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A/C System Repairs – 1989 Cadillac Deville

Mark: Hi, it's Mark Bossert, producer of the Pawlik Automotive Podcast. We're here in Vancouver of course with Mr. Bernie Pawlik and they've just announced we're 20 time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver as voted by other customers, and we're talking cars, how you doing this morning Bernie?

Bernie: Doing well and happy to have one the Best of Vancouver again, it's exciting news.

Mark: So here we go. We're talking about a 1989 Cadillac Deville, which is a pretty old vehicle but still the AC system had some issues and that's pretty relevant to all cars, what was going on with this Cadillac?

Bernie: So this Cadillac came to us, the owner really liked their air conditioner working properly, I mean it's one of the nice features of the Cadillac, in fact every car has air conditioning now so, they used to be kind of a unique Caddy feature but very important to the owner of this car and she'd had it repaired several times in the past and it still wasn't working properly, so we took a look at it, did some diagnostic and testing and found some interesting issues that I wanted to share.

Mark: So, with testing and diagnosis, what did you find?

Bernie: Well I mean, first issue we found was the refrigerant was quite low. We did a visual inspection for leaks, which we normally do, didn't find anything. Added some refrigerant, went to test the system and it was interesting because the compressor would switch on for a couple seconds, would generate some pressure and then switch off and it wouldn't run anymore unless we shut the key off, recycled it. We did the whole key start cycle and then it would run for a second or two and then go, so I mean, we figured we had a leak somewhere so we did a thorough leak test, couldn't find anything, so obviously whatever was leaking was pretty minimal.

We looked over the system electronically and weren't sure where there was an electronic problem or what it was, but finally realized that looking at the system pressures when starting up, the air conditioning systems have a high and low side pressure, and what would happen is we start the vehicle up and the compressor would kick in and we could manually kick the compressor in and even with a full charge of refrigerant, the low side went into a suction, like into a negative pressure, into vacuum, which is incorrect and then the high side pressure would not generate much pressure also, so we figured there was probably a blockage in the system somewhere so we kind of dug a little further and found some interesting pieces. A little bit of history, the compressor had failed on this vehicle once and the person I guess had not put oil in it and that caused the compressor to fail, so someone had put another one in, properly oiled the system, charged it and then it stopped working after a little bit and arrived at our shop. So there was some repair history to the vehicle and so, there we are.

Mark: So do you have some pictures?

Bernie: I do. I have some awesome pictures to share.

So what we have, this is an Orifice Tube, now this actually the item that we found was plugged. What we found was when the compressor had failed at least once or twice, or sometime in the process of repair, someone should have looked a little closer at the Orifice Tube and flushed the AC system. The reason I'm showing the new part is you can see this is basically a screen with a little small ... It's basically an Orifice, it's a small opening and as the liquid moves through here, it changes the pressure or changes the state, I'm not going to explain this correctly, but there's a state change from liquid to gas or gas to liquid and that's what causes it to generate cold air. What we found was this, this is, if you can even make sense of it, this is the Orifice Tube we took out of the vehicle.

All this black stuff, this is dirt debris and crap from a failed compressor that's basically just covered the Orifice Tube screen. I'll go back to the other picture because it gives you kind of an idea, that's a good one, that's the bad one. This thing was completely plugged, so when the compressor was generating pressure, of course it was trying to force the liquid through here, it wouldn't go anywhere and it couldn't suck anything because the liquid and gas wouldn't circulate through the system, that's the key with air conditioning, it's a circulation system. So a couple of other things were the Orifice Tube bolts into the evaporating core pipes, this is the fitting here and you can see, not so clearly but there's a lot of dark, gray debris in here, and one of the repairs we did, we'll talk about this in a minute was we flushed the system out and well, this is a bucket with a bunch of very, very black liquid in it, so those were the pictures I wanted to share with you.

Mark: So how does this much contaminant get into the AC system? Isn't a close system? Sealed?

