‘Chucking parts’ at problem not always the remedy

When trying to save some money by fixing your own vehicle, the Internet and a cheap code reader might be your friend but might not.

When trying to save some money by fixing your own vehicle, the Internet and a cheap code reader might be your friend that leads you to that quick “You Tube” repair.  On the other hand it might not …..

I have preached before on the foibles of using the Internet (the 21st Century backyard mechanic) to repair your vehicle and I guess I will preach again.  It just seems a shame to see good parts replaced many times with inferior parts (saving money) and the original problem is still not repaired.

Plugs, cap, rotor, wires used to get you a whole secondary ignition system (the high voltage part of the system).  When this did not fix the problem, the owner would only be out roughly a hundred bucks and they would justify it with,  “It would have needed those parts soon anyways”.

Replacing a whole secondary ignition system in a vehicle built in this century is not going to be remotely that kind to your wallet.  If you value your time it is even going to hurt a lot more.  Ford sells a whack load of F150 pickup trucks.  Have you ever tried to change the spark plugs on one of these?  Believe me, you do not want to do this job unless it absolutely needs it.  At the end you will gain new respect for the guy who does this for a living.

When you finally give in to fixing your vehicle using the back yard approach, it is likely going to sting a lot more when the diagnosis from a professional is a small portion of the money you have already spent just on parts never mind your time.

We have a lot of specialized tools, information and knowledge.  If your vehicle has a problem that is constant (not intermittent) it is very likely that we can diagnose it accurately without as the saying goes “chucking a bunch of parts at it”.

We have to be a lot more accurate for the same reason:  money.  We can not afford to replace a wrong part.  Not only do they cost a lot more to buy but as many of you know from looking under the hood it might take a while to replace that malfunctioning fuel control pressure regulator on your 6.6 litre Duramax diesel.

Believe me, a cheap code reader is a handy tool to own for those check engine light issues.  If you are on a trip, it is great to know that pesky light is on for likely a loose gas cap and nothing more serious.

Don’t however be fooled by just changing the part that is the subject of the code – i.e. code P0141 oxygen sensor heater circuit bank 1 sensor 2.  That oxygen sensor will cost you a few bucks and maybe some skinned knuckles but a simple fuse replacement might solve the problem.

Your mechanic’s code reader (scan tool) will also show the information being sent to the engine computer from that oxygen sensor.  It will have the capability to turn the heater circuit on and off at will.  At this time he/she can use other tools to look at the response of the circuit to certain inputs.  Is it the fuse, a broken wire, a bad relay, or the oxygen sensor?  Replacing only one of those items is the proper most cost effective repair.

Trail’s Ron Nutini is a licensed automotive technician and graduate of mechanical engineering from UBC. He will write every other Thursday. E-mail: nutechauto@telus.net

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