2008 Subaru Forester - Maintenance B Service
Mark: Hi, it's Mark from Top Local. We're here with Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver. Vancouver's best auto service experience. Twenty one time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver as voted by their customers. We're talking cars. How're you doing today Bernie?
Bernie: Doing very well today.
Mark: So a 2008 Subaru Forester that was in for a maintenance service. What was happening with this all wheel drive vehicle?
Bernie: Well not a lot. It was actually just in for a routine maintenance service. Due for an oil change. It was due for a B service and so that's what we did.
Mark: So how often do you recommend doing a B service on a vehicle?
Bernie: Usually every second service. So the first, the sort of, so I say first service would be an A service and second would be a B and you alternate between the two of them. Usually it's good to do a B service probably once a year but it depends on how much you drive. There's some people that drive a lot. That would probably need it more frequently and the people who don't drive a lot a little less frequently.
Mark: So what's done during a B Service?
Bernie: So a B service is, essentially an oil and filter change and then a full maintenance inspection. So a full vehicle inspection. Wheels off. Inspect the brakes, measure the brakes. Inspect the steering suspension system. Test the battery and charging system. Pressure test the cooling system. Full visual, it's a full visual inspection for oil leaks, fluid leaks. Look at all the fluids, Actually inspect the fluid levels and qualities. We also lube the door locks, hinges and latches which is a good thing to do on a sort of annual basis. So your doors don't start creaking too soon. Just a little preventative maintenance items like that. So that's basically, kind of sums up the B service.
Mark: So I know you do digital inspections and I actually have one. I'm going to share my screen with this and we can just go through that. We can talk about that.
Bernie: Yeah, awesome.
Mark: All right so here's we're at the bottom, so I'll zip up to the top.
Bernie: So this is from, this is not the Subaru, just to be clear. This is from your Toyota Venza that you used to own?
Bernie: So let's just scroll down. So this is, you know as a client, this is the inspection you'll get and by the way, it doesn't say from Pawlik Automotive. It comes from...
Mark: It's an 800 number. It's from the provider whoever, whatever auto serve I guess is the provider powering this service that you provide and then they just sent it from their phone number. So it's a text that you get.
Bernie: Yeah, so we also send it by text or email or both. But it won't say from Pawlik Automotive. So just so you know if it seems unusual. Open it up because it will be from us. So we have a reason for today's visit. Sometimes a client will come in with, there's some clunking noises or certain issues, that we can put on the inspection and address. And then other than that, things that are broken down into good, well green, amber and red essentially. And green are all the items that are good and don't need any servicing at the present time. And so you can see a variety of some of the things that we look at. Lights. Battery. The battery is tested. Belts, visual inspection on the belts. Brakes are measured. You can see on Mark's vehicle here, there's 10 millimetres in the front brake pad which is very thick. We also have photographs of things as well that you can look at. Usually we take pictures of things that are problematic. Sometimes we'll take pictures of things that are ok but usually you know, problematic items. As you can see here's a list of suspension components. Some brake components. Suspension components. We inspect, tire treads are measured. And then here we get into the amber items. These are suggested items. So you know, the engine air filter was, it was dirty, not severe. So it could be left until next time. Cabin air filter recommended only as a check records because cabin air filters are usually involved. Removing the actual filter to inspect and so by the time you do that, you may as well just change it. So again it's important to know the service records of the vehicle. We had recommended a fuel injection cleaning on this vehicle basically again, check records. So there were no red items on this vehicle. Nothing that needed to be done right away. So that's basically kind of how your inspection looks, If there are problems, like say, we find a loose part or an extremely dirty fluid, you know, something we think should be serviced, may not in instant, immediately, but really soon. That gets a red mark. So I know this was a good vehicle for you. There wasn't a whole lot that tended to happen.
But the good news with our owner of the Subaru, it was all greens and oranges too. So this car was in good shape for this time around too. You know, I'd share the inspection but it's kind of hard to do that with keeping client confidentiality. So thanks for sharing that Mark.
Mark: So you have some pictures?
Bernie: I do. So let's have a look at a few pictures here of this service. So there's our 08 Subaru Forester. Excellent condition. It's a well maintained vehicle. Here's a few pictures of things that we do include, I would include in the inspection. So again, these are shots that we put right into the inspection report and send to the client.
So you can see the antifreeze, nice blue clean Subaru antifreeze, good to about -45 or 50. There's a picture of something good on the vehicle. Battery test again as our battery tester, you know verifies that the battery is at 100% charge. Good condition. This tester will actually say if the battery is bad or sometimes there are readings that would indicate to us that we may want to replace the battery. Brakes. We measure brakes.
This thing here, you can't really see it, there are 4 millimetres on the brake pad. You can just sort of see inside the wheel. This is the brake rotor. This is the brake calliper here. So it's kind of a close up shot if you don't really know what you're looking at. All just looks like a bunch of metal. But the brake rotors there. This is the brake pad assembly here and is this is the actual pad material, that friction material that wears out. And the metal backing plate, you definitely don't want to get to thing on this. But 4 millimetres is still good for a while. I figure the way this person drives, these brakes will be good for 6 months to a year on the front of this vehicle.
So again, there's a picture of that and as a final photo, we have the actual engine compartment on the vehicle. So this is a 2.5 litre Subaru intake manifold. This is still metal. They have gone to plastic intake manifolds but this is metal. Air filter box over here. So we inspect the air filter, air conditioning hoses. I'll just point out a few things. The brake fluid reservoir over here. Engine oil fill dipstick. Drive belts are located under here. So we visually inspect those to make sure they're, inspect the condition. The power steering fluids located over here. Battery. Those are a few of the things, just a few little highlights under the hood. This is a Subaru, they call a boxer engine. It's basically a flat engine. So the pistons, instead of being vertical are sideways mounted. The only other vehicle to do that are Porsches and in the 911s style and of course, old Volkswagens. This is kind of like an old Volkswagen Beetle. So its a, Subaru seems to be kind of the most common user of this kind of engine but it actually works really well. Very reliable. One thing that's good about a very low centre of gravity, the engine sits very low. So that's a positive thing for vehicle handling and stability.
Mark: So the inspection sounds very thorough. Would that find any issue that might be going on with my car, anything that would be coming up?
Bernie: No it won't. You're right, it is very thorough. We look at a lot of things but you know, there are, if your vehicle has specific concerns, especially say, the engine's not running properly, we don't address those type of things in this inspection. It's more of a visual maintenance inspection to kind of give you an idea of where, as you can see, things like brakes and tires and suspension issues we look at. So if your vehicle has some clunks when you go over bumps, there's a pretty good chance this inspection will find them. If you have a major coolant leak, we'll generally find that as well. But there are a lot of things that aren't covered in this inspection that require further diagnostics and this is a good starting place. If further tests are needed then we can advise you from there.
Mark: So how many kilometres were on this Subaru?
Bernie: This vehicle is just shy of 90,000 kilometres. So really good shape, you know underneath there wasn't even a drip or weep of oil coming from anywhere. We don't have any record of doing the head gaskets. I'm not sure if the owner has had them done or you know, 90,000 kilometres are still not too high. But we've done many Subaru head gaskets before 90,000 Ks but these are in excellent shape. So yeah, really nice and real clean car.