Bernie: It is a closed and sealed system and how the contaminant gets in is basically as the compressor fails, there's components in the compressor or if it overheats, there's oil in the system that gets damaged. So once we figured everything out, it all kind of made sense. A compressor failure, someone didn't flush the system and that's basically what caused everything to block up, so the proper repair is to basically take things a part and flush it out. Now, we obviously replaced the compressor because that was damaged, there's also the accumulator in the system, sometimes it's a receiver dryer but there's slightly different operation components but that's the filter of the system.

That component we replace, we obviously replace the Orifice Tube because it was completely useless but everything else, we flushed all the lines and pipes out. We flushed the evaporator, we flushed the condenser. It's a nasty job, it requires extremely expensive special chemicals, and we basically blow these chemicals through the system and do it until it actually comes out clean. That debris you saw in the bucket, that's sort of the first round of flushing but we do it until everything comes out spotlessly clean and that removes all the debris.

Mark: And how did the AC work once you got everything back together?

Bernie: It was fantastic. It worked really well. Nice cold air, compressor cycled on and off just like it should, all the system pressures were normal and worked really well.

Mark: So since this is such an older vehicle, how have AC systems evolved over the years?

Bernie: Well, they've evolved in a few ways. One of them is a lot of the components are smaller, like the compressors, if you look on a 1970s car were massive. Some of them were almost ten inches long, circular compressor, which was what was on this Cadillac or some of them actually look like a little V engine. Chrysler's had those they're like a two piston V motor, it's kind of a cool looking piece but they've evolved down to quite small, I'm thinking some Subaru's for example, the compressors on those are only like about four or five inches deep and very small and they accomplish the same thing. I mean that's one thing, the components are smaller, the refrigerants have changed. Air conditioning used to use R12, which is an ozone depleting refrigerant, fortunately we stopped using that and gone through R134A, which doesn't deplete ozone but still creates global warming when it's released, it's a global warming chemical.

There's now a new refrigerant R1234A, which has been used on in the last few years on some cars, very expensive refrigerant, it doesn't deplete the ozone or cause global warming, so that's a good thing but I've heard word that maybe that refrigerant's going to be changed to something else, so who knows but that's kind of the most modern iteration. But that's really how air conditioning has changed, either than that, the system operation is pretty much the same whether you're talking from a Tesla to a 1962 Cadillac, it's all pretty much the same it's just with a Tesla and a lot of hybrids will be an electric driven compression not belt driven like you'll find on most other engines.

Mark: So this is a bit of a well aged, well loved vehicle, is it worth fixing?

Bernie: Well, the owner of this vehicle loves it, so she likes fixing. I'd say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, it's like people have attachments to cars and so, if it's worth it to you, then it's worth it to you, you know. But there are cars were we will tell people, "We don't think you should spend your money on this vehicle," and sadly I see a lot of people who don't spend money on cars that are well worth fixing that don't but everyone has their opinion. The owner loves this car, so that's why we fixed.

Mark: So there you go. If you're in Vancouver and needing AC repairs the guys to see are Pawlik Automotive, you can reach them at 604-327-7112 to book your appointment, or check out the website, pawlikautomotive.com. YouTube channel, Pawlik Auto Repair, hundreds of videos on there. As well, thank you for listening to the podcast and always remember we're in Vancouver, we don't provide technical support over the phone or by text, which I just got one. We're in Vancouver and we provide in person service because that's the only credible way to actually provide service for you and thank you Bernie.

Bernie: Thank you Mark and thank you for mentioning that. Thanks for watching, we really appreciate.

Cadillac Engine Mount Wear and Replacement

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

Bernie: Doing very well. 

Mark: We're going to talk about engine mount wear and replacement. This is actually on a "classic" old car, Cadillac. What was going on? You don't normally work on these.  What's relevant or interesting about this vehicle?

Bernie: We don't work on too many old cars, but I thought for this one it's a classic broken engine mount with a lot of damage and I thought it would be great example to show why you should obviously inspect your engine mounts and replace them because the cost and the damage can be pretty catastrophic. Especially, probably even more so on an old car because they didn't have some of the restraint features they put in some newer engine mounts, which we can talk about a little further down the road.  Certainly, as far as engine mounts, this is a great example to show why you don't want your engine mounts to actually break.

