Blog - Pawlik Automotive Repair, Vancouver BC

Winter Driving Tips, Don’t Burn Out Your Wiper Motor!

Mark: Hi. It's Mark Bossert, producer of the Pawlik Automotive podcast, and we're here with Mr. Bernie Pawlik. Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver. Vancouver's best auto service experience and 19 times winner of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver as voted by their customers. And we're talking cars. How you doing this morning, Bernie?

Bernie: Doing very well.

Mark: So, we actually have a little bit of snow here in Vancouver, which has freaked everybody right out and that's a hit and miss affair. We don't always get snow. You have a bit of a tip for us around windshield wipers.

Bernie: I do. Yeah, so here's a little preventative tip. To prevent more serious damage like windshield wiper motor, wrecking your wiper motor, your wiper arms and linkage, or your ... I mean, on the cheap side, the wiper blades. It just occurred to me, as Mark said, we don't get winter here very often, so we tend to be a little lackadaisical with our operating of our cars, at least some of us. I know there's, I have a few people in my family, my wife, my kids, even myself sometimes, we tend to drive home and just leave the windshield wipers on because it'll probably be raining the next day or we just kind of forget and don't really think of the fact that perhaps it's going to freeze overnight or there's going to be three inches of snow on the window. When you go to turn on your, when you go to start your car, the wiper motor's already, the wiper's already switched on and your windshield wipers could be frozen to your windshield or trying to move three or four inches of wet snow, which is really hard on them.

My tip is, make sure you shut your wipers off, and that includes front and rear, when you shut your car off at night. Whenever you actually park your car, you should make sure your wipers are off. It's easy to forget about it in this climate because we don't have to deal with it very often. I'm sure there's some people watching this podcast going, "Duh, I do that already," because a lot of people are smarter in winter than we are around Vancouver and areas like this. Just a tip if you're not in the habit of doing it, save yourself some money.

I'll just share a couple of photos. There's basically a ... what that ... what we're looking at is a windshield and these are some wiper blades buried underneath. Again, like I'm saying, you don't know whether these are frozen to the window or whether you're about to be moving a bunch of snow. So if the wipers are switched on, of course that's a, that is, that can cause some problems.

Again, here's a rear wiper blade. Now this one you can see is actually frozen onto the ... this is a Suburban. It actually has a little pedestal that holds the wiper blade in place down at the bottom of the window. This piece is actually frozen to the pedestal. Again, that's going to cause an issue. Here, the vehicle, this is kind of bit of a worn out switch, but an example of how I found the vehicle. The wipers are actually turned on, even before the car, you know, the car was left overnight. That, again, is something that's going to cause a problem.

Mark: So what sort of damage do you see from this?

Bernie: On the simple side, the easiest damage would be a ripped wiper blade, which is cheap and easy to fix. More often, it'll wreck wiper motors, or cause linkage to either bend or break, or sometimes just the nut that holds the linkage to the wiper arm will be forced loose and just needs to be tightened and realigned. That's kind of the simplest scenario. Quite frequently, we replace wiper motors and it seems like a lot of rear ones tend to, we tend to replace them quite frequently, I think because people forget about the rear wiper. It's in the back, they don't think about and leave it on, it's frozen to the window, and burns it up.

Mark: So what sort of cost are we talking about?

Bernie: Well, wiper blades can be ten dollars a piece on the easy side of it. Readjusting linkage could be $30 to $50. Once you start getting into the realm of motors, though, you're getting into several hundred dollars. It could be even into a thousand dollars on some cars. So that's the kind of damage you definitely want to prevent.

Mark: A thousand dollars. So, besides making sure your switches are off, do you have any other recommendations for wiper longevity in winter?

Bernie: Yeah, so absolutely. So not only make sure the switches are off, but the other key thing is when it's cold out, and this doesn't necessarily mean there's snow on the window, but if there's frost and it's frozen, make sure your wiper blades are not stuck to your window. This is another thing that happens and it's simple. Just go around, grab each wiper blade, front and rear if you have rear wiper blades. Just grab it and make sure it physically moves off the window and that'll prevent a lot of damage because something we see a lot of too. It doesn't have to be snow. It can be ice.

One thing with snow, it's not such a big deal to use your wipers as a snow brush where you have dry powdery snow, but a lot of the snow we get around Vancouver can be heavy and wet and that can be really difficult for wipers to move. You really want to brush off any thick accumulations. You know, half an inch is no big deal, but when you start getting into three or four inches, that's tough.

Mark: And of course, clearing the top of your car Vancouver, which is almost like a rite of passage for people not to do. Have a foot of snow on top of their car.

Bernie: Yeah.

Mark: Which is extremely dangerous.

Bernie: Yeah. It is, and you know, the other thing too and brushing off your hood as well, because a lot of times you get snow blowing up on your hood and that creates blind spots and often wipers get all kind of gummed up. You know, having your window washers free as well is another tip I can give. You know, a lot of times washer nozzles are located on the hood. Well, they're not going to do any good if they're buried under three inches of snow. So again, you know, keep that area clear and clean because that'll help you. It keeps things safe and helps you get from one end of the journey to the other in one piece.

Mark: Well, there you go. If you need some service on your wipers, the guys to see are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at 604-327-7112 to book your appointment. You have to book ahead because they're busy. Or check out their website, pawlikautomotive.com. Of course, the YouTube channel, Pawlik Auto Repair. Hundreds of videos on there about all makes and models of cars and repairs. And of course, thank you so much for watching the podcast. We appreciate it. Thank you, Bernie.

Bernie: Thanks, Mark.

2013 Range Rover Sport Supercharged Severe Timing Chain Noise

Mark: Hi, it's Mark Bossert, Producer of the Pawlik Automotive Podcast. We're here with Mr. Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver. 19-time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver as voted by their customers. And we're talking cars. How are you doing this morning, Bernie?

Bernie:      I'm doing well.

Mark:       2013 Range Rover Sport Supercharged has a severe timing chain noise. What was going on with this vehicle?

Bernie:      This vehicle arrived at our shop on Monday. Well, I arrived Monday morning and found the vehicle parked outside with a message that was on our voicemail from about 12:30 at night when the vehicle had been dropped off. There was a severe ... The owner said the engine had lost power, severe ... Some noises in the engine and a number of warning lights on on the dash.

Mark:       Was this an issue that occurred suddenly?

Bernie:      Well, according to the owner, a few months back, we replaced the supercharger nose cone. It was very noisy and he said even since then there was a noise in the engine. I think it was something that had been progressing for a little while, then just got suddenly worse. The issue came along suddenly that they needed to drop it off to fix it. It was good they did and didn't drive it much further, as we'll see soon. Yeah, other than that, I think the noise had been there for a little while.

Mark:       How did you start your diagnosis?

Bernie:      Well, of course, listening to the engine we could hear there was something pretty severe rattling and didn't want to run it for very long. Ed, who was working on it, popped the oil filler cap and he could see the top of the left timing chain. He said you could actually see a piece of metal in there, which we'll again see in the photograph. He said as soon as he kind of poked down and touched it it dropped down inside the engine, so at that point we knew, "Hey, we can't run this thing. This is like too risky. We gotta pull the timing chain cover off and see what's going on. Something is broken in there."

Mark:       How could it have broken apart like that?

Bernie:      Well, let's ... Why don't we just look at some pictures and we'll talk about that, because we're still kind of speculating as to what may have happened. Let's get in some pictures here. This is the lower timing chain cover removed. There's a ... It's a pretty large area in the front of the engine, but the lower timing chain, this is a ... You can see the crankshaft here. Here's the two timing chains. This is the right chain, the left chain, and there are of course, tensioner ... There's the tensioner. This is the guide ... This is the tensioner lever and this is the guide rail. You'll notice something here. There are actually bolts missing. There's no bolt here, no bolt there. We didn't remove them. You can see this guide rail here has a bolt.

This is what happened. These bolts came apart and there was also ... In behind here, and you'll see a better picture of this later, there's an oil jet that sprays oil right on ... Directly on the timing chain and the gears. There's a piece that actually sticks around and points here, and that piece is completely gone in this picture.

Mark:       Not to get too pedantic here, but the timing chain basically ties the camshaft together with the crankshaft so that the valves open at the right time when the pistons are up towards the top of their stroke.

Bernie:      It does, exactly, and of course, it's critical that these move in exactly the right time because pistons and valves, the clearance is very tight. If the timing goes out, pistons and valves will hit and cause basically ... It basically destroys the engine. For all intents and purposes at this point you'd either have to rebuild it ... Excuse me ... Replace it with a new one or get a good used engine. Those would be the options had that occurred, and it could very well easily have happened in this case.

