Sunday, April 17, 2011


Your Vehicle’s Tires

This is a reminder for you to keep close tabs on your tires. You need to check and insure they’re inflated to the proper pressure (you’ll find what psi is recommended on the sidewall of the tire).

Although this topic was covered in a previous post, I failed to mention the fact that you need to rotate your tires on a regular basis (at least once a year, if your drive an average of fifteen thousand miles a year.

VERY IMPORTANT – insure that you treated the sidewalls every time you wash your car to keep them from drying out and dry rotting! You can use any number of commercial products (armor all, black magic, etc.). Now here’s something you can use for treatment that I had not heard of until yesterday from a neighbor – Glade furniture polish! It keeps them from drying out and adds a nice shine to them.

Well, that’s it for today – see you next time!

Monday, April 11, 2011



Today we’ll go over replacing brake drum shoes. Newer vehicles will have disc brakes all around (thank God for small favors). Unless you’re very mechanically inclined, I don’t recommend taking on this task by yourself. To me, changing these are one of the biggest pains going for what should be something simple. Who ever invented these had to be high on something!

I’m not going to spend a lot of time trying to explain how this is done, instead I’m going to include a video from EricTheCarGuy that will demonstrate why you’ll probably want to either get a good friend to do the replacement for you, or just go ahead and pay an auto shop to have it done!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Brakes - Part One

This topic covers a whole range of items, but today I’ll just cover changing brake pads on disc brakes (I’ll cover drum brakes later on). Disc brakes use a pair of pads that clamp against the flat rotor or disc, while drum brakes use brake shoes that expand against the inside of a cylindrical drum. These brake types are both hydraulic systems designed to convert the forward momentum of a moving vehicle into heat and slow the vehicle.

There are two types of disc brake system in use today. They can be identified by their caliper piston position. The floating caliper disc brake system can be identified by caliper piston(s) located in only one side of the caliper assembly. When the brakes are applied by the driver, the inside pad is forced against the rotor. As the force increases, the inside pad pushes against the rotor and forces the caliper to slide on its slide pins and pull the outside pad against the rotor. This is the most common caliper design used today.

The fixed caliper disc brake system is identified by its multiple pistons, with equal number of pistons on each side of the caliper. In this system, as the brakes are applied, the force is applied equally on both sides of the rotor surface. This clamping force is what stops the vehicle.

Replacing Your Brake Pads

What You Are Going To Need:
• lug wrench
• c-clamp
• open end or adjustable wrench (depending on your car)
• Allen wrenches (depending on your car)
• hammer
• small bungee cord
• a face mask to guard against inhaling brake dust

Be sure you've got everything ready to go before you remove your old brake pads. Most important, be sure safety is at the front of your mind. You'll be taking the wheel off so be sure you have your car jacked up and resting on jack stands. Go ahead and start loosening (a turn or two) the lug nuts while the vehicle is still on the ground (it’s easier and safer that way). Remember – lefty loosens and righty tightens! Keep in mind that if your brakes are working properly, the front brakes will wear out first as they do most of the stopping.

You slightly loosen the lug nuts while the car was still on the ground, so they should be pretty easy to remove. I like to remove them from the bottom up, leaving the top lug nut to be removed last. This keeps the wheel in one place while you remove the rest of them and makes it easier to safely catch the wheel once you remove the last nut. You can't replace brake pads with the wheel on!

The Caliper
On most cars, the next step is to remove the brake caliper so the brake pads will slide out through the top. On a few cars the pads will come out without removing the caliper, but not many. You'll see the brake caliper in the 12 o'clock position just above the lug bolts, riding atop that shiny brake disc.

On the back of the caliper you'll find a bolt on either side. It will either be a hex bolt of an Allen bolt. Remove these two bolts and put them aside.

Hold the caliper from the top and pull upward, wiggling it around to loosen it up. If it's stubborn, give it a few taps (taps, not sledge hammer whacks) upward to loosen it a bit. Pull it up and slightly away, being sure not to put any stress on the brake line (that black hose that's still connected).

