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  • in reply to: Oil Smells Like Gas? Causes & How to Fix #849

    This is a bad-news/worse-news story. The bad news is that somewhere in the engine’s water jacket there is a crack that is allowing the gasoline to mix with the anti-freeze/coolant which means that your fuel is being contaminated as is your anti-freeze/coolant. This is a no-win situation, however, you look at it.

    Though you can drive with a little anti-freeze/coolant contaminating your gasoline, if the contamination builds, you run the risk of damaging the engine as the contamination starts clog up the system. As the galleries to which the anti-freeze/coolant is allowed to enter and clog up, you run the risk of damaging the water jacket the engine it surrounds.

    Meantime, as the gasoline comes across to the other side, it begins to scour out the protection provided by oil and anti-freeze, causing its own problems. However, the result is a complete mess.

    Well, that’s the bad news; the worse news is that the problem can be anywhere in the cooling system or engine. Anywhere the cooling system and the gasoline system are near one another there is the potential for either an engine breakdown or cooling system breakdown.

    First, you have to empty the engine of all its liquids. Once that is done you have to find the point of origin of each issue. You do this by running a tracer dye through the engine and seeing where the intrusion begins. If the dye shows major damage to either side of the engine, then your best choice is a new block and waterjacket. This is an investment of about $2,200 without any labor which will add a good $800 to the price.

    One other point of intrusion is in the manifold where the cooling lines and gasoline lines run side-by-side.

    in reply to: Is it Safe to Drive With Bad Wheel Bearings? #846

    It isn’t safe at all. I would suggest that until you have the new bearings installed, you stop driving the vehicle. The reason for this is quite simple: every time you take your car up on the highway you risk having the bearings seize. If they seize at the wrong moment — say on an semi-circular, descending off-ramp — and the wheel goes flying off or, at best, just stops turnig — you run the risk of either having the tire go flying off into oncoming traffic, which is not healthy for some oncoming driver or the tire may become a fulcrum that is ready, if the turn is in the wrong direction, to potentially catapult your car into the air after the tire breaks away from the car.

    Indeed, this is the biggest danger you face either to other drives or yourself. If the tire breaks away from the car, then it is a danger to incoming traffic as it bounds toward it at speed. Indeed, it also becomes a danger to you, if your unshorn axle digs in an catapults your car ahead.

    It may not even catapult your car as it is possible for the unshorn axle to dig in and turn your car into traffic so that it is facing oncoming traffic. While it is turning, you are in danger as are you while you are facing traffic. As for oncoming traffic, the bounding tire can crash into an oncoming vehicle causing injury or worse.

    That is why I urge you to park the vehicle until your new bearings are installed.

    Of course, this is worst-case scenario. The best case is your tire seizing on you so your car can’t move. In this situation, since your car is safely parked at home, it isn’t a danger to anyone.

    If you must move your car for whatever reason, listen to the affected bearings and if you hear it getting louder stop your car and have it towed home.

    in reply to: Losing Coolant But Can’t Find Any Leaks? #845

    First, let’s establish one thing, your engine is running at what is called now positive equilibrium. Or, the engine is built so that whenever it is running everything is designed to be blasted through it. This means that everything is set up to eventually move into the exhaust system and then out the tailpipe.

    Here’s what I think is happening. I think that your anti-freeze/coolant system has a pinhole leak. And, every time you hit the gas, the anti-freeze/coolant escapes via the pinhole leak where it is blown into the open air and off the engine so that it appears dry. Indeed, every place the anti-freeze/coolant might leak, it is being captured and sent through the engine so there is no trace of it, either.

    And, since there is no place for the anti-freeze/coolant to rest for any length of time, there is also no way for it to leave the normal telltales such as the dye tracing as it is being blown out too quickly.

