Every year we do a story about timing belts, how they work, why they are necessary, and how to keep your engine together before it self-destructs when the belt breaks.

The timing belt is the belt that you never get to see. That’s because it is usually behind the motor mount and the serpentine belts, the alternator and power steering pump, and of course under the timing covers, which are there to protect it from road debris and other maladies. As the name implies, its function is to time the top of the engine (which includes but is not restricted to) the valve train and camshafts, to the bottom of the engine which is the crankshaft. As the newer vehicles have become more sophisticated and efficient, many of the tolerances and clearances have been made even tighter.

timing belt Multiple camshafts have become the norm, not the exception, so these “timing” specifications have become even more important. Imagine as many as four valves opening and closing in sequence to a piston going up and down while hitting speeds of close to 2500 RPMs. Now imagine those valves timing with each other so that the intake valve can open and close together so as to allow the fuel to enter the combustion chamber and then seal itself off so that combustion can occur and the exhaust valves to open to allow the expended fuel to be expelled into the exhaust system and then closed in time to allow the fresh fuel charge to be sucked back in. This is the combustion cycle. In the industry this is referred to as suck, push, blow and fart. Crude but descriptive.

Years ago this was all done with a chain, which had a pretty long service life so long as the lubrication system of the vehicle was well maintained. Chains were eventually taken out of the vehicles for a variety of reasons, most notable being cost, noise, and weight. They are however starting to make a comeback in newer vehicles especially those vehicles with multiple cams and variable valve timing, but that is for another article.

So how does this giant rubber band play into today’s engines and what safeguards are there to protect them from breaking and making the engine self-destruct? First, the advancements in the rubber compounds help keep the belt from deteriorating from not only use but from heat. The second advancement was in the new design incorporated in the cog, the part of the belt that is actually driven from the crankshaft and then drives the cams. To design a piece of rubber that is flexible enough to maneuver tight turns around a pulley and resilient enough to stand up to the torqued applied by the driving pulley (the crankshaft). Then, to be able to drive at least one but usually, two camshafts is a tribute to technology.

How can you as a consumer contribute to keeping your timing belt in good condition so that it will last at least 100,000 miles?

worn timing belt First, timing belts hate oil. So if you see any oil leaks developing around the valve covers and by the crankshaft, chances are that this oil residue is going to end up on your belt thus shortening its life. These leaks should be repaired as soon as possible.

Belts also hate coolant which is in itself a petroleum product. As most timing belts also drive the vehicle’s water pump repairing a water pump leak from the pump requires removing the belt anyway, but coolant leaks from the intake manifold or bypass hoses can also infiltrate the timing case and still contaminate the belt. Finally, a positive lubrication policy is imperative. This is just a fancy way of saying keep your oil changes current and timely with the proper grade of oil and quality filters reduce friction and relieve stress on all moving parts. That in itself is just good old-fashioned common sense.





When I was growing up being cool meant wearing jeans and a white T-shirt with a pack of Lucky’s rolled up in your sleeve. Then it became being the first one on your block to actually own a vehicle. But I was super cool because my first vehicle was a rag top and that top stayed down from April to November because I had a heater that would melt stockings (or so my girlfriend and eventual wife would complain).

air conditioning controlsNow being cool in Southwest Fl. is all about being comfortable and content while driving on Florida’s highways without hearing any road noise or outside noises such as ghetto blasters and the like. Just being enveloped in a cool, noiseless cocoon devoid of all other sensory functions and sensations is supposed to be like being in heaven. Yet to this day it amazes me how many people do not know how to use their air conditioners to this day.

Last week we talked about the natural cooling processes that make hot air cool; I kept it very basic because the cooling process has not changed since the beginning of time and it will never. What has changed is the dependence on multiple other systems in your automobile that have to work together to keep that air cold. This does not even count the different control systems that make the passenger cabin habitable for every part of the country.

Cause and Effect

Anything that puts a burden on the cooling system of the engine will affect your air conditioning; that includes the ambient temperature, low or contaminated coolant, loose or worn drive belts, electric fans that fail to operate as designed, and anything that blocks the flow of air through the condenser from broken air dams to something as simple as sand packed into the fins of the condenser. air conditioning serpentine beltSo the first type of maintenance for your cooling pleasure is to make sure that all of your belts and hoses are in good shape, that you haven’t left half of your air dam in Publix’s parking lot, that any electric fans come on, and visibly change their speed as demand increases and finally once in a while when the engine is NOT running use a GARDEN hose and flush out the radiator and condenser fins from the engine side out especially if you live in the Ranchettes or on a non-paved road. You will be utterly stunned at the amount of debris that will come out of those fins, and more importantly, you will immediately feel the difference in the temperature of the air.

