Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 20 of 35

Thread: Repairs and checks you can still "do yourself"

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    The Land of The Edentulites
    Posts
    22,730

    Repairs and checks you can still "do yourself"

    Repairs and checks you can still "do yourself"
    By Eric Peters
    for immediate release

    New cars can be pretty intimidating, fix-it-yourself wise. Sometimes, it's a challenge just to find the hood release -- or locate the dipstick in order to check the oil level.

    So, are you totally at the mercy of Mr. Goodwrench -- and his $70 per hour labor charges?

    For the most part (and for most people) the answer, unfortunately, is yes. Even jobs that were once fairly simple -- such as changing spark plugs -- are often beyond the skill level or patience of the average do-it-yourselfer.

    But that doesn't mean you should stop thinking about handling routine checks and even a few basic maintenance chores yourself. And doing these routine checks can prevent potentially expensive problems from developing in the first place -- perhaps even warn you in time to do something about it before it's too late. Basic maintenance stuff can also still save you time and money -- just like in the good old days.

    I. Basic checks:

    * Tire pressure. In the 20-plus years since full service gas stations went away, more and more cars are driving around on under-inflated tires -- accelerating tire wear and sometimes dangerously comprising your vehicle's handling/braking performance. It doesn't matter if you drive a six-figure exotic or a $10,000 Kia -- checking tire pressure is as simple a job today as it was 20 or 30 years ago. A pen-style air pressure gauge can be bought at any auto parts store for about $10 -- and should be used at least every other week to confirm the tires are inflated to the specification listed in the owner's manual. Any tire that appears to be losing air excessively (more than a few PSI every couple of weeks is cause for concern) should be inspected by a tire shop for leaks, nail damage and so on. It's also important to visually check each tire for potentially dangerous defects or damage -- such as a bulge in the sidewall, abnormal or uneven wear -- and so on.

    * Fluid checks. Every car owner should know where the oil dipstick is -- and how to check the oil level. That's because every car engine uses oil during normal operation -- gradually reducing the level from "full" to something less than full. And some cars use more oil than others -- occasionally, as much as a quart or more per month. If the oil level isn't checked periodically (and topped off as needed), your engine could run dangerously low on oil -- the lifeblood of the most expensive single part of your vehicle. It's very possible to ruin a $4,000 engine by running low on 2-3 quarts of $1.50 oil. Checking the dipstick once every couple of weeks will prevent this -- and give you a sense of your car's "normal" use of oil, too. That can help alert you to a sudden change in the amount of oil being used -- and clue you in to a potentially serious problem you might otherwise have missed.

    * Under hood/under car once-over. Once every week or two, it's a good idea to pop the hood and look for anything that's changed since the last time you looked. You don't have to be a mechanic or have any significant mechanical knowledge to be able to notice things that aren't "right" -- for example, green (or orange/yellow on some cars) engine coolant seeping out of the radiator. Or something that looks like it's working loose that should be tight. If you see something that suggests a developing problem, you can then take the car in for a check by a mechanic -- instead of waiting for something to leave you stuck by the road waiting for a tow truck. It's also a good idea to back the car out of its usual overnight parking spot and check for abnormal drips/puddles underneath. All cars drip slightly, eventually -- but any new puddle or significant dripping is cause for having a mechanic give the car a look.

    II. Basic maintenance:

    * Air filter check/replacement. While spark plugs and other "tune-up" parts on a new car can easily last 50,000 miles or longer, air filters still need to be changed more often. Every six months or so, it's a good idea to check the condition of the air filter -- and pop in a new one if the old one's clogged with dirt. Air filters usually are good for a couple of years, but if you live in a very dusty area or put serious miles on your vehicle (more than about 12k annually) you'll probably have to replace it more often. In any event, this is usually still an easy job -- even on today's new cars. You may need a screwdriver, but usually it's just a matter of locating the "air box" (see your owner's manual; there are usually instructions), popping the clip-style fasteners commonplace on late model vehicles -- and accessing the filter element.

