Import Auto News: Volume 9 Car Repair & Car Care Advice For Do-It-Yourselfers

Here's A Simple But Often Overlooked Car Wash Tip
Thanks to Matt E. (from his own experience)

My car care tip is really basic. I see alot of people that wash the body of their cars with the same water that they wash the wheels and tires with. (Not a good idea.) Fill up a bucket with dish soap and water. Then, wash all four wheels and tires. You can also use this same water to give the front fascia a preliminary scrub down (to get rid of the bugs). You can also wash down the ground effects or lower trim if there's any tar build-up. Then, empty the bucket and fill it up with whatever car wash solution you'd like, and wash the body of the car. The result is a SPOTLESS car wash.

How to Check and Add Air to Car Tires
Thanks to Carol (from another website)

This may seem like a simple tip but you'd be surprised how many people don't know the proper way to check their tires. Keeping your tires at their recommended pressure will increase their life span, improve your car's gas mileage and give you a smoother ride. Here's how to properly check and add air to your tires.

1. Let the tires cool before checking their pressure (tires are more inflated when warm, less when cold).

2. Remove the cap from the valve on one tire.

3. Press a tire gauge hard onto the valve and note the reading. The sound of escaping air means you haven't inserted the gauge properly; it's either pressed on askew or you're pressing too lightly.

4. Add air to achieve the recommended pressure, which is listed on a sticker on the driver's side doorjamb and in the car's manual. If you overfill, you can release air by pushing on the tiny metal stem in the center of the valve with a fingernail or the tip of a pen or pencil. If you need to guess, 32psi (pounds per square inch) is a good rule of thumb for most passenger cars with standard tires.

5. Replace the valve cap.

6. Repeat with each tire, including the spare (the status of its pressure is often forgotten until it's needed and then it's too late!).

7. Check the tread depth. Recommended depth differs with types of tires. For a standard sedan tire, a penny pushed into the tread can give you a rough reading. If you can see any of Lincoln's head, it may be time to replace the tire. A $15 tread-depth gauge can give you a more accurate reading. There may also be wear indicators built into the tread; if they show, replace the tire.

8. Check for even wear (see Tire Wear Provides More Info Than You Think) in the January 2002 issue of Import Auto News. If the treads on the outside or inside are particularly worn, you may need to rotate your tires or have your alignment checked.

A few other tips to think about when checking your tires:

- The pressure you see on the tire's sidewall is the tire's maximum pressure - a number you don't want to strive for unless you're planning on carrying a very heavy load in your car.

- A slow leak may be the result of a bad or leaky tire valve.

- To ensure you're getting an accurate reading, invest in a good tire gauge (which should run around $20).

- Go ahead and use the recommended pressure stamped on the spare's sidewall to fill it. A smaller "temporary" spare (donut) requires about 60psi.

- If your area has a sudden cold spell, check your tires' air pressure. It will be lower than when the weather was warmer. Make sure to check your tires as seasons and temperatures change.

- It's often recommended to check tire pressures in the late evening or early morning when it's cooler and the sun isn't shining on your tires. This will give the minimum pressure for the day, which should be close to the recommended figure given by the manufacturer.

Acura Integra Intermittent Starting Problem Solved
Thanks to Nat (from his own experience)

I had intermittent starting problems with my 1990 Acura Integra. Seemed to happen after baking in the sun - engine turns and almost catches, but then dies immediately and afterwards just turns and turns. Wait 5 to 30 minutes and car starts up fine again.

Turned out to be a fuse or relay for the fuel pump, located near steering column. $70 for a new one and never happened again.

Quick & Easy Trick to Test Brake Master Cylinders
Thanks to Bob R. (from his own experience)

A trick to test a brake master cylinder is to take brake line and weld or solder the ends shut - you just need small pieces! Then install them to the master cylinder, bleed and presto. You have isolated everything but the master cylinder out of the system. Press on the brake pedal and hold. Simple but it works!

Quick Fix to Problem Checking Oil Level in Your Water-Cooled VW
Thanks to Endre B. (from his own experience)

If you don't have a 17mm allen wrench to check oil level in your water-cooled VW transmission, just take out one lugnut and use a 17mm wrench to remove the checking-filler plug at the left side of the transmission.

Misfire Problems on 98-99 VW Passats & 96-00 Audi A4s
Thanks to Rob G. (from his own experience)

These tips relate to 1998-199 VW Passats and 1996-2000 Audi A4s. Typical symptom - engine misfires a lot. Turn the car off, wait and restart. Everything is fine (yahoo!). Next morning, misfires again (crap!) Here's what to do:

1) Find the ICU (it's on top of the air cleaner housing) and pull both connectors.

2) Get a meter with diode check capabilities. Actually, you may want to do this first before taking the car apart.

