to do so. It’s hard to blame someone for staying on the paved highway: for over $100,000 and with beautiful paint and nice low profile tires and wheels it would be a shame to scratch up such a nice SUV.

For more about Range Rovers click here

For more about hydraulic sway bar system click here

Subaru Clutch Replacement – Part 2

Subaru clutch

Our latest featured service is another Subaru clutch replacement, brought to us by a client from Kerrisdale, Vancouver.

From the back to back articles about Subaru clutch replacement you might get the impression that clutch failure in Subaru vehicles is common. If you own a Subaru you’ll be pleased to know that it isn’t any more frequent than any other make of car or truck. It just so happens that we had two Subaru vehicles with different clutch issues within a very close time frame that are very illustrative of some of the causes of clutch failure and their related repairs.

Like our last Subaru, this clutch suffered a sudden failure requiring the vehicle to be towed to our shop. This car was a 2007 Forester with around 100,000 kilometers. Like our last featured car this one also had the clutch pedal sitting on the floor, however upon inspection we found something different. The clutch slave cylinder had moved so far that the piston had popped out: this could only be caused by a broken component inside the clutch.

Removing the transmission was our next step. Upon removal and examination we found the clutch release fork broken apart at the ball stud. The ball stud is the pivot point of the release fork, situated between the release bearing and the slave cylinder pushrod. While there is a great deal of force in this area this type of failure is quite rare.

Subaru clutch

Broken clutch fork: note how the fork has cracked apart right over the ball-stud. This is the pivot point of the release fork and a high pressure point.

While the clutch disc and pressure plate were not yet fully worn it made sense to replace the full assembly while the transmission was out. Our previous repair featured a very expensive dual mass flywheel clutch. This unit, like most Subarus was a single mass flywheel type. The only servicing it required was a flywheel grind.

Subaru clutch

New release fork & clutch release bearing installed

With a complete new clutch along with the release fork this clutch should remain trouble free for the next 100,000 plus kilometers.

For more about the Subaru Forester click here

For more about clutch components and operation click here

Subaru Clutch Replacement

Subaru Clutch

Today’s featured service is Subaru Clutch Replacement performed on a 2005 Subaru Outback 2.5XT, brought to us by a client from Vancouver.

Subaru Clutch

2005 Subaru Outback 2.5 XT

While many makes of cars come almost exclusively equipped with automatic transmissions, a high percentage of Subaru vehicles are sold with manual transmissions. All manual transmissions have clutches, and inevitably clutches wear out and require replacement.

Our featured Subaru arrived by tow truck as the owner could no longer shift the vehicle into any gear. The clutch pedal sat on the floor and would not operate the clutch.

Like all modern vehicles Subarus us a hydraulic system to connect the clutch pedal with the clutch itself. Our first line of inspection was to examine the clutch fluid level: we found the reservoir empty. Further examination found that the clutch hose was leaking.

Replacement of the clutch hose and bleeding the hydraulic system restored operation of the clutch however it revealed other concerns. We were able to put the car into gear but it required a bit of force and occasionally made a grinding noise. Also on the road test we noted that the slightest press on the pedal had the clutch slipping. Clearly the clutch itself was worn out and needed replacement. These concerns had undoubtly been occurring before the clutch hose failed and caused the clutch to be completely inoperative.

Subaru clutch replacement is a fairly straight forward operation however it can be more complex than other vehicles due to the additional all wheel drive components. We have done many Subaru clutches but found something unique with this model and that was the use of a dual mass flywheel. The Outback 2.5XT features a high performance turbocharged engine. Though a dual mass flywheel doesn’t make a clutch any stronger the manufacturer must have felt compelled to use this system for other reasons. Usually this system is used to smooth out vibrations in the drive train and permit easier shifting.

Replacement of a dual mass flywheel clutch can and usually does add significant costs because the flywheel is a wearable part. On solid flywheel equipped vehicles the flywheel is normally ground smooth as part of the service. Because a dual mass flywheel contains 2 separate parts, attached by a bearing and springs it cannot be ground and even if it could be, there is a strong likelihood that the moving parts are weak or worn out.

Subaru Clutch

Old dual mass flywheel

When servicing vehicles with dual mass flywheels there are several repair options: 1) replace the flywheel with a new dual mass flywheel, 2) replace the flywheel and clutch with a solid flywheel conversion kit, 3) if the flywheel looks good just leave it. Generally costs for repairs are in ascending order. Dual mass flywheels usually cost between $1000 to $2000 dollars and you have to replace the other clutch parts: pressure plate, disc and release bearing for additional cost. The conversion kits are reasonably priced and include all new parts including a solid flywheel. Leaving the flywheel is the lowest cost option however there is a big risk that if the flywheel fails down the road that it will require the whole job to be redone.

Subaru Clutch

New singe mass flywheel installed

On our featured Subaru 2.5XT we opted to use the conversion kit. This ensures that the clutch will operate perfectly and leaves nothing to fail at a later date. When the clutch next wears out replacement is significantly less expensive.

There are reasons why dual mass flywheels are used however we have installed many of these conversions on a variety of vehicles from Dodge diesel trucks to other Japanese and European cars and they always shift smoothly and accurately. The dual mass system is never missed.

Subaru Clutch

Clutch assembly installed and ready for transmission installation. This view shows the pressure plate bolted onto the flywheel, the clutch disc sits in between.

For more about dual mass flywheels click here

For more about the Subaru Outback click here

Lexus Strut Replacement

Lexus strut replacement

Strut replacement on two different Lexus vehicles is our featured post.