    I suspect that if you look for the pinhole leak you will find it on or near the radiator core. And, what is happening is that a tiny amount is ejecting from your pressurized cooling system so that it doesn’t remain long enough for the telltales or steam to form. What I would suggest is having your cooling system pressure checked by a local independent garage. Since there is already dye for a trace you should rather quickly find the leak. I suspect it is at the front of the engine bay.

    in reply to: White Smoke Coming From Hood of Car But Not Overheating #844

    I am willing to bet that if you check your antifreeze/coolant reservoir that it is overfilled and there is some of the fluid passing through the overflow neck and out onto the exhaust manifold. That’s the first place I would check.

    You see, what you are seeing/experiencing is simple steam. Sure, it does mean there could be a pinhole leak somewhere that is letting go with enough regularity that it creates the steam cloud you describe.

    It might also mean that another fluid is leaking and escaping either through an overflow or pinhole. The fluid I am thinking about is brake fluid. I know it is a rather rare occurrence, but when the fluid hits the hot exhaust, it creates clouds of white, billowing smoke.

    But, I don’t think it is the case for your car. The reason is the number of times you imply that it happened.

    One way you can tell what it smoking is start the car, and, while having a friend hit the accelerator, bring the engine up to a high rev and hold it there. Then, when the smoke and clouds appear take a sniff of the cloud. If it smells sharply with maybe a hint of oil, I would look at the antifreeze/coolant and its overflows.

    in reply to: Metal Shavings in Oil #843

    It really depends. Exactly where are the shavings? If they appear in the oil pan when you drain, they it is really unlikely there’s a problem? Other than changing the oil and filter when the shavings appear, there’s nothing especially troublesome about some oil shavings in the oil.

    The reason, frankly, is that your car’s engine is made of metal, and, despite the oil within the block parts will wear. Those parts where by way of shavings entering the oil. Now, if there are not all that many, then, there’s no problem, as I have explained.

    If on the other hand, if there us a huge noise or bang preceding the presentation of shavings in the oil — shavings here is really relative — they you have to expect there’s trouble. Still, it might not mean it’s time for an engine rebuild. It might mean there is a huge plug of engine buildup that has come free and worked its way down to the oil pan. Or, it may mean that a huge backfire may have occurred — it happens — and in this case, no, there’s not a problem.

    Here’s where an engine rebuild may be necessary. If your car has had a meltdown of a metal part due to overheating or running with low oil, for example, then it is quite possible you have fried the crowns and rings on one or more pistons and they have to be replaced. In this case, the rebuild would require a pretty deep engine strip and rebuild because you have to take off tne engine covers, valves, and hardware, and then the top half of the engine block to expose the pistons so they can be removed at the wrist pins and repaired. You will likely need to have not only the pistons replaced or machined and then have an oversized set of rings installed on each piston. It can be expensive, depending on the number of pistons that have to be replaced. Each piston would likely require its cylinder machined, as well — the source of metal shavings.

    In this case, you are looking at a minimum of $2,500 — starters — depending on the internal damage and number of pistons.

    I can go on with the number of things that might go wrong and cause lots of metal-to-metal contact, requiring engine rebuilds, but you can see they are expensive from this one example.

    I hope this helps. Let me know if there is another, followup question I can help you with.

    in reply to: Car Jerks When Accelerating From Stop #826

    Check to see what your manufacturer recommends for timing chain replacement. Your problem sounds a lot like it. The engine’s timing cycle has a lot to do with the way the crankshaft and camshaft spin. Usually, it’s a two-to-one relationship with the crankshaft rotating twice to the camshaft’s once.

    There are a couple of things that I need to know before I give you much more. What type of car are you driving? Also, does it have a timing belt or chain. The difference is of key importance.

    Let me tell you why. If your car’s engine is equipped with a timing chain, aside from longevity (about 40,000 miles), if it is slipping — what you have identified — then you are losing power and you are also in danger of having the chain immolating, scattering its metal all over the engine case, destroying everything in its path. A belt, since it is made of soft, but tough, material may break, but it won’t shower your engine with little pieces destructive metal.

