Blog - Pawlik Automotive Repair, Vancouver BC

Winter Tire Options

Mark: Hi, it's Mark from Top Local. We're here with Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive Vancouver and we're talking cars. How're you doing this morning Bernie?

Bernie: Doing very well.

Mark: So winter is coming in Vancouver. Believe it or not, it's getting cold. We know the snow will come. What kind of tire options should I be looking at for my vehicle?

Bernie: Well, there's a few ways you can go. I mean, Vancouver, if you're not familiar with our climate, it's pretty temperate. I mean it does go below freezing sometimes. A few years ago we had snow on the ground for about a month which is highly unusual. Often we won't have any snow or there'll be one snow fall and usually when that one snow falls happens and it happens before the new year, everyone's lined up in front of the tire shops. It's front page news and it's exciting because everyone waited to the last minute because they didn't think it was going to snow. So Vancouver's funny that way. You go to any other places in Canada, people have already had their snow tires on far a long time and they're prepared for winter because they know what going to happen. So Vancouver, there's a few different snow tire options. I mean, you can not put snow tires on and that might restrict when you drive your car or you can go with a couple of different options. There are all weather tires and there are full winter tires. The full snow tires, I like to call them, it has the snowflake or the M+ S emblems on the side of the tire.

Mark: So what's the difference between an all season tire and an actual winter tire or snow tire?

Bernie: Well all season tires are meant, they call them all season so, you think well great, they're good for snow and they're good for everything but I think they used to be sold like that but as time has gone by, you know, we've realized that they're really not that good in the snow. They're good for rain. They're good for, they're basically three season tires. But once snow hits, they're not that good. The rubber compounds are harder and firmer. Softer rubber is better in snow and icy conditions and that's what snow tires have. Also, all weather tires, they have a combination between a soft rubber and a durable rubber. So you have the best of both worlds. So those are really a four season type of tire.

And I was going to talk a little bit of history on snow tires because you know, for people like us who have a fair bit of grey on our heads and you know beyond 50 years old, we kind of remember the days when cars, a lot of cars, were rear wheel drive or front wheel drive only. Now there's a lot of all wheel drive but in the traditional days of rear wheel drive, you know, people who did put snow tires on would just put them on the rear driving wheels and they'd leave their regular tires on the front. That was kind of the traditional thing to do or maybe put some chains on the back and it was all about getting traction so we could move forward in the snow. And not a lot of consideration was given to how does the car actually handle.

But nowadays, of course, we always use four tires on the vehicle because tire technology is really improved to the point where you can actually get much better handling and much safer handling with having four tires. Also with ABS brakes now which every car has, you get better stopping ability because you have evenness. So the key is to having same rubber compounds all the way around, the car will stop better as well.

Mark: So just to make the point again. You don't just put snow tires on the driving wheels.

Bernie: No. I mean there might be places. If you're somewhere in the deep north where there's you know, a crazy amount of snow and there's to a lot of people on the road, maybe you'd do that. But I think that really, I can't imagine anyone doing that. At least where we are it's always all four wheels. So yeah, that's an ancient practise.

Mark: So with that point clarified, what kind of options do I have as far as snow tires or all seasons?

Bernie: Yeah, so I mentioned the idea of you could just leave you all season tires on. If you're only driving, let's say for Vancouver, you're only driving around the city you know, you could just leave your all season tires on. You might find though, that when it snows out, depending on on the kind of car you have, you may not be going anywhere in a hurry. So that's something. If you're willing to just say, "Hey you know what, if it snows I'm going to park my car". Fine. But if you're going to do any driving that you know you're going to be driving if it snows and it very likely will. Or you're going to be going over any roads that require snow tires and there's a lot of them around this area. You know, highways leading out of town or if you live anywhere outside of Vancouver which a lot of people do and you're in a mountainous area with snow. Well you're going to need to, you should have some winter or snow tires on the car. A, you may get fined and B, you simply may not go anywhere. So that leaves you two options. All weather tires which I'd mentioned a little earlier which are like a four season type of tire. You don't have to take them off the car. You can leave them on year round. Or pure snow tires which you would change seasonally. You put the snow tires on obviously in the winter. Take them off and use your all season or summer type tires in the summer.

Mark: Ok, so if I go with a winter tire option, I need to switch them over every winter season and back in the spring. Is it better to get dedicated rims for those tires or is switching them back and forth ok?

Bernie: Well you can switch them back and forth certainly, but I think dedicated rims are really a great way to go. The initial investment of course, is heftier. You have to buy a set of rims and a lot of people opt for the sort of steel wheels which look kind of, in my opinion, a little ugly, so if you're willing your car to look ugly for a few months. You can always buy a fancier wheel too if you want, but I mean, it's a lot better, the initial investment is more money but down the road it's cheaper because you pay much less money for mounting and balancing your tires. Plus it's not so hard on your rims. I mean every time you take a tire on and off a rim, you're rebalancing it. You're causing wear to the tires and to the rim. So over time, it really does pay off. As I say, it's an investment but it's the better way to go.

Mark: So is there any reason why you would just go with winter tires and just keep them on instead of switching between the seasons?

Bernie: Well no, you would never do that. If you leave your winter tires on during the summer, the rubber compounds are very soft and they can start wearing really funny. Now I've seen the odd person do it and sometimes they get away with it and I've had some other people with cars where you know, by the time July hits, the tire treads are worn in the wonkiest patterns because you know, the heat off the road just basically destroys the tire. So if you have winter tires, you need to change them but this is where all weather tires come in. So the all weather tires are basically, as I was saying earlier, that it's a combination tire that has good handling in the snow. They're actually rated as a snow tire. They have the mountain and the snowflake emblem on them. So they're a legal snow tire and they handle well in the snow but they also have, the rubber compound is such that it can handle the heat as well. So it's a really awesome compromise and the thing about that that's great is you don't have to mount and dismount them. You buy them one time. You don't worry about storing your tires anywhere. So that's a really good option to consider as well.

Mark: Any disadvantages to those kinds of tires?

Bernie: Well they're not as good in the snow and they're not as good for durability. So that's the disadvantage. And so they're going to wear out faster than a traditional all season titre but you know, so you're paying a little bit more money but you're also saving a lot in the interim. So it really depends on what you want to get out of your car but I think all weather is a really good option. I've used them on cars I've owned myself. I think it's a really good way to go.

Mark: So how do I know when my snow tires are worn out?

Bernie: Well I mean, typically tires there are wear bars on tires and once the tread is worn down to that wear bar, the tire is legally worn out. You don't want to go that far because typically tires will, they start toy lose their handling ability way before you get down to that point. I mean, usually the tire tread, say is like at the 30-40% range you'll notice the deterioration in handling. The car will slip and slide a lot easier and with a snow tire that's even more pronounced. So good tread depth is key for snow tires. So you do want to have them at at least 40% I would say for optimum snow handling. You can have the tires measured as you go by but I'd say like you know, when the treads are down like 4 or 5 millimetres you're pretty much, and they start at like 10 or even a little thicker. When they get down to around that, you probably want to think about chaining them. You might get a little more out of them but that's kind of, again I'm talking about for optimum handling.

Mark: What about studded tires? Is that still a thing?

Bernie: Yeah studs are still available. Certainly somewhere like Vancouver, I think studded tires would be a horrible thing to have because 99% of the winter is on a dry paved road. So you have to listen to that clacking sound of studded tires and it's actually hard on the roads.There are legal requirements here and in most jurisdictions that studded tires have to be removed by a certain date. But if you live somewhere where there's continuous snow and ice on the road, studded tires are not a bad option, because you won't really notice the stud. Certainly if there's ice those certainly provide the ultimate grip.

Mark: Any final thoughts?

Bernie: You know, it's just about assessing the driving conditions, where you're going to be driving, what you're going to be doing with your car, can you afford to leave it. If you want the ultimate, of course in handling and flexibility, put the snow tires on. I mean, you can always count on getting wherever you go. It's a bit of an investment as I said with rims, but that's really the best way to go.

Mark: And always remember that getting going is the easy part in snow, stoping is the bit more sporty.

Bernie: Yeah exactly and one thing we actually hadn't, you know we just said final thoughts, but actually a couple of things just to get back into the conversation again.Handling with snow tires is much better, like with four snow tires. It also helps you go around corners and braking, but of course, you need to be cautious when you drive in snow. If I can just say a final thought, drive with caution. Especially, going up hill is one thing, and accelerating is one thing, but when it comes to stopping I mean that's when you can really lose it. So be very cautions when you drive, going around corners. You never know when sometimes the road can be, have really good traction and all of a sudden, it just turns into a slushy ice pit and you can really lose it really fast. So it's just really really good to be cautious driving in the snow. It's happened to me before. It's scary.

Mark: When your car turns into a bob sleigh, it tends to tighten a few things on your body.

Bernie: Yes it does that for sure.

Mark: So there you go. If you need some information on your tires, you want to check out your options. You need replacements or change overs for tires, you want to get an inspections on your car, the guys to call are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at 604-327-7112 to book your appointment. Check out the website, pawlikautomotive.com. Hundreds of articles on there. YouTube channel Pawlik Auto Repair. Hundreds of videos on there. And thanks so much for watching and listening to the podcast. We really appreciate it. Thanks Bernie

Bernie: Thanks Mark. Thanks for watching and listening. Happy and safe winter driving to you.

2004 Honda Accord – Axle Shaft Replacement

Mark: Hi, it's Mark from Top Local. We're here with Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver. Vancouver's best auto service experience, serving Vancouver and area for 38 years. Maintaining and repairing all makes and models of cars and light trucks. And of course, 21 time winners, almost lost it there, 21 time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver as voted by their customers and we're talking cars. How're you doing Bernie?

Bernie: Doing well.

Mark: So 2004 Honda Accord had an axle shaft replacement. What was going on with this car?

Bernie: So this car got towed to our shop. The owner was driving it and suddenly just stopped moving forward. There was some hideous noises and the car just would not move forward. Figured maybe the transmission had blown up or something like that. So the car was brought in the shop and we had a look at it.

Mark: And what sort of testing and diagnosis did you need to do?

Bernie: Well in this case, of course, we needed to try out, we put it in drive to see if the car moved. Of course, we heard the noises. Put the car on the hoist, did a visual inspection was all the testing and diagnosis we needed to find that the axle shaft on the left side, it actually snapped in half. Now this is a one inch, sold steel bar that had worn out and actually snapped in half. Let's get into some pictures because this is really the fun part.