Mark: And were there any issues? Did you find anything wrong with the vehicle?
Bernie: No. Just a few fluids that we'd recommended. A few fluids based on mileage and age that were discoloured from a maintenance point of view. The transmission fluid is looking discoloured and the power steering differential fluid as well. They look clean but it's good to replace those fluids on a time basis because often you can open the inspection plugs on a differential fluid, you look and that fluid looks clean. It looks perfect. Then you drain it out and there's a few little metal flakes and filings and things that you don't really get to see until you actually drain the fluid. So it's good to be aware of the time and the age of these fluids and often just change them based on time. But other than that, the only thing we found, the vehicle as I mentioned, the brakes are at 4 millimetres on the front. Probably recommend 6 months to a year to replace those based on how much the owner drives the car.
Mark: So Pawlik Automotive services a lot of Subarus. How's the Forester for reliability?
Bernie: Yeah, it's a really good reliable car. You know, I was thinking about this when I put that question down. Subarus are basically, the cars are the same on a lot of models. So it's not like a Forester is a lot different than an Impreza or an Outback. That a lot of them share the same drivetrain, the same engine. So that the reliability is pretty much the same cross models. Of course, the WRX is a different bird or the H6 Outback with the six cylinder is a different vehicle in some ways. But overall, super reliable, really good vehicles. I mean head gaskets are certainly the big issue on these vehicles but other than that they're pretty good.
Mark: So if you're looking for a good maintenance shop to look after your vehicle or you need service on your Subaru, the guys to see are Pawlik Automotive. 604-327-7112 to book your appointment. You have to call and book ahead, they're always busy. 604-327-7112. Check out the website pawlikautomotive.com or the YouTube channel Pawlik Auto Repair. Hundreds and hundreds of articles and videos for your viewing pleasure. And thanks so much for watching and listening. We really appreciate it. Thanks Bernie
Bernie: Thanks Mark. Thanks for watching.
Mark: Hi, it's Mark Bossert from Top Local. We're here with Bernie Pawlik of Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver. Vancouver's best auto service experience, 20 time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver as voted by their customers. Not somebody just giving them a gift, that's people actually voting for them and saying this is the best. These guys know what they're doing and we're talking cars. How are you doing, Bernie?
Bernie: Doing well. After an intro like that, it just puts a big smile on my face.
Mark: So we're talking about a 2013 Subaru WRX. It had an oil leak problem. What was going on with this vehicle?
Bernie: Yeah, so the car came into our shop for a maintenance service and inspection, and one of the things that we found was there's some oil leaking from the front of the engine timing belt area, a variable valve timing solenoid, somewhere around that area, and it needed further exploration and repairs.
Mark: So what was involved in repairing those leaks?
Bernie: So all that was involved was actually removing the timing belt cover and accessing the timing belt, because it's all hidden behind there. We found some cam shaft seals leaking, as well as variable valve timing solenoid gaskets leaking as well.
Mark: So do you have some pictures?
Bernie: I do, I do, and by the way, so we replaced the timing belt at the same time and we can talk a little more about that, but let's just get into the pictures here.
So there we have our beautiful 2013 WRX. Awesome little high performance cars. There's a good view of the front of the engine with the timing belt off. The timing belt sits in this area here. If you can just follow the mouse pointer, it kind of loops around here. There's the crankshaft sprocket and this is a dual overhead cam engine so it has four cam sprockets. Cam shaft seals here, which we replaced. Water pump also, which is very important to do at the same time as the timing belt.
Mark: And this is a flat-six, right?
Bernie: Flat-four. Yeah, this is a turbocharged flat-four, inter-cooled turbo flat-four. Subaru doesn't make any turbo-sixes, although it'd be a pretty awesome option because it would go even faster, but yeah, this is a four.
Mark: And a lot of room in the front. Have you pulled out the radiator?
Bernie: We removed the radiator. Here's a view actually of the engine compartment with everything back in. You can see it's a lot tighter, but we did remove the radiator on this job. It's a standard transmission, so not too difficult, and just to access the bolts on the front of the camshafts, it's a little easier to access everything with the radiator out. Not difficult, doesn't add a lot of extra time to do that.
This is the whole package assembled. This is the intercooler. This keeps the charge air cool that's being blow basically blown into the engine by the turbochargers. As you compress that air, it gets hot. and so if you can keep it cool it has more density. Once upon a time, a long time ago, turbochargers never had intercoolers and this was a big performance upgrade to intercool a turbo. There's nothing that's been made in the last 15, 20 years that doesn't have an intercooler on it. And that's the same with supercharged engines too. So it helps boost the performance just by keeping the air at a certain temperature.
Now for other pictures we get into the meat of the job. So this vehicle has variable valve timing. This is one of the performance features of this engine. So these are the camshaft sprockets. If you look at some of our other podcasts and videos, you'll see that we do a number of timing belts on Subarus, but most of them are there the lower performance 4-cylinder versions and they don't have variable valve timing. So these sprockets are quite a bit more complex, more expensive as well.
There's one really good thing about this engine. Most vehicles with variable valve timing, you have to have special special tools to lock the camshafts in place. And this engine, you don't. These actually have pins that locate the cam sprockets on the engine, which is a fantastic feature because you can just look, put the cam sprocket on, just line the timing belt marks up and away it goes.
Whereas on most other engines you have to remove the valve cover, you have to lock the camshafts in a certain position by specialty tools to do it and then bolt everything up while everything's locked into position. So Subaru has made this job reasonably, I won't say easy to do, but reasonably easy to do. So it's kind of kind of a nice, refreshing treat. Less complicated of a job.
This is the variable valve timing solenoid and this is the gasket and this was one of the items that was leaking. So these solenoids control oil flow to the variable valve timing, the cam gears and getting against electrical signal. The engine has oil pressure, changes the oil flow through the cam, and that that changes the valve timing.
We talked about maintenance on cars, modern cars, this is why it's critical to change your oil at regular intervals. Any sludge, you can see there are very small holes. Any sludge that builds up in these will cause a malfunction of this system, or low oil level for that matter too. So critical to change your oil at the required interval.
Mark: Okay. There's a few issues here. So first, variable valve timing accomplishes what? It seems like a lot of complication.
Bernie: Well, opening the valves of the engine, the intake and exhaust valves, there's a certain optimum time to open them, but it's different at idle than it is when you've got the engine revving at 6,000 RPMs or halfway in between. So if you can vary the time the valves open and actually for that matter, vary the lift of the end of the valve, which this engine doesn't do, but some engines do. You can vary the lift of the valve, the opening. You can control the horsepower of the engine, you can improve the fuel economy and exhaust emissions. There's a number of things you can accomplish, so that's why variable valve timing is pretty much standard on most engines nowadays. Not all, but most.
Mark: Timing belts. Subaru, I thought they used dry chains. What are they using a timing belt for?