Let's just get into a few other pictures here. This is just some of the damage. This piece had been floating around inside the engine. Actually, I'll show you the piece in a minute, but this is just where stuff ... Metal had been banging around on the cylinder head. These are some of the other pieces we took out. This is part of that oil jet. You can see it's been scraped, bent, twisted. This piece is folded over completely. Broken bolts. These were the bolts that were in place where the timing chain guide was.

This picture here, this was the cover. You can see where the bolts have been. The arrows point ... These bolts have been rubbing for quite a while on the cover, so as the chain runs of course there's a lot of rattle and force and movement, so it's been banging around and almost wore holes through this cover, but it's still in good shape. It's just a ... It's a chunk of metal so really wouldn't be damaged. A little more wear and there'd be a hole in it, but at this point it's okay.

What else have we got here that's good to look at? There's our ... This is after the chain was removed. This is how the ... This is the damage on the front of the engine. This one here, the bolt's pretty much sheared off and the actual surface here is good. This, as you can see, the bolt has broken off quite a far ways in and what's left of it, and a lot of damage around this area. What was a flat surface like this where the bolt shoulder would rest has now been completely damaged. We have ways of repairing that, which we did, all these pieces. It's been a work. Stuff you really don't want to have to do, but it does need to be done. One more shot, just some of the damage from the guide ... Or sorry, the oil jet that was flailing around and banging against the chain and scraping.

There's a lot of bad noises going on. I guess we could probably get to the picture just showing the completed job where everything's back together. Again, here's the chains, guides bolted back in. Here's that jet that we ... That I mentioned earlier. You can see there's a whole arm here that comes around and twists around and that piece was of course mangled and bent and twisted. There was this piece left, but this one was nowhere to be found. Part of this jet here bolts up underneath this particular piece here, so somehow these bolts came loose. We don't know why or how, but they did and that's sort of what caused everything to go bad.

Mark:       We'll go back to, how would those bolts ... Would they just work themselves loose? Was it a bad repair job in the past? Any clues?

Bernie:      We're not really sure. It's possible that this timing chain could have been replaced in the past. I haven't had a chance to quiz the owner on it. He hadn't mentioned it and it is ... The vehicle's about 100,000 kilometres, which is sort of where we normally find the chains start to rattle. The 2010 to 2012 for certain have a lot of issues with the timing chains because the ... I've shown this in a previous ... We have a previous podcast on this ... The tensioner, the plunger of the tensioner and the guide rail are kind of substandard in size. They should have been made bigger, and so they tend to wear out and cause the chain to start rattling.

This had the updated type in it, so it may be either one of two things. Either someone had done the repair and not tightened the bolts properly, or B, it just wasn't ... It just somehow from the factory it wasn't tightened properly and it came loose. That's not usually something you see. Engines are manufactured really well, but it's something that can happen.

Mark:       With all those chunks of metal floating around in there, I imagine it could have been pretty catastrophic.

Bernie:      Oh yeah. I'd say by the Grace of God or a miracle or good luck, whatever you want to call it, that chunk of metal did not go actually between the chain and the gears, because had it done that, that would have been very easy for that to happen. It would have definitely jammed up the chain in the engine and it would have ... It would have been in one big boom destroying the engine. Pistons and valves would have collided and the repair bill would have been substantially higher.

Mark:       I'm assuming the repair was just getting all these parts back in proper order and retiming everything and making sure it's back into good condition?

Bernie:      Yeah. I mean, essentially the job was the same as any normal timing chain job we would do on one of these engines other than we had to repair those bolt phalanges that were broken and of course replace that jet, which we don't normally do when the timing chain's rattling. Other than that, it was basically the same level of work.

Mark:       Anything that the owner could have done to possibly prepare for this? Or not had this happen? Maybe be as catastrophic or dangerous as it was?

Bernie:      Well, yeah, I mean, I think the lesson to be learned out of this is when you hear a noise in your engine, especially a rattle noise, it's critical to have it looked at and fixed right away. Now, I say ... I mean, the repair bill for this job is not really gonna be much more ... A little more than it would have been if we'd addressed it earlier, but had it driven even a little further or just ... It could have already had that piece fall off and break and jump ... Go into the chain. It really ... The preventative maintenance here ... We often have this ... J.D. Power and Associates today ... Study saying it's 46% cheaper to maintain your car and fix things before they're broken, but I'm starting to see in a lot of cases it's actually hundreds of percent cheaper some of the time to fix things. When you hear a little noise, fix it, because this job would have been triple the cost had the engine failed, or more.

Mark:       Again, we'll talk about Range Rover Sport Supercharged. This is a pretty high-performance vehicle. How are they for reliability?

Bernie:      Pretty good. We talk about some of the timing chain noises. It seems these Supercharger nose cones are an issue on pretty well all of them, including Jaguars with the same engine. Other than that, the cars, they're pretty good. There's lots on them to go wrong and over the years the suspension compressors go bad. Those are things we see on Range Rovers. I haven't really done too many on these models yet, but they're at the age where we'll probably start seeing them and be doing them.

Overall, pretty good. I think they seem to get better and better as time goes by, but these timing chain issues with these are a little bit of a ... I'd say disappointment. I mean, it's work for us. That's a good thing, because we never complain about that, but from an owner's perspective, it's a little annoying having to do that, a timing chain at such a young age.

Mark:       Well, it's a high-performance, ultra-luxury vehicle that has a lot of things that are very convenient and very comfortable, but also very expensive to fix.

Bernie:      Exactly, exactly. That's right, and I just think about brakes, too, on these things. I mean, they tend to wear pretty fast. They have massive, enormous brakes, but there's a lot of vehicle to stop and performance ... Things just tend to wear out and ... Great vehicle and good used buy. They tend to depreciate quite well, so that's a good thing if you're looking for a good luxury used vehicle, but you will spend a fair bit of money fixing it.

Mark:       There you go. If you're needing any kind of service on your Range Rover in Vancouver, the guys to see, the experts in Vancouver are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at 604-327-7112 to book your appointment. You have to call and book ahead, they're busy. Or check out the website, pawlikautomotive.com. Hundreds of articles, videos on there. Literally hundreds. As well, our YouTube Channel. Eight years almost of videos on there of all makes and models of cars and repairs. Of course, thank you so much for listening to the podcast. Thank you, Bernie.

Bernie:      Thanks, Mark. I was just thinking maybe one ... Pretty soon we'll be saying there's thousands of videos on there at the rate we're going, so it's kind of exciting. Anyway, thanks for watching. Thanks, Mark.

2013 Mercedes Benz ML550 Rear Shock Absorber Repair

Mark: Hi. It's Mark Bossert, producer of the Pawlik Automotive Podcast. We're here with Mr. Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver. Vancouver's best automotive service experience, and of course, 19-time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver as voted by their customers, and we're talking cars. How are you doing this morning, Bernie?

Bernie: Doing well.

Mark: So, 2013 Mercedes ML550 that had some rear shock absorbing problems. What was going on with this fine German SUV?

Bernie: It's a fine German SUV, it's a really nice vehicle. It's a 550. It's kind of a notch below an AMG ML63, and just a super awesome vehicle, twin turbo V8, lots of power, nice features. It's a super nice vehicle.

Anyways, so the owner brought it in for a B-Service a few months back and one thing we'd noticed was the left rear shock absorbers leaking fluid. So that was definitely something that needed to be replaced, so this was the day and we did the service on the shock absorbers.

Mark: So, why was it leaking?

Bernie: Shock absorbers will just leak when they get old. They have seals and to be honest, it's a six-year-old vehicle. I think it's got about a 140K, so I guess it's getting up there in mileage, but things just wear out.

Shock absorbers are filled with fluid. These ones are not a hydraulic shock like you do find on some Mercedes products where they actually have pumped oil into them, this is just the fluid is just contained within the shock absorber, but it's a critical part of any shock absorber action is fluid, pistons, valving and things like that, that reduce the shock when you hit bumps.

Mark: So, did you notice anything while driving the vehicle?

Bernie: Yeah, you can really notice. Probably initially when she brought the vehicle in for service, the first service there wasn't really much noticeable in terms of ride but, it's been a few months now and more and more fluid's leaked out and you notice when you hit bumps you can hear a banging noise in the back of the vehicle and there's also the ride of the vehicle is not great. It tends to bounce around a fair bit because the shock absorption, of course, is pretty much gone on that left, rear corner.

Mark: Just for shock, explain maybe again pedantic-ness, alert, we're talking about a shock absorber basically stops the bouncing of a vehicle that the springs would normally do when you go over a bump.

Bernie: Exactly, so if you had no shock absorber, if you have just a spring, as soon as you hit a bump, the vehicle bounces up, and then it bounces down, and goes up and down, and up and down, until eventually the oscillations all come out of whatever the energy that was put into the spring dissipates, well that can often take a long time.

