Import Auto News: Volume 10 Car Repair & Car Care Advice For Do-It-Yourselfers

Watch for Falling Engine When Replacing Your VW Golf MK2 Starter Motor
Thanks to Lee C. (from his own experience)

When removing/replacing your starter motor on a VW Golf MK2, make sure you support the engine by placing some wood or other suitable item under the oil sump pan. The reason for this is that the three bolts that hold the starter motor in place also hold your front engine mount in place. Removing these bolts makes the engine drop from the mount. So watch out!

Get Your Money's Worth from Your Fuel
Thanks to Mical C. (from his own experience)

With rising fuel prices, here's a couple of tricks to get your money's worth:

1) Buy your fuel in the early morning hours when cool/cold. You'll get more for the $$$ because the fuel is denser when cold (even if your gas station has the hose heaters).

2) Avoid the gas station if you see the following:

   a) A fuel truck fueling their tanks -it's stirring up dirt and condensation in the station's tank and you KNOW where it's going to end up - in your car!

   b) Independent brand name - stick with brand names. Independent stations buy from whoever is the cheapest supplier that day. Cheap gas usually means watererd down or old.

3) I've found a 99 cent bottle of STP gas treatment is better than Lloyds of London insurance. Adding it to your fuel tank once a month is the best thing you can do for your injectors and your fuel filter and everything else fuel related will last 10 times longer.

Happy Motoring!

Perform Magic on Scratched Headlight Covers
Thanks to Lloyd C. (from his own experience)

I have a 1992 BMW 318I. It has the standard North American plastic covers over the headlight assemblies that, with time, become roughened on the outer surface and opaque. The replacement with aftermarket European headlamp assemblies with glass covers would solve the problem but they are expensive - several hundred $$.

My solution was to purchase an acrylic clear spray paint made by Varathane (available at most hardware stores). Make sure it is this brand for outdoor use. I spray some into a container and then apply using a disposable sponge brush. The result is a smooth surface, and the covers are once again absolutely clear and look like new.

Avoid Water Leaks on C230 Dashes
Thanks to Ravel (from his own experience)

Since this simple tip could save someone hundreds of dollars, I felt it needed to be shared. I recently experienced water leaking into the front passenger floor area of my 1997 C230 when it rained. My first thought was the windshield that I had replaced not long ago hadn't been properly sealed. However, taking a closer look I found that this was not the problem.

My 1997 C230 had become so clogged with debris, the water had found its way into the dash, leaking all over the heater/blower motor and who knows what else and pooling onto the passenger's side floor.

To avoid this problem, all that is needed is to go under the hood, remove the black plastic vents at the bottom of the windsheild and remove debris. Also, looking with a light deep into the passenger side underneath the windshield (under the hood) you will find a rubber hole with a flap that could easily become clogged from outside debris. I removed this rubber part and cleaned it. Also, underneath both sides behind the front wheels find and remove two bolts giving access to clear out debris that should allow water to run from the top of the car out behind the front tires. I was amazed at how much debris had accumulated.

By keeping these areas free of debris, you can avoid the leaks - water flows right out as it should and you can avoid having to replace expensive electrical parts.

Keep Bugs from Sticking to Your Car
Thanks to Bob F. (from friend passing it along)

I found that any type of furniture polish put on the car before a trip will keep bugs from sticking and/or will make them easier to wash off.

Easily Find Non-Firing Cylinders on Diesel Engines
Thanks to Paul D. (from his own experience)

If you think a cylinder is not firing on any diesel engine, here's how to easily determine which one is at fault. With the engine cold, start the engine. Put your finger on each exhaust port. The one that stays cold is the one not firing.

More Car Wash Tips

From Mark C. (his own experience: The only soap I use on my cars is Murphy's Oil Soap. It leaves a protective film and a beautiful shine. Wash the wheels and tires last to avoid grit on your mitt which might scratch the top surfaces. The oil soap gives the tires a nice shine, too! Be sure to dry the car or there will be streaks left no matter how much you rinse. Always drive the car a few miles after any washing to dry the brakes and blow out any trapped water behind chrome. Putting it directly into the garage is just asking for rusty rotors. Another advantage of the oil soap is if any remains inside the doors or other hidden areaS, it will protect the metal, not corrode it.

