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VIEW SOLUTIONS TO COMMON PROBLEMS
Cabin Air Filter
Coolant Flush & Fill
Manual Transmission Fluid Change
Tire Rotation / Pressure
Belts and Hoses
Points and Condenser
Dist Cap and Rotor
Select a part to view solution for common problems associated with the item.
Operation: The spark plugs provide an air gap for the high voltage surge coming out of the coil to jump across. The resulting spark is what ignites the air fuel mixture. Advice: With the use of precious metals such as platinum, spark plugs are designed to last a lot longer than they used to. A set of double platinum plugs are supposed to last as long as 100,000 miles providing the air fuel mixture is kept properly at a 14.7 to 1 ratio. The platinum keeps the electrode from eroding, which gives it it's longevity but a rich air fuel mixture will still foul one out quickly. Some spark plugs are tucked away in some pretty hard to get to areas. Swivel and sometimes double swivel sockets are needed to reach them. A plug boot from an old ignition wire set makes a good plug starter. A ï¿½ inch drive extension will slip nicely into the end of the old plug boot if you need a little extra reach. When removing the old plugs, lay them out in order so that if you have one or two that are burning differently than the rest you can identify which cylinders are involved. Put a small amount of anti-seize compound on the threads of the new plugs. This will help when it comes time to remove them the next time. Recommendations: Swivel spark plug sockets Anti-seize compound
Operation: An oil change consists of draining the old oil replacing the oil filter and refilling the crankcase with the proper amount of fresh oil. Advice: The engine should be close to operating temperature before draining the old oil so be careful not to burn yourself. It's a good idea to replace the drain plug gasket whenever the drain plug has been removed. Before installing the new filter, lightly coat the new rubber gasket with fresh oil so that it will slide easily into place. Also check to make sure that the old gasket is not still stuck to the engine block. This happens more often than you would think, and will cause a massive oil leak at the filter capable of emptying the oil pan in a matter of minutes if not discovered. Recommendations: Drain plug gasket
Operation: The air filter is responsible for removing dirt and foreign objects from the air before entering the intake manifold. Advice: One of the cheapest ways of ensuring good gas mileage is to replace the air filter often. The automotive engine is basically a glorified air pump. If the air inlet is restricted by a dirty air filter the efficiency is reduced dramatically. There are high performance air cleaners and filters available to help improve the engines breathing characteristics.
Operation: The cabin air filter is responsible for removing dirt and foreign objects from the air that you will be breathing inside the car. Advice: Not all vehicles have a cabin air filter. Check the repair guides for the vehicle that you are working on. Recommendations: Repair guides
Operation: The fuel filter is responsible for removing dirt and foreign objects from the fuel before entering the intake manifold. Advice: Most fuel injection systems operate on fuel pressure that ranges from 9 to 45 psi. (pounds per square inch) depending on the year make and model. As little as 5 psi. can cause a hazardous spray. Before removing the fuel filter, fuel system pressure must be relieved. The proper procedure can be found in the repair guides for the vehicle you are working on. Recommendations: Repair guides
Operation: The PCV (Positive Crankcase Ventilation) valve was one of the first emission control devices. It is designed to route the engine blow-by back into the combustion chamber to be re-burned instead of dumping to the atmosphere like older model vehicles. Advice: Without crankcase ventilation, the condensation and engine blow-by would remain in the engine contaminating the oil and turning it into an acidic sludge. The PCV valve is relatively cheap and easy to replace and goes a long way to prolonging the life of the engine, as well as keeping our atmosphere cleaner.
Operation: The breather filter is responsible for removing dirt and foreign objects from the air before entering the PCV system. Advice: If there is a buildup of oily sludge on the breather filter or in the air filter housing, that is a good indication that the PCV valve is clogged or that the vacuum supply feeding the PCV valve is restricted.