If you've ever driven in a vehicle where the shock absorbers are completely blown, it's a really uncomfortable feeling, the car bounces around. Not only is it uncomfortable, it's actually dangerous because the weight of the vehicle is not really in contact with the road as much as it could be. And worn shock absorbers, sometimes you think, "Ah, they're not that important." But they really are pretty critical. Brakes will wear out faster, vehicles don't handle as well, they don't stick on the road as well. So they're a critical safety feature in a vehicle, not to mention comfort. I think that answered your question in a long-winded way.

Mark: Sure. Is there anything about the shock absorbers that's unique on this Mercedes?

Bernie: Yeah, they are actually. These are like, I wanna call it electro-hydraulic, but I think that's actually the wrong term for it. GM has a term, magneto-hydraulic, it uses special fluid in the shock absorber, and it actually has little metal particles in it and when it's electrically charged or magnetically charged it changes the direction of the particles so it can change, let's say the bounce rate of the shock absorber, the absorption. So, it'll change the handling of the vehicle so they're pretty high tech shocks.

Let's just get into some pictures right here. So, there's our ML550, unfortunately not washed, it's a cold day in Vancouver and the vehicle would've frozen up had we washed it. It's a rare, very cold moment in Vancouver.

So here's our shock absorber on the vehicle and this is kind of showing the bottom end of the shock and you can actually see some oil and fluid dripping on the ground. So this has been going on for a couple of months. I'd say there's probably not a lot of fluid left to have been leaked out of this particular unit.

There's another view, a better sort of view of the shock, you can oil just seeping out. This is a dust boot. You can see the oil just seeping out, down the side of the shock. Whenever you see oil leaking in a shock absorber it's a sure sign that if it isn't bad right now it's gonna be bad pretty soon cuz the fluid is a critical component of the shock.

And there's the new unit installed. Again, there's this actuator unit here. Electrical connector. And that's what's really makes the magic of these electronic shocks, that's part of the process. That and the special fluid.

Mark: So are there still springs in this vehicle?

Bernie: There are, yeah. So they use an air spring. I'll just go back to the picture.

Mark: Yeah I saw it there in the background.

Bernie: Yeah, there's the air spring, right there. So these use air suspension. I can't remember what they have in the front, but on the rear there's air suspension. It's a good idea in an SUV vehicle where you're gonna be putting weight and needing to adjust the height of the vehicle, so definitely the rear has them. They probably do in the front too. But yeah that's the spring. It can have a coil spring too on some models, but this one, it's a Mercedes, you gotta go full out. Put all the good stuff in.

Mark: As you already alluded to, this type of shock isn't unique to Mercedes? GM also has it?

Bernie: No, it's not. Lots of different manufacturers use 'em. But you won't find them on a lower end car, they'll only be on the higher end. On Lexus, or Infinity, Lexus, Cadillacs, a lot of different German vehicles.

Mark: Corvettes.

Bernie: Yeah, there's a variety of them, but they're all high end stuff.

Mark: And so once you've got the shocks changed, of course everything was running great again with this vehicle?

Bernie: Yeah, rides good.

Mark: And how are the Mercedes MLs for reliability?

Bernie: Pretty good, but again we're in the luxury SUV category. It was a lot of things that can go wrong and expensive things, like these shock absorbers, for example, are quadruple the price of what an average shock absorber would be. So you pay a lot for that kind of thing.

These vehicles, I've often said they're kind of fair for reliability. We've talked a lot about the diesels and they have issues. The gas motors are really good, rarely run into any issues with them. I'm always personally a fan of the gas motor, I just think they're better, although the diesel's certainly more economical. You can just expect that you'll spend more money on this vehicle because of what kind of vehicle it is.

Mark: So there you go. If you're looking for service and repairs on your Mercedes-Benz MLs or any Mercedes-Benz product in Vancouver, the guys to see are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at 604-327-7112 to book your appointment. You have to book ahead, they're busy. Or you can check out their website: pawlikautomotive.com. Hundreds, perhaps even maybe a thousand on there now. Videos, articles on different makes and models of vehicles, as well as the YouTube channel: Pawlik Auto Repair. Hundreds and hundreds of videos on there of all makes and models of cars, repairs, all sorts of details, us two making fools of ourselves for many years. Or of course thank you so much for listening to the podcast, we really appreciate it. And thank you Bernie.

Bernie: Thank you Mark, and thanks for watching. Great to have fans.

2008 Dodge Grand Caravan Wheel Bearings Repair

Mark: Hi, it's Mark Bossert, producer of the Pawlik Automotive Podcast. We're here with Mr. Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, 19 time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver as voted by their customers and we're talking cars. How you doing this morning Bernie?

Bernie: Doing well.

Mark: So we have a 2008 Grand Caravan that had a wheel bearing issue. What was going on with this minivan?

Bernie: Yeah. So the owner of the vehicle brought in to our shop with a complaint of a rattle noise. Technician Nigel took it out for a little drive. It wasn't more than a few feet into the parking lot where he heard a hideous grinding noise coming from the vehicle. The owner actually hadn't described but that was the first thing that he noted.

Mark: And so what did you find was wrong with the van?

Bernie: Well it was pretty apparent. Wheel bearing noises are pretty distinct and it was pretty apparent that this was more than likely a wheel bearing noise so we took it for a further road test and then hoisted the vehicle and found probably the noisiest wheel bearing we've ever encountered in our career.

Bernie: It's on the right side by the way.

Mark: Right front.

Bernie: Just one bearing.

Mark: And do you have some pictures?

Bernie: I have a video. Unfortunately for some weird reason the sound didn't transfer over so I'm going to show the video then I'm just going to play the soundtrack on my phone because that's really where the juice is of this video. So here it goes.

So, there's the video, spinning the bearing. But let me just play this sound track too because this is where you'll- this is the most interesting part. World's loudest wheel bearing. You heard that okay?

Mark: Did, yup.

Bernie: So yeah that was basically instead of seeing the bearing spin of course the noise was kind of the key part and I don't know why the technologies odd sometimes. But, anyways that was basically the noise. Just an absolute solid metal on metal rotational noise. I mean I've never heard anything quite so loud.

Mark: It's a meditation bell.

Bernie: Yeah absolutely. It kind of had that tone to it.

Mark: So, where's the actual bearing. I only see rusty metal.

Bernie: Yeah, so the bearings actually inside this area here, the part that was being spun, and I'll just actually play this one more time. So, the part that's spinning, that's the hub. And the part that's being held solid, that's the mounting plate. The bearing sits inside this area here. So this hub here, this is where the wheel bolts on, and the axle shaft goes to the drive axle shaft goes through the hub, the centre of the hub and that's driven of course by the engine and transmission. And then the bearing sits inside here.

Mark: So is this a pretty common design, a wheel bearing?

Bernie: Yeah, very common. This is what's called a unitized wheel bearing and very common. I would guess that maybe 50% or more of vehicles on the road use this type of design. It's very common.

Mark: So you can't actually take that apart and pull the wheel bearing out? You replace that whole piece, is that how that works?

Bernie: You replace the whole piece. It's a bolt in, bolt out. Generally pretty straightforward but one factor you get of course is rust. And as you can see on that part. The parts over time rust in place and it can sometimes be quite an effort and get it out. They even use these wheel bearings on Ford 350 pick-ups, Dodge trucks, Chevy's, they'll use that type of design too and getting those bearings out of course they're humongous, getting those out we actually have special tools that can help pop them out of place. They often require a fair bit of effort once they get old and rusty.

Mark: Are these bearings a common replacement part.

Bernie: They are but it's, there's nothing really where we can say this specific vehicle all the bearings go or you know it's going to go at this particular mileage. They really fail at different rates. It's entirely possible you may have a vehicle and go 400,000 kilometres without replacing a wheel bearing. Or you might have one wear out before 100. Sometimes just one side will wear, sometimes the other one will wear. There's no rhyme or reason but the good thing about it is you'll hear a noise coming, once you get it diagnosed and verified you can just replace that part. And it's not, I mean this bearing is so loud this person would had to have been driving for quite a long time with quite a loud noise getting worse and worse before they chose to fix it.

Mark: There's lots of parts that I can think of on cars that need to be replaced in pairs, like shocks, brakes, tires, are wheel bearings like this?

Bernie: They're not. These are basically a one side, there's no reason to change more than one. Things like shocks, brakes, and tires, especially on the front of the vehicle, they have different, say for shock absorbers those are different rebound rates so if we don't change both shocks at the same time you might have one corner of the vehicle will bounce differently than the other. Or brakes, if the friction materials aren't exactly matching in terms of the rotors, pads and calipers you can get brake pulls, tires same thing, you'll get handling issues. With the wheel bearing it's just a very precision machined part and if one isn't worn the other one doesn't need to be replaced. You just replace the worn out one and do the other one at a later time.

