Not to Worry . . . Usually

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When your car starts making a strange new noise – or emits a strange new smell – it’s not necessarily something major. The first thing to do is calm down – and not assume the worst. The second thing to do – if you’re not mechanically inclined – is to find someone you trust to have a listen.

And a look.

One common – and alarming – noise that modern cars often make that isn’t usually something to worry about is an exhaust rattle. It’s probably not a death rattle. It’s a good bet the catalytic converter heat shield – a thin piece of metal tack-welded to the converter’s body, to prevent its very hot surface from touching – and possibly igniting – dry leaves and such underneath the car – has come partially loose.

When it does, it makes an obnoxious racket – and if you don’t know about the heat shield’s propensity to work itself loose over time – you might think there’s something badly wrong.

The fix is as easy – and cheap – as having someone who can weld tack-weld the shield back into place or (field expedient) just pry the thing off. This will not affect the car’s function – or emissions – in any way.

Just remember not to park over dry (and tall) grass – until you can get the shield repaired. 

Rising smoke is another blood pressure riser. But it might be something that’s more of an aggravation than cause for alarm. Unless you drive an electric car. In which case, leave the car at the first sight – or whiff – of smoke. Lithium-ion electric car batteries can – and sometimes, do  – spontaneously combust. And when they do, they burn fast  – and very hot. Stop the car, get out – and get away from the car.


If it’s not electric car, smoke is probably the result of an oil seep – or a water leak.  The seep – as from a leaking valve cover and then onto hot metal engine parts – which makes the smoke – is usually nothing serious. Pop the hood, see whether you can source the smoke back to the seep. If you see a little seepage around the edge of a valve cover or intake manifold, you can probably keep on driving. But make sure you check the oil level first (seeping oil is leaking oil) to make sure your engine isn’t running low on oil – and check it again, regularly – until you can get the seep fixed.

If it’s a steady drip – look underneath the car with the engine running – you will want to stop driving the car because that indicates significant and possibly even pressurized leakage that could quickly result in the engine running low on oil . . . and then not running at all.

Or the transmission  – if it’s an automatic. Running an automatic with low fluid can destroy it in just a couple of minutes or even less, if it’s a big leak.

Don’t risk it. Park it.

If it’s a slight drip – and there’s no large puddle under the car –  it’s probably ok to continue driving – cautiously – so long as you are vigilant about checking both the progression of the leak and the level on the dipstick.

Also be sure to scan your gauges – especially your oil gauge – often. Any change in reading is cause for immediately finding out why – and pulling over. Turn the engine off. Never run an engine with low oil or an unknown oil level or an oil gauge that’s reading erratically or unusually.

Water smoke is more like steam and is usually the result of a leak in the cooling system –  the radiator, the rubber hoses that carry coolant from the engine to the radiator (and back to the engine) and smaller hoses that warm up the throttle body in some cars with fuel injection – and so on.

The main worry with coolant leaks isn’t the leak per se but rather overheating the engine – which can cost a lot more to fix than replacing a bad radiator or a hose that sprung a leak. And the thing about most coolant leaks is they are pressurized leaks; which means a small leak is likely to become a big one if not dealt with promptly.

Try to get home – or to your mechanic’s place – as quickly as possible but as gently as possible. Drive the car gingerly, to reduce the load on the engine and thereby the heat the cooling system must dissipate. Keep the revs down, which keeps the cooling system’s pressure down. And watch your temperature gauge. If it starts reading hot, that’s your cue to pull over – before you cook your engine.

If you see – or smell – steam inside the car, you have a more serious problem. Your heater core is probably leaking. The heater core transfers engine heat – via warm coolant – into the car’s cabin, to keep you warm. When it leaks, it also wets – the carpet, ductwork and so on. It’s not usually a gusher – which means you can keep on driving (making sure to watch the temperature gauge and – when the engine has cooled down – check the coolant level and top off as necessary, to make up for the loss).

But you’ll want to stop driving as soon as possible – and get it fixed. Because the longer it leaks, the wetter your carpets will get – and the funkier your car’s interior will smell.

It’ll take a whole box of Mr. T air fresheners to deal with that!

. . .

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  1. When a car guy has to take his car to a mechanic to find out what is making a noise, it makes me wonder about their devotion to anything but the cosmetics.
    I’ve never really considered myself a car guy, but knowing what was making the noise is part of what got me promoted from being a pump block attendant to being the assistant, and later, manager of a service station, back when they were where someone would take their car for a listen.