So there's our 2004 Accord, two door, nice car. And you know, 15 year, 16 year, 15-16 years old now, still in really good shape because the owner takes good care of it. There's our axle as we found it on the car. So this is looking under the driver's side. You can see the tire, the front tire here. This is the outer CV joint. The axle shaft moving in this direction and that's the other part of the axle shaft. That is just worn down to a taper which is really unusual and snapped. I have a few more pictures of this because it just intrigued me so much. Again there's another view of it. You can see this rubber piece, we'll talk about that in a minute, but this basically is a solid metal bar. This rubber piece is just fitted over top for, it's a vibration dampener but it's the axle snapped off inside of that area. And finally the axle shaft laying on the ground in two pieces. So this is the inner CV joint. This part goes into the transmission. This is the outer Cv joint which bolts into the wheel, splined and goes into the wheel hub that drives the wheel. There's rubber boots on either side and they're inside the CV joint which I call a constant velocity joint inside there. And then of course, our axle, it's broken in two. As you can see, this is pretty large piece of metal and worn down into quite a taper before it actually snapped.

Mark: Ok how? How did this break?

Bernie: Well that's an excellent question and I have to say that I think, I'd like to say that I've seen it all, well to be honest, I've never seen anything like this. We have a new technician we just recently hired who's moved from Ontario and he said he's never seen anything like this. But what I can say, is the car was from Ontario, spent at least the first 8 years of it's life in Ontario, so subject to salt and the you know kind of ugly road conditions and you can see the sort of rustiness on that shaft which is not something you'd normally see in a car that was say, driven around Vancouver for it's life.

So there's some road salt for sure, maybe some grit got in there and then sat in behind. Again, I'll just get this picture up here. You know, there's some grit probably got in behind this little vibration dampener piece here and probably just slowly wore away the metal of the shaft. That's the only thing I can think of. It's just a very unusual situation. If this piece wasn't here, this probably would not have happened but I think it just created a perfect trap for salt and dirt to just sit in and eventually just ground away the shaft. There's really very little movement of this part because it's basically just a bolted on a piece of rubber. But somehow there must of been enough flex and movement that just over time wore it away.

Mark: It wasn't rotating on the shaft that rubber dampener?

Bernie: No it doesn't rotate. It's actually clamped onto the shaft and these parts are, they install these from the factory. When we get replacement axles, they ever normally have these pieces. I believe it's a vibration dampener, I don't even know 100% for certain, but replacement axles don't normally have them because they tend to be cheaper quality. I hate to say that but they don't ever cause any problems, it's never noticed, oh the car's vibrating like crazy because you don't have a vibration dampener on the axle.

Mark: So what are the usual issues you find with drive axles?

Bernie: Well let me, actually I'll go back into the screen share because this is a good, this picture of this axle is actually a really good thing to look at again. So the usual issues with axles are the CV joints will wear out and that CV joint is hidden inside this area here or inside this one here and the outer front CV joints are subject to a lot of abuse. The wheel, not only is the wheel rotating and pushing the car back and forth and sometimes if you accelerate hard there's a lot of pressure put on this but also as you turn and go around a corner, it's putting pressure on an angle. So this joint is subject to a lot of force and wear and it used to be that these joints would wear out a lot. In the earlier days of front wheel drive cars, replacing CV joints as a frequent service because they'd start clicking and clunking and that's not really happening a lot anymore which is a good thing. They've beefed up the quality of these parts substantially over the years. So that replacing CV joints is not overly as common of a service as we used to do. The other part that wears out probably more frequently is this boot. This is a rubber boot and again, it's subject to wear because it's twisting and moving around. Sometimes, the inner boots. This is common on Subarus. The inner boots will often wear because they sit right over top of the exhaust system where there's a lot of heat. So the boot will tend to crack. But the quality of these rubber boots also has improved over the last couple of decades. Again, you know, in sort of the 80s and 90s, a lot of these boots were made out of a rubber that would crack and by the time you it a 100,000 kilometres, a lot of these boots would crack. We'd end up replacing them. But nowadays, they tend to last much much longer. You can see that this boot has been seeping a bit of grease. This darkness here. There's even a little a bit of grease right here. There's a bit of grease that's starting to seep out of this boot. But again it's not broken or torn, so that's pretty amazing for a 15 year old axle shaft. So those are kind of the common things. I have seen the odd axle break but usually I think the last time I saw something, the actual cage, there's a cage that holds the ball bearings, had snapped and so it wouldn't allow, it sort of allowed the ball bearings to fall out of place. But a shaft broken like this, first time and probably the last time.

Mark: Well you never know. With electric cars they have a lot of torque. They might snap axle shafts.

Bernie: That's a good point. I mean we really don't know again with electric cars, we really don't know. But the good news with electric cars and all that torque is they're using axle shafts that have been used for a long time on gasoline powered cars. That you know, they've beefed them up to be pretty strong. So but you never know. Maybe that'll be the issue. You know, there will always be something on every kind of car that that's a common problem and maybe on electric cars it'll be the axle shaft. Who knows - probably not though.

Mark: Hondas have a reputation for being very reliable. How is this generation of Accord?

Bernie: Yeah, this is a super reliable car. It's really good. You know, the owner of this car takes good care of it and we service a lot of others that you know, around this vintage and there's still good cars. You know worth fixing. Worth keeping. There's not really a lot of engine problems. There are some transmission problems with these around this model year. So you do have to be a little careful with that but other than that, you know generally engines are really good. Do have timing belts so that is an expensive maintenance service that needs to be done. But you know, once it's done it's good for a long time. This is definitely on my recommended list car.

Mark: So there you go. If you need service for your Honda or your axle shafts 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 and book ahead they're always busy. Lots of cars to fix in Vancouver. And of course, thanks so much for watching the podcast and listening. And of course, you can check us out at pawlikautomotive.com, the website, over 600 articles on there about all makes and models of cars. Over 300 videos on the YouTube channel, Pawlik Auto Repair. Again thanks Bernie.

Bernie: Thanks Mark, thanks for watching.

2008 Mercedes GL320 Air Suspension Repairs

Mark: Hi, it's Mark from Top Local here with Bernie Pawlik. Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver. Thirty eight years repairing and maintaining cars in Vancouver. Twenty one time, only 21 time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver as voted by their customers. And we're talking cars. How are you doing today, Bernie?

Bernie: Doing very well.

Mark: 2008 Mercedes GL320 had some problem with the air suspension. What was going on with this vehicle?

Bernie: Yeah, so the vehicle came to our shop not sitting properly. One corner of the vehicle was leaning down too low. Yeah, so that's basically the client's complaint. The suspension system just wasn't levelling itself out properly.

Mark: So how do you test to find out the cause of this?

Bernie: Well, first of course, a visual inspection. Then there's a couple of buttons on the dash you can press to raise and lower the vehicle. That wasn't working. Next step, a scan tool. A good quality diagnostic scan tool. We found a couple of codes in the system with low system pressure, and then we performed some diagnostic tests. The scan tool we have is awesome. You can run a number of tests where you can set the level of each air spring. You can test the pressures in different parts of the system. And what we found is basically the pressure was very low, and nothing we did would would operate. As the test went by we found the compressor basically was not operative and it basically died.

Mark: So, is the compressor the only part that you replaced?

Bernie: No, we also replaced the ... There's a solenoid valve pack located right above the compressor. We'll get into some pictures in a minute, but that's also a common failure item on this vehicle. It was original, like the compressor was, and so it was a good time to replace that piece. And not a lot of extra labor involved with the compressor out and it just made a lot of sense.

It's good to do these things. Often when parts are located nearby each other, there are sort of common failure items to replace them in partnership. It makes for the repair bill a little higher, but then the customer's not going to be coming back in a month or two or six months or maybe even a year going, "Oh, this side's not opening or closing. This spring's sitting too low," because this part's failed now. Then you've got to pull everything apart again and change the other piece. So, it kind of makes for a more thorough, satisfying repair.

Mark: And adds longevity. So did you find any other issues when performing these repairs?

Bernie: Yeah, we did. And what I'll do, let's just get into a quick picture share and then I'll talk about some other issues.

There's our full size GL320. This is a diesel. Again, yeah the full size, the ML's similar but a shorter, slightly smaller version. So this is a Mercedes full size SUV.

And, other pictures. So let's have a look. This is the compressor. This is with the right fender liner removed, so the wheel would be sitting right here. There's a big plastic fender liner comes out, and there's the air suspension compressor located right in this area here. The a solenoid valve pack that I mentioned is located right up here. We'll just get into a little more of a closeup picture of this piece.

This is the compressor, sort of viewed side on. This is the air inlet hose where the air is sucked into the compressor. So the red arrow indicates the compressor unit, which it goes back in, it's a fairly large piece, goes back in a little ways. And then the a solenoid valve pack sits up here. Basically, this is the main airline from the compressor and then it has five other lines that go off to various other areas on the vehicle. Four to the air springs, and one goes elsewhere, which is probably a vent line or possibly an air reservoir. Anyways, six lines on that piece.

Now what else have we got here? Yeah, so what else did we find? This is the main power connector to the compressor. This runs the compressor motor, and as you can see, it looks a little ugly. When I removed this, there's two electrical connectors. One of them which operates a solenoid, popped off right away. This one here required a bit of a hammer to bang it off and it was pretty evident as to why the connector was stuck. It basically had overheated in this plastic and melted. And why it overheated, this adds another issue that needed to be repaired.

Fortunately, Mercedes has repair wires and a nice connector plug in stock, so we can actually take these wires, cut them, solder them, put proper heat shrink covering on it, and it's got proper weather packs and a nice connector and everything fits well, and it's going to ensure the right connection to the compressor. So, that was the other additional repair we found, that this wiring plug had overheated.

Mark: So once you replace all this stuff, is it just turn the car on and everything works, or is there something else that you need to do?

Bernie: Well, you'd think it would because it's all computerized and it has ride height sensors and pressure sensors, and it would go, "Okay, there's not enough pressure in the system. Let's pump that up and let's raise and lower the height of the vehicle," but it doesn't seem to work that way. It seems to require a bit of finessing to get it going. So I had to basically manually power up the compressor to build up the pressure, and then from there, on our scan tool there's some height adjustments you can do to adjust the height level of the vehicle. And so that's a bit of an involved procedure, but once we did that then the vehicle sat properly and the whole system came back to life.

Mark: So, why did this compress your die? Is it just old age? This is an 11 year old vehicle.

