Wednesday, December 19, 2012

When is it really empty?

The question should actually read when is my gas tank empty. I just wanted to see if any of you would suffer pangs of memory guilt. Better yet, do you have a history of driving the car plain out of gas. Do you?

Is it more than likely if the engine stalls and won't restart that your first thoughts are of gasoline? Or what about the light that resembles a tiny gas pump. Does it flash or steadily glow yellow? And it's been doing that for nearly thirty miles so far...?

Look at what 30,000 miles of repetitive vapor driving left in a new fuel filter. That crap was the fuel pump, it was new, but now it doesn't work. look. 

One fact we all seem to forget, this includes myself, our vehicles have fuel pumps. These fuel pumps feed the fuel injection system; they're the heart of the system you could say. These fuel pumps are submerged in the gas tank for a reason.

The internal parts of a fuel pump are cooled and lubricated with the fuel in the gas tank. Let the level run low and the fuel pump wears out at an accelerated rate. So to keep the fuel pump alive try to make QUARTER FULL the same as empty.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Are you Cavitating?


Having a conscience in the automotive service industry, and making a living can be like mixing oil and water. I find myself in a constant battle the Ying and Yang of making a living or just simply telling a customer the ramifications of all that I have found. Although it's not my money or car; should a person throw good money after potentially bad?
As a customer, client or guest you need to rely on my honesty. I voice my opinion at times to inform you of repairs I feel might be opening up a proverbial 5 pound can of worms.

All this is simply put on the table as a reference before I begin my story. Currently I have such a vehicle in for repairs and it’s been leaking engine oil much like a severed artery would leak blood.

The car has nearly 275,000 miles on the odometer. Should I be thankful for the work or should I be giving of my observations and opinions. What if my customer cannot afford expensive repairs or ultimately the replacement of this vehicle? 

A decision must be made by an intelligent mature automobile owner. My job is to diagnose, estimate and inform them of what I’ve found. I must then turn the information and observations over to the owner for a final decision.

Restoration Observations

I haven’t seen this car for well over 30,000 miles. Although it had one of my lube reminders in its windshield it was thousands of miles overdue. The oil leak was so profuse it didn't justify a standard LOF. The habit of topping off the oil, but not changing the oil filter was being followed.

That sewing machine sound

Yesterday morning before repairs began I started the car to position it onto a hoist. As the motor sprang to life I was instantly reminded of my childhood and the sounds that a Singer sewing machine would generate.

I quickly turned the key off to check the oil level; it showed oil was a quart low. I again started the engine and although the noise was still there, it wasn't as loud as before and began to finally disappear as volumes of oil began coursing throughout the engine.

My diagnosis and comments
The sound is like valve lash adjuster clatter. For the moment I will assume that the rapid loss of oil can only be from the oil pump, which on this car is driven by the timing belt.

Was it Cavitation?
Yes because air pockets had formed in the oil pump. Have you ever heard that term cavitation, if not you should look it up or even Google it!
This was a very successful repair. The oil pump seals were the cause as I'd  thought they might be and engine damage was not obvious. I will put the car on a 3K interval and watch as well as listen for the next year. I have a good feeling about the car now.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Winters visiting your neighborhood too!

Summer of 2012 was a good time to be a cat, but not a mouse.

Our two and and a half month long summer gave me many views of this happy kitty. Was she begging for attention or was she just showing off her “catch of the day”, I will always wonder.

What did all that really mean?

After a couple minutes of hard thinking I realized that the rodent population was keeping up with that centuries old reputation of “breeding like ….”! Another thing remembered was the approaching Northwest style winter.

There is something you and I have in common: Your car.
Hmm...whats that smell? Has anyone else noticed it?”

And so the phone calls begin sometime in November or December. The weather has started to get real wet, cold and most likely we have snow. Rodents are now eagerly seeking out warm places to hold-up for our winters hardest months.