Mark: So there you go. If you're looking for replacements of your wheel bearings on any make or model of vehicle in Vancouver the guys to see are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at 604-327-7112 to book your appointment. You have to call them, book ahead because they're busy. Or, check out their website, pawlikautomotive.com. There's hundreds of, literally hundreds of videos and articles on there about car repairs as well as there's are YouTube channel, with again hundreds of videos over eight, almost eight years of doing this as well, thank you for watching the podcast and thank you Bernie.

Bernie: Thanks Mark and thank you for watching we really appreciate it.

Why We Don’t Give Over The Phone Estimates

Mark: Hi, it's Mark Bossert, producer of the Pawlik Automotive Podcast. We're here with Mr. Bernie Pawlik. Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, Vancouver's best auto service experience, 19-time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver, as voted by their customers. And we're talking cars. How are we doing this morning, Bernie?

Bernie: Doing very well.

Mark: So your company, as a policy, basically doesn't really give over the phone estimates. Is there a reason why.

Why Don't You Give Me A Price Over The Phone?

Bernie: So, yes, we rarely give over the phone estimates, and there's a few reasons why. Largely, we want to make sure that when you come into our shop that you get what you expect. If we tell you it's $200 to do a certain job, you come and it's $400, or it needs a whole bunch more work, that really sets a stage for not a great relationship, and probably some disappointment on your behalf.

The thing about estimating car work is it's pretty complicated. Even if you think, oh, I know it's this one part, often there's a lot more involved. I can think of a couple of examples. Recently we had a client who had a Mazda 3, called us up and said I need an alternator replaced in my vehicle, very sure that it was the alternator. Now, we didn't actually do an over the phone estimate for him. He brought the vehicle in. We looked at it, and found that the battery terminal was loose. Now, had we told him it was $600, for example, to do the alternator, I mean of course, he would have been very pleasantly surprised that the bill was under $100.

But oftentimes when someone would call and say, "Hey, I need an alternator," and we say it's $600, and we get the vehicle in the door, and by the way that's just a round, off the top of my head guessed price, we may find that there's belts that are worn out. There are bolts that are seized. A number of other things, some things we don't even know until we take it apart. But, generally speaking, we don't know what you're really going to need until we look at the vehicle, until we actually start taking things apart.

Mark: So you're just trying to create a good customer service experience by setting proper expectations prior to actually seeing the vehicle.

An Accurate Price

Bernie: Exactly. Another example we frequently get people asking, "I need front brakes in my car. How much is it?" Well, our normal response is, "We need to do a brake inspection first to see what you need." There are so many things that can affect brakes. I mean, normally, it's just brake pads and rotors, but often the calipers can be seized. Sometimes if the vehicle's older, it'll be brake hoses. Does the brake fluid need to be flushed? There's a variety of things, so we really want to make sure we do the right service, and with the right quality parts. Again, knowing who you are, what your expectations are as a client is important, but we need to know what the vehicle actually needs. It's truly a waste of everyone's time to make an estimate over the phone if we don't really know exactly what you need.

Mark: This sounds almost like you're caring more about the relationship with your customer rather than just, wham, bam, here's our price, $29.95 for an oil change.

A Correct Diagnosis

Bernie: Exactly. Thank you, Mark, for mentioning that. That's exactly right. We really care to establish a relationship with you based on honesty, trust, and that we're going to do the right thing for your car. That takes a bit of a process. Again, a feel between whether we're the right shop for you, whether you're the right client for us, and whether we're going to do the car service the way you want. That involves a bit of a dialogue, a conversation as to how long are you going to keep your car, what you're going to do with your vehicle.

I guess we could just stick brakes on, and we could give you an idea of the price, but really that doesn't serve you well in terms of what are your driving needs? Maybe you need a better grade of brake pad or something. We tend to look at the whole vehicle to kind of give you a big picture of what you need. So, yeah, the relationship is really what we're looking at.

Mark: Cars have gotten just a touch more complicated these days. I'm sure there's opportunities where somebody might say, "Well, I need a new X," and there's five other things that might be wrong up or downstream from that particular part that they're referring to.

Each Vehicle Is Unique

Bernie: Absolutely. I mean, cars are extremely complex. I'm thinking, again, of a couple of things where people might call and say, "I need an oxygen sensor replaced," because there's a certain trouble code in their vehicle. Without us diagnosing it and rally looking at it in detail, it's hard to know for sure that it is in fact the oxygen sensor, a wiring problem or something else. I mean, most of the time it could well be the oxygen sensor but, again, without doing a proper diagnosis it's hard to know for certain.

Another area I'm thinking, I had a client recently who called, how much is a thermostat on a particular BMW? Well, it's a lot more complicated than that. Often with BMW's there's plastic hoses, pipes. Do we need antifreeze, are the belts worn? It's a little more complicated than just changing the thermostat, and every car's different. It isn't the same thing every time. There's a variety of things that need to be changed. So, yes, the complexity makes a big difference.

Mark: And the complexity of how the car's actually been driven and maintained in previously also makes a huge difference, I'm sure.

Bernie: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. I was thinking, back in the days, you know, when cars needed tuneups. A lot of shops would advertise a $69.95 tuneup for a four cylinder engine. Well, you knew you were going to need four spark plugs, and it was going to take ... They're all kind of the same. There wasn't a lot of variety, but nowadays, I mean, every car's different. There's a different amount of time to change the spark plugs. The types of spark plugs vary. I mean, a tuneup is not really a service you need any more, but there are different tuneup items that can be needed. So, again, it's all kind of customized.

Mark: And each manufacturer builds their vehicle in a different way, and their computer systems are different, etc., etc. Is that right?

Bernie: Exactly, and sometimes if you replace a particular part, especially if it has any electronic component, it'll need to be reprogrammed to the vehicle. This is happening more and more with newer vehicles. It's not just plug and play any more. Things are getting more and more complex.

Mark: So there you go. If you're looking for some service on your vehicle in Vancouver, and you want honest guys who are going to look after you for a long time, the guys to see in Vancouver are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at 604 ... Bernie, you do it.

Bernie: 327-7112. You can also watch our podcast. I know you know the addresses better than I do, but just search Pawlik Automotive on the internet. You'll find our podcasts, our videos, there's tons of them out there. Thank you, Mark. Thank you for watching.

Mark: Thank you Bernie.

2017 Chevrolet 3500HD Pickup, Pre Purchase Inspection

Mark: Hi, it's Mark Bossert, producer of the Pawlik Automotive podcast. We're here with Mr. Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, Vancouver's best auto repair experience and 19 time winners. 19 time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver as voted by their customers and we're talking cars. How are you doing, Bernie?

Bernie: Doing well.

Mark: So we have a 2017 Chevrolet 3500HD pickup, pretty almost brand new vehicle, what was pre-purchase inspection. What was going on with this and your new truck?

Bernie: Yeah, so the potential buyer brought this vehicle to us for a pre-purchase inspection, wanted to check out the condition of the vehicle before he bought it. So we proceeded to do our usually awesome pre-purchase inspection.

Mark: So of course this is a very documented procedure with hundreds of points of checking, so what did you find when you did this?

Bernie: Well, on the road test, which is the first part. Chris who did the inspection noted, he said there's a possible noisy wheel bearing from the left front. That was basically the only thing he noted otherwise the truck drove really nice. But when we got up in the hoist, we found some extremely interesting things and I wanted to share that with you.

So let's just get right into some photos. So here's our 2017 Chevy truck, I mean beautiful condition, looks really nice. Bit of a gloomy Vancouver day, so could have showed nicer on a sunny day. Getting into some other photos. Here's basically the odometer, 46,000 kilometres. So it's still, for a Chevy truck, I mean really barely broken in, almost new. But a fair bit of use for a two year period.

When we got under the vehicle, that's where the interesting things started to happen. They'd undercoated this vehicle over mud, which was just absolutely bizarre. So we'll just go through some photos here. This is the exhaust crossover pipe, you can see this vehicle has been exposed to an awful lot of mud. So right away, you could tell the usage of this vehicle is probably either in the mining industry or oil and gas, somewhere been driven off road in a lot of muddy conditions, maybe construction in a muddy area.

But transmission pan's covered in mud. But this black here is basically undercoating that's been sprayed under the vehicle. So, somewhere along the line, someone has tried to mask the vehicle, make it look better underneath than it really is, but this undercoating is done over top of mud. That's why it looks so bumpy, which is absolutely crazy.

So we found numerous, numerous areas like this. Here's the back of the vehicle, this is a computer module. I believe this is the fuel pump module, coated over in undercoating. Of course it'll be a real nightmare to do some diagnosis and testing. And not so much mud here, but there's some. Again, it's been undercoating over top of mud. What else have we got here?

