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Monthly Archives: June 2018

Windshield Chip Repair

Many people doubt the value of a chip repair. Paying fifty bucks for a chip repair that is barely the size of a nickel seems unreasonable. However, most do not realize that the windshield is very fragile to internal stress. It may look impenetrable, but when subjected to road and temperature stress, the chip can easily become a crack. Searching recent forums, an Acura owner’s tolerance of “an annoying little rock chip [had] finally become a long streak across the middle of [his] windshield.” (1)

Your Windshield

As with all things, let’s begin with the basics.

Windshield glass is a type of laminated glass. It consists of two layers of special composite glass with a laminate in between the layers. The laminate usually is made from a form of vinyl plastic, which is in simple terms, a very strong plastic. The laminate acts as a sticking board for the inner and outer layer of glass, which serves to hold both layers together and provides a surface in the event of shattering for glass fragments to adhere to.

A black frame, referred as the ‘frit’, lines the outer edges of the windshield, commonly 2-3 inches wide and even wider on top. The frit protects the urethane molding (generally speaking, glue that bonds windshield to car) of the windshield from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Without the frit, the urethane would melt and cease to hold the windshield to the body frame. This is what happens with rear-view mirrors that are incorrectly installed; they fall off the windshield after the adhesives melt in the sun’s heat.

Functions of Your Windshield

Windshields play essential roles in vehicle safety and drivability. First and the most apparent function of the windshield is blocking wind and airborne debris from you and providing a clear perspective of road conditions. This is more of a drivability issue. The next two functions are safety-related, especially during an accident. In a frontal collision, two safety features of the car minimize impact damage to the driver and passenger: SRS Airbag and seat belts. In order for the airbag to deploy properly, the windshield needs to be in place. It stops the airbag from deploying upwards and redirects the direction of inflation toward the driver. In a rollover, windshield serves dually to prevent the roof of the car from collapsing and the passenger from having any body parts hanging outside the car. This issue is more pertinent with side windows, where loose body parts will dramatically increase fatality rates.

An improperly installed or cracked windshield will jeopardize your safety. One, the windshield may crack up and eventually lose integrity and shatter. Two, during an accident, the windshield will fly apart on airbag deployment with shards of glass spewing all over the place. And the airbag will be less effective. Third, on a rollover, compression stress will first stretch the crack from end to end and then finally break the windshield. Flying glass shards are very sharp and dangerous.

How Your Windshield is Installed

Ok, are you still following me? In the above sections, I have mentioned windshield structure and function. This section will cover windshield installation. The next section will tell you about windshield stress areas that dictate how likely a chip or crack is going to develop further.

Windshield placement is a highly robotic and computer-controlled process in the assembly line of automobile manufacturing. Computerized alignment and placement procedures ensure that both molding and windshield are accurately fitted. Preparation of the car frame provides a clean surface to which the windshield could bond. Furthermore, there is ample time between windshield installation and the end of the production line for the molding to cure. Because of these exacting processes, the quality that comes out the factory is the best.

For aftermarket windshield installation, getting rid of the original windshield properly is foremost to a good replacement. The correct installation techniques require removal of the old molding and lower windshield cowl panel. Subsequently the glass is cut out, leaving around 1/16″ of urethane bedding. The channel area, where the urethane adhesives bond, should be primed to inhibit rust formation. Rust formation will eventually weaken the bonding of the windshield to the car. After placement of the windshield, the car should be given from 1-24 hours to cure, depending on the adhesives used.

Some unethical replacement practices include shortcuts, such as close-cutting, flush-cutting and jumping-the-cowl. These will not be covered here, but if you are interested, you may read about these shortcuts in brief in the second link in References.

UTE Maintenance

Checking your Engine Oil, Transmission Fluid, Power Steering Fluid and Brake Fluid levels

The first thing is to locate your dipstick, in a manual vehicle there is only one, but an auto will also have one for the transmission fluid so be sure the verify which one it is engine oil before filling. (It should say on the top). It is usually colored plastic knob that is formed into a loop or has a rounded top that your finger can fit through to make it easier to pull out.

Use a clean cloth or paper towel to wipe the end clean so you can inspect it and tell where the fill and empty lines.

Insert the dipstick back into the engine, then pull it out again. The dipstick will go down into the engine sump and tells you how much oil is there.

You can then read how much oil is there. The ideal oil level is at the full mark. If the oil is above the halfway mark it is safe to leave it as there will be enough oil, but take note of this and check the level again after a few 100km.

If it is below the halfway mark, then add the recommended oil for your engine. (Diesel engine oil has special cleaners added to deal with any carbon build up. Petrol engines have different additives) It is best to add only 200ml at a time and then recheck and add a bit more if needed to ensure you do not overfill the engine (A very slight overfill is generally OK)

If you have your vehicle serviced at the manufactures recommended times and check the oil regularly and suddenly it has fallen it may be because you have gone past the service life of the oil and it is advisable to have it serviced and checked at a mechanic shop

Check the transmission oil in the same way and use the recommended transmission fluid.