    • Bill, I could make so many comments about that but I won’t. Can’t imagine taking a car to a service station for anything but air and gas.

      • There used to be some good service stations but of course they are all gone now with the advent of self serve. There were bad ones too but that’s true with every business. You can’t even get air now! It’s a dang shame because there used to be a lot more competition in the auto repair business, and after a while you could find a place that you could trust at least for most stuff.

        Just because I can and have done just about all kinds of maintenance and repair doesn’t mean that I still want to do it. Crawling around in the dirt or mud or snow under a pickup is not so much fun as it was 30-35 years ago. And the cars are too low to even begin to think about getting underneath and you can’t hardly even drive them up on ramps because of all the plastic hanging down in front.

        • Hi Anon,

          I miss the free air, too. And your point about getting under late model cars is dead on. Even once under them, it’s often hard to access anything – including the oil drain plug – without first taking off plastic underbelly pans (there for CAFE compliance reasons). On the upside, many modern cars have been designed to make accessing the oil filter a bit easier – and serpentine drive belts are much to be preferred over the old multiple belt system!

  2. As I read many of Eric’s columns regularly, I am always impressed with the experience and shared knowledge demonstrated by many of the commentators about many small details or problems w/ vehicles.

    Many small steps are explained and alternatives (hard won knowledge) are discussed as only some who has done the work can do. Valuable just to know what can go astray. Prevention, etc.

    • Most all of us were car people before we got dragged into the politics that has arisen in the past 4 decades. So we know the reality of automobiles vs. the govt. lies and layman’s unfamiliarity with either. The more outrageous Uncle, and the virtue signalling tree-huggers, behave regarding automobiles, the more you will hear from those of us that know what a crock of shit the public is being served. And, as you have pointed out, we know, intrinsically, the nature of the automobile.

  3. Last winter, I had a shop do an oil change in my old Tahoe. I usually do my own, but I avoid crawling around on a cold concrete floor when the temps get into the single digits. Drove home, no problems. The next morning I drove three miles to work. No problems. That evening, temps had dived below zero, I fired her up to go home after work and noticed that the oil gauge was flickering near zero pressure. Odd, I thought, that the cold would affect the oil gauge. Having just had an oil change, I assumed it was a sensor error…but after a couple of blocks I thought it best to pull over and double check the dip-stick. Bone dry. Nothing appeared to be dripping under the truck. Luckily I had some extra quarts (I was going to do my own change, remember) and filled it. The oil poured like thick honey. I was furious with the shop for forgetting to put oil in the crankcase and I was worried that they’d done serious damage to my old reliable 350 engine. I started for home again, got to a light about three blocks away and noticed that the oil gauge was flickering again and by the time the light changed the pressure had dropped to zero. I had to drive another couple of blocks to get off the street. Checked the dip-stick. Bone dry again. Looked under the truck, no drips. Started it back up again and looked underneath and saw oil gushing from the filter area. Dang, I thought, they screwed up the filter gasket! Rookie mistake!
    I contacted the shop the next morning and they arranged to have my truck towed in. I got profuse apologies and they promised to make it right. Later that day they called and said…uh…it wasn’t the filter. It was the gasket between the oil filter unit and the block…it had deteriorated and blown out. When they gave me the bill, it didn’t include the tow. I made them charge me for that because none of this was their fault.
    That basically fixed the nagging continuous leak I had been experiencing for the last several years but couldn’t isolate. Since then, I have not noticed any effect on the old 350. I figured she drove about 6 miles with little or no oil, but because of the extreme cold the thick oil protected its’ innards. Dang, I was lucky. Dang, that old 350 is a great engine.

    • Hi Ron!

      Glad it turned out ok… it might not have. Inexcusable what the oil change joint did. The 350 is a great engine – and you’re lucky it didn’t lock up – but god only knows how much excess bearing and other wear occurred during your oil-free drive.

      It’s often the case that these oil changes are performed by barely-trained, low-skill help since trained/skilled mechanics are expensive.

