Import Auto News: Volume 12 Car Repair & Car Care Advice For Do-It-Yourselfers

2003 Jetta TDI OBD-11 Glowplug Fault Codes Explained
Thanks to Tom K. (from his own experience)

I have three 2003 Jetta TDIs, and on two of the vehicles, the check engine light kept coming on. The OBD-II code was P0671 and P0674, which indicates a glowplug fault. The glowplugs were checked with an ohm meter and were not defective. Current was being delivered by the glowplug harness at startup.

Here's what was happening. The harness had become slightly corroded at the glowplug connection. So I used a contact cleaner/spray to remove the offending buildup, making sure to replace the glowplug harness snugly onto each glowplug.

Note that the OBD-II engine error codes P0671 through P0674 may be reversed (i.e., P0671 refers to the glowplug circuit on cylinder 4, P0672 refers to the glowplug circuit on cylinder 3, P0673 to glowplug 2's circuit, and P0674 to glowplug 1's circuit). The circuits on one of my three TDIs report correctly. Not knowing about the glowplug circuit reversals cost me dearly in replacing the glowplug harness unnecessarily and the time to troubleshoot and eventually identify the problem.

As an addendum to Tom's tech tip, here is a short explanation of what each of the digits of your OBD-11 codes mean:

The first character identifies the system related to the trouble code.
 · P = Powertrain
 · B = Body
 · C = Chassis
 · U = Undefined

The second digit identifies whether the code is a generic code (same on all OBD-II equipped vehicles) or a manufacturer specific code.
 · 0 = Generic (this is the digit zero -- not the letter "O")
 · 1 = Enhanced (manufacturer specific)

The third digit denotes the type of sub-system that pertains to the code.
 · 1 = Emission Management (fuel or air)
 · 2 = Injector Circuit (fuel or air)
 · 3 = Ignition or Misfire
 · 4 = Emission Control
 · 5 = Vehicle Speed & Idle Control
 · 6 = Computer & Output Circuit
 · 7 = Transmission
 · 8 = Transmission
 · 9 = SAE Reserved
 · 0 = SAE Reserved

Fourth and Fifth digits, along with the others, are variable, and relate to a particular problem. For example, a P0171 code means P0171 - System Too Lean (Bank 1). You can find more specific information on your car's OBD-II codes by visiting OBD Trouble Codes and clicking on your car's make.

Gas Saving Tips You Might Not Have Thought Of

Here are more gas-saving tips to help you maximize the mileage you get from your car:

Park your car in the shade. Parking in the shade keeps your car cooler and helps keep your air conditioning from working as hard when you go somewhere. Your car's air conditioner is operated by the vehicle engine's drive belt. When you turn on the A/C, the drive belt works harder to run the A/C unit and propel your vehicle. And, the harder your engine has to work, the more gas you'll burn. When the weather's cooler, use the vents for air flow inside the vehicle.

Keep windows closed at highway speeds. According to the Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association (AASA), cars get better gas mileage with their windows closed and air conditioning on when driving at highway speeds. This is due to the vehicle's aerodynamics improving because there's less drag on the vehicle. During stop-and-go traffic, however, it's more fuel efficient to open the windows.

Avoid long idle times. Turn off the engine if you anticipate a lengthy wait. Idling burns more gas than restarting the engine, so instead of idling at a drive-thru window, park your car and go in.

Keep tires properly inflated and aligned. Periodic wheel alignments and properly inflated tires can improve your gas mileage. Under-inflated tires negatively affect your car's performance. As an example, you may find yourself braking harder when you go around a curve since the tires aren't gripping as well to the road and this lowers fuel efficiency.

Avoid hauling unnecessary items in your car. Extra weight decreases gas mileage. Also, place items inside the vehicle rather than on roof racks to help reduce wind drag. If you drive a pickup truck, consider a flow-through tailgate or bed cover to reduce drag.

Tighten/replace your gas cap. Improperly tightened, missing or defective gas caps causes millions of gallons of gas per year to vaporize into the atmosphere.

For more information on how to achieve maximum fuel efficiency, please refer to these articles in the Gasoline Alley section of Car Care:

Top Tips to Improve Fuel Efficiency (How to Improve Your Car's Gas Mileage)

Gas Pump Tricks You Can Use to Save Money on Fuel

Protect Your Car's Finish with These Tips on Selecting a Car Cover

Regularly washing and waxing your vehicle may not be enough to protect your car's finish and keep it looking great week in and week out. There are factors that can ruin the best efforts of even the most diligent car owner, such as bird droppings, tree sap, acid rain, salt in the air and harmful UV rays leading to etching in your car's clear coat and dulling the rich, deep color of your car's paint.

