Import Auto News: Volume 11 Car Repair & Car Care Advice For Do-It-Yourselfers

BMW Low or Fluctuating Voltage
Thanks to Mr. Pixel (from his own experience)

If you are experiencing low or fluctuating voltage in your BMW with the dashboard light and headlights flickering, inspect the alternator housing for bugs. When driving, the wind scoop funnels air from the grill area to cool the alternator, but the alternator acts as a vacuum and collects bugs. Simply remove the bugs (i.e., moths, flies, bees, etc.) and see if this fixes the problem by allowing the alternator to cool properly.

Generic Time/Mileage Assumptions for Oil Changes Can Wear Out Your Engine Prematurely
Thanks to TPS (from his own experience)

Engine oil levels and purity are affected by different driving conditions and vehicle ages, so don't wear out your engine with the old generic every 3 months/3000 mile assumptions. Although owner's manuals vary from every 3,000 to 10,000 miles, don't make the mistake of accepting what the manual says as true for your particular car and driving conditions.

Factors that affect your motor oil and, hence, the frequency at which you should change your oil include:

1) Driving habits (heavy acceleration or high-speed driving)

2) Type of driving (stop-and-go/city or highway)

3) Age and condition of your car's engine (older, frequently burns oil, etc.)

4) Extreme climate (hot or cold)

5) Driving conditions (dirt or gravel roads)

6) Loads (frequently carry or tow heavy loads)

Always perform periodic inspections (every few hundred miles or at each fuel fill-up) of your motor oil to verify the correct intervals at which to do an oil change. It only takes a minute of your time to check it. Look at the oil on the dip stick. If it's black, you've definitely waited too long - cut your interval in half. If it's cloudy or milky from short distance driving, your oil's detergents have been overloaded. Feel the oil. If you can feel fine grit, so can your bearings and cam and everything else in there. Smell it. If it smells like gas, verify tuning and mixture.

Car Talk Tip: If you do a lot of your own car maintenance, you'll need to dispose of the old fluid properly. Hazardous materials that cannot be thrown in the trash include oil, hydraulic fluids (power steering, transmission, brake system, etc.), antifreeze, and batteries. To find out how to dispose of hazardous materials where you live, check out  Earth 911.

Bring Your Old Leather Seats Back to Life
Thanks to Mical C. (from another website)

While investigating and trying to decipher all the "home brews" and recommendations for leather care, I met this chap who's been a full blown tanner for over 35 years. He gave me step-by-step instructions to bring leather back to life.

First, mix 3 ounces of pure Neatsfoot oil, 3 ounces water and 1/2 ounce household ammonia - this equals "fat-liquor", which is used to soften original hides. Rub mixture lightly over the leather surface, let sit for 30 minutes and buff dry.

Then apply a paste called "Stubben Hamanol" (available at fine saddle shops). Stubben Hamanol is from Germany and is made specifically for European leathers. Using a sponge applicator, wipe a fine coat over the leather surface and let sit in warm (not hot) environment (i.e., driveway). Let sit for 3 hours then wipe lightly with a terry towel. After doing this, my 13 year old seats are "glove leather soft".

Remove Stains from Your Car's Upholstery with These Easy Steps
Thanks to Cleaning.Tips.Net

Depending on the stain, you should take the following steps to remove it from your car's upholstery:

Food:  Use upholstery cleaner. After removing the excess food residue, spray on a small amount of auto upholstery cleaner. Wait a few minutes, scrub the stain gently with a soft brush, and dry off the area with a clean cloth. Repeat if needed.

Ink:  Use hairspray. First blot the area to remove excess ink. Then spray on some hairspray and let sit for a few minutes. Use a clean, soft cloth to wipe the area, changing the cloth frequently to prevent reverse staining.

You can also use rubbing alcohol to remove ink stains from auto upholstery. In that case, use cotton pads instead of cloth to wipe the stain. Beware - alcohol should ONLY be applied on the actual stained area. Once the excess alcohol is removed, use a cloth to wipe the stain as usual.

Lipstick:  Use white toothpaste. Gently rub the stain with white (non-gel) toothpaste. Then wipe the area clean with a soft, damp cloth.

Crayon:  Use upholstery cleaner and liquid dish detergent. Carefully scrape off the excess crayon. Next, spray the stain with upholstery cleaner and let it sit for a few minutes. Scrub the area gently with a hard brush, and then sponge it with paper towels. Re-spray the cleaner and apply liquid dishwashing detergent on the area. Scrub gently with the brush and wipe the stain with a damp sponge.

Mold and Mildew:  Use cleaning products that contain peroxide and detergents. Spray the cleaner on the affected area and wait about ten minutes. Then, blot the area until dry using a clean cloth. If the stain or odor persists, repeat the process.

Battery Acid:  Use baking soda and water. For battery acid stains, make a paste of baking soda and water and apply it to the affected area. Wait for at least an hour before you wipe the paste off with a clean, damp cloth.

Another useful homemade cleaner can be prepared by mixing a teaspoon dishwashing detergent in some warm water. Once you have a lot of suds, use these to clean your auto upholstery. Then rinse the area gently with water and dry thoroughly.

Gasoline:   Use vinegar, liquid dish detergent and warm water. Dab on a mixture of vinegar, liquid dish detergent and warm water in equal proportions. Dry the area thoroughly. Repeat if needed.

For more stain removal tips, check out  Removing Stains & Other Sticky Stuff.

Repair Your Car's Power Windows and Save Yourself a Bundle
Thanks to Donald H. (from his own experience)

You never realize how much you use your power windows until they stop working. When you reach for the switch to lower the window and nothing happens, not even a noise to let you know the device isn't functioning, don't panic worrying how much this will cost to repair.

First, before assuming that the window regulator must be replaced, rule out the possibility of dirty electrical contacts. Sometimes the switch is dirty causing the window to malfunction. If this is the case, take the necessary steps to clean the contact. Disconnect the harness from the switch, blow into the switch with canned air and plug it back in to see if it works.

Note: The main power for all individual window switches on most vehicles goes through the master switch located at the driver's console.

If it's not the contacts and you need to replace your window regulator, here are the general steps to be followed:

1) Remove the door panel for the affected window. Most panels use screws and bolts, but some have snap-in fittings.

2) Locate and remove the bolts holding the window regulator to the door - you'll probably have to manually raise or lower the window in order to access the bolts. You'll also need to either remove the glass or secure it in place before taking out the regulator.

3) Remove the old regulator, disconnect all wiring, and replace with the new unit you've purchased from a parts supplier.

4) Tighten the bolts holding the new regulator, reattach the glass to the regulator, and reinstall the plastic moisture barrier. Make sure all the wires are put back in the door before closing the door panel.

5) Press the power window switch and the new regulator should work without restraint.

By purchasing the window regulator at a discount auto parts site like AutohausAZ and installing it yourself, you'll be surprised just how much money you can save with on simple auto repair versus taking it to the dealer.

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.

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