Bernie: Well, old age is part of it. They only have a limited life span, and 11 years is a pretty good run for one of these parts. But the other thing, a bit of history on this vehicle, a couple of months ago the owner had some issues with the suspension system and we found the two front air struts were leaking air. The right rear also had a leak or there was something going on with the right rear. I believe the left rear had been previously replaced.

So we replaced three of the four air struts. So that, of course, taxes the system. This system runs very hot, as you can see, those wires that were melted. There's a lot of current. This system is fused with a 40 amp fuse, which is pretty large. And in my process of filling the air suspension compressor I put in a test relay, which basically bypasses the system and allows me just to power up the compressor.

And after running it for about three minutes, I pulled the relay out and it was so hot I could barely touch the connector pins. So there's a lot of heat generated, a lot of current flow, and so if you run the compressor a little too long it'll shorten the lifespan for sure.

So had these air struts not leaked, chances are the compressor may have lasted longer. But this is also one of the higher failure items on any air suspension system. The compressor, it works hard. It's not always on, but several times a day or during a drive it'll be on to adjust the suspension system.

Mark: So just so we're clear about it, when the air is leaking out of the air struts, the compressor has to run to try and replace that air that's leaking out so it's running a lot more.

Bernie: Exactly. Exactly. And what'll happen too is, there are timers in different vehicles, they have timers on the compressor or temperature sensors on some of them. So, if the temperature exceeds a certain amount in the compressor or runs for a certain amount of time, it'll just time it out. And this is when you start noticing how the car is not ... It won't level out properly because the compressor will run for a while, then it just shuts off and then it has to cool down and it'll run for a while longer. So there are built in features to prevent them from overheating and burning out, because that will happen if you have a bad leak. It'll just keep running and it'd fry the compressor, and who knows what other wiring issues will happen, too?

Mark: So, is there anything that an owner of an air suspension vehicle can do to lengthen the life of the compressor?

Bernie: Well there isn't really, other than if you happen to notice the vehicle's sitting funny, certainly get it diagnosed and fixed right away because that'll probably be causing the compressor to run too frequently. And so, the faster you can repair it, the longer your life of your compressor will be. So, that would really be the only thing I'd advise. Other than that, I mean, it's a self contained sealed system. There's no filters to change or anything else to do it. It really kind of runs itself, and the components will last as long as they do.

10 to 15 years is kind of what you're going to get out of an air suspension spring, so if you own an older one you can kind of count on they're all going to need to be replaced if it's 10 years old or older. They're all living on borrowed time. They are expensive, but an air suspension is awesome because you do have control over the height of the vehicle. You can raise and lower it in most cases for better ground clearance, or drop it down for better handling. If you pack it full of people and cargo, the car rides nice. But it all does come at a price.

Mark: So just to go back into this leak, how would you know that there's a leak in your air suspension? You come out and the car's sitting funny, or it's lowered?

Bernie: Exactly. You'll come out in the car sitting funny. That's the kind of thing where you come out in the morning, maybe you park your car at night, you come out in the morning and maybe the left front corner of the car is sitting too low or the right rear, or whatever it is. One corner of the car will be sitting too low, or you might-

Mark: Or all of them.

Bernie: Or all of them, yeah. If they're all down, that's an issue, too. You know, it's interesting. We actually have another Mercedes of this exact type in the shop right now, and the owner complained some issue with the air suspension. We looked at, it seemed to be fine. It needed some other work, so we did some other work on the vehicle. Brakes and a couple of other services. Put the vehicle back on the ground, drove out and the front air springs junk sunk. So they had tiny little leaks that weren't really apparent, but then after looking at it, okay the left front struts leaking. Of course now both of the front ones dive. So it needs air struts on that vehicle, too.

So if you notice anything that's sitting off, right away, that's the time to get it in for repairs. Unfortunately you go, "Oh yeah, it's going to cost money." It will, but it's better to do it sooner than later.

Mark: Yeah. It's going to cost money right away, but if you leave it, it's going to cost a heck of a lot more because now you're replacing the compressor.

Bernie: Yeah, exactly. And the thing is, it may be that inevitably the compressor's going to go anyway because if it's original, it's never been replaced, and the vehicle's again, 10, 12 years old, the compressor's probably not got a lot of life left in it anyways. But fix it as fast as you can. That's the key with any vehicle. You fix what's broken, or any noticeable issue, fix that first and that'll save you money in the long term.

Mark: So there you go. If you're looking for service for your Mercedes or air suspension vehicle in Vancouver, the guys to see are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at (604) 327-7112 to book. You have to call and book ahead, they're always busy. The website, pawlikautomotive.com. 640 plus articles and videos on there for your viewing pleasure. Dig in. There's tons of information on repairs and maintenance of all makes and models of cars. How to prepare your car for winter, et cetera. Of course, Pawlik Auto Repair is our YouTube channel where we have, again, quite a few hundred videos talking about all makes and models of cars. Thanks so much for listening to the podcast and watching. We appreciate it. Thanks, Bernie.

Bernie: Thanks, Mark. Thanks for watching.

2010 Nissan Cube, Maintenance and Repairs

Mark: Hi it's Mark from Top Local. We're here with Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver. Vancouver's best auto service experience 21 time winners of best auto repair in Vancouver, only 21 times. It's a lot of years of doing a fantastic job for the residents of Vancouver and area. People come from a long ways actually just to get their vehicles serviced at Pawlik and it's because they do a good job. Today we're talking about a 2010 Nissan Cube that had some maintenance and repair issues. What was happening with this Rubik's cube?

Bernie: Rubik's cube, that's a good name for it. I've just got to start with a picture of the car because it's just such a unique looking vehicle this cube. I don't know if it's ugly or good looking but it's certainly an exceptionally practical use of space. It's a box car let's put it that way. So, there's our picture for the day.

So yeah the vehicle, so this has been a regular client of ours for many years. We've serviced this car since new. It came in for a maintenance service, a B service, it had, some of the complaints were some clunks in the steering and suspension area of the vehicle or when you're going over bumps and it was due for a B service.

Mark: So you mentioned clunks. What did you find was causing that?

Bernie: There was some worn out control arm bushings in the front, and also sway bar end links, and the upper strut plates were worn out as well on the vehicle. So there was a number of items causing clunks and thunks when you go over bumps.

Mark: So was that just replacing the struts and tie rod ends or?

Bernie: Exactly. In the case of this vehicle the struts seemed to be in pretty good shape so we just ended up replacing the strut plates and the struts felt really firm even though the vehicle is getting on in age and probably around the time you should replace them. It just made sense to do the plates. It's not that difficult to do the job. And the control arms we replaced, mostly what wears out with control arms are the bushings. The bushings a flexible rubber attachment piece that it's bolted between the frame of the vehicle and the control arm or the end of the control arm and the steering knuckle unloads off the ball joint at that end.

But there's a lot of movement of actually these joints or the bushings tear or crack and then they get excessive play and cause a thunking and bumping sound. So, sometimes you can change just a bushing other times the whole control arm needs to be replaced and sometimes even if you can do the bushing it makes more sense to do the control arm and because the ball joint may wear out soon so why not just do the whole thing and then it's complete and done.

Mark: So during a B service, that's your more extensive service item. You also look at maintenance items like spark plugs, fluids, lubricating, all the basically checking everything. What else did you find in this?

Bernie: Yeah. So, we basically cover all of that now. Things like spark plugs we don't necessarily visually inspect them. On this vehicle spark plugs are to difficult to access so we look at maintenance rec and we look at manufacturers maintenance recommendations and we look at our own history or if it's a new client to us we find out from the client, "Do you know if these had been done recently?" Other items like fluids of course we inspect them, we do this B service is a comprehensive inspection so we also do a wheel off brake inspection. We look at everything quite thoroughly, lubricate door locks, hinges and latches, those kinds of things to keep the vehicle in good order so when you pop the hood it pops up or you open the doors it's not a creaking sound, those kind of preventative maintenance items we do.

Mark: And you guys follow a checklist to do this, right?

Bernie: We have a checklist and we do this with our electronic inspection which I think we've talked about in previous podcasts or videos. And yeah, we follow a pretty thorough checklist of things to look at.

Mark: What is it a 138 point something like that?

Bernie: We don't have a point number. The inspection we used to do had 150 points on it. This one probably has either more or less depending on the kind of car we work on. So, it really depends on what the vehicle is but as I said there's a very thorough list that pretty well covers everything. It doesn't cover diagnosis so we may have clients who come in, "Hey, my check engine lights on." And certain vehicles we will include a vehicle scan and we can give at least a code report on, "Hey, this is a particular code." But to actually test and diagnose that is an additional cost. So, but a lot of other things we do on a B service where as long as it's reasonably accessible we will test the battery and charging system with test equipment. So again, you get a report on that kind of thing and the pressure adjusted cooling system. So again, if there's hoses or things that are about to fail we can find those kinds of things too.

Mark: And did you find anything else that was due in that department on the Rubik's cube?

Bernie: Yeah, the spark plugs were due for replacement. We did those. And there was a couple of other fluids that were discoloured and needed to be done so we also serviced those as well at the same time.

Mark: And how many kilometres were on this vehicle?

Bernie: About 200 it's actually got a fair amount. The vehicles actually in good shape for the age and the owner has been pretty good in terms of doing maintenance on it. I have to say, I can't say quite perfect. There's been times where oil changes have been left a lot longer than they should have and the vehicles survived well. It's not something I recommend to anyone. You should always do your oil changes on time or sooner. There's just so many expensive things to go wrong but some people do tend to push the envelope and this one has survived well so far.

Mark: And how our Nissan Cubes for reliability?

Bernie: Well I can't say we've worked on a ton of them because there aren't a ton of them around but based on this one this has been a really car. There's been really very few issues of any sort other than just normal wear and tear. We've put a few sets of tires on it and a few sets of brakes and this is the first time we've done any sort of major suspension work on the vehicle. So, overall it's a pretty good car. I think doing proper maintenance on it it should last for quite a lot longer.

Mark: So there you go. If you have a Nissan product in Vancouver the guys to see are Pawlik Automotive. For maintenance and repairs you can reach them at 604-327-7112 to book your appointment. You have to call and book ahead, they're always busy. Check out the website, pawlikautomotive.com. On YouTube of course there's over 350 videos on for all makes and models and types of repairs. Pawlik auto repair is their search term. And of course, thanks so much for listening and watching to the podcast. We really appreciate it. Share it with your friends. Thanks Bernie.