    My preliminary diagnosis is a timing chain or belt problem. At 120K miles, you have to expect wear and tear and possible belt slippage.

    Let me have the information I have asked for and I’ll get back to you with specific information.

    in reply to: Too Much Oil in the Engine – Can it Damage Your Car? #825

    Let me take you back to my teen years when I had to take care of my daily driver and my Dad’s daily driver/working car (I would eventually get it as he upgraded, of course). One night my dad got home from his job as an on-the-road salesman and told me:

    “The Mercury is running a bit warm, can you check?”

    I said sure and proceeded to head out with the keys where I popped the hood and then I ducked inside to start it up. Within a moment, the temp gauge buried itself with the H(ot) of things. I looked at the oil pressure (this was the 60s and most cars with decent engines had oil gauges. The gauge sat right on the bottom bump stop.

    I looked at the dipstick and it was bone dry. Suffice to say, I took another one of our cars (we had three at that time, one wasn’t running) and I ran to a buddies gas station where I purchase 5 quarts of 5W-30 and poured in 4. The dipstick read low so I added the fifth and everything was fine.

    Now, if I had added a sixth to be sure or for whatever reason, it would have been wrong. Dad drove this vehicle for another nearly 60,000 miles before I inherited it. I gave up the ghost with more than 100,000 on the clock. The reason we dumped it was simple, the tranny was gone and we didn’t feel like investing anything in the vehicle.

    With that said, let’s come back to today and go to your question and the answer is yes, too much oil can harm your car’s engine. Why is this so? It is simple, your car’s engine is made to run with a certain internal pressure that is at equilibrium as you drive. It’s not too high or too low.

    If you add an extra quart of oil to the engine, it throws things way out of what. The increased pressure can easily harm various delicate parts because of the increased pressure. For instance, let’s take an engine oil gallery (it is like a capillary in your hand or foot or elsewhere). The galleries surround the engine doing double duty as they carry away excess engine heat while, at the same time, lubricating the engine. These oil channels, if you will, are meant to run at a certain pressure. Now, if you increase that pressure by lets say 3 or 4 psi, things start literally flying through the internals. Now imagine if a huge deposit breaks loose (like an ice flow) and it cruises along the galleries until it finds a gallery too small.

    At this time, the oversized deposit blocks that gallery and in a reverse cascade, it starts to block up galleries all the way back to the engine intake. At this time, the blockage takes on even more significance because you can’t find it easily and it must be cleared.

    In this case, it is possible that you will have to have the engine drained so you can clear this. Once it is drained and ready, you’ll need to have the galleries run to clean things up.

    Honestly, it is too big a job for a casual driver; a mechanic has to strip the engine down and clean things out when he has access. When he has finished, he has to reinstall the various pieces to get your engine running. Usually, the parts are new and it will cost somewhere around $2,500 to take care of the work.

    in reply to: TBC Fault Message #824

    The TBC error in a Ford F550 tells me there is a trailer braking problem. I would run a diagnostic and poll the engine control module for all of the codes that might be involved.

    Quickly, though, I would say that there is a problem somewhere in the trailer wiring. It is quite possible a trailer brake connector wire has chafed and has shorted out. It is also possible that the error shows there is an error in the trailer hitch itself. Of course, this is supposing your 550 is equipped with a trailer hitch and it tows a trailer.

    However, if I had to guess I’d say your vehicle does have a hitch and you do tow. I have very rarely seen a vehicle the sized of the 550 without a working hitch. However, given the error you are receiving now, I would suggest that you have the trailer hitch fixed or replaced.

    As to why your truck is running roughly, I would also suggest a diagnostic and I think you will see that either the state of your vehicle’s tune is being affected and that it needs a tuneup, among other things.

    in reply to: Chevy Impala Reduced Engine Power Message #823

    This relates to the throttle body and/or its connector. This is a rather common problem that is quite well known. What happens is the connector — and sensors — for the throttle body pick up on the fault as there is more than a little feedback heading toward the connector, even as it is sending information to the Engine Control Module.

