Blog - Pawlik Automotive Repair, Vancouver BC

1990 Mercedes 300E; Driveshaft Coupler Replacement

Mark: Hi, it's Mark from Top Local, we’re here with Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, 18 time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver, BC, as voted by their customers. How you doing, Bernie?

Bernie: Doing very well, Mark.

Mark: We're going to talk about an ancient 1990 Mercedes 300E with a driveshaft coupler replacement. We had a discussion about this. Why are we talking about a 27-year old vehicle?

Bernie: We're talking about it, because the driveshaft coupler actually is a part that's still used on modern vehicles. Even though this car is old, it's not a technology that's ... the technology that's still in use, and it's something that requires replacement. Recently we did one on the Cadillac STS a month a two or ago with a vibration issue. It's something that it's used on a variety of cars, rear-wheel drive only, or all-wheel drive, depending on the vehicle. But yeah, it's technology is still used nowadays.

Mark: What does a driveshaft coupler do?

Bernie: It connects the driveshaft, so this will be from the transmission to the rear differential. It connects the driveshafts, but it's used on vehicles that have independent rear suspension in place of a U-joint. A universal joint allows a lot of movement of the driveshaft. For instance on a truck, a Ford truck where you've got the differential, it's moving up and down when you hit bumps, you need a flexible coupler that's going to be able to take a lot of movement, maybe of several inches of movement. On this vehicle, this driveshaft goes across. It's pretty well straight from the transmission to the differential, but it needs a bit of a flexible coupler, because it's not exactly a straight shaft. It needs a bit of a flexible coupler at each end.

Mark: Yeah, so you've explained why we use this connection. Is this a time-consuming repair?

Bernie: It can be. It depends from car to car. This one, fortunately, on this particular Mercedes, it was the front coupler that was worn out. It was probably the easier of the two to get to. There's usually one at the front and one at the back, but it depends, again, on the vehicle. Sometimes you have to remove the exhaust, because the driveshaft's buried way up in a tunnel, and there's exhaust shielding and things in the way. Back in the old days, even earlier than this Mercedes, a lot of them were very accessible and easy to get at. As I said, they're used in a wide variety of mostly European vehicles but a lot of other vehicles would use them too, like I mentioned the Cadillac. I'll just get into a video.

Let's have a look at this video here. Just a second here. This is the actual worn out coupler. You can see some movement here. That part is actually broken. There should be no movement of that sort at all. Just to look again, look at this piece here. I'm going to move back a little bit from the video. Right here you can see the coupler pretty well. There's a rubber piece. There's six bolts, three on the driveshaft, and this end is attached to the transmission, to a flange on the transmission. There's basically a metal sleeve in here, and it's basically broken off the rubber coupler. That's what's wrong with this thing. But they do tend to crack. There's other things that can happen to them, but this one isn't actually broken. If it got any worse, of course, this driveshaft could start flinging around, and there would be a lot of banging.

Mark: How's the time frame for lasting with these couplers?

Bernie: I would guess this one may actually be original, which is 47 years old at this point, but the Cadillac we worked on was about a 10-year-old Caddy. It really varies. I've seen Mercedes that are 10, 12, 13 years old where they're worn out, so this one seems to have lasted quite a long time. It may have been replaced previously too. It's hard to say for sure. But I don't know, 10 to 20 years is an average life span for these pieces.

Mark: How would someone know or suspect that their driveshaft coupler was worn or wearing out?

Bernie: Excellent question. On this particular Mercedes, the owner had no idea, because nothing much was really happening, but I would suspect that when you shift from, say, reverse to drive, there would probably be a more pronounced clunk or thud noticed in the vehicle. The Cadillac we serviced, there was a severe vibration. When you go to accelerate slightly, the car would shake. That's another thing that happens. Visual inspection's an important thing. We talk about having your car serviced and visually inspecting them to look at them. And seeing if they're breaking is an important thing to fix it before it get to the point like this Mercedes. If it got really bad, you'd just hear a lot of horrible clunking and vibrations as you accelerate, or decelerate, or shift from gear to gear. Those are the kind of things you want to look for.

Mark: That would be similar with a U-joint, wouldn't it?

Bernie: It would be. Actually, it is. U-joints create similar things, clunks, vibrations, shakes. U-joints will actually squeak sometimes. They have like little needle bearings, and they're packed with grease, and they'll dry out. Sometimes a U-joint will actually make that squeaking sound when you accelerate, which you can hear sometimes. One of these couplers won't do that, of course, because it's a piece of rubber, but similar issues.

Mark: I think we answered this, but is Mercedes the only brand of vehicle that uses these?

Bernie: No. We did answer that. Yeah, there's a variety of vehicles, as I said. Cadillac comes to mind, Mercedes. A lot of other European cars use them. Not so much Japanese, but certainly American. You see them on American and European cars. There's probably some Japanese, but it slipped my mind for the moment. Japanese seem to like U-joints on their driveshafts.

Mark: Would this be something if you're having clunking or difficulty with your shifting, is that a reason to get this checked?

Bernie: Absolutely. Yeah, especially as I mentioned, if you're shifting from say out of park into drive or from drive to reverse, and you hear a loud thump or thunk that's unusual, that's definitely something to be looked at for sure. That's a definite cause.

Mark: There you go. If you're looking for service for your vehicle and it's got a bit of a clunk when you're shifting out of park, or you've got some vibration while you accelerate, might be your driveshaft coupler and you should see Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver. You can call them at 604-327-7112. Check out their website, pawlikautomotive.com, or our YouTube channel, Pawlik Automotive. Thanks, Bernie.

Bernie: Thanks, Mark.

Takata Air Bag Recall

Mark: Hi, it's Mark from Top Local. We're here with Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver. We're talking about cars. How are you doing Bernie?

Bernie: Doing very well.

Mark: So, 38 years of fixing cars, 18 time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver. Pawlik Automotive. Today, we're doing a bit of a safety information cast I guess on Takata air bag recall. What's going with this mess?

Bernie: What's going on with this mess? Yeah, it's a pretty big one for sure. There's a lot on the news effecting 19 different auto manufacturers, which is a lot. There's probably more on the list of cars that are effected as manufacturers that are effected as opposed to ones that aren't. 42 million vehicles. That's a lot in North America. That may just be the US alone, but the recall is bigger in the US, so that's basically the issue.

Airbags are basically, when they go off, some of them can actually explode and shoot shrapnel into the vehicle in the passenger compartment and a few people have died. I believe it's 19 or 21 to date have died. Someone died just the other day from one, so it's pretty serious.

Mark: Okay, so how does an item that's supposed to save lives end up killing people?

Bernie: Very good question, so the airbag, the way an airbag works is a bag of air obviously that's meant to cushion your body when you're in a collision, so the bag basically blows off extremely quickly in the event of a collision. Prevents your head from hitting something or other body parts depending on which airbag it is. So, there's an inflator inside. It's basically and explosive device that blows the bag really fast and it deflates. There's problems with the chemicals that they use. Especially in high humidity, high temperature ares. The chemical degrades and it can cause a very powerful explosive reaction. Not one that was, far more powerful than it was intended to and that what can cause the inflator unit, which is basically a metal casing to explode. It's never meant to blow up that much, so that's where the problem lies.