Bernie: Thanks Mark. Thanks for watching.

2015 Honda CRV, Cabin Air Filter and Maintenance Service

Mark: Hi, it's Mark from Top Local. We're here with Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, 21 time winners of best auto repair in Vancouver. It's unbelievable. 21 times. Come on. Aren't there any other good places to get your car fixed? Well, maybe not. These are the guys that their customers vote for as being the best auto repair in Vancouver. How are you doing this morning, Bernie?

Bernie: Doing very well, and there are lots of other great shops around. We're just fortunate to have customers who vote for us, which is... Thank you.

Mark: So there you go. The guys at Pawlik do a great job. Today, we're talking about a 2015 Honda CRV that had a cabin air filter that needed changing. What was going on with this Honda?

Bernie: So the vehicle came to us for an A maintenance service, which is the most basic service that's required on the vehicle. It's essentially an oil change with a basic vehicle inspection. So what we do during that service is look at the lights, adjust the tire pressures, inspect the fluids. We use a two post hoist, so we get the vehicle up in the air, we can wiggle the wheels, make sure there's nothing obviously wrong with them, anything obviously loose. This vehicle's pretty low kilometre, so wouldn't expect to find anything, but you never know. Yeah and that basically covers it. The B service is more involved, which we take wheels off and look at things in more depth. The A service is pretty thorough for what we do. We also found the cabin air filter was dirty and that needed to be replaced. That was really the only other thing that was due at this point in time.

Mark: So what does that look like?

Bernie: Cabin air filter, well let's have a look, because this one, this one was a nice dirty one so it's worth a couple of pictures.

So there's our 2015 CRV, we just washed it. It's a fall... You can tell it's a fall day in Vancouver because there's leaves that have fallen on the ground and it's been moist out. There's the cabin air filter, typical, very dirty cabin air filter. Just so... I don't have a picture of a brand new one, but this white is basically how the whole filter should look. There should be none of this grey, dirty stuff. So this vehicle's four years old, about 50,000 kilometres, a bit less than that. This filter's definitely not been changed. So that's kind of what 50,000 kilometres of driving around the city of Vancouver and maybe Province of British Columbia will do. These filters will get dirtier or less dirty depending on where you drive. So if you happen to be driving in an area with a dusty climate, this filter will plug up certainly a lot quicker.

Mark: Is replacing the cabin air filter complicated?

Bernie: No, it's a really, really pretty straightforward service. And as much as we like to do everything on people's cars, I mean if you're somewhat handy in doing it yourself, it's not a hard thing to do on this vehicle. It's just accessible from the inside and it's not a difficult service to do.

Mark: So the filter that's dirty, what kind of damage does it cause?

Bernie: Well, nothing really. And as bad as this filter is, we've actually seen a few that are even worse than this. But I mean what can happen is it can put some strain on the heater blower system because you're sucking against a blockage. But I can't think of in my whole automotive career where we've ever had one where you can sort of... The motor is straining and you can tell afterwards that it's working better. But clearly there will be some difference in terms of how the air flows to the vehicle. But I've never seen any damage caused by one, but we have seen some tend to come apart and they could get in and tend to block parts of the heater blower of the squirrel cage fan. So again, it's important to change it on a regular basis and regular... This car is four years old. So this has gotten the most life out of it. It's probably gone a little too long, but probably every three years on average is a good time to do a cabin air filter in a car.

Mark: And of course there's whatever it's causing damage as far as your lungs are going.

Bernie: Yeah, exactly. And I was thinking a little bit, while kind of putting this podcast together, what... For so many years, cars never had cabin air filters. This is something that's sort of been around for maybe the last 15 years. And many cars never had them in the past. So what's changed? I think car cabins have become more sealed than they used to be. If you think of cars back in the 60s, it wasn't entirely abnormal to have wind whistling, air leaks, and only something like a Cadillac would probably be really air tight. Even then it wouldn't be. So, there's a lot... You're kind of breathing a lot of air that's in a more confined space so you want to kind of keep it clean. Plus the world's getting probably more polluted and people spend more time sitting in their cars in traffic jams with diesel trucks and those are cleaner than they used to be, but city diesel trucks, all those kinds of things I think contributed to the idea of "Hey, let's make the long driving experience a little more pleasant."

Mark: So not all cars today even have cabin air filters?

Bernie: Nope, not all of them. Most cars I'd say do. But a lot of times, that's the kind of a regular maintenance item we look for on vehicles. And if it's a new client or someone who we haven't done the cabin air filter for, sometimes it's kind of a surprise when you find, "Oh, this car doesn't have one." So yeah, not every car has one. I'd say that probably 80% do. Might even be... That number might even be higher now. But yeah, not every car has one.

Mark: And how reliable are the 2015 Honda CRVs?

Bernie: Well, I was going to immediately go, "Oh yeah, these are super reliable, like all Honda's," but these are still a little bit new to us at our shop. It seems like cars that are a little older, we tend to service a little more frequently and haven't seen a lot of problems with CRVs. But these... So I did a little research and there's actually a number of complaints in these vehicles. Engine vibration problems. Not certain exactly what the cause of that is. But that seems to be about the biggest complaint in this vehicle, engine vibration problems. Interestingly enough, looking at the newer CRVs of 2017 and '18 that these are different engine, there's a lot of problems and this is pretty serious fuel contamination in the engine oil. So the oil level starts going up because there's gasoline somehow leaking into the engine lubricating system and that can cause some serious damage breaking down the engine oil and causing engine damage. So that's a pretty serious issue.

So I think with the CRV, it's good to be a little cautious and expect you might have a few more problems than you would from the past models. Again this is a car, maybe if you're buying a used one, you might even consider getting an extended warranty. I often say with Japanese cars, I don't worry about it because they're so reliable. But this one, this one may have a few issues.

Mark: So there you go. A bit of word of caution on the newer models of Honda CRV. If you're looking for service in Vancouver for your Honda, your guys to call are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at (604) 327-7112 to book your appointment. Check out the website, pawlikautomotive.com, YouTube channel, Pawlik Auto Repair. There's hundreds of videos in both places and blog posts on repairs. Huge range of repairs, huge range of makes and models. And of course, thanks so much for listening to the podcast. We really appreciate it. Thanks, Bernie.

Bernie: Thanks, Mark. Thanks for watching. Thanks for listening. It's appreciated.

2007 Dodge Sprinter 3L Diesel – Hard Starting Issue

Mark: Hi it's Mark Bossert here from Top Local. We're here with Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver. 21 time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver as voted by their customers. These are online polls that customers, some of the magazines and newspapers in Vancouver create every year and Pawlik has won 21 times Best Auto Repair. They're not involved in it. They're just getting voted for by their customers. How're you doing this morning Bernie?

Bernie: Doing well, doing very well.

Mark: So a 2007 Dodge Sprinter 3 litre diesel. What was going on with this vehicle?

Bernie: So this vehicle came to our shop, the owner had a couple of concerns. There was a suspension clunk but her primary concern was the vehicle is hard to start sometimes. The weather's been getting a little colder in Vancouver and there's been a couple of times where she had to crank the engine over, it wouldn't start and then back a little later and it started up. So that was the primary concern of the vehicle.

Mark: So what, where do you start to test for that? What did you find?

Bernie: Yeah, well for starting of course, is just to actually try the vehicle. So we left the vehicle overnight and tried it the next morning and I actually looked at it myself just briefly and cranking it over I could hear that the engine was a little laboured and I noticed a glow plug light on the dash stayed on for a very excessively long time which is kind of unusual in these vehicles. It's usually a few seconds and then it shuts off. So ok there's something going on there. You could just tell by the way it was cranking over that the battery may have been a bit weak or the glow plugs were bad or something of that nature. So I mean that's the first step is just to verify the clients concern. It did actually start for us. Ran a little rough for a bit and then picked up and smoothed out. So the next step is to hook up a diagnostic scan tool. We have a really good one for European vehicles, and just do a full vehicle system scan and from that we've got a nice report and a lot of really good information which I will actually share right now.

So this is just the engine module. There's a screen capture of what our scan tool prints out for the engine module. These are a list of stored codes. You can see, a lot of this stuff will look like gibberish, but I'll go through it step by step. So again, some codes stored, current and stored MIL means the check engine light is on. Interestingly enough and I have to verify that because we're still in process of looking at this vehicle. I didn't notice the check engine being on which is interesting. Either the bulbs burned out, someone removed it because this vehicle was purchased about a year ago. It's possible someone actually removed them, removed the bulb or it just burnt out or there's some other malfunction of some sort. But anyways these are you know, this is an interesting issue. Its something definitely to be looked at. But there's codes, glow plug cylinder three, cylinder 5, cylinder 2. Open circuit, basically means a glow plug isn't, the circuit's open. It doesn't necessarily mean the glow plug itself is bad. It probably is the glow plug. There's also another code here, Mercedes uses all these interesting codes and you've got, there's a lot of studying we have to do to get knowledgeable in these vehicles but glow plug output stages excessive temperature and the output stage is basically the module. Again here output stage supply voltage is low. So I mean, this could indicate that the battery is weak but a very common problem with these vehicles is the glow plug modules go bad. As well as the glow plugs. You know, this vehicle is a 2007, that's 12 years old. Perfectly legit that you'd have a few glow plugs worn our at this point in time and they usually do wear out sooner. Couple other interesting codes here. Not likely going to affect the starting of the vehicle but definitely the running condition, right EKAS end position sensor and the left, and these are on the intake manifold runner indicating that the actual intake manifold runner valves are not opening properly. And then this last code down here, diesel particulate filters, soot content of the particulate filter is too high for regeneration. So that again is an issue that might be a plug particulate, sorry, a particulate filter but it could also be that the vehicle has just not been run hot enough for a long period of time.

Mark: Wow, looks like there's a lot to repair there. Where would you start?

Bernie: Yeah, of course with the clients concern, where we start is with the glow plug issues. I mean that would be the place to start. The battery test is something we haven't done yet but if the battery is weak, absolutely replace that, replace the glow plug module and the glow plugs and then these other codes of course are issues to be dealt with. But in a separate manner. I'll just share some more pictures here.

Here's a picture of some glow plugs. This is actually not for this particular engine but it's a kind of similar. It's a you know, the power wire connects up here, the glow plug is grounded through the threaded body of the glow plug through the engine and then this is a heating element and if you actually test this on a bench, it gets very red. Almost instantaneously. So this thing heats up and in like you know a second. You have like red hot heat to warm the cylinder. The glow plug control unit is, basically this is a view of what a new one looks like. There's a main power wire and then there's wires that go off to each glow plug. And this unit monitors, not only powers the glow plugs, but it monitors the resistance in the circuit. And so it can tell whether these glow plugs are actually doing what they're supposed to be doing and set a code back to the computer if it's not functioning properly.

