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Fuel Pump Replacement Is Getting More Expensive

The cost of replacing a fuel pump on Domestic vehicles (GM, Ford & Chrysler) has risen dramatically over the years. While this seems like a bad thing there is good news also!

There was a time, in the early years of domestic fuel injected vehicles, that most fuel pumps would be dead within a 100,000 kilometers: not a very long life. Pumps were not extremely expensive but were installed inside the fuel tank making the job labour intensive. In the mid 1990s fuel pumps became part of an assembly which included the fuel tank sending unit, the strainer, wiring, all mounting hardware and evap sensors (if equipped). Replacing the pump still required the labour intensive fuel tank removal but the pump assembly was just slipped in and out of the tank.

As you might guess making it more complex costs more: where once a fuel pump replacement may have been a $500.00 job, it is now often over $1000.00 to replace.

So what is the good news?

Quality is way up: usually these pumps last well into the 200,000 to 300,000 kilometer range so replacement is less often. An added benefit to the pump being included in an assembly is that everything gets replaced including the fuel guage sender so it leaves less chance of something else inside the fuel tank failing and requiring future costly repairs.

What about fuel pumps in Japanese or European cars? They have always made very durable fuel pumps that last a long time. I can’t remember the last fuel pump we replaced on a Japanese or European car, however we do replace them. Often (but not always) these pumps are expensive but labour is simpler as many of the import vehicles provide access holes through the trunk or inside the car to remove the fuel pump from the tank.

The silver lining with the new designed pumps is durability, for when a fuel pump fails it is usually without warning: your car dies and needs to be towed for repairs. The less often this happens the better!

The fuel pump as it was once replaced (the old and less expensive style)

The fuel pump assembly, the pump shown above sits inside this unit

Hidden Accident Damage Causes a Sudden Breakdown

Complete CV Joint Failures Due to Breakage Are Extremely Rare

However that is what we found recently when a 2004 Ford Freestar was towed to our shop. Upon removing the axle shaft, taking off the CV boot and investigating the failure – we found the cage, which holds the 6 balls in position had split in half, allowing the balls to slip out of place.

Never before had we seen this sort of failure!

1/2 of the broken CV joint cage

Complete CV joint: note the intact cage and the large ball bearings in proper position

We speculated that the cage may have been damaged by a previous accident as there was evidence to suggest that the control arm had been replaced with a used part: a classic sign of a collision repair.

Possibly the vehicle had been hit on the right side or been driven hard into a curb. Any of these stresses could have damaged the CV joint though there was no visible evidence or symptom noted when driving. This is one of the liabilities of having a vehicle repaired from a collision.

There are many components that are hidden and cannot be inspected that could be weakened by a collision.

We think this CV joint shows just such an eventuality.

Note the yellow paint numbering on the control arm: this is indicative of a used part, likely replaced in a collision repair

Some further notes to our story: the owner of this vehicle did not have any knowledge of such an accident and was not the original owner. This damage though, based on the evidence: the replaced control arm and the unusual nature of the failure and that the failure could be caused by severe inward impact… seems to overwhelmingly suggest a collision caused this.

What can you do to prevent such an occurrence on your vehicle?

Unfortunately not much, for even a thorough independent inspection after repairs will not likely find any concerns. When an insurance company repairs collision damage they will repair and replace all noticeable damage and anything that affects the vehicle’s driving operation which was clearly caused by the collision.

The hidden things remain so and may unfortunately show up one day just like this broken CV joint did.

New GM Central Port Fuel Injection Unit

Finally a Newly Designed Central Port Fuel Injection Unit is Available

This replacement part is for GM trucks that use this fuel injection system. And there are many trucks: millions of them, built from 1992 to 2002. This system was fraught with problems almost from day one and it’s surprising that it took so long to build a replacement part to address the original design flaws.

Most of the concerns with this system are due to sticking poppet valves and a leaking fuel pressure regulator. This system is unique in that poppet valves are located inside a ‘box’ from which the fuel lines and injectors are connected. The poppet valves are electronically controlled inside this ‘box’.