If there is a place to safely set the caliper back there, do it. If not, you'll need to take your bungee cord and hang the caliper from something, the giant coil spring staring at you is a good spot. Don't let the caliper hang by the brake line, it can cause damage and lead to brake failure!

Remove the Old Brake Pads
Before you pull out the old brake pads, take a second to observe how everything is in installed. If there are little metal clips around the brake pads, note how they are in there so you can get it right when you put things back together. Better yet, take a digital picture of the whole assembly.

With the caliper out of the way, the brake pads should slide right out. I say should because in a new car they probably would. Since our cars are not always new, you may need to coax them out with a litte tap of the hammer to loosen them up. If your car has little metal tabs holding onto the brake pads, put them to the side becase you'll need them in a minute. Put the new pads in the slots with any metal clips you removed.

While you’re there, inspect your brake discs for any gouges, scratches, oil or other foreign matter. You may have to either get the disc turned or replaced if you have deep gouges.

Go ahead and slide the new pads into place now, making sure you don't forget any of the little retaining clips you removed earlier.

Compress the Brake Piston
As your brake pads wear out, the caliper adjusts itself so that you will have strong brakes throughout the life of the pads. If you look on the inside of the caliper you'll see a round piston coming out. This is what pushes on the brake pads from the back. Problem is, it's adjusted itself to match your worn out pads. Trying to get it over the new pads is like parking a dump truck in New York City. You can do it, but the damage level will be high. Instead of destroying your new pads, you'll push the piston back to the starting point.

Take the c-clamp and place the end with the screw on it against the piston with the other end of the clamp around on the back of the caliper assembly. Now slowly tighten the clamp until the piston has moved far enough in that you can easily plop the caliper assembly over the new pads.

Re-Install the Brake Caliper
With the piston compressed, you should be able to easily slide the caliper assembly over the new pads. Once you have it on there, replace the bolts you removed and tighten them snugly. Press the brake pedal a few times to make sure you have solid brake pressure. The first pump or two will be soft as the piston finds its new starting point on the back of the pad.

Put your wheel back on, being sure to tighten all of the lug bolts. Remove your vehicle from the jack stands and jack. Now double-check your lug bolts just to be sure they tight and secure.

Now find a place where you can back-up in a straight line safely. Get your speed up to 5 – 10 mph and slowly apply the emergency brake. This should insure all brakes are applying a like amount of stopping force so the vehicle will not pull to the right/left when stopping while going forward.

Good luck and will see ya next time!

Friday, April 1, 2011


I will be discussing here a totally gas driven engine, not a hybrid or totally electric car.

So your vehicle will not start, or the engine stops while you’re going down the road! If it will not start, this can be caused by numerous potential problems, but I will only be addressing the fact that your battery “pooped the bed”. If your engine stops while running, this may be an alternator that’s gone bad and it could easily have also ruined your battery.

If your engine cranks real slow and your headlights are real dim, or it doesn’t crank at all, then chances are real good your battery is either in need of attention, or the battery’s fuse is blown. So, what do I do now you might ask. Read on and we’ll cover some need to know information.

The battery is the initial source for all of the electricity in your car. In most cars, it's a 12-volt, wet-cell battery that creates electricity through an electrochemical reaction caused by immersing a series of dissimilar metal plates in an acid solution. To keep your car firing on all cylinders, it's important to have a good working electrical system, and that begins with maintaining the battery. In general, a good working system involves three things: keeping the battery filled, charged and clean.

Maintaining the battery is easier today than ever before, because in most cases, today's batteries do not need water added under normal driving conditions, or the batteries are sealed. They still have acid in them, but you can't add to it even if you wanted to. If your car's battery does have removable caps, you should check the level about once a month or so to make sure it's full. Here's how:

o Make sure the engine's off.
o Open the hood.
o Remove the battery caps. (Do not force the cap off; it may appear to removable but is not.)

Look inside each battery cell. See the little ring, near the bottom of the opening? That's the "Full" line. The battery should be filled to one-quarter of an inch below the bottom of the opening. If the water level is low, use only distilled water to bring it up to the proper level. Replace the caps. (Be sure to wear eye protection and be careful when doing this.) If you're adding water to a battery when the outside temperature is below freezing, ensure that the battery is charged immediately after the water is added.