    * Fluid top-off. As with checking engine oil levels, it's no big thing to open the hood and periodically check to see that the windshield washer reservoir is full. Running out of washer fluid is annoying -- and potentially dangerous, too. If you can't clear your windshield, you can't see where you're going. The washer fluid reservoir is usually clearly marked (again, see your owner's manual; you'll find instructions) and it's just a matter of pouring in new fluid until the "full" mark is reached. While the hood is up, you might also eyeball the engine coolant overflow tank to make sure it, too, is at the appropriate level. There will usually be "full hot" and "full cold" marks on the side, indicating where the level should be if the engine has been running -- or sitting overnight. If it seems low, ask a mechanic about it. (Newer cars use a variety of different coolants -- not just "green" ethylene glycol -- and it is very important to use the right coolant specified by the manufacturer. Don't "top off" anything unless you're sure about the coolant -- and know what you are doing. Also be aware that cooling systems are hot and under pressure; be extremely careful if you intend to do any work yourself.)

    * Debris removal. In the fall especially -- but at other times of year as well -- leaves and other debris can accumulate in the vents near the base of the windshield, hampering water drainage and air circulation. Many cars with AC also have drain holes underneath the car to allow condensation to drain away -- and prevent foul-smelling mold from forming inside the AC system. Every 3-6 months or so, it's a good idea to raise the hood and remove any leaves/twigs or other debris jammed near the base of the windshield. And you can use a hose to spray a jet of water underneath the car (the area just ahead of the front doors, directly below the base of the windshield) to help keep the AC system's drain holes clear. (If you're really ambitious, you could crawl underneath and locate/inspect the drain holes; use a coat hanger tip or other appropriately-sized homemade tool to manually clear out any gunk.)


    END

  2. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    Minneapolis
    Posts
    1,429

    Re: Repairs and checks you can still "do yourself"

    This isn't a repair, but I really keeps your car looking nice..

    Anyone who lives in an area that has road salt/chemicals should consider going over their car with a clay bar in the spring time. You can't imagine how much stuff is still stuck to the finish after it's been washed.

    First I wash the car with dish washing detergent, to clean it and strip the wax. Then the clay bar. The clay is soft and somewhat sticky, you need to use a 'speed shine' type of product as a lubricant for the claying. Then apply the wax/sealer. I have been using the Klasse system, and it seems to work well. McGuires also have nice products.


  3. #3
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    The Land of The Edentulites
    Posts
    22,730

    Re: Repairs and checks you can still "do yourself"

    Youknow, it's been years since I used clay...mainly because my personal cars are now all lightly used antiques and kept garaged and covered most of the time (and never see rain, let alone harsh stuff like snow/road salt). The truck ... well, it's a truck! But great advice; I'd forgotten all about this technique....

  4. #4

    Re: Repairs and checks you can still "do yourself"

    For those who have the time, you can save some $ on reusable filters instead of having a dealer install paper filters. K&N comes to mind and they have a great washing/re-oiling kit.

  5. #5
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    The Land of The Edentulites
    Posts
    22,730

    Re: Repairs and checks you can still "do yourself"

    Quote Originally Posted by alphasubzero949
    For those who have the time, you can save some $ on reusable filters instead of having a dealer install paper filters. K&N comes to mind and they have a great washing/re-oiling kit.
    I use K&N filters in all my vehicles; good call. They are expensive (up front) but as you note, since they're washable/re-susable, you'll probably make that up within 2-3 years. And there are the claimed benefits in terms of better airflow/filtration, etc.

  6. #6
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    Wahiawa
    Posts
    587

    Re: Repairs and checks you can still "do yourself"

    Hi Eric

    I need information on why the GEN light on dashboard stays on even when engine is running.

  7. #7
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    The Land of The Edentulites
    Posts
    22,730

    Re: Repairs and checks you can still "do yourself"

    Quote Originally Posted by ChevyMan
    Hi Eric

    I need information on why the GEN light on dashboard stays on even when engine is running.
    This light indicates a problem with the charging system - a failing alternator being typical. I "think" (but am not 100 percent sure) your car has an alternator with an internal regulator, fyi. This makes life a little easier, since you don't have to deal with two separate components. How many miles have you got on the alternator? If it's more than 50,000 I'd be even more inclined to suspect this is your problem. If you can remove the alternator (easy to do; should be held in place on its bracket by 2-3 bolts; remove these and then the plug-in connection on the back) you can take it to a NAPA or other parts store with a tester. They can tell you whether it's charging properly. If not, just swap in a new one. Should be about $75 for your car - and I recommend getting an OEM-spec. new/rebuilt unit, if you need a replacement. Watch out for those cheapie replacements; they're often junk and will fail in short order. Ask for the best one they've got - one that meets the factory's original equipment specs., etc.