Bernie: Yeah, well interesting question. So, up until about, Subaru, the 6-cylinder engines, which they introduced around the 2000 model year, those are all timing chain engines, but the four cylinder up until about 2010, 2011, used a timing belt. Then they changed to a chain drive, but this engine still maintains the timing belt right up to modern, right up to, I'm not sure if a 2020 has gone to a chain, but certainly 2018 still has a timing belt.
So you might wonder, well, is that an inferior technology? And the answer is not really. I mean they've incorporated all the variable valve timing and everything that needs to be done. The disadvantage with a timing belt is that there is a set interval where you must replace it because it will break.
With a timing chain, it's theoretically supposed to last the life of the engine, but timing chains are very complex. There's a lot of pieces to them. Tensioners to keep them tight and things that wear out. We've done podcasts on Range Rovers where a number of them, this is a problem with that engine. 100,000 kilometres, the timing chains are rattling and you're faced with a six, in Canada, a $6,000, $7,000 bill to do the replacement. That's a lot of money for something that, like a timing belt job can be anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000 depending on the car if you do it complete and there's a set interval to do it. So you know, Subaru so far, with the timing chains had been reliable but I owned a six cylinder Subaru, around 250,000 kilometres, I mean every once in a while I'd start the car and the timing chain would rattle. So, you know, that car is long gone because it kind of wore out. They're supposed to last the life of the engine, but a lot of cars they don't and they can be very expensive to replace.
Timing belts, at one time, also used to be kind of an inferior design. I mean I think of a lot of older, oh, take Subaru for example, they used to have an engine that had two timing belts. One went to the right bank, one to the left. Some of those would break at 50,000 kilometres. Fortunately there was no engine damage but highly unreliable. And you know, you'd be lucky to get a hundred thousand kilometres out of them. And there are many other cars, you know, in the eighties and nineties that were like that. You'd go like in the 1970s when timing belts started coming out, I mean they didn't last very long either, but they've made them very robust. They last a long time. You know, 150, 200,000 kilometres is not abnormal for a timing belt.
Mark: So do these WRX motors have the same head gasket issues on the older ones that other Subaru 4-cylinder engines have?
Bernie: No, they don't. These use a much more robust gasket and we don't run into the same issues. It's pretty rare. I mean over the years, the dual overhead cam engine is not just a WRX engine. They did put them in some of the other Forester models. We do the odd head gasket in those, but pretty rare and never done one on a WRX yet. So they're pretty robust. They're much better designed, much better built.
Mark: So there you go. If you've got some leaky oil issues with your WRX Subaru or any Subaru, the guys who specialize in Subaru in Vancouver are Pawlik Automotive and of course every other make and model of car right up to Porsches and Teslas and all sorts of stuff. Guys to see are Pawlik Automotive, you can reach them at (604) 327-7112 to book your appointment. You have to call and book ahead because they're busy. Or check out the website, pawlikautomotive.com. Hundreds, over 350 blog posts, videos on repairing all makes and models and all kinds of types of repairs. All makes and models of cars and trucks. Over 350 videos on YouTube. Check it out. Pawlik Auto Repair. And of course, thanks so much for listening to the podcast. We really appreciate it. Leave your comments or your likes below. Thanks, Bernie.
Bernie: Thanks Mark, and thanks for watching.
Mark: Hi, it's Mark Bossert, producer of the Pawlik Automotive Podcast, and we're here with Mr. Bernie Pawlik of Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, 19-time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver, as voted by their customers. How are you doing this morning, Bernie?
Bernie: Doing very well.
Mark: We're talking about a 2018 Subaru Crosstrek. A service, it had a service. What was going on with this almost brand new Subaru?
Bernie: I say a service. It's actually an A-level service, which we should have put there to be clear. And it's interesting, because this client, we've actually serviced this vehicle since brand new, now you're thinking 2018, we're in 2019. It may have had its first service but actually this is the fifth service we've done on the vehicle. The owner of this vehicle drives an awful lot. It's got about 48,000 kilometres already on in a year period. He drives a lot.
Basically, we do an A-level service, so at our shop an A-level service, basically the heart of it is an oil change, and then a basic maintenance inspection around that. What else is included of course is inspecting lights, inspecting all the fluid levels and qualities, under hood and under car visual inspection, adjusting tire pressures. That's basically that kind of bulk of it.
Mark: Was anything else in need of service on this pretty new vehicle?
Bernie: No, it actually needed absolutely nothing, so that's always nice and that's the advantage of owning a new car is that you don't need to do anything on it for a while. The owner's good, at least conscientious and changes oil on a regular basis and has it serviced, so that's really the important thing to do. And then when things do crop up, because they will as the vehicle gets older, you fix them as they go.
Mark: How often do Crosstreks require service?
Bernie: Well, this vehicle here is somewhere in the 10 to 12,000 kilometre range. It uses synthetic oil. This is a perfect candidate for a longer oil change interval. We do his normally at 12,000, around that range. He drives a lot, the engine's hot so that's a good amount of time to do the service. If you were the kind of person who maybe only put 12,000 Ks on a year, it'd probably be better to have it serviced a little frequently because that engine's gonna be running cold a lot more often, and that's harder on the oil than for a car that just runs hot.
Mark: And so a lot of people think that only the dealer can service a brand new car, and still have their warranty? Is that true?
Bernie: No. We've got a number of clients who buy new vehicles and bring them straight to us for service. They'd rather deal with us than going to the dealer, and there's no effect whatsoever.
The key thing is, is that you have to have your receipts or at least be able to access the receipts. We have them all in our computer but it'd be good to keep your own files. Make sure you do the maintenance as scheduled and have documentation. If the engine blows up in this vehicle, he's covered. He's done all the work, he's had the flues changed at the right time, and the service is all done at the proper time.
The advantage with us, is if we see an oil leak develop on the vehicle, it might be that the dealer looks at it and goes “It's not enough that we can run it under warranty.” But if you go in and say “Hey, there's an oil leak in this vehicle,” it's been found somewhere else, they're not gonna cover things up. There's actually an advantage because we're not biased in any way. We just call it as we see it.
Mark: How do you guys actually do the inspection? How do you log everything?
Bernie: Well, let's look at that. One advantage that we have at our shop, a lot of independent shops don't have, and actually even dealers have a ... We have an awesome electronic inspection system that we do. Let's just have a look at, an example of what you, as a client will receive after we do this inspection.
This is, as I mentioned, an A-level service. For the A-services, I mentioned it's a more basic inspection. We measure the tire pressures, we adjust the tire pressures, do a visual under hood and under vehicle inspection, look at lights, and that sort of thing. Now, this vehicle, this is actually kind of a boring inspection to look at, but as a customer, this is the kind of inspection you want. There's 45 items that we looked at and they're all okay. Which is, I'll have to say, pretty rare. We don't do these inspections all that often. There's usually always something that needs to be done.
But this is basically the sort of ... The basic view that you would get when we send the inspection report to you and we send this out either by email or text message or both. And there's a link and you just open it up and have a look at it. Most of our clients, quite honestly, are blown away by this inspection, just how thorough and how detailed it is. And when there's problems and issues, we take photographs of things.