Operation: The charcoal canister holds the fuel vapors collected by the evaporative emissions system until the engine is started and the purge valve opens allowing the vapors to flow back into the intake manifold to be burned. The canister filter is responsible for removing dirt and foreign objects from the air before entering the bottom of the charcoal canister. Advice: Not all charcoal canisters have serviceable filters. Check the repair guides for the vehicle that you are working on. When topping off your gas tank, it is best to stop pumping when the pump nozzle kicks off the first time. Continuing to add gas, trying to squeeze in as much as possible can overfill the system allowing raw gas to travel through the fuel vapor lines saturating the charcoal canister rendering it useless and in need of replacement. Recommendations: Repair guides
Operation: Engine coolant is a 50/50 mixture of antifreeze and water. Besides protecting against freezing, antifreeze also has lubricant and anticorrosive additives that help to prolong the life of the cooling system components. When you test the engine coolant, what you are checking is the ratio of antifreeze to water. The most common tools available to test with are the Hydrometer, the Refractometer, and radiator test strips. Advice: Any muddiness or brown coloration is an indication of dirt or rust in the system. As antifreeze ages the lubricants and anticorrosive properties wear out, leaving the system susceptible to corrosion. Most engine coolant testers will tell you how cold it can get before the coolant will freeze, but can not test for the level of anti-corrosives or lubrication properties. Some of the radiator test strips claim to be able to test for anti-corrosives. Modern antifreezes have varying life span expectancies. If you are unsure how long your antifreeze is good for, a general rule of thumb is to flush the system and refill with fresh coolant every two years. There are several different products available to help you flush your cooling system. Some come with a plastic T that you install in one of the heater hoses. This T allows you to connect a garden hose to the system forcing fresh water through and pushing the old coolant out of the engine block. There are several chemical additives that will help to clean the system prior to the flush. Always follow the directions that come with whatever product that you choose. And remember that cold water and a hot engine block is a recipe for disaster. If the engine block is hot when you drain the coolant, allow sufficient time for the engine to cool before forcing cold water into the system. Recommendations: Coolant flush kit Antifreeze
Advice: The drain plug for a manual transmission may be found on either side front or back of the transmission body depending on manufacturer design. It will always be near the bottom of the transmission body and will often have a gasket visible much like an engine oil drain plug. Check the repair guides for exact location. It is advisable to replace the gasket anytime that the drain plug is removed. The specified fluid for a manual transmission varies from vehicle to vehicle. Some take heavy gear oil, some take 10w30 engine oil, while others use ATF. Check the repair guides for the vehicle that you are working on for the correct type and amount of lubricant to use. The fill plug for a manual transmission may be found on either side front or back of the transmission body depending on manufacturer design. It will usually be near the center of the transmission body and will often have a gasket visible much like an engine oil drain plug. Check the repair guides for exact location. Fluid level should be within ï¿½ inch from the bottom of the fill hole. It is advisable to replace the gasket anytime that the fill plug is removed. Recommendations: Repair guides Drain plug gasket Fill plug gasket
Advice: Chassis lubrication refers to the job of greasing all of the zerk fittings in the suspension and steering systems as well as the chassis. Check the repair guides for the vehicle that you are working on for the vehicles lubrication chart which shows all of the lubrication points for that vehicle. Recommendations: Repair guides
Advice: As a tire ages the friction between the rubber and the road wears a pattern on a tires tread. In a perfect world this pattern would be uniform and the tread would wear out evenly across the surface of the tire. Unfortunately the pattern is usually not uniform and if the tires are left in the same position over a long period of time the tires will wear unevenly and will need replacing sooner. By rotating the tires every 4000 miles, the wear pattern does not get a chance to set in and the tires will wear more evenly and last longer. Another important fact about tires is that air pressure does not stay constant. It will vary with temperature, and over time will slowly leak out. Proper tire pressure is needed to keep the tires shape configured to the road. Under inflated will wear out the outer edges first and over inflated will wear out the center of the tire first. Properly inflated tires roll easier giving the engine less of a load and saving you gas money. So check your tire pressure at least once a month. Recommendations: Tire pressure gauge