  8. #8
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    Wahiawa
    Posts
    587

    Re: Repairs and checks you can still "do yourself"


    <>

    I don't rack too much mileage on the car. The alternator is made by Delco I think, and is about 5 years old and it
    was installed approximately5000 milesago.

    <>

    Sorry there is no NAPA nearby. I can drive it about a mile to a shop and have them test it, can't I. If the unit
    is still good, maybe a bad fuse in the system?

  9. #9
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    The Land of The Edentulites
    Posts
    22,730

    Re: Repairs and checks you can still "do yourself"

    Delco is the original equipment GM supplier; any major auto parts store will stock (or can get) a correct replacement. Don't drive the car without the alternator installed; this will rapidly drain your battery, for one thing. Also, the pulley that drive the alternator may also be the one that drives your water pump, etc. The thing to do is remove it and use another car (or get a friend to drive you) toget over to the auto parts store - Advance, Napa, any major parts supplier.

    Given the low miles, you may have another (and possibly simpler) issue. Have you checked the belt tension? If the belt's slipping, the alternator might not be charging properly - and this would cause the "Gen" light to go on. The fix is easy - and probably cost-free. Just tighten up the belt!

  10. #10
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    Wahiawa
    Posts
    587

    Re: Repairs and checks you can still "do yourself"

    A shop is going to test the unit tomorrow and I plan to drive about mile to get to the shop. I'll have the alternator in place and hoping the car will get me there without stalling. Isn't it true that even with a possible bad alternator, the car won't stall as long as the engine keep on running?

  11. #11
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    The Land of The Edentulites
    Posts
    22,730

    Re: Repairs and checks you can still "do yourself"

    Quote Originally Posted by ChevyMan
    A shop is going to test the unit tomorrow and I plan to drive about mile to get to the shop. I'll have the alternator in place and hoping the car will get me there without stalling. Isn't it true that even with a possible bad alternator, the car won't stall as long as the engine keep on running?
    Well, for a little while - but remember, without the alternator, you are driving on battery power - and it's not being replenished (which is what the alternator does; the battery's job is only to start the engine and store electrical energy - not to operate the vehicle's electrical systems - lights, ignition, etc. ).

    If thebattery's fully charged, you'll probably get to the store and back - but it's going to drain fast, fyi.

  12. #12
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    Wahiawa
    Posts
    587

    Re: Repairs and checks you can still "do yourself"

    <<>

    Well, I'm not fully certain if the battery is "Fully charged". All I can go by is with the battery's built-in state-of-charge indicater on the top of the case. GREEN means "charged ", (what percentage, I'm not certain.It may be only 50%)

  13. #13
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    Wahiawa
    Posts
    587

    Re: Repairs and checks you can still "do yourself"

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric
    Quote Originally Posted by ChevyMan
    A shop is going to test the unit tomorrow and I plan to drive about mile to get to the shop. I'll have the alternator in place and hoping the car will get me there without stalling. Isn't it true that even with a possible bad alternator, the car won't stall as long as the engine keep on running?
    Well, for a little while - but remember, without the alternator, you are driving on battery power - and it's not being replenished (which is what the alternator does; the battery's job is only to start the engine and store electrical energy - not to operate the vehicle's electrical systems - lights, ignition, etc. ).

    If thebattery's fully charged, you'll probably get to the store and back - but it's going to drain fast, fyi.

  14. #14
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    Wahiawa
    Posts
    587

    Re: Repairs and checks you can still "do yourself"

    (Wish I could enlarge the font from "10" to 12)I drove the car to the shop but it conked out on me within a minute's walking distance. Lucky for me it didn't happen a few seconds sooner there by blocking traffic on a two-lane road

    Anyhow I was informed that I need a new alternator, and a new battery(almost 5-yrs. old), I think cuz I ran it completely dead trying to reach the shop.
    I do mostly stop and go city drving. I hardly get on the Interstate highway. I wonder if not driving faster contributed to the early demise of the alternator.

    Could such driving condition cause the alternator not charge the battery and the battery could not in turn charge the alternator? I keep wondering. What canyou say about this, Eric?