How can you protect your car's finish from such damaging elements? By using a custom car cover when you park your car for a lengthy period of time.

Ask yourself the following questions when shopping for a custom car cover:

1. What do you need it to do besides simply covering your car?

2. Will the car cover protect from damaging UV rays? If you live in an area of intense sunshine, such as Arizona, you'll need a car cover that offers the maximum protection from the sun.

3. Is the material durable? Does it breathe? Will it tear if loaded down with snow or ice?

4. Will the car cover resist or completely repel rain?

5. Can the car cover survive weather extremes, i.e. intense heat or severe cold?

6. Will the car cover resist dust? Some car covers prevent even the finest dust, dust that can mar your car even in the garage, from accumulating.

7. Does the car cover come with multiple layers for optimum protection? This is an important feature to have if you leave your car in a public area. In addition, selecting a car cover that comes with side mirror pockets is a wise choice to ensure your car receives the snuggest fit possible.

8. Finally, you will want to know if there is a lengthy guarantee offered, what colors are available, and what the return policies are, if any, of the cover that you select.

How to Protect Your Car from Water Damage

Flooding can occur throughout the year and in any part of the country, damaging tens of thousands of vehicles. In 2008, Hurricane Ike alone claimed more than 100,000 vehicles, leaving them under water in Texas and Louisiana.

These floodwaters can cause damage to your car's computer and electrical systems, as well as potentially cause anti-lock braking and airbag systems to malfunction. If you believe your vehicle has been exposed to floodwaters, DO NOT attempt to start your car (even if it will run).

Even though your car may not have been flooded or completely covered in water, the Car Care Council recommends that motorists follow these guidelines to check for damage due to water intrusion or contamination:

 · Check interior carpets, upholstery and door & trim panels for dampness. If they're wet, your car will need professional attention. If you simply let the carpet dry, it'll quickly grow mildew and give off nasty odors. Seat brackets, motors and modules should also be checked for rust and proper operation.

 · Pull the engine oil and transmission fluid dipsticks and differential plug. If the fluid appears milky or diluted, is no longer its original color or is beige in color, then it's likely the pans contain water. The vehicle should be towed to your ASE-certified technician or repair shop. Driving the vehicle with water present may damage the internal parts and require extensive overhaul or repairs.

   NOTE: The Council reminds motorists that some new synthetic differential fluids may appear to be milky but are not water contaminated. When in doubt, a professional automotive technician should make the evaluation.

 · Check the air filter for water. If it's wet, replace the air filter and change the oil.

 · Check the undercarriage, bumpers, radiator area and frame for mud, grass, dirt, debris and rust. If any of these are present, the vehicle should be washed and cleaned as soon as possible.

 · Have the brake system checked by a professional automotive technician.

   For more information on your brake system, please see Brake Repairs Needed? Don't Take Chances With Your Brakes - Repair Them Now! in the Gasoline Alley section of Car Care.

 · Check the exterior lights for moisture and water. Replace headlights and bulbs that contain water.

 · Listen for abnormal noises while the engine is running. Make a note of where the noise is coming from and take the vehicle to a professional automotive technician as soon as possible. Pay particular attention to the alternator, serpentine belt, starter, power steering unit, air conditioner and wheel bearings.

   For more information on noises, check out Troubleshooting Noises Coming From Your Import Car (Is Your Car Trying To Tell You Something?)

in the Gasoline Alley section of Car Care.

 · Inspect the suspension joints and lubricate as necessary. Many newer vehicles are lubricated at the factory for life; however, these joints should be checked for rust.

   For more information on steering and suspension systems, please read Steering Systems and Suspension Systems - How to Maintain & Repair Them in the Gasoline Alley section of Car Care.

Here are a few tips to help you prevent water damage from happening:

 · Make sure doors and windows close properly.

 · Move your car to higher ground, if possible, if you live in an area prone to flooding.

 · If sandbags are available, build a sandbag wall around your car if you anticipate a flood danger.

 · DO NOT drive your car through any high water areas.

 · DO NOT attempt to start your car if it has been exposed to floodwaters.

For your safety, it's important to understand these basic facts about rising water and your vehicle:

Six Inches of Water - Will reach the bottom of most passenger cars, causing loss of steering and braking control and possible stalling.

One Foot of Water - Will float many vehicles.

Two Feet of Water - Can carry away most vehicles, including sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and pickup trucks.

Rainwater and flooding can cause damage to your car and serious risk. Be sure you understand how to protect your car and your loved ones when the rain starts pouring down.

You can find alot of useful flood information at the FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) Website.

Vehicle Safety Reminder - Don't Exceed Your Payload Capacity

Every vehicle produced has a manufacturer's recommended payload capacity, which is the maximum combined weight of all passengers and cargo that a vehicle can safely carry. The weight, however, does not include any weight added if you are towing something.

