Import Auto News: Volume 8 Car Repair & Car Care Advice For Do-It-Yourselfers

Problems with BMW Remote Key? Try This
Thanks to Steve M. (from his own experience)

One day, randomly, the remote key for my 1995 740i stopped working. Replacing the batteries in the key and reprogramming the key didn't fix the problem because the key would not reprogram, even though it flashed the correct sequence in the LED.

Turns out there is a 5 amp fuse in the fuse box above the battery on the right had side of the trunk that is part of the security system. However, this fuse is also part of the circuit which operates the fuel door actuator that slides a pin into the door when the user locks/unlocks the car and the security system arms. The doors also use the same type of motor/actuator but they are on a different fuse.

There is a relay that switches current to the fuel door actuator and if this relay is sticky, the actuator stays on long past the point where the pin has reached the end of its travel and the motor continues to draw enough current to either blow the fuse right then or degrade its armature so that any current to the motor and, therefore, any activation of the security system, causes the fuse to blow. Once the fuse is blown, the receiver for the remote key no longer functions.

A simple way to diagnose this problem if your key doesn't work is to lift the liner above the battery off (it has two plastic push pins). Then replace the fuse and remove the cable connector from the fuel door actuator, which is screwed into a body channel just to the left of the fuse block. If the actuator motor is "frozen" causing the fuse to blow, once you disconnect the cable, the key(s) will work.

Replace the relay and the actuator but KEEP the cable from the old actuator as the new one doesn't come with one. Don't forget to change the fuse.

Disconnecting Your Battery - Red Means You're Dead
Thanks to Kevin H. (from his own experience)

Anytime you need to disconnect your battery's power for whatever reason, always disonnect your positive (+) cable - NOT the ground (-) cable. This is contrary to popular belief. Trust me on this one. I worked in the Air Force on the F-16's weapons system and loaded missiles & bombs, which are fired electrostatically (electrically). If you do as I say and disconnect the positive (+) cable, you have completely disabled all battery power. Remember the power is in the battery and not in the cable. Since your ground (-) cable is still connected to the battery, all power is grounded and you will not be electrocuted.

On the other hand, let's say you follow your Uncle Bob's advice (or sometimes even your manual's advice) and disconnect the ground (-) cable instead. Your battery is now no longer grounded and your positive (+) cable is still attached to the battery. Although you'll not have any power if you turn your key on (due to an incomplete circuit), there is still power in your vehicle called stray voltage. Stray voltage is your enemy! What happens to stray voltage? Let's find out in this scenario:

You've disconnected your ground (-) cable because Uncle Bob said so since that's what he's always been told. Bob has worked on cars all his life so he must be right, right? You begin working on your car now since there's "no power". Unknowingly, your screwdriver touches an electrical connection and BOOM! You have just become the ground that the stray voltage was looking for. Uncle Bob was wrong, DEAD wrong!

Folks, don't let this happen to you! Imagine if you were working around fuel and this happened. In my case if this were to happen on an F-16, I would've just launched a missile, fired the gun, ejected the pilot's seat, dropped a bomb, jettisoned a bunch of 5,000 degree Farenheit flares all around me and punched off the underwing fuel tanks (just to name a few of the consequences). Not only would I have destroyed a $23 million jet (and all other nearby aircraft), but also I'd be dead and so would everyone around me. The fire department would love me for this one!

Don't take chances. This may save your life someday. If you're unsure which wire is the positive (+) one, just look for a red cap over your battery post - that's the positive one. Remember this: Red means you're dead. It only takes 1/10th of an amperage (amp) to kill you if you have a weak heart. So let's be careful out there!

Here's a Super Easy One-Person Clutch Bleed Trick
Thanks to David S. (from his own experience)

Here's the easiest way I've found to bleed clutch hydraulics after replacement. Get a small trigger-style oiling can, which can be found on most tool trucks, and 1-2 feet of OE 3mm braided vacuum hose. Fill the pumper with appropriate brake fluid. Then push the hose onto the pumper outlet and connect the other end to the slave cylinder's open bleeder. Back bleed the entire contents of the pumper or until the pumping action becomes noticeably harder than when you started. Make sure the clutch pedal isn't on the floor as this will prevent the fluid from flowing to the reservoir. You are done bleeding even those tough ones in about 60 SECONDS!!! The pedal should feel normal on the first or second stroke.

A one-person bleeder that actually works in the real world! This works especially well on Audi and Saab. It also works well for bleeding non-ABS brake systems.

How to Save 10 Hours on Accord Antenna Replacement
Thanks to Bob (from his own experience)

Here's how you can save yourself 10 hours and a huge headache when you replace an automatic radio antenna with a manual one on an Accord. I believe these directions pertain better for 1986-89 Accords, but it may apply to later models as well as other models like the Civic or Prelude.

Forget about snaking the antenna down the top of the roof. You will never get the antenna to appear under the dash. I took my whole dash apart twice trying to find the antenna. I know you're supposed to attach a string to the old antenna and pull it through. Then attach the string to the new antenna and pull it through. But what happens when the old antenna snaps when removing it, like it did to me?

Here's what I learned. Sit in your driver's seat and rotate toward the window. On the inside of the car, there's a panel at the top window line just to the right of the seatbelt holder. This panel extends along the window toward the dash and snaps off fairly easy with a flat head screw driver.

Once you remove the panel, you'll see holes in the frame where the panel is. There is a round hole that will fit the end of the antenna that plugs into the back of the radio. You can easily snake the antenna down to that hole and pull it out with a needle-nosed pliers. Then snap that panel over the antenna wire. Lead the wire down under the dash over the steering column to the back of the radio. Cost of the manual antenna? $20 versus $150 for an automatic antenna with motor. Total time it will take to replace? No more than 40 minutes.

Exhaust System Maintenance Can Mean Better Mileage and Performance
Thanks to Uday D. (from his own experience)

Change the exhaust silencer muffler and the pipes at a regular interval and you will get a better milege and better engine performance.

A Note From Autohaus: And, of course, whenever working on your exhaust system, be sure to check the condition of any gaskets/seals and hangers. These are inexpensive to replace and keep your exhaust system operating at peak efficiency.

Beware the Spark Plugs You Use on Saab DI Systems
Thanks to Doug S. (from

As reported on this website: "The Saab Direct Ignition (DI) system is very sensitive to the type of plug, due to the fact that it uses the plug as a sensor to measure a number of engine parameters and was developed exclusively with the specified NGK spark plugs. While some people have reported some success with the latest type of NGK Platinum plugs, the best advice is to stick to the recommended NGK plugs only. Bosch Platinum plugs have been tried by a number of people, but don't seem to work well for long before they give problems. If you feel like experimenting, remember that you must use resistor-type plugs with DI. Non-resistive plugs will damage the DI cassette, which is not cheap to replace."

Follow-Up to Avoiding Engine Damage After an Oil Change (Volume 6)
Thanks to Harry W. (from his own experience)

This is a follow-up to How to Avoid Unnnecessary Engine Damage After an Oil Change in the Volume 6 issue of Import Auto News. To prevent damage with an empty filter after oil change, it was suggested to remove the coil wire and crank the engine.

My suggestion - first thing you do on an oil change is to fill the new filter with fresh oil. It will bubble and the level will go down, so keep refilling. Second, avoid messing with the coil wire, which won't work with many cars (my 1991 Legend has six coils that mount on top of the spark plugs). If your car won't start with the accelerator on the floor, hold it on the floor while cranking until the oil light goes out. It won't take long if you pre-fill the filter.

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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