    You can tell there’s a throttle body problem by the fact that the engine runs rough and there’s a lack of power. It’s just what you described in your note.

    There are two potential fixes for this problem. The first is the easiest and least expensive, while the second is much more expensive.

    The First fix involves replacing the throttle body connector. Like the throttle body, if this particular connector goes bad, then there’s a problem and, again, its just what you describe.

    If this fails to address the problem, you will have to replace the throttle body itself. This should clear up the problem and your Malibu should run quite smoothly afterward.

    The cost is between $400 and $500.


    I suspect there is a service bulletin out there on the Fiat Chrysler Autos repair computer system. The reason that I thought this that I checked my favorite sites while working on this question and it came back that there were repeated errors with the Electronic Stability Program/Brake Assist System.

    This system comes on whenever you need help with uneven traction surfaces. The engine and brake system move the power between the driving wheels to help keep things as steady as possible. There are also times when you may be accelerating and the engine is working hard when you need an assist with the stability as well.

    Suffice to say that this system is also integrated with the ABS so that it comes on and tries to help keep everything stable no matter what the conditions.

    Now, as to the reason I suspect there might be a problem and a quick service bulletin, it is that I have seen several reports from Jeep/Dodge owners who reported that the system flashed the ESP/BAS light on and off for a time. The dealership was advised to enter in some new software and reflash them to correct the error.

    If the error keeps happening it may be that a dynamic sensor isn’t working correctly. If it is you will be happy to note that it is covered by warranty. However, you may lose your car for a day or more.


    I would suspect that there’s a lot more going on on your Subaru that the recall is showing. I don’t know the fine details of the recall but I would be willing to bet that if you looked at the circuits and their wiring, you would find that something is grounding out.
    By and large, I have found that when an error like this happens, you have a wire that may have been working against an exposed screw head or the base of a fastener that has become worn and so it shorts or grounds out.

    It is also possible that the recalled parts may not be installed quite correctly — the dealer could be still new in dealing with the error — and something may be installed incorrectly or it may not have been torqued home enough to complete the circuit and thus the error.

    That’s my thinking on that error.

    Normally, the VDC system helps to keep your car stable in slippery conditions. It transfers power between wheels to keep them turning steadily. Or it may increase the braking pressure to one wheel, while also reducing the power so the wheels turn steadily and your car remains in control.

    Generally, you will find that if the little car light on the dash is flashing, the road may be slippery and the system is working to keep you in control.

    If, however, the system goes offline, the little light comes on indicating a fault. Though it may be indicating a fault, the system still has a bit of life in it as it will try to maintain a steady state between wheels even if the light is on. If turning the ignition on and off doesn’t clear things then you have major problem that a dealer has to check.

    in reply to: Are Volvos Expensive to Maintain & Repair? #820

    Let’s start out by saying that if you buy your Volvo new, then for the first three years or 36,000 miles repairs are mostly free because of the new-car warranty. After that, since Volvo are quite well built, there should be another period of say three to five years when the repairs are quite reasonable, all things considered.

    Yes, it is true that Volvo repairs are more expensive. The reason is that, despite its new owner, Volvo is a relatively small manufacturer that can’t ever reach the economies of scale achieved by other imports like Honda just because of sheer size. When you sell several million vehicles into a market every year, you have that base of vehicles on which to start your repair work. And, when you look at the Honda lineup, you see that the number of vehicles that figure grows yearly grows at a specific incremental rate as cars are added to the fleet.

    So, does this have an impact on the costs of your specific Volvo repairs? The answer here is it may. Because you are buying your repairs at an adjusted rate — the service management staff knows what that rate is but as you can imagine, they are rather loathe to let that proprietary information out. They use this information to set the basic rate for your car repairs which is exactly what you are asking about. Suffice it to say that though they may be able to get higher repair rate for your area, they will keep it stable so that they don’t price themselves out of the market.

