Thursday, February 28, 2008

Mr. T predicts pain…If you skip that oil change.

I pity the fool that does not maintain his or her vehicle. Not changing your oil and filter will beat up your car’s motor as quickly as I beat up that chump, Rocky Balboa, in our first fight.

I have learned a lot after being the boxing heavy weight champion of the world and my five tours of duty with the A-team. Heck, they even made toys in my image and a breakfast cereal.

So listen UP!! I am giving you sound advice when I tell you that a vehicle is nothing more than a mechanical object that will fall apart if simple maintenance guide lines are not followed.

The motor oil in your car is the life blood of the engine, just like our blood is to us. A thin film of oil keeps metal parts from rubbing together and getting damaged. Heck, if while driving your car, it ran out of oil or lost oil pressure, the motor would be severely damaged in just a few minutes.

The first thing you should do is plan what mileage and time intervals your vehicle’s oil and filter should be changed. Most people are not aware that the stop and start driving they do while sitting on that giant parking lot known as the 101 and 405 freeways, or the short distance driving to pick up and drop off the kids at school is considered severe duty driving by the vehicle manufacturer. This severe driving can cause the motor oil to break down, sludging the inside of the motor with black tarry goop. I personally have my vehicle’s oil and filter changed every 5,000 miles, or six months, whichever comes first.

The next step of the plan is to decide which type of oil and filter I want to use on my ride. The best oil filter is the OEM (original equipment manufacturer) but there are other high quality brands. Avoid the cheapy ones. They can internally come apart or leak. I also have my auto mechanic install a new gasket on the drain plug, so there will not be any of those pesky little oil drops that can mess up my driveway. I make sure that I only use the weight of oil (viscosity) that the motor was designed for. If the wrong weight oil is used it can cause poor fuel mileage or turn on the check-engine light. If I want to pamper my car, I’ll spring for the best oil, which is synthetic. It offers superior protection over conventional motor oil, but the intervals for changing it are the same.

The last part of the plan is to have a competent automotive shop do the oil change. They have vehicle hoists that lift your car up, so the mechanic can perform at least a 25 point inspection, where brakes and tires are inspected and vital fluids are checked and topped up if needed.
Even though I do not advise it, if you have a hankering to change your own oil and filter, make sure you take the old oil and filter to a collection center. It is hazardous waste and can damage our beautiful environment.

“I love it when a plan comes together.”

My mama taught me not to be a fool by neglecting to get my oil and filter changed. You can bet that when I pick my Mom up, my car will not be breaking down with her in it. “That’s treating her right.”
(Check out my song, “Treat your mother right” on You-Tube.)

If you hear noises that nobody else hears, you might be stuck in an alternate dimension known as the Taillight Zone. Next week we will help you escape the Zone.

I hope this article helps you. I am Ken Levine, the owner of Ken’s Quality Auto Repair in Thousand Oaks, where we specialize in Lexus and Toyota vehicles. If you have any car questions, please e-mail me at, visit or call 805-494-4344

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Never Say, “Never Be Without Your Anti-Lock Brakes”:

Never Say, “Never Be Without Your Anti-Lock Brakes”:

You never know when a beautiful woman, in an evening gown, is going to be tied up in the middle of the road, forcing you to slam on your brakes.

It was a long night. I had been so busy gambling in the Casino
Royale, with an evil banker, fighting off two men armed with machetes, getting poisoned and going into cardiac arrest, to give much notice to the ABS light on the dash that was flashing at me as I chased down the abductors of my beautiful companion.

