Tuesday, March 29, 2011

REPLACING FUSES

How To Replace A Blown Fuse

If you own a car, there’s a chance one of the fuses in your car, truck or SUV will blow out. When that happens, the results don't usually create a crisis, but it means that something on the vehicle is no longer working.  Most likely, the thing that'll quit working on your vehicle will be relatively minor. It could be the backup lights, the turn signals, the high-speed setting in the climate control system's fan, the radio, or even the interior lights. Whatever the case, if a fuse blows, the device in question won't work.

For exterior or interior lighting, the possibility of a fuse being the cause of malfunction is quite likely. In fact, for any single item or system in the vehicle, the chances of a fuse being the cause of an electrical failure is high enough that, in most cases, it should be the first thing you check.

After reading this post on fuse inspection and replacement, you'll know how. Relax. It's easy and you'll get a real sense of satisfaction knowing you were able to troubleshoot a little problem like this without having to go through the hassle and expense of going to the dealership.


In general, most vehicles on the road have two types of fuses. Older cars have glass, cylinder-shaped fuses with stainless steel on the ends and glass in the middle. Most newer cars have a different style of fuse that uses a plastic housing with the fusible link encased in the housing.

If a device or system on your vehicle isn't working and you suspect a fuse might be the culprit, the first step is to look in your owner's manual. The manual will help you locate the fuse box and tell you how to access it. On older cars, the box was usually located underneath the dash to the left of the brake pedal or near the parking brake pedal. There was no cover for it, but it was still a major hassle to view because of the bizarre angle you had to place your head at to actually see it.

Where are my fuses?
Automotive fuses are usually found under the drivers side dashboard. A compartment cover may need to be removed or the fuse box may be mounted on the firewall between the engine and the dashboard out of sight but readily accessible for maintenance.

Many models of cars will split the fuse box location between the normal location near the driver and a remote location under the hood. If you have two fuse boxes then the fuses that are found under your hood will normally protect the circuits needed to run your engines electrical system and the ones found in the drivers compartment will protect circuits for your headlights, radio, blower motor and other devices.

A third place you can find automotive fuses would be inline fuses used when accessories are installed. You will commonly find an inline fuse installed on car radios. This type of fuse is barrel shaped and different then your average automotive fuse.

Finally you may have a Main Fuse which is a 1×1 inch box located near your drivers firewall fuse box that protects the electric fuel pump and a portion of your starting circuit.

These four locations are the most common places you can find fuses in your cars electrical system, however when a third party device is added a fuse may be used.

Once you've located the fuse box, you have to determine which fuse needs to be removed for inspection. Again, your owner's manual will help you do that. Say, for example, the backup lights don't work. Most owner's manual provides a numerical chart to explain which fuses correspond with which device or system.

Some cars provide a pair of tweezers to help you remove a fuse. If your car doesn't have this nifty little feature, you're not out of luck. You might be able to remove the fuse by hand, but in most cases, you'll need a small pair of needle-nose or standard pliers to get the fuse out of the box.

Once the fuse is singled out and removed, you need to determine if it's blown. This is usually quite easy. For the older glass fuses as well as the new plastic ones, if the metal link inside the fuse is separated, the fuse is toast. If not, then it's still good and can be reinstalled.

If the fuse is blown, the next step is finding a proper replacement. Some cars come with a supply of spares; otherwise, you'll need to make a quick trip to the auto parts store (or have the foresight to purchase a small assortment of fuses to keep in the car). The most critical element to replacing a fuse is using the exact same amperage rating as the blown one. If you use a fuse with different amperage rating, you risk either blowing the fuse again, or damaging the equipment the fuse is designed to protect.

The idea behind a fuse is that it's supposed to blow if there's a surge or short in the device or system's electrical wiring. For example, if it's a 10-amp fuse that needs replacing and you replace it with only a 5-amp fuse, the smaller fuse will blow much sooner than it needs to. Conversely, if you replace that 10-amp fuse with a 20-amp unit, it's possible you'll damage the part or system before the fuse has a chance to break and save the component.