Besides your house, they really like cars & trucks that are seldom cleaned. For inside your car or truck, a rodent passenger with relatives will find you have a virtual meal-on-wheels with morsels in just the sizes they prefer!

Another annoying fact;

Mice tend to nest near the heater core. You may even find a surprise nest in the glove box! Sometimes they build a nest inside the blower motor fan. They then leave to forage while you drive around with their new nest tucked neatly away within your dashboard.

Or they go on a ride with you except their in that nest they've built INSIDE YOUR heater blower fan. There tends to be a little bit of noise and then odor if that happens. Think about it, you've been at the fair with the rides that spin around...hmm.

I'll stop there and let you think a moment about all the items and areas we service on your car or truck and how likely it would be for us to spot a mouse if you have them, before you have to make that call to us.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Do I really need brakes?

...well do you want to stop?

You could say “isn’t there a super cheap way to fix my brakes” or better yet “can we do just one wheel at a time” my response to either would be no. In life the saying “you get what you pay for” most definitely applies here.  

Let’s say you own a higher-end 1998 to 2003 model year vehicle. The brakes are causing all sorts of warning lights to illuminate your Christmas tree dashboard. Ignoring it seems like a good choice. Just forgetting to mention the problem to those of us who service your vehicle is not really a test of our honesty.

Decide to ignore that bright BRAKE or ABS warning light and you have three choices;
1)   Immediately depart the service facility on the back of the tow truck.
2)   Own up to a problem you feel should be addressed by skilled in brakes.
3)   Repeat step two, ask for a diagnosis and an estimate. Best choice.

Here are the/your reasons:

Many pre-2000 brake problems can be traced to the fact that those Cars or SUV’s had options that were considered standard. Yes, they were installed on only that one year, make and model and you purchased it. You didn’t know that all the driving you were doing was really just for research and development?

The Twist or call it Luck

A little twist to the above statement; the car company that manufactured your vehicle is out business or they sold themselves to another country. Many of the parts that were available, although for a short time, are now on a shelf in a warehouse somewhere waiting to be cataloged and inventoried.

Some food for thought:

If you like your car, sport utility vehicle or crossover utility vehicle then you’ll fix it. Do you feel safe and comfortable when you’re driving it and fuel mileage is acceptable? Once again you will fix it. After all why wouldn’t you want to fix it? Ever heard of a Tucker or a Corvair..?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Tundra AFR Sensor Code O2, O2

The Front O2 sensor(s) on a later model Toyota Tundra is really called an Air Fuel Ratio sensor. It usually develops a heater circuit failure around 90K miles or later. This ToY fit those parameters & the check engine light was on.
Why did it fail? Read on..
Simple comparison…
How long does an average incandescent light bulb last? If you stuffed it into your exhaust subjecting it to extreme heat and vibration it wouldn't last 10 minutes.
Now take a heat emitting element & enclose it in metal. In this scenario you’re the computer and you Command it to get real hot, real fast. How long will it last? Environment determines life span and this is a harsh environment. Temps range between 600 to 900 degrees Fahrenheit, not including that it’s getting splashed with water. A good reason light bulb elements aren't used and you just learned something!
Repair on vehicle!
Since the AFR Sensor failed it needs replacement, but look, there are serious side affects you discover upon removal. All the threads are mushed over or as some would say; stripped. 

What to do!? Do you replace the exhaust manifold to get new threads or do you chase those old threads and regain 70% or more.

I did the “chase-the-threads” thing as an experiment and this customer was lucky. Fewer problems seem to defeat the experienced technician, special tools help as well. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Volvo Oil leak discovered by Accident

There are always oil leaks on higher mileage cars. How bad they can get depends on how long they're ignored. Take this Volvo for example; it started to loose power, and then the CEL/MIL appeared! CHECK ENGINE (scary, generates apprehension of BIG REPAIR BILLS! eek!)

Engine began to run on possibly three cylinders. Code P0300 for multiple/random misfires appeared. Time to park the car or, jump into that frightening world of diagnostics. You know the one, you fear it because you don't understand what it's REALLY all about. 