The second most important form of maintenance for your air conditioning system is to make sure that Freon levels are where they are supposed to be. Remember when I said that up in N.J. we would just top them off and let them go until next year, and that was only because the A/C season was so short there, but now not only is your air conditioning affected by the proper amount of Freon so too is your defroster and heating systems.
Usually, the first sign of a low system is a system that cools okay at the beginning and end of the day but cannot keep up when traveling during the heat of the day. This is accompanied by the constant cycling (clicking) of the A/C compressor. But now many vehicles have what is called modulated compressors that actually change the displacement of the compressor so that the clutch (that’s what that clicking noise is) stays engaged and doesn’t cycle on and off.

Get Professional Help

Now the sad fact of life is that an A/C system is a closed system and if it’s low then you have a leak. Just how big that leak is and where it is, becomes the crucial difference. All systems will develop a leak after a few years, rubber hoses deteriorate and sweat, and “o” rings become brittle and less resilient and allow minute amounts of Freon to escape. These first instances of low Freon levels are generally hard to find unless the technician utilizes a halogen detector or a blue light/dye combination to find the leak. Many times if the leak is very small, the Freon level can be brought up to its proper level by using a series of measurements on various components to ascertain just how much Freon needs to be added.

auto air conditioningHowever if these leaks become chronic then the only real way to make sure that the levels are correct is by recovering what Freon that might still be in the system and recharging the system with the proper amount of refrigerant oil and Freon to bring it back to specs. This is where people get into trouble! They are usually anxious and they run off to one of those “BOX STORES” to buy a can of sealer and Freon and just top it off. That’s where it’s going to cost you money! First off you really don’t know what they are using as a sealer and it can destroy a compressor, secondly, as I mentioned last week, these systems are getting smaller and smaller and unless you know exactly how much gas you are installing, you can cause a good amount of damage. If you’re lucky it just won’t cool, if you’re not, you will either seize a compressor or develop so much head pressure that it will either blow a hose or rupture the condenser. These new systems do not take well to being over-charged.

Here is my gift to you!

I’m going to teach you just how to operate your air conditioning/heater for efficiency, and comfort and to maximize your vehicle’s ability to get the most miles per gallon.

  1. If your vehicle is parked outside all day, open the doors and windows to let the bulk of the super-heated air out.
  2. Drive with your windows open and turn on your A/C to the fresh air mode. As the inside temperature drops close the windows.
  3. Now turn your A/C controls to recirculate (that’s the button on the car with the “u-shaped” arrow in the middle of it)
  4. Now here is the most important part; turn the blower speed down as low as you can. You should not feel the wind from the vents hitting you. This will give you a gain of almost 9 degrees.

If you have automatic HVAC controls set your temperature to your preference, if not and you feel a little chilly in the cabin’ then just turn up the temp control a notch or two and you’ll be fine.

So until next week BE COOL, BE CALM AND COLLECTED, and remember always:


P.S. As of this time either nobody read last week’s article or the trivia question was too hard. So here’s a Hint: It was 1939 and it wasn’t Nash or Cadillac.



What season is it now, Baseball, Track, Christmas, maybe Beach Volley Ball?

No, it’s the season that people are most concerned with when they purchase a used vehicle. Does the air blow cold? A good salesman would smile and say politely “yes of course”, a salesman that we all were taught to avoid would answer, “yeah you can hang meat in there”. So typically if all you want is cold air, that’s doable. If you want cold air to last for more than a couple of months, takes a little bit more scrutiny. To have it work properly and not destroy expensive components during the course of “keeping the air cold”, takes a considerable amount of knowledge and an array of tools and equipment.

air conditioning freon tankFirst, let’s talk about just how that air gets cold. The medium that does this is of course Freon. You’ll notice that Freon is capitalized because it is trademarked by our friendly scientists from Dupont. Its real name is dichlorodifluoromethane gas. Dupont actually developed the R ratings based on the gas’ molecular structure which is why everyone thinks of R-12 when we speak of automotive Freon. Now we have R134a which is soon to be replaced by HFO1234yf. The most common type of Freon was R-12. Just how cold is Freon? R-12 boils at 28 degrees below 0. Ask yourself how many old-time mechanics have frostbite on their fingertips because they mishandled Freon, better yet ask yourself how many died from phosgene gas poisoning, which is produced when you heat Freon with a butane or propane torch because that is how we were taught to check for leaks. I told you that this is a tough business!

Cooling air is not a process of making something cold; it’s a process of removing the heat from the air that we want to cool us. This brings us right back to the natural laws of heat exchange. Air conditioning systems are the same as in your home and in your refrigerator. It consists of a closed system that recirculates a medium that is extremely cold and by the laws of physics attracts any heat from its surrounding area.