And finally, there's those codes at that EKAS sensor and this is actually a view from a different engine but the same design of engine with the intake manifold off. And this is the intake manifold runner valves. This is a very common problem on these engines. There are plastic intake runners and there's a little motor here called a swirl valve motor. It basically actuates this rod here. There's two of them. One on each manifold. It changes the intake manifold porting, depending on what speed the engine is going at. And there's a sensor right here and this sensor will actually tell whether this rod is being moved to the proper position because of that code, to me it would indicate that this rod is probably worn out. Happens all the time. Carbon buildup is a common problem. There's a few ways to cure this one. It's often to replace a complete manifold. It may also mean that the sensor is bad. We'e had them where the rods work but the sensors are bad. So that's another issue. So those are a few things. But this is a very expensive repair. It's common on these engines. That kind of soot and carbon deposit is common and it's just something that kind of happens with engines. And seeing as there was a code for soot particles, a particulate filter to soot it up, chances are that these are probably pretty sooted too on this vehicle. It's not driven a lot.

Mark: So this vehicle, you've mentioned that this is a Mercedes engine, a couple time which might puzzle some folks. This is from the generation when Dodge Chrysler was owned by Mercedes and they were sharing some of their technology back and forth. So that doesn't occur anymore, I don't think because it's Fiat that owns Chrysler at this point.

Bernie: They now use Fiat diesels. I don't know if that's better or worse.

Mark: So why would there be so much carbon and issues on this engine? Just a bad engine design or is there something else?

Bernie: It's just typical of any modern diesel with and EGR system and carbon buildup just happens. It's a part of how these things work. There are specific cleaning tools that are available. We don't own any. They're difficult to use and actually in Canada they're not so commonly sold anyways. But there are actually ways you can actually remove carbon deposits without taking the engine apart. But it's just a function of how these modern diesels work with the EGR system. I mean this is why we have clean diesels, "Clean Diesels" but cleaner that they used to be. You don't have a lot of particles and soot and stench coming out of the tailpipe. This is what makes that technology possible. But on the downside, we end up getting a lot of plugged passageways and things that would not have happened a couple of decades earlier on a diesel engine.

Mark: And is there a way to mitigate against that buildup?

Bernie: Well usage, you know, proper usage of a diesel is really the most important thing. And what I found out and talked with the owner of this vehicle, is that this vehicle is not driven a lot. It's only like a sort of three kilometre trips on a daily basis is how it's being used for the owners business. So this is really not a good use of a diesel engine. A diesel needs to be started up, driven long distances, nice and hot. Ideally, if you started up in the morning and you just left it idling all day long. Well not idling, but drove it around for a lot of the day and good hot drive then shut it go. That would be the best use for this kind of engine. Unfortunately, a lot of people don't do that. They just drive it around like a regular car. Maybe you know drive 5 or 10 kilometres to work, shut it off, come home and that's really not a great use of an engine like this.

Mark: So with all this list of repairs, what kind of price range? What's this going to cost to get it all fixed up?

Bernie:Well I'm just going to shoot out some random numbers. So please don't call and quote me and say, "Hey you said on your video this is what it is", but just some random numbers, you know like glow plugs could be in and around a thousand ish dollar type of repair. With he control unit, maybe a bit more. I mean the other risk with the glow plugs is that they do seize in place and these are very small items and they're very small threaded passageways. Carbon deposits build up and they can seize up from time to time. Most of the time we get lucky, but sometimes they seize up, then you have to drill them out. That can add a huge amount of extra cost to repairing it. So that's another risk and that's not factored into that cost I made there which you know can add an extra several hundred to a thousand dollars depending on what happens. This intake manifold issue, again I mean it's a few thousand dollar type of repair depending on how we do it.

There are alternatives that someone kindly actually called me, had seen one of our videos and said, "Hey have you actually seen this repair kit?" You can actually buy metal repair rods for these things. It's actually a fantastic repair. So we can actually, instead of replacing the whole manifold, actually clean all the carbon out. We have really good ways of cleaning that out when it's out of the vehicle and put these metal repair rods in which saves a lot of money over buying the complete manifold.

And you know, I hate throwing away stuff that's good. So I mean, the rest of the manifold is aluminum. It can tend to last a long time. So that is an alternative some of the times that we can do. But again either, no matter how you slice it, it's a you know a few thousand dollars to repair. And then of course, the particulate filter that one again can be in the thousands of dollars of range. So you know, we've had people, bills are way over ten thousand dollars for plugged particulate filters, turbochargers and the list can go on and on. So when I meet someone who's going, "Oh I don't have quite enough money to spend on this diagnostic." I'm going you probably want to get a different vehicle because you could be in for a very pricey journey.

Mark: So other than engine issues, how are Sprinter vans?

Bernie: They're really good and I know why people buy them. I mean it's a fantastic vehicle in terms of you'e got the nice excessive height inside. There's a variety of options in Sprinters. You can get a half ton Sprinter or you can get a dually one ton, so you can haul a lot of weight. They all have pretty much the same engine give or take the year. I've seen camper vans with Sprinters. So they're a good size vehicle. I mean the brakes tend to wear out like any other vehicle. Nothing excessive and they're not outrageously expensive to repair. The steering suspension systems are generally pretty good. So you know, there are things that go wrong but they're not, nothing worse than any other type of van. But they're a really practical van and there are some gasoline engine models available. Although I can't think of ever having repaired one, had one come in our shop. But that might be a better alternative for a lot of people. The great thing about the diesel is it is very economical fuel wise. It's just that when things go wrong and they do, you're going to be spending a lot of money to repair it.

Mark: So there you go. If you're looking for repairs for your diesel vehicle in Vancouver, 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 because they're always busy. Check out the website pawlikautomotive.com. Hundreds of videos on there and blog posts about all makes and models and types of repairs including a lot on diesels. Of course, there's our YouTube channel Pawlik Auto Repair and of course, thanks so much for listening and watching, we really appreciate it. Thanks Bernie.

Bernie: Thanks Mark. Thanks for watching.

When Does It Make Sense To Own A Diesel?

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

Bernie: Doing very well.

Mark: So one question that we've encountered quite a bit is basically people buying diesels when it's the wrong vehicle for the use case. So when does it make sense to have a diesel?

Bernie: Well, I think there's a couple of criteria that it makes sense to have a diesel. I'm thinking about some of those wrong things. I've had a number of people in the past who've bought like a... I'm just going to say Ford, I'm not picking on Ford, but they bought some Ford diesels that had been less than reliable. After spending thousands of dollars month after month to fix one thing after another, the thrill and the concept and the idea of having a... I'm going to say a, macho diesel, just wears off really fast and I see them coming back with a Ford F-150 gas powered, something a lot more sensible and what they need. We've also had a number of clients who own European vehicles, Mercedes in particular, where the the engines get carboned up or stuff happens, very expensive repairs and really, a diesel wasn't the right vehicle for them.

So when does it make sense? It makes sense to me for a couple of reasons. If you're going to buy a truck, it makes sense to buy diesel if you're hauling heavy loads frequently that's either in the truck or trailering them. If you're buying a car, it makes sense of you're driving long distances, but not short little start and stop distances. So those are really the main criteria to me of when it makes sense.

Mark: So why is that?

Bernie: Well, diesels need to warm up. They need to run hot and they take a while to warm up even with modern technology and they try to warm it up faster, a diesel takes a long time to warm up. Generally, the mass of a diesel engine, the actual engine block, is much more robust than it is on a gasoline engine because compression in a diesel is very high. The engine has to, it's a combustion, sorry... A compression ignition engine. So it has to compress the fuel, which will then explode at a certain pressure and temperature, but that requires a much more robust built engine. They're heavier, they're bigger and so they require a lot more energy to warm up.

When they're not warmed up, with modern emission controls on vehicles, which are required and they make a big difference in terms of the air that we breathe and the quality of the diesel engine, you can hear it from 10 blocks away and it's much more pleasant to drive because you actually really can't hear the engine rattling away. With all those items in place, it sends a lot of soot and particles back through the engine, they recirculate and things tend to plug up unless the engine's really hot. Then it tends to work really well. Also, a lot of modern emission equipment, like particulate filters require the engine to reach a certain temperature and highway driving is good for them because that tends to burn off the particles.

Mark: So the filters actually heat up and disperse the particles, burn them, and then re-burn them again so that they're coming out of the tailpipe more clean.

Bernie: Exactly. Exactly. They call it a filter. It's not really a filter. It's more like a storage. It's like a storage trap and then things are burned off at a later time.

Mark: One of the things that people do, I know for a fact, is take off all the emission equipment. Does that solve the problem?

Bernie: Well, it certainly solves a problem, a lot of problems in terms of carbon buildup and things plugging. It solves it for you personally, but it doesn't really solve it for the general public. Diesel soot is a known carcinogen. It's very bad. They're very tiny little particles that get in the lungs. A lot of people die from it. They don't drop dead. It's not like having been shot by a gun, you're not going to die instantly. It's a slow process, but it's a big thing. As annoying as a lot of these things are, and I can see why people remove them because the solution of not having it makes a big difference.

There's a lot of diesel trucks that used to get fantastic fuel economy. They put the emission equipment on, the fuel economy drops by 30% or 40%, you remove it, you're back way up to having an economical vehicle. But really, what makes our air in our cities good to breathe is all these emission equipment, even on gasoline engines. I always think that whenever I see an old car drive by and I can smell the stench of the exhaust, I go, "Man, I can't believe when I grew up that all cars were like that." We've done a fantastic job in terms of making gasoline powered cars really, really clean, still lots of CO2, but that doesn't smell and stink and cause at least the ground level pollution that we're used to.

It does make a big difference. Things can be removed, but it's better not to. My whole idea with this podcast is consider before you buy a diesel. Do you really need one? Because they do cost an awful lot more money to fix too. I often think all the money you save on fuel, you're just going to end up spending in ours or someone else's repair shop fixing things. So it's an important thing to look at. Consider is this the right vehicle for you because for some people, a diesel absolutely makes a lot of sense.