Advice: Any routine maintenance under hood inspection would not be complete without taking a look at the belts and hoses. Check all belts for signs of wear such as loose cords, cracks in the rubber, or glazing (shiny areas on the contact surface of the belt). Coolant hoses should be firm to the touch but not brittle. Any hoses or belts that are oil or fluid saturated should be replaced.And hey, should you really trust those old hose clamps? New hose clamps can provide cheap piece of mind. Recommendations: Hose clamps
Operation: The breaker points and condenser provide the switching device that triggers the ignition system in older vehicles. Advice: On vehicles equipped with a points style ignition system, proper adjustment of the breaker points is critical to engine performance. Most points sets come with a small amount of lubricant that is designed to be used between the distributor cam lobes and the rubbing block on the points set. Even with the special lubricant in place the rubbing block on the points set will wear down causing the gap to change little by little as it does. Due to this rubbing block wear and the normal wear of the points contact surface, the points need to be adjusted periodically to keep the engine running at peak efficiency. This is also referred to as adjusting the dwell. Keep in mind that dwell will effect ignition timing so always adjust the points before adjusting ignition timing. The breaker points and condenser work in close relation to each other and should always be replaced as a set.
Operation: The distributor cap and rotor work together to route the high energy voltage pulses created by the coil to each of the spark plugs in proper order. Advice: Over time, the electrical contacts will become worn and burnt and the distributor cap and rotor will need to be replaced. Some other things to look for when examining the cap and rotor include physical defects such as cracks, burnt markings and carbon tracking which resembles a thin pencil line running from one contact to another.
Operation: The ignition wireset is responsible for carrying the high energy voltage pulses created by the coil to each of the spark plugs. Advice: The correct firing order is critical to engine operation. If an ignition wire is hooked up to the wrong plug, there is at least one other plug that is wrong too. This is referred to as crossed wires. The best way to ensure against crossed wires is to replace them one at a time. Start with the longest wire, and work your way one by one down to the shortest wire. Sometimes with DIS ignition systems there is a sticker under the hood with the ignition wireset routing on it. The repair guides are another good source for this information. Remember, corrosion prevention is much easier than corrosion removal. Apply a small amount of dielectric grease to the terminals on each end of the ignition wires prior to installation. Recommendations: Dielectric Grease Repair guides
Operation: Setting the ignition timing refers to the process of rotating the distributor until number one cylinder is firing it's sparkplug at precisely the correct time according to engine specifications. Advice: A difference of 2 degrees of distributor rotation can make a big difference in how the engine performs. On vehicles with mechanical points ignition, it is important to remember that dwell will effect the timing. So set the points gap first. On vehicles with electronic ignition, the first step is to disable any advance or retard mechanisms. Disabling a vacuum operated advance / retard mechanism. On older vehicles this can be accomplished by removing and plugging the vacuum hose(s) from the distributor's vacuum advance / retard mechanism, and lowering engine RPM to a point below the threshold of the centrifugal advance. Vehicles with computer controlled advance. On computer controlled vehicles the advance mechanisms are disabled by temporarily taking the computer out of the loop. Different manufacturers accomplish this in different ways. Ford vehicles use a spout connector that you disconnect. GM uses a single wire connector. When this wire or spout connector is disconnected, the advance and retard signals are blocked and base ignition timing can be set. The under hood emissions decal will show the procedure. If it is missing or no longer readable, check the repair guides for the correct procedure for the vehicle you are working on. Setting the timing. After the advance and retard mechanisms are disabled, connect the inductive pickup on the timing light to #1 spark plug wire, and the positive and negative battery clamps to their respective battery terminals to power the light. Loosen the distributor hold down clamp slightly. With the engine running at the specified RPM, point the timing light at the timing marks and rotate the distributor until the correct timing is obtained, then shut the engine off, tighten the distributor hold down clamp and re-enable the advance and retard mechanisms.