# Car maintenance for dummies

Math Is Hard said:
But Fred, isn't it kind of dangerous to try to learn how to do some of those things without any supervision or help? I saw one of my coworkers trying to jump start his car once and he didn't have a clue what he was doing. Sparks were flying all over the place and I was sure he was going to electrocute himself.

Not true. The things described(tire excluded) are pretty straight forward and I have not seen a owners manual that did not explicitly describe how to perform the required owner maint. Low tire pressures are dangerous and bad on fuel. Improper fluid levels can lead to loss of control (low power steering fluid can prematurely bear the rack and some ABS systems us the PS system as a pressure source and lets not even think what happens when brake fluid goes low) or destruction of things like engines. Another purpose of checking fluids is to determine their integrity. If your autotrans fluid is black or burn brown then it is bad(if you can check this some automakers have develope sealed syatems), brake fluid can go bad---turns brown, oil gets watery due to blowby, coolant goes bad due to age and corrosion... These are things that need to be checked bi-weekly at a minimum.

I agree with fred here I'm sorry. I think a basic maint test should be part of receiving a drivers license.

BobG said:
Car manufacturers like the tire pressure customized to their design.

For example, the old Ford Explorers rode like, well, a four wheel drive vehicle designed for off road use. In order to appeal to the suburban set, a slightly lower tire inflation pressure could be used in order to give a much smoother ride. Of course, that increased the tire temperature at high speeds and the Firestone tires that came factory installed tended to come apart if you drove with underinflated tires at high speeds on hot days.

In fact, Corvairs had a similar problem. They weren't very stable unless the tires were kept at the proper pressure for the car - a pressure that didn't necessarily match the tire manufacturer's recommendation. They didn't come apart, but the average driver would tend to fill the tires to the pressure stamped on the side of the tire, making the car "Unsafe At Any Speed".

Just in the interest of increasing my sex appeal, I should mention that Sunday, I changed the oil on both of my cars, plus my daughter's car .... and I've only accidently left the oil cap off once in my life. (I did that while cleaning splashed mud out of the interior of my Jeep - I hate it when oncoming traffic doesn't slow down for creeks )

Exactly. The tire pressure given by the manufacturere is a balance between ride noise, ride comfort, AND vehicle milage. Tires should not fly apart if driven slightly under inflated though---that is plain old corporate incompetence. If you inflate the tires to the 35psi stamped on most sidewalls then you will have a rougher, noiser ride but your fuel economy will go up slightly. It's unsafe to drive with 35psi(cold which usually works out about 38 to 40 psi hot) even though a manufacturer says 32.

Driving at 35 psi can cause increased center wear but the 30 or 32 recomended by manufacturers tends to cause edge wear---this is actually more dangerous---so as with most things in life it's a matter of balance and choice.

Evo said:
I also use a vacuum cleaner, but I don't know anything about vacuum repair, should I stop vacuuming?

It doesn't matter if I know how a transmission works if it goes out, I wouldn't be able to repair it on the side of the road. There is a difference between regular maintenance and major car repair. I don't need to do the actual maintenance, I pay someone to do that, and like MIH, I have roadside assistance if something major goes wrong.

Do you change the bag and belt when they fill up or go bad? You probably still do some basic maint on your vacuum I'd think.

Pengwuino
Gold Member
faust9 said:
Shims. Is your cousin a ASE mechanic or a backyard mechanic?

Well, I'm still of the opinion the battery was your original problem. 4 Y/O battery in high temp weather = no workie workie any more. You are describing CLASSIC bad battery symptoms. Wont start, when the starter does work the higher current brings the battery voltage way down(due to internal resisitance w/in the battery).

Im pretty sure he use to be a real mechanic until something happened to his back (i THINK it was a disk problem that forced him to stop). I would think its the battery except that im not positive that its been 4 years since we've had a new battery. I know we got a new battery for one of the cars... but no sure which one haha.

faust9 said:
Shims. Is your cousin a ASE mechanic or a backyard mechanic?

Well, I'm still of the opinion the battery was your original problem. 4 Y/O battery in high temp weather = no workie workie any more. You are describing CLASSIC bad battery symptoms. Wont start, when the starter does work the higher current brings the battery voltage way down(due to internal resisitance w/in the battery).

Rebuilt starters are as good as OEM in almost all cases. Hell, I've rebuilt them myself and had them last for years and years and years.

The thing about bad batteries like your describing is that they tend to go out over time. If he has been driving the car for a while I am sure he would have mentioned it seems like the battery might be going dead, aka, not holding a charge. If his battery is dead and he never bothered to see if his lights are still bright when the brights are on then that's his own fault.

In other words, it is pretty simple to tell it your battery is what is causing the problem. If its not the battery and it makes clicking noise then it is the solenoid or relay for the solenoid and in most cases you can fix it by just R&Ring the starter.

Regards

Townsend said:
The thing about bad batteries like your describing is that they tend to go out over time. If he has been driving the car for a while I am sure he would have mentioned it seems like the battery might be going dead, aka, not holding a charge. If his battery is dead and he never bothered to see if his lights are still bright when the brights are on then that's his own fault.

In other words, it is pretty simple to tell it your battery is what is causing the problem. If its not the battery and it makes clicking noise then it is the solenoid or relay for the solenoid and in most cases you can fix it by just R&Ring the starter.

Regards

Unfortunately it's not as easy as just looking at the lights for dimness. Once the car is running the alternator supplys more than enough power for the whole vehicle, you can remove the battery and it will continue to run. I just had the battery go in my truck 2 months ago (it was over 5 years old). The truck started fine one morning then the next all I got was clicking. A new battery solved the problem of course.