Mark: I guess there's a couple of other issues there. Diesel particulate in terms of it's detriment to human health is measured in parts per billion, which is incredibly small. Something over 20 parts per billion. Anything over that is detrimental to human health and there's tons of research on this now. There's literally diesel engine's soot is accounting for millions of deaths worldwide every year. This is not speculation. This is a fact. They can show it when cities like London, for instance, banned diesels from the downtown area, their air quality goes up pretty drastically, but it's also illegal isn't it? If you take that stuff off it is.

Bernie: It is. Yeah. It is illegal to do it, whether you're going to have a cop knocking on your door, probably not. Lots of people do it and I don't. We live in Vancouver, Canada, so they're not so many stringent standards. I don't know. I know California, you actually have to have your vehicle emission tested. Around here, you don't. We used to have it. We got rid of it. The air still seems pretty clean, but you can be a lot looser with your standards around here now. Honestly, does it really matter if you live out in some small town or in the middle of nowhere and your diesel puts out some particular? Not really, but every tight thing where you get more concentrated and lots more trucks and people around, it makes a huge difference really fast.

Mark: So there you go. If you're going to buy a diesel, what's your use case? Are you hauling a lot of heavy loads? Are you traveling long distances? A hundred kilometres, 150 kilometres kind of round trip every day, then maybe a diesel makes sense. Other than that, driving around town in your big 4x4 and not ever using it to haul stuff, probably not the best use case. It's costing you a lot of money. Is that a fair assessment?

Bernie: Absolutely. One thing, we actually didn't delve into too much there was car. We did just touch on it briefly, but I think a lot of salespeople do a disservice to their customers by selling them a diesel vehicle when they're really, again, they should be asking, "How much driving you do at this vehicle." This is something you've got to ask yourself if you're going to buy a diesel car or a SUV, I'm thinking like a Mercedes type of thing. There's a lot of ML320s and 350 diesels around. There's just a lot of them in our area. So many people don't buy them for what they need them for. They really should be buying the gasoline version. I think the salespeople really do a disservice by not asking, "What's your usage?" They're just, "Oh yeah, we've got this diesel. It's got great fuel economy," and people just buy it. Then a few years later, the engine's toast or things are plugged up and they're spending thousands of dollars to fix things they wouldn't have had to do. So just something to look at.

Mark: It's not an around town vehicle unless you're hauling stuff basically.

Bernie: Exactly, exactly.

Mark: Go electric. Anyways-

Bernie: Yeah, that's becoming an option if you just need short commutes, electric might be a-

Mark: Far better option.

Bernie: Yeah.

Mark: So there you go. Pawlik Automotive. If you want honest truth about your vehicle and what kind of vehicle to buy, maybe give Bernie a call: (604) 327-7112. He's looking dismayed. I've just offered free advice, but he will. They're friendly. They'll help you out. Quick conversation will ease your mind about buying the right car. Pawlik Automotive, you can reach them, again at: (604) 327-7112. Again, that's for booking appointments. They're busy. You got to call and book ahead. They're 21 time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver and PawlikAutomotive.com is the website. Check out lots of articles and videos on there about all makes and models of vehicles and repairs of them all. And of course, thanks so much for watching and listening. We appreciate it. Click the subscribe button on your favourite podcast app. We appreciate it and thanks, Bernie.

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

2015 Mazda 3 – Electrical Issues

Mark: Hi, it's Mark from Top Local. We're here with Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver. Vancouver's best auto service experience, and 21-time winners of Best Auto Repair In Vancouver, as voted by their customers. How are you doing today, Bernie?

Bernie: Doing well.

Mark: We're talking cars. We're talking about a 2015 Mazda 3 that was having electrical issues. What was happening with this Mazda?

Bernie: This vehicle came to the shop with a few concerns. One was the check engine light was on. Second, it felt like it lacked power at certain times, almost stalled, and the steering was doing something. On my service advisor note, it said funky. So, I had to call the owner and said, "What exactly happens?" He goes, "Something just feels wrong with the steering." So, and when I finally experienced the issue, yeah, funky was actually a good description for it. When I turned the steering wheel at certain times ... So, this is an electric power steering vehicle, electric power steering. I'd turn the vehicle at certain times, the steering wheel would, like, kick. It would lose it's power, and it would just kick in my hand. It was like almost, you know, almost the arm breaking kind of kick. So, it was kind of a strange issue. And then, there's a warning light on the dash for the steering. This was an intermittent issue.

Mark: So, what other testing did you do on the vehicle?

Bernie: First thing, of course, is hook up a diagnostic scan tool and scan the whole vehicle for trouble codes. And what we found was a trouble code P0882, if I remember correctly, which is a transmission control module low voltage code. From there, of course, driving the vehicle was a key thing. And, the other thing I often do is, we have a database, a program that we access that has known vehicle faults. That's usually the first place I go to, to go okay, what could be causing this issue?

So, I go in there, and no one else had ever had this problem. At least, it wasn't in this database. So, sometimes you go, "Oh, that's going to be interesting," because we're kind of maybe not the first to ever see it, but it's a first to kind of publish any issues around it.

So, I mean, I looked at the diagnostic system. Kind of tried to understand the circuit a little bit. And, I tried to understood the circuit and what was going on, and figured okay, this vehicle is not getting power to the transmission module for some reason. It's either a bad battery, charging system, or wiring. One of the above, so it's a matter of making a test.

So next was to do a road test with the vehicle, go and see what was actually happening to it. So, as I mentioned, the steering was doing weird stuff. But then, it would stop doing that. It would seem normal. So, I went out. I road tested it. Hooked up the scan tool again. Looked at the module voltage while we were driving and just to see what was going on with that. And, I've got some pictures here I can show, because it's got some neat stuff to share here.

So, there's our Mazda 3 2015. So, it's only about a four year old car. Not too old at this point in time. This is a road test. So, this is actually monitoring the power steering module. And, you can see, you know, for the most part, this is around 14, 15 volts, which is the normal electrical system. And at some point, all of a sudden, starts dropping down, spikes way up, jumps all over the place. Drops down to almost 0 volts.

So, none of this stuff should be happening. This graph should be, basically, staying kind of around 13 to 14 volts, somewhere in that range. That's where the power should be with the engine running. So, clearly, losing power in the system. And, I noted at some point during the road test, the vehicle would also, when it came to a stop, the transmission seemed to be stuck in third gear. So, I think it had gone into a limp mode now.

What I was able to do is, put the transmission back in park, then go back to drive, and then it would shift normally. But clearly, when this was happening, the transmission module was also losing power at the same time. So, we were kind of onto it.

And, the other thing I didn't mention is, we do a full system code scan. A lot of modern vehicles, you can scan every module in the vehicle. It's really important to look at that. There's a number of low voltage codes in other modules, so that indicates kind of a major power fault in the vehicle.

Then we did some further tests. Now, visually, you know, I thought to myself, "Okay, this car, it's got the original battery. It's about four years old. That's kind of an average life span of a battery." You just visually look at this battery, this is a disaster. You know, there's stuff leaked out here. The case looks bulged. There's corrosion on this terminal, which this alone could cause a lack of power. So the next test was to actually test the battery, which we did.

And, there's the results of our battery tests. Sorry it's a bit of a fuzzy picture. But, 12 volt battery, bad battery. It's supposed to do 520 cold cranking amps. This thing measures 73 cold cranking amps. Although, the voltage, interestingly enough, was good. And, the other thing strange about this vehicle was that, when you go to crank the engine over, it cranked the engine over just fine. So, that's usually the first indicator that a battery's bad, it won't crank the engine over. But, it would do that.

The other interesting thing we do is, of course, we do a full charging system test. So, it did actually test the alternator. Voltage regulator failed, diodes failed. So we have suspected maybe the alternator was bad, but I figured better to replace the battery first, and then test the system after.

Just one other, this is the vehicle. This is the Skyactiv technology, which we'll talk about a little later. Sort of a view of the engine compartment and the battery before replacement. And, what else would we see? The coolant fill here, engine oil fill, and the dip stick there. Air filter in this area, brake fluid. No power steering fluid, because it's electric, so that makes things a little simpler.

Mark: And, was there any other indication that the battery was bad?

Bernie: There wasn't. As I was saying, you know, it's interesting, because I cranked the engine over several times. Because I right away suspected, okay, maybe it's got a bad battery. Cranked the engine over many times, and every time it cranked the engine over, it was just fine every time, so ...

Mark: What happened after you replaced the battery?

Bernie: Well, so, I replaced the battery. Clear the codes in the vehicle computer, went out and road tested it. And everything looked really awesome. Like, that graph that I showed initially, that had the big spikes, none of that was there. Just, everything stayed between sort of low 13 to high 13 volt range, consistently solid the whole time, all the way through.

Then, retested the battery, retested the alternator. That code that came back, the alternator was good. The voltage regulator good, diodes good. So, the battery itself was causing the alternator to malfunction.

Mark: So is that, in your experience, is it a better approach to replace the first known bad part and then retest? Rather than just, "Oh, everything's bad. Fix it all."

Bernie: Absolutely. And, this is why we have customers who, you know, we tell them it's going to be this cost for testing and diagnostics, "Oh, I don't want to pay for that." Well, when you ... We charge for it, because it takes time and proper testing to find the issues. And, we take the time to look at that kind of thing. And, it saves you money in the end.

If you go to somewhere that's just going to go, "Well, we'll do that for free or very minimal charge," they're going to go, "Okay, you got these two bad ... " Or, they're likely going to say, "You got these two bad components. Change them both, and you know, the client's bill would have been at least 500 dollars more, had they not done that.

Now, you know, as I say, we take that two-tiered approach. Let's test this first, see how it works. If there's a savings to do both at the same time, then it's probably worth doing. But, there's no savings. They're completely separate components. It takes very little to just put the battery in, test it, and then just redo the test again and see how it is. Very little extra effort compared to ... Yeah, so that's how we do things here.

Mark: Better for the customer, and easier for you guys in the long run.

Bernie: Well, exactly. And, you know, you can sleep at night better, knowing that we did the right thing, and it's always nice to know we give the customer the best value.

Mark: And, how long should a person expect a battery to last, a car battery?

Bernie: Well usually, I mean, the average life span on a battery is usually five years. Some will last longer. Some will not last as long. I mean, this one's made it for about four. So yeah, five years is about considered average. I mean, I find most cars, yeah, probably four years, four to five.

Mark: Here's another question. So, we're talking about 12 volt starter batteries, which are very different from as we move into an electric future. Batteries are changing incredibly.

Bernie: Absolutely.

