Recall Roundup: Is Your Car On This List?

As of December 2010, certain units of the following vehicle models are under recall by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to address these potential issues (link to report is below the list):
  • 2005-2007 Cadillac CTS for disabled front passenger airbags (p. 12).
  • 2011 Cadillac Escalade EXT, Chevrolet Avalanche, Silverado LD, and GMC Sierra LD vehicles for rear axle lock (p. 12).
  • 2011 Cadillac SRX, Chevrolet Equinox, and GMC Terrain vehicles for safety belt buckle anchor fractures (p. 7).
  • 2008-2010 Chrysler Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan for inadvertent airbag deployment (p. 4).
  • 2009 Dodge Journey for side airbag impact sensor wiring (p. 15).
  • 2011 Ford F-150, F-250, F-350, F-450, F-550, Edge and Lincoln MKX vehicles for an electrical short that could result in unattended vehicle fires (p. 15).
  • 2010-2011 Honda Accord V6 and 2011 Honda Pilot for loss of steering (p. 11).
  • 2007-2008 Honda Fit for inoperative low beam headlights (p. 7).
  • 2011 Hyundai Santa Fe for a brake fluid leak (p. 5).
  • 2010-2011 Ram (Dodge) trucks for brake pedals that are slow to return (p. 6).
  • 2011 Ram 1500 trucks for rear axle bearing failures (p. 15).
  • 2011 Toyota Sienna for brake drag (p. 7).
  • 2006-2010 Volkswagen (VW) Jetta, Jetta Sportwagen, New Beetle, New Beetle convertible, Rabbit vehicles with 2.5 liter engines for fuel leaks (p. 7).
Additionally Hankook Tire is recalling certain P265/70R17S RH03 passenger car tires for premature sidewall wear and blowout risk (p. 2).
For details on any of the above recalls click here for the full report (PDF).
Cars Under Investigation
Automobiles that may be recalled pending a current engineering analysis are:
  • 2002-2005 BMW 3 series sedans (E46)
  • 2007 Chevy Tahoe and GMC Yukon
  • 2001-2004 Ford Escape and Mazda Tribute
  • 2002-2005 Ford Explorer and Mercury Mountaineer
  • 2004-2006 Ford F150
  • 2004-2005 Ford Freestar and Mercury Monterey
  • 2002 Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable
  • 1999-2003 Ford Windster (in Salt Belt states)
  • 2003-2004 Infiniti M45
  • 2003-2005 Infiniti Q45
  • 2007-2008 Kia Sorento
The full list of vehicles and the reasons for their investigation by NHTSA is located here (PDF).
And one funny (but true) tidbit about getting the basics right:
Triumph is recalling certain model year 2010 Sprint ST and GT motorcycles. The plug/dipstick is of an incorrect length. As a result, the accuracy of the dipstick for measuring adequate levels of oil may be compromised and adequate oil levels may not be maintained. In adequate oil levels may cause the engine may to seize leading to a loss of control of the vehicle and increasing the risk of a crash. Dealers will replace the engine oil plug/dipstick fitted to the clutch cover. This service will be performed free of charge. The safety recall began on December 24, 2010. Owners may contact Triumph Motorcycle at 1-678-539-8782.
[Source: NHTSA]
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GM Ecotec Engine Ticking Noise – And What To Do About It

Here’s a GM Ecotec engine with an unusual ticking sound…. good for reference if you have say, a Chevy Cobalt or Cavalier, and it starts making strange noises. And maybe what you can do to fix it:



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The Only Reasons To Buy A Used Car

At the root of it there are only two reasons why people buy used cars:
1 (A) Less Money For Same Car
Either making an affordable car more affordable or putting a formerly unattainable car within reach.
This would be my guess for why most used car sales occur. The buyer saves money on the car compared with when it was new. There’s still useful life in it and the trade-off is worth it. For example, what used to cost $30k might now be obtained for $15k.
1 (B) More Car For Same Money
This is a slight variation on the same idea. You can buy something that used to be out of reach. For your money you could buy a regular new car or…. something a bit special.
Be careful though, as it can easily eat you alive with upkeep costs if you end up with a bad example of a complicated, formerly expensive car. It’s generally not a good idea to buy a used car for, say, $10k if it sold for $80k when new – unless you’re really committed. Generally there is a reason the price is so low.
2. Obtain A Classic
There’s no way around this if it isn’t in production any more.
Or some combination of these three factors. The smart money will give serious consideration to buying used when it makes sense.
You can save a lot of money. But as always, having a plan or system in place before you go down this route will result in a far better experience.
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Shock Absorbers and Stopping Distance