This one here ... I'll just get to the next picture here. And so this is how it expands. You saw there was a little plus button, you can click on it, and go “I kinda wanna see what's going on with it.” Here you can see the windshield wipers. These are some of the things we look at. And I'm not gonna bore you with all the details but the other most interesting inspection to look at, this one here you can see that we take measurements of the tires. The treads are still practically brand new. Adjusted the pressures on the tires.
There are notes in certain places that can be clicked on and you can see. But if say there was a ... Say the tires were worn out, we normally take a picture of that so you can actually see the tread wear. It's like you being in the bay yourself and actually having us showing you stuff on the vehicle. It's a really good system and we're proud to use it and our customers love it.
Mark: And how are Subaru Crosstreks for reliability?
Bernie: Well, they haven't been out for a long time. We actually have not run into any problems with any of them so far, so I'd say it's a fairly new vehicle on the road. I'm sure some issues will crop up, like they do with all vehicles, but they are different in design. They still have the boxer and four-cylinder engine as they've used forever and ever. They always keep redesigning them and changing the format of the engine around. This one uses a timing chain, which they have for quite a few years now. They seem to be a little more reliable.
I think the only issue with the timing chain, what we've run into, was there was a leak in one of the ... We had a client with a timing covered gasket leak but that's about it. Head gaskets seem to be pretty solid on these things so far, which is a good thing, compared to the last generation where pretty much every one of them was a guaranteed head gasket replacement. So far, they're holding out well.
Mark: So, there you go. If you're looking for service and reliability for your vehicle, if it's a Subaru or any other make or model of vehicle, the guys to see in Vancouver are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at 604-327-7112, to book your appointment. Book ahead, they're busy. And if you're outside of Vancouver, in the other part of the country, call your local dealers. We can't diagnose your problems over the phone. It's not in integrity for us to do that.
As well, you can check us out on YouTube. Hundreds of videos on there of all makes and models of cars. Pawlik Auto Repair. The website, everything's up on there as well, pawlikautomotive.com. Thank you so much for listening to the podcast, we really appreciate it. Thanks, Bernie.
Bernie: Thank you, Mark, and thank you for watching.
Mark: Hi. It's Mark Bossert, producer of the Pawlik Automotive podcast and video series. We're here with Mr. Bernie Pawlik of course, of Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver. Vancouver's best auto service experience and 19 time winners, 19 times voted by their customers as Best Auto Repair in Vancouver. How are you doing this morning Bernie?
Bernie: I'm doing very well.
Mark: So we're talking about a Subaru Impreza today, a 2009. It was an AC compressor issue. What was going on with this Subaru?
Bernie: So this vehicle came in with basically the belt drive in the AC compressor was gone and the compressor pulley was seized up. The compressor pulley bearing had failed and caused the belt to basically burn off.
Mark: And there was no belt there at all?
Bernie: No. No belt there at all.
Bernie: The belt is always turning with the engine running and the compressor pulley of course is always being driven. The compressor does switch on and off with the clutch but the actual pulley's always being driven. So if that seizes up belts will break.
Mark: So this Impreza was driving around with its pants down basically?
Bernie: Yeah. Kind of, yeah. I mean it drives fine without the belt on because the belt only drives the AC compressor which is a good thing in that respect. It doesn't affect the rest of the vehicle but the AC was no longer functioning.
Mark: So what kind of repair needed to be done on this?
Bernie: So basically the compressor needed to be replaced and I'll just get right into some pictures here so we can have a look at things. But yeah, basically the compressor needed to be replaced to solve the issue, and the belt of course.
So this is our old compressor here, the original compressor with both drive belts off. This is the alternator over here. And the red area basically point to the ... You can see a sort of burnt area here. This is basically the compressor clutch assembly and this pulley here which rotates at all times with the engine running, it basically seized. You couldn't turn it.
And unfortunately I didn't get a video capture of it but is you stuck your hand on that pulley you would be able to wobble this thing back and forth. It was very loose so the bearing had basically worn out. It was very loose and of course caused this all to fail. At one time you could buy just the compressor clutches for vehicles and replace them. And if you did enough digging you could probably actually, possibly come up with a bearing replacement but usually at least by this point it's probably damaged the clutch pretty badly running loose.
So you'd want to replace the whole thing at this point. But sometimes if you have a bearing in early stages of failure you can replace it, but those parts are getting very hard to find nowadays. It's kind of replace the whole assembly type of thing which happens a lot in modern car repairs. This is our new compressor mounted. You can see it's much shinier and clean so this is what the ... The hoses are not attached to the system but that's basically the belt installed and new compressor put in place.
Mark: So, is this a large job?
Bernie: As far as air-conditioning no. I mean labor-wise it's not particularly difficult to do but it does involve of course evacuating the air-conditioning refrigerant and then recharging the system afterwards. But as far as actual component replacement it's one of the easier items to do on an air-conditioning system. I mean the evaporator is definitely the worst because that's located behind the dash and you have to tear the whole ... generally you have to tear the whole dash out on 99% of cars. There are a couple where you don't but yeah, 99% of vehicles you have to tear the whole dash apart to get the evaporator. So this is a pretty easy job to do. The parts are generally not that cheap though so it does end up being a pricey repair but it's not too difficult labor-wise.
Mark: And is this a fairly common failure on Subarus?
Bernie: Not particularly. I mean any vehicle, these bearings will fail but it's not an everyday failure item we see. Certainly not as predictable as head gaskets are on these cars.
Mark: And would the car owner have any warning prior to the failure?
Bernie: Yes. Normally you would. You'd normally hear a sound coming from the engine. There'd normally be some sort of grating sound, a grindy sound. As so sometimes it can be a little subtle but normally you should be able to hear something and certainly before the belt failed it probably made some very loud screeching noises. But by that point it's definitely too late.
Mark: So it's winter now in Vancouver which means no need for air-condition. Would it have been possible to have left this repair for warmer weather?
Bernie: So in this particular car, certainly you could have because as I said, the compressor's driven by its own belt. If you have a vehicle with a serpentine belt and that's a belt that drives all the components you really can't do that because you have to have that piece in there. Some cars you can actually get a shorter belt or an auxiliary pulley but it doesn't really make sense to do that for the most part. So the answer is, yes you could have left it but one thing about air-conditioning it actually provides an awesome defrosting function it's really just as useful in winter as it is in the summertime. I mean in the summer you want it to keep you cool but in the wintertime air-conditioning dries the air so it will defrost your windshield extremely quickly. And it's very noticeable if you have a car where you can turn the air-conditioning on and off with the defrost or triad you'll see just how effective having good working air-conditioning is. It will defrost your window very fast.
Mark: Or defog it
Bernie: Defog it, yeah. Exactly. Not frost. We say the word frost. Yeah, defog, get the fog off the inside of the windscreen. So yeah. It makes a huge difference and that's really a safety feature having that. And it actually saves you on fuel because you could sit in front of your house and turn the heat on for 10 minutes and then you've wasted a bunch of gas. But if you turn your air-conditioning on, one minute later its defogged and away you go. So it's a good thing to have working year round. And of course as it cycles year round it keeps everything moving and it actually keeps the components lasting longer than it would at other times of the year.
Mark: So there you go. If you have a Subaru in Vancouver and you need some maintenance or some repairs the guys to see are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at 604-327-7112 to keep your windows fog-free or any other kind of repairs or maintenance. You have to call ahead to book because they're busy, unlike many other shops. Or else checkout our website pawlikautomotive.com, our YouTube channel, Pawlik Automotive Repair, hundreds of videos on there on all makes and models and types of repairs as well. Thank you so much for listening to the podcast and thank you Bernie.
Bernie: Thank you Mark and thank you for watching. We really appreciate it.
Mark: Hi it's Mark Bossert, producer of the Pawlik Automotive videos and podcasts and we're here with Mr. Bernie Pawlik talking cars, how are you this morning Bernie?
Bernie: Doing very well, Mark.
Mark: So, we've had a little break we're eager to get back into it and today we're talking about a 1999 Subaru Legacy that had a speedometer problem, what was going on with this vehicle?
Bernie: So this vehicle, the speedometer would operate intermittently and mostly these days the intermittency was it wasn't working. The speedometer wouldn't read anything, and the odometer at the same time, wasn't functioning. So the owner didn't really know how fast he was going.
Mark: Which can be pretty important, so how does the speedometer work in this car?
Bernie: So this vehicle has an electronic speedometer, this is getting to be a pretty old car now, 1999 but the previous generation of vehicles used to always use a speedometer cable, there was a cable that ran from, there was a gear in the transmission, or actually on Volkswagens they actually went from the front wheel, up to the speedometer there was a cable and it was a mechanically driven device. On this vehicle, and for pretty well anything from this generation even into the 90’s, they are all electronic speedometers, there's an electronic sensor, usually on the transaxle or transmission or in the differential, it'll send a signal to a computer and that'll be interpreted and the speedometer will operate. So that's how this one works, so it's an electronic speedometer.
Mark: And how did you diagnose this concern?
Bernie: Well, so a couple things. So the speedometer that the components are involved are of course the speedometer itself, there's usually a power train computer, could be a body control computer, sometimes there's even an instrument cluster computer, and then the speed sensor itself. Now, of course there's tests and procedures we do, which we did, one thing we kind of ruled out right away is the speed sensor being bad because the transmission itself was shifting fine, and if the speed sensor was bad the transmission would have made funny shifts, because it relies on that critical piece of information. Also, the fact that there was no check engine light or any sort of transmission warning light indicated as well that that speed sensor signal was probably good. So, there's a tree of diagnosis that we followed, we eventually removed the speedometer, tested the signal right to the speedometer and verified that signal was in fact good and the problem itself was inside the speedometer.
Mark: So knowing the speedometer is the problem, how did you fix it?
Bernie: So, for a lot of cars, newer vehicles, the speedometer, the electronics are very complicated there very integrated. But this being an older vehicle, we're actually able to take the speedometer apart and examine the circuit board and what we actually found was a soldered joint on the circuit board on one of the main wires, was basically a dried up soldered joint, they just, over time they get hot and they dry up and the connection's bad. So we're actually able to take the circuit board apart, resolder the dried up joint and it worked perfectly. And I'll just get in some pictures, right here so you can see what was going on.
Here we have our Subaru 1999, still in pretty decent shape for an almost 20 year old vehicle. And the speedometer itself, pretty basic dash, obviously we're not going anywhere at this point, no speed. This is the back, so this is the instrument cluster removed so if you've never seen one this is what the back side of an instrument cluster looks like. You can see there's a wiring connector, one goes here, there's another one here, another one there, and on this one, actually there's from the speedometer right there as well, so it actually had four connectors. So, throughout all these pieces, these items here are bulbs, usually the larger ones are illumination bulbs, dash lights that turn on in the dark, and these are for the various turn signals, switches, and warning lights and things like that. A lot of newer dashes these will be integrated LEDs and you won't see all these circuit issues, but the good news about this vehicle is that it actually has these, so we're actually able to do repairs. But the speedometer is actually located behind here, you can see a little SP minus, ignition, these are like, making a long story short, the speedometer's located behind this, so we actually read to remove this circuit board and take the dash further apart, and what we found in the end, this is the actual, there's a separate circuit board for the speedometer, and this is the bad soldered joint, here. Now, unfortunately the picture doesn't entirely do it justice but can see it's a little greyer than some of these other shiny, nice shiny joints, this one looks kind of grey but it was fine. This was the bad joint and often we need to look at them with a magnifying glass so we can see that the joint's bad. So, we were able to resolder that particular joint and the speedometer worked fantastic afterwards.
Mark: So, given that there's things are getting smaller and smaller and much more integrated and stuff, how often are you able to do this sort of repair on some of the newer vehicles?
Bernie: Less and less frequently, it used to be in the 80's where there was a lot of Japanese vehicles where the engine computer would malfunction, we were able to find a bad soldered joint, but yeah, it's getting to be less and less common, you look at your smartphone and you go the whole power of a desktop computer inside this tiny little device and that's the way electronics have been going and that's the way they are in cars, too. Sometimes, to me it's on a, sometimes you do it, sometimes whenever you can we do it and we'll just look at it and see if we're able to repair that because it certainly saves the customer an awful lot of money. And it's less wasteful, you don't have to chuck a whole part away and get another one.
Mark: So this car is getting on, almost 20 years old, is it still worth spending money on?
Bernie: Well, it's kind of getting to the point where probably not a lot, and we've serviced this car since it was almost new, it's been pretty reliable and the owners have kept it up in good shape, there's a few major items that it needs and among them are head gaskets, I mean there not leaking enormously, but there's a slight coolant seep coming out. I kind of advised the owner, I don't think you should spend the money on it, cause its just, the amount of money it would cost to fix that, there was a few other items, you could buy yourself another nice, used Subaru that's quite a few years newer. And put your money into something better, so, good car, but it's near the end of its life.
Mark: So there you go, if you're looking for quality repairs for your Subaru in Vancouver, the guys to see are Pawlik Automotive, you can reach them at 604-327-7112 to book your appointment. You have to book ahead, their busy, check out our website, pawlikautomotive.com, or our YouTube channel, under Pawlik Auto Repair, hundreds of videos on there, or thank you for listening to the podcast. Thanks Bernie.
Bernie: Thanks, Mark, and thanks for watching and listening.
Mark: Hi, it's Mark Bossert, producer of the Pawlik Automotive Podcast here with Mr. Bernie Pawlik. Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver. How are you doing this morning Bernie?
Bernie: Doing well.
Mark: We're talking cars. Of course Pawlik Automotive, Bernie and Bernie have been repairing cars in Vancouver for 38 years and are 19 time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver. Today we're talking about a 2007 Subaru Impreza that had a wheel bearing problem. What was going on with this Subaru?
Bernie: Well we'll just cut right to the problem, so have a listen to this. This is what was going on with this vehicle.
Mark: Okay, that sounds pretty catastrophic. What did you find was wrong?