      Be careful out there…

    • Many GM tucks have auxiliary Engine oil coolers, and the cooler lines are bolted to the block at the oil filter mount. Sometimes the filter will mount on the cooler line base at the block, and occasionally will be mounted remotely near the radiator. The base mount adapter seals to the block with O-rings that will shrink, crack, and leak, usually slowly at first. On rare occasions the cooler in the radiator will rupture, and there may not ever be an external leak visible. The lines and hoses themselves will often start seeping similar to what happens eventually with power steering pressure hoses. If the cooler line/hose assembly was not replace when the base gaskets were repaired, keep an eye out for this problem to reoccur on account of old cooler lines leaking as well.
      Also, it is not uncommon for some brands of oil filters to leave the gasket on the block (FRAM is the worst for doing this) when removed during routine service. In hard to see areas, that can be overlooked and result in a double-gasketed oil filter, which will leak profusely. Anyone changing the filter in a well-lit shop environment should be able to see a leaking base-mount during the filter change, and bring this to your attention then and there. However, many quick-lubes utilize pits that provide no better lighting that you would have yourself crawling on the ground under the truck. My suspicion is that this is what occurred during your oil change, given the large volume of oil you were losing in such a short time. The additional work to replace the base-mount gaskets, was probably an opportunity to cover their double-gasket mistake under the guise of an existing base mount leak.
      An oil change seems like a simple service matter that anyone short of a paraplegic could perform. The reality is, that it is the simplest job that can cause the most damage possible, if done improperly. A few things to consider, which most people do not, when getting an oil change you don’t do yourself. A: is the shop a quick-lube with pits that have limited access and lighting? B: Is the engine, and likewise the oil, going to be hot during the oil change? If you are waiting on the oil change, the answer to that is almost definitely, YES.
      Most oil filters are located in tight spaces near hot components and even exhaust manifolds. This makes access and proper installment difficult, if not painful, for the person doing the work. I check every mounting surface of every filter I remove with my bare hands, which would be almost impossible on a hot engine, without injury. I refuse to perform on-demand-while-u-wait services, primarily for these, and other, reasons.
      “Convenience” in regards to auto service is an illusion which began in the mid-80’s primarily with the advent of Jiffy-Lube, and other subsequent “instant service” facilities. The relative low employee wages and inexperience involved in these outfits is commonplace, and makes them a very poor choice for reliable auto service. Additionally, there are several reasons proper service simply can not be performed on a hot engine. For all the above reasons, and more, the cultivation of on-demand-while-u-wait auto service is just a poor service environment, with mistakes and misfortune waiting to happen.

    • Ron, I’m familiar with a leaking gasket between the block and the filter housing. In my experience, it begins with a weep and then a drip and it takes a long time to get to the point of complete failure which I’ve never had. Seems like a new “kit” for my Turbo Diesel cost $3+. It was just the one gasket leaking but I replaced some other seal or ring or similar, I don’t recall exactly. When you have it off and there’s more than one part, use every one of them unless the kit covers other filter housings which I think was what I had with the other seals.

      I’ve been through the rattling thing with my Nissan pickup. It began one night and I stopped and looked under it. Nothing rattling or loose but back at speed it started again. When it rattled at idle I diagnosed it easily, the inside of the cataclysmic converter. When I got a chance, I pulled it off(damndest thing you ever saw, two bolts in front and two in back held it in place), held it upside down and starting dumping the crap out till there were just a few big chunks that wouldn’t fall out. I took a bar and broke the chunks and when it was empty, replaced it with no drama. Ah, not a sound without that stuff in there but it still looked stock and ran a little better and cooler. A win/win situation I have rarely encountered.

      • Nissan, Kia, Hyundai, and Subaru converters seem to have a thing for the catalyst breaking free inside the converter, and just rattling around inside. I’m amazed more of them are not just flat out blocking the exhaust flow entirely!

        • gtc, probably the stuff had been breaking off and causing an exhaust degradation for a while before enough blew out and started rattling. I probably chalked up the loss of power to wear or something to do with that damned computer controlled carb. It was/is(if any still exists and I doubt they do)a real nightmare when one started malfunctioning. I heard the only real cure was a new one. I sold mine and was glad to be rid of it since the transmission was going along with the bed rotting out from dirt being in the bed. Never saw that on anything in west Texas before. It just doesn’t rain enough but wheat growing in the bed of a pickup isn’t uncommon in certain places(corners of the bed) and I did have a bed mat which was a source of deterioration….for that pickup.