Mark: You mentioned that they've changed the technology over the years obviously, but is it still relevant, the engine mounts on this old vehicle, relatively comparison wise to newer cars?

Bernie: Great question 'cause a lot of cars, this is a classic car. It's your American car, standard rear wheel drive, so you have two engine mounts on the front, a transmission mount. A lot of cars that many of you will drive are front wheel drive or all wheel drive, they'll have a transverse mounted engine, which is an engine mounted sideways in the compartment. Some of you will have four mounts. Things are held in place differently, but the purpose of the engine mount is still the same and actually if you're driving a Tesla or a Nissan Leaf for an electric car, you still have motor mounts. You have to mount the engine down somehow. It's very relevant. Just basic on an engine mount, essentially what it is, it's two pieces of metal with some rubber sandwiched in between to isolate the vibration of the engine. Believe it or not you can actually get solid steel engine mounts, they're basically made for racing, good for drag racing 'cause it just holds the engine to the frame of the vehicle with a minimal amount of weight and the strain, you don't need that rubber isolation, but believe me, it would be the most uncomfortable feeling 'cause every little shake or vibration that takes place in the engine, which you aren't even aware of with regular engine mounts, you'd feel. The mount isolates that vibration you're feeling. They're essentially the same. We'll talk a little bit more about newer engine mount technology further down in the podcast. 

Mark: What happened with this engine mount and what damage was caused?

Bernie: Let's get right into the picture show because that's where the real juice is. Let's get things going here.

There is the radiator.  This is the thing that was damaged. What happened is the left engine mount, the one on the driver's side which sort of restrains the vehicle most of all when you're accelerating forward broke suddenly. The engine jumped up, the fan blade hit the radiator support, it bent the fan blade and hit the radiator and just ripped the radiator cord to shreds. You can see this nice round fan pattern. This all happened in one fell swoop. One minute the car was good, next minute it was just wrecked.  That is the radiator, there is the fan. You can see the fan blade's really badly, they're all bent, but this one got, must have hit the worst and took the worse damage. That is the fan. Obviously those need to be replaced. Here is your engine mount. Here's the old engine mount, broken. The reason it's blue is it was obviously the engine had been rebuilt and painted with the engine mounts in place.  This is the replacement unit. You can see this is the rubberized section in here. There's a metal piece, this part bolts to the engine. This part bolts to the frame of the vehicle and you can see it's clearly broken apart right here.  I was going to mention, on some newer engine mount technology these are pretty simple design engine mounts. Some next generation engine mounts, American cars, once you start getting up into the 80s, they put a little bracket, metal bracket that would extend from here around the mount or maybe this way around the mount. So, if the mount would actually break, it would actually restrain it from moving fully and breaking apart like this and probably preventing some of the damage that we saw. That didn't happen until you get into some of the newer, well the 80s is old now, but some of the newer vehicles.  I'm gonna share this video too. This actually shows the engine mount itself. You can see this okay Mark?

Mark: Yep.

Bernie: This actually shows the engine mount, don't be disturbed. The radiator hose is not hooked up. This is done with the radiator out. A lot of things disconnected, put just as an example to show what the mount looks like when it's broken. This is accelerating with the broken engine mount you can see what happens to the engine. That jumpiness should not be there. There should be a very slight movement, but that jump is basically the broken mount. You can just look at it one more time, just if you didn't get a chance to see that. A lot of strain there and that's why the driver's side mount restrains, this is when you're going forward. The passenger side does more when you're going in reverse on an engine like this.

Mark: All right. I've lost my.

Bernie: Lost your train of thought?

Mark: No, I lost my questions. 

Bernie: Gotcha.

Mark: What do we got next?

