Blog - Pawlik Automotive Repair, Vancouver BC

A Paradox: A Complicated Simple Repair

Corroded Fuse contacts

Part of what makes our job fun as auto service technicians is that we never know what we will encounter from day to day.

Case in point: a new client came in with 2003 Ford F150 pickup with the concern that his A/C (air conditioning) was inoperative. John went straight to work on the diagnosis and determined that the electrical side of the system was not functioning. Fuses were tested and all were good, but still there was no power at the A/C control panel on the dash.

With perseverance he finally found a most unusual cause of the concern: the contacts between the fuse and the fuse box had corrosion, blocking flow of the electricity. The corrosion was on the load side of the fuse which made it appear that the concern was elsewhere. After cleaning the corrosion in the fuse box and installing a new fuse, the A/C functioned perfectly.

Corroded Fuse contacts

Corroded but not blown!

Change Your Snow Tires After Winter

Many car owners have both summer (all season) and winter (snow) tires.

If you are in this category be sure to switch them over as the seasons change.

We recently had a client with an 87 Mercedes 190E who still had their snow tires on in August and due to the very high mileage that they drive, had worn out the front tires. The tire treads had the most unusual and the most severe cupped wear we have ever seen.

After inspection, all steering and suspension components were good as was the wheel alignment. This ruled out a problem with the vehicle causing the tire wear.

uneven tire wear

Uneven Tire Wear

Snow tires are made with very soft rubber and wear much faster than all season tires. With all the twists and turns and bumps encountered in everyday driving these tires started to wear funny and leaving them on too long accelerated the wear process.

Had they been removed in April, which is appropriate in the Vancouver area, the tires would still be in great shape. Now they are junk and next winter 2 new ones will be required. While this occurred on an old Mercedes we see this scenario played out on many different types of cars and trucks.

So be proactive: if you use winter and summer tires, change to winter tires in November and summer tires around April.

Air Conditioning Service

Car air Conditioning

What does it cost to “just recharge” my air conditioning system?

That is a question that we are occasionally asked. The answer is always, “We cannot just recharge it without first determining where the refrigerant has leaked out.”

It is illegal to refill an A/C system with a known leak.

Our first course of action is diagnosis. Many times the cause of non-functioning A/C is not low refrigerant but an electrical concern: a burned out switch, defective control unit or broken wire.
Car air Conditioning
After testing the electrical side of your A/C system we test for proper refrigerant type and charge. If refrigerant is low we must do a leak diagnosis and find the cause. Once the leak is found and repaired we can then recharge your A/C system. With the leak(s) repaired you will usually enjoy years of trouble free operation.

Here are some interesting facts: the current A/C refrigerant is known as R134a.

This chemical replaced the previous refrigerant R12, otherwise known as Freon. R12 is nasty stuff, as one molecule of it will destroy 10,000 ozone molecules.

R134a thankfully destroys none. That is great news for our ozone layer, however R134a is not entirely benign as it has a global warming potential of 1000. This means that one molecule of R134a is 1000 times more effective than one carbon dioxide (CO2) molecule at trapping greenhouse gases in our atmosphere.

For that reason we cannot legally, or morally, “just recharge” your A/C system.

Finding an Electrical Short

Bare Wire that was Shorting

Finding the cause of a fuse that blows constantly can be a time consuming task, one involving a skilled technician and a methodical approach.

Today we serviced a rare 1994 Chevrolet Van equipped with a 6.5 litre Diesel.

Our client¹s concern was that his gauges stopped working along with the glow plug lamp on the dash. He replaced the gauge fuse only to have it blow again within seconds. When a fuse blows like this it is doing its job by protecting the circuit, preventing damage to electrical components and ultimately your vehicle which could catch fire from burning wires.

John started his diagnosis by printing out a wiring diagram of the circuit. Armed with this information he could see which components were involved.

This circuit covers a number of items: the gauges on the instrument panel, part of the glow plug controller and 2 EGR valve solenoids.

Wiring extends from the fuse box to the instrument panel, to the front of the engine compartment and to the engine itself. This leaves many places to inspect: where to start first? Wisely, and based upon years of experience John chose to start with the engine area. The EGR solenoids & glow plug timer were disconnected but still the fuse popped.

Worn Wire Loom or Harness

Worn Wire Loom or Harness

To keep our story short, the cause was found to be a very small wire from the main engine wiring harness which was rubbing against the right rear corner of the engine block. John noted that the protective wiring covering was slightly damaged: looking inside revealed the chaffed wire. That’s what it takes to find a short: knowledge of the circuit, a methodical inspection, and a skilled technician with a keen eye.
Bare Wire that was Shorting

Bare Wire was Shorting

The Hard Cost of Changing Your Car

We often have clients who become disenchanted with their cars, especially when faced with some expensive service.