Another example, I mean this is where the torsion bar goes through the front frame. Again, kind of hard to see, like in real life, it's way more noticeable. But again, here's the metal here and this is all just a huge layer of mud sprayed over. We've got this, no we've already looked at this. Did we already look at this? I'm not sure but here's another example. Lots of mud here. This is the front exhaust pipe, catalytic converter.

Now actually this is facing rearwards, actually. So where the torsion bar mounts, again, just caked mud. And to get into what, you know. So up in front, this is the front skid plate, you can kind of get an idea of the mud. I mean this is a three inch thick layer of mud. That's the four wheel drive actuator. Another similar view of the same area. Again, you can see the level of mud, so this was caked all over underneath the vehicle and just sprayed over top.

I don't know if there's anything else. And of course, they didn't even do that great of a job because there's just a bit of over spray in the oil filter and the oil pan and that's it. I can't stand looking at anymore, it drives me crazy. It's that bad. Gotta put some humour in here because it's just awful.

Mark: So, okay. So what's the big problem here of other than they're trying to hide something that this thing is coated in a ton of mud that should have been cleaned off, what's the problem created by undercoating over top of mud?

Bernie: Well I think you alluded to the biggest thing there. To me, it's like, "What are you hiding?" Or "Why are you trying to make something?" It's like putting icing on a cake made of mud, it's like when you cut the icing open, it's just mud underneath, it's not cake. So, I mean that's the first thing is, like why would you even spend the energy, if you're gonna do anything proper, a really good thorough pressure washing and cleaning underneath the vehicle would be the very first step before you undercoat it and try to make it look a little better. And maybe that would actually not be a bad thing to do, because it's been bounced around the bush.

But the other bad thing about it, of course is mud absorbs water and over time, when you get mud, if you wanna take good care of a car, you've always gotta flush the wheel wells of the car out, because a lot of times you get mud and it'll sit in little corners and water will sit in there and that's a perfect way for the moisture to attack the metal and eventually rust it out.

So, keeping things clean, mud free is important because water, it attracts water and it just keeps sitting in certain spots. So over time, this truck will definitely run into a number of problems, whether it's electrical connectors being damaged from water and mud to the fact that the undercoating's even kind of retaining the mud in place and keeping the moisture in the mud because it's like a rubberized type coating.

Mark: So, I can assume probably and correct me if I'm wrong, that if you went and looked at this vehicle yourself at the lot and drove it, you'd think, "Wow, this is a great vehicle. They've probably got a good price on it." Making a really huge assumption, but let's just go with that. It drives good, it looks good, it feels good, this is a great vehicle. Because you probably yourself, wouldn't necessarily go underneath the vehicle to see this. And this could happen with a reputable car dealer or a second tier kind of car lot or even a private seller. So how do I protect myself from this happening?

Bernie: Yeah, great question. Pre purchase inspection. It's really the key. Bring it somewhere, have it looked at. And I've got to tell you an interesting about it. So this is the second truck we've looked at for this owner. The last truck we looked at was a 2018 with 20,000 kilometres and he phoned initially to us and said, "I wanna bring this thing in for inspection," and I kind of thought, "You know what? That truck is so new, why bother?"

So we did the inspection on it and we actually found some problems. There were some worn front end parts. There was a CV joint boot that was leaking grease, and those are the couple things I remember, but there was a couple things and this truck is like I say, it's a year old. Obviously been used pretty hard. No mud underneath like this, so it wasn't that bad. But right away it just turned him off, he goes, "I don't wanna buy this truck because it's got stuff."

Now some of those things may have been covered by warranty because the truck wasn't that old, but again, just a turnoff. But it just made me realize, you never know. You think "Oh, this truck's not that new." I make these assumptions, because I work on cars all the time. A lot of times it'll be fine, it's only 40,000 kilometres on a two year old truck, what could be wrong? Well, here's the evidence.

So a pre purchase inspection is really the only way to be 100% sure. You know, some people go, "I don't wanna fork over 150 or 200 dollars." But you know what? You bought this truck, you're gonna be in there wasting many times that amount of money over the years over repairs that you wouldn't have needed to do had you bought the right vehicle in the first place.

Mark: So, once this was all done, was there anything else wrong with this vehicle?

Bernie: Well, we did find a few things. There were some front end parts, like some tie rod ends that had some excessive play. The tires were worn out. I mean that's something you couldn't see, and they weren't severely worn out, but worn out to the point where, for the price of the truck, I would have expected to have a new set of tires put on it. Again, and those can be negotiating tools, but again with those worn out front end parts, you go, "Well, where has this vehicle been driven?" It's been banged around logging roads or back roads, gravel, through roads that probably don't even exist. So that takes its toll on a vehicle.

Mark: Is there a time where you wouldn't recommend a pre purchase inspection.

Bernie: Not really, I mean you should do it any time. Even if you're buying a $3000 vehicle, because you never know what might be wrong with it. And I mean I have bought vehicles in the past without doing inspections on them because sometimes I can get a pretty good feel for a car driving, but I've been in the business for a long time and I've bought a lot of crap. So I know the kind of telltale signs of stuff to look for.

But if you were saying, you're going, "I don't want an inspection on this vehicle," I mean the very least if the buyer had crawled under this vehicle and looked with a bit of a discerning eye, and you have some automotive intelligence, you would have able to say, "Hey, wait a minute. This is kind of shady, I really should have this looked at." So I'd say just any time you should. And there are some very reputable dealers around, but this vehicle shocked me because it was actually from a place where I would have never expected to find a vehicle like this.

So, usually name brand car dealerships, they only sell good cars because they value their reputation. But again, this has taught me, you know what? You can't really tell. Somehow this thing slipped by their whatever procedures they have.

Mark: There you go, if you need a pre purchase inspection on your new to you vehicle, the guys to see in Vancouver are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at 604-327-7112 to book your appointment. You have to book ahead because we're busy or check out our website, pawlikautomotive.com. We have a huge YouTube channel with hundreds of videos, Pawlik Auto Repair. And of course, thank you so much for listening to the podcast and thank you Bernie.

Bernie: Thanks Mark, and thanks for watching.

2009 Toyota Venza Interior Mold

Mark: Hi, it's Mark Bossert, producer of the Pawlik Automotive Podcast. We're here with Mr. Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, Vancouver's best auto service experience. 19-time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver as voted by their customers. And we're talking about cars. How you doing this morning, Bernie?

Bernie: Doing very well this morning.

Mark: So we have a 2009 Toyota Venza that has interior mold. This is pretty unknown territory for us to cover. What was going on with this Toyota Venza?

Bernie: Well, yeah, this vehicle was brought to us by a client who, they'd moved from Alberta, they'd left the vehicle sitting for a few months, and wanted to now insure it in British Columbia, so if you're unfamiliar with the laws around these parts, when you bring a vehicle into British Columbia, it has to have a provincial safety inspection on the vehicle. So we got into the vehicle, or opened the door, and found this severe mold, like really dangerous level of mold inside the vehicle. And so what prompted me to want to do this podcast is, I want to educate folks who are moving, perhaps from other places, of the dangers of mold and how it can happen in vehicles. Or if you're planning on storing your car, that this is a real issue that can happen.

So we'll get right into pictures, because that really shows the best ... So there's our Toyota Venza on the outside. It's a little dirty. Again, it had been sitting for a while. But nice, clean, straight body on this vehicle. But getting into pictures that sort of ... we say a picture is worth 1,000 words, that's the picture. This is the passenger seat. I'm not an expert on mold, but there's definitely a few different strains and types of mold. And really not removable by shampooing, especially this black mold. Once it gets in, it's in there and stained, and it'll never come out of the interior.

Another view, this is the back seat of the vehicle. As you can see, it's covered as well. The driver's, we'd been sitting in it with blankets on top to protect ourselves. But other areas, too. This is just, when you open the driver's door, you've got mold and dirt here, there's mold growing down in these areas, and just all over the vehicle, and in any sort of space where there's some organic material, basically mold growing.

Mark: So is there anything that can be done about mold when it's this severe?

Bernie: You know, what the owner of this vehicle's faced with doing, because ... well, first thing we thought is, okay, we don't even want to get in this vehicle and drive it. Let's get it to a detailer to have it cleaned out and taken care of. So we took it to a nearby detailer, very reputable, they do a good job, and their first look was "Oh, you know, we can't clean this out. That'll never come out of the vehicle." If it was light mold, maybe a lighter colour, they might have been able to shampoo it off. But they kindly treated it with an ozone machine, which kills a lot of mold spores, and certainly reduces the odour greatly, to the point where we could actually at least get in the vehicle and use it. But we always had a mask on.

But the long and short of it is what the owner of the vehicle's now gonna be doing, is actually having the interior ripped out of the vehicle. Some things can be shampooed and cleaned, but the seats will more than likely need to be replaced, the upholstery and the seats.

Mark: So as you alluded to, it's not really even safe, when the mold is this bad, it's not really even safe to be in the vehicle, is that right?