Mark: It works too well basically.

Bernie: It works to well. It's really a chemistry problem. I guess they never anticipated over time how the chemicals where gonna change, so obviously in the recall bags and newer bags for one that don't explode, have different chemical formula.

Mark: And how many vehicles again are effected?

Bernie: As of a current date, I read 42 million vehicles. There's 69 million inflators, so obviously there's some are passenger side. Some of drivers, some vehicles will need both, so that's a lot of units and a lot of pieces.

Mark: Or even side curtain inflators, is that ...

Bernie: Even sides. Yeah. Yeah.

Mark: And how has that effected Takata?

Bernie: Well, they're in bankruptcy. I don't have all the specs and info, but last I read, they have actually gone into bankruptcy, which is a question of how is that gonna effect the recall. They'll keep, someone will keep making them. The government will mandate it. They'll take over whatever needs to be done. It'll all get fixed, but Takata is probably out of the picture. Or restructured.

Mark: Yeah, this is a big company. They've got huge plants on four different continents.

Bernie: Yeah. Looking at the scope of who they supplied in the auto industry, it's a massive company. You think there's, of all the vehicles they've supplied, they've obviously made some that are not defective and there's others that will be coming defective over time, as you've said. It's a massive company.

Mark: Okay, the big question. How do I know if my car is one of the ones that's effected?

Bernie: Excellent question. So, if you own a car. The first thing I suggest you do, just get on the internet. Do a little research. Consumer Reports has a very good page and information about this recall. NHTSA, National Highway Transportation Safety has a website. They have a VIN look-up, so you can actually type the VIN number of your vehicle. You can get some information. Also Transport Canada has a website. If you're watching this somewhere else in the world, just look up wherever your local government website is and see. Because this is actually not just North America. This a worldwide issue.

Those are some of the best resources in North America. You can type your VIN number. You can even call your vehicle manufacturer. Doing a scan of a list of vehicle brands. Which ones aren't on here. I mean Hyundai and Kia are not. Of course, they could be. Things change. Look over those websites, see what you find first and then if you have any questions at all, call a dealer. Give them your VIN number, and they can let you know whether it needs a recall.

Mark: And who's gonna fix my car if it's recalled?

Bernie: It'll be the dealer. The dealer of the vehicle, so if it's a Honda, it'll be a Honda dealer.

Mark: So, are there any vehicles more dangerous than others for these exploding devices?

Bernie: There is and actually if you look on the, some of these websites that I mentioned. Highway, NHTSA, they have a big listing and transport, I looked this morning. There's a listing of several vehicles they say are extremely dangerous. Some of these are early 2000 Hondas and Acuras, so about 2001 to four, some in that range. Some a little newer than that. Also Ford Ranger. I think it's 2006 Ford Ranger. Ford actually recommends not even driving the vehicle, so make sure you look at this stuff. If you're watching this video, check this out. Make sure your vehicles safe. There are a few that are apparently extremely bad.

Mark: What if I can't get my vehicle in for whatever reason? I'm out of the country or I'm, I don't want my kids driving it. Is there someway that I can disable the airbag in the interim?

Bernie: You know, that's a interesting issue. This is a question that people may come to our shop can you disable my airbag? Well, it's actually illegal for us to disable a piece of safety equipment so, but is it better to have one that could blow up and kill you? I'd say probably not. There are ways to disable them. I don't want to say how to do it here, that's something you'd have to figure out on your own. There are fuses for airbags, but whether or not that's gonna even, if you remove it, whether that's gonna effect it or not, I'm not certain. They build these systems pretty integral to vehicle, so they're there to work. But yes, there are ways to disable it, but I won't tell you how. It's not something that we can do in our shop.

Mark: So, do you think that more vehicles will be listed in the recall as time goes on here?

Bernie: Yeah, absolutely. They actually if you look on the NHTSA website, they actually have a list of future recalls, so they're looking at vehicles that are gonna be recalled in the future. There's actually a timeline right up to 2019 into next year of vehicles. I don't know if they actually list the vehicles that are going to be recalled, but they're looking at things. There's a lot going on behind the scenes around this, so just because your vehicle's good today, doesn't mean it's gonna be good tomorrow. Just keep on top of it maybe every six months have a look and see what's going on to make sure you have the safest vehicle on the road. You want your airbag to work for you. Not against you.

Mark: Exactly and are you, is Pawlik offering any kind of service in this regard to help out their clients who they've got records of?

Bernie: Yeah, if you're a customer of ours, please give me a call. We'd be happy to look up your VIN number and let you know whether yours is effected by a recall or not. You can do it yourself, but if you want to give us a call, we're happy to do it for you.

Mark: So, there you go. If you've something to check, you have an airbag in your car, you need to check this. Your life depends on it. This is a serious problem. Call your dealer and they'll have a recall to fix your vehicle if it's one of the ones listed. Check out Consumer Reports. Check out Transport Canada or the NHTSA in the United States or your particular country's government highway safety board and there will be a listing of whether your car is on the list and needs to be repaired ASAP. If you need service for your vehicles, the guys to see in Vancouver are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at 604-327-7112 or check out their website pawlikautomotive.com or our many years now of live broadcast at Pawlik Automotive Repair. Thanks Bernie.

Bernie: Thanks Mark.

2005 Toyota 4Runner, Heater Box Repair

Mark: Hi, it's Mark from Top Local. We're here with Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive, in Vancouver. Bernie how long have you been repairing cars for now?

Bernie: 38 years.

Mark: 38 years of working on pretty much all makes and models and even years of cars, is that right?

Bernie: I have been, yup.

Mark: And Pawlik has now been voted best auto repair in Vancouver 18 times. Is that right?

Bernie: That's correct. That is correct.

Mark: That's pretty impressive. So, we're gonna talk about a 2005 Toyota Forerunner, and you had a heater box repair to do on this vehicle. What was going on with this Forerunner?

Bernie: Well, the owner of this vehicle bought the vehicle recently, and one of the issues with the vehicle was that there was no heat on the driver's side of the vehicle. There was heat on the passenger side, but not on the driver's side. The heating and air conditioning worked fine, but only cold air, basically, on the driver's side of the vehicle.

Mark: So what sort of diagnosis did you have to do to find the problem?

Bernie: Well, the first area that we looked on the vehicle was, of course, being that there's heat on one side and not on the other, a lot of vehicles have the dual zone heating system, this one didn't. A lot of them had a dual zone heating system, so question is, is there a problem with one of them?

There's probably a flap that moves up and down inside the heater box to control what comes from the heater core, what comes from the air conditioning evaporator core. That gives you temperature control. Obviously, this is the area we poked our head under the dash, looked to see, are there motors? Are there actuators, and of course, if you've even looked under the dash of a modern vehicle, there's an awful lot tucked in there and not a lot to see. Those are the visual inspection for the ducts, but for what we can determine the heater box had to be removed to determine the cause. The problem was inside the heater box, nothing external that we could see.

