Blog - Pawlik Automotive Repair, Vancouver BC

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.

The Hazards of Low Profile Tires

damaged tire from running underinflated

While low profile tires look great and offer tremendous handling advantages, care needs to be taken when driving. Hazards, such as potholes can cause serious tire and wheel damage; damage that might otherwise not occur on regular tires & wheels.

The picture below shows a cracked wheel and damaged tire on a 2004 Jaguar X-type wagon. While the crack in this wheel looks catastrophic it was repairable. The tire unfortunately required replacement due to sidewall damage from being run on low air pressure.

If you own a vehicle with low profile tires be careful with road hazards: they may lead to very expensive repairs.

cracked wheel from road hazard

Cracked wheel

damaged tire from running underinflated

damaged tire from running underinflated

Rodents and Cars Don't Mix

a dreaded wire munching grey squirrel

Very frequently we open a hood only to be greeted by poop: small rodent poop. Unfortunately many small rodents: mice, rats and squirrels often find your car’s engine a great place to hang out. Occasionally they meet an untimely demise when the car starts and they are camped out on the drive belt or exhaust manifold. For car owners, having dead rodents removed can be a bit disconcerting but the worst havoc that rodents wreak is chewing on things: for some reason they especially like wires.

This week the rodents struck again on a 2001 Acura TL. The vehicle came to the shop for a check engine lamp on. Connecting the scan tool to the vehicle computer revealed a knock sensor trouble code. After extensive diagnosis we found that the wire to the sensor, buried deep under the intake manifold had been chewed apart. This is an expensive repair because it requires removing the entire intake manifold to access the wiring.

What can you do to keep rodents out? I spent some time on the internet and found no easy, ‘one size fits all’ solution that I can recommend. It is best to inspect under your hood on a regular basis to look for rodent signs: poop, nesting materials, nuts, etc. If you see any, carefully clean it up and keep monitoring. Unfortunately sometimes their evidence goes unnoticed as was the case with our Acura as there was no rodent signs of any sort: just a chewed wire and an expensive repair.

a dreaded wire munching grey squirrel

a dreaded wire munching grey squirrel

The Royal Flush

Royal oil flush

The royal flush is not just a winning card hand but also a winning maintenance service. It comprises of all fluid flushes being done at the same time. A Royal flush consists of the following services: Motorvac fuel injection cleaning; transmission fluid flush; power steering fluid flush; brake fluid flush and engine coolant flush. Differential and transmission fluids are also replaced at the same time if the vehicle is suitably equipped.

At certain mileage intervals, usually 50,000 kilometers for most cars, these services are due. The benefits of each service are longer life to each component with the Motorvac frequently giving huge performance and fuel economy improvements. All of your car’s fluids are subject to wear and contamination over time so replacement is important to long vehicle life.

Royal oil flush

A real live Royal Flush

Are European Cars Expensive to Fix?

Volvo XC90

While most high-end European vehicles are fabulous, repairs can be horrendously expensive due to complex engineering and expensive parts. We recently serviced a 2003 Volvo XC90 which required front strut and rear shock replacement. Shocks were only available from the Volvo dealer and the price was horrific. While these were very robust shocks there was nothing exceptional about them that justified the cost.

Fortunately the vehicle felt great to drive after the repairs and was definitely a worthwhile service. For most other vehicles this service could have been done for 1/3 the cost of this Volvo.

I am frequently asked “which cars are cheapest to fix” and it is a difficult question to answer. A given part from a Mercedes can often be half the price of that on a GM vehicle but another part on a GM car can be 1/4 of the Mercedes price.

Generally speaking, the simpler the vehicle, the lower the overall repair costs will be: that is your biggest consideration if you are looking for a car with lower repair prices.

Volvo XC90

VVT: Variable Valve Timing

Toyota VVT

While this technology has been used on car and truck engines for a decade now, repairs to these components are becoming more common in our shop.

