Dano writes; Years ago, I was told that a way to test your charging system was to remove one battery cable while the vehicle is running. If it dies, the alternator is bad. Is this way of checking still ok?
Mike: Dano, that method of testing was never ok. Before the electronic age, this may have worked, but now, doing this may cost you several thousand dollars in damage. The reason is, that without the battery connected, the alternator will produce a damaging voltage spike, toasting the electronics. (including light bulbs!) In the pre electronic days this may have worked, but not since the late 60’s.
Do They Really Need This Information?
Thom writes; I went to the dealer the other day for parts. They asked for my VIN number, saying it is necessary to get the correct parts. I am wary of giving information out. Were they on the level?
Mike: Thom, when a car company finds a common part failure, they design an upgrade and implement those changes immediately in the production line. That is much better than waiting until the next model year to put in the fix. That means that the dealer needs to know where your truck fits in the production run to ensure you get the exact part you need. I had a truck the other day that had an upgraded alternator bracket and mounting bolts that solved a big problem. That is the good thing about the “new” US auto industry. They handle the problems instead of ignoring them.
I want to keep my 2011Nissan Maxima for at least 200k miles. What is the best way to do that? Would it hurt to skip an oil change if I am driving only highway miles?
Mike: To keep a vehicle for over 200k miles isn’t rocket science. Follow the maintenance recommendations in your owner’s manual and never put off necessary repairs, use original equipment parts, and use synthetic lubricants when you can. Finally, if you think you’re saving money by skipping an oil change, you aren’t. Missing even one oil change can cause engine wear and cause damage. Change oil every 5-7k miles and use good oil.
Here is a tip: Car problems can pop up at any time. It helps to get in the habit of opening the hood and looking, listening, and smelling what’s happening in your engine bay. (without the engine running) Look for fraying or cracks in belts, and cracks or bulges in hoses. Investing in a service manual for your vehicle will help show you what to look for and help you with minor fixes. Besides, if you are broken down, having a manual may help someone else fix your vehicle
I want to answer your questions on the radio! My radio program, “In Wheel Time” airs Saturdays 9:00-Noon on Yahoo Sports Radio 1560. The call in number is 713-439-1560. You can also listen or watch streaming video live on our website: www.inwheeltime.com. Like us on facebook www.facebook.com/inwheeltime
Mike is an ASE Certified Master Technician and auto shop owner for 31 years. If you have questions or comments, E mail me: email@example.com or go to www.inwheeltime.com to read more articles
Do you still break in new cars?
Krista writes: My Husband and I just bought a new Ram truck. This is our first “new” vehicle, so we want it to last. We were wondering if we needed to break it in. When I was a kid, I remember my Dad saying to always break in a new vehicle. If so, what do we do? Does it have break in oil we need to change?
Mike: Krista, the main thing is to take it easy for the first thousand miles. During the first 100 miles, lightly accelerate and try to keep the engine rpms below 3500. During the next 1000 miles, keep your speed under 70 mph, avoid quick starts, don’t tow or load the vehicle down, and don’t let it idle for long periods.
I would do your first oil change at 5000 miles and add a can of BG Products MOA. (Motor Oil Additive) This will fortify your oil and give you some added insurance.
Is Motorcycle Oil Different From Regular Oil?
Billy writes: I have a 2010 Honda Shadow. I was wondering if I should run regular oil or motorcycle oil. Are they really different? Or is it a sales ploy?
Mike: Yes, they are really different. Motorcycle oil has special additives that make your wet clutch grab better while still having friction modifiers for bearing surfaces.
Here is a tip: Since guys usually put keys in their pockets, we don’t usually see big key chains. Nut ladies are a different story. If you have a bunch of trinkets hanging on your key chain, take them off! That is a heavy load hanging off the ignition key when it is in the lock. This extra weight hanging on the key and bouncing around with the vehicle, will prematurely wear out the tumblers inside the lock cylinder and lead to ignition switch failure. I recommend buying a keychain that allow you to separate your keys (and other treasures) from your vehicle keys. This way, you can drive with only the ignition key in your ignition. If your ignition key seems to “hang up” when you try to turn it, it may be warning you that damage has already happened. Replace the lock cylinder before it fails and you get stranded.
I invite you to listen to my radio program on Saturday mornings from 10:00-1:00 (new time!) on KGOW 1560 “The Game.” The show is called “In Wheel Time.” You can also listen live on our website: www.inwheeltime.com. I also encourage you to “like” us on facebook under Facebook.com/InWheelTime
Bill writes: I am a longtime reader and listener. I have a 2006 Toyota RAV4 with 112k miles and a strange starting problem. I love the vehicle, but about twice a week I go to start it and it just makes a loud “click” and won’t turn over. After trying it about 10 times, it starts and then it is fine for several days. The battery is new, so that isn’t it. Got any ideas?
Mike: Bill, I have a feeling that your starter is the culprit. It sounds like the contacts are worn in the solenoid and intermittently not making good enough contact to transfer the power to the starter. This is a common problem with higher mileage RAVs. I would recommend going to the dealer and getting a genuine remanufactured starter and staying trouble free for another 7 years. They are not much more expensive than the parts house, but much higher quality.
Flush the Brakes?
Donna writes: I have a 2007 Honda Accord with 68k miles and a four cylinder engine. It is my third Honda, so I am hooked! My question is this: I was talking to the dealer the other day and the recommended a brake fluid flush at my next service. Do you think it is a good thing to do?
Mike: Absolutely! The reason I say absolutely, is that your brake fluid can absorb as much as ten percent moisture in only about 18 months. This corrodes your system and also affects brake performance. Your brakes will feel better and you will be saving money in the long run by flushing your system every two years. Spending $80 to flush that fluid is nothing compared to spending $400 to replace a master cylinder.
Here is a tip: With the warm weather just around the corner, now would be a good time to have your cooling system flushed or at least checked out before it has to start working hard again. The Texas heat is extremely hard on cooling systems and a failure could cost you a lot of money. It is a good time to have the AC performance tested at the same time. Neither costs a lot to do and could save you a ton of money in the long run.
I invite you to listen to my radio program on Saturday mornings from 10:00-1:00 (new time!) on KGOW 1560 “The Game.” The show is called “In Wheel Time.” You can also listen live on our website: www.inwheeltime.com. I also encourage you to “like” us on facebook under www.facebook.com/InWheelTime Thanks!
Mike is a ASE Certified Technician and auto shop owner for 31 years. If you have questions or comments, E mail me: firstname.lastname@example.org or go to www.inwheeltime.com to read