Mark: It's a lead acid battery. So, those dirty terminals from never being cleaned and looked after, maintained properly, is that, perhaps, led to this battery failing prematurely, slightly?

Bernie: I don't think so, actually. I think those corroded terminals actually indicate to me more like the battery's actually bad. Because what'll happen is, when a battery gets bad and old, it'll start gassing more, and it'll ... Like, there's sulfuric acid in the gas, and liquids will come out. That'll cause the corrosion worse. So, I would say it's actually the other way around. The actual battery itself will cause that.

You have a good battery and a good charging system that's not overcharging, generally, terminals don't get corroded. It normally happens from something going bad. And of course, we clean the terminals as part of the service. It's critical.

Mark: And, that's probably thinking back to old batteries when you could fill up with the acid and all that sort of stuff. These are all completely sealed batteries today. Is this more of an issue? Or less of an issue?

Bernie: Well, actually, this battery is actually not a sealed battery. You can actually pop it open and add water to it. And, to be honest, I didn't do that. We don't normally ever do that. You really don't need to do that in any regular type of battery. The only type of battery that you would ever want to service like that nowadays is a deep cycle battery. But yeah, this battery actually still, it's kind of like old technology. You can actually pop the cap open and add ... You only add water to it by the way, because only the water will evaporate out of the battery. The sulfuric acid will never actually evaporate. It all stays in the battery. So, you can add water. But, you got to be careful the kind of water you add, too. You don't want to put any highly mineralized water in, because that can create problems.

But yeah, again, it's like with the age of this battery, even if the water was low in one cell and you topped it out, chances are you'd still have problems. You know, and this battery, again, probably had some kind of internal short circuit or something that was causing it to intermittently malfunction like it did. You know, allowed the car to start, and yet, failed the load test and would intermittently go bad. So, that's kind of the issue.

You know, with batteries nowadays too, I mean, even cars, non electric cars, there's more and more electrical components, so the batteries are more critical than ever. You know, especially like electric power steering in this car. It relies on a good, strong battery. So, and a good charging system. So, even a full internal combustion engine vehicle nowadays, still having a good battery is a critical thing.

Mark: And, you mentioned the automatic transmission had a sensor that was not getting enough power. Is that part of the shifting system, using electricity?

Bernie: Exactly. Yeah, so the code that we actually had stored in the vehicle computer, the main one, was for a transmission control module lack ... You know, like, insufficient voltage. So, again, when the voltage was dropping down from the battery, and say to the steering that I'd monitored, the same thing was happening to the transmission module. And, the same would happen to the engine module as well, I would think. So, I didn't monitor that circuit. There was no code for that, but clearly, that's why the vehicle was driving strangely and the transmission was shifting funny.

Mark: And, sticking in third gear when you stopped.

Bernie: Yeah, yeah. And, you know, it's interesting how some of these basic electrical ... Sometimes, you know, when you're testing and repairing cars, you can think, oh, it's going to be some elaborate problem. And often, the basic things are the problem, like, the battery. We had a Chrysler vehicle this week that had a whole bunch of transmission trouble codes. And, we did some research on it and found that often, a faulty alternator caused these. Tested the battery and charging system, sure enough, found the alternator had blown diodes. And, that'll cause huge voltage spikes in the system. And, that'll cause the sensors to ... The computer can't quite read the sensors properly because it's getting strange voltage signals.

So, replaced the alternator, the car was fixed. So a lot of times, the more basic electrical things ... They have to be in good shape for everything to work properly.

Mark: And, the diodes in the alternator are part of what changes that A/C current into D/C to charge and operate the systems, the CAN bus system in the car.

Bernie: Exactly. And, you know, with the blown diodes, what'll happen is, instead of getting a nice clean D/C signal, you'll get a huge spike of A/C voltage that leaks past. So, you get what's supposed to be kind of a fairly flat 14 volts will all of a sudden, will often jump up to like, 16, and it'll keep spiking up and down. And, that just causes real strange, erratic things.

I've seen numerous issues with bad alternators, so we're going to ... drifting off the battery, but the battery and alternator, they really do work hand in hand. And, a bad battery can wreck an alternator. So, it wouldn't have been surprising on this Mazda that it would have needed the alternator. It just didn't in this case. Or, a bad alternator can also wreck a battery. So either way, it's good to make sure they're both healthy.

Mark: So, this vehicle, as you mentioned, has Batman's Skyactiv technology. Does it have a bat signal?

Bernie: No, it doesn't. But, it's Skyactiv, so ...

Mark: What is Skyactiv?

Bernie: Well, it's a name, like Honda Eco Dreams, and yeah. But, it's a technology that Mazda's put together for the best fuel economy, for the best horse power, for the best fuel mileage, you know, which is important nowadays. You know, every manufacturer's trying to get the most they can out of their engines. So some of the features, it's got much higher compression. In North America, it's like 13 to one compression, which is really high for an average engine. I mean, it used to be like, 10 to one was really high. But, 13, that's like race car high. And apparently, in other markets, the engine's actually 14 to one compression, which is like, unbelievably high.

So, they're able to do this through the way they do the valving of the engine. It has direct fuel injections, as opposed to the standard port injection that we've used for many years. So, port injection injects the fuel into the intake manifold right above the intake valve, whereas direct injection, it's like a diesel and injects it directly into the cylinder. And, most engines nowadays have this technology, and it gets way more precise combustion. And, it allows things, having these high compression ratio engines.

So, high compression ratio engine is more efficient. But, there's a lot of problems like engine knock and pings. So, they've had to do a lot of work around that to make sure it doesn't knock and ping, especially on regular fuel. It's a pretty neat accomplishment.

Mark: So, if you're looking for service for your Mazda 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 and book ahead, because they're always busy. Very popular guys, best auto repair in Vancouver. Or, check out the website, pawlikautomotive.com. YouTube channel, Pawlik Auto Repair, hundreds, literally, over 350 videos, and blog posts on both of those places about all makes and models and types of repairs. If you like reading about cars, there's tons ... and listening about cars, or two goofy old guys talking about cars. It's on there. And of course, thank you so much for listening to the podcast. We appreciate it. If you feel motivated, give us a like. Five stars is always nice. Thanks, Bernie.

Bernie: Thanks, Mark. Thanks for watching, thanks for listening. We totally appreciate it.

2006 Range Rover Coolant Pipe Repair

Mark: Hi. It's Mark Bossert here from Top Local. We're here with Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, Vancouver's best auto service experience and 21-time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver, and we're talking cars. How are you doing this morning, Bernie?

Bernie: Doing very well.

Mark: We're talking about a Range Rover 2006 variant with a coolant pipe replacement problem. What was going on with this vehicle?

Bernie: This vehicle came to our shop with a, it was overheating and had a coolant leak.

Mark: What testing did you need to do to find the leak?

Bernie: In this case, I mean, the first place we always start with a coolant leak is a pressure test and topping up the coolant, of course, and if it starts just gushing out, then we know something is really severe, but if it doesn't, the pressure test is the next step, so that's what we did.

What a pressure test does is it puts the cooling system under pressure that you would normally experienced when an engine is running. The engine cooling systems have a pressurized cap. Pressure builds up in the system. If you have pressure, you can... The engine can run hotter and you don't lose your coolant, so it's an important thing, so we put the cooling system under pressure like you normally have when the engine is running and, that way, we can find out where the leak is coming from.

Mark: What did you find?

Bernie: We found a coolant pipe located on the back of the thermostat housing. It goes between the thermostat housing and the... basically the engine block, and that was leaking. It's a plastic part. I said it before. We love plastic. I mean, unfortunately, because it wears out, they could probably make it out of metal, but they make it out of plastic to save weight and, eventually, it does wear out. Although, in all fairness, this vehicle is now 13, 14 years old, 13 years old, so it's had a pretty good life.

Mark: Is this a common failure part?

Bernie: Yeah, it is. It is because the plastic deteriorates over time. I'm going to share a few pictures while we're at it here, so there's our 2006 vintage Range Rovers, still a very good looking vehicle, say, 13 years past. It still looks great.

Here's our pipe. This is the new piece. This is the old one, and you can see a chunk of corner missing off of here, and what happens is, over time, with heat cycling and heating and cooling, eventually the plastic becomes brittle and it eventually cracks and breaks. It's not under any physical strain because it's all held in place, but it will, it does break over time just from the heat cycling, and so... and you were is this a difficult part to replace? Is that correct?

Mark: Yes.

Bernie: Yeah, so this is where the pipe is located. This is where things get difficult, because the intake manifold sits right in this area here, right over the top of the edge of this pipe, so the pipe that'd broken in that you saw was sitting right here, bolts down here, and then these are intake manifold ports of the front two cylinders. It's a V8 engine, so it blocks over here, so there's a fair bit that needs to be removed to access to this piece.

Mark: Was there anything else that needed to make this repair?

Bernie: No. Actually, fortunately, this was it. We did do a visual inspection and found that was it. We did flush the cooling system, which is a good thing to do when you have the cooling system apart like this especially if the engines got hot. It's a good thing to do. Other than that, fortunately, it was straightforward.

Mark: Why wouldn't they use metal on this?

Bernie: Yeah, I think a lot of it is weight-saving. Two things, you can more easily mold a plastic piece, so that's one reason, and the second is that it's weight-saving. You can save. When you think about an engine, if you can use plastic parts, you can probably knock 30, 50 pounds off the weight of an engine, and the lighter the engine, the more efficient it is, so, in that respect, it's a good idea. There are parts we've done like certain BMWs, older vintages, where they actually make metal replacement parts for plastic thermostat housings. In this case, this vehicle didn't have such a thing, but I'd expect the plastic to last for another 10, 12 years anyways. It's the same type of part.

Mark: This is a non-supercharged engine, I'm guessing from how easy it was to actually do. Are they more trouble-free?

Bernie: I would say overall they are. I mean, there's less components obviously you've got. You don't have the supercharger, which in and of itself is a very expensive piece. I rarely see failures with the actual supercharger on some newer ones. You'll see. We have videos on the nose cone bearing failing, but, yeah, I mean, this is a simpler engine, and the cooling system is simpler on this vehicle as well.

The supercharge versions have pipes that run underneath the supercharger and intake manifold, which tend to fail and cost a lot more money to replace. They're like a rubber pipe assembly, a pipe and hose assembly, so there's more complexity in that, so, definitely, less to go wrong. You don't get the thrill of the immediate acceleration you do with the supercharge, but these things are more than adequate, a 4.4 litre engine. It's a pretty good engine. I think, around this vintage, I find these engines are actually quite reliable.