So, once you determine the fuse is blown and procure a suitable replacement, it's time to reinstall the new one. This is the easiest part. With the new plastic fuses, they plug right back into the fuse box and usually fit into place with a little pressure from your fingers.  With older glass fuses, the installation process is a bit tougher, as they are installed by pressing one end at a time. We'll also note that with the glass fuses, different amperage ratings sometimes come in different lengths, so the right amperage rating is not only crucial from an electrical standpoint, but from a sizing one, too.

Following is a step-by-step guide to replacing a fuse :

You will need
• 1 set of fuses
• 1 fuse puller
• 1 pair of tweezers
1. Step 1: Secure the car

Secure the car.

Switch off the ignition. No electricity should flow during a fuse check.

Apply the parking brake....
If you have a manual transmission, shift into 1st gear; with an automatic transmission, put the gear stick into the parking position.

2. Step 2: Locate the fuse panel:

Fuse panels are usually located under a cover below the steering wheel, left of the column.
Remove the cover. It has a fuse diagram printed on it. You will see the fuses sitting in the panel.

You will immediately notice the different colours indicating different ratings.

3. If you have trouble finding the fuse box consult your car manual for details of the location.
Often the fuse panel is found under the bonnet. Remove the cover and access the fuse panel.


4. Step 3: Check the fuse diagram
Check the fuse diagram.
The fuse diagram is a simplified numerical chart that explains which fuses correspond to which device or system. The devices are represented by easy to understand symbols.
Work out which fuse needs to be removed for inspection.

5. Step 4: Remove the fuse
Remove the fuse now.
To remove the fuse that you have singled out, simply pull it from the panel. Use the plastic puller for doing this - otherwise, use your fingers or tweezers.

6. Step 5: Check the fuse
Check the fuse.
Determine if the fuse in question is blown. If the metal link inside the fuse is separated, the fuse has melted. If it looks normal it can be plugged back in, however, you may still have electrical problem. In this case, it's best to consult a mechanic.

7. Step 6: Replace the fuse
Replace the fuse.

Place a new fuse with exactly the same amperage rating in the puller.
Be sure to use the correct rating, remember to go by the colour and the number stamped on the fuse.

SAFETY WARNING !

A fuse with the wrong rating may damage the electric equipment it's designed to protect. Avoid a fire hazard and consult a mechanic if the initial problem remains after you've replaced the fuse.
o Push the new fuse firmly into its slot in the fuse box. If it is askew it will not work.
o Push it down with your fingers for a correct fit. A useful tip.
If you're left without any spare fuses you can still take a fuse from a non essential circuit. Check if your car has a working cigarette lighter and take the lighter out of its socket to remind yourself that you will have to replace the fuse later.
o Check the diagram in order to find the lighter fuse.
o Take out the fuse and put it into the required circuit slot.
Alternative devices to temporarily take a fuse from are the radio or, if temperatures allow for it, the rear window heating.

8. Step 7: Check circuit
Check the circuit.

Switch on the ignition and switch on the circuit in question.


If you cannot operate the device, and the new fuse blows immediately there is a problem that should be checked by a mechanic.
If the device works correctly after fuse replacement, you can quickly check if the main electrical functions on your car work properly.

Hope this provides you with some useful information that will help if you have occasion to use it!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

TODAY YOUR CAR WIPER BLADES – TOMORROW THE WORLD

I can’t speak for any one but myself on this, but to me this is the biggest pain for really a simple task that I can think of! I can end up taking 30 minutes to do a 5 minute job. I just never can remember how the locking mechanism works to take off and put on the blades! You definitely want to make sure you get them on and locked properly. Nothing will make you pucker quicker than getting caught in a hard down pour and when you turn on your wipers watching them fly off into the great unknown! You’ll not only can’t see the road, but chances are good that the wiper arms will end up scratching your windshield and you’ll end up having to pay some one to remove the scratches.

If your wipers are not completely cleaning your windshield, then it is time to replace them. Go to your local auto parts store and look up what size blades fit your car. They’ll have a wiper blade book, or one of those push button info centers for blades that you can use to find the correct size blades for your car. If you have a Wal-mart (or a store like it), you can get the blades there and probably save a buck or two. The upside to getting them at an auto parts store is you can probably get the a customer service rep to install them for you. There are various styles (single edge, triple edge, all weather, etc) to choose from, and that is something you will have to decide for yourself. If you live in a place that has ice and snow, then that should be a consideration when choosing your blades. I (with my son’s help) installed a “winter weather blade” (it has a soft covering over the entire blade) that keeps ice from forming on the blade. It worked really well.

