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General Automotive Frequently Asked Questions #6

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On: Mon, Oct 10, 2011 at 5:23PM | By: Peter C Sessler

General Automotive Frequently Asked Questions #6

Q: I own a 1999 Toyota Camry which had a hard time starting and got poor gas mileage. I took it in for a tune-up and it now runs a lot better. However, the idle was still poor, and at higher speeds, the engine now misfires. I opened the hood one night when the engine was running and I saw lots of blue sparks on the plug wires.

I got a set of spark plugs and put them in myself. Now the car runs a lot better but it will still misfire at any speed - not all the time - but occasionally. I took it to the mechanic who told me I'll have to have the fuel injection system cleaned.

A: The blue sparks you saw on the wires are the giveaway. The wires are bad causing a misfire between adjacent wires. Get a new set of wires, preferably ones that are specifically made for your car. If you've already changed plugs, then this sounds like something well within your capabilities.

As for the fuel injection cleaning, get a can of injector cleaner (or carb cleaner), spray inside the throttle body and wipe the inside of the body clean. That should take care of that.

Q: Why does one of my headlights get moisture inside of it? This is not just a mist but if I let it go, it actually fills up with water. I've had the headlight bulb "O" ring sealed with silicone but to no avail.

A: Actually, it's not unusual to see a tiny bit of moisture inside the headlights, especially when the humidity is high. This usually burns off when you turn the lights on. But when you have water to the degree you mention, then there's probably a crack or a hole in the headlight housing itself. You can tape or seal it up or you can also drill a small hole at the lowest point of the housing to keep the water from accumulating.

Q: Is it better to approach a speed bump at an angle so that each wheel hits the bump independently from the other?

A: It depends. If you are going slow, there'll be less of a shock in the passenger compartment. Either way, your car's suspension won't be affected. If you're going fast, it's probably better to hit it straight on. Today's cars are of the unibody design and hitting the bump at angle will put greater stress on your car's frame.

Q: My car stalls when it's cold. It will run fine for 10-15 seconds but then it stops. After five or six times of this the engine finally catches but even so, the engine hesitates under acceleration and once in a while, it will backfire. I've had the fuel injection system checked, the wires and plugs are fine and the computer and all the sensors are also in good working order.

A: This is a difficult case to diagnose. It could be a bad wire but it could also be intake valves that are caked with carbon deposits. Not only do the deposits block air flow but absorb a lot of gas when the engine is first turned on. Eventually, when the engine is warm, the gas gets used. The easiest remedy is to try a good fuel injection system cleaner - Chevron Techron is probably the best one for this. If this doesn't do the trick, you might want to remove the intake manifold and look into the ports to see if there are any deposits. Some dealers have a special cleaning process that uses walnut shells but you may have to take the heads off to get rid of all that carbon.

Years back, I used to slowly pour a half a cup of water through the carburetor at fast idle - the theory being the water would turn to steam, soak the deposits which would then get blown out through the exhaust system. It seemed to work. It would be more difficult to do with a fuel injection system, though.

Q: I was shopping for tires on my pick-up which came from the factory with 235/75R15 tires. I inquired about the possibility of putting larger tires on my truck. The salesman told me that the larger tires would damage the rear ABS system and probably ruin the ABS system controller and also void my warranty. What do you think?

A: I've run into this myself. The reality is, the tire salesman is wrong on all counts. As long as both rear tires are the same size, the ABS system won't know the difference. And anyway, bigger versions of your truck come with larger tires and also use the same ABS system.


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