Mark: So with all that stuff in the dash, that sounds like a pretty involved job.

Bernie: It's a crazy job. It's a day and a bit worth of work to take everything apart. Why don't I just share some photos, because that's probably the easiest thing to do. Here’s our Forerunner here. Nice vehicle, nice sporty tires, good off road, this is a V8 too, so it's got lots of power. Nice driving vehicle. Get into some of our other photos here. Here's the dash actually partially removed. This, with the dash pad off, and you can see the console's off, the dash pad's off. Some of the heating ducts are located up here.

There's big crash pad along here. We still have the steering column on at this point. Moving on to ... I'm just going to select a few different pictures here. This is the dash completely removed, with the heating box out. So you can see there's a lot of wires ... We have a few of our tools on here too, but there's a lot of wiring connectors off. Steering column's out. There's a lot involved in removing this. 

What else can I share here, photo-wise? We've got, share a few of these without getting into the actual repair. Well, actually we can talk about the repair, so what we found. We took the heater box off. This is the heater box here, located on the bench. The heater core, these are the pipes to the heater core here, and the heater core is located, actually, down in this area here. The air conditioning area section is over here. I've got another view of that. You can see, this is a flap, this is an air door that controls air to the, I think this will be to the heating vents or possibly for the defroster. I'm not sure which of the two. The actual issue or concern was actually inside this heating box, further down. I'll go into the next photo, which is another view of the heating box. There's the air conditioner evaporator core. This is what causes cool air in the system. Down here is where the fan is, so it blows the air ... these pipes here are for the air conditioning system, and these are the heating pipes. You can see there's a lot of parts and pieces that go into this service. 

Okay. There's our heater box, another view of the heater box. I'm getting right down to it. This is a look into the heater box. I should've taken a picture with it apart, but basically there is a flap here and a flap there. This is for the passenger heat, and this is for the driver. So, what we found is an actuator motor on this side of the heater box, not one here. This vehicle could be equipped with dual zone climate control, but it's not. There's a connecting rod that connects these two, broken between these to pieces. What happened is, you could get temperature control on the passenger side, but it wouldn't translate to the driver's side. This flap has stayed shut down, blowing cold air all the time. So, to repair this involved one of two things. You could buy a brand new heater box from Toyota, which is over $2,000 and not even available, or acquire a used one, which we couldn't find anywhere. Of course, at the risk this part might break again, or repair it. We actually opted to repair it. We did some custom work where we actually cut a part of the heater box apart. But this isn't really have to be dual, so we were actually able to cut some pieces apart and then join the two flaps together, so that when the passenger side moved, the driver's did too. We did it in such a way that it's never gonna fall apart, so a good, thorough repair. We don't have any more photos we need to share here. Here's a couple more with some to the dash panels and the pieces are, the framework out and I think that's only enough photos to chew off for today.

Mark: A huge job and I imagine that wasn’t inexpensive.

Bernie: Yeah, it was, but I'll say that we repaired it and saved the customer an awful lot of money by doing that repair. As I said, the actual heater box was over $2,000 in Canada, from Toyota, and the part wasn't available in North America anyway, so it would've taken a few weeks to get it from Japan. So for a fraction of that price, we were able to take the heater box apart. Spend a little more labor, but actually repair it properly and that's all our concern.

Mark: So is this a common concern?

Bernie: No, but we come across new and interesting things all the time on cars. This is one of them. This is the first time we fixed something like this on a Toyota, though. From some of our research, we're not the first people who have run into this particular problem. It has happened on other Toyota trucks and Forerunners. But as far as cars in general, we do run into problems with heater boxes. A lot of times there are actuator heater motors and, you know, modern, I'd say in the last 15, 20 years of cars, that they use actuator motors in these door flaps. So the actuator motors will die, or sometimes the actual flaps will break, so we fixed them on a variety of different vehicles, but this is the first issue like this on a Forerunner we’ve seen.

Mark: So there you go. If you are looking for auto repair of your Toyota vehicles in Vancouver, the guys to see are Pawlik Motors. Bernie, do you want to sign offI’m really echoie today.

Bernie: Sure. Yeah. Thank you for watching us and give us a call. As Mark often says, we're busy, book ahead and give us a call. Thank you.

Mark: Thanks, Bernie.

Bernie: Thanks.

2011 Subaru WRX STI, TPMS Installation

Mark: Hi, it's Mark from Top Local. We're here with Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, Vancouver's best auto service experience. How you doing, Bernie?


Bernie: I'm doing good. 

Mark: We're talking about a 2011 Subaru WRXSTI, has a lot of digits. What is going on with this vehicle?

Bernie: This vehicle was brought to us by a used car dealer who is exporting the vehicle to the US for sale. And the, one of the requirements for the vehicles that export to the US is it has to have a tire pressure monitoring system in it. Which this vehicle doesn't. In the Canadian market you don't need the tire pressure monitoring unit, it was never sold with it. But in the US you do need to have that. So we had to do a custom installation on that.

Mark: So that sounds like it might be quite a bit of complicated stuff to do, to install that. Is that right?

Bernie: It was. It's something, yeah, absolutely. There was a lot of complexity involved. A lot of research. And a number of different parts required.

Mark: So had you ever done this kind of a service on a Subaru previously?

Bernie: We have never done this on a Subaru. The only vehicle we did, it was many years ago, we put a tire pressure monitoring system in a Volkswagen. And at the time it was okay to export it with an aftermarket system, with a dash mounted unit. But that's no longer allowed. It has to be exactly like original. So yeah, we've never done anything like this. It was definitely a first time.

Mark: So what's involved in installing a TPMS on this WRX Subaru?

Bernie: Well there's a number of parts. And a lot of rewiring. And a lot of research. You know, before anything happened we had to do a lot of research to figure out what parts were needed. 

So I'll just show a few pictures here of a couple of items. Here is a photo of our nice STIWRX. Nice high performance, fast moving, turbo, all wheel drive, machine. This is some of the, this is the, looking at the wiring of the actual module. This is the TPMS module. This is one of the main components we had to install. And we had to purchase this module. This is sold in the US. It does tire pressure monitoring and keyless entry. Whereas the one in Canada, there's a module there but it only does keyless entry. The other thing we came across is the wiring connector. In the Canadian model it's a small connector with three wires. This one is a 12 pin plug, this is the US model, 12 pin plug with seven wires. So we had to acquire that from an auto wrecker as well. And then figure out how to wire that all in. And just as a last look, that's an actual picture of the module. So I kept a lot of documentation and information on this vehicle because I'm certain at some point we may have to do it again. So that's that. And also, I know this isn't gonna show very well on the screen, but this is a wiring diagram of the actual TPMS module. So that's where we got a lot of information. Studied it and figure out what wires go to where, and then after that it's a matter of just poking around under the hood and seeing what happens.

Mark: Okay, that sounds like a lot of work so far, what happened next?

Bernie: Yeah. So basically the lot of work includes, the other item I didn't mention is we had to install a tire pressure monitoring sensor in each wheel. So we did that. We put the module in. Figured out all the wiring. Wired it all up. The next step is to actually program the sensors to the computer. So we have the tool to do that. So we did that. Plugged it all in and of course I'm saying a little prayer, and it all worked really well. Just like it was in there from the factory.