Bernie: No, definitely not. You could get very sick from mold. I mean, I've been in a lot of cars that are moldy. We've probably all been in, walked through a house that's got a little bit of mold in it. But long-term exposure to these kind of things could cause some pretty severe sicknesses. So it's definitely not the kind of thing you want to be in.

Mark: And so how did mold this severe form in the vehicle? What's sort of the history behind it?

Bernie: So this vehicle was brought from Alberta, which is a much drier climate. The owners had left it sitting for a little while, a few months, she told me. And when they got back in the vehicle, it was full of mold. And she said "I was really surprised, because in Alberta you can leave things indefinitely, and you never get mold. It's a much drier climate." But here on the coast, it's wet, and mold is just the kind of thing that happens. I've been in people's cabins that have been left to get too cool and moldy. But a lot of things that cause mold, of course, are moisture and organic material. So you spill some coffee on the carpet of your car. There's something for mold to ... I'm not a scientist on this stuff, but mold will form around these kind of things. And you know, it's really where there's moisture, there's maybe a little bit of warmth, but not a lot of air circulation and usage, the mold will develop.

Mark: Yeah, this almost looks like the kind of level of mold that you would see from a car that had been in a flood or in a hurricane or something like that.

Bernie: Well, exactly. Now, yeah, and of course the key with that is there's too much water content in the vehicle. So for whatever reason, you know, there's a lot of moisture in this vehicle, and that's where it came from. This certainly wasn't a flood vehicle, but that's the kind of thing you can expect from a flood-damaged vehicle also.

Mark: So how can you prevent this from happening to your vehicle?

Bernie: Well, that's an excellent question. And of course, as I said, the reason I wanted to do this podcast is for someone who's moving from a drier climate to a moist climate, just be aware that mold is a big issue if you leave a vehicle sitting. Where you store the vehicle is, of course, important if we're talking about cars. If you have a heated garage or maybe an underground, in an apartment complex storage where it's very dry, that's a good place to store it, because mold isn't gonna likely form. But for other areas, I mean, I have an RV trailer. I always put these, they're called Dri-Z crystals, I'll show you a picture in a minute, in the trailer. And this prevents mold from forming, because I can guarantee you it's in the first year of owning a trailer, it would have been full of mold. It's just the way we use these things, there's moisture, mold forms really quickly.

So we'll get back, do another quick screen share here. Yeah, so this is a really good mold preventative technique. So if you have a vehicle, say you're not gonna drive it for a month or two and it's gonna be stored outside or wherever, there's moisture, you can get one of these, it's like a special basket, and it holds these crystals. And underneath it traps water. So putting one or two of these inside a vehicle would be a fantastic thing. Even one is probably enough. And that basically just takes all the moisture out of the air. Somehow they bond with these crystals and it drops in this bucket here. So that's a really good way to prevent mold. There are probably some other chemical methods that I'm not aware of. I've used this in my RV trailer and it works fantastic. And I'll just show another shot, you can see more detail. This is with the top of the basket, these are these crystals. And I don't know how they do it, but it just absorbs moisture right out of the air.

One caution, though. If you do do this, be very careful with this water. If you spill it on anything, it's highly toxic. And it'll stain fabric, so just be careful with it.

Mark: So the interior obviously needs a lot of repair on this, and expensive repairs, I would assume, on this Venza. But how was the rest of the car?

Bernie: Oh, it was good. It needed a couple items, had a cracked windshield, typical for Alberta. Every car comes from Alberta with a cracked windshield. That, and a tail light, and a check engine light. You know, a few minor repairs. Other than that, the vehicle's in really good shape. Only 110,000 kilometres. So it's a Toyota, lots of good life left in it.

Mark: And a Venza.

Bernie: And a Venza.

Mark: I'm a fan. So ...

Bernie: Yeah, you're a fan of Venzas, I know.

Mark: And of course, we don't have rocks in British Columbia, just wet.

Bernie: You say rocks?

Mark: Yeah.

Bernie: Oh, yeah, we do. It's kind of a joke, but it's like some places the roads are a little more gravelly, cracked windshields are just the norm.

Mark: So there you go. If you have run into mold in your vehicle, take precautions, don't leave them out for very long, or come and see us at Pawlik Automotive. You can reach us at 604-327-7112 to book your appointment. Have to book ahead, we're busy. Or check out the website, PawlikAutomotive.com. YouTube channel, Pawlik Auto Repair. There's hundreds of videos on there on all makes and models and different issues with vehicles, and years of vehicles. And of course, thank you so much for listening to the podcast. Thank you, Bernie.

Bernie: Thank you, Mark, and thanks for watching.

2013 Land Rover LR2 PCM Reflash

Mark: Hi, it's Mark Bossert. We're here with Mr Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive, and we're talking cars. How are you doing this morning, Bernie?

Bernie: Doing very well.

Mark: As we do this next version of our podcast, we're talking about a 2013 Land Rover LR2 that had a bizarre kind of a thing, a PCM reflash. What is a PCM reflash?

Bernie: A PCM reflash, well, I'll break the words down. A PCM is the powertrain, short for the powertrain control module, and that module you'll find that on any vehicle. The powertrain control module controls the engine and transmission. Once upon a time when computers were in their earlier generation, there would be an ECM which is an engine control module, and then they'd have a TCM, a transmission control module. They finally integrated it all into one because it kind of worked nicely as a package. The powertrain control module takes care of all that.

Plus, it gets inputs and signals from the body control module and processes it all to keep the engine and transmission running in an optimum way. A reflash is basically a reprogramming of the vehicle computer. These computers have a flashable memory, and they can be reprogrammed. At one time, again, we're going back over 20 years now, vehicle computers had the memory basically programmed in when you bought the computer, were just set for the vehicle.

The manufacturers, as computer technology got more complex in cars and the engine management systems got more complex, they realized they needed to be reprogrammed from time to time. It was a helpful thing. I'll just take General Motors, for example, they have one computer that fits in, say, I don't know, 2000 General Motors vehicle. They have one computer that'll fit in almost every model of vehicle. The difference is the way the programs reflash or the way it's flashed.

It'll be for a Cavalier with a four-cylinder engine it'll have a flash programming, for a Suburban with a V8 at a certain size it'll have a certain other kind of programming. That's a good way to keep the costs of the computers down, and you can program it. Now, reflashing is something that can be done after the fact where the manufacturer realized, "Hey, we need to make a change here so that you can reflash or reprogram." Short, simple explanation there.

Mark: Why did this vehicle need a PCM reflash?

Bernie: What happened with this vehicle, and we actually featured this vehicle in a podcast a month or two back where we replaced a camshaft actuator gear that was worn out. When the owner originally brought the vehicle to us, it had several trouble codes stored and the check engine light on. The one thing we addressed and fixed back then was the camshaft gear issue.

Since we did that, the owner had noticed the engine seemed to idle a bit rough. The check engine light kept coming back on, so we did a couple of other repairs to address that but still that rough idle persisted and the check engine light still kept coming on for a lean condition code and an EVAP code. Now, as I mentioned, we repaired a few parts and items but we were never able to get rid of the lean code and that rough idle was still present.

We weren't sure whether an engine mount was causing it. It was just a subtle shake, but, nonetheless, annoying for the owner. We figured at that point where we'd done every repair and verified everything we'd done that it was time to look and see if the vehicle could be reflashed, the computer program could be reflashed. That can be a likely cause of things like persistent check engine lights. When everything else is done and fixed to spec and it still won't perform properly, often a reflash is required. That's what we did.

Mark: Did it solve the concern?

Bernie: About a week and a half later we called the owner. He said it definitely runs a lot better. The check engine light did come on once, and he has a code reader. He switched it back off and it hasn't come back on since. I'd say we're pretty much, I mean we definitely solved most of the issues with it. There could be some other underlying problem, but he's definitely happier, much happier with the way it runs.

Mark: As technicians, how do you guys know when to reprogram the vehicle's computer?

Bernie: That's a good point. I just explained the circumstances of this vehicle, and that was a good example. Other vehicles sometimes a check engine light will be on, or there'll be a certain drivability symptom, and there'll be a technical service bulletin by the manufacturer suggesting reflash the vehicle computer. Those are ways we know. Otherwise, most vehicles built in the last 15 years will, or, well, last 10/15 years probably need to be reflashed if they have never been done.

The manufacturers are always looking at issues and creating new reflash files. Again, it's one of those things of if it ain't broke don't fix it. Is that the word?

Mark: Yeah.

Bernie: Sometimes if the vehicle's performing really well, it may not be necessary. With a computerized vehicle, you never know what performance, gas mileage that you might be missing, because the computer just takes care of things, so that it could actually be an improvement. I'd say most vehicles, that probably is the case.

