Blog - Pawlik Automotive Repair, Vancouver BC

Were the "Good Old Days" Really That Good?

Ford truck from

I had to think about comments that I frequently hear from some people about the good old days, especially as it relates to cars. Mostly these comments come from either the over 40 crowd or folks who fancy themselves as handy, and it stems from the complexity of today’s cars and how they long for them to be simpler; that somehow these older cars were better. In some limited respects it’s a true sentiment, but for the most part I would say that it’s not.

What prompted me to write this was a recent drive from Surrey to New Westminster where I followed an old, rather attractive looking 1960’s vintage Ford Pickup truck.

Problem was that I could barely breathe due to the horrific pollutants coming out the tailpipe. My drive was punctuated by odors of raw gasoline and extremely noxious exhaust almost to the point of burning my eyes. In all fairness this truck was not likely running as well as it should and a tune up or other repairs may have alleviated some of the toxins, but overall this is what the good old days included. Before the 1970’s when pollution controls came into being, car exhaust was a horrific blend of stinky pollutants. So much has been done to create clean burning engines that this stenchy Ford truck stuck out like a sore thumb.

For those who reminisce about the good old days, I wonder whether they are prepared to live with these toxic odors just for the sake of simplicity and the ability to tinker?

Ford truck from "the good old days"

A beautiful truck from "the good old days"

Know Your Warning Lamps

Oil and Coolant Lamps

Every vehicle is equipped with an array of warning lamps which serve to alert you to various goings on with your car.

While a short novel could be written about the function of all of your warning lamps this article will focus very specifically on two very useful warning lamps: the low oil level lamp and the low coolant level lamp.

Before you read further you need to know if these apply to your vehicle as some cars have them and some don’t. If yours is in the “not equipped” camp then it is imperative that you regularly inspect your engine oil and engine coolant levels: failure to do so could cost you a lot of money.

If your car is equipped with these warning lamps then you should get some pre-warning of these critical fluids being low. If these lamps come on take the time to: 1) check the level of the fluid in question at your earliest convenience and 2) top up that fluid if required. I say earliest convenience because you don’t have to pull over immediately.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to know if your vehicle is equipped with these lights. So frequently I meet clients who mistakenly think that the oil warning lamp is for low oil level when it is not (it is to alert you to low engine oil pressure). If you wait for the oil warning lamp to come on to alert you to low engine oil you’ve probably damaged your engine already.

Oil and Coolant Lamps

Examples of a low engine oil warning lamp and a low coolant level warning lamp. All cars are different so find out what your's looks like

Do Your Homework Before Buying a Used Car!

2.7 Chrysler engine

Although I usually preach that it is cheaper to own a used car and repair and maintain it over buying new, you must be watchful of the car that you buy used.

Some cars are problematic, cost a lot to fix and have very little resale value. These thoughts came to mind while diagnosing a coolant leak on a 2003 Chrysler Intrepid, and I reflected on some of Chrysler’s duds that have been made over the last couple of decades. Though they do make many good, reliable cars they have certainly created some real lemons.

Buying a lemon can be avoided by knowing which models and which engines a vehicle is equipped with. Take the Chrysler 2.7 litre engine. A beautiful engine to look at and a great performer with it’s dual overhead camshafts.

That beauty quickly becomes ugly when things start to go wrong and due to its design, horrific repair bills come up. The water pump on this engine is located behind the timing chain cover and costs well over $1000 to repair. This engine is intolerant of poor maintenance, so be forewarned that if you own a vehicle with this engine, be certain to change your oil every 5,000 kilometers or sooner: failure to do so can cause very expensive engine damage.

2.7 Chrysler engine

2.7 Chrysler engine. The yellow arrow points to the water pump buried deep inside the engine

Before you buy a used car, call us or talk to a technician that you trust to get their opinion. Over the years I have seen so many vehicles where a simple choice between engine packages can make the difference in how much it will cost to maintain your car by hundreds to thousands of dollars.

Care and feeding of Cats – Catalytic Converters

Walker Ultra Clean Air Converter

Catalytic converter repairs are a service occasionally needed on many makes and models of car and truck. Failures occur for several reasons: one is excessive tailpipe emissions and a failed AirCare test and/or a check engine lamp on; the other is internal rattles and eventual blockage in the exhaust system.

Most catalytic converters are long lived and sometimes just die of old age, but more frequently their life will be cut short from poor engine performance such as misfires or excessively rich fuel mixtures. It is vital for long catalytic converter life to repair a misfiring or overfuelling engine immediately. Misfires are so bad for your catalytic converter that most cars with check engine lamps will blink as a warning.

If you experience a misfiring engine or a blinking check engine lamp, bring your vehicle in for service promptly.

What do they cost to replace? Repairs always start in the mid hundreds and can go up to several thousand dollars.

Older vehicles use one converter whereas most modern V6 and V8 engines use 3 or 4 converters with the front 2 often attached to the exhaust manifold and buried in difficult to access places under the hood. These are very expensive replacements.

We always look for the best option for converter replacement based on price and quality. There are huge quality differences and cheap converters are usually not good: often they won’t even last a year. Original manufacturer parts (dealer) are always the best quality but are often horrifically priced. We have found the best aftermarket solution is Walker Ultra Clean Air converters. Many are available in direct fit (they just bolt in) but they are also available as universal converters which we can custom weld into almost any exhaust system.