Springs and shocks control the motion of each wheel of a car. Springs enable the suspension to move up and down over bumps and imperfections in the road. Shocks absorb and dissipate the energy from that motion. Without shocks the car would continue to bounce on the springs after hitting a bump. Having worn shocks is somewhat like that.
Good shocks are important not just for passenger comfort, but also for safety. We have often heard that shocks keep tires in contact with the road, which is only partially correct. How often have you seen tires not in contact with the road? Even worn shocks won’t cause your tires to dribble off the ground.
The full reason is that, for a given set of conditions, it’s the amount of downward force which varies a tire’s traction. Good shocks keep the tire in optimal contact with the road, enabling consistent maximum traction and shorter stopping distance.
See Wikipedia for more.
Tests carried out by Monroe Shocks (a leading manufacturer) indicate worn shocks can increase stopping distance from 60 mph on the order of about 10 feet, which is about 7% to 9% (most cars stop from 60 mph in about 110 to 130 ft).
Here’s a good animated site by Gabriel (shock manufacturer) that explains the effect of shock and strut wear (http://www.checkyourshocks.com/).
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Wheel Alignment

This clip contains clear explanations of wheel alignment, toe, camber and caster.

It also recommends that you should get your car aligned after rotating the tires, which makes sense. But if the interval is pretty short (say 7,500 miles) then it’s not very practical to keep up with that routine.

The more often a technician touches your car, the more risk there is of human error. And wheel alignment is, in my experience, one of the procedures that has a high chance of not getting done right the first time, resulting in having to bring the car back for corrections. It’s hard to get it just right.

So unless the car pulls to one side or is imbalanced, or there is evidence of uneven tire wear I wouldn’t worry about getting an alignment each time I rotate the tires. Also, be sure to account for the effects of road crowning when checking alignment.



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How to Change A Timing Belt

This is one of the more lively yet informative clips. Scotty Kilmer walks us through the process of replacing the timing belt on a Toyota Camry. The front wheel skid with the motorcycle in the intro is pretty impressive too.
Note he mentions a good idea of turning the engine over twice using a “cheater bar” before starting the engine with the new belt to check for correct installation (because a four stroke engine requires two full revolutions to complete a combustion cycle).

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Runaway Hubcap Replacement: 2003-2008 Toyota Corolla

My mom lost another hub cap from her car recently. I’ve replaced 2 or 3 of them over they years already. This usually occurs as a result of winter driving and vicious potholes, and consequently we have an unadorned black steel wheel.
It appears that this particular Corolla model has a high propensity for losing hubcaps. I have seen a multitude of these vehicles missing one or more hub caps.
So what to do about a replacement? And by that I mean an original factory replacement, not a generic auto parts store special. I called a hubcap shop in the area and was quoted a price of $65. That’s pretty steep considering I would have to drive there to pick it up, which is a little out of the way.
Rather than do that, I went on Car-Part and found the same thing slightly used for $25 plus $10 UPS shipping from Waterloo Auto Parts (an auto salvage yard) in Iowa. I called them to confirm availability and placed the order. A week later it arrived at my office, saving me about $30 and an hour.
This isn’t the first time I’ve used the site either. Another time my mom hit a pothole so hard with her previous car it bent a wheel, for which I also found a replacement wheel using Car-Part. It’s pretty useful.
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Should You Buy A Used Chevy Volt Later?

While the first Chevy Volt only recently rolled off the production line, I’m contemplating how it will stack up on the used car market in a few years.
Traits of good used car buys include the use of proven technology, parts and service availability, high sales volume which means there is a large market of that particular model to choose from. Great safety and quality ratings are important too. The Volt is too new to know.
Source:  Wikipedia
It represents a paradigm shift in automotive engineering and design, which is impressive. I hope it succeeds. However, like the first microwaves, VCRs, cell phones and computers, they were sold to prove viability in the marketplace but had comparatively low value for buyers when compared with later models due to quick product evolution.
From that point of view the novel control strategies, lithium ion battery pack and a host of unproven technologies will make this a risky used car buy. It’s not likely destined for 200k trouble free miles, so resale value will probably be heavily discounted by the used car market in the form of rapid depreciation. Unless it becomes a collector item.  But we’re not talking about collector items. This is strictly from a utilitarian standpoint.
Watch for resale value on this $41,000 car, likely affected by Federal and state funny money (tax credits, rebates, incentives, etc.) to vary a lot by region but generally trend downward fairly quickly.
We also need to remember that to get the plug-in benefit of electric power you need to have a place to charge at home (i.e. garage). With 110 volt household power it will take about 10 hours to do a full charge, so you would want to invest in rewiring for a 220 volt set up which would shorten charge time to about 4 hours. Keep that cost in mind should you consider purchasing one.
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Recall Roundup: Is Your Car On This List?