The brake reservoir is on top of, or very near, the brake master cylinder, a clear white plastic screw top container with a viewing area so you can check the fluid level and top up if needed.

Cooling System

Check the coolant in the radiator (do not use plain water as an adequate anticorrosive is needed to stop electrolysis.

Check the visual condition of the rubber hoses around the cooling system and squeeze them to ensure the hoses are firm and have not gone soft.

Electrical System

With the assistance of another person who is outside the Ute to monitor the lights check their operation.

Check the indicators, park and brake lights as well as reversing and number plate light. It is also important to ensure your Headlights are working, both full beam and dipped as well as spotlights.

Check that all the instrument lights are working on the dashboard usually these will all light up when you turn on the ignition to the 2nd stage just before it activated the starter motor.

Check the horn and that all power windows operate correctly, it is important they work without the motor running in emergency conditions.

Engine Belts

Check the condition of the drive belts between the engine and Alternator, some vehicles have several belts, driving the air-con, pump the power brake pump, water pump. If your Ute is fitted with a back tray, not a molded body, it may have a hydraulic lift pump connected to the engine or a separate electric hydraulic pump, the fluids and any belts of these need to be checked as well.

Repair Your Headlights

First, determine what the problem is. Are they dim, not working at all, hard to see with at night, have water inside, failed inspection? If they don’t come on at all either you have a burned out bulb or an electrical problem. An electrical problem can be expensive and very labor intensive to fix – but they are usually vary rare. So lets first look at the bulb. The bulb unscrews out of the back of the headlight lens on most newer cars (on older cars with glass headlights the whole lens is the bulb and you just replace it with a new glass replacement $10 – $20 at Walmart). After removing the bulb, look at it. Does it look burned out? Is it black, melted, discolored? If so, replace with a new one. You can purchase replacements at your local automotive store or Walmart for under $20. Insert the new bulb or bulbs and make sure not to touch the glass part of the bulb with your fingers – the grease we emit on our fingers will cause the bulb to wear more quickly or even blow. After installing the bulb try the lights. 99% of the time this is the reason they will not turn on. If it still doesn’t light you have an electrical problem and this should be referred to your local mechanic.

If you have water in your lens this is caused by a leak, crack, or hole in the lens. With the newer plastic lenses you need to remove the lens and then carefully drill a small hole into the bottom of the lens (be careful not to hit the bulb. Let the water run out and then patch with silicone (easily obtained at Walmart or your local automotive store). Then find the source of the water. Usually the seals start to go bad after 3-5 years. You can cover the seal around the lens with silicone to reseal the lens. If the leak was caused by a crack a clear sealant like urethane can be used to seal the crack or small hole. If it is a large hole it would be best to replace the lens.

The other major problem is cloudy, yellow headlight lenses which can lead to diminished output, poor nighttime visibility and basically an unsafe car. There are now headlight repair, restorer and cleaner kits available to cure this problem. In the past you had to resort to replacing your lenses which can be very expensive – $200+ per lens not including installation and labor at your local car dealer. Now for under $20 you can fully restore your headlight lenses to like new optical clarity and greatly improve your nighttime safety. For more information on these kits please see the link below.

There you have it – the three biggest problems with automotive headlights and how to fix and repair them for greater safety for nighttime driving – and save big by doing it yourself. Please take the time to make your headlights and rest of your car as safe as possible. As having volunteered for a volunteer emergency squad for years I have personally witnessed dozens of fatal crashes that could have easily been avoided by just properly repairing and fixing the headlights. Be safe, drive safe – remember the life you save may be your own. Please pass this around so that it may benefit as many people as possible and increase the safety on our roads.

Info of Catalytic Converter Hazards

Many consider a catalytic converter to be a godsend. With pollution levels ever climbing, the U.S. government acted to reduce harmful pollutants in a step to clean up the environment. The Environmental Protection Agency was formed by the Nixon Administration and the agency was instrumental in passing the Clean Air Act to help America control pollution. Since 1975 virtually every passenger vehicle has come equipped with a catalytic converter.

As helpful as catalytic converters can be, they can be problematic. Besides failure, which generally goes unnoticed until your vehicle flunks its next inspection, it is the intense heat of the unit that can cause problems.

If you work on your own vehicle, you need to let your car cool down completely before working near the exhaust system. Catalytic converters get very hot, as hot as 1800 degrees, and any burn sustained from touching a hot converter can be very dangerous, even deadly.

Motorists have also learned that a catalytic converter can be a fire hazard. For the past three decades police and fire department reports have indicated that many car fires have been started because a motorist parked their car over dry leaves. Even when the engine is off the hot converter can drop a spark which can ignite leaves underneath. If that happens, your car can be engulfed in mere minutes and destroyed by the conflagration.

There are also hazards that occur to the catalytic converter itself. Because the unit burns at such hot temperatures, catalytic converters can suffer rapid thermal deactivation. Some experts suggest switching to synthetic engine oil to help reduce phosphorous contaminants a known contributor to failure.