Wednesday, June 29, 2011 08:00
Late last year we purchased a new 2011 Honda Pilot, partially because we were tired of repairing our older cars. But the Pilot has been in for repairs several times. They had to replace the rear suspension back in April: It was making a noise when I went over bumps that sounded like the spare tire was loose. Now, they are replacing the stereo system. Do you think this is a sign of more bad things to come? Do you think we should sell it or is this not that big of a deal if they can fix the things that have gone wrong? —Kathryn from Maryland
No, I don't think it's a sign of bad things to come: Unless your car was built after the entire Honda workforce consumed large quantities of 190-proof cold sake ("imported from east Tennessee stills"), the rear suspension and radio are completely unrelated. No, I don’t think you should sell it: You’d lose a lot of money. If Honda fixes the problems—and they stay fixed—it’s not a big deal.
I bet the rear suspension was a bad bushing and the problem will never reoccur. To be sure, check rear tire wear. Wear should be even across the tread, individual tread blocks should not be higher on the trailing edge and the left tire should look almost exactly like the right.
Electrical and computer problems CAN be systemic. But they're not related to mechanical components. More...
Thursday, June 23, 2011 08:00
It’s every car guy’s dream come true. Stumble across an abandoned collectible, gathering dust and just waiting for an attentive owner to restore the vehicle to its former glory. Of course, the price has to be right, and the car worth the time and expense of rejuvenation.
Well, here’s a tale that follows that popular fantasy—but with a twist. What if you left well enough alone, as a well-worn example of what it’s like to come across such a situation. After all, it’s only original once, so what if you could leave it as found?
That’s the case with Mike Yager of Mid America Motorworks, who owns more Corvettes than you could shake a car duster at it. So he doesn’t have to restore every barn find he encounters. Here’s his story:
“On July 1, 2010 a gentleman stopped by our offices and asked if I would be interested in buying a 1957 Corvette,” he recalls. “…He said it was in a barn and had been ‘nailed in there’ for over 35 years.” More...
Thursday, June 16, 2011 07:00
Like any test, the smog test is a scary proposition. Required every two years in some California counties and on vehicle resale statewide, smog checks have gone a long way in reducing emissions in this vehicle-obsessed state. But, that doesn’t reduce the angst when you drive into your local smog check station.
Passing a smog test is as easy as passing any test, as long as you come prepared. Here are some guidelines that should help you ace this test.
Make sure your vehicle is running well. If it’s missing, choking, belching smoke, get it to a repair shop before you go anywhere near that smog inspection bay. An appointment for a tune-up prior to your smog check can save you a lot of time and trouble, not to mention money.
Take the long route to your smog test. Vehicles run at peak efficiency when they’re warmed up, a condition that can be reached in less than 10 to 15 miles of driving. If possible, hit the freeway/highway on your way to the station, to help clear out the pipes. More...
Friday, April 8, 2011 06:00
It’s hard to keep your cool on a hot day when your car’s air conditioning isn’t doing its job. If yours can’t put out air that’s at least 40-50 degrees cooler than the outside temperature, or if it can’t maintain that temperature, then you might have a problem.
You could have a real problem if you decide to try to fix your A/C yourself. The entire system is under high pressure, and the job can literally blow up in your face. Depending on who you trust to do the work, and what your A/C needs to get back up to speed, it can cost a little or a lot. That’s why it’s a good idea to take preventive steps ahead of time.
Get your A/C serviced on a regular basis, even if it’s working fine. Your car’s service schedule will specify how often the coolant and belts should be changed. Most cars should have the refrigerant recharged no more than four years after the date of manufacture, and every two or three years after that.
Make sure the A/C radiator is clean. That’s the small radiator that sits in front of the big one that cools your engine. Because it’s the first thing that incoming air hits, it’s the first thing to get clogged up by dirt, leaves, and bugs. Every time you wash your car, hit the A/C radiator with a strong stream of water, and use a wooden toothpick to remove stubborn bits.
It sounds weird, but make sure you run the A/C now and then in the winter. This keeps the O-rings and seals in the system lubricated so they’ll be in good working order come the summer. Also, it’s better to find out your A/C system needs work when you don’t need it and have time to get it fixed.
Keep an eye on the A/C belt, and tension it if it’s loose. Inspect it as you would any other belt, looking for cracks, splits, or frayed sections.
Finally, don’t worry if there’s a puddle of water under the passenger side of the car after you use the A/C; it’s almost certainly condensation draining out of the A/C condenser, and it’s normal.
Thursday, April 7, 2011 06:00
Doing your own tune-ups is a great way to save money and get a feeling of accomplishment. But you shouldn’t just jump into a tune-up without doing your homework first. Here are some tips to make your next tune-up go more smoothly.
Get a shop manual
Want to really screw up your car? Start messing with it without having a clue what you’re doing. A lot of things on a car affect other things, and if you get something wrong, it can have a domino effect that can bring your car to its metaphorical knees. A shop manual will tell you what to do, and in what order, to avoid making things worse than they were when you decided you needed a tune-up.
Read the shop manual
This might seem like a no-brainer, but some guys need to be reminded to read the step-by-step instructions for the particular job they’re doing before they start, to make sure they fully understand what needs to be done, how it’s done, and what tools and parts are needed to do it right.
Have the parts on hand
Don’t even think about starting a specific tune-up task unless you have the parts you’ll need to complete it. You might think your local auto-parts store will have what you need, but you might be wrong—and there you’d be, with your car missing a few key parts, and you calling all your buddies to get a ride to the store that does have it. More...