Variable valve timing allows the engines camshaft(s) to change their timing with the crankshaft and this allows the valves to open at the most opportune time for best exhaust emissions, engine power and fuel economy. Of course several additional parts are required to make this all work: this involves camshaft timing sensors, a solenoid(s), redesigned oil plumbing inside the engine and a cam gear which allows changes in timing.

Toyota VVT

Diagram for Toyota's VVTi

What goes wrong with VVT: so far we have found sensors and solenoids cause the most problems. Some vehicles that we’ve had concerns with are: 2004 Nissan Murano, 2006 GMC Envoy, 2001 Jaguar XK and a 1996 BMW 320i.

Among the most noticeable symptoms of VVT concern are a lack of engine power and poor performance.

If you are wondering what to do to prevent problems with these components the only thing that you can do is have your oil serviced regularly. These parts, mostly electronic will wear out on their own time schedule.

Coins in The Radio? Finding a Parasitic Drain

Over the years I¹ve had the privilege of maintaining many “family cars”; typically minivans that haul the parents and kids.

On a couple of occasions a client has come in with the concern that their CD player no longer worked.

We recently had a 2005 Mazda MPV with such a concern and what we found was interesting: coins inside their player – inserted no doubt by curious children. This has occurred a few times before and fortunately it has always brought a good chuckle from the parents.

As we are all about preventative maintenance my tip for today is lock up your coins or at least keep them away from CD players (and young kids)!

A Really Ugly Spark Plug

good vs. bad sparkplug

On Friday we had a seemingly straight forward diagnosis on a 2003 VW Jetta.

The check engine lamp was blinking and this indicates a serious concern, more specifically a catalytic converter damaging engine misfire. The engine ran very rough.

The conclusion of the diagnostic was that the concern was caused by bad spark plugs and ignition wires.

While performing repairs I found something very interesting: a spark plug with the ground electrode and center insulator completely gone. I suspect that these spark plugs were never replaced! Surprisingly they lasted for160,000 km.

good vs. bad sparkplug

Beyond the interesting spark plug wear was the diagnostic trouble codes stored in the computer. There were codes P0300, P0301, P0302 & P0303. Translating these codes in order are: Random cylinder misfire and misfire in cylinders 1, 2 & 3.

While all the spark plugs were worn none were as severe as #4 cylinder (that’s the one in the picture) and yet there was no code for a misfire in that cylinder.

Air Conditioning is for Winter Too!

car air conditioning in winter - defogging windows

Most people only think of Air conditioning as a way to stay cool on a hot summer day.

Did you know that a properly functioning A/C system is important in the winter too?

car air conditioning in winter - defogging windows
Yes it is, and the reason is that air conditioning dries the air inside your vehicle and this helps to defog your windows very quickly.

You may own a vehicle where the A/C is switched on separately, and if so, you can do an experiment. With the A/C off try defogging your windshield: it may take a minute or two.

The next time that you have a fogged windshield switch on the A/C: provided that it is working your windshield will defog in seconds. The time taken of course will vary with the severity of the moisture in the car but for the most part the results are profound.

Get to know how your car’s system works: on many vehicles the a/c is switched on automatically when you set the control to defog.

So there you have a reason to keep a properly functioning air conditioning system throughout the year: It’s for your safety!

Dirty Throttle Plates: a Sure Sign of Poor Maintenance

Dirty Throttle plate

Severely carbon deposited throttle plates can have a huge affect on engine performance.

Quite often, however, the concern is not noted until the vehicle starts stalling, your check engine lamp comes on or a general lack of power is noted. Over the past couple of weeks we’ve had 2 vehicles in for service that had excessively carbon deposited throttle plates.

Dirty Throttle plateCleaned throttle plate

Both of these vehicles were so severely encrusted that it was best to remove the throttle bodies to clean them. Regular maintenance is key to removing the deposits.

One service that we frequently perform is the Motorvac fuel injection cleaning. During this service your throttle plate is cleaned. A Motorvac fuel injection cleaning is recommended every 50,000 kilometers or 3 years. For those who follow this recommendation the severely encrusted throttle plate and all of its related problems will never occur.

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