It's important to know your vehicle's payload capacity because exceeding this recommended capacity poses a potential safety hazard. Your vehicle's frame, suspension, brakes and tires are not designed for weight above the recommendation set by the manufacturer and these systems are critical for keeping your vehicle under control. Overloading a vehicle can also result in increased maintenance costs.

Even well-maintained vehicles are a safety hazard if overloaded. For instance, properly inflated tires carrying too much weight tend to bulge at the bottom and sidewalls, causing them to contact the pavement. As the tire rolls along the pavement, the bulged sidewalls can rub against the tire, heating it up and increasing the chance of sidewall and tread failure or a dangerous blowout.

Before taking any road trip, follow this vehicle weight checklist:

 · Check the sticker on the driver-side door panel for your vehicle's payload capacity. All vehicles post their recommended payload capacity and passenger limits on stickers located inside the driver's side door panel. (This is also where you'll find the recommended tire pressures for your vehicle.)

 · Consider renting a car if you need more payload capacity.

 · Be prepared for your vehicle to take longer to accelerate, brake and steer when it's fully loaded with passengers and luggage.

 · Limit the number of passengers to the number of safety belts available in your vehicle.

 · Limit any load traveling on the roof of your vehicle to no more than 100 pounds or 18-inches in height.

 · Be careful not to overload your car's trunk or rear cargo compartment.

 · Items that are placed inside your vehicle's open cargo area should be properly secured and stored.

How to Fix a Cigarette Burn in Car's Fabric Upholstery with a Few Easy Steps

Taking care of your car is very important to you but sometimes accidents happen. Either you or a passenger in the car drops a lit cigarette onto the seat. Now what? You keep staring at this singed, black hole left behind where the cigarette fell, wondering how you can fix it without spending a lot of money through an upholsterer.

Well, you're in luck. There are ways to repair the damage with a few easy steps making it look as good as new. Before you start, you'll need the following items/supplies:

Dishwashing liquid (avoid bleach & alkali ingredients)
Clean rag
Scissors (small & sharp)
Curved sewing needle
Thread (similar to your car's upholstery color)
Foam (to fill the hole)

Once you've assembled your supplies, follow these easy steps:

Step 1) Vacuum around the cigarette burn to remove all loose fabric and debris from the area. Cleaning the area will make it easier to assess the damage more accurately and remove the burn.

Step 2) Determine whether the burn is deep in the fabric or if it's just a surface burn. A surface burn will only have scorching on the fabric, whereas a deep burn will have a hole and melting around the edges of the burn.

Step 3) Blot (do not rub) the cigarette burn with a mixture of 1 tsp. dishwashing liquid and 1 cup of warm water. The dishwashing liquid should be mild, clear or white and doesn't contain bleach or alkalis. Continue blotting until the fabric is clean and the surface burn is gone.

Step 4) Carefully trim off the burned pieces of fabric using a pair of sharp scissors. Keep the cutting to the bare minimum, only removing damaged fabric. If the burn is small with little damage, try using a knife or your fingernail to gently scrape off any black marks.

Step 5) If the burn is deep in the fabric, cut a piece of foam to fill the hole. The foam should fit snugly into the hole, but don't put in too much where it will create a lump in the seat. Be careful when placing the foam into the hole, so you don't damage any more of the seat fabric.

Step 6) Use a piece of thread that matches your fabric and a curved needle to sew up the hole. Be careful not to sew the foam and the fabric of the seat together. The foam should be sitting just below the threading. When you are sewing, make sure you keep the knots under the fabric so you don't leave any tails.

Protect Your Car's Leather by Performing Preventive Maintenance

You spent the extra money to have leather seats rather than fabric upholstery in your car or SUV. You love the luxurious look and soft, comfortable feel. So, what can you do to ensure your vehicle's leather continues to look and feel great?

Over time, leather begins to dry out and crack (especially in the sunny, hot and dry climate of Arizona). To keep leather looking new and maintaining its soft feel for years, it's necessary to take a proactive maintenance approach. But with all the leather care products out there, how do you know which one to use? What should you look for?

 · Products with natural ingredients are usually the best choice. For instance, mink oil, UV protectant and lanolin are ingredients you should look for in a product.

 · Be sure to select non-drying leather cleaner.

 · Find a product that lists a balanced pH factor designed for leather. This will not only keep your leather seats looking like new but also will protect the leather against stains and water damage.

 · Beware of any leather cleaners that include petroleum or mineral oils. While petroleum by-products won't damage your leather immediately, they do over a period of time. Also, stay away from products that contain any gloss agents, silicone oils or solvents.