My name is Bond, James Bond. Also known as 007. Licensed to thrill! It’s almost an everyday occurrence for me to be involved in a high speed chase. But an odd thing happened this time when I slammed on my brakes. Instead of stopping, I skidded out of control. I missed hitting the woman but crashed and rolled over in my Aston Martin. This crash left me in a rather painful situation and in the hands of the evil banker.
Upon my recovery, I wanted to learn what caused the anti-lock brakes to fail and what could I do to prevent this happening in the future.
I turned to Q for insight into how anti-lock braking works on modern cars.
I am going to sit back and drink a martini. Shaken, not stirred, and let Q explain it to you.
“Well, for starters James, the agency is not happy with you totaling out a 300k Aston Martin DBR, but never-the-less, I will explain to you the workings of anti-lock brakes and why it is one of the best automotive gadgets that has been invented in a long time. You see James, each wheel has a sensor that is connected to a computer. When a wheel starts to lock up, in a fraction of a second, the computer will release the brake on that wheel until it stops locking up and then reapply the brake. This release-reapply of the brakes might happen 15 times per second. When the anti-lock brake warning light is on the system is not operational. You should have known, James, that without the anti-lock brakes working you would only have the conventional brakes. When you were racing down the highway and you slammed on your brakes to avoid running over your friend, who was lying prostrate in the middle of the highway, it caused the wheels to stop spinning and lock up. The tires skidded along the pavement, resulting in a loss of steering control and you wrecking the car. It could have resulted in serious injury or death. Now, if the anti-lock system had been working correctly when you slammed on the brakes, the car would not have locked up the wheels and you would have remained in control of the steering able to steer the car around the young lady.
Something to think about James, when making a high speed panic stop. The brake pedal and the vehicle may shake violently when the pedal is held down. DON’T PANIC! This is how the system is designed to work. There you have it James, the basics of anti-lock brakes.

Do you want to be able to stay calm and cool like our favorite agent when you have to panic stop?
Find an open deserted parking lot and slam on the brakes. Get a feel for how the anti-lock brakes feel in a panic stop, so you remain in control of your vehicle.

Next week Mr.T will tell us why changing the oil and filter is so important to the life of your car’s motor.

I hope this article helps you. I am Ken Levine the owner of Kens Quality Auto Repair in Thousand Oaks were we specialize in Lexus and Toyota vehicles. If you have any car questions please e-mail me at, visit or call 805-494-4344

Holy smokes, Batman!…The Batmobile’s check-engine light is flashing:

Holy smokes, Batman!…The Batmobile’s check-engine light is flashing:

It’s another night fighting crime in Gotham city. Commissioner Gordon had called you earlier on the Bat Phone, informing you that the Joker was robbing another bank.

The power of the Batmobile’s turbine pushes you and your crime fighting partner Robin back in your seats as you race out of the Bat Cave at high speed. As you pull up to Gotham’s First National Bank the Joker and his henchmen are making their escape in the Joker Mobile. The Batmobile starts to lose power and stumble as you try to catch the Joker. “Holy smokes Batman! The yellow check-engine light is on” yells Robin. It’s no use. You must abort the chase as the Batmobiles once powerful motor is barely running. Using your two-way walkie talkie from your utility belt you call your faithful butler, Alfred, to bring the limousine to tow you back to the Bat Cave.
You, Robin and Alfred must diagnose and repair the cause of the yellow check-engine light as soon as possible, before the Joker steals more of the citizens of Gotham’s money.
Alfred connects the Master Tech computer to the on-board diagnostic connector of the Batmobile to access the trouble codes that were logged into the Batmobile’s computer when the check engine light went on. The vehicle’s computer or ECM controls the operation of the engine and transmission. It takes information from various engine and transmission sensors and checks the data against parameters that are programmed from the factory. If a sensor reads outside of its parameter, the computer will cause the check engine light to go on, to warn the vehicle driver of a potential problem. When a check engine light is on the vehicle will automatically fail the California smog inspection.
The diagnostic trouble code stored in the Batmobile’s computer is a number P0-0300 which indicates cylinder number three and number five are misfiring.
You instruct Robin on the proper way of testing the ignition coils and spark plugs.
“Eureka, Batman! We have found the problem,” Robin enthusiastically announces. The ignition coil that makes the spark for cylinders three and five has stopped producing the high energy voltage required to ignite the air/fuel mixture in the cylinders.
With a “Bam” and a “Thud” the new coil is installed. The trouble codes are erased from the computer’s memory.

With the Batmobile’s turbine running smooth and the crime fighting Caped Crusader back in action, the evil element of Gotham City’s underworld will not be able to terrorize the innocent civilians.

Next week we will check in with Bond, James Bond and see what happens when the ABS light goes on in the Aston Martin.

I hope this article helps you. I am Ken Levine, the owner of Kens Quality Auto Repair in Thousand Oaks, where we specialize in Lexus and Toyota vehicles. If you have any car questions, please e-mail me at, visit or call 805-494-4344

Monday, February 11, 2008

Mission Repair:

“Good morning, Mr. Phelps,
You’re mission, should you decide to accept it, is to determine why the car’s temperature gauge is going into the red. You will have help from your team of automotive professionals. You will have thirty seconds, before the vehicle overheats and self destructs”.