Bernie: We were talking about finding parts for this car, being an old Cadillac. People often wonder can you find parts for these things? The answer is yeah. It's not really too much of a problem. The radiator we were able to repair by having it recored. Radiator re-coring when I started my career was extremely common. There were a number of radiator shops around. They are not so common anymore because most of the time when we need a radiator we just buy a new one. They're often made cheaply offshore. Sometimes they're not as good as original, but nonetheless they're inexpensive and they do the job and we can replace easily. We had this radiator recored. What they do is they just unsolder the core, solder a new one in. Basically the outer tanks are left the same, they tend to last forever anyways. We had the radiator recored. The fan we replaced with a flex fan which has been a common part in the racing after market performance world for a long time. The owner of this vehicle wasn't too concerned about keeping it stock. He just liked the car. It's a nice convertible old car, but as long as it was functional he was happy with it. That was an easy item to find and the engine mounts we had to order out of the US. If you're in the US, it's easy enough to get online, but they weren't really available in any conventional auto parts stores around here.  Easy and extremely inexpensive. Parts available still. 

Mark: Okay. Can this sort of damage from this kind of failure occur on other vehicles even if they're not rear wheel drive?

Bernie: The answer is yes, but different things will happen.  For instance, if you have a transverse mounted engine, this is an engine that's mounted sideways in the engine compartment. It's still under torque and it's under strain so if the mount were to break, the engine can jump up. Things can get ripped and torn like radiator hoses get stretched and strained. Electrical wires. The engine can even hit the hood and dent it from the bottom side up. There's a lot of things that can happen that will cause damage. We don't normally see things too extreme.  What happens more with engine mounts nowadays is they tend to wear. They're a lot more high tech. There are some that are fluid filled which provides even more isolation from engine vibrations. There's even some that have electronic sensors on them and electronic actuators. I'll be honest, I don't know exactly what they do or why they would even go that far, but there are reasons for everything. Having actually replaced one because a sensor or a actuator's bad inside an engine mount, but fluid filled mounts will leak so there's a lot of things that do go wrong with them besides actual breakage. What you'll notice mostly is your car will have strange vibrations. Sometimes you'll be idling in drive and the car is just an odd vibrating feeling through the vehicle. That's usually caused by a bad engine mount.  

Mark: How else has engine mount technology changed over the years?

Bernie: Mostly, I guess the one thing I would say is they're definitely more reliable than they were in these old, this old Cadillac with the broken mount, that used to be a pretty common problem way back in the, say pre-80s era. Engine mounts they would actually physically break apart like this. Modern mounts the rubber compounds are a lot better. They do still break, but they don't usually come apart to this level. We did have an Acura a few years ago where someone actually left it so long all four engine mounts were broken and surprisingly it didn't cause any more damage than it just needed four new engine mounts.

Mark: I think we did a video about that didn't we?

Bernie: We did do a video about it because it was actually one of those really interesting things. Years ago I owned a 1970 Fargo van, which is basically a Dodge company that long ago ceased to exist, but it was a good Dodge van and I'd actually bought it from some friend's parents and all three engine mounts broke. The engine actually sat sideways in the engine compartment. Surprisingly the fan did not hit the radiator and there wasn't this level of damage. It was easy to fix. That's the kind of thing that used to happen. Again, nowadays, the still can break and it does happen, but you'll notice more of a vibration problem. Usually those are the kinds of things we usually replace engine mounts for nowadays.

Mark: Do other things happen to engine mounts besides just catastrophic failure like this?

Bernie: I think I just covered that, pretty much just, well fluid filled mounts will start to leak. They'll cause a lack of performance in the mount. Mostly vibrations. The other thing that actually comes to my mind is sometimes the mounts will break internally and they won't come apart like this one, but you'll go to accelerate and you'll feel this thumping sound in the car especially after you let your foot off the gas, there'll be a thunk. That's often a fluid filled mount that's worn out. Common in a lot of Volkswagens from a generation or two ago and a number of other vehicles too. Most of the failure's not complete breakage nowadays, it's just partial failure. Enough to cause an irritation and an uncomfortable feeling when you drive.

Mark: So if it's clunking and banging you need to go see Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver. You can reach them at 604-327-7112 to book your appointment. Or check out their website pawlikautomotive.com, or on YouTube, just search for Pawlik Auto Repair, or of course our podcast. Thanks for listening and thank you Bernie.