There are books that explain theory and practical application of automotive diagnostics, but they seem to be written in a long forgotten language, right? - Not really. Watch and read the diagnostics that follow.

**Drove car into shop (actually pushed is much closer).
**Removed turbo to inter-cooler pipe to access valve cover/ignition area.

 (just the beginning...)

(Cause of code P0300 )

**Found all coil packs and harness in their own "oil bath" under that center plastic cover. 
       **Removed all coil-packs to access spark plugs. 
**All but two of the five cylinder head plug wells were or had been full of oil. 
(the cause isn't always that difficult to locate)

**Only one spark plug is stilled threaded into the cylinder head. 
(thank goodness for those coil packs although they're not intended for that..!) 

**# 4 plug has been blown out and threaded hole in cylinder head is damage too. A portion of that spark plug is also missing and is most likely been through the top of the engine or worse. 

                                (bummer........ gotta make a few phone calls now)
**# 3 plug well is still full of oil so I must correct myself, there are possibly two cylinders without plug hole thread damage.

There are two ways oil can collect in plug hole wells; 
1. Gasket material sealing failure between cylinder head cam cover to the cylinder head. (rare)
2. Oil leaking slowly out of the filler cap and collecting in the lowest point. That's where the plugs are. (common)

Diagnosis: Needed an oil cap because at the mileage this Volvo with TURBO shows they're usually in need of some simple maintenance to open up passage ways & allow this sucker to run! 

BUT, this problem has become one that is more in depth than one would really have expected.

MORAL: Call an independent repair facility such as ours. We will establish routine 5K service/inspections. You get reminders to have a 5K done. Then things like this just won't seem to happen to good people like the ones that own this car.  JP

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Tune-Ups - REQUIRED!

The photo included in my post is to visually stress the importance of routine maintenance. A simple spark plug change with estimated cost of $145.00 would have saved this person an additional $1100.00 on the replacement cost of two damaged catalytic converters.

The owners manual gives a mileage interval to replace a normal wearing part. There's good reason too, the spark plugs pictured here aren't just normally worn, they are actually worn away.

Much more material is gone than what I would expect to find at the correct replacement mileage.

That brown coloring is was un-burned gasoline, money just being tossed blown out the tailpipe as the SUV went down the road.

The CHECK ENGINE or SERVICE ENGINE SOON lamp had been flickering away for hundreds of miles.

BTW.. Why do they call those warning lights, "idiot lights" anyway?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

OMG! Those QR Codes ARE HERE!

So whats in this Qr Code for your smart phones like Android or the iPhone...? Do these help you to find my business? Can they be considered business cards of the future and the future is here now? Or are they just randomly placed pixels that appear to do something only a smart phone can understand. For your Beta testing enjoyment I submit a two examples of the smart phone code for your testing. Let me know if they work and how well by use of the email link through our website

I will work from your input and provide the local tester with a gift card to another local business.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

“Seriously Officer they work..!(?)”

Let’s talk license plate light bulbs. Local law enforcement awards violation certificates for the one blown out light on your vehicle. The most popular of the blown-out bulbs is the license plate light. The lack of illumination won't cause a hazard; it just makes our super reflective Washington State plates harder to read by that police officer behind you right now.

So respect the law and save a couple of hundred dollars at the same time. John's Lake Joy ToY will perform a safety inspection with next oil change. We repair any of those bulbs that have faded or blown-out and then you pay John's Lake Joy ToY that $100.00 we just saved you on that ticket.

This 2006 Toyota Sienna required disassembly of the complete tailgate just to replace two bulbs. Yes license lamps, but cheap to repair compared to that special certificate..

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

What is a HEPA FILTER really for?

Isn't it amazing how the replacement of a single filter can have so many good side effects. This is a special filter as its only purpose is to clean incoming cabin air. Removing dust, pollen, and sometimes little critters; I think it has a very special purpose!