Mark: Sounds like a great success story and the car was exported successfully to the United States?

Bernie: Yup. Yeah.

Mark: Would you be interested in doing that again? The same thing? 

Bernie: Oh yeah, absolutely. Now that we've done the Subaru I know for certain what needs to be done. One other thing I didn't mention is that the instrument panel needed to be replaced in a mile per hour format, reprogrammed. And the owner of this vehicle happened to have some connections and knew someone who did that kind of electronic programming. So this is another thing that needs to be done that I didn't mention. That we didn't do. But he had taken care of. So that helped out too. Cause the tire pressure monitoring light doesn't work, switch on in a Canadian car, so that had to be functional. But yeah, it's absolutely something we can do. As far as doing it on other brands of cars, it's really a matter of doing some research and finding out. But it is a lot of work and it is expensive. So if you're interested and you're in the Vancouver area call me and we can give you a quote or a guesstimate, because we never know until we get into it as to what it will cost.

Mark: So there you go. If you're looking to export a Subaru or just need service on a Subaru in Vancouver, the guys to call are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at 604-327-7112 to book. You must book ahead, they're busy. Or check out their website, pawlikautomotive.com we've got five years worth of videos on there. Or our YouTube channel Pawlik Auto Repair. Thanks Bernie.

Bernie: Thanks Mark.

Ford Econoline Vans, How Reliable Are They?

Mark: Hi, it's Mark from Top Local. We're here with Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, 18 time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver, as voted by their customers. How you doing, Bernie?

Bernie: I'm doing very well.

Mark: So, Ford Econoline vans. This is actually a request from one of our viewers. They wanted to know how reliable are they. So, how reliable are Ford Econolines?

Bernie: Well, I'd say, to put it simply, they're fairly reliable.

Mark: What do they look like?


Bernie: That's a good question. We see lots of them around. It's interesting, this vehicle's been around, actually since 1960, so let's just do a share here.

So this is a modern version of the van, they made them up to 2014. This is a 2009 model. Right up to 2014, they pretty much looked the same as this. But, if we go back a little bit, this is what they started out as. A lot smaller of a vehicle, and interestingly the engine was actually inside the van, so if you opened the side door here ... if you can see my little mouse pointer ... if we open the side door, you could actually find the engine sitting in there. We called it the doghouse, because it looks like a doghouse. And you could lift the doghouse up and you could service the engine. Usually they were six cylinder, or something pretty small, but it got you around. It's not a huge vehicle. But, as I say, they evolved back into this, with the engine located in the front. And the earlier ... part way through the generations, they actually had a very short hood. Most of it was still inside the front, but these newer ones, there's a lot more access from under the hood.

Mark: So, what are some of the common problems that you see with these vehicles?

Bernie: Well, let's talk about the 2000 and newer vans, because anything older than that we really don't see much of anymore. So some of the common problems with the vehicles ... they pretty much all have V8 gasoline engines, that's the most common configuration. Spark plugs, of course, been a problem with Ford trucks with the Triton Engines, with the spark plugs popping out of the engine, or on some, where they break off. So, spark plugs are an issue, and are difficult to access because it's a van. So, that's one of the issues. The other thing we find, a lot of them there's coolant leaks, I'm talking about the more major issues. Coolant leaks will develop ... a lot of times the intake manifold is made of plastic, and there would be a failure of the coolant crossover passage or thermostat housing that requires replacing the intake manifold, so that's a pretty major piece of work. You know, other than that, they're generally pretty reliable, engine-wise.

Mark: So I ... without all that space to work, I guess, working on the engines on these is really difficult.

Bernie: Well, it is. It is a lot more difficult than a truck, because you can access some of the engine from the front, and then some of it has to be accessed from the inside, so you have to remove a cover, which takes extra work. And then you usually hanging in one of the two doors to access the vehicle. So, yeah, it's definitely more work, so it makes a van more expensive to service than a pickup truck, generally. Things like a transmission or anything underneath the vehicle are all the same, or simpler, but the engine is more complex, time-wise.

Mark: And some of these vans had diesel engines, including the famous Ford six-litre. How are those?

Bernie: Yeah, they are available. They had 7.3-litre diesels, and the six-litres ... I mean it's a large engine crammed into a very small space, so it makes those complex diesels even more work. Personally I wouldn't recommend buying one unless you absolutely need the beefiness of a diesel. The good thing about them, we find with the six-litres, we never done a head-gasket job on one; although we've done many trucks. That's not to say that there aren't other shops that have done them, 'cause they do fail, but I think the failure rate on van six-litre diesels is lower than it is on trucks, simply because you can't really ... most people don't ever load them up like they do in a pickup truck, so they don't really get the wear-and-tear and the strain that you don on a pickup truck. Although, the pickup truck one should last ... shouldn't have the problems it does. But the diesels are a lot more work to do inside the van.

Mark: And like all diesels, change your oil very regularly.

Bernie: Exactly. Change the oil, service the fuel filters ... with anything. And that's same with a gasoline motor, too. Same thing.

Mark: So, what other issues do you see with these vans?

Bernie: Well, a couple ... we do see the odd electrical problem, and there's nothing really specific, there are just a few electrical issues that occur. Sometimes with the door locks and the windows and things like that, which are, again, not entirely uncommon among other vehicles. But they're a few electrical issues here and there. I found with the brakes ... I think the brakes are pretty well built on these vans, at least in the 2000 and newer ... so, pretty tough brakes, but it seems like the callipers on Fords, for some reason, need to be replaced ... I would say every brake-job, but frequently they need to be replaced because the calliper pistons ... the seal they use on 'em seems to ... the dust seal seems to break open for some odd reason. I don't know if it's the heat of the brakes, but ... they seem to need to be replaced quite often. So, you can almost count, if you have a Ford van, Econoline van, you may well be replacing the callipers every time you do the brakes. A lot of them had disc-brakes, front and rear, which is great. I mean, you get better braking with disc-brakes on the back than drums.

Mark: Sure. So overall, what's your verdict on the Ford Econoline van?

Bernie: Well, they're a good tough built truck, and as I've said, I talked about a couple issues. I mean, a diesel I'd avoid unless you absolutely have to have one. The gasoline engines, you've got your spark plugs, intake manifold possibly, and brake callipers. Other than that, they're really reliable. There's little else goes wrong. They're well built.

Mark: So there you go. If you have a Ford Econoline, and you're looking for service in Vancouver, the guys to call are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at (604)327-7112 to book ahead, they're busy, you’ve got to call and book ahead or check out their website, pawlikautomotive.com, or our youtube channel, Pawlik Automotive Repair. Thanks Bernie.

Bernie: Thanks Mark.

2007 Toyota Prius, ABS Brakes

Mark: Hi, it's Mark from Top Local. We're here with Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver. Vancouver's best auto service experience. How are you this morning, Bernie?

Bernie: I’m doing very well.

Mark: Good. We're going to talk about a 2007 Toyota Prius. You had some ABS brakes work to do with this. What was going on with this car?