Bernie: Thank you for watching. Thanks Mark.  

2006 Cadillac SRX – ECU Repair

Cadillac SRX

Our latest featured service is ECU replacement on a 2006 Cadillac SRX.

Cadillac SRX

2006 Cadillac SRX, rear wheel drive with 3.6 Liter engine

This Cadillac came to our shop with an interesting concern: sometimes when the ignition key was turned to start the engine would not crank over. From listening to our client's description of the problem it seemed like the vehicle might have a bad battery or starter motor. From trying to start the vehicle it became clear that something different was at fault. Another interesting issue was that the key would intermittently be impossible to remove from the ignition switch. It was apparent just by the erratic nature of the concerns that this was an electronic issue.

Cadillac SRX

3.6 Liter engine with upper cover removed. Red arrow points to ECU

Our next step was to connect a scan tool to the vehicle, and from here we proceeded to do a scan of all vehicle modules. We found a couple of revealing trouble codes related to data link communication errors. Researching these codes further we found that 95% of the time the fault was with the ECU (Engine Control Unit).

Replacement of the ECU on this vehicle is fairly straightforward however it does require reprogramming. Modern car computers are all shipped without software programming because the ECU can fit a broad lineup of cars and all require different operating parameters. With reprogrammable software manufacturers can update the ECU, or any other module, as required. This happens from time to time as certain concerns become present. An example would be a check engine light that comes on due to the system being overly sensitive to certain sensor data. A reflash can eliminate this issue by reprogramming the computer with updated software.

Cadillac SRX

Part of the ECU replacement is flash programming the new unit. Shown is our laptop and the J2534 interface.

One thing that I found very interesting about this job was how small the ECU was: it was about the size of a large smart phone, with two large electrical connectors. It used to be that most ECUs were an 8 by 8 wide, by 1 inch deep box but no more: micro electronics is very much alive in the automobile.

Cadillac SRX

New ECU. Note the compact size

As for our Cadillac SRX, we installed the new ECU, performed the reprogramming and the vehicle ran great. Best of all it started every time we turned the key to start and the key came out of the ignition each and every time.

For more about the Cadillac SRX click here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cadillac_SRX  You may find the transportation crash rating for this vehicle disturbing.

For more about ECUs click here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Engine_control_unit

2009 Cadillac CTS – A/C Expansion Valve Replacement

A/C Expansion Valve

Our latest featured service is A/C Expansion Replacement on a 2009 Cadillac CTS, brought to us by a client from South Surrey, BC.

 

A/C Expansion Valve

2009 Cadillac CTS

Air conditioning has always been a part of the luxurious Cadillac experience. High end cars have always been equipped with leading edge technology. What is found in luxury cars often becomes standard equipment in lower end models over time. Air Conditioning is no exception as it is difficult to find a modern car without it.

Our client’s 2009 Cadillac CTS came to us with the Air Conditioning blowing only warm air. After diagnosis we found a blockage in the high pressure side of the system; specifically in the expansion valve. This part is mounted next to the evaporator core and, by partially blocking the high pressure flow of refrigerant, facilitates the cold air in the vehicle. Because the valve was blocked, very little refrigerant could pass.

Replacement of the expansion valve on the 2009 Cadillac CTS is a very time consuming job as the part is buried deep in the dash next to the firewall. In order to access it, the entire instrument panel and dash must be removed. Many parts have to be gently and carefully removed including interior trim, the center console, several electronic modules, the glove box, the radio and climate control panel, wiring harnesses, switches along with heating and ventilation ducts. Of course these all need to be put back together with equal care.

Upon completion the A/C blew cold and our client was ready for his trip to Arizona: a place where Air Conditioning is not an option!

For more on the Cadillac CTS please click here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cadillac_cts

For more about how A/C works click here http://auto.howstuffworks.com/automotive-air-conditioning.htm

A/C Expansion Valve

A/C expansion valve shown with red arrow. This part sits next to the firewall buried deeply behind the dash.

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