Mark: When you guys are doing this, just to be clear about it from an electronics procedural viewpoint, you're downloading a file that you then upload into the computer to reprogram the EPROM in the actual vehicle computer, is that right?

Bernie: That is exactly we do. It basically just wipes out the original programming and puts the new one in. We download it from the manufacturer, directly from their website.

Mark: Is there a simple way for you to tell if the vehicle's PCM needs to be reflashed?

Bernie: Well, there's not really a simple way. You have to actually have the flash files, the program set up, and load into the vehicle computer. Then from there it'll actually tell you there's a reflash available for this vehicle. It's a bit of an upfront cost for the customer, because we have to commit ourselves to doing it once we buy the file. Then we access the vehicle computer, go through everything, and it'll tell us, "Yes, there's a reflash available."

Fortunately 95% of the time that's exactly what we find. Same with this Land Rover. It reads through the programming file and said, "There's an update for this vehicle," which we knew we were on the right track to at least creating some kind of performance improvement on the vehicle doing this. That's really the only way we can tell is basically just to get into the vehicle and do it.

Mark: Can you maybe just go step-by-step, once you've decided you're going to do that, what's the procedure to reflash the PCM?

Bernie: The procedure, we basically hook up our computer. For every manufacturer, we have to have their software system. For a lot of manufacturers we have that set in our computers already, and then we plug into the computer. We go onto their website. We buy the flash files, or the access to programming, and then from there we access the vehicle computer. Download the file, if I'm using the right word. Is it upload? No. Download the file to our computer and then perform the reflash procedure the way their software system works.

The neat thing about Land Rover, and I can actually get into sharing a few photos here. What I was going to say about Land Rover that's fantastic is their software system is actually a complete OEM system. Some manufacturers will only allow us to access the PCM or transmission control module, depending on what it has, to reprogram the vehicle. Land Rover's fantastic and Jaguar as well. This is that exact OEM software.

If you go to the Jaguar dealer, this is exactly the same equipment that they use. We have access to that. Probably better than 50% of manufacturers when you go in to do this procedure give, also, when we buy the software or the access, which we can subscribe to on a day basis or a couple of days, or months, or a year depending on what we want to spend and the cars we work on. This allows us to actually use OEM diagnostic software which is fantastic.

This is boring, but this is just basically a picture of after we reprogram the computer. Tells us software information and that the programming was done successfully. As I mentioned, this is OEM manufacturer software. The other thing we're able to do, can you see this okay, Mark?

Mark: Yeah.

Bernie: This allows us to run, again, manufacturer-specific tests. We have other really good scan tools in our shop that will do these kind of tests, but the nice thing about this is this is directly the manufacturer's made software. We know the test has run 100%. There was a code for an EVAP system fault that he'd had previously, and we did replace the EVAP canister. After that I reran the test, and you can see here, "Test passed. Tight system. Fault free."

From the manufacturer's test that there's no leaks in this EVAP system, which is a really good thing to verify.

Mark: Kind of touched on this earlier, but is there any times that it would not be a good idea to reflash even though it seems like you're saying that most cars could benefit from reflashing?

Bernie: The one area I'm a little bit cautious with is that once you reflash the computer, you can't go back to the old file. I can cite one circumstance that sticks in memory. I had a client who bought a brand new Ford F-350, 6.4 litre diesel. I think it was a 2008 or '09. Bought the truck. It was great. Had the great gas mileage you expect out of a diesel. Ford called him back in, "Hey, we need to reflash this computer." They reflashed the computer, did whatever they did, and the gas mileage dropped in half from 16 miles a gallon to 8. He was pretty pissed, as you can well imagine.

The reason, they had to do an emission reprogramming on the vehicle, which is why people remove the emission equipment off these vehicles because the gas mileage just drops in half. I don't know how you actually keep the air cleaner by burning twice as much fuel, but we can argue about that another time. Nonetheless, this is one circumstance where doing a reflash can have negative consequences and you can't go back. That's why we're a little cautious.

Normally, I mean in any reflash we've ever done in our shop it's always been positive.

Mark: Any last thoughts about this service?

Bernie: It's good. I don't think there's anything else. When I wrote the script, I'm thinking, "What else do I have to say?" I think we've covered it all. It's, again, just part of a good maintenance program on a vehicle to have the computer files checked every once in a while, maybe every couple of years. If you're not certain, it's a good idea to do it. You never know what the performance benefits will be. As I mentioned, once you do it there's no going back.

Bernie: Manufacturers normally don't do it unless there's a positive reason. I'd say for the most part if you come to our shop, ask us, we can talk to you more about it.

Mark: There you go. If you're looking for service for your Land Rover or you need a PCM reflash because of particular issues that you might be experiencing, the guys to see in Vancouver are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them 604-327-7112 to book your appointment. You have to call and book ahead. They're really busy. If you're in Vancouver, please call. If you're not in Vancouver, please call your local service advisor. They can't diagnose your problems over the phone. It's not in integrity to do that. We have to be able to see your vehicle.

As well, we have a vast library on YouTube. Check us out at Pawlik Auto Repair, and on the website, pawlikautomotive.com. Thank you so much for listening to the podcasts. Thanks Bernie.

Bernie: Thanks Mark, and thanks for watching. We really appreciate it.

2018 Subaru Crosstrek -A Level Service

Mark: Hi, it's Mark Bossert, producer of the Pawlik Automotive Podcast, and we're here with Mr. Bernie Pawlik of Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, 19-time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver, as voted by their customers. How are you doing this morning, Bernie?

Bernie: Doing very well.

Mark: We're talking about a 2018 Subaru Crosstrek. A service, it had a service. What was going on with this almost brand new Subaru?

Bernie: I say a service. It's actually an A-level service, which we should have put there to be clear. And it's interesting, because this client, we've actually serviced this vehicle since brand new, now you're thinking 2018, we're in 2019. It may have had its first service but actually this is the fifth service we've done on the vehicle. The owner of this vehicle drives an awful lot. It's got about 48,000 kilometres already on in a year period. He drives a lot.

Basically, we do an A-level service, so at our shop an A-level service, basically the heart of it is an oil change, and then a basic maintenance inspection around that. What else is included of course is inspecting lights, inspecting all the fluid levels and qualities, under hood and under car visual inspection, adjusting tire pressures. That's basically that kind of bulk of it.

Mark: Was anything else in need of service on this pretty new vehicle?

Bernie: No, it actually needed absolutely nothing, so that's always nice and that's the advantage of owning a new car is that you don't need to do anything on it for a while. The owner's good, at least conscientious and changes oil on a regular basis and has it serviced, so that's really the important thing to do. And then when things do crop up, because they will as the vehicle gets older, you fix them as they go.

Mark: How often do Crosstreks require service?

Bernie: Well, this vehicle here is somewhere in the 10 to 12,000 kilometre range. It uses synthetic oil. This is a perfect candidate for a longer oil change interval. We do his normally at 12,000, around that range. He drives a lot, the engine's hot so that's a good amount of time to do the service. If you were the kind of person who maybe only put 12,000 Ks on a year, it'd probably be better to have it serviced a little frequently because that engine's gonna be running cold a lot more often, and that's harder on the oil than for a car that just runs hot.

Mark: And so a lot of people think that only the dealer can service a brand new car, and still have their warranty? Is that true?

Bernie: No. We've got a number of clients who buy new vehicles and bring them straight to us for service. They'd rather deal with us than going to the dealer, and there's no effect whatsoever.

The key thing is, is that you have to have your receipts or at least be able to access the receipts. We have them all in our computer but it'd be good to keep your own files. Make sure you do the maintenance as scheduled and have documentation. If the engine blows up in this vehicle, he's covered. He's done all the work, he's had the flues changed at the right time, and the service is all done at the proper time.

The advantage with us, is if we see an oil leak develop on the vehicle, it might be that the dealer looks at it and goes “It's not enough that we can run it under warranty.” But if you go in and say “Hey, there's an oil leak in this vehicle,” it's been found somewhere else, they're not gonna cover things up. There's actually an advantage because we're not biased in any way. We just call it as we see it.

Mark: How do you guys actually do the inspection? How do you log everything?

Bernie: Well, let's look at that. One advantage that we have at our shop, a lot of independent shops don't have, and actually even dealers have a ... We have an awesome electronic inspection system that we do. Let's just have a look at, an example of what you, as a client will receive after we do this inspection.

This is, as I mentioned, an A-level service. For the A-services, I mentioned it's a more basic inspection. We measure the tire pressures, we adjust the tire pressures, do a visual under hood and under vehicle inspection, look at lights, and that sort of thing. Now, this vehicle, this is actually kind of a boring inspection to look at, but as a customer, this is the kind of inspection you want. There's 45 items that we looked at and they're all okay. Which is, I'll have to say, pretty rare. We don't do these inspections all that often. There's usually always something that needs to be done.