Bernie  Well, the vehicle had a dash warning light for the ABS brake system, so that was our client's concern. The vehicle drove fine, he couldn't feel anything strange with the brakes, but there was a warning light on, which indicates something's happening that's not right.

Mark: What procedures did you use to diagnose this concern?

Bernie: Well, the first step, of course, is always to road test the vehicle, see what's happening. That gives us a little more information as to where the problem may lie. Then our next step was to hook our diagnostic scan tool up, just do a code scan of the vehicle, see which codes were present. There were a couple of codes with the ABS system. One for a possible wheel speed sensor fault, but the other one, which was more interesting, was there was a battery, a power fault code, and that was also in another module in the vehicle as well. These are thing we kind of look at, and take ... That's an important issue, a battery fault, power loss code.

Mark: If I remember right, and correct me if I'm wrong, the Prius has some regenerative braking as well? Is that why the battery might have been at fault?

Bernie: No. Yes, the Prius does have regenerative braking. That's one of the biggest advantages of a hybrid, is the regenerative braking. You actually put energy back into the battery, into the hybrid battery, as you're actually coming to a stop. The ABS brake system is completely separate from that, it's basically the safety system to prevent your wheels from locking up, especially when you're turning. This battery, this vehicle, has actually two batteries. One of the batteries is ... The battery at fault in this case is actually the 12 volt battery, which is located in the trunk of the vehicle.

Mark: That 12 volt battery's kind of like the standard automotive battery that we see in internal combustion engines?

Bernie: Exactly right. That's exactly what it is. The functions it provides are all for the anti-lock brakes, for the safety systems, that actually provides the starting power for the vehicle. It provides ... It runs basically everything electrical other than the motor and the drive train in the vehicle.

Mark: Since they have two sets of batteries, how often do batteries require replacement on a Prius?

Bernie: Well, the main battery, I say main battery, that's the one for the drive of the vehicle, which is a very large, expensive battery, we've actually never replaced one in our shop. That's not to say they don't go bad, but they ... We've serviced some very old hybrids, stuff going back to the early 2000s, and the batteries are still fine. But they do need to be replaced from time to time. They probably ... This is an '07, the battery's in great shape even 10 years later. They do fail, but the 12 volt batteries tend to need to be replaced somewhat frequently. This is the second one we've done on this vehicle, so average life probably about five years on the 12 volt battery.

I want to share a couple of pictures right now. Here's our '07 Prius, just to give an idea what we're working on. You share a couple interesting photos here. This is actually ... Why would you share a picture of a box? Well, the battery's really only available from Toyota. It's a very unique size and fit of battery, and while there are aftermarket ones available, they say they're supposed to fit, they don't. I just find the packaging on this battery extremely interesting.

Most batteries we buy from our suppliers, they just come in a little cardboard box and the battery's there. This battery comes in sort of a double box with a plastic bag. It's meant to be ... You could probably throw this box upside down, sideways, backwards, and forwards, and the battery would never leak. They've even gone to the trouble of putting an absorbent in the bottom, so if the acid were to actually leak out through all these multiple layers, these two bags, were to actually leak out, it would actually be absorbed in this material at the bottom. It's kind of, let's say, overkill packaging, but it's certainly prevent any battery acid from ever leaking out anywhere in the shipping procedure. Yeah, it's a kind of interesting little bit.

Mark: I guess you got the battery changed, and everything worked properly again on the Prius?

Bernie: Yeah, yeah it did. We changed the battery, cleared the codes, road tested it, no more lights came on, so it's all working fine. 

Mark: These vehicles have been around quite a while. How reliable is the Toyota Prius?

Bernie: I’d say very reliable. They have been around for a while. We have actually not seen one major hybrid fault with one of these yet. I don't like to speak for the whole automotive community, because we're just one small part of it, but yeah, in our shop, they've been very reliable. Very little goes wrong with them. Good vehicle. I mean, they last a long time. You know, obviously change the oil, have the brakes serviced, and the vehicle will last a long time.

Mark: There you go. If you have need for service for your hybrid in Vancouver, the guys to call are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at 604-327-7112 to book your appointment. You have to book ahead, they're real busy, folks. Or, check out their website pawlikautomotive.com. We have years worth of information on there about all kinds of cars, or our video channel on YouTube, Pawlik Automotive Repair. Thanks, Bernie.

Bernie: Thank you Mark.

2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee, 5.7L V8 Maintenance Service

Mark: Hi, it's Mark from Top Local. We're here with Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, 18-time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver as voted by their customers. How are you doing Bernie?

Bernie: Doing very well.

Mark: We're talking about is 2005 Grand Cherokee. What was going on with this off-road vehicle?

Bernie: Well the vehicle was towed to our shop with a no start condition and the engine wouldn't crank over, which we determined to be the starter motor and we replaced. It was also brought to us ... It was overdue for a maintenance service so we did our B service, which is an oil change, this includes an oil and filter change and a full vehicle comprehensive inspection.

Mark: And what did the inspection find?

Bernie: A few interesting things, but the one thing that I wanted to share and that is an air filter that is dirtier than any air filter I'd ever seen in my life. We'll just get straight to pictures here because this I pretty cool to look at. Actually I'm going to start with ... this is the air filter in the vehicle after it was cleaned. This is a K&N air filter. It's a reusable filter, supposedly a lower air restriction than a regular paper filter, and it's reusable. After a while, it gets dirty. You clean it with a special cleaner and you can apply a special oil film to it, and that does all your filtering. It basically lasts ... It's a lifetime type of filter.

You can see, that's what the new clean filter looks like. Let's have a look at what we found, and that was this. Absolutely covered with a huge, thick layer of dirt. That's a close-up view of it. It's so thick, I honestly don't even know this engine was running with a filter this dirty, but somehow, it was. That's our air filter.

Mark: Were there any other pressing services on this vehicle?

Bernie: There was a couple other things. Ball joints were worn out. We replaced those. Also, the engine coolant, which actually I'll just re-share another photo while I'm at it here. The radiator cap, you can see there's a lot of rust and corrosion around this cap, so the cooling system was well overdue for a flush. Fortunately for the owner ... There was a lot of rust on the cap, which looked very concerning, but fortunately, the rest of the cooling system wasn't ... The coolant wasn't so badly rusted. But once it gets really badly rusted, it's impossible to get rid of, so it's a condition you want to avoid by making sure you have proper antifreeze concentrations and you do flush your cooling system.

It doesn't happen as much as it used to in the past, but we do see it now and again. Any engine that has a metal steel block or cast block will be prone to rusting. We did a cooling system flush as well.

Mark: How is the 5.7 litre engine in this vehicle?

Bernie: They're pretty good. I think they're one of the better choices in these vehicles. We do talk a lot ... We've done a lot of these hang-outs on Grand Cherokees with diesels. We do work on a lot of them, but the 4.7s and 3.7s are also popular. In the older generations, the 4 litre straight six, but the 5.7 is a good option. The only thing is it's a pretty large engine. It's got lots of power, but it's large, so you're going to use a lot of fuel. That's probably the downside to this engine. Other than that, it's pretty reliable and powerful.