Bernie: That was a recording of the noise from the rear wheel bearing in the vehicle while we were running it up on the hoist. That's a right rear wheel bearing. That gives you an indication of what a noisy wheel bearing sounds like. Now while you're driving your car on the road, it's a bit of a different sound, but it's similar. It's a great, grindy, groaning sound and it usually gets louder the faster you go.
Mark: Do you always test the vehicle on the hoist to verify what the noise is? Or where it's coming from?
Bernie: Yeah, we always do that because when you're driving a vehicle there's obviously four wheels, four wheel bearings, it's often difficult to decide which wheel bearing's making the noise. Sometimes it can sound like it's the left front wheel bearing when it's actually the front right wheel bearing. It's kind of odd that way. Once we put it up on a hoist we listen to it. Sometimes we can just walk by it, like in the case of that one, you don't need any listening equipment. Other times we use a stethoscope and we'll listen to all the bearings and see which ones are good and which ones are bad. In the case of this vehicle we actually found there was two bad ones. The right rear, which was the worst, and the right front was also making about 50% of that amount of noise. The other bearings, when you listen to them with a stethoscope, you don't even hear anything. There's just a little very quiet humming sound.
Mark: With it sounding that bad what did the rear wheel bearing look like once you took it apart?
Bernie: Well this one was really badly worn and we could go into looking at some pictures. This is the wheel bearing apart. You can see this okay?
Bernie: Awesome. This is the wheel bearing apart, so these are actually the ball bearings. There's a race which is where the bearings run sort of out of view here behind this dirty grease. Then there's a wheel hub that sits in the middle here, which I'll show you in a minute, but this ... I mean these bearings, you know the grease is supposed to be kind of a nice cleanish colour, sort of like this. These bearings are extremely badly worn. The balls, they're a polished ball, highly polished, and they start to chip after a while, so there'd be little chunks and pieces missing of the metal. Slowly that metal as it rolls around in this race, where the arrow points to, this is supposed to be a precision, beautiful, absolutely smooth piece of metal, but as you can see it's just all roughed up with metals transferred from the bearings to the race, to the race to the bearings. It just totally destroyed ... '07 Subaru here. Back to me.
Mark: How much longer would this have continued to squeal and before it finally completely failed?
Bernie: Well I'd say it was very close to a complete failure, however, I mean, I guess to define a complete failure to me would be like the wheel actually seizes up or something breaks, like the hub breaks off or the wheel actually goes flying off the car. I can't think if I've actually ever seen that happen on this type of wheel bearing, because by the time that would happen, there'd be so much play in the bearing, like the wheel would be flopping around and the brakes would start to feel funny. You know people just tend to fix them by the time they get that bad. I'd say this bearing is close to something getting worse, but it's hard to say. You know sometimes they can make noise for quite a long time, but this one here was getting very close.
Mark: What's the way to prevent that kind of wear?
Bernie: Well there really isn't. A wheel bearing on most cars ... now in the olden days, I don't know, 30, 40 years ago, and there's still the odd car that has a repackable wheel bearing, those are the kind of bearing where you actually take them apart. You clean them. You repack them with fresh grease. Any vehicle that doesn't have that, which is almost every vehicle nowadays, has a sealed wheel bearing, so there's nothing really you can do about it. The reason the bearing fails is that the seals will eventually deteriorate. Water will seep into the bearing. It'll damage the metal and damage the bearing. That's basically what happens with these bearings. The other thing too is if you hit a curb hard or something, that can also damage the bearing, but generally speaking, there's nothing you can do. They just wear out in their own time.
Mark: Am I right in assuming that everything was all good after you did the repairs?
Bernie: Yeah, really awesome. This vehicle also had a couple of really badly worn front tires as well, so we replaced all the tires. The two wheel bearings. Drove great. Really nice, quiet. If you can imagine from that video how loud that was on the hoist, how loud it would be to drive the car, almost unbearable. Even turning the radio up didn't really help too much, so afterwards really nice. Quiet, smooth, handled well, and safe.
Mark: Unlike a check engine light where you can just put a sticker over it, in this case you would have had to have your headphones on full blast to still drive the car and ignore the problem.
Bernie: Yeah. Yeah. Not a good idea.
Mark: Not a good idea. There you go. If you're looking for service for your vehicle in Vancouver the guys to see are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at 604-327-7112 to book your appointment. You have to book ahead. They're busy or check out their website, PawlikAutomotive.com. Check out our YouTube channel, Pawlik Auto Repair. There's hundreds of videos on there, or of course, if you're listening on iTunes to our podcast. Thanks, Bernie.
Bernie: Thanks, Mark.
Mark: Hi it's Mark Bossert here, producer of the Pawlik Automotive Podcast. We're here with Mr. Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, and we're talking cars. How you doing this morning, Bernie?
Bernie: Doing very well.
Mark: So 38 years of servicing vehicles in the Vancouver area, and 19 time winners so far of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver as voted by the customers. What are we talking about today, a 2017 Subaru Outback? What was going on with this vehicle?
Bernie: So we had this vehicle in the shop for a pre-purchase inspection, practically brand new vehicle, under 20,000 kilometres and we had a good look over the vehicle, found nothing wrong, which you expect on a car that new, but found a lot of new interesting features on this car. We've been servicing Subaru's for quite a long time, and there's a lot of neat features on this car that I wanted to just share.
Mark: Alright, so what did you find? What are some of these new features?
Bernie: Let's get straight into some pictures.
There's our 2017 Subaru Outback, nice stylish looking car. This is a base model so nothing real fancy here. We'll get into some of the ... Let's have a look at some of the under hood features, so there's the engine, 2.5 litre in this car. It is available with a 3.6 cylinder model as well. This is the 2.5 ... It actually goes really nicely with this engine. Well interesting compared to some of the older models of Subaru, this uses a plastic intake, which is typical of a lot of modern cars. It's actually pretty simple and clean under the hood, there's not a lot of extra pipes and hoses and things like that. Everything's been cleaned up quite nicely, oil filter accessible from the top. The other interesting feature on this vehicle, of course, is it's ... Well what Subaru has done for quite a while, they've gone with a timing chain and not a belt, since around 2011 I guess, so this engine is a lot more like the 6 cylinder used to be. So far no head gasket problems with them, but who ... Time will tell how they go in the long run. What do we got here? Same engine view. I know I've got another one here in my pile of pictures somewhere. Yeah, there we go. You can see that in this view here, the oil filter, you can see the timing chain covered down the front. It's got variable valve timing as well, it ... They squeeze about as much power to this engine as they could, short of putting a turbo or super charger on it. Electric power steering as well, so one less accessory driven by a drive belt, so that's the under hood features of the car.
Mark: What type of transmission does this car use?
Bernie: It's got a CVT transmission, which I took a picture of that as well, which is for what it's worth, so there's a CVT transmission. One interesting feature of this transmission is quite short compared to what you would see on the regular automatic. These are available ... I believe they're available with the standard as well, I'm not 100% certain, but CVT is a pretty common feature, but the transmission extends from this arrow to this arrow, so it's actually very short. There's not a lot of gears and pieces in it, but not really-
Mark: So that ... What were looking at there left to right is front to back basically of the transmission.