Auto ac system drawingOkay back to air conditioning; here we are in our vehicles and we want some nice cool air so we can close the windows. So we pass some air over a heat exchanger, also known as an evaporator core, and we take the heat from the air so that now it’s “COOL”. So we’re all happy as clams in the vehicle because it’s cool. But now that nice cold Freon has become heated up from all the heat it just attracted from the incoming air. How do we make it cold again?

Here is the cycle; the heated Freon is sucked back to the compressor where it is compressed. It is then sent to the condenser as a high-pressure gas where it condenses into a high-pressure liquid. High pressure means high heat with Freon. It then passes through a restriction, also known as an expansion valve or an orifice tube that forces the pressure down, and makes the Freon cold again, and the cycle continues.

When I was just a young buck in New Jersey, I went to all the air conditioning classes and I thought to myself this is pretty simple. Because “the season” in New Jersey was only 2-3 months long it was a practice to just top off those systems that were not working properly and send them on their way. The following year we would see the same folks and do it all over again. When I moved to Florida in 1985 I really learned just how crucial it was for an a/c system to be properly maintained. But in the ’70s, the year of the gas shortage and the new mantra of everyone in America became “miles per gallon”. auto air conditioningLike everything else in those vehicles, the air conditioning system was all downsized and made of aluminum, and THEN we found out about “GLOBAL WARMING“ and how all that R-12 was leaking from our cars was going to kill us and give us permanent sunburns. This led to the development of our latest Freon R134a.

Technicians had found that they had to take special classes, and buy expensive equipment to keep up with this new technology. In two weeks we’ll bring you the REST OF THE STORY

Normally this is where I would sign off and tell you the Maintenance starts at Mile 00001, but being the type of man that I am I have to know if you guys are reading the whole story, so if you are and you’re the first to call 941 575-8868 and ask for Lynda and tell her which Automobile Company was the first to install factory air conditioning and in what year, I’ll give you a $25.00 Visa gift card, but you have to leave your name address and e-mail so that we can contact you. If you’re not the first one we’ll put your information in a drawing for some cool kind of prize on October 1st. If by chance you’re already a client and an “Insider’s Car Care Member” we’ll put your name in twice. Oh by the way if you’re the lucky winner and you’re already an Insider Car Care Member that gift card will be for $50.00.

See you in two weeks, Same Bat Time – Same Bat Channel.



One night while I was working late, at about 10:00 pm an ambulance screamed up Route 41, past the shop. Being in such close proximately to Bayfront Hospital, this is not an odd occurrence. What was odd was that very shortly after, the same or another ambulance made the right off of Olympia onto 41 with lights on but without a siren. Usually, that rig would continue down Olympia towards the hospital, not up 41. ambulanceI’m sure that we have all had that “feeling” when something was off. Because of my past when I was not only a “first aider” but also a first responder with my wrecker for all “suspicious” accidents and all death by auto calls, I’ve learned to pay close attention to those “off” feelings. Watching a rig pass by with lights and no siren can be good or bad news. The injured are either stable or not with us anymore. The next thing that I heard was the wop-wop-wop of a helicopter’s main rotor, except this time there was a queer echo until I realized that there were two choppers that had landed in the empty lot that used to be the City Market Place. Being inquisitive I had to follow these sounds and found myself watching a team transfer a patient from one rig to the copter. Everything was so slow and controlled that I really thought that this was a training exercise. Imagine my shock and surprise when I passed a destroyed vehicle on the top of the bridge, and I knew why there was no rush anymore.

I’ve been in this business for over 42 years, and in those 42 years, I’ve had first-hand experiences with broken vehicles. Vehicles that were so UN-SAFE that they should have been taken off of the road! Accidents are caused by so many contributing factors, some result in bruised pride, and some result in horrific deaths. Like anyone else that is in contact with carnage, our minds automatically protect us by surrounding us with a kind of force field. The outside world thinks that we are insensitive or hard, but take it from me, those images never leave us. But as they say in the movies “life goes on”.

While researching for this article the most recent facts that were available were already four years old. This is not the first time I have written on this subject, and while the numbers have changed the results are always the same.

auto accidentIn 2010 there were 2262 fatal accidents in Florida. 2445 people lost their lives in those accidents. Amazingly to most folks only 660 of those fatalities were alcohol-related. 487 of those deaths were pedestrians. The breakdown of these accidents was as follows: 868 were multi-vehicular collisions, 562 were collisions with non-motorists. 550 were collisions with fixed objects, and 46 were collisions with non-fixed objects. 202 were overturned or single vehicle non-collision accidents and 34 were unexplained non-collision accidents. You must take into consideration that these numbers only represent fatal accidents, not all accidents.