As of November 2010, certain units of the following vehicle models are under recall by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA):
  • 2010-2011 Cadillac DTS and Buick Lucerne models with V8 engines for starter cables (p. 5).
  • 2004-2011 Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon pickups (also some Isuzu trucks) with 60/40 split bench seats for a lack of child restraint anchorage systems (p. 10).
  • 2010-2011 Jaguar XJ for windshield wiper arm synchronization (p. 11).
  • 2008 Jeep Liberty for windshield washer motors (p. 5).
  • 2011 Kia Sorento for rear brake calipers (p. 16).
  • 2010-2011 Land Rover LR2 for driver’s side airbag deployment (p. 12).
  • 2009-2010 Mazda 5 for fuel pump connectors (p. 16).
  • 2002-2004 Nissan Frontier and Xterra for steering shaft failures due to corrosion (p. 6)
  • 2010-2011 Nissan Sentra for battery cable terminals (p. 6).
  • 2010 Volvo XC60 for curtain air bags (p. 8).
  • 2011 Volvo S60, S80, XC60 and XC70 for engine control module programming (p. 12).
  • Volvo vehicles equipped with portable Garmin 760 GPS units for overheating batteries (p. 8).
  • Volvo models with power front passenger seats for seat rails (p. 14).
Volvo is not having a very good month with recalls that are affecting most /all of their model lineup. For details on any of the above recalls click here for the full report (PDF).
Cars Under Investigation
Automobiles that might be recalled pending a current engineering analysis are:
  • 2002-2005 BMW 3 series sedans (E46)
  • 2007 Chevy Tahoe and GMC Yukon
  • 2001-2004 Ford Escape and Mazda Tribute
  • 2002-2005 Ford Explorer and Mercury Mountaineer
  • 2004-2006 Ford F150
  • 2004-2005 Ford Freestar and Mercury Monterey
  • 2002 Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable
  • 2003-2004 Infiniti M45
  • 2003-2005 Infiniti Q45
  • 2007-2008 Kia Sorento
Ford has numerous vehicle models under investigation, along with several from other manufacturers. The full list of vehicles and the reasons for their investigation by NHTSA is located here (PDF).
[Source: NHTSA]
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Tire Rotation: How To – Part 2

Procedure

Before doing anything else, check the tire pressures and inflate as needed. Do this for the spare as well.

There are several patterns by which you can rotate the tires. Two typical ones are the “X” pattern and front-to-rear. In the X pattern the left front tire is switched with the right rear, and the right front is switched with the left rear. In front-to-rear, each front tire is switched with the rear tire on the same side of the car.

Park the car on a flat surface (inside a garage is best). Chock any one tire. Lift the opposite diagonal corner of the car and remove the wheel.

 

 

Be sure to take the opportunity to inspect other parts when you have removed the tire and wheel from each corner. Now is the time to inspect the brakes and and shocks, checking for any tears or leaks in rubber boots.

Torn boot on strut

Then install the spare and lower the car. Inspect the tire you just removed for wear, punctures and other damage. If it’s good then repeat these steps for each of the remaining tire positions.

When tightening the lugs on each wheel, start them all by hand to avoid crossthreading. Once all are snug fit, use the lug wrench to tighten them until there’s no play (but not much tighter) and lower the car.

Finally, use a torque wrench to hand tighten the lugs to specification according to the appropriate pattern for the number of lugs on each wheel (usually 4 or 5). The torque specification can vary widely so check for your specific vehicle but ballpark is typically in the 70 to 80 ft lbs for a regular car.

If you have four jackstands you can do this much faster since you won’t need to use the spare tire to temporarily hold each corner of the car up while you swap the tires at another position.

Torque wrench

After you’re done remove the wheel chock and record the vehicle mileage in your log.

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