Bernie: Exactly. This is the front, this is the back. You can actually see the front axle shaft, front left axle shaft here, so there's a differential assembly in the front, and then the extension housing in the back, which actually the transfer case features are function because it's all wheel driver incorporated throughout in a couple of different spots of the transmission, some in the back, and some in the front, which are out of view.
Mark: And the CVT, how ... What's your opinion on the CVT transmission?
Bernie: Well I'm not big fans of them, this car drove fine, and it's not a ... It seemed to work fine, but doing a little research, they have had some ... Subaru has had some problems with them and they've extended their warranty, which is a good thing. I know Nissan has used CVTs for quite a long time, and they had a lot of problems with them for, and again extended their warranty quite substantially. So the manufacturers, they want to use this technology because there's a lot of good things about it, but they ... A lot of them seem to have trouble getting it working properly. But as I say in the case of this car, it feels fine to drive. Hopefully once any warranty repaired items will keep the transmission going for a long time further.
Mark: So let's just maybe drill into this for just a second, CVT means constant variable transmission, so in theory than instead of a 7 speed or 9 speed or 3 speed transmission, you have an infinite amount of shifting basically, the trany will just provide the power the car needs based on the load?
Bernie: Exactly. It can be in any gear and the thing that's great about this and that's why a lot of engines have gone for electronic throttles or some engines that even have the valve trains are completely ... Not completely, but largely electronically controls of the valves can be open at different times then things aren't bound by gear ratios or timing chains, where things have to be precisely timed, they could be varied. So you can get the maximum power, the best fuel economy, the best exhaust emissions all wrapped up and all controlled by a computer, so there's good reasons to have it, did that answer your question?
Bernie: Good, perfect.
Mark: And how else ... What else did you notice about this car? What else ... Was there any of the-
Bernie: Couple other interesting features, if we go ... Well actually back under the hood, I really like this feature. Hood shocks, or hood struts, where Subaru used to have the typical prop rod where you'd lift the hood up and put the ... Hang the rod up. These have the shocks that hold the hood up, so that's a nice ... It's a simple thing, but it's a nice feature that's been missing from Subaru in the past, and especially being a technician working on a car, it's always appreciated to have these things. However, it's nice when they work, sometimes when they fail, people don't wanna spend the money to fix 'em and that can be a little disconcerting, but we can always put the rod in place then. Electric parking brake, this is a ... Maybe this is a good feature, maybe not. It's nice if you just pull a little lever and the brake locks on, and if you forget to take the brake off, no big deal 'cause as soon as you accelerate, the parking brake comes off automatically, so many cars use electric parking brakes these days, the hand lever or foot pedal seems to have pretty near disappeared, so Subaru's gone that route too. Again, it's good, however it leaves one less brake that you could have manually operated if you needed it, and also a lot more expensive to repair as time goes by, but a nice feature. It gives the car a nice modern feel. The other feature I found I really liked on this car is the front control arm bushings. The front ... The control arm is an arm that extends from the frame of the vehicle out to the wheel. The wheel of the car would be over ... Just out of the picture here, you can see the drive axle here, and this is ... The frame of the vehicle is here. Now the rear control arm bushing where I've got the red arrow pointing, in the older generation of Subaru's like back up to the second generation, these ... They had a bushing of a similar design, it was very durable. I owned a car myself for over 10 years. The car almost 300,000 kilometres when I finally packed it in, and the bushings were still in good shape. In the next generation, they went to a bushing that looked more like this tire. It was a vertical bushing with a bolt that went this direction, through the centre and they were really crappy. They did not last, not durable, and surprising that they even put it in a car that a lot of people will actually take on rougher roads, so they've gone back to this design here, very robust, so I was really pleased to see that. That's a really big improvement for Subaru, there's a ... Actually there's the same view. I had another closer up, there's another closer view of the bushing, so the rubber bushings in here, but the bracket is really solid and robust. This design is just much better. One final feature on the inside of the car, there's your electric parking brake lever. It's got a couple of electronic modes, one, the x-mode will lock the all wheel drive system so you have better traction in slippery roads, which is a great thing to have. Also, a hill mode too, so you can climb or go down steep hills and it'll lower the gear ratio. So it gives a ... Sort of features of a ... Maybe a multi-speed transfer case, but all done electronically. I think that's all we have in the way of pictures, so I'll bring myself back to the camera.
Mark: So you drove it, you inspected it, how ... What was ... What kind of score would you give this vehicle?
Bernie: I'd say really good. My only nit picky complaint is I hate the smell of the interior, it's got that horrible plastic smell and I find that I find it hard to breathe in that environment, but it's a nice car, and this is a base model and it had ... Really had the feel of a ... If you go back past a couple of generations, it had the quality and feel of a much nicer model. So really well built car. Again the CVT is hard to know how reliable it'll be. This is a 2017, so it still got lots of warranty left on it, and other than that, fantastic car, really nice to drive, good fuel economy too with the engine.
Mark: So there you go, if you're looking for service for your Subaru's or you need a pre purchase inspection for any brand, make model of car in Vancouver, the guys to see are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at (604)327-7112 to book your appointment. Check out their website, PawlikAutomotive.com, our Youtube channel, Pawlik Auto Repair, there's hundreds of videos on there, or hopefully you're listening on our new podcast. Thanks Bernie.
Bernie: Thanks Mark.
Mark: Hi, it’s Mark from Top Local. We’re here with Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver. Thirty eight years servicing, repairing and maintaining cars in the Vancouver area and now 19 time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver. Tell me Bernie, are you having to bribe people to become this best in Vancouver person?
Bernie: No, just seems to keep coming. So, it’s awesome, very fortunate.
Mark: As voted by your customers, that’s right. Alright, so we’re, enough foolery, let’s talk about cars. A 2008 Subaru Forester, what was going on with this vehicle?
Bernie: So the owner of this vehicle had experienced his temperature, his cooling temperature warning light coming on on some long highway drives. It would only, never occur around the city but on a long highway drive, a one or two hours out of Vancouver, maybe going up a bit of a hill, the red coolant warning light would click on, it’ll come on for a minute or two and go off. Just a little background on these Subarus. They always used to have a temperature gauge and some of them have gone away from that, this 08 Forester model for instance as an example. They have two lights. A blue light that comes on when the engine coolant temperature is cold, just a warning that the engine is int he warm up phase and them a red warning light that will come on only if the engine exceeds a certain temperature which is probably around 230 degrees Fahrenheit, somewhere around that range. It’s pretty hot before it’ll come on but it’s to warn you that your engine is running too hot and take action immediately. So this light was coming on and a little bit of a background story on this. A few weeks previously we repaired the head gaskets on this vehicle. He had a similar concern. We found a coolant actually leaking out of the head gaskets, so we did the head gasket repair, it was due for timing belt at the time, we did the full and complete job and he was back for re inspection on the vehicle which we do after a large major service like this to make sure there’s no fluid leaks and everything we’ve done is proper. And his only concern was that this light was coming on. So which concerned us a lot as well because it shouldn’t, certainly shouldn’t have been after all that repair.