Information from various sites which were state sites, attorney’s sites, and general information sites rated the cause of all accidents as such:

  1. Speeding
  2. Cell phones and texting
  3. Other distractions are radios, talking, general inattention
  4. Fatigue
  5. Alcohol
  6. Rubber-necking
  8. Defective roadways
  9. Weather
  10. Improper coning

If you pay attention to the bold information it means this. In the year 2010 at least 202 fatal accidents were caused by poorly maintained vehicles. According to AA1CAR.com, 13% of all accidents are caused by defective and/or poorly maintained vehicles. Most cited as major points of failure were brakes first (which even surprised me), tires second, steering and suspension, and roadway design. I would like to add another two categories, belts and hoses and heating and air conditioning. Tire issues are pretty much self-explanatory, and any tire with less than 2/32 of tread left is unsafe and needs to be replaced. Any time an insistent wobble or vibration appears in the steering wheel with a hard pull usually means that a tire is beginning to fail internally. Brakes are sometimes a little harder to “feel”. Sticking calipers or partially blocked brake hoses can cause a drag that can actually boil your brake fluid causing a sort of embolism in the hydraulics which can result in the total loss of your brake pedal without warning. So can ignoring that annoying squeaking or vibration when stopping. This is a sign of things that are not right. Not having your suspension checked at least once a year can find faults with tie rod ends and ball joints. If you have ever passed a vehicle with one wheel facing left and the other facing right rest assured that a bad tie rod was the culprit. Breaking a ball joint looks like a vehicle trying to drive on the inside of its tire.

serpentine belt on automobileAs most vehicles have already switched over to single serpentine belts, losing a belt not only will kill your battery or overheat your engine but consider driving at 75 mph on Rte. 75 and suddenly losing your power steering. Or consider this, driving along when all of a sudden this violent downpour happens and your entire windshield just totally fogs up and distorts your vision. A vehicle that has faulty air conditioning and defrosting capabilities reduces you to drive one-handed and wipe the inside of the windshield with your free hand. Not entirely having complete control of your vehicle, is it?

So to be completely blunt and to the point, I say this: Not maintaining your vehicle will cause you to spend more on repairs, cost you for rental vehicles, and loss of time for fun or work, and it may cost you or someone else their life!



See us about providing you with your Factory Maintenance Schedule as our gift to you.


Buying a used vehicle?

Being in the automotive repair industry is very much like being a mental health technician. This is not saying that there is any correlation to the education aspects that we both have to attain. But most clients are very surprised at the amount of continuing education automotive techs receive. It’s just that when you talk about automobiles, many times there are a lot of emotions that go along with that conversation. Sometimes it’s sentimental, sometimes it’s the end of a love/hate relationship, and sometimes it’s just plain old economics.

Many times a vehicle that has not been maintained properly finally just quits or breaks down. Sometimes it’s able to be driven in but most times it comes in on the hook, aka a tow truck. Enter emotions, why now? It could have not happened at a worse time, this vehicle has been nickel and diming me ever since I bought it. We’ve all heard it and many times we have said it.

car moneyAfter going over the vehicle and we have to ascertain exactly what is needed to breathe the life back into the vehicle we as responsible professionals go through what is very much like a triage system. What is needed right now, what is needed next week, and finally what is needed to make the vehicle safe, and reliable? The first impulsive statement that I hear is; “that’s more than the car is worth”. Worth is the keyword here. People confuse a dollar value that is found on the internet, which can change from site to site, with the true value of a vehicle. Usually, my first response is “were you looking for a different vehicle last week”? If you weren’t then this is not the time to start looking now. Unfortunately because of the economic structure that many people have found themselves in is that it’s easier to finance a different vehicle than to stretch their already tight finances even tighter. It never ceases to amaze me how people can rationalize spending $10,000.00 to $20,000.00 rather to spend $2500.00 to $4000.00 to bring their vehicle back to a safe and reliable condition.

DISCLAIMER: Of course, we are talking about vehicles that are in good condition i.e. no body damage, no rust, all or most of the electronics in the vehicle are in working condition, etc.

Now let’s cut to the chase. We/you have decided that it’s time to upgrade to a newer vehicle, the first mistake is that if you are replacing your primary form of transportation, human nature forces you to run right out and find something right away, make a deal and get on with life. WRONG!!!! Now is the time to take a deep breath and rent a vehicle for at least a week so that you can make a realistic, intelligent decision. It is even better if you can rent the same type of vehicle that you may think about buying. It is a $200.00 expense that can save you thousands. Next, decide on what type of vehicle you would like, and what your budget will be. carfax report A very important rule of thumb is if you are going to finance a vehicle and cannot afford to pay it off in three or four years then you are looking above your budget. If you finance for longer than that you will become “UPSIDE DOWN”.