From Keith F. (his own experience: Dish soap is for grease on dishes. Never use dish soap on your waxed finish unless you wish to strip off the old wax or are changing waxes. If you want to wash your tires, use cleanser and a brush. White lettering will be white and the black will have all the dirt removed. To get rid of bugs on the front of your car, use a mixture of baking soda and water as bugs are acidic and the baking soda will neutralize the acid and make wiping the bugs much off easier.

From Haven L. (his own experience: Always open all of the doors, gas, trunk, hood, sun/moon roof and dry remaining water drops.

More Follow-Up to "Avoiding Engine Damage After an Oil Change" (Volume 6)
(See Also the Follow-Up in Volume 7 & Volume 8)
Thanks to Rob C. (from his own experience)

Here is another simple and effective tip to lessen engine wear after an oil change. Fill the new filter with oil before you attach it to the engine. It takes awhile for the oil to soak into the filter media, so fill it up and put it aside for a few minutes, then add more just before you put it on. If your filter attaches from the bottom, you can fill it to the top. If it attaches from the side, you shouldn't lose any oil if you fill the filter about 2/3 full and spin it on quickly.

Learn the Basic Facts on Fuel Efficient Vehicles
Thanks to Kyle Busch (author of Drive the Best for the Price)

The hybrids cost about $5,000 above the all-gasoline cars. The hybrids have most all of the components of a gasoline car plus the electrical components. I believe that the Japanese auto makers are doing "real world" testing for the electric motor, recharging system, etc. In five years, they should have all electric offerings. The Japanese and the Europeans have micro cars that are fuel efficient. At this time, however, they are not offered to Americans.

Diesels are an alternative. BMW has a 320di with 148 horsepower. It gets about 50 mpg at 100 miles per hour, 0-60 is about 8.1 seconds. This car is not imported into the United States at this time.

Kia and Hyundai are coming up in quality, but the prices are coming up just under the pricey Toyota and Honda.

The cost of transportation can be expensive and higher fuel prices do not help matters. The following vehicles have good ratings, and they will help to stretch your fuel dollars. I offer the following fuel efficient vehicles because the cars are proven, are reasonably priced, and are available:

1) The Toyota Corolla has been around for over 30 years. During the last few years, the Corolla has become a bit larger. Expect to achieve about 30 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and about 40 mpg on the highway with this vehicle.

2) The Honda Civic has been a stiff rival to the Corolla. The Civic has also recently grown a bit in size. The Civic is right there with the Corolla at about 30 mpg in the city and about 40 mpg on the highway.

3) The Geo Prizm will cost about $1,000-$1,500 less than a comparable year Corolla or Civic. The Prizm will achieve about 29 mpg in the city and about 38 mpg on the highway.

4) The Suzuki Esteem wagon provides some cargo-carrying ability and reasonable fuel economy. Expect to achieve about 28 mpg in the city and about 37 mpg on the highway with this vehicle.

5) The Subaru Legacy wagon/Outback wagon and Forester can all carry cargo plus they have all-wheel drive. These vehicles generally have the most powerful engines out of those mentioned above. Expect to achieve about 22 mpg in the city and about 27 mpg on the highway.

If you are in the market for a vehicle, be certain to do your homework. Consult the April (automotive issue) of Consumer Reports. This resource is available at most public libraries.

If you plan on buying a used vehicle, also be sure to read a couple of archived new vehicle road tests (review road tests that were conducted at the time the vehicle was new) in auto magazines (many are archived at your local library) or Internet sources such as Car and Driver, Motor Trend, Road & Track or MotorWeek. Information from the road tests will allow you to zero in on which of the vehicles discussed above will be the best for you.

Last, but not least, be certain that you do not overpay to drive a fuel-efficient vehicle. For example, if you pay say $1,500 more for a vehicle that achieves five mpg more than your current vehicle, you would need to drive it about five years to get $1,500 in fuel savings. However, say you pay an extra $500 for a vehicle that achieves 10 mpg more than your current vehicle. In a little over one year, you would recoup your $500.

Kyle Busch is the author of "Drive the Best for the Price: How to Buy a Used Automobile, Sport-Utility Vehicle, or Minivan and Save Money." His web site accepts all transportation questions.

Don't Forget:

Repair articles are added regularly. Come back often to check for new maintenance topics.

These repair tips are designed only as a starting point. Please seek the assistance of a professional mechanic for all repair problems beyond your capabilities.

Return To Import Auto News For More Repair Tips