Mark: And what did you find during your diagnosis and testing?
Bernie: So what we found at this point, we hooked up our scan tool and drove the vehicle to see what the actual coolant temperature was doing since there was no gauge on the dash to tell us and what we found as the engine was in fact running pretty hot. Sometimes up to about 220 degrees after a while which is definitely much too hot. Pressure tested the cooling system, there was no leaks, the coolant level was full, radiator fans are coming on as they were supposed to. So clearly there was another issue and what we found in testing is that the heater core was plugged. There was very little heat in the vehicle which we hadn’t noted and the owner had for some reason hadn’t mentioned to us either. But when I quizzed him and he just recently purchased his vehicle, he said yeah there has been no heat in the vehicle and I don’t know why I never thought to mention it to us and when were warming it up, we never, I guess it was a warm day, we never actually turned the heat on to see whether it was warm or not. So anyways, that was kind of a clue, there was something going on there that the heater core was plugged.
Mark: So the heater core is separate from the radiator, is that right, that’s actually inside the vehicle?
Bernie: That’s correct. The heater core is located under the dash and it’s a separate, its like a little mini radiator that you know, will take the heat from the engine and put it in the vehicle for our creature comforts which is pretty cool. Now most of the time it doesn’t matter if the heater core is plugged, the cooling system will bypass, but as we found out on a Subaru, actually a certain percentage of the coolant flows to the heater core and it actually relies on that coolant flow to keep the engine operating to actually dissipate the heat. So having a functional heater core or if you didn’t have one to actually make sure there’s a flow, you could actually bypass it, not that never want to, but that would actually allow the cooling system to flow properly. so having a blocked heater core actually does impede the coolant flow on this particular engine.
Mark: So what do you think happened that the heater core got plugged?
Bernie: Well actually, what we found was interesting. When we took the heater core out, you could, even actually before we took it out, so we hooked some hoses up to see if we could actually flow through it, it basically wouldn’t flow any, of sort of water but a lot of sludgy strange guck that looked like radiator sealer came out of it. So what we surmised is that previous to, this person just bought the vehicle recently, someone had probably had a leaking head gasket, they didn’t want to spend the money on it, they stuck some radiator sealer or engine block sealer or something in the system and that plugged up the heater core. I’ll just share a couple of pictures here. There’s our 2008 Subaru Forester and that is, actually for some reason I forgot to take a picture of the heater core itself, but just imagine a little mini radiator with an inlet and outlet. Well this is, we got a bucket and we saved what we poured out of the cooling system and this should a nice sort of yellowy green clear liquid but all this particulate matter and this grey colour is all from the radiator sealer that plugged the heater core. So as I, for some reason forgot to take a picture but you can see even in the inlet of the heater core, there was a lot of sludgy stuff inside there. So that’s definitely something you don’t want to see. This is an example of, this is a photograph with the dash removed of the car and the heater box out. So if you can see, there’s a bit of the steering wheel there, this shows the scope of the job, there’s the gear shifter, piece of the, part of the heater system that didn’t need to be removed and that’s basically, with the dash out.
Mark: So obviously replacing the heater core is a pretty major job?
Bernie: It’s huge, yeah. There’s very few cars where’s it’s easy. The only cars I can think of are in the ’80s, Ford had a couple of nice heater core jobs on Mustangs and Mercury Zephyrs where you could actually open the glove box, undo four bolts on a panel and slide the heater core out. You could do it in about an hour but that’s about the only car that I remember that’s been easy. Ever since then, it’s a lot of work, especially with air conditioning and all the integrated you know, we like all those nice vents and climate control and all these kinds of things and there’s you know, everything’s built very hi tech. So heater cores are not an easy job on any car.
Mark: So is there anything else that you did to the heating or and cooling system?
Bernie: Actually we were concerned that there might be some blockage in the radiator. So we flow tested that and it was fine. So fortunately, well unfortunately, the heater fore had to be replaced but fortunately the restriction was all inside the heater core. So we did re-flush the radiator, we tested it to make sure it wasn’t blocked, there was nothing in there so everything was good but we did verify that it was all good. And after a repair, we road tested it with our scan tool and the temperature was all, it never went over about 201 degrees Fahrenheit which is perfectly normal.
Mark: So I’m thinking that the lesson here is there’s no magic goop that you should be pouring in your engine?
Bernie: Yeah that’s one lesson. Yeah definitely avoid using radiator sealer. There are a couple that are good but you really got to know what you’re doing with these things. Most of them plug up radiators, heater cores, things you don’t want to block up. So yes, as you said, there’s no magic solutions. Usually they end up creating more problems than it’s worth. I had a radiator shop I used to deal with years ago and his comment to me was, I love, I’m not going to say the name of the brand, but it was a type of rad sealer, and he goes, I love the stuff because every time people put it in, it plugs the radiator. So just creates work for him. So that’s why you don’t want to use this stuff and except under extremely rare conditions and the right kind of sealer.
Mark: And just to dig in a little bit more, in fact probably the heater core being a smaller diameter radiator essentially, saved the major, the main radiator because it plugged up that instead of the main radiator?
Bernie: It might be. It’s sort of hard to say but yeah it might just be that the tubes are small enough in the heater core that they got plugged, it’s more like the other radiator just didn’t get plugged because the tubes are larger. That’s what I would surmise.
Mark: And so we don’t use magic goop. What was the other lesson that is to be learned here?
Bernie: Yeah, so this vehicle had just been purchased by somebody and so from what I gather, I mean, he came to us with this overheating issue and we found the head gaskets to be bad. Now had he brought the vehicle to us or to another mechanic, and had it looked at, they would have probably noted that the head gaskets were leaking and from there, they may not of noticed the heater core but they probably again, you know, testing the heating system, probably go hey there’s no heat in here, you know, your head gaskets are leaking. You might either want to walk away from this car or certainly negotiate for a better price. So again, pre-purchase inspection, have it looked at. It could save you a lot of money and grief.
Mark: So we talk a lot about Subarus. I know you’ve got one or two of them yourself, are they still good vehicles?
Bernie: Yeah, yeah I mean they’re great cars. This is the first time we’ve done a heater core in one and we work on hundreds of Subarus. So it’s not like they don’t go bad, but it’s pretty rare. I mean really the biggest thing is that the head gaskets on the you know, from about ’99 up to 2010 somewhere in that range, you know, they’re bad. Otherwise they’re good cars. I mean that’s a predictable problem but most every vehicle on the road has issues of some sort and other than that, they’re extremely reliable.
Mark: So there you go. If you’re looking for service for your Subaru inVancouver, the guys to see are Pawlik Automotive. You can reach them at 604-327-7112 to book your appointment only please or check out their website pawlikautomotive.com there’s literally hundreds of videos, podcasts, articles on there about repairing all sorts of vehicles or as I mentioned our new Podcast on iTunes Pawlik Automotive Repair or check us out on YouTube. Thanks Bernie
Bernie: Thanks Mark