When you are preparing your budget, remember that you are buying a used vehicle, if it has close to or more than 50,000 miles on it, you are buying it at the point at which most of the expensive services are about due. You should have enough “wiggle” room in your budget to be able to perform these services so that you can keep your “new” vehicle “SAFE AND RELIABLE”.

Due diligence is very important when inquiring about remaining federal warranties, transferable extended warranties, recalls, and campaigns. If this is Greek to you, call me and I will walk you through it. Demand a CARFAX. There are 2 different types of CARFAX, one is an overview (it’s free and pretty much useless), and the other is a comprehensive report and it costs about $40.00. It is $40.00 well spent. Understand that CARFAX’s are not infallible, and only reported accidents or repairs will show up, but it is at least an indicator of the use and abuse of a vehicle.

used car mechanicAnd FINALLY, you must demand that the vehicle you are looking to purchase is inspected by an independent shop of your choice. A quality inspection will take at least one to two hours and it will cost you money. If you are buying from a dealership or a private party and they do not allow you to do this, WALK AWAY.

This is your report you do not have to share it with anyone nor do we give copies to anyone except you, you are the client and I work for you. Most dealerships in this area understand my reasons for doing this and they usually have no issues with dropping off the vehicle for my inspection.

Once again I have to reiterate that finding things that need to be addressed before buying a vehicle is important, it is after all used. However, more importantly, you should understand what preventive maintenance you will have to address during your first year of ownership so that you don’t find yourself behind the proverbial eight ball again. Gregg’s Automotive Maintenance & Repair Center does not sell parts and labor, we provide safety and reliability, and keep the cost of ownership as low as possible.






With all of the uproar and amount of Catalytic Converter thefts, I thought that it would be nice if everyone knew what made them so appealing to thieves. catalytic converterThe catalytic converter is one of the most misunderstood and misdiagnosed emission devices in today’s vehicles. The dreaded catalytic efficiency codes P0420 and P0430 are not only tough to diagnose but can also be expensive to rectify. The first thing to understand is why we have these on our vehicles, to begin with.

Internal combustion engines are a wonderful thing. They are relatively compact yet pack a real punch when it comes to developing power that can be funneled to speed. As with everything else in this world, there are always by-products that are produced during these explosive acts. Everyone understands that carbon monoxide that is a result of combustion. It’s a silent killer that has claimed more lives than anyone thinks. This is precisely why the exhaust systems have become super tight and made of stainless steel so that they are less apt to leak into the passenger compartment. Hydrocarbons are a little harder to understand as they are molecules of unburned fuel. This unburned fuel is also an issue and is a culprit in many respiratory problems.

nitrogen dioxideThe last of the Big 3 by-products of combustion is NOX. NOX stands for oxides of nitrogen or nitrogen dioxide. NOX left in the atmosphere contributes to the formation of smog, acid rain, and tropospheric ozone. If you don’t know what tropospheric ozone is, it’s the smell that occurs right after a lightning storm. That is the natural formation of nitrogen dioxide. NOX also combines with ammonia and moisture and forms nitric acid aka acid rain. Nitric acid can penetrate deeply into the sensitive tissues of the lung and can cause or aggravate respiratory diseases such as emphysema or bronchitis as well as existing heart conditions.

So now that we know why we have catalytic converters on our vehicles, it’s time to understand how to protect and care for them so they last the lifetime of the vehicle. The metals used in the construction of these converters include many precious metals such as platinum, palladium, and rhodium, thus contributing to the overall cost of these parts.

The whole process of cleaning the exhaust gases sounds very complicated but is really science 101. The most important gas to render harmless is NOX, as it is the most poisonous. This is called The Reduction Phase. As it turns out the extra electrons in the NOX molecule are more attracted to the precious metals and quickly jump over to attach to them. This basically turns NOX into nitrogen and oxygen.

The second phase is the process is called The Oxidation Process which uses the extra oxygen from the reduced NOX to bond with the carbon monoxide molecules to form carbon dioxide molecules and water. These are all gases that we as humans can live with. As part of the process, a great amount of heat is required. Catalytic converters need to be between 800 and 1500 degrees to perform these processes. This is why it is very important not to park over dried grass or plastic bags.

automobile exhaust fumesSo how is the best way to protect this expensive part of your vehicle? This is really the easy part. If you keep your vehicle in tune (maintenance) and run top-tier fuels (common sense) your catalytic converter will basically clean itself as it was designed. Changing your oil at regular intervals will reduce the amount of ash and carbon that will go out the tailpipe and coat these precious metals with sludge. Keeping our air filters clean so that you will not run “rich” will make the whole catalyst process that much easier.