The purpose of leather cleaner is to remove everyday dirt, while leather conditioner maintains the strength, beauty, flexibility and softness of leather. Leather conditioners are only meant for occasional use and should only be applied after the leather cleaner.

Here are the steps to follow when using leather cleaners and conditioners:

Step 1) Wipe down leather surfaces on a weekly basis with a soft, damp rag.

Step 2) At least once a month, apply leather cleaner using a soft brush to gently massage the leather rather than scrubbing. This is a key factor to remember. The leather has pores that need to be opened so that they will be thoroughly cleaned and then be ready to absorb the conditioner that it needs.

NOTE: In between "maintenance" cleanings, remember to clean up any spills immediately. Water, soda and food products can damage the leather surface if not wiped off quickly. It is important to treat wet leather quickly before it has a chance to dry and should be dried away from heat. If you spill food, use a vacuum to remove crumbs and debris from the leather seats, using the smallest attachment on the vacuum to clean up the seams. Seams are a problem area in leather upholstery so pay special attention to them when cleaning and conditioning.

Step 3) Smooth on a leather conditioner once a month, following the manufacturer's recommendations and wipe off thoroughly. Leather conditioners keep your interior soft and protect against cracking but don't use them too often or you'll block the leather from "breathing".

NOTE: Leather has natural oils and over time the oils will evaporate. If the leather does start to have an odor, it's caused by the depletion of the oils. Leather conditioner will correct this problem.

Step 4) Apply a leather protecting cream every 3 months after a thorough cleaning and conditioning. Use a cleaning product made specifically for leather surfaces. Other cleaners can dry and crack your upholstery.

Here are a few additional tips you can follow to help protect your leather from sun damage:

 · Always try to park your car in a garage or shaded area.
 · Use a sun screen in your windshield. Try to find one that's designed for your windshield's shape.
 · Tint your side and back windows.
 · If you have a convertible, put the top up when you park.

These tips should help you keep your car's leather upholstery looking great for years to come! For further information on caring for your car's leather and other surfaces, please refer to these Import Auto News back issues:

Bring Your Old Leather Seats Back to Life

Cleaning, Shining & Protecting Your Car's Surfaces

How to Remove a Bumper Sticker Safely and Easily from Your Car

Has your bumper sticker begun to fade due to sun damage or are you just tired of looking at it and wondering why you put it on your car in the first place?

Whatever the case may be, there are many different ways and methods you can use to remove stickers from your car's windows, painted surfaces or bumpers. Here are the supplies you'll need to start this project:

Razor Blade Scraper (with a straight edge and handle)
Rubber Spatula
Denatured Alcohol
Clean Rag (lint-free)
Blow Dryer

Removing Stickers from Glass/Windows: Stickers on glass are the easiest to remove. A razor blade scraper will take them right off and, when used properly, will not scratch the surface. Hold the scraper at a low angle (no more than 45 degrees) to avoid scratching the surface. After the sticker is removed, there may be leftover residue from the sticker. Use the denatured alcohol applied to a clean rag to scrub away any glue residue.

Removing Stickers from Painted Surfaces and Bumpers: Getting stickers off a painted surface is another matter altogether. New stickers can usually be peeled off in one piece, but the older the sticker, the harder it'll be to remove. Older stickers will probably have to be removed in pieces.

A razor blade scraper will work, but be very careful not to scratch or remove a layer of paint as you work. The key is to start with the corners, holding the scraper at a low angle. Be patient and only work on small areas of the sticker at a time. If you can slide the blade carefully between what is left of the sticker and the painted surface, you might be able to peel at least part of it up. Use a clean rag and denatured alcohol to loosen the glue of the sticker. Denatured alcohol is an excellent all-around solvent that's mild enough not to damage paint.

If you're uncomfortable about using a razor blade scraper, there's another way to remove that unwanted sticker. Soak the sticker with WD-40. Spray enough to coat the sticker and allow it to set for about twenty seconds. Take your finger and try to peel off the sticker, starting at the corners first. If this doesn't work, take a blow dryer (turned on high), place it five inches away from the sticker and blow on the sticker for two minutes.

After the sticker is heated, try using your fingernail again to lift the corners. Once you've lifted a corner, take a rubber spatula in between the sticker and bumper and slowly move it towards you to lift the sticker off. Once the sticker is removed, take a clean rag and some denatured alcohol to the bumper to remove the sticky residue left behind. Repeat this process until all residue is removed.

Now that the sticker and its residue have been removed, wash the car with soap and water. If you want to put another bumper sticker on your car, make sure you replace it after a year or so before it starts to deteriorate.

For more information on removing stickers and emblems, you can read the following tips in prior issues of Import Auto News:

Remove a BMW Emblem Without Scratches

Another Tip on Removing Emblems

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