Bottom line is this may be a 5 minute job for you, or if you are anything like me, a 30 minute job! If you need to change the whole wiper arm, that’s another can of worms. I’ve included a video from carpartsdirect that should give you a fair idea of how to change the blades. Til next time – enjoy life!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Things To Check On A Regular Basis and Two Side Notes

Todays topic is aimed at the first time car owner and covers routine checks that need to be performed on a regular basis to insure that you’re taking care of your car, so it’ll take car of you getting where you’re going!

This topic was precipitated the other day when one of my grand daughters (17 yrs. old) dropped by in the car her father had recently purchased for the outstanding grades she has been getting in school. I got talking to her about the car and asked if knew how to check the oil. She stated that you just pulled the oil dip stick out and looked at it! It was then I realized that all a lot of first time car owners might really know is where to put in the gas, so let’s go over things that should be checked on a regular set basis to try and make sure your ride gets you there and back.

- FLUIDS: Checking the oil - if you see wet spots under your car after you’ve parked it, then you need to check the oil at a minimum of once a week, otherwise I’d not let it go more than every two weeks or when I fill up the gas tank. Check the wet spots by touching the end of your finger in the spot and rubbing your fingers together. If it feels oily, then it’s oil leaking. If it is redish in color, it is transmission, power steering or brake fluid. Check the oil by turning off the engine and letting it set for a few minutes so the oil will drain back into the oil pan. Make sure the vehicle is on a level surface. Pull out the oil dip stick (check your owner’s manual if you’re not sure where the oil dip stick is located), wipe off the dip stick with a clean rag/napkin/paper towel. Insert the dip stick all the way back into holder and then pull it back out. If the oil is below the add oil mark, add a quart. Changing the oil/oil filter every 3000 to 3500 miles will go a long way in keeping you ride on the road. To check the transmission fluid, start your car and let it idle in park for a few minutes so the transmission oil gets hot. Make sure you’re on a level surface. Locate and remove the tranny dip stick and repeat the process like you did for the oil. For adding oil or transmission fluid, you need to pick up a short neck funnel (for the oil) and a long neck one (for the tranny), so you don’t spill fluid all over the engine and ground!! BTW, kitty litter is a great way to clean up any spills from your driveway or garage floor. You should have your transmission fluid changed every year. I say “have it changed”, because most newer cars have a sealed system which requires a machine to change it (cost about $120). If your car doesn’t have a sealed system, I still recommend having a shop change it and the transmission filter. It is sure cheaper than getting a blown transmission repaired/replaced!!! To check the power steering, locate the power steering pump and remove the cap. Wipe it off (don’t get this or brake fluid on the paint of your car!), reinsert it and pull it out. If it is low, add some being very careful not to over fill! Check the brake fluid by visually looking at the mark on the reservoir. If it is low, carefully add to bring up to the full mark. Check the radiator level by looking at the overflow reservoir, and add some if needed. If it is real low/empty, you will need to run the engine until it gets hot and the thermostat opens so water goes into the engine block and then add more antifreeze as needed. You should have a 50/50 mix of antifreeze and water (depending on how cold it gets where you live – check the antifreeze bottle for how much you need for protection against down to certain temps.). NEVER remove the cap from the radiator while the engine is hot – you can get some really bad burns doing that.! Windshield washer fluid – visually check the reservoir and add as needed. For winter time, you may want to purchase washer fluid that is a deicer as well.

- HOSES AND BELTS: While you got the hood up, look at the hoses for any wet spots or signs of cracking/splitting. Squeeze the hoses and see if they’re still pliable. Look at the belt(s) for signs fraying or cracking. If any of the above is discovered, get repaired ASAP! It a later post, I’ll go over how this is done in case you want to take it on yourself.