Now we have found devices that can be attached to the catalytic converters that make it awkward or extremely time-consuming to cut these converters out. We have installed these and have access to them. As I always say an ounce of prevention is always worth a pound of cure, and it is always much easier to be proactive instead of reactive both in mind and in the pocket.

As for the catalytic converter cleaners in the marketplace, I have not used any in my shop but I do know of some shop owners that have used them, especially in states that have stringent emission programs that say they do work for a while. As for my dime, I would rather say that:



So be proactive and protect your investments and the environment and your health.



If you read my last article, you’ll know that we’ve established the fact that the GDI engine is the greatest thing since cupcakes as far as the automotive industry is concerned. But then again, every time the industry comes up with new technology it is always the best of the best no matter how bad it might be. I won’t bore you with all the failed ideas that not only did not work but cost you, the consumer untold dollars to repair and maintain these ideas.

fuel injectorThe biggest issue that I see with these GDI engines I that they just showed up and there was no training or instructions to the techs or the public on how to keep these engines running perfectly. It seems that the American consumer has been held for the research and development of all these new ideas.

Here is the crux of the issues; because of the dependency of multiple systems of the engine, a complete and comprehensive maintenance plan is necessary. First and foremost, these engines have multiple fuel pumps, one in the fuel tank (a lower pressure delivery pump) that feeds a higher-pressure pump on the engine (it pumps at super-high pressures that atomizes the fuel so it can run leaner). This means that the type of fuel that you run and how you maintain the filters is the first form of preventive maintenance. As I have always insisted using a Tier 1 or Top tier fuel is imperative. These fuels are clearly marked on the pump with a decal or you can Google top tier fuels and get a list of all those fuel companies that comply. An easy way to understand this is that most “BRANDED” nationally known fuel suppliers are typically Tier 1 fuels. Keeping your fuel filters replaced at least once every 30,000 miles or every 2 years is imperative for good fuel pump health. The easiest way to promote good fuel pump health is to never run your tank past a quarter of a tank. The fuel pump is submerged in the tank and in the fuel because they are using the fuel as a lubricant and a cooling medium. When you run your tank way down the fuel pump is hanging in the air and has the opportunity to overheat, thus lessening its life dramatically.

oil and filtersThe second and probably MOST important is to change your oil and filter frequently and by the factory stated interval, if not earlier. Using a good quality synthetic oil or a properly rated oil filter is imperative with these engines. Oil filters are rated; a normal off-the-shelf filter is usually rated for 3000 miles, a GOLD filter is rated for up to 7500 miles, and a Platinum filter is rated for 12000 miles. The difference in these filters is not only the amount and type of filtering media but also the valving within the filter. If you use a less expensive filter and overrun your oil change interval, then the media clogs and the valving allows the oil to pass through the engine unfiltered. This abuse of the oil will affect the high-pressure fuel pump that actually runs off of the camshaft and the variable timing components. All these components are expensive.

engine valvesThe biggest problem with the GDI motor is that the fuel is injected directly onto the piston face and by-passes the valve faces. Initially, the fuel washed the valve faces of any carbon deposits and kept them somewhat clean. Spraying below them allows carbon deposits and oil bypass deposits to accumulate on the valve faces. Due to the increase in combustion chamber temperatures, these deposits harden quickly and end up affecting the sealing of the combustion chamber causing misfires. Ignored long enough these deposits will break off and lodge themselves between the cylinder wall and the piston rings and scoring the walls causing blow-by.

Education is so important and the manufacturers in an effort to show maintenance costs as low as possible are only short-changing you the consumer.





GDI engines: what are they, and why is everything automotive becoming alphabet soup? Well GDI stands for Gas Direct Injection. Okay, problem solved, now we all know what the initials stand for, BUT what does this mean to me, “Joe Average somewhat new car owner”?

fuel economy gaugeSomewhere in this crazy industry, the government has decided how many miles the average fleet of every manufacturer must achieve. This historical or should I say a hysterical piece of legislature is called CAFE, or Corporate Average Fuel Economy for short. To make a long story short, for the year 2012 the CAFE for passenger vehicles was 36 mpg, fast forward to 2021 and the rating is at 45mpg, looking to the future the government is looking for a 54.5 mpg corporate average. You might say to yourself “wow, this is phenomenal” 54.5 miles to the gallon is great. In a perfect world it would be, but alas the world is not perfect.

