Thursday, November 22, 2012
I wish I had the guts, the honor, and the will to be a military man. And I guess maybe that is why I stand in awe of those who do have it. And why at almost every holiday I think about them, and what they do for us. And then I think of the fact that they rarely get thanks, they don't make a bunch of money, they just do it because they have a sense of duty.
And if you think they don't sacrifice, I implore you to click this link and see the emotion on the faces of those people as their soldiers come home. If you don't cry, you don't have a heart. This video and others like them will show you just exactly what kind of sacrifice is being made by these brave men and women.
And so I just want to remind you today as you hug loved ones not often seen, and eat and be merry, there are still men and women who are away from their families and loved ones. Say a prayer for them, ask God to protect them and keep them. And continue to give them the strength and courage to be the hero's they are.
And so I'll leave you with a quote from General George S. Patton, Jr "it is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived"
Be thankful for our troops! God Bless them all!!
Thursday, July 5, 2012
1. Keep your engine tuned up. This means replacing things like air filters, fuel filters, spark plugs and PCV valves and 02 sensors while keeping your MAF, Throttle body and ICV (idle control valve) clean and working freely. While most of these parts won't leave you stranded, they can lead to larger problems that can. For instance, a clogged fuel filter will cause your fuel pump to work harder and like high blood pressure, it is a silent killer that can leave you stranded on the roadside.
2. Replace your cooling system. It's summer time and your cooling system is working as hard as it will all year long. You would be a fool not to replace your cooling system components. This means at a minimum your upper and lower radiator hoses, thermostat, water pump, fan clutch, expansion tank and cap, auto trans t-stat if you have an auto, and radiator. For other brands of cars, it is pretty much the same list. Case in point, my daughter just drove from Bham to Atlanta to go to Six Flags. She called me on the way home and her car was overheating and billowing steam. She was able to limp home adding water to her car every 100 miles or so. When she got home I found her radiator completely cracked and just spewing water. Could have been a lot worse. My motto for cooling systems is simple, when it doubt throw it out (in other words, replace it). And one last thing, don't throw away an old cooling hose or component. If they were working when you removed them, keep them in your emergency "kit" in your trunk (you do have one don't you?) for those "just in case" moments.
3. Belts, pulleys, and idlers oh my. This is another common area overlooked by the masses. Most cars, your BMW included, have a single belt that drives most of the accessories. Which means all of your proverbial eggs are in the single "serpentine belt" basket. If it breaks, you will be stranded. Additionally, a lot of people who replace the belt still forget to replace the tensioner and idler pulleys. They have bearings that wear out and when they fail, they lock up causing even a brand new belt to break and once again, you are stuck. Belts and pulleys are CHEAP and easy to replace, you are silly if you don't replace them.
4. Your fuel pump. This is more of a BMW issue than anything else. I have documented enough cases and gotten enough feedback from forums to know that if you own a BMW with 100k miles to 150k miles you need to proactively replace your fuel pump (and your fuel filter at the same time) or expect to be stranded sooner or later. No fuel = car won't go, PERIOD. Now you can try the old bang on the gas tank method and sometimes that'll get you home, but most times it won't. I take you back to Easter Sunday just this past year. I went to get milk that morning and didn't even bother to take my cell phone with me. After getting the milk I go to crank up the car and NADA, NOTHING. I knew immediately what had happened. After $3.00 in quarters and 30 minutes on a pay phone, I finally got a tow truck to show up. Talk about mad! At least I wasn't on the interstate between the middle of nowhere and Scaryville though! Seriously, for the E46 the pump is $140 new, spend the money!
5. Without power, you ain't goin nowhere! Most of you know your car runs on 12 volts and you have a battery that puts out that amount. And we forget about them for the most part until it is too late. Ever get into your car, turn the key and hear "click, click, click". In the words of Homer Simpson "DOUGH!" And just as bad is if your alternator dies. If it can't charge your battery, your battery will die and you will be stuck. Autozone, Advance Auto Parts, Pep Boys, they all perform FREE battery and alternator testing. GO GET IT DONE! Batteries are under $100 in most cases and again, most auto parts stores will even install them for you at no charge. Alternators are also not too bad to replace or buy.
And there you have it. 5 ways to keep your car on the road and in good working order. I realize money doesn't grow on trees, and a lot of people don't replace this stuff because of cost and as a father of 4 with one income, I get that. But if you break it down into small pieces, it can be rather easy. For instance, a water pump on an E46 is only $60 and takes an average DIY'er less than 2 hours to replace. I am a firm believer in replacing parts on YOUR time, not when they fail. It is so much easier and less headache, not to mention safer.
So make a mental list (or better yet, write it down, or even better still, consult your maintenance log, you do have one right?) of what needs immediate attention and get cracking.
And remember, What One Man Can Do Another Can DO!!!!!!!
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
So what is the point of my ramblings? I dunno really. Perhaps just to "talk" out my problems in print. To try and somehow organize my thoughts on this topic and work through them. Or maybe it is just because everyone I know is getting older and I still feel so young. I don't really fear death, but I fear not leaving the proper legacy for my children. I need more time, so do my dad and grandfather.