    • Back when I was a kid working on my own car, I intuitively knew to check for leaks after doing an oil change.
      Several years ago, I took my previous van to a Walmart for an oil and lube. I spent the night on the lot of the same Walmart and took my usual look under the van before I started it in the morning, and found a puddle under the oil pan drain. I took it right back to the TLE and they replaced the broken plastic gasket on the drain plug without draining the oil, by using a vacuum on the filler to hold the oil in the pan while they replaced the gasket. The manager, who had applied the vacuum, profusely apologised and promised to make sure the pit guy would never make that mistake again during the required leak check.

      • A word of warning regarding Mal-Wart auto service. If you didn’t notice, there will be a dab of blue paint on the drain plug after they service it. This is NOT to verify the job as some people believe. The tech-twits there at Mal-Wart are instructed to “remove the bolt with the blue paint on it”. If you really want to risk getting something damaged, at a discount,of course, keep on going to them. This discount convience-store attitude towards auto service is slowly exterminating the environment of competent mechanics and service garages. No one seems to care, until they have to call some TV show in order to expose what happens on a daily basis at all of those “convenience” shops. The majority of those chain-store owners and their on-site managers, don’t know their mouth from their asshole, much less the makings of competent auto service.

  4. Recently I had a loud howl in my FWD car. I had heard this same howl before in my buddys truck that had a bad differential. I left my car parked for a couple weeks assuming the worst. Talked to a mechanic who told me to take a chance and spend $20 on some new rear wheel bearings. It fixed it :). Those bearings were at about 80,000 miles. He said I should repack them every now and then, which didn’t tell me much. Is there a recommended service spec?

    • Bin, I never heard of a car eating the rear bearings on a FWD car at even twice or three times the mileage. Do you carry heavy loads a lot and drive the piss out of it? Please let me know the brand. I want to avoid it.

      • I was a little worried because the brand was FAG. I was told it was HQ stuff from Germany. No telling if I’ve got other issues though, very high mileage. I should probably look at my spindles. I’m going to repack and adjust soon and look harder.

      • I havent eaten too many rear wheel bearings but have a hell of a time keeping back tires round on a light FWD (my Ford Escorts were really bad for this). Especially if the rear wheel bearings are ball bearing rather than tapered roller bearings. I never figured out why, but a new set of tires would get scalloped and wear out on the back, regardless of balance, shocks, everything else being right. This happened in about 15-20k miles. I assumed it was some combination of light weight and harmonics possibly having to do with the ball bearing assy- but it happened repeatedly and repeatably.

      • Hey Eric, that isn’t as OCD as you might think, lol! When it comes to checking wheel bearings, suspension, and steering, I do so with every car that goes on the lift here, even for just an oil change. I’ve found bad bearings, ball joints, tie rod ends, and brakes, that customers had no clue about. In some cases, they pull in here with brand new tires, with wheels and/or suspension that are just about to fall off! “Tire shops” are about the worst for neglecting wheel and suspension maintenance, and probably NOT by coincidence.

        • gtc, I know what you say is not exaggeration. When I bought a used Z 71 it had 30 lbs of air in the tires. It didn’t drive too bad but when I brought them up another 30 lbs as they should have been, it was all over the place. I took it to a friend and he put it on his lift. The front tires and entire assembly was about to fall off. It was then I discovered GM had lowballed it and used those “dry bearing rotors” . What a dick move. No inner and outer bearings, just a single dry bearing that could easily have ruined the spindles.
          When the parts guy delivered replacement he told me they were 100,000 mile parts but probably half that if I drove it in dirt and used it as a farm truck. It probably won’t matter too much since the engine will likely be ready to go and it will be a back yard collector’s item till I find a used engine.

          • Tire Shops will frequently underinflate tires specifically to mask other steering and suspension problems, as you witnessed. It only benefits them, because they will only “discover” these inadequacies when the new tires have been adversely damaged, prompting you to return to same said Tire Store to ask for tire wear warranty. You know what the answer is going to be then, but the damage is done, and they are counting on the repair cost in addition to the purchase of yet anther set of tires to boot!

              • More precisely, what Firestone, and all the other Tire retailers did as well. The door sticker is a joke, even today, with some still reading as low as 27 PSI on some mid-sized SUVs, conveniently re-named “cross-overs”. That’s another pile of horse-shit that I don’t buy into either, lol!