We recently serviced a 1997 BMW 528i last week that needed a maintenance service, oil change and 4 wheel brakes. Cost with taxes: 1300 dollars. A fair amount of money for sure, but consider that the brakes will be good for at least 2 to 3 years, the oil service is synthetic and won¹t be required again for 9 to 12 months.
'97 BMW 528i
This car has 140,000 kilometers, is in beautiful condition and has been meticulously maintained. It looks and runs like a new car and being a very reliable 6 cylinder engined vehicle will run for years with minimal cost. After talking with our client about long terms plans with the car I found out that she is planning on keeping it: a conclusion that she came to after researching new cars and pricing.

What’s the cost to replace this car?

A 2008 BMW 3 series turns out to come with a cost of $15,000 down and monthly payments of $1000.00.

That’s $12,000 dollars a year!

In my experience there is never a year that someone will pay $12,000 to maintain and repair his or her car; not even close.

Even a recent used model still has a very high price. So the conclusion: it is most often financially better to maintain your car, usually by a huge margin.

Can an Old Car be Good Reliable Transportation?

Sure it can, especially when it was well maintained.

Case in point: a 1987 Toyota Corolla came to our shop for a comprehensive inspection so that our client could determine the vehicle¹s condition and see if it was suitable for her daughter to use to commute to school.
87 Toyota Corolla
The previous owner was our client’s mother who sadly passed away. While doing the comprehensive inspection we found a few things that required some attention and probably about $1000 dollars worth of needed repairs.

In spite of a few dents, some rust and a broken light lens, the overall condition of the car was solid, with many new parts and clean fluids. For its age this Corolla was in better mechanical condition than many cars that we service that are only a few years old.

As a little, city run-around car this vehicle will be excellent low cost transportation for several years. You never know what a car’s true condition and value is until it is properly inspected.

Ford Vans vs Chevy Vans: Round 2

So the debate about which van is better just took another turn, in Chevy’s favour.

Had a 2007 Ford E150 van in the shop today for a maintenance service and front brakes.

While doing a routine “shaking of the wheels,” I found excessive play coming from the front right wheel: the culprit, a loose upper ball joint. Ball joints commonly wear out on these Fords, often at very low mileages. This van has about 50,000 kilometers on it: not old by any means.

Sure Chevy ball joints wear out, just not this soon. So there¹s a plus for the Chev Van!

Who’s Working on Your Car?

Do you know the quality of the work that is being done on your vehicle?

We had a client today with a Toyota Camry who had chosen to go to another shop to get some brake work done because our quote seemed too high.

After the work was done she had numerous vibration problems which started right after their work. She returned 3 times but they could not rectify her concern.

While looking at the vehicle I noted that the wheels had been bolted on too tight, so tight in fact that metal fillings were flying out as I removed the wheel nuts. We always use Accutorque sockets when tightening wheels. These sockets are specific to certain makes of vehicles and prevent wheel bolts from being overtorqued.

accutorque sockets

Colour coded accutorque sockets, designed to precisely torque down your wheel nuts

When wheel bolts are over-torqued it causes many problems: warped brake rotors, and damaged wheels, wheel studs and nuts. It can also cause the inconvenience of a wheel that is impossible to remove by the side of the road.
ruined wheel nuts

Ruined wheel nuts from over-torque

The lesson here: be sure that the shop that is servicing your vehicle is doing a good quality job because often, you get what you pay for.

1984 Volvo 244: still running strong

Those old Volvos are great. One of our best clients drives a 1984 Volvo 244. Yes it’s a plain car but certainly one that is well built. There are not many cars around that are still worth having at that age but this is certainly one of them. So what is it about this car?

First off, the major components of the vehicle: the engine, transmission and rear differential are very durable. After 330,000 kilometers this vehicle still has these original components and they work great.

Second, this car is fairly simple: it’s most complex feature is electronic fuel injection.

Third, overall this was a very well built car.

And fourth, any part needed for the car is still readily available.

When you think of some of the cars built in the early 1980’s there was no love lost as they wore out and went to the crusher but others were pushed off to an early death by lack of parts.

Ford Van vs. Chev Van

Who makes a better van, Ford or Chev? (Venturing into religious fervor territory fearlessly…!)

While it’s hard to give an absolute concrete opinion, as far as brakes go the Ford is far superior.

Better Brakes

One of our best clients has a fleet of 15 vans ranging from the late 1990s to brand new. Most are Fords but a few are Chevys. All day long these vans are loaded to capacity and the brakes work hard!

The big difference in the brakes is that the 3/4 Ton Chevy van’s brake pads are small; so small in fact that they are really suited for a mid sized car. The Ford’s pads are a truck sized pad and they last.

Small Brakes

With the miniscule Chevy pads our client is lucky if the brakes last 20,000 kilometers before the pads wear out. In terms of the brakes I’d say that “Built Ford Tough” is probably true, at least compared to a Chevy Van.

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