- TIRES AND TIRE PRESSURE: Visually inspect your tires to insure they’re properly inflated before you get into the car to go any where. Check the air pressure in the tires often to insure they are properly inflated. This will help them last longer. The proper air pressure for the tire is located on the side of the tire near the ream. If you are running low profile tires, keep a real close eye on them as soon as the weather turns cold. You will need to put more air in them to bring them up to the recommend pressure level. Try and always check your tires when you haven’t driven but a short distance. The air expands as the tires get warmer. Invest in a tire gauge from your local car parts store.

Well, I think that’s it on your vehicle for today, BUT I have a couple of unrelated side notes.

- SIDE NOTE ONE: If you live on the west coast of the North American continent, Hawaii, Japan and other points west of North America, YOU OWE it to yourself to watch the following two youtube videos – it could possibly mean the difference in life and death!!!!!
- - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r4etr-z7c0g
- - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CndhaX9AglI (pay attention to date of this!!)

- SIDE NOTE TWO: If you haven’t seen this movie (documentary) and want to really know what the Drug War is really all about – you have to watch this without fail – American Drug War (it’s available on Netflix)!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, March 11, 2011

CAR REPAIR TIPS FOR THE BEGINNER HOME MECHANIC

Well, with the way the economy is these days, it is easy to see why folks that haven't done so in the past will now be looking to save on the cost of everything!  We all know how costly ($65+ hr. and that is just labor) it is to have your car repaired by a certified mechanic/shop.  My purpose with this site is to try and provide the beginner with some tips and suggestions that may save you some headaches, and point you in the right direction.  Just always keep in mind that the car manufactures don't pay their engineers big bucks to make it easy to work on your car!  Their aim is to get you back to the dealers repair shot!

First off, with the newer cars and their computers, there are some things that even the experienced home mechanic can't take on without the right special tools and diagnostic equipment (some auto parts stores will do diagnostics for free on things like a "check engine light".  This is not to say the car repair beginner can't learn to do some of the more basic repairs (i.e., brake job) that will save you some significant green stuff!

TOOLS - before you can do any repair, obviously you need tools!  First, you need to determine if you vehicle uses metric or standard bolts/nuts.  You are going to need a fairly good assortment of socket sets, ratchets, open and box end wrenches, screw drivers and vice gripes to name the basics.  You can save some bucks by picking tools up at pawn shops, flea markets and yard sales.  You will probably find the more car repair you undertake, the more different tools you'll need.  BTW, one very inexpensive handy little gadget you should pick up is a magnetized telescoping nut and bolt retriever so you can recover ones you're going to drop and they end up in a spot where no human hand can get to!  Also, get yourself a couple sizes of "C" clamps (used to depress the calipher so it will fit back on over the new brake pads).

SAFETY - if you are going to be jacking your car up, ALWAYS following your owner's manual on how/where to place the jack.  In addition to the jack, ALWAYS use jack stands to support your car while it's up on the jack.  ALWAYS put a block under one of the tires.  If you jacked the car up from the back, place the block in front of a front tire, and if you jacked it from the front put the block behind one of the rear tires so the car doesn't roll off the jack!  If you are using a floor jack (they're have wheels and a long handle that's used to operate the hydraulics so you can raise/lower the jack head.  Never place this on the oil pan, transmission housing or any other removable part of the car (always jack using the frame.

MUST DOs - follow your owner's manual for getting fluids (oil, tranny, radiator) changed/flushed.  Definitely an ounce of prevention is worth a stack of the green stuff to fix it and it'll help your car last much longer.  Check the air pressure in your tires regularly (don't forget the spare!).  Change air/breather/fuel filters when they are dirty (hold them up to the light and if you can see through them, change them).  Visually check the belts and hoses (at least every spring and fall) for cracks and excessive wear.  Push down on the belt(s) and insure they are not to loose/tight (about an inch of play).  Check the hoses for cracks/pliability.

SOMETHING TO CONSIDER - if you're going to purchase tools/parts (or anything for that matter) off the Internet, consider getting yourself a prepaid debt card (they can be picked up at a variety of stores in your local area).  Then purchase a money pack from the retailer ($100 to $500).  You can now use that card instead of one of your normal ones and thereby limit the amount of liability you're exposing yourself to if it is lost or stolen!  Even use these type cards when going on a trip and leave your regular debit/credit cards at home!!!


Drop back often - I'll be adding more and more "stuff" as time passes!  Thanks for visiting!!!