Monday, February 3, 2014

So you want service, huh

I've been on quite the "vehicle" journey this past winter. Fixed incomes, tight budgets, etc. My little 85 Toyota needed some winter prep done, and I wasn't happy with the condition of the radiator so I put a new one in. Common sense also dictated that it would be wise to change the thermostat as well, so I did all of that.

I seldom go out, but when I did (after the above was done) there were heating issues. (sigh)

The Toyota has a 5MGE engine in it, which is a "straight up" 6 cylinder. Unlike a general engine where you have say, 3 pistons on each side, this engine has all 6, straight up in a straight design. And at times, this design has been known to cause air pockets within the cooling system. Several attempts were made to "move" those potential air pockets out of the engine, the new radiator was checked for flow, the thermostat removed and checked for operations... but the problem only got worse.

To make a long story short, the new OEM thermostat was a bad design, and the spring got caught in the mounting bracket, forcing the thermostat to stay closed. This caused the engine to over heat, which caused the main head gasket to blow.

It was a total "tooth and nail" fight with the local head of Parts Source to prove the thermostat was faulty, however eventually they came up with a replacement head gasket and new antifreeze to replace all that was lost. The only problem is... our garage was "full", so those repairs on the Toyota have to wait for summer weather.

A little "saving grace" was available, as my brother has a 95 Cirrus which I can use, but it also required some repairs. To make that long story short, most of those repairs had been done over the years, and last summer he finally got around to finishing the paint job. The car was then taken in for a full frame alignment (that in itself is another story for another blog post) and then I set about working on that dreaded "check engine light" stuff.

We have several scanners for the new car computer things they have come out with over the years, and while they plugged into the OBD2 scanner port, none of them worked. After a lot of head scratching and internet searching, questioning all sorts of scanner manufacturers and third party computer diagnostic programs, we found that while the connector is an OBD2 type, this specific year, make, model and engine size, was an OBD1 computer. Nothing exists anywhere for diagnosing it, other than the dealer.

Since my brother had dealt with Derrick Dodge in the past, I contacted them through social media, and went into great detail on the issues, what had been found, diagnostic codes, sensor testing, etc. This was passed on to the service manager, who made the arrangements to have the car checked out.

The Cirrus was taken into their drive through bay area. Very impressive I must say. Within a few moments, this younger looking guy came out, scanner tester in hand, and jumped in to plug it in and ran some diagnostics. I brought along our Haynes repair manual, discussed all of the things done, and he spent some time trying to inspect a few things. We then went over the schematics of the system using the Haynes book, and he didn't think some things were right, so he took more time and photo copied some sensor pages from the dealer manual to help us out.

The basics of the tests indicated that the sensors were not getting the 5 volt line it needed from the PCM (power train control module), so we left Derrick Dodge with some really awesome information, and a great experience.

I found out afterwards, this "young looking kid" was really their shop foreman! So a huge kudos goes out to Gary Winters... he obviously knows his stuff. His expertise in explaining both the electronics and the mechanics was a breath of fresh air. Mind you, it also helped a lot that I knew what he was talking about too. I've been working on cars (and many other things) since high school. And I'm not a spring chicken anymore so...

A definite "tip of the hat" has to go to Derrick Dodge Family Center on 62 ave and 104 street.

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