              • I hold Firestone harmless in the Explorer debacle. Ford made the exact same tire for other vehicles and it never cost people their lives. Old Ralph Nader never mentioned that Ford recommended 26 PSI on a dynamically unstable Ranger chassis with an SUV body and additional 500 lbs to haul around at speeds it was never meant to drive. Most people couldn’t keep a Rangers on the road at 75 mph and t’s no wonder why the tires started popping in high temperature climates. The fact that over 270 people lost their lives because of a glaring incorrect tire pressure specifications is unconscionable. Ford should have been made to pay for this.

                Unlike the Chevrolet Corvair, which GM correctly specified the tire pressure for its vehicle, Ford sacrificed handling and stability for nebulous “ride quality.” in its Explorer tire specifications.

                • I remember Ford having bad tires back into the early 60’s. Then there was the infamous 721 that really were killers.

                  A friend had a new T bird in 80 and he thought it was great(handled like a badly built boat). So he has a blowout a few miles from town and he takes the spare that’s never been removed and put on the car. He made it about 1.5 miles and it blew out.

                  I had the same thing happen to Firestone tires that came on my Ranger Trails trailer. One blew out and the spare that had never touched anything but air blew out immediately.

                  A friend had a set of Sears tires made by Firestone in the middle 60’s and they were pure junk. But they had a hell of a warranty by Sears. So when they start wearing crazily he wants to kill one and get a new one free. So we put it on the tire machine and he has this pickaxe and is going to puncture it. He gets up there and chickens out. He was scared he’d get hurt. I grabbed the damn pickaxe and he and another friend ran out of the room. I busted it, set the pickaxe down and chided them for being cowards. Wish I had a video of it. I’d send both of them copies via mutual friends ha ha ha.

                  • Well, Chevy put 2 ply tires standard on their half ton pickups! My mom bought a new 1966 long wide C-10 and got a camper shell for it. She thought she was doing good when she put some 4 ply Firestone 500s on it. Then one of them went flat and we put the brand new factory spare on, but it went about 10-15 miles before it blew out. Finally she got some 6 ply Transport 110s. Don’t blame me, I was only 12 or 13 then.

                    • Live and learn. I don’t have to have Load range E tires on the Z 71 but it saves a lot of flats since mesquite thorns and cactus won’t hurt them.

                  • That’s a super common (older) 1/2 ton truck tire size. They’re typically rated for around 2k lbs. a tire. I wouldn’t use them for any kind of towing duty…
                    Not sure why you think they’re so narrow, all of our 3/4 and tonners come factory specced with a 245 section width.

                    • My Turbo Diesel had factory 6″ wheels and 235/85 16’s. It rolled like crazy. I had to use 80lbs just to keep the sidewalls from flexing so much.

                      I got wise and bought some 8″ wheels(rock crawling wheels with protected lugs)and installed some 265/70 16’s and it handled like it was on rails. Everything it was supposed to do it did much better. It made a hell of a difference at speed and in the sand too. The Edelbrock IAS Performer shocks were faster than computerized shocks. Rode like a Caddy on the straights and stiffened up instantly when turning. It felt like it had a front anti-roll bar. No need to run 80 lbs after that except when hauling a heavy load of course.

                  • Dunno about the load rating but they get looking soft with less pressure under that 4×4. That’s what it came with (P, actually!) and what we had on our previous 2wd Suburban. It seemed to be the standard tire to replace 700-15 back 30 years ago.

                    If I ever replace those tires – they are virtually brand new except 10 years old – I’m going to look into something bigger since the rally wheels are plenty wide. I wanted to go to 16″ wheels but they are hard to find in 6 lug unless you order them new from some aftermarket vendor. Through a series of misadventures, I was in a bind and just needed to get 4 good tires on it and also have a spare. The roads out here are hell on tires and apparently wheels as well 🙁

                    • Anon, I don’t even remember the brand of wheels I have but they are thick enough the lugcaps, not nuts, barely stick beyond the edge of the wheel and the valve stem is machined down into them so a shorty just barely sticks out from the wheel. They work too, never a problem with ripping off valvestems or even touching the lugcaps. They’re super strong and have never suffered anything but grunge and not much of that. After I bought them I thought a shine would be nice so I bought a can of Amsoil metal polish and not only did it polish the whee out of them, it left a coating that kept them clean. No more scrubbing when washing, just wipe them with a rag and they look great.

                      They fit the pickup perfectly too not sticking out more than half an inch further than the original 6″ wheels and tires.

                      You’ll notice a much more comfortable ride too.

                      You can get a used set of 6 hole 16’s for a Chevy for a coupe hundred dollars or less. I like the fact they’re made to not stick out. That makes load hauling easier on the bearings and keeps the paint on the vehicle.