Walker Ultra Clean Air Converter

Custom installed Walker Ultra Clean Air Converter: Very high quality and a reasonable price alternative to OEM cat

So take care of your cats: don’t feed them rich fuel mixtures or misfires. If they do need replacement we certainly have some great options for you.

Routine Maintenance

Preventing a disaster. While performing a recent maintenance service on a Ford Ranger equipped with a 4 litre engine we noted a most interesting oil pan gasket about to fail. The picture says it all: with the front of the gasket protruding out of it’s mounting. Another 1/8” of movement and a catastrophic oil leak would take place.

This is where having your car or truck regularly serviced has great advantage.

Why? Because these sorts of concerns can be seen and addressed before they become a major and much more expensive problem.

Most modern engine gaskets are very reliable. This Ford engine uses a silicone rubber gasket: very durable but prone to these sorts of failures. While oil pan gasket replacement is often challenging these silicone gaskets are a treat to change when compared to the cork gaskets that were frequently used in years past.

Ready to blow oil pan gasket

Jaguars Can Make Great Used Cars

Jaguar XK convertible

Jaguars are great cars, legendary for luxury and performance. Past Jags had a reputation for always being in the shop and reliability was poor.

That has changed: reliability is great, and as used cars they can offer fantastic value due to their rather precipitous depreciation. While many repairs are average in cost, be warned that some repairs can be frighteningly expensive due to complex engineering and expensive parts.

We recently serviced a 2001 Jaguar XKR which required a throttle assembly replacement: the part new was over 3000 dollars; used parts were very expensive as was custom rebuilding. While this part is but a mere fraction of the cost of a new Jag it is certainly important to know that one day, if you own one of these cars you may be faced with very costly repairs. You do however get the benefit of driving one of the finest vehicles on the road.

This by the way is not exclusive to Jaguar as many European import cars feature these expensive parts and sophisticated electronics.

Jaguar XK convertible

A beautiful 2006 Jaguar XK Convertible

Plastic Engine Parts

Water pump with broken plastic impeller

While modern cars keep getting more reliable with many of the parts that once failed on a frequent basis no longer doing so, there is a new whole new group of part’s failures thanks to plastic. Plastics have come a long way and because of their light weight, moldability, low cost and durability they are used in many vehicle components. When comparing a 1960’s vehicle to a 2011 model the change under hood is phenomenal: under the old vehicle’s hood almost everything is metal while the new cars hood is 40 to 50% plastic.

While plastic is very durable it creates much of today’s repair and breakdown work. Some of the problems that we see are water pump impellers breaking, thermostat housings leaking, plastic pipes snapping and intake manifolds cracking. Frequently there are metal replacement parts available and that is what we use when available.

Which cars are prone to these concerns: a few that come to mind are VW, Audi, BMW and Jaguar water pumps; various Ford cars and trucks with plastic intake manifolds and plastic thermostat housings and  VW plastic thermostat housings. This is by no means an extensive list, there are many more.

The use of a plastic water pump impeller seems strange because, while the manufacturer is obviously saving weight, the part is so small and the cost of failure so high that it seems a silly trade off. Oh well, we don’t build the cars we just fix what comes along and to be positive (and somewhat cynical), the manufacturers have created work for us!

Water pump with broken plastic impeller

Water pump with broken plastic impeller

Plastic Intake Manifold

Plastic intake manifold: Ford 4.6L

2011 Best of the City

West Ender Best of the City Winner Pawlik Automotive

2011 Westender – Best of the City, Reader’s Choice Awards – Pawlik Automotive! We’re so thankful to all of you, our awesome clients who supported us. We will continue to do you proud and continue to offer the top notch service that you expect in taking great care of your car and/or light truck.

A Little Resistance Can Make a Big Difference

a $1.00 resistor used to solve an overly rich fuel mixture

As a vehicle ages, parts begin to wear, and on many vehicles this can cause a failed emission test. A few months back we repaired a Mazda B2200 which failed AirCare.

I previously wrote about this repair and mentioned that we had found the catalytic converter dead. After replacing the converter we took the vehicle through AirCare and our objective was reached: it passed! While analyzing the test report I noticed however that something looked odd: there was no NOx (oxides of nitrogen) emission and the CO (carbon monoxide) emission was quite high. This indicated that the engine was running too rich. Although the vehicle had passed, it was burning too much fuel, wasting gas and would ultimately burn out the fabulous new catalytic converter that we just installed. Fortunately the vehicle’s owner cared enough about his vehicle and was willing to further diagnose and repair the concern.

Diagnostic tests revealed that the engine would go into full fuel enrichment under very low engine loads which was abnormal. All sensors tested were in spec, the carburetor mixture solenoid was good, the engine had good compression and the fuel system computer appeared to function properly. Obviously we had a problem, but all items tested as they should making it impossible to tell which part might be at fault. The simplest and least expensive repair solution was to install a resistor into the MAP sensor circuit. Doing this would fool the computer into thinking that engine load was lower and keep from enriching the fuel mixture until much higher engine loads.

With the resistor installed the system was retested and the fuel system functioned as it should! While this is an uncommon repair it is something we carry out from time to time. My thanks go to the technical support department at AirCare for coming up with this fix. As an AirCare repair center we have access to this technical expertise which assists us in repairing your emission concerns quickly and for the lowest cost.

a $1.00 resistor used to solve an overly rich fuel mixture

a $1.00 resistor used to solve an overly rich fuel mixture

The repair on this Mazda cost our client a few hundred dollars but could have costs thousands in computer and sensor replacement to achieve the same result.

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