Mark: With that engine being that dirty, do you think that was a factor of being off-road a lot, or was it just not serviced often enough?

Bernie: It was entirely off-road. This vehicle had a lot of dirt on it, which is great to see, because so many people buy these vehicles and they only ever see pavement, but that's the nice thing about owning a Jeep or a Grand Cherokee. It's a really good off-road vehicle. Yeah, no, this thing was used very well off-road and that's exactly ... You'd never get that kind of dirt. You'd have to drive maybe a million kilometres in the city to ever see that level of dirt. That's all off-road. Very dusty roads. The interesting thing is it's actually, right now, it's fall and winter time in Vancouver. It's been raining and wet for quite a long time, so that kind of dust ... It must have been on there, since summertime when the roads were ... There was a lot of dust on ... I imagine he drove on a lot of logging roads where he was getting a lot of dust. That filter's probably been dirty for quite a while. I'm not even sure how the engine ran. It's probably got another 50 horsepower after we cleaned the filter.

Mark: So, there you go. If you're looking for service for your Jeep Grand Cherokee or any model of Jeep, the guys to see in Vancouver are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at (604)327-7112 or check out their website, pawlikautomotive.com, or our YouTube channel, Pawlik Auto Repair. Thanks, Bernie.

Bernie: Thanks, Mark.

2002 Porsche 911; Electrical Short Repair

Mark: Hi, it’s Mark from Top Local, we’re here with Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, Vancouver’s best auto service experience. Merry Christmas Bernie.

Bernie: Merry Christmas Mark

Mark: So we’re getting to the end of the year, I guess you guys are going to be closed from this, so this is probably our last broadcast for this year.

Bernie: It is, but a good year of broadcasts, we’ve done a lot and I’m proud of the content we’ve created. It’s pretty awesome. All the people who have watched, so thank you everyone who watches.

Mark: Good bye 2017

Bernie: Yes, good bye 2017. You can count on a lot of new content in this coming up year in 2018.

Mark: Yeah, so today we’re talking about a Porsche 911, a 2002 you had to do an electrical repair. What was going on with this fine German sports car.

Bernie: The client came to us with a, he was blowing a couple of fuses and the fuse we found blown were for the turn signal and the hazard lights. So the first step of course, is to verify the clients concern and replace the fuses which promptly blew as soon as we turned the right signal on, not the left, but the right.

Mark: Ok, so you tried the fuse, what did you do next?

Bernie: So the next step of course is go ok why fuses? Fuses normally blow for a reason. Occasionally we’ll actually replace a fuse and it won’t blow, it’s fine, it was like a one off occurrence but most of the time, there’s something going on there and if a fuse blows immediately and when you turn the right signal on, you know the problem is somewhere in that area. So we diagnosed a few things, looked at several components, found an issue with the turn signal switch and also the flasher relay as well. They weren’t functioning properly, so we replaced those two pieces and the fuse continued to blow. So we’ve repaired a couple things but hadn’t got quite to the root of the problem yet.

Mark: Ok, so this is getting deeper, so where do you go from there?

Bernie: The next step is to pull a wiring diagram out of the vehicle and go ok where are things hooked up. The other thing I didn’t mention is we also pulled the lights out, we looked at the bulbs because sometimes a bulb will have an internal short. We replaced the bulbs, we inspected everything in the light house are some of the easiest things to do. It may verify that everything was working fine in that area but also unplug the lights, you know again, the fuse would blow. So we knew the problem is in the wiring of the vehicle somewhere. So our next step was to pull up a wring diagram and at this point I’ll share a few pictures, so let’s get into some photos. So here’s our 2002, nice convertible 911 sports car. I just want you to remember this area of the car here where I’m circling my mouse pointer, this is where the actual issue, well actually on the other side of the car but this is the area where we found, finally found the problems. We’ll just give you a little pre idea of where things went. Here’s a wiring diagram of what we had to deal with. So you’re thinking, oh it’s an electrical problem, probably easy. Well, sometimes it can be but a lot of times it can be really complicated. This is the entire lighting system of the 2002 911. There’s a lot of wires here, obviously, these items on the top of the wiring diagram indicate the various components, this is the front right lighting system for instance, so there’s a number of bulbs. I guess that this picture is not big but it kind of gives you an idea. This is what goes into the right front headlight assembly. This goes to the left and these are the right rear light, the left light is I believe this one here, it looks like a similar item. This yellow mark here, the first thing you do when you’ve got a wiring problem, you go, ok it’s definitely on the right hand side of the vehicle because that’s what always pops the fuse. Let’s look at the circuit, what’s on it and where could the problem be? We found an interesting test, you know, and we eventually instead of just keeping blowing fuses, we have a circuit breaker we can connect. So what we found was interesting is when you turn the right light on, the right front light would come on just before the fuse pop and when we turn it on the left, the right rear one would not come on which kind of indicated the short was probably in the back and that’s the direction we started to go. Now, you know what’s involved in something like that. Well a lot of stuff needs to be removed. Here’s the interior of the vehicle with the turn signal switch, steering wheel off,  this is exposing a lot of the wiring down here to test the various circuits. You’ve got to start at one end and pick your end and that’s where we went. So I’ll share a couple more photos here. Actually we’ll get to this one in a second. We’ve got this is the tail light here, so that’s kind of where the direction we went, we knew there was a short in the right rear circuit somewhere. So where am I at in my questions Mark? I know I’ve done a lot of pictures here.

Mark: Well just that next was the wiring diagram, was that unusually complicated?

Bernie: It’s actually not. I mean there’s, it’s not actually really any more complicated than you’d find in probably a Toyota of similar vintage. I mean you’ve got basically four bulbs back here and you’ve got your bulbs in the front so it just gives you and idea of what goes into building a car and the wiring systems within a car, there’s a lot to it, not exceptionally more complicated than a lot of other cars. Although a number of cars have bulb warning systems. I don’t believe this car does have it but if you have a light bulb that’s out, a lot of European cars have them. If you have a bulb that is out, it’ll put a warning on your dash. It’d be kind of annoying because cars, you see in the back right here, there’s four bulbs, I can’t even think you know, there’s got to be at least 20 exterior bulbs on every car and so if one of them goes out and it puts a warning light on and it’s good to know, but it can be kind of annoying because you fix one and then a month later another one goes off and you know, at least you know but… Ok yeah, it’s not exceptionally more complicated. I’ll just get right to the heart of what we found with this vehicle. So what we did eventually find is after accessing this wire here, which gets buried into, goes into, through a hole and then into a grommet, and if you’d wiggle the wire around it would start popping the breaker which is great. Ok we’re on the right track. When we started peeling the covering off the wiring, we couldn’t find anything. To access the wiring further we had to move the convertible top up and down, so we did that and all of a sudden the short stopped and ok what’s going on here. It’s like you know we couldn’t, it wouldn’t blow the fuse anymore. Ok well what have we done here that’s different? Well we moved the top. So we peeling some of the covers back to access the wiring and that’s where we found the problem and that is right here. This wiring harness goes in from the engine compartment in through, under the convertible top under a cover and this is a little bracket that just holds a little cable for the convertible top mechanism. The bracket is bolted down but it does move around a tiny little bit so over the years, you can see this wiring isn’t fallen insulated, you can’t quite see down here, but this is where the short was occurring and when we finally found it, I could actually touch the wire, you could see it sparking against the metal piece. So it’s good we have fuses because otherwise wires would melt. There’s another picture here and this actually shows the shorted wire here. So again here’s our bracket, there’s the wiring harness bundle and you can see this black spot on the wire here, where the arrow points, that is the shorted wire to the right rear turn signal. So the steps of course to repair it are, disassemble the wiring harness, repair the wire, tape everything out, make sure there’s no further damage, then we put some extra protective rubber coating around the wire so this would never happen again. So that’s our wiring repair in a nutshell.