    Here’s a good suggestion that will help you with your car repairs on your Volvo, buy a service contract and renew it after the term. For example, a customer recently came to a dealership with a heater problem. One repair outlet tried several times to pinpoint and fix the repair but every time they got down to cases, there was another issue. Finally, they were able to get all of the issues in a row and resolved. The only money the owner had to pay, when it was all said and done, was the $100 deductible. The cost of the policy is about $1,750, however, you will find the policy quickly pays for itself, especially if you have multiple covered problems to fix.

    in reply to: Honda CR-V Dead Battery Issues #819

    Okay, you have answered all of the secondary questions regarding the battery, here is the most important, how old is the battery? I realize that this must seem like a pretty generic answer but when you look at it, it is not.

    If your battery is older than say 36 months it has started to turn bad, though the ultimate downturn on any usage curve is right around 48 months. If your battery has passed the 48 month point, then it is definite that the battery is bad and it has to be replaced. Once it has been replaced, I think you will see your Honda working fine once more.

    And, if you are wondering if your dealings with the service department have been all in vain, I have to tell you they are not. You see, you have had your Honda’s software suite upgraded during your trips to the service department which is a very good thing. As such, your vehicle is ready for many more years on the road. Just remember, though, the most obvious answer is often the answer in a car so try to see if your car battery is just old. The chances are good, it is.


    Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) is a vehicle stability system. It keeps your vehicle under control by either adding braking to the wheels or by adding power. For the most part, VDC systems — VDC is used primarily on Nissan vehicles — is working when the light is turned off, not on. If the VDC light appears, then the system is off and you have to restart it. To restart it, you simply put the vehicle through an on-off cycle and the VDC comes back on.


    The Tire Monitor System (TMS) is part of your Silverado’s monitoring systems. It’s job is to watch your tires’ pressure and report if it goes too high or too low. Most of the time, it is reporting on the low tire pressure condition because that’s the one most of us find ourselves in.

    There are times, though, when your tires are way above the manufacturer’s recommendations — let’s say you are filling your tires up and you have no tire service gauge available. In this condition, it’s pretty easy to let the air flow into the tire for too long so that you end up way over the recommendations. Since, this is the case, you will find the TMS will react and notify you of the problem. Further, it might suggest that you simply release some of the air from the each tire to restore your vehicle to balance in all four wheels.

    If your tires have too much air pressure in them, you can easily damage them. Not only does the added pressure cause a harsher ride for you and your passengers, but it also makes the tires harder so that impacts to things like potholes or road-surface irregularities. In turn, you can damage the tire quite easily. Further, it is possible that you can quickly burst a tire and break a wheel, as well. Alloy wheels don’t like this type of damage so you can quickly knock a piece or pieces out of an expensive wheel, leaving you with quite a repair bill (some special service wheels can cost up to $2,000 and the tires that surround them can easily add another $1,500 or more for the rubber, so if you damage one wheel and tire, you are out $3,500; two is $7,000 and so on).

    Most of the time, as noted, the TMS tells you the wheel’s or wheels’ that may be under-pressured. The TMS usually notifies you when you tires are about four to seven pounds underneath the proper pressure for your car. The system then continually reminds you that a tire or tires is has pressure that is too low. Unless there is some kind of alarm, then the system sits there continually showing a warned condition.

    In order to find out which tire is too low — usually the condition it reports the most, other than normal — you have to go from tire to tire and either check the air pressure in the tire with a hand gauge to see which tire or tires are low. Then, you simply have to refill the offending tire or tires and you are on your way.

    At one time, the Tire Monitor Service was part of the standard equipment on really high-end cars that marked the top-of-the-line. In the Chevy world, then, you would have found it on the Corvette, the 3LT versions of Chevy Suburbans, the Chevrolet SS and similar vehicles.

    Now, monitoring systems are found on just about every vehicle on the market. It is a way you can know that your car’s tires are in good shape and working for you.

    That’s all there is to it.

    • This reply was modified 4 years, 2 months ago by alex00.
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