Ever had a strange odor appear from out of nowhere after turning on the heat/defrost/AC in your vehicle?

Better yet; have you had the thrill of seeing a mouse looking back at you from under the dash as you were driving down the road? Both the smell and those tiny little eyes are really special experiences, but still scarier than hell when they occur. Wouldn't you agree?

Look at the castle some mice were in the middle of building...

The photo above is from just behind the glovebox.
Fresh air is drawn down into your cars' cabin fan!

New and good for another 15,000 miles!

There is nothing like knowing you are driving around in a rolling "mouse motel".
We check these filters quite often here at Johns Lake Joy ToY.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

EEK! Surely..Shirley is that SMOKE!!

Calming a frightened customer; after they drive up with smoke rolling off of one of the front wheels, this takes talent.

I watched my wife Gail handle the situation with confidence in a calming/cheery manner. Once again our years of experience paid off. Shirley seemed to gain her confidence after exiting the smoking van as well. What was smoking you ask, have a look..

Flushing brake fluid once per year actually costs less than the labor to replace brake pads!
PS: This shows what hot brakes can look like..

Part II - Leak, Leak - Where is that leak?

Discovery and final repair don’t always go “hand-in-hand”. After welding and reinstallation, I again tested for leaks. Whoa, looky there another leak, actually leaks. First one: Exhaust manifold stud sheared off in cylinder head. Looked as if it was still securing the manifold with a nut and washer, but smoke pushed by behind the washer. Warped manifold is normally the cause. Right then I remembered the freshly replaced catalytic convertor. Removed head pipe and heat-shielding again, pushed oil based smoke into it and more welds showed where they were cracked too. Here’s another photo;

Normally as the convertor starts to plug up it causes exhaust system in front of it to super heat, which in turn can make for cracks and breaks if driven for a while.

One and a half hours later all welds were ground out and replaced. Smoke testing the system after installation showed that part was now sound. BTW a replacement part costs around $500.00. The car was originally here for brakes, not exhaust leaks.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Leak, Leak - Where is that leak?

It was just another typical Friday afternoon in June-uary. It's nearly the end of the day and my gut says the exhaust leak on this 92 Maxima is not the headpipe gasket.

Talked to the customer, told him I want to remove the complete head pipe and look for cracks. You see I used my smoke machine to source out any and all exhaust leaks. What didn't make sense though was the way the smoke curled out below the flange on the head pipe. One would assume it was the manifold or gasket, but my gut feelings said to look deeper.

I removed the pipe, ground off the welds on heatshield and look at what I found. Apparently one of the welds popped off and this WAS the exhaust leak.

These pipes are made out of "want to be" stainless steel. So, come Monday I will run a test pass on a nonimportant area of the head pipe with a mig welder. After that it gets reassembled, resealed and goes down the road. This should make Mike the customer happy!

Here's a picture;

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Car Smart???

The following are easily understood & quick to answer “car owner” questions. If you feel unsafe or unsure about answering the questions then whatever you do, just ignore the next 4 groups.

Engine oil; How many miles can you reliably/comfortably travel before replacement?
           c 3000
c 5000
c 7500
c 10,000
(Remember; this is your Car, Truck, SUV, or CUV – check only ONE)

Routine maintenance; which of these was most important as the odometer passed by?
         c 9,000
c 30,000
c 60,000
c 90,000
c 105,000
(Remember; this is your Car, Truck, SUV, or CUV – check only one, not two.)
(Keep reading)

When do you feel is the ‘best time’ for you to look at your owners’ manual?
           c Prior to purchasing as the salesperson stands there looking on in amazement?
(This is my favorite answer, but doesn’t really mean it’s correct..)
c At the first OMG SERVICE, when the cars reliability decreases it costs!
You had no idea there were so many parts did you, huh? Just wait…
c Waiting for a ride as your car, truck, whatever gets the BIG routine service?
(You bought this Car, Truck, SUV, or CUV – check one, none, or all. (Keep reading.))
c “That tow truck is on the way, right?” I’ll just browse these nifty books in the glove box to kill some time.