Your Mission Repair Force is being sent on a covert mission to determine what is responsible for the sudden increase in vehicles overheating on the roadways.

The first step is to have a closer look at one of these overheating vehicles and interrogate the vehicle driver. A little sodium pentothal (truth serum) does the trick of getting the driver of the vehicle to confess to not having maintained the vehicle’s cooling system and waiting until the car started overheating before shutting off the motor. We can only hope that the motor did not sustain serious damage.

A bit of research by your team of secret agents reveals that an internal combustion engine produces a lot of heat. It is the cooling system’s job to dissipate that heat into the atmosphere, keeping the motor running cool and at the correct operating temperature.

You start with a careful inspection of the vehicles cooling system, which is performed only after making sure that the engine is cold before removing the radiator cap. (Scalding burns can occur if opening a radiator cap when the vehicle is hot and under pressure.) The vehicle’s coolant level is very low.
But where would the coolant sneak off to? A pressure test reveals the fluid holding ability of the radiator has been compromised. (In non-spy terms, it has a crack that’s leaking coolant.)

Most cars since the early 90’s have radiators that are made of plastic tanks and aluminum fins. They usually last between 10-12 years before the plastic tanks start cracking and leaking. Non-classified documents (owner’s manual) inform the driver of the vehicle that the coolant should be changed every two years and an inspection of the cooling system should be performed at the same time.

A new radiator and a set of radiator hoses are located. Your team informs you that there usually is no extra labor charge to replace the hoses at the same time as the radiator. Because the vehicle was overheated, it’s a good idea to replace the thermostat, since this regulates the flow of coolant to the radiator, maintaining a steady operating temperature. A thorough flush of the cooling system is done and the new radiator, hoses and thermostat are installed. Coolant typically comes full strength and must be diluted with water in a 50/50 mix. Mission Repair Force members are careful to clean up any spilled coolant since its toxic to humans and pets.
You start the vehicle and check the operation of the cooling fans. A Block- Check is done to make sure the cylinder head gaskets were not damaged when the vehicle overheated.

Your team has made the world a safer place for stranded motorists.

Next week we will check in with Batman and what he does when the check engine light goes on in the Batmobile.

I hope this article helps you. I am Ken Levine the owner of Kens Quality Auto Repair in Thousand Oaks were we specialize in Lexus and Toyota vehicles. If you have any car questions please e-mail me at, visit or call 805-494-4344

Magnum…what’s wrong with the Ferrari?

There’s nothing like racing around Hawaii in a bright red Ferrari chasing down bad guys and clues. That’s your exciting life as Hawaii’s top private investigator, until the brake warning light comes on and you have to explain to Higgins that you did not damage the Ferrari, or void its warranty.

During a stake-out, when tailing one of Hawaii’s notorious underworld figures, Two Ton Tony, the brake warning light on the dash went on. It doesn’t take a good detective to realize that driving with worn out or defective brakes can cause serious injury or death.

In a dire situation, needing the Ferrari repaired before bringing it back to the estate, short on money you bring it to your buddy T.C. Even though he is a helicopter pilot and not a certified Ferrari mechanic he jumps right into trying to figure out what went wrong.

T.C. first checks to make sure that in your haste to follow Two Ton Tony, that you did not leave the parking brake partially engaged. This will cause the light to go on and possibly burn up the rear brakes, if the vehicle is driven over a couple of miles.

T.C. then checks the brake fluid. Brake fluid level will go down as the brake pads wear. There is a sensor in the brake master cylinder that will turn the brake warning light on when the fluid level falls below minimum.

The parking brake was not on and the brake fluid was very low. Your buddy is stumped. It is time to call in favors and have Rick take the car to the auto repair shop that repairs all of the King Kamehameha country club’s fleet of limousines.

The auto repair shop immediately lifts the vehicle in the air and removes all four tires, which is the only way to properly inspect and determine why the brake fluid was low. A leak in the brake hydraulic system is very dangerous and would result in a spongy feeling brake pedal or no brake pedal at all.

