Hi, and welcome to the blog of all things auto repair by yours truly, Michael Leech. This time around we’re going to discuss some quick, easy ways to prevent unnecessary repair bills. Everyone loves to NOT give their auto technicians money so i am hoping this one will really be a popular topic. I’m mainly going to focus on EASY things that ANYONE can manage. Zero high-tech stuff here, today.
It’s about the Water!
The single largest thing that really creates big auto repair issues is unmanaged water. Whether that water is salt water that corrodes your frame (here’s looking at you, Toyota) or water intrusion from a flood (hello gulf states, this is you) or rust from road treatments (your turn, New England) water is a BIG issue. In fact, all FOUR of our topics are water (errr, fluid) related!
I’m a little Rusty…
So the first, and foremost thing we see here in auto repair shops in the Mid-Atlantic is rust. The worst offenders are from up North; generally the midwest or New England. A close second are all you beach hippies tooling around at OBX without washing your cars off. So this EASY tip is actually one of the most important. When your car or truck is exposed to salt water in any capacity you MUST take the time to clean off that undercarriage. There’s the Underwasher located here: https://www.theunderwasher.com/ , as well as several power washer type attachments on Amazon. Give it a good hosing off after any exposure and your vehicle will last much, much longer. Considering that a 2000 Toyota 4Runner in great shape is still worth 5000-8000 dollars we have to get by the idea that rust is just going to kill our cars and that they are disposable. The numbers on car values no longer support that kind of behavior!
Keep me clean!
Ok, this one is for our friends in more temperate climates! You can prevent other water control issues by cleaning around the sunroof and the cowl. The picture to the left shows the location of the sunroof drain- you can barely see it! Since it is a small tube, it clogs easily. You can clean it by gently feeding a weed eater string through it. When you park anywhere near a tree, that tree will drop it’s tree stuff on your car (see picture below), and you’ll need to clean that stuff up. Otherwise it will fall into the cowl drains or the sunroof drains and obstruct them. Once those drains are obstructed the water often overflows into the car. Since modern cars have lots of wiring connections under the seats and in the dash, this can create some SERIOUS auto repair nightmares!
Our next liquid related topic is a well known one. Simply know what your car’s necessary fluids are, and keep those fluids at their necessary levels and change them on their appropriate intervals. We keep a service that gives us maintenance schedules for each car and we’re always happy to tell you the next service is due. We also have access to Technical Service Bulletins to give us insight as to when certain fluids should be changed ahead of the factory intervals. Common automotive fluids are engine oil, brake fluid, engine coolant, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, differential gear oil, and transfer case oil. This topic varies widely from car to car so do your research and be sure you protect your investment. The picture of the water pumps below illustrates what happens when coolant condition and quality are not maintained. This car needed a new engine due to this problem. Avoid unnecessary auto repair expenses through great maintenance!
A final, and slightly less known issue is to be SURE to manage interior messes, debris and coins. A penny or dime will fit directly into a power port and will cause a short circuit and blown fuse. Attempting to put your iPhone into your tape deck will damage your phone (yes, this has happened). Your airbag system control unit (called a Sensing and Diagnostic Module) is usually located on the flat floor space under your center console. If you’re resting your soda or coffee in there daily and it spills everyday, you can damage the wiring or module. Early 2000’s era Nissans were famous for coins falling into the Navigation/Cd assembly because people put coins on the shelf. Turns out CD players really hate coins. So pay attention to what’s going on in your car and keep it spiffy! You’ll save yourself some money!
Ok, that is all I have for this week in auto repair, folks! To recap- it’s all about the fluids! Keep the undercarriage clean, keep the tree debris under control, follow your maintenance schedules, and keep your interior messes under control. Drive Happy!