The GDI engine was/is the industry’s last milestone to achieving these standards, and on paper, the test results are very real.
First, you must understand how this new injection system works, and the new rules that you as consumers must follow. Way back in the old days when engines were carbureted, fuel was just dumped down into the intake manifold where it was just atomized with incoming air and somehow found its way into the combustion chambers. It wasn’t completely haphazard the runners were designed and tuned to be as efficient as that day’s science and engineering thought good enough. Average fuel economy: 12-15 mpg. Then came the 70’s the great gas shortage and being held hostage by Middle Eastern Oil Cartels. Cars got lighter, engines smaller and the most asked question was “how many miles to the gallon”. Carbureted engines became antiques and the new buzz was fuel injection. Enter the EPA, CAFÉ, CARB, and a bevy of other agencies known only by initials. The race for cleaner air, fuel economy, performance through electronics and alternative fuels were on.

direct fuel injectionFuel injection went through its own development process and as the need for more efficiency increased, the design and management of fuel delivery and distribution changed. Early fuel injection pressures began at 9 psi which was close to double that of carbureted engines. These pressures quickly increased to 30, 45, 54, and then 65psi to better atomize the air-fuel mixture so that the perfect stoichiometric ratio of air to fuel which is 14.7:1 could be manipulated to as high as 60:1 and still have smooth running and good performance engines that sip fuel instead of drinking it.

Enter GDI, a super-high pressure and perfectly aimed injection stream to the top of the piston to perform complete and efficient combustion. By super high pressure, we are talking about a two-fuel pump system, one in the tank to deliver the fuel to the top of the engine which by today’s standards is normal in the 50-60 psi range. The second fuel pump is usually located in the fuel rail and driven by the camshaft to generate these super high pressures. By super high we are talking from 600-2900 psi of pressure to completely atomize the fuel with air. Then by injecting the fuel directly to the top of the piston, diminishing the need for throttle plates and other restrictions, thus making the efficiency of the burn rely more on the strict engine management systems which monitor the precise need for fuel, and duration of the injection process so that ultra-lean mixtures can be utilized thus increasing power and limiting the fuel consumption aspects of combustion.

But with these new developments comes a whole new set of rules concerning the care and maintenance of these systems which the public was not made aware of. And while those of you that are fortunate enough to replace your vehicles every 4 or 5 years, the second and third owners of these poorly maintained engines will become prey to expensive and major repairs to keep these vehicles running right.

Our next story will outline the maintenance procedures that are necessary to keep these vehicles running well.





Everyone has heard of the “black box”, it’s always the topic of conversation and the world’s scrutiny whenever a commercial or military plane goes down. airline flight data recorderIt holds all of the secrets of the last fateful trip and is always equipped with some sort of transponder or homing device to make it easier to find. It can monitor conversations from the pilots to each other and to any towers; it monitors all of the vital information for the flight, such as speed, altitude, all mechanical and electrical communications within the plane itself so investigators can determine the cause of the plane’s malfunction. Like it or not, the safest way to travel rarely has any survivors when one goes down.

Recently I read a story about a motor vehicle accident, I must be honest with you, I read it quickly and picked up the general theme, but I did not examine it closely. This story was dealing with an accident that had no witnesses, one person dead, and the driver. I’m not really sure if it was a hit and run or not but prosecutors have retrieved the vehicle “black box” and with it gained not only a “witness” to the accident but a wealth of information regarding the operation of the vehicle right before the incident, as with Tiger Woods.

This “black box” that has become the star witness, in this case, is what we refer to in the automotive industry as an abuse counter. Usually installed in high-end vehicles or vehicles that are built to become rentals, it recalls and saves key pieces of information that the owners of these vehicles have deemed important to the resale and upkeep of these vehicles. The most commonly recorded items are average speed, the number of wide-open throttle requests, the number of anti-lock brake stops, and impact sensor reactions. Thus, the name “Abuse Counters”.

x-ray view of automobileHowever what you probably never realized is that if you own a vehicle that was built or sold in the United States after January 01, 1996, it has a flight recorder in it. This type of recorder is a little different than most. This is what we refer to as a Freeze Frame. Back in the nineties, it was very basic, usually recording power train issues. Today every control module that is in your vehicle is constantly monitoring data for whatever system it is in charge of. Transmission and engine modules most typically referred to as power train control modules, or PCM’s monitor all of the sensors and circuits involved in the operation of these components. I decided to concentrate on these modules first because it these modules that usually turn on the check engine lamp.

As soon as the module finds and triggers a code, the freeze-frame captures that moment. It gives us a huge amount of data such as ambient temperature, rpm’s, vehicle speed, fuel trim, and load conditions. This helps us as technicians to gain extra information so that we are able to diagnose the problem more accurately, especially when it is an intermittent problem. One such vehicle that proved invaluable to us was a Toyota that was forever registering a lean condition code but was never running lean when it finally came to us. After researching this issue we found that this particular engine had an issue with the intake manifold gaskets and when the ambient temperature dropped below a certain point the intake manifold would contract enough to cause a vacuum leak, and as the vehicle warmed up, the manifold expanded enough to shut the leak-off. So what we eventually did was clear out all of the codes, reset all of the monitors, and waited for the light to come back on. Because we knew that the code would be recorded the owner was able to come back to the shop at her convenience where we examined the saved data to confirm the diagnosis and repaired it right the first time.