Lexus strut replacement

2002 Lexus SC430

Lexus strut replacement

1993 Lexus ES300

There are many designs of suspension systems in cars, with Macpherson struts being very high on the popularity list. The shock absorber, spring and one leg of the suspension are incorporated into a single assembly. Struts are found in both the front and rear suspensions.

Advantages of struts are simplicity of manufacturing and thus lower costs. Disadvantages are less flexibility with the suspension geometry, and a slightly harsher and noisier ride when compared to some other suspension systems. This however has not limited their use to lower-end models as they are found on many expensive luxury and sports cars such as Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Lexus.

This week we replaced struts on two Lexus vehicles: a 1993 ES300 and a 2002 SC430. While both cars featuring front and rear Macpherson strut suspensions there were a few differences with these cars, most noticeably age and mileage, but also the type of car: one being a sedan while the other a two-seat hardtop convertible sports car. The ES300 was 23 years old with 260,000 kilometers while the SC430 was 14 years of age with 99,000 kilometers. This information alone gives you an idea of how long struts can last.

Lexus strut replacement

The new strut assembly installed on the ES300

There are two ways to replace struts these days: one is to replace the worn out components and the other is to replace the complete unit. Complete units are, as the name implies a completely new strut: new tube and shock absorber, new coil spring, new mounting plate, dust cover, bearing, snubber and all other pieces. These are more expensive than individual components though the price is coming down. Installation labour costs are lower: simply unbolt the old unit and bolt in the new one.

Individual components are the other way to repair struts. Almost always, the shock absorber is the part that fails. Other common failure items are the strut mount and bearing plate. While individual parts are usually lower in cost than complete units there is more labour involved. On certain cars complete struts are not available and that was the case with both the SC430 and the ES300. This is due to relatively limited production of these cars.

Lexus strut replacement

The strut assemby partially disassembled on the bench. The upper strut plate is not yet installed.

There is mention in the industry that 80,000 kilometers is a good time to look at your struts as they may be worn by this time. In my experience this is usually far too soon to replace your struts, however, they may wear out by this mileage, and they may also last a couple of hundred thousand kilometers more. The key is to routinely have your car inspected to evaluate the condition of the struts. Once they are worn the poor ride quality is noticeable. When this occurs vehicle safety is compromised as you do not have the sharpness of steering, and during a panic brake application your car will not stop as quickly.

While many folks shy away from repairing struts on older vehicles the improved ride quality and safety makes them a worthwhile service on any car, Lexus included.

For more information about Lexus vehicles click here

For more about MacPherson Struts click here

2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee Diesel – Swirl Valve Motor

Jeep Grand Cherokee

Our latest blog post is Swirl Valve motor replacement on a 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee 3 liter diesel, brought to us by a client from Kensington/Cedar Cottage, Vancouver.

Jeep Grand Cherokee

2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee with 3 Liter Diesel

Over the past few years we have serviced and repaired many Mercedes Benz equipped 3 liter diesel vehicles. This engine is found in many Mercedes vehicles including the ML350 and R350 models, Sprinter Vans as well as the Jeep Grand Cherokee. While the engines in all models experience similar problems there is one issue with the Jeep that occurs more frequently than the Mercedes vehicles. That issue is failure of the swirl valve motor.

Before we address concerns unique to the Jeep Grand Cherokee lets look at the swirl valve system. The swirl valves are located inside the intake manifold and are operated by a motor which is located between the two manifolds and under the turbo intake pipe. The swirl valves create air turbulence at lower RPMs to increase fuel and air mixing. This adds more bottom-end power and reduces emissions. The motor opens the valves to allow improved air flow at higher engine speeds where turbulence is naturally generated.

The valves and motors are vulnerable to failure in different ways: the valves can stick due to soot from the EGR system while the motor can fail electrically, mechanically or from oil intrusion. The latter is a frequent concern on the Jeep models and is due to a defective air intake hose, sometimes referred to an elephant hose due to its ‘trunk’ like shape.

Jeep Grand Cherokee

Air Intake Duct Hose, sometimes referred to as the Elephant Hose owing to its resemblance to the pachyderm's trunk. The hose usually suffers from failure around the red seal and leaks oil.

Our client’s Jeep came to us with a check engine light and reduced power warning light on. Poor acceleration was also present. During diagnosis we found codes for operation of the swirl valve motor and found it inoperative. An in depth visual inspection found that the air intake hose was coming apart, as they all do, and was allowing oil to leak onto the swirl valve motor below.

Jeep Grand Cherokee

Swirl Valve Motor after removal from our 3.0 liter diesel. This unit is drenched in motor oil leaked out of the air intake hose.

Repairing this concern is very timing consuming and fiddly. The turbocharger and related piping must come off to access the swirl valve motor. On this Jeep we found so much oil in and on the motor that it left a small puddle on our work bench. Proper repairs included replacing not just the motor but also the air intake pipe.

Inspecting the air intake hose on a regular basis for oil leakage is an important part of a good maintenance plan on all Mercedes 3 liter diesel engine vehicles and especially on Jeep Grand Cherokees. The ‘elephant’ hose for the Jeep is under $200 plus a nominal labour charge. Swirl valve motor replacement is at least a $2000 job, so in this case an ounce of prevention is worth far more than a pound of cure. This concern can happen at very low mileages: our featured vehicle had only 61,000 kilometers on the clock!

Upon completion of repairs the Jeep Grand Cherokee ran powerfully and the check engine lamp remained off. It was an expensive repair but the owner was relieved for he feared even worse repairs, like the turbocharger, might be needed.

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