By the way, the next line of that Joe Nichols songs says:
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Yesterday was one of those days where I was thankful to be in Alabama. If you follow me on twitter you saw the photo I tweeted that said "this is my office". What you see is blue sky with pillowy white clouds, an interstate, and mountains and trees everywhere (see pic). INVIGORATING! I had the sunroof open, the windows down, and Pink Floyd's "Leanring to Fly" blasting from the H/K sound system. As I soaked up the 68 degree winds, sun on my face, smiling, I looked down at my "cockpit". Black cube trim, black leather sport seats, alcantara accents, and a 6 speed manual gearbox, I was in the most purpose built drivers car BMW ever made short of an ///M car, and I was HAPPY. Does it get ANY BETTER THAN THAT? The answer is a resounding NO!
And during those moments when he can, rolls the windows down, cranks the music up, and lets the sunshine hit his face. And as he remembers his youth and those fast cars, he smiles and is truly happy.
Saturday, January 14, 2012
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Sunday, June 5, 2011
It is common for people to say "you have to have special tools to do A/C work so you just have to pay what a shop wants to charge". This is pretty far from the truth. I have fixed quite a few A/C units with little more than a $40 gauge and $7 R-134a filler hose. Nope, it ain't fancy, but it works. You simply have to understand the basics of air conditioning and how it works to diagnose and fix your car.
1. Compressor: this is the part everyone automatically thinks is the problem when A/C issues come up. And while they are the "heart" of the system and commonly fail, they aren't always the problem. The compressor moves the refrigerant through the system. It has a high side and a low side. It is turned by the engine and is engaged by a clutch at the front of the compressor housing which engages the compressor. Common symptoms of a bad compressor are:
- No cold air. If the compressor dies, you are going to be hot.
- No cold air at idle or sitting still, but gets colder when the engine RPM's go up. Typical sign the suction or low side of the compressor is bad.
- Horrible noise when the A/C is engaged. Your compressor clutch is bad or going bad, your system might be low on refrigerant and/or oil (yes, there is lubricating oil in the system).
2. Condenser: It looks like a small radiator and is usually mounted in the front of the vehcile. It has small coils and serves to cool compressed air that goes through it and converts to a liquid under pressure. That may make no sense but keep in mind, A/C systems do not "make cold air" they remove heat from hot air and it is a chemical process. The bottom line, the condenser is under great pressures and can and does fail. I have seen holes get knocked in them from road debris, rust through over time, or the seals at the connection points go bad. Usually a leaky condenser is easily seen by injecting UV dye into the system and checking it for leaks with a UV light. You can also buy or rent a "sniffer" which is a tool that detects the R-134a gasses present at the leak site. Most often they are easy to replace and less than $300.
3. Evaporator: This is where the super cool gasses go through and air is passed across it by your blower motor to give you the ice cold air blowing on your face. It looks like a small radiator too and as the refrigerant leaves the evaporator it becomes liquid again. Evaporator problems are sometimes hard to diagnose due to the location. It is almost always behind the dash or firewall and difficult to get to. Labor charges to replace this part are often quite hefty as a result. Here are a couple symptoms to look for:
- A/C blows cold if you add refrigerant, but it leaks out within a day or two and you can't find a leak anywhere.
- You hear excessive hissing noises coming from your vents when you turn the car off.
- You see UV dye around the under panels under your dash where the HVAC system is located.
5. Drier: Your compressor only compresses gas, so the drier is there to make sure no liquid makes it to the compressor. It also has a filter in it (some cars have what's called an "orifice tube" which is a small screen filter that is replaceable) that catches crap from the system as well. Not too much can go wrong with this part save for leaks at the connection points. It is a good idea to replace it whenever you open the system for optimum performance. They typically run less than $50.Those are the main components of any automotive A/C system. Yours may have a few extra parts here or there, but all systems will have the above parts. Keep in mind A/C systems are under immense pressures. If you go loosening bolts on your A/C system and it has refrigerant in it, it will spew out and can be harmful if inhaled. It is also illegal to vent it into the atmosphere. I find that most shops will charge you a nominal fee to evacuate your system for you. Then you can go home and repair or replace parts on your own. All you really need to refill it is a vacuum pump and a manifold gauge kit or you can pay a shop to vacuum it for you before you add R-134a back to the system.
I should note pulling a vacuum is very important and serves a couple functions. Condensation and moisture get into the system when it is "open" so the refrigerant will hit that and freeze causing clogs. Under vacuum water boils at room temperature so the moisture will boil off leaving you with a clean system. A vacuum will also pinpont leaks because if you have one, it won't pull a good vacuum. And finally, after you pull a vacuum, turn the pump off after about 30 minutes and wait to make sure the vacuum holds, this also tells you if you have any leaks. This paves the way for final refilling.There is no way I can address every concern, but I wanted to give you a few ideas and a synopsis of what is going on so you can make better decisions and even fix this stuff on your own. All auto shops take advantage of people who need A/C because it is a "specialized" area and they charge a premium for it. But if you spend $150 in tools, you can still save hundreds of dollars.
And of course, if you have an A/C problem, you can always contact me and I will do the best I can to help you.
Until next time........."What one man can do another can do!"