Mark: So how often you come across an issue like or similar to this?

Bernie: You know, not that often. I mean we do get wiring shorts from time to time but you know, they do happen but it’s not too common. Usually there’s a component at the end of the circuit or something that’ll cause a problem so it’s usually easier to figure out than this. This was, I like doing this hangout because this kind of shows some of the work we have to go through in our business. People have an expectation though it’s probably something like a simple short. Well these can be the worst problems to find because they’re just, you know, just a slight little manufacturing defect, had they put a little more insulation on the wiring harness, it wouldn’t of happened and of course, the car is 15 years old. So that’s a fair amount of time and things happen. i wouldn’t call it bad manufacturing or anything but that’s kind of the way things work. We don’t see a lot of them but enough of them to keep life interesting.

Mark: And how is this generation of Porsche for reliability?

Bernie: They’re really good. Yeah, they’re very good cars, I you know, they’re the kind of sports car where you can drive it every day, quite reliable, they don’t break down, they don’t need a lot of tuning and tweaking, there are relatively few problems. The owner of this vehicle has ben a client of ours for a long time and we don’t see him very often, you know if doesn’t really need a whole lot of work. So it’s a pretty good car.

Mark: So there you go, if you’re looking for some service for your vintage Porsche in Vancouver, the guys to see are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at 604-327-7112 to book ahead, that’ll be in January 2018 though. You can check out in the meantime our website pawlikautomotive.com tons of videos and information on there or check out our YouTube channel Pawlik Auto Repair, 4 or 5 years worth of videos there. Thanks Bernie.

Bernie: Thanks Mark.

2006 Toyota Matrix, Brake Backing Plate Replacement

Mark: Hi, it's Mark from Top Local. We're here with Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, 18-time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver as voted by their customers. And Vancouver's best auto service experience. How you doing Bernie?

Bernie: Doing very well

Mark: So we're going to talk about a Toyota Matrix. A Toyota, oh my God, Bernie, something went wrong with a Toyota? How can this be?

Bernie: Well, it happens.

Mark: What is going on with this Toyota?

Bernie: Um, well, this vehicle was ... the client brought his vehicle to our shop because he ... if he would drive it for a while, say, I think it was 60 kilometres an hour for 20 minutes, there was some noises that would develop at the rear of the vehicle, like either a wheel bearing or a brake or some kind of noise. So took it out for a very good, long road test, and brought it back to the shop and did some inspecting. What we found is the left rear brake calliper was sticking. Sometimes we have to take cars for very rather long road tests when people give us a description, it happens like this, the brakes are always shaking. You're driving, and there’s nothing really wrong with it, sometimes it takes a while to actually get things to occur. Anyway, in this case it was definitely the left rear brake calliper was sticking.

Mark: What was causing the brakes to stick?

Bernie: Basically moisture would just get into the brake calliper and sometimes it'll cause a piston to start sticking and seizing. It happens from time to time. Any brake calliper, they don't need to be replaced all the time, though I know there are some shops that seem to just do them every brake job, but really, in my opinion, that's overkill. But every ... depends on the car, but callipers after a while will stick and seize and need to be replaced. That was the issue with that. Now the other issue that we had was the brake backing plates were ... especially the left side, where it seized calliper, the backing plate was actually rusted off and disintegrated. So that's another issue that we had to deal with.

Mark: What's the purpose of the backing plate?

Bernie: Basically the backing plate just keeps dust and moisture from getting onto the back of the ... either if it's a drum brake, of course it's integral, you have to have a backing plate because it holds the shoes in place, but on a disc brake, the backing plate actually just keeps dust and dirt from getting on the brakes and you know, if you get too much water on the brakes, it'll cause the brakes to fade, or too much dust and dirt, it'll cause wear. So that's basically the purpose of the backing plate. I mean, if you removed it, not exactly the end of the earth. Some vehicles actually don't even have them. It depends. But most do.

Mark: And how often do you change backing plates?

Bernie: Not very often. We live in Vancouver; it's a pretty ... besides that it rains a lot, it's a pretty gentle climate on vehicles. We don't use a lot of road salts because we don't get a lot of snow here, but if you live in a snowier climate, where they use a lot of road salt, that's where things start to rust and rot. Backing plates are just basically just a very thin piece of metal. And they're out on the road, being exposed to salt and all that kind of thing, so they do tend to rust out. Interestingly enough, this actually is a vehicle that was in Ontario for a while where they use a lot of road salts, so that's why the backing plate had rotted out.

Mark: You have some photos?

Bernie: I do. Yeah, let's have a look at some. There's our '06 Toyota Matrix. Again, you know, it's 11 years old but in really good shape, and about ... I think it's around 200,000 kilometres, so the car still runs great. Just like you'd expect from a Toyota. On to the backing plates. So on the right is a brand new, from Toyota, backing plate, which wasn't actually a lot of money, it was a very well price the part. There is, it's left of the old one. The actual ... this vehicle has a parking brake as a shoe brake for the parking brake. It has disc brakes that do the regular braking, so they're separated. A lot of vehicles use a ... the rear brake calliper actually acts as a parking brake as well, so it makes the calliper more complicated, but you don't have the brake shoes. Anyway, so this backing plate comes complete with the ... this part here is still intact, where the parking brake should sit, because it's a very thick piece of metal. It takes a lot for this one to rust out, but the tin, that piece that sort of keeps the dust and dirt off the rotor was pretty much gone with the exception of this little piece here. And on the right-hand side, it was starting to break apart as well, so that's why we replaced it all.

Mark: So I know you speak very highly of Toyotas. You convinced me to buy one. Is there anything else about Toyotas long-term that someone would really need to pay attention to?

Bernie: Not really. You know, I think the key with Toyotas, a lot of times bad maintenance kills them. They're not perfect cars and they seem to keep getting better and better every year, like it seems like with almost all brands of cars, more reliable. But it just, again, the key is just proper maintenance. Regular oil changes, regular service, regular inspections. It'll keep the car going well. There's really nothing I can say about a Matrix that would ... other than good things. It's a good, reliable car.

Mark: So there you go. If you're looking for service for your Toyota Matrix or Toyota vehicle in Vancouver, the guys to see are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at 604-327-7112 to book your appointment. Book ahead; they're busy. Or check out their website, pawlikautomotive.com. We have tons of information on there. Or our YouTube channel, Pawlik Auto Repair. You can see hundreds of videos on there from many years of cars and repairs. Thanks, Bernie.