The redesigned part’s major change is to install electronically controlled fuel injectors at the end of the fuel line. This allows for very precise fuel control which the original unit lacked. It also eliminates the need for the troublesome poppet valves.

A Recent Repair Illustrates How Bad This Can Get

We had a 1996 Chevy pickup with a V6 towed to our shop for a no start concern. After a thorough diagnosis we found that the fuel injection unit was defective and causing the starting problems plus an array of other concerns:


    • Very Rough Running Engine
    • Poor Starting
    • Horrible Fuel Mileage
    • Vehicle Was Running So Rich That the Catalytic Converter Had Been Destroyed

The good news is that after installing this unit our truck ran great. Even better news it that these new and improved parts cost less than the old designed parts!

The new and the old: New, redesigned part is on left, note the wires and larger electronic fuel injectors on the ends. The old unit is on the right.

Proper Diagnosis Saves You Money

Proper diagnosis is essential before repairs. It sounds simple and makes sense but it is amazing that some folks would rather avoid this critical step. The same holds true for many auto repair shops who would rather guess at what is wrong and waste your money on unneeded repairs.

We recently serviced a 2000 Dodge Truck that had a check engine lamp on and a slightly rough running engine. The vehicle had been at another shop where they replaced spark plugs, ignition wires and a fuel injector in #8 cylinder. We found that the check engine lamp was on for a code P0308 which indicates a misfire detected in #8 cylinder. While the previous shop must have found this code, the fact that a number of parts were replaced and the concern remained indicates that diagnosis was not done. In all fairness the spark plugs and ignition wires may have been old and been due for replacement but it looks like the fuel injector was just a guess.

We took the time to do a proper diagnosis and found the concern was caused by poor compression in #8 cylinder. After the cylinder head was removed and tested, a crack between the intake & exhaust valve seats was found to be the culprit. With a new cylinder head installed the truck ran great, as it should have if proper diagnosis was done the first time.

Dodge V8 cylinder head showing crack between valve seats

Oil Leaks Can Be Dangerous

Oil leaks are common as cars age and there are many places for oil to leak from: engine gaskets and seals, transmission gaskets and seals, differential seals and the power steering system. Cost to repair these leaks can vary from under a hundred dollars to into the thousands. While it is often cheaper to add oil than spend money to repair, there are a few reasons why you should fix your oil leaks.

1) Though it is rare, oil leaks can catch fire. We recently found a potentially hazardous leak on a 2001 Audi A8. It is dangerous because the oil is leaking directly onto the left resonator. This part of the exhaust system can become very hot and under the right conditions this leaked oil could ignite.

2) Oil leaks damage our environment. Drips get washed down the storm drains and pollute rivers, lakes and the ocean. While one car dripping a drop of oil here and there is no big deal when you add the thousands of cars on the road together this creates quite a concern.

3) Rubber parts are damaged by oil. Over time if enough oil gets on it, a rubber part will fail and this will cost you extra to repair. Some commonly oil damaged parts that we replace are coolant hoses, engine mounts and suspension bushings.

To prevent such damage, have your car serviced regularly and repair oil leaks as they occur and when they become severe enough. How will you know that you have an oil leak? You may notice drips on the ground under your car; you may need to add oil to your engine; or you may note a burning or unusual smell while driving like our client with the Audi did. It is worth having your car inspected when you note any odd smells for you never know when this could be potentially dangerous.

Rear transmission seal leaking onto exhaust system: a potentially dangerous oil leak!

What We Do – A BNI Presentation

BNI Big Tsunami, Vancouver, BC

Good Morning, I’m Bernie from Pawlik Automotive.

BNI Big Tsunami, Vancouver, BC

Pawlik Automotive is an auto service shop located in the Marpole area of Vancouver, BC. We’ve been in business since 1991 which makes us 20 years old this year. We service most makes of cars and light trucks and we do pretty much all the maintenance and repairs that your car will need. What we don’t do is bodywork, windshields and detailing.

I want to speak today on a few aspects of our business that are unique.

Let’s face it there are a lot of auto repair shops out there but there are several things that make Pawlik Automotive an excellent choice for servicing your vehicle.