3) Connect the - (negative) lead to pin 3 of the ICU on the 5 pin side. Probe each of the other contacts on this side. None should be open.

4) Connect the + (positive) lead to pin 3 of the ICU on the 5 pin side. Probe each of the other contacts on the other side. None should be open. Note that on the 4 pin side, the cylinder order is opposite that of the engine (just to confuse you).

5) If any show open, order a new ICU from AutohausAZ (thanks for the plug, Rob!). Otherwise, check the harness between the ICU and ECU and between the ICU and each coil. The ICU wires meet the ECU on the 3rd and 4th contact from the left on the top two rows of the smaller ECU connector. Good luck!

Advice for Removing Transmission on 88 VW Cabriolet
Thanks to Brian T. (from his own experience)

When removing the transmission, be sure to remove both drive axles, and don't forget the 2 screws holding the tranny to the dust plate that are hidden behind the passenger side drive axle.

Follow-Up to "Avoiding Engine Damage After an Oil Change" (Volume 6)
(See Also the Follow-Up in Volume 7)
Thanks to Rex M. (from his professional 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.

I run an independent import auto repair shop and we always disable the engine after oil changes and crank the oil pressure up before starting the engine. However, it is not a good thing on a fuel injected engine to just disable the ignition as mentioned in the October issue of your tips section. To prevent a back fire in the exhaust when you reconnect the ignition and sparks restart, you MUST disable the fuel system either by disabling the fuel pump or disabling the trigger control somehow.

Follow-Up to "Exhaust System Maintenance" (Volume 8)
Thanks to Niels D. (from his own experience)

This is a follow-up to Exhaust System Maintenance Can Mean Better Mileage and Performance in the Volume 8 issue of Import Auto News.

One should change the resonator, muffler or pipes when they crack or rust through and replace hangers when they break. In regards to longevity, here are my recommendations:

1) If there are drain holes in the muffler, be sure they're properly aligned.

2) Before installing a new system, carefully clean off any oil/manufacturing residue and spray on some hi-temp paint. Once installed, touch up as needed.

3) If your system uses the "rubber doughnuts" as hangers, get the ones with chain molded inside. That way, they'll never break and stress out the system.

4) If you do a lot of short trips where the system doesn't really get hot enough to burn out the moisture and/or you live in the rust belt, it may be cheaper in the long run to invest in a stainless steel system.

Follow-Ups to "Disconnecting Your Battery . . ." (Volume 8)
Thanks to Several of Our Readers (see below)

Okay, we received quite a few responses to Kevin H.'s article "Disconnecting Your Battery - Red Means You're Dead" in the Volume 8 issue of Import Auto News. Since the debate continues, perhaps you'll want to read through the initial posting and then the below responses before making up your mind where you stand on this controversial topic?

Thanks to Gerry (from his own experience): I have to say that both he and Uncle Bob are right. I agree with removing the negative battery terminal first, but then always remove the positive cable as well afterwards. This will totally disconnect the battery and the one extra step can indeed save many problems.

Thanks to Michael D. (from his own experience): If you were to disconnect and reconnect only the red on a computer-equipped car, you stand the chance of frying delicate electronics from the spark produced from this action. Disconnect the black FIRST and reconnect the black LAST. By all means go ahead and disconnect the red afterwards - safety is never a wasted exercise.

Thanks to Tom P. (from his own experience): Let's be careful on this electricity stuff. I am taking Cisco Networking Class, and Cisco states that electrons flow from negative to positive terminals. I always thought they went from positive to negative, so imagine my surprise.

Red may be called positive, but the electrons flow from the negative terminal; hence the reason why you would disconnect the negative terminal - per all owner's manuals and instructions I have ever read - not just hearsay from Uncle Bob. Just my $.02 worth. Might help your readers to make their own decision. Why not disconnect both?

Thanks to Ed P. (from his own experience): If you disconnect at the battery, it doesn't matter which terminal you disconnect first. His scenario of removing the ground lead, leaving on the high-side lead, and then having a " . . . screwdriver touches an electrical connection and boom . . ." is just idiotic. Mr. Kirchoff is spinning in his grave! Please ask the poster to describe exactly where this hazardous current flows. He might say "from the battery high side, through the wiring, onto the screwdriver at Point A, out of the screwdriver at point B, then onto the other wire, then through some path to chassis, and then back to the battery." Oops, ain't no path there, so no current.

Notice that I said to disconnect the cable at the battery terminal? It is possible to have a wiring system where multiple cables go to either, or both, battery terminals. So disconnecting any one of these cables at some point remote from the battery, may leave sneak paths for current flow. Disconnect all leads on one of the battery terminals, either terminal, and you will eliminate the possibility of current flow.

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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