Pengwuino I'm sorry to hear you may have wasted your money on a starter. It's usually possible to have the auto store test your starter (it has to be removed) to make sure thats the problem, and since you have to pay a core charge anyway it's best to just take it with you to the auto store when you plan to buy one...Batterys are relatively cheap compared to the other things that could have been wrong so like I said that would have been my first priority. Mainly because your battery is 4 years old and could fail at any time.

BobG
Homework Helper
Pengwuino said:
earth connections???

I dunno, my cousin fixed it and hes a mechanic. Maybe the battery is going out, i dunno. What i bet is the problem (since it always is in life :P) is that my father who went out and bought the new starter, bought a cheapo rebuilt one. It was like $90 when a rebuilt one from a dealer was$350
"Earth connections" is British for "ground". Trace the wires on your battery. The positive goes to the starter, but the ground just goes to the car frame. All the electrical components can then be grounded to the frame, saving on cost.

I'd buy the rebuilt starter, as well. They're just as good as the new (once in a great while, you might buy a bad one, whether rebuilt or new, but I don't think the odds are very different, either way).

I'd tend to agree that you've got a wiring problem. Your battery has to be incredibly dead for the radio to reset. Did you check for corrosion in the battery wires? Sometimes it can creep up the wire. If you have some slack, you can cut off the corroded part and rebuild the terminal connection. Even better is if your auto parts store can rebuild the cable for you - I think I wound up paying a couple dollars for the terminal and some sealant, but they crimped the wires into the terminal connector for free - a significant savings over the \$96 it would have cost to buy a new factory power cable. Of course, I'd just bought a new battery from them, but even if they charge for the labor of crimping the terminal together, it's about a 5 minute job for them.

Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
faust9 said:
I agree with fred here I'm sorry. I think a basic maint test should be part of receiving a drivers license.

gggrrr!!! I am not disagreeing with you or Fred!!! I said the exact same thing in an earlier post!!!! What I am saying is that it would be better to have a class (like a hands on lab taught as part of driver's ed) to learn this than to just read the manual and try to figure out some of these things (like doing a jumpstart) on my own!!

Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
ok, I apologize. I sound really grumpy. I'm just frustrated and trying to learn... + I got 1.5 hours of sleep last night and it shows.

Ivan Seeking
Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
Math Is Hard said:
it would be better to have a class (like a hands on lab taught as part of driver's ed) to learn this than to just read the manual and try to figure out some of these things (like doing a jumpstart) on my own!!

There are courses like this offered. And it is good to leave a car alone if you don't know what you're doing. Simply jump starting a car can be very dangerous. I've had a battery explode on me before due to an acid leak, and something as simple as reversing the polarity on the leads can damage both cars as well as possibly causing a fire and explosion.

Consider that typical homes have either a 100 or 200 amp electrical service. An auto battery can put out as much as 500 amps.

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Pengwuino
Gold Member
GOD__AM said:
Pengwuino I'm sorry to hear you may have wasted your money on a starter. It's usually possible to have the auto store test your starter (it has to be removed) to make sure thats the problem, and since you have to pay a core charge anyway it's best to just take it with you to the auto store when you plan to buy one...Batterys are relatively cheap compared to the other things that could have been wrong so like I said that would have been my first priority. Mainly because your battery is 4 years old and could fail at any time.

Well it turns out the starter just need to be.... i dunno... warm up to the car :tongue2:

It's worken perfectly now.

FredGarvin
Math Is Hard said:
But Fred, isn't it kind of dangerous to try to learn how to do some of those things without any supervision or help? I saw one of my coworkers trying to jump start his car once and he didn't have a clue what he was doing. Sparks were flying all over the place and I was sure he was going to electrocute himself.
You are absolutely right. Although, checking and filling a tire I think does not fall into that category. I think there should be a maintenence class in all driver's ed classes. I do know that every car I have owned has a section in it's manual on how to properly change a tire, jump a battery and check the fluid levels.

Evo
Mentor
faust9 said:
Do you change the bag and belt when they fill up or go bad? You probably still do some basic maint on your vacuum I'd think.
You can change the bag? I just buy a new vacuum when it gets full.

Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
Evo said:
You can change the bag? I just buy a new vacuum when it gets full.
:rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:

ha a vacuum cleaner, thats one of those watchamacallits that mums use isn't it?

Evo
Mentor
Andy said:
ha a vacuum cleaner, thats one of those watchamacallits that mums use isn't it?
Yep, rug suckers.

Ivan Seeking
Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
Andy said:
ha a vacuum cleaner, thats one of those watchamacallits that mums use isn't it?

...aka a Hoover to you Islanders.

If i remember correctly the first rug sucker was called a hoover.

Ivan Seeking
Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
Andy said:
If i remember correctly the first rug sucker was called a hoover.

He cleaned the Queens carpet before a big party which helped to propel the new fangled product to fame. But it was my understanding that ever since, all vacuum cleaners are called a Hoover in the UK. This was true in the US for many years.

Yea i think everyone refers to a vacuum cleaner as a hoover, i don't though, its a watchamacallit that females use.

wolram
Gold Member
Dearly Missed
Andy said:
Yea i think everyone refers to a vacuum cleaner as a hoover, i don't though, its a watchamacallit that females use.

I think you are a stout fellow, all this feminine carpet cleaning? who the heck needs it, they are bug infested dirt catchers, throw them out and have a natural flouring, and curtains, draperies?

Ivan Seeking
Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
Not to mention that Andy really knows how to charm the babes.