Wholistic Approach

We take what I call a wholistic approach to vehicle service. Auto Inspection reportWe look at the whole car, evaluate it and let you know what service is required now and what is required in the future. The basis of that service comes via this very colorful and detailed inspection form. Having us as your partner in vehicle service undoubtedly saves you money in the long run.

An Honest Mechanic

We don’t use a heavy handed or fear based tactics as a way of selling service.

    I can give an example from this week: we had a client who complained that her brakes were making a noise. I drove the car and noted a grinding noise at some times: it was intermittent and coming from her front brakes. Upon inspection we found 4 mm remaining on the brake pads and the rotors were in good condition. 4 mm on this car could last another 20 to 30,000 kilometers and there was no safety issue involved. We let her know that we could replace her pads & rotors now and eliminate her noise or she could safely leave them and live with the noise. She opted to leave them, a $500 sale walked out the door while our integrity remained intact!

Fleet Maintenance

Another area of specialty for us is fleet maintenance: essentially these are vehicles used for business and most often these would be trades companies: plumbers, electricians, locksmiths, rubbish removal companies and garden maintenance companies just to name a few.

What makes our service so valuable to fleets is our thorough inspections along with accurately recording the work needed and booking future appointments along with reminding them of when service is needed.

    I can give an example of how we’ve helped one of our fleet clients: Action Integrated SecurityWe service a company called Action Integrated Security who have about 15 vehicles, mostly heavily loaded vans. When they started bring their vehicles to us they were in pretty bad shape but we got them maintained to our high standards.
    One area of concern remained and that was that some of their vans were eating brakes at an alarming rate and this was in spite of our use of the best quality brake parts available. After a few of their trucks ran into horrifically expensive brake jobs which could have been prevented by inspections, the company’s owner, upon my suggestion now brings all of their vehicles to us for every service.
    They had been going to quick lubes for oil services as this was convenient for them as their technician did not have to be without a vehicle. Unfortunately quick lubes don’t look at the whole vehicle and much was being missed. We now inspect their brakes at every service and note any quick wearing brakes so they can be dealt with before they wear out. This is saving them a lot of money.

Diesel Vehicles

Diesel cars and diesel trucks are another area of specialty for us. Many auto repair shops don’t do diesels but we love them and have invested in the equipment and education to diagnose and repair them properly.

    An example of some of our diesel service is on 6 liter Ford diesels:Ford Diesel Head Gasket Repairs these are very common in pick up trucks from 2003 to 2006 model years. Unfortunately this engine is not reliable stock but with proper repairs it can be made bulletproof and we have done this to a number of these engines.

Proper Diagnosis

Doing proper diagnosis is very important to fixing a modern vehicle and it is a big part of our business and it’s something that we do very well. There are many expensive parts to go wrong so it is essential to take the time to find out what the exact cause is so that our client’s money is not wasted.

    Here’s an example of the value of diagnosis: A couple of days ago we had a Dodge truck with a check engine lamp on and it’s engine running with a slight misfire. His previous shop had not done diagnosis but had installed many parts in hopes of fixing the concern: new spark plugs, ignition wires, distributor cap & rotor and a fuel injector in 1 cylinder.
    They had charged him a fair amount of money and while some of these parts may have been needed they had not solved his concern. We diagnosed his concern and found a bad intake valve in #8 cylinder which required some engine work. Chances are most of the other parts were unnecessary and were a waste of his money: had this vehicle owner done diagnosis first he would have undoubtedly saved hundreds of dollars.

Pawlik Website

Over the past few years I’ve invested heavily into our website and created educational materials. I write blog articles frequently about all sorts of auto repair topics and have created several videos on how we do our work and what makes us unique.

I encourage you to take the time to look around as it explains a lot about how we do things here at Pawlik Automotive.

If you have someone that you’d like to refer to us please ask them to look at our videos as it will give them an idea about how we do things and what makes us unique. Pawlik Auto Repairs YouTube ChannelWhile I have fun making these I do it so that people will learn about what makes their vehicle tick and what goes into the work that we do so they can get a better understanding of the value that we offer.

Please take a couple of minutes to view one of my videos this week. Just go on You Tube – Pawlik Automotive. I’d love to hear your feedback.

So Much is Riding on Your Tires

If you feel a wobble, vibration or hear clunking sounds while driving your vehicle it would behoove you to have your vehicle inspected for the concern as soon as possible. We recently serviced a Mercedes with, what the client described as a vibration in the vehicle at around 60 kilometers an hour. During my road test the vibration was very apparent and to the point that driving in the vehicle was uncomfortable. I suspected a bad tire in the rear and slowed my speed because it felt dangerous. Up on the hoist it was apparent that both rear tires were badly worn especially the right rear. After inspecting the old tires off rim I noted this very dangerous crack between the tread and the tire casing: it was only a matter of time before this tire completely blew apart. The lesson here is you never know when a shake or vibration is going to cause a catastrophe so it is best to have the concern inspected immediately. The same goes for clunks and other odd noises. Sometimes noises and vibrations are really no safety concern at all but it is best to have it professionally looked at to be certain.

Dangerous tire: note the crack running along the edge of the tread

Why Catalytic Converters Fail

Catalytic converters fail for many reasons and the consequence of failure can cause several things to occur including a failed AirCare emission test, a check engine lamp warning, rattles under your car and poor engine performance.

A replacement catalytic converter

Let’s look at what your catalytic converter is, what it does and what causes it to fail.

Catalytic converters use a catalyst to transform harmful carbon monoxide, hydrocarbon and oxides of nitrogen emissions in your engine’s exhaust into carbon dioxide and water. The catalyst consists of a combination of precious metals: platinum, palladium and rhodium. When the hot exhaust passes these elements a chemical transformation occurs.

The precious metal catalyst is bonded onto a very fine ‘honeycomb’ grid which sits inside the converter housing. It is a simple structure with no moving parts and only requires the heat of the exhaust and the right exhaust gas mixture to operate.

Inside the catalytic converter: the "honeycomb" substrate

Catalytic converter failures occur in several ways: First, impact failures which can occur if the unit is hit, often involving running over something. Second, thermal shocks which can occur if the unit is suddenly cooled. A likely cause would be going over a puddle in cold winter weather and the hot converter receiving an intense dousing of cold water. Third cause of failure is poisoning of the catalyst which can come from several sources: use of leaded gasoline (very rare these days); antifreeze entering the unit likely through a blown head gasket or other internal engine coolant leak; use of improper silicone gasket sealers; and use of oil additives which contain zinc. Fourth, is coating of the substrate: this is the honeycomb structure with the catalyst. This can occur from excessive carbon deposits and/or excessive engine oil consumption. Fifth and final cause of failure is overheating of the catalyst and this usually occurs from too rich a fuel mixture and/or engine misfire.

Do Catalytic Converters Simply Wear Out?

While all manufacturers seem to claim that they don’t and that they last the life of the car, it simply isn’t true. Many cars experience early failure due to a substandard size or quality of converter. Aftermarket replacements, always much cheaper than the original manufacturer’s part, are usually inferior in quality.

There are various grades of aftermarket converters. Here, you truly get what you pay for as the cheap ones often fail quickly whereas the good quality aftermarket units usually give years of great service. This is why we always recommend high quality units.

Catalytic Converter Maintenance

As a conscientious car owner looking to maximize catalytic converter life the best thing that you can do is to maintain your car meticulously and always address any check engine lamp concerns, correct rough running and misfiring engines or any performance issues. Failure to do so will result in you buying new catalytic converter(s) sooner than necessary and these are, by the way, normally very expensive to replace!

For more on repairing Catalytic Converters here’s an article at AirCare

The Changes are Profound: What a Difference 3 Decades Makes

Recently I worked on a gem of a 1978 Chevy camper van that a client had acquired with only 60,000 original kilometers.

In many respects this vehicle was near new, at least it certainly ran like a new vehicle. When she mentioned a concern about how the engine revved excessively high when cold it got me to thinking about the way these and other vehicles used to be. Mostly it reminded me of a Chevy van that a close friend purchased brand new in 1981. I spent a lot of time driving in this van and serviced it for several years.