                      The new style of wheels that are sticking way out beyond the fenders are going to promply eat the paint should anyone every get offroad or run down dirt and gravel roads. Of course they don’t buy them to work, just for the looks.

                    • The wheels that failed were aluminum (factory I presume). And NO you can NOT get used 6 hole 16″ wheels for a square body Suburban. Gmt400 1500 wheels have the same bolt pattern but do NOT fit because of the center hole and backspace. I spent several years trying to find them from junkyards and finally ended up with a set of steel 15″ rally wheels.

    • I see this more often than one might guess. Unitized bearings that cannot be re-packed are even worse about doing this. Many cars and light trucks are also now using cast aluminum steering knuckles and rear bearing housings, so a bad bearing can also wallow out the mount itself!

  5. I parked my 86 mustang lx recently and noticed a strange smell. Then I saw orange flickers under the engine. I realized it was on fire. Luckily the hotel I was at had a fire extinguisher. Those work really well! I popped the hood and sprayed it out. I was somewhat worried about an explosion but didnt want my car to burn to the ground. Extingushers shoul really be required with older cars.

  6. We have a 2002 Dodge Dakota and the heater core totally blew a couple winters ago and soaked both the driver and passenger sides. What a mess! Is this something an amateur with lots of tools can fix? We build houses, but not cars. I was told the labor would be quite a lot, but the truck is basically useless in the winter at night.

    • You can do it. I did mine, I consider myself competent but not a pro. It took me 3 days and was a very frustrating job. Every vehicle is different, and I’m convinced my car was built around the heater core. Hopefully your Dakota is one of the easy ones.

      • haha thanks. Yeah, I’m told by my mechanic, who I trust, that it would be a whole weekend kinda project to do myself because it is very hard to access.

      • It depends on the vehicle.

        Some older pick ups it’s a snap. Other modern small sedans require removing the dashboard to access it. Unless you’re really good at working with fragile trim pieces it might be worth paying, a rather large sum, to someone to fix it.

      • My 1965 C-10 was a pain but probably easier than the newer ones. The only big problem was getting to one or two of the bolts on the firewall.

    • Hi Mark:

      In almost all late model cars, the heater core is the biggest PIA to change. The entire instrument panel often needs to be removed to access it. If you are seeing quotes for many, many hours of labor, they aren’t lying.

      I had a 2002 Dakota. I had issues with the condensate tube plugging and leaking on to the carpet. I also had to replace my blower motor resistor block multiple times. The blower motor resistor block happens to be a 5 minute or less job on and 02 Dakota. If your blower only works on full blast – that’s definitely your problem. It is a cheap and easy fix. Seems they had problems with them.

      The heater core on the other hand… The part itself is cheap. The labor most certainly is not.,2002,dakota,4.7l+v8,1384602,heat+&+air+conditioning,heater+core,6864

      Good luck. If you’ve got plenty of time and wrenching skills, give it a try yourself.

      Be sure NOT to try to disassembly anything when it is cold though. Plastic pieces go from very flexible to extremely brittle when they are cold. Plastic clips that are designed to bend will break if you try to unclip them when they are cold.

      • Blake, when I first got married I ended up working for a farmer since that was my background. My 67 Malibu had blown the heater core one day, as in just dropped every bit of the fluid in the system.

        So I hadn’t had time to fix it, had a new one but was working dawn to dusk every day and they were long days and it was summer but rapidly approaching winter(Texas, do figure). I was spending all day harvesting corn and then plowing it under once it was stalks.

        The bad core is still in there(I really had no way to light the garage when I got off). The wife, an old hand(learning every day)not really, but not a typical female, was wanting to come see me working since she had no friends in this county we’d recently moved to.

        She asked me what it would take to replace the core and I showed her the lines and the core and told her to remove the inner fender and then remove the core. I got the inner fender off and got the core out for her but it was dark and I had to stop(young, broke, with no real equipment for a shop). So she asked me before I went to work if she got it going (and I told her to use 50/50 water/antifreeze that we had), she could come out and see me since it was colder than a well diggers titty on the high plains. Hours later she showed up with a car with a working heater. I was really proud of her and didn’t have to do anything to fix whatever she might have done wrong. It was straightforward and she did a good job.