Do you believe gas mileage is really all that important?
           c Strongly believe!
c Kind of believe!
c Sitting on the fence - torn between yes or no.
c Stuck with it so can’t seem to really give a care.
c Only when it hits $6.00 at the pumps, but that is never going to happen.
c What can Johns Lake Joy ToY do to help you better your fuel mileage..??..!!   
(Hmmm; was Bigger really better? After all, who was this car built for?)

Gotta through a plug in about the shop.

**next comes how many miles do these parts have........

Sunday, January 22, 2012

2012's first Snow in Carnation Washington

Well the weather predictions were correct, just wish someone in the media would explain to the new people here what wet snow is really like...

Not Just Another ToY SNOW....http://youtu.be/Pl5X_l2HsGw was fun putting together. Note that editing is not one of my better talents; playing in the snow mixed with dry humor, these are..

Monday, January 16, 2012

....the National Weather Service has predicted....

SNOW, SNOW, and more SNOW
This forecast (see below) is very reminiscent of the one we were presented, but ignored in the winter of 2003 - 2004. Mid-westerners like Gail and I grew up in cold snowy winters. No big deal right?

Differences in location produced similar Arctic weather patterns, but the mountains, and a close proximity to ocean moisture have changed our perception of what a "snow-advisory" truly is.

Thus we found a need to understand our environment taking over. Now a chain saw, sandbags plus winch and accesories all are standard equipment when fall arrives. It only takes one storm, and you understand what being prepared is really all about. The CERT training we took helped so much.

One of two vehicles was constructed
 to travel off-road, but this one got a
snow plow and a 10,000 pound winch.

Bottom of the driveway, Lake Joy Drive is behind us 
as we approach the 100ft verticle climb it takes
along the sides of my hilly property.
This ToY 4Runn'r worked great for extracting a 2004 Suburban from a culvert.
 It was on it's side                                     

Special Weather Statement
1032 PM PST SUN JAN 15 2012





All of this and much, much more came to our Cascade foothills. The extended forecast began to include Thusrday as well

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

OK. The RATS created a problem.

Found the no-start problem. Took some pictures. Rat damage. They love to eat the insulating material in spark plug wires and most anything electrical/insulated they find in the engine bay. For now all I need is a coil wire; a full set of wires are on the way. If you wanna see pictures just scroll down..

                                              Ahome for big, greasy, stinky dead RATS!
                                                             Did you say RAT!!!

No conductive material remains in the coil wire

Friday, January 6, 2012

Used Oil and the Do-It-Yourselfer

Used Oil Considered Threat to Environment

Used engine oil contains elements that are unhealthy for you. Copper, tin and lead are just a few that come to mind. But one metal, lead, is known to cause birth defects. Studies haven't proved conclusively that used oil is a carcinogen, but when burned it emits high levels of airborne lead! A 20-year old article.
If you're a DIY’r; you change your own oil. Be a wise DIY’r; drain the oil from the filter before disposing of it. Simply punch a small hole into the metal dome-like end and let it drip-drip-drain for 12 hours.

You may find as much as a shot glass full of used oil has drained from your old filter.

Here at John's Lake Joy ToY, we use bottled oil. But the empty bottles are not recyclable, even if cleaned. We decided to use a capture device allowing new oil film from inside the bottle to drain into a common container. My wife Gail designed and assembled this one in ten minutes.
Empty bottles from every 8 cases collectively provide enough new oil to service a small four cylinder engine.
Recycled Oil Skimmer
- Oh so GREEN -


If youre going to change your own oil, recycle it. Return used oil the parts retailer that sold it and is responsible for its collection. If you have a problem properly disposing of your used oil, ask your retailer, a service station or a local recycling center for help. If you live in Washington State you can also visit this website. Another website informs you about what, where and how of recycling.