Bernie: Thanks Mark.

2002 Volvo S40, Camshaft Gear Replacement

Mark: Hi, it's Mark from Top Local, we’re here with Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in beautiful Vancouver, BC where the rain never stops. So we're here talking about a 2002 Volvo S40, and what was happening with this smaller Volvo vehicle?

Bernie: This little Volvo, with the four cylinder turbo engine, had an oil leak. A very bad oil leak. It went from inside the timing cover area, the actual oil leak was coming from the cam, the exhaust cam shaft gear.

Mark: So how does oil leak from a cam shaft gear?

Bernie: Well, that seems a little unusual doesn't it? I mean well, think how can a gear leak? But this gear is actually a variable valve timing gear. And so inside this, the way a variable valve timing systems work they use engine oil pressure in these valves and they change the oil pressure inside the gear. That adjusts the valve timing. So it'll be set in a certain position. Then when you apply the pressure, it changes the position of the gear so you can adjust the valve timing. Kind of simple, but sort of complicated too.

Mark: So how common of a problem is that with Volvo's?

Bernie: Well this leak is not uncommon. These gears have actually they do create problems. They'll either fail internally or they'll develop a leak. The leak is not an uncommon issue. This particular engine seems to be more problem prone than others, but the other five and six cylinder Volvo's they used variable valve timing as well. Some of them have variable valve timing on the intake and the exhaust. So you'd have like two gears too that can potentially leak or cause problems. There's the added complexity of those as well.

Mark: So we have an extra treat today, we have a video and some pictures?

Bernie: We do have a video and some pictures. So let's start with the video. So there's the video with the covers off. This is actually after the repair and you can see that gear that I'm focusing on, the one on the left, it's sort of more silvery coloured, that's the gear that we replaced. It has all the variable valve timing components. The gear on the right is just a simple gear. It has nothing. It just bolts onto the cam shaft.

Let's take a little look around the top of the engine here with the engine covers off. You can see that the ignition coils and the spark plug wires. This item here, this is part of the variable valve timing as well. This is a sensor that senses the position of the cam shaft. So it sends a signal to the computer and that will determine how to adjust the valve timing.

This piece here, this is the variable valve timing solenoid. So this is an electrical connection here. The oil pressure goes up into the solenoid and that adjusts the pressure to the cam gear.

So we'll ditch this video and we'll go look at some pictures now of the gears. So there is the cam shaft gear. There's the old one. You can see this is a bit of oil. This just spilled out when we took the gear off. There's a cap here with a seal on it and that prevents the oil from coming out, but it's impossible to change this without making a mess. You leak where the red area points a little plunger that sticks out of the side of the gear. This is where the oil was leaking out of at quite a large rate.

I was actually just to sound a little bit more intelligent I wanted to figure out what the actual purpose of that plunger is because I did a training course awhile ago and the trainer talked about how a lot of these have a plunger or something to lock the gear under certain conditions. I believe that's what this is for but I could be wrong on that. Someone will probably correct me but there was a purpose to this plunger and yeah there's a seal inside there that's leaking. But of course this gear is all put together. It's a sealed unit. While the seal's probably worth a penny, it's a couple hundred dollars for the gear. There's things that can go wrong with them besides that issue.

Let's have a look at the ... There's another view of the gear. This is the inside view. This is what bolts under the cam shaft. Again, I'm point at the plunger here again so you can kind of orient yourself but the ... You can see sort of two sort of passageways here. This is where the oil is fed in under pressure and inside this valving will actually allow the gear to switch timing. So that is basically how it works and that's what we've got for sharing here. I’m back.

Mark: So with variable valve timing engines from other manufactures, how are they for ... I guess they probably use different systems for they’re all oil pressure activated and have the same sort of problems.

Bernie: They pretty well all use the same type of system. They're all oil pressure activated. These are leaks. They're not so common in a lot of other cars because Volvo uses a timing belt. They have for a long time. Although the new ones getting into sort of middle of the 2000’s they went away. They went to a chain drive, but a lot of vehicles that have variable valve timing have chain drives. So if something like this were leaking, like on the Volvo, you'd never know because the variable valve timing gear is located inside the engine.

But there are a number of problems with variable valve timing. I must say I pointed out a few things in that video. The solenoid, the sensors, there's a number of things that can go wrong with them. Timing chains stretching. There's a lot of issues in variable valve timing. It adds a lot of complexity to an engine.

Sometimes the simplest problem we run into and this is a lot of Hondas, Acuras, I'm thinking of, is people come in and they go, "the check engine light’s on" and there's a variable valve timing code, we go to check the oil and the engine's almost out of oil. People haven't been checking their oil. You can see how having a full oil level is critical to the function of the variable valve timing system.

So again, I've talked about oil changes. Change your oil and check your oil. Make sure the level's full. Not all cars have a monitor to tell you when the oil level is low. I'd say most cars don't. So you need to check your oil level. Don't just trust that it's working because running your oil low on an engine like this is critical. These are really expensive parts to fix so it's really important that you make sure that the oil is full. That's one of the biggest things we notice, but there are lots of things that could go wrong with it.

Mark: So variable valve timing, what does that actually do? What does that accomplish? What's the result of having it in a car?

Bernie: The result is better engine performance, better fuel economy, reduced exhaust emissions. That's the end result but what it is and what it does, engines have intake and exhaust valves to let the air into the engine and exhaust out. The timing of those valves is critical to engine performance. When an engine's at idle, it doesn't necessarily need the same valve opening as it does when you're trying to race down the road at 6000 rpms. There's a real ... The engine has different needs. So variable valve timing fulfills that. So you can get way better fuel economy, engine performance and gas mileage depending on how you adjust the valve timing. On an older engine, the valve timing was fixed. It was the same at any speed. So there's a compromise in performance. Variable valve timing takes the compromise out.

Mark: How are S and V40 Volvo's for reliability?

Bernie: I'd say they're not the best cars out there. There are a lot of things that go wrong with these cars. Transmissions wear out, it has a timing belt, it's a pain to change. You get these leaks from various places. So oil leaks, excuse me, they're not the most reliable cars out there. They're a nice little car when they work well it's a good car, but it wouldn't be my first choice for reliability in a car.

Mark: I understand that Volvo is making a pretty drastic change for the future. What's going on there?

Bernie: Yeah so I believe it's 2018 or 2019 they're actually coming out with a full line of electric cars. Now I read the press release and it sounds like in the press release, the whole company's going completely electric and you'll never see a gas engine again. That's not the case, but they are going to a full line of electric cars. I guess we'll have to see what that actually means but it's a pretty bold move. So they're trying to get to the forefront of that movement.

Mark: So there you go, if you're looking for service for your Volvo in Vancouver, the guys to see are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at 604-327-7112 to book your appointment or check out their website pawlikautomotive.com or our YouTube channel Pawlik Auto Repair and we've got hundreds of videos on there for all makes and brands of cars. Thanks Bernie.

Bernie: Thanks Mark.

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