But this is basically the sort of ... The basic view that you would get when we send the inspection report to you and we send this out either by email or text message or both. And there's a link and you just open it up and have a look at it. Most of our clients, quite honestly, are blown away by this inspection, just how thorough and how detailed it is. And when there's problems and issues, we take photographs of things.

This one here ... I'll just get to the next picture here. And so this is how it expands. You saw there was a little plus button, you can click on it, and go “I kinda wanna see what's going on with it.” Here you can see the windshield wipers. These are some of the things we look at. And I'm not gonna bore you with all the details but the other most interesting inspection to look at, this one here you can see that we take measurements of the tires. The treads are still practically brand new. Adjusted the pressures on the tires.

There are notes in certain places that can be clicked on and you can see. But if say there was a ... Say the tires were worn out, we normally take a picture of that so you can actually see the tread wear. It's like you being in the bay yourself and actually having us showing you stuff on the vehicle. It's a really good system and we're proud to use it and our customers love it.

Mark: And how are Subaru Crosstreks for reliability?

Bernie: Well, they haven't been out for a long time. We actually have not run into any problems with any of them so far, so I'd say it's a fairly new vehicle on the road. I'm sure some issues will crop up, like they do with all vehicles, but they are different in design. They still have the boxer and four-cylinder engine as they've used forever and ever. They always keep redesigning them and changing the format of the engine around. This one uses a timing chain, which they have for quite a few years now. They seem to be a little more reliable.

I think the only issue with the timing chain, what we've run into, was there was a leak in one of the ... We had a client with a timing covered gasket leak but that's about it. Head gaskets seem to be pretty solid on these things so far, which is a good thing, compared to the last generation where pretty much every one of them was a guaranteed head gasket replacement. So far, they're holding out well.

Mark: So, there you go. If you're looking for service and reliability for your vehicle, if it's a Subaru or any other make or model of vehicle, the guys to see in Vancouver are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at 604-327-7112, to book your appointment. Book ahead, they're busy. And if you're outside of Vancouver, in the other part of the country, call your local dealers. We can't diagnose your problems over the phone. It's not in integrity for us to do that.

As well, you can check us out on YouTube. Hundreds of videos on there of all makes and models of cars. Pawlik Auto Repair. The website, everything's up on there as well, pawlikautomotive.com. Thank you so much for listening to the podcast, we really appreciate it. Thanks, Bernie.

Bernie: Thank you, Mark, and thank you for watching.

2008 Ford Escape Transfer Case Repair

Mark: Hi, it's Mark Bossert here with Mr. Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver. We're talking about cars. How are you doing this morning, Bernie?

Bernie: Doing very well.

Mark: So, we're going to talk about a 2008 Ford Escape that had a transfer case problem. What was happening with this fine Ford vehicle?

Bernie: So the owner brought the vehicle to us. His complaint was there was a very loud noise while driving and some vibration under the vehicle. So that was the issue. And very noticeable when he drove it. Yeah, the kind of thing you don't want to drive very far.

Mark: And so what did you find and how did you diagnose it?

Bernie: Yeah, so for diagnosis, of course, we start with a road test to verify the client's concerns, which was very easy in this vehicle. And then we did a hoist inspection underneath and found that basically, I guess the best diagnostic tool we had in this case was a stethoscope and our ears. And there was a very loud noise coming from the transfer case. This unit's bolted to the side of the transaxle, the transmission, and basically transfers the ... It's an all-wheel drive, so it transfers the movement of the axles to the rear, as well as the front.

And a stethoscope certainly verified a lot of noise coming from inside the transfer case. We listened to other areas of the vehicle, and didn't really, nothing was too apparent. But the noise in the transfer case was so severe that, once we found it, it was pretty easy to confirm.

Mark: And so, doctor, why was the unit so noisy?

Bernie: Yeah, so basically when we took it apart, took it out, took it apart, there was some extremely badly-worn bearings, which is we suspected it would be. So badly worn, in fact, it was causing the gears to run on a strange angle. And that exacerbated the noise even further.

Actually, we can get into some pictures right now. 

So there's our 2008 Ford Escape. And here is a view of the, this is the transfer case unit removed from the transaxle of the vehicle. And a number of bolts removed here, as you can see. The unit's about to be taken apart for inspecting inside. And what we found, this is the sort of major issue. There's three shafts inside this unit. They all have bearings on either end of the shaft, and then this one here, you can see the cage, and you can see some of the rollers here.

But some of them are completely missing, so this bearing was worn so badly, it was just causing this shaft to just wobble back and forth. And, of course, with that level of wear, it was causing ... Of the bearing causing a horrendous noise, in and of itself. You can see here that a couple of gears where two of the gears mesh, and of course, with a bearing worn like that, these gears are not going to be running true to each other. And that causes noise, too. There's a lot of engineering that goes into building anything with gear, transfer cases, transmissions, to eliminate noise.

And if you drive a really old vehicle, like we're talking like 70 years old, back when they had straight cut gears, there was a lot of gear noise present in a vehicle. But nowadays, since then they've evolved, and there's no noise. But with a worn bearing like that, of course, that brings all the noise back. Another view of the inside. This is the other end of the ... This is the shaft actually put back in, and this is the other end of the shaft. You can see this bearing, the red arrow points, this bearing was disintegrating, as well.

The yellow arrow here just indicates a bearing that still looks at least together, probably badly-worn though. The gear oil inside this unit was just, it was absolutely hideous. It smelt awful, it was burnt. And the level was also low, too. Just a final shot here before we depart the pictures. This is the unit installed under the vehicle. You can see the exhaust system, the rear drive shaft is attached here, and then the axle shaft comes out to the right side of the vehicle here. So that's the unit bolted up to the transaxle under the car.

Mark: So what would cause these bearings to wear out in this kind of catastrophic fashion?

Bernie: Well, there's a few things. So first off, this is the first time we'd serviced this vehicle. It's 10 years old, we don't know anything about the repair and maintenance history. So it's entirely possible that the fluid had never been changed in the transfer case. That could cause it. 

Second of all, we found the fluid level was low, so a leak could have been present. It wasn't, like there was some oil on the case, but it wasn't covered in fresh leaks of oil, but the oil level was down so it's possible, it may have been running for a few years on a low oil level, which could cause the wear.

Third, it could be that just the bearing just started to wear out. I mean, these things happen. And of course, once the wear, it'll cause excessive heat, causes the fluid to burn. So even with good maintenance, things will still sometimes wear out. So one of three things, but obviously, if you keep your fluids changed on a regular basis, it's going to maximize the life of any component.

Mark: So how did you repair this transfer case?

Bernie: We actually got a good used unit and put that in. Parts are not readily available, the gears and things are not available. Bearings are certainly available and seals, so we could have possibly cleaned everything up, put new bearings in, and seals. But chances are, with this level of wear, there would be gear damage, and we never even cleaned it up to that point. We just decided, let's get a good used unit.

There was a lot of, we deal with reputable auto wreckers. One of the companies we deal with, they specialize in Fords. They had several of these on the shelf, so it tells me that it's not a really common problem, and this is the first one we've actually replaced. So they're fairly reliable, which makes for a good candidate for a used part.

Mark: And how are Ford Escapes for reliability?

Bernie: I'd put them in the fair category. I mean, there are a number of things that we do service on these vehicles. So certainly not as a reliable as say a CRV or a Toyota RAV4, which is in a similar category of SUV.

They're pretty good overall, but you'll expect to spend more money on repairs and maintenance, but less money to buy the vehicle. And by the way, it's the same as a Mazda Tribute. So either way, it's the same general vehicle.

Mark: So with these, basically with any of the perhaps ... Well, I guess with any vehicle, it's really important maintenance, but these ones might be even a little bit less tolerant of running with low fluids, or not having their fluids changed, is that fair?

Bernie: I think it's fair to say. But even a Toyota is actually one of the vehicles that's like least tolerant to lack of oil changes. For some reason, some vehicles and some engines seem to be able to handle more abuse than others. Now we're not talking about an engine here, but just overall general reliability. But the thing is, it's kind of a risk thing.

And as we've said on these podcasts, you can live off of French fries for a while, and you might live to be old. But chances are, if you avoid eating that kind of food all the time, you're going to be better. And it's the same with car maintenance. If you do the right things, it won't prevent everything from happening. But at least it'll minimize the chances.

Mark: So there you go. If you're looking for maintenance on your Ford Escape or other Ford products, the guys to see are Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, 19-time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver, as voted by their customers. You can reach them at 604-327-7112 to book your appointment. Please only call if you're in Vancouver. We can't diagnose products over the phone. We have to see it and there could be many things wrong, so if you're from out of town, call your local provider. If you're in Vancouver, give us a call to book your appointment. And thanks, Bernie. Thanks a lot.

Bernie: Thanks, Mark. Thanks for watching.

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