Mark: That was my next question. How are Range Rovers for reliability?

Bernie: We have a lot of videos and podcasts on these, so there are issues I'd say. Again, I was saying this is probably one of the more reliable engine models that you'll find around this vintage. The earlier ones, certainly earlier generation engines definitely had a lot more problems with oil leaks and things. These are pretty good for oil leaks. We've done actually a couple of cooling system repairs on this particular vehicle. Hoses tend to fail and pipes after a while, but, overall, I'd say these are pretty reliable, but you've got suspension problems, too, so, if you look through our collection of videos, you'll see some of the things that we see, but they're not bad, but you'll expect to spend a little more money on a Range Rover than you would for your average SUV.

Mark: One of your favourites, in other words.

Bernie: One of our favourites, yeah. They're nice vehicles to own. People like to keep them.

Mark: There you go. If you're looking for service for your Range Rover in Vancouver, British Columbia, the guys to see are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at 604-327-7112 to book your appointment. You have to call and book ahead, they're always busy, or check out their website, pawlikautomotive.com. There's hundreds, literally, of videos and blog posts on there about different makes and models and all kinds of repairs, or our YouTube channel, Pawlik Auto Repair, again, hundreds of videos, all makes and models and types of repairs, and, of course, thank you so much for listening to the podcast. We really appreciate it. Feel free to give us a like if you enjoy what we're doing, and thanks, Bernie.

Bernie: Thanks, Mark, and thanks for watching.

2011 BMW 335iS – Electric Coolant Pump And Thermostat Replacement

Mark: Hi, it's Mark Bossert from Top Local. We're here with Bernie Pawlik of Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, Vancouver's best auto service experience. 19 time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver, or 20 time winners, I'm sorry, 20 time winners. I'm cutting you short, Bernie. We're talking cars. How you doing?

Bernie: Doing very well.

Mark: Today's victim is a 2011 BMW 335is. BMW has such long names. There was problems with the electric coolant pump and the thermostat. What was going on with this BMW?

Bernie: Yeah. The owner was driving the vehicle and an amber warning light for the coolant system came on the dash. Then, shortly after, a red warning light came on and the vehicle went into a limp mode. I'm not sure whether he had it towed in or whether it was driven in but, anyways, the vehicle was not running well. The other thing that was happening at the same time as the electric coolant, there was a loud noise coming from under the engine, which was actually the fan running at high speed. That's basically how the vehicle came in with cooling system problems.

Mark: What testing did you do and what did you find?

Bernie: First testing we always do on a cooling system is to verify is there coolant in the engine? Had a visual inspection, looked at the coolant, it was down a little bit. Added some coolant to it, but it only took about not even a cup of coolant, so really not low enough to cause any sort of issues. Pressure tested the cooling system, made sure there was no leaks, there weren't any. Then, we proceeded to the next step, which is to hook up a scan tool, essential item to do in this kind of vehicle, hook up a scan tool and see what was happening with the engine running temperature and the operating temperature.

We did that, found a couple of codes stored in the engine module and ran some tests and found that basically the electric water pump was not functioning as it was supposed to. Now, that loud noise under the hood was basically the radiator fan running at high speed. Again, that's an electric fan and it'll come on whenever the computer tells it to. It'll tell it to come on, if there's a problem found with the cooling system, it will tell it to come on. That'll create the coolest possible temperature in the radiator and help cool the engine down. Say, the water pump isn't actually circulating, it'll help keep the engine cool.

Mark: Is it possible to do diagnostic procedure, I guess, on this vehicle without a scan tool?

Bernie: Pretty much impossible. I mean everything nowadays on cars, this car included, it's highly electronic. You really do need a scan tool to do pretty much anything. As I said, I mean the visual tests and the pressure tests, those are important initial tests and that could be where the problems are found. You've got to use a scan tool. You've got to have one to do any work on this kind of car.

Mark: We have some pictures.

Bernie: I do, let's get right into it. There is our 325is, I apologize if the brake rotors look a little rusty. We just washed the car and it still has a bit of moisture on it and the brakes were sitting. That's what happens with brakes when they sit, the rotors get rusted. A drive around the block, all that rust disappears. This car doesn't look quite as nice as it could. Next photo, we've got ...

Mark: Scan tool.

Bernie: Scan tool. When we do the initial test, we test the system for codes. It's always best on a lot of modern vehicles to actually test the whole vehicle. We can actually do a full vehicle code scan, because sometimes there'll be a problem in a different module that actually relates to a module you don't think is... Is not related to the engine. It's helpful to get that information. In this case, there were four codes stored in the system, two of them not really relevant, oxygen sensors.

These aren't relevant to engine overheating issues, but these two are, engine coolant pump cutoff, engine coolant pump speed deviation. What's happening here is that the computer commands the electric coolant pump to turn at a certain speed. It expects a certain thing to happen and it's not happening. That's why this speed deviation code is here. It's a pretty clear diagnosis from this based on experience that the electric coolant pump is defective. There are tests we do to warm it up, make sure there isn't anything else going on and we verified that the coolant pump was in fact the problem.

The coolant pump, let's have a look at that. There is the electric coolant pump, pretty fancy looking unit. It's got a very large motor in it, very robust piece. Even though it's a very robust large motor, they don't last as long as you think they should because this is an exceptionally common failure on any BMW that has an electric coolant pump, which is a lot of models. The business end of it here, this is where the pump impeller is. There's an electrical connector here and then there's an inlet and outlet there and there. The coolant just... Simple otherwise. Couple of other items on this vehicle, there's an electrically controlled thermostat and this is bolted up to the water pump.

We replaced it at the same time because, again, this is a failure item on these vehicles. In this case, it wasn't the failure item, but it would not make a lot of sense to take all this stuff apart and not change the thermostat at the same time. This is an electrically controlled thermostat. You can see there's a connector here with a couple of pins sticking out where the wire goes. Now, why would they have an electrically controlled thermostat? The thermostat generally, this is actually inside of the thermostat taken apart. This is the actual thermostatic piece that opens and closes.

Normally, in the past, it's got a wax pellet inside that expands with the temperature of the coolant. As the wax expands, the thermostat opens and allows coolant to flow. If the temperature gets below the specified point, then the thermostat closes again. This keeps the engine at the operating temperature it's designed to keep at, but it's limited. It'll only do that specific temperature. With electrical control, it'll actually heat the thermostat. If the computer says, "Hey. We need to open this thing faster or let's get the engine cooler or let's keep the engine hotter," it can control that thermostat opening. It allows more control over the thermostat, and that's our picture show for the day.

Mark: The coolant pump was bad. Why would they use an electric pump?

Bernie: Again, it's control. As I talked about with a thermostat, there's control that can be had with having electric components. You can switch the pump on and off. You can't do that with a mechanically belt-driven pump. It just runs. When you're idling, it runs at a certain speed. When you rev it up, it runs faster and that's the limit of control. Whereas with an electric pump, they can pump it at a low speed, a high speed, whatever requirements are needed. If the engine is getting too hot, they can pump it faster. If they want the engine to warm up really fast, you can just leave the pump off and just let the engine warm up quicker. Those are some of the things you can do. That's why the electric pump.

Mark: Ultimately, it's causing better... That's part of the system. As well as with the electric thermostat, because you're controlling temperature more exactly, you can reduce emissions and increase fuel economy.

Bernie: Exactly, and performance too. Yeah. All three of those can all be controlled much better.

Mark: Is this an expensive repair?

Bernie: I always think of expensive as being kind of a judgment call. Yeah, it's not cheap. The electric pump itself, I can't remember the price off the top of my head, it's a pretty pricey part. If you own one of these cars, you will need to replace it. No ands, ifs or buts. I own a BMW X3 with the same type of engine, the electric coolant pump's gone on it already. They go on all of them and probably sooner than they should. Yeah, I consider this to be a pretty expensive repair, certainly more than it would cost to do a mechanical pump.

Mark: How are BMW 335s for reliability?

Bernie: They're good. I was thinking, I mean it's a good car, but there are certain issues that you're going to face with this car. I mean one of them is this electric coolant pump. I mean that's a guaranteed issue. Say you buy the car from new and keep it to 130,000 kilometres, you'll need to do this electric coolant pump. You'll need to do the thermostat. You'll probably have some ignition coil problems. This car actually had one after we fixed it. Went out for a road test, the engine was misfiring, one of the coils had crapped out. I don't know whether it was brought to us like that. It was no code in the system.

It may be that as the engine got hot, it caused the coil to fail or they just do on these things. You can pretty well count on ignition coil replacement, coolant pump replacement. There will probably be some front end bushings that wear out and some brake work, which those kind of things are sort of normal and expected on pretty well any car. I mean the nice thing is these are predictable, but they are... Some of them are expensive being a BMW. Also, there's some fuel injection issues with some of them as well, injector issues with some of them as well, but that's basically it. Otherwise, it's a really nice car. This is a sporty car, fun, lots of power. It's a fun ride.

Mark: Of course, in the future, as more and more of the European specs kick in, actually at the start of 2020, almost every vehicle is going to be using an electric everything. Basically everything is going to be running... Any accessory type stuff is going to be running off electric, because they have to in order to meet the emission regulations.

Bernie: Yeah, yeah. Already, we have electric power steering in a lot of vehicles, which is fantastic because there's so much more flexibility. The neat thing about electric power steering as well, it has the potential to be super expensive to repair. We've never actually repaired one electric power steering unit in our shop ever, which is maybe disappointing because we do an awful lot of conventional power steering repairs. The good news about that is that there's a component there that's been electrified that's very reliable. Not to say it's 100%. I mean there's some that have had issues and I know that a lot of those have been covered by manufacturer's warranty.

There are things that have been kind of sorted out, but it's a really reliable system. I think they've had to do that. When you build something with a steering component, I mean if there's any problem with it, you don't want a failure where the car decides to steer its own way. I mean you're just asking for major lawsuits. I think the manufacturers of, this is my guess, but I think they've just taken it, gone, "Wait a minute. We can't F around this stuff. We got to make it like bullet proofly reliable."

Mark: There you go. If you're looking for service for your BMW 335 or any BMW, they're experts on it at Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at 604-327-7112, you have to call and book ahead. They're busy, always busy, but they do excellent work. You can check out the reviews, really highly reviewed. Of course, 20 time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver as voted by their customers. Of course, thank you so much for listening to the podcast and thanks Bernie.

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

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