  15. #15
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    The Land of The Edentulites
    Posts
    22,730

    Re: Repairs and checks you can still "do yourself"

    Quote Originally Posted by ChevyMan
    (Wish I could enlarge the font from "10" to 12)I drove the car to the shop but it conked out on me within a minute's walking distance. Lucky for me it didn't happen a few seconds sooner there by blocking traffic on a two-lane road

    Anyhow I was informed that I need a new alternator, and a new battery(almost 5-yrs. old), I think cuz I ran it completely dead trying to reach the shop.
    I do mostly stop and go city drving. I hardly get on the Interstate highway. I wonder if not driving faster contributed to the early demise of the alternator.

    Could such driving condition cause the alternator not charge the battery and the battery could not in turn charge the alternator? I keep wondering. What canyou say about this, Eric?
    Batteries on lightly used cars can run down/get weak fairly quickly; starting the engine uses stored capacity - which would normally be recharged by the alternator just by driving the car. But you might not be driving it enough to keep the battery properly charged up. A trickle charger might be a good idea for you.These automatically maintain the proper battery charge during long periods of disuse. They're really handy to have - and will save you money and hassle on the long run!

  16. #16
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    Wahiawa
    Posts
    587

    Re: Repairs and checks you can still "do yourself"

    You're missing the point on my last post.

    What I wanted to know was: Because the battery was always fully uncharged to capacity, did this fact cause early demise to the alternator?

  17. #17
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    The Land of The Edentulites
    Posts
    22,730

    Re: Repairs and checks you can still "do yourself"

    Quote Originally Posted by ChevyMan
    You're missing the point on my last post.

    What I wanted to know was: Because the battery was always fully uncharged to capacity, did this fact cause early demise to the alternator?
    If the alternator is constantly trying to recharge a weak battery, it could shorten itsservice life, yes - hence the importance of a trickle charger on a lightly used car (or one that sits for fairly long periods unused, etc.)

  18. #18
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    Wahiawa
    Posts
    587

    Re: Repairs and checks you can still "do yourself"



    And what , may I ask is a 'trickle charger'?

  19. #19
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    The Land of The Edentulites
    Posts
    22,730

    Re: Repairs and checks you can still "do yourself"

    Quote Originally Posted by ChevyMan


    And what , may I ask is a 'trickle charger'?
    A trickle charger is just what it sounds like - a plug-in charger/battery maintainer. You plug it into any houshold outlet, then connect the leads to your battery's terminals. The trickle charger will automatically keep the battery at optimum charge, which is a great thing during periods of non-use. It shuts off automatically when the battery is fully charged. Some models also have "quick charge" and "start" functions, which you can use to start a car with a dead battery. They cost anywhere from $30 or so to about $75 for a "loaded" model. I have one I use to keep my little-used Trans-Am in the pink. Any auto parts store (or Sears) will carry them. Well worth having....

  20. #20
    Daine
    Guest

    Re: Repairs and checks you can still "do yourself"

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric

    If thebattery's fully charged, you'll probably get to the store and back - but it's going to drain fast, fyi.
    That is quite interesting and really fast.

    Many many many moons ago with my first TR6, my alternator went out about half way through a road trip to Ohio from NY.
    Actually, it didn't go out... I was in the process of restoring the car and was not done. My friend came by and asked if I wanted to convoy out there with 2 cars so I sort of threw the rest of the car together to depart. At first it would not start and in the trouble shooting process I found what seemed to be a short circuit. I much later realized that it was the charging circuit. :-[

    Anyway, all was well during the day but when evening came and I turned on the lights, after about an hour I began loosing power. We stopped and after some investigation I realized what I had done but by then it was too late, the alternator was dead.

    So I was surprised when you said " it's going to drain fast".
    I could get a good 70 miles with the lights on before we had to swap the battery into the other car to charge it and it never died, it just got slower.

    Daine

Similar Threads

  1. 2012 Mazda5: It puts the "mini" back in "van"
    By Eric in forum New Car/Truck Reviews
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: 07-26-2011, 09:27 AM
  2. Another 70 IQ thug afa-lete "hero" and "role model"
    By Eric in forum Hate Pro Sports - and jocksniffers?
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: 02-18-2011, 02:34 PM
  3. National Felons League "heroes" and "role models"
    By Eric in forum Hate Pro Sports - and jocksniffers?
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: 06-24-2010, 06:06 PM
  4. Is it the "United State" - or "states"?
    By Eric in forum What happened to our liberty?
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: 11-26-2009, 05:59 AM
  5. Maggots in prison get "stimulus" checks
    By Eric in forum The Maggots...
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: 08-27-2009, 09:53 AM

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •