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What Goes Wrong With Clutches

clutch parts

“Are you sure that the clutch in my problem? Last time I had one wear out there was an awful smell in my car.” These comments, from the owner of a 1997 VW GTI with a broken clutch, got me thinking about what goes wrong with clutches and how they can fail in many different ways.

Your clutch is the connection between your engine and your manual transmission. Main components of your clutch are the clutch disc, pressure plate and flywheel with the disc sandwiched between the pressure plate and flywheel.

The most common wear out component of the clutch is the clutch disc which is primarily composed of a friction material similar to your brake pads. Over time the material wears down, the clutch slips and this is often accompanied by a horrible smell in your car. Also, when you rev up the engine, put the transmission into gear and let out the clutch, your car may barely move, if at all.

What Goes Wrong With Clutches

The clutch disc (left) and pressure plate (right)

Clutches can have other problems: pressure plates crack and clutch discs break apart, jamming the clutch. These concerns often happen suddenly resulting in the clutch not releasing the engine from the transmission.

Other areas of concern are oil leaks onto the clutch disc which can cause slippage, and a broken clutch cable or hydraulic cylinder leak. Broken cables are usually the least expensive clutch repair as all parts are located externally, however only a few cars use cables. Hydraulic cylinders likewise are also external in most cases and are frequently less expensive than a clutch job (…but not always).

As for clutch maintenance and care, it mostly boils down to this: good driving habits which lead to long clutch life.

1. When you are not shifting gears, keep your foot off the clutch pedal.
2. Do not hold your vehicle on a hill with the clutch,
3. Make all gearshifts and clutch engagements quickly and smoothly.

The only maintenance service your clutch requires is to flush the clutch fluid every two to three years (if your vehicle is so equipped).

The Advantages of Our Full Auto Service

The oil change is only part of proper vehicle mainentance

“A quick lube shop is fast and convenient, and all I need is an oil change anyways.”

While this statement may seem applicable to you, here are two big considerations before pulling into a quick lube. The quick lube tech is not an auto service technician and has no training as one. Quick lube shops only look at a few select areas of your vehicle. Because of this, much of your vehicle remains uninspected.

With this minimal level of service, can you be sure that your vehicle is safe and well maintained to prevent a sudden, costly breakdown?

Conversely, a quality full service shop has skilled, licensed auto service technicians who are trained in all areas of car repair and maintenance. Having a trained technician and a shop that is focused on maintenance will, over the long run take far better care of your vehicle and prevent costly and stressful breakdowns.

At Pawlik Automotive we look at your whole vehicle, keep thorough records of all work done, and at every 2nd or 3rd service, as required, do a comprehensive inspection to be certain that you know the full condition of your car. This way you get the complete picture and nothing is left to guess work. Sure it will take longer than just a quick drive through but as the saying goes “you get what you pay for” and what you are paying for is the peace of mind of a safe, reliable and properly cared for vehicle.

The oil change is only part of proper vehicle mainentance

The oil change is only part of proper vehicle mainentance

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"

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.

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

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 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

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.
Coins in The Radio? Finding a Parasitic Drain
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)!

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