        Now, I’d be really hacked to have to replace a core on a new vehicle. I might not even be able to without purchasing specialty tools and jump through all sorts of hoops. I did learn to clean the cooling system on every vehicle I have and install Bar’s Leak that’s a great water pump lubricant and a great sealer for leaks(never had a leak it didn’t seal except for the water pump on one pickup).

        So asking me why I’d rather have my 93 Chevy Turbo Diesel running again compared to anything else is a no-brainer. It’s simple, it’s easy to work on, mechanical injection, a manual transmission and an 11.5″ differential(bulletproof).

        I recently found another body(98 Chevy 2500) and will be working on it when the weather gets a bit nicer.

        My Z 71, a 2000 model, would be a bitch and it would have all sorts of error codes to clear when it was fixed and I have looked at it and hope my Bar’s Leak continues to work(and it did even when the water pump was going out). I use triple distilled water and antifreeze mix along with the Bar’s Leak and never had to even replace a water pump on the vehicles I started using it on except one 454 with a zillion miles on it. BTW, she asked if she could use it one day when I took the baby Nissan to work. I told her there was a new water pump in the seat and if she wanted to put it on, she had water, antifreeze and everything she needed to do the job. I got home and she was hauling rock on a flatbed trailer. Well, I guess she got it fixed I thought. She was proud, I was too. Need has a great deal to do with acquired skills.

      • Hi Blake,

        Absolutely correct in re heater cores. This is a job only Satan himself could have designed. It’s one of those jobs I farm out – because I am not into S&M!

  7. Oil pressure sensor died in the silverado recently. Was driving and saw CEL light and then noticed the oil gauge was at zero! Shat a brick and turned the truck off to investigate. No oil leaking, level was good still so i was confused. Learning after the fact it was just the sensor I could have driven it fine for a while.

    • Same thing happened to my Harley. Turned out it was some gunk near the oil switch. They took it out and cleaned it b/c they didn’t have a new one to replace. Oil change and viola! No problems since. When I change the oil in the car, I put in only about 2qts or so at first, then start the car. It’ll be low, but if there are any leaks it wont be the whole crankcase! Also, there is a definite thumping when the oil sump is completely dry after changing the oil. Upon firing up, look for the “genie light” to go out, the pressure to dial up, and the thump-thump noise to go away. Then, while engine is running, look underneath for leaks.

    • brazos, sometimes it’s the filter under the sensor that’s stopped up. I think that’s why my pressure was 50 one day when I cut it off by 30 the next when I started it. I didn’t let it bother me since the engine was quiet. I changed oil the other day and now it’s back to 45. I’m betting it’s the filter under the sensor. I think the Amsoil is cleaning it slowly.

      When I bought it the guy was using Pennzoil high mileage oil and it used a quart in a bit of 3,000 miles. I put some crankcase cleaner in it and ran it 20 minutes with a new filter and then drained it. It was really dirty looking.

      I filled it with cheap Mobil 1 and it used a quart in a bit over 4,000 miles so when I drained it, it was nasty as hell. Then I started using Amsoil premium, what I had wanted to use to begin with but knew any synthetic would clean it. The tapping went almost completely away and I had about 6,000 miles on it when it had used a quart. After that, it doesn’t use oil and my last change I think I had forgotten to write down. I know it was high mileage but not the 16,000+ it showed in the book. That reminds me, I need to write it down in the book. I’ve had several vehicles that quit using oil after using Amsoil for a couple changes.

      • Yup. I use the mid tier Amsoil but had been using their top end stuff. I saw that tiny azz filter thing and it was clean, it was only mesh so what’s the purpose of it?

        • brazos, I bet that’s been asked tens of millions of times. Youtube is loaded with LS sensor/filter replacement videos. One guy showed how to replace them without ever seeing it before he brought it out in a special socket. He just reached behind and slipped the socket on, after removing the wires plugged into the sensor and then an extension with a u-joint and a ratchet with a flexible head. The entire video that wasn’t cut was 14 minutes. The hard thing was getting up in the engine bay to do it. It’s a must see for a guy who doesn’t know the lines that can be taken off easily and how they are attached. I hope to avoid it but you can never tell.

          And you don’t necessarily know right at first if it’s not the oil pump if it shows no pressure or even partial pressure. There’s videos for that too. It’s the variable part of the pump that screws up and then you can take off the tube from the pan to the pump and sometimes get the ball in there working again……but not always. You just need to watch a few videos of it if it ever happens to you.


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