Though an excellent vehicle overall, there was a few irritating things about this van, most particularly the way it would rev excessively high when started. This happened cold when the choke was on and it stayed revving high for a couple of minutes until the choke could be kicked off. What was even more irritating was when the engine was restarted, even when hot: the choke would come on full again and the engine would rev like crazy for a couple of minutes.

Clearly, this was something that shouldn’t have happened. But that’s just the way the vehicle was designed and the choke on the carburetor was not adjustable.

The late 1970s to early 1980s was a rather difficult time for the US auto industry when many less than stellar products were produced.

The US government had legislated stricter emission standards and the manufacturers were still stuck with old technology: engines with inefficient combustion designs and carburetors that delivered fuel in an imprecise manner. Only so much could be done with these outdated technologies. Many systems were added to improve emissions: catalytic converters, EGR valves and air injection systems. While none of these additions were particularly bad, and all vehicles of today use some or all of these additions, they were often installed without much consideration for overall engine operation and created a great deal of underhood clutter.

1980s era Chevy V8 with carburator and emission piping

This brings me to the next complaint about this era of Chevy van: they were horrible to work on. With the engine cover removed there was a sea of pipes for the air injection system which made accessing spark plugs difficult and servicing valve cover gaskets, once a simple job on a Chevy, very time consuming. Many feet of vacuum hose ran overtop of the engine to actuate various emission control items on the carburetor, the EGR valve, hot air intake system and so on.

In all fairness, many vehicles of this era, both American and Japanese, had this added complexity. Thankfully within a decade and a half, by the mid to late 1990’s things had changed for the better.

The carburetor was extinct, replaced by the precision of fuel injection.

Engines were redesigned to be inherently more emission friendly. Many of the added emission devices like EGR valves and air injection were electronically controlled. In fact electronic controls of almost everything has revolutionized the car. Today we have integrated control of the ignition and the fuel injection; all emissions devices are activated electronically, transmissions are controlled electronically and even the throttle, which was always actuated by a cable linked to the gas pedal is controlled electronically.

The bottom line is that we no longer have to put up with engines that rev too high at certain times. We can hop into our car, drive it at any engine temperature and it performs at 100%. Engine compartments are still very tight and complex but all components are meaningfully installed and the complexity has come by way of additional camshafts, multiple valves per cylinder and variable intake runners. All of these have helped improve exhaust emissions while maximizing horsepower and performance.

Enjoy our new technology, we really have come a long way!

A Leaking Water Pump Prevents a Major Disaster

Cracked Timing Belt

While repairing a water pump on a 1990 Toyota pickup equipped with a 3 litre V6 engine we came upon this very badly worn and about to break timing belt. It was perhaps by good fortune that this water pump was leaking as the vehicle was new to our client and he had no idea of the timing belt’s condition.

Severely cracked timing belt

Here are a few facts about timing belts:

➢ The timing belt’s primary purpose is to drive the engine’s camshaft(s) in perfect synchronization with the crankshaft. This precisely times the movement of the engine pistons with the intake and exhaust valves.
➢ Some engines have 2 timing belts and often one of these operates balance shafts. Balance shafts are installed to smooth out the subtle but inherent shaking that occurs in 4 cylinder engines.
➢ On some engines the timing belt also drives the water pump and/or the oil pump.
On many engines if the timing belt breaks the pistons and valves will collide and cause very expensive damage. This type of engine is known as an interference engine.
➢ On all engines, when the timing belt breaks, the engine stops immediately and cannot be restarted until repaired.
Timing belts almost always give no warning before they fail.
➢ On most engines inspecting the timing belt can be quite time consuming as it is located under plastic covers and these are often covered with pipes, hoses and accessories.
➢ A proper timing belt replacement involves not just replacing the timing belt but also the front camshaft and crankshaft oil seals, timing belt tensioner pulley, idler pulley(s), tensioner assembly and water pump (depending on design of engine).
➢ Replacement intervals for most vehicles since the 2000 model year is 168,000 kilometers or higher, however consult your manufacturer’s maintenance schedule to be certain. Cars previous to this usually have shorter intervals and many cars made in the 1980’s or 1990’s require replacement at 96,000 kilometers or sooner.

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