Most of the time you won't have removable caps to fill the battery. Some batteries have a small "eye" that indicates whether the battery is full or not. In most cases, the eye should be green when the battery is full and charged. Some imports use yellow to indicate that it's full. If the battery eye turns black, it means the battery either is too low, or it has become discharged. Take your battery into the shop to have it the battery charged and tested.

Next, check the battery itself. Is it clean or covered in grease and dirt? Believe it or not, grease on the battery case actually can discharge the battery. If the battery is dirty or greasy, clean it with a mild detergent and a damp cloth. Be careful: Batteries contain sulfuric acid. If you get any on your skin, always flush it off immediately with a solution of cold water and baking soda to prevent acid burns. Always wash your hands with soap and water after handling the battery.

Finally, look at the battery terminal ends. Those are the cable ends that connect the battery cables to the battery terminals. The terminal ends should be clean and free of any signs of corrosion (white powder looking stuff).  If there is corrosion, baking soda and water work real well for getting rid of it.

Buying a New Battery - Automotive batteries come in different types, sizes and price ranges. Whether you buy it yourself or get it through your repair shop, it's important to know how to identify the differences and how to choose the one that's right for your car. Don’t be embarrassed to ask for help, if you need it!

Warranty - Most decent batteries last three to four years, regardless of warranty length. Often manufacturers offer longer warranties at higher prices just to hook you on their batteries. If you get rid of the car before the warranty expires, they win. If the battery fails while still in warranty, you take it back and they prorate your refund from the cost of a new battery.

Size - Don't be fooled by the size of today's batteries. New technology has enabled battery manufacturers to develop much smaller batteries that provide just as much power as the older, larger ones did. When choosing a battery, there should be only three size considerations:

  1. Does it fit properly in the battery tray?
  2. Is the battery short enough for the hood to close without causing a problem?
  3. Are the terminals on the proper sides, so the cables will reach?

As long as the answer to these three questions is "yes," the battery fit just fine in your car.

Capacities - This is the real difference between batteries.  How much they provide, and for how long. All battery manufacturers must declare this information using three standard measurements:

Cranking Amps - Cranking amps (CA) is the amount of power the battery provides for cranking your car's   starter for 30 seconds at a temperature of 32 degrees F (zero degrees C), while     maintaining at least 1.2 volts per cell (7.2 vol total). As you might expect, the higher the number, the more power the battery provides for starting your car .

Cold Cranking Amp- CCA is virtually the same as cranking amps, but with one difference: The measurement is taken at zero degrees F (-17.8 degree C). So, cold cranking amps indicates how well the battery will crank the starter in really cold weather when the engine is hardest to crank.

Reserve Capacity - This measurement indicates how long your battery would keep the engine running if the alternator stopped charging. It's a measurement of how many minutes the battery will deliver 25 amps at 80 degrees F (27 degrees C) while maintaining at least 1.75 volts per cell, or 10.5 volts total. In other words, this is about how long your car will continue to run with the headlights, wipers and defroster on, if the alternator quits.
So what capacities would be adequate for your car?  Bigger doesn't necessarily mean better when it comes to batteries. The climate where you live plays a factor. In a cold climate, bigger is better, but if you live in a hot climate, the lighter CCA may offer an increased life expectancy for the battery.

Not sure what the specifications were in the original battery? Check the owner s manual. If it doesn't provide the battery specs there, check the application guide from the battery manufacturer. They'll usually list a minimum recommendation for your car. Choosing a battery with higher specs won't hurt, but choosing a battery with lower capacities could leave you stranded one day.

Last and VERY important – make sure when putting the terminals back on the new replacement battery that you hook the red battery cable to the terminal that has the + sign for positive, and the black battery cable to the terminal that has the – sign for negative! If you reverse them, you can cause yourself more trouble and money. Pay attention when you remove the old battery and note where the + and – are facing, then put the new battery back in facing the same way. Be careful when lifting the battery out/into the car seeing they are pretty heavy and fairly awkward to lift!!!!

Hope this provides you with some useful information to make you a “happy motorist”!