image of front of automobile collisionThe second most important time this information is used is in the event of a collision. This is most crucial when it is a single-vehicle collision and when the driver has been terminally injured or impaired by any other reason other than alcohol. Whenever an airbag is activated there is a huge amount of information shared by multiple modules to prevent accidental deployment. When an airbag module requests permission to activate an airbag, the PCM first looks at the ABS module, the transmission module, and the body control module, making sure that the wheels are slowing down, and in some cases, the ABS has recorded an event. It looks to the transmission for a rapid downshifting that should occur if a vehicle is slowing down and the body control module to make sure that the brake lights are on. It then monitors its own engine sensors to check if the throttle body is closed, and if the intake manifold vacuum has maxed out, as well as a sharp decrease in outside air volume that is going past the mass airflow sensor. Having checked all of this information and deciding that yes the vehicle is involved in a collision allows the airbag sensor to deploy the airbag. Amazingly enough, this whole process takes all of 500 milliseconds.

This is important because as a technician and sometimes as an investigator, it allows me to look forensically to substantiate the cause of an accident and try to determine if it was caused by driver error or mechanical failure, which can mean the difference of a long prison term or not. Sometimes mechanical failures are caused by economic issues, or just ignorance, and every so often by blatant disregard for the safety of themselves or others on the road.

Preventive maintenance and scheduled safety inspections are not an upsell, sometimes it is the difference between someone’s life or death.


Lack of common sense will always cost you DOLLARS AND CENTS!!!

A 2nd VIEW FROM THE PUMPS – Nov. 2021

From Their Exhaust To Your Lungs

Did you know that cars and trucks once had separate air intakes that allowed air from the outside to enter the passenger compartment? Those were those handles that said “Vent”. Those vent handles allowed fresh air to pass from the front of the vehicle directly to the passenger compartment. That was when air conditioning was an option and not the norm.

auto pollutionNow because of the air conditioning systems and the sophistication of these systems, all the air that comes into your vehicle comes through the same route. Over the engine, into the fresh air ducts, into the evaporator case, around the evaporator core and heater core, through the blower fan housing, and then finally into the passenger compartment where you are.

Because we live in southwest Florida I challenge you to see just how many vehicles have their windows open on the road at any given time. So the long and short of it means that as you are driving on the road behind a diesel, or a poorly maintained vehicle that is smoking or running too rich, or in a dusty condition all of those contaminants and debris are coming into your vehicle and into your lungs.

cabin air filtersWhy are we not aware of this? Because our engineers have put in systems to trap those particles so that we are not endangered. Every breath of air that runs into the new vehicles runs through or over an evaporator core and a cabin filter. The cabin filter is the most overlooked filter in a vehicle and most owners do not even know that they exist. They are usually located under the dash in the evaporator case hidden by glove boxes or lower dash panels. Everyone knows the importance of the air filter for the efficiency of the engine so this is to protect our lungs.

Just as important as changing these cabin filters every 15,000 miles or yearly, you should have the evaporator core cleaned at regular intervals, too. The evaporator core and the heater core both look and act like mini radiators for your automobile. Their sole purpose is to act as a heat exchanger to the hot or cold air that is coming into the passenger compartment. If they are working properly, they both have the opportunity to “sweat” (That’s what that puddle of water is under your vehicle on a humid day). This sweating process turns those cores into magnets that trap dust, organic material, and road debris.

If the cabin filters are too overloaded with debris the filtering process becomes null and void. It then becomes the perfect breeding ground for MOLD. Mold is hazardous to your health, it can make you sick, it can aggravate any breathing disorders that you may be experiencing and it could very well be deadly.

air ventThe solution? Have your service provider check your cabin air filter if you have never had it checked. If you are driving for long periods of time in your vehicle and feel ill or have trouble breathing (or have a strange “gym sock odor”), it may be time to have your evaporator core sanitized. It is after all YOUR health.

P.S. Here is something no one has ever taught you. The proper way to use your air conditioning. Here is the scenario: Your vehicle is parked outside during the heat of the day and it’s time to go home. Here’s what you should do:

  1. Open your windows and let the heat out of the car, before you even start it.
  2. After starting it up place you’re A/C controls to fresh air and turn the blower up 2-3 speeds to expel the superheated air in the vents.
  3. Now close your windows and let the temperature of the air stabilize.
  4. As soon as the temperature of the air is cool switch your controls to recirculation and lower your blower speed to 1-2. You should not feel the speed of air hitting you. You should just feel comfortable in the vehicle, not in a wind tunnel.

Here’s the best part, you’ll get better fuel economy!