The good news is that the inspection revealed that the brake hoses were in good condition no leakage from them, the brake master cylinder or brake calipers. The front brakes were worn down to 25% of friction material remaining.
A deal was struck and the front brakes were replaced. You would escape Higgins wrath this time. With the information from the stake out that you gave to Five-0, Two Ton Tony will be doing 10 to 20 years of hard time.

Next week we will show you it’s not an impossible mission to determine why your vehicle is overheating.

I hope this article helps you. I am Ken Levine the owner of Kens Quality Auto Repair in Thousand Oaks were we specialize in Lexus and Toyota vehicles. If you have any car questions please e-mail me at, visit or call 805-494-4344

Back To The….Auto Shop

The terrorists pull up in a Volkswagen bus armed with a surface to surface missile. It is time to make a quick exit. A turn of your Deloreans ignition key results in a click, not the satisfying roar of a motor starting.
Sweat starts pouring as you frantically try to start the car. On the third try the motor barely cranks and starts, you throw the car into gear and in a flash you are gone.

What went wrong with the Delorean and why would it not start?

My technical expertise is a little rusty on flux capacitors and the 1.21 Jiga-watts that they require.

We better go back to the…. auto repair shop and figure it out to get you back home!

Unless you have an Old model T ford with a hand crank out front, all modern vehicles have a starting and charging system. We are going to look at the charging system.

Doc Brown will explain to us how to diagnose a charging system failure.

“Every vehicle owner will eventually not be able to start their vehicle because of a dead battery. Lights left on, listening to the radio with the vehicle off, a bad alternator or just an old battery can leave you stuck, hopeful not in a dangerous situation.

“When driving, if the charging light on the dash comes on that usually means that the alternator which produces electricity to run the vehicle and charge the battery has stopped producing the necessary voltage to keep charging the battery. Turn off the sound system, air conditioner and any electrical devices. Your vehicle is running off the battery. When the battery is drained the vehicle will stop. So, we want to conserve electricity to get the vehicle off the freeway and to a repair shop immediately.

“If you hop in your vehicle and nothing happens when you turn the key, turn on your headlights. If the lights do not come on or are very dim your battery does not have enough electricity in it and you will need to get a jump start. Unless you immediately find that a dome light was left on, take your vehicle to have the charging system tested to determine why the battery died.
“If your lights are bright and the car won’t start, you possibly have a bad starter”.

In a future article we will go over how to safely jump start your vehicle. As Dr Frankenstein said “We can bring it back to life”

I hope this article helps you. I am Ken Levine the owner of Kens Quality Auto Repair in Thousand Oaks were we specialize in Lexus and Toyota vehicles. If you have any car questions please e-mail me at, visit or call 805-494-4344

Is my car going to blow up? That red light on the dash is flashing at me.

Does your typical day have you running to pick up your daughter from school, drop your son off at soccer practice and race home to make a meeting? Half way through your own version of NASCAR racing the red light on the dash starts flashing at you.

In the back of your mind you hear Scotty from Star Trek telling you “Captain, she’s about to blow! You have to shut her down! We’re losing power and we have lost our warp drive!

No-can-do Scotty. You need to make your meeting. So, you floor the gas pedal, as if the whole Klingon fleet was chasing you.

Why is that light flashing at you anyways? This is one of the most frequently asked questions at my auto repair shop.

The average late model car has more warning lights and buzzers than the 1967 version of the Enterprise.
Even Scotty, with all his genius, would have to update his diagnostic equipment and get additional technical training to work on these highly complex vehicles.

The most important light from a mechanical stand point is the oil pressure light. Heed Scotty’s warning. If this light goes on, you have about 15 seconds before you’re calling a tow truck, and then I am telling you that your car needs a new motor. Pull the car over immediately and SHUT IT OFF! (I have seen more then a couple of cars that needed new motors because the driver refused to pull it over on the freeway and tried to get to an exit). Check the oil level and add as necessary until the dipstick shows the proper level.

After the oil level is restored, start the vehicle and the light should go out within 10 seconds. At this point it is safe to drive. The vehicle should still be inspected by a repair shop to determine where the oil went. Did the oil leak out or has it not been serviced in a long…long time?

If the light is still on after adding oil, shut off the motor and have it towed to a repair shop to have diagnosed why your vehicle has no oil pressure.

Next week we will tell you what to do when your Flux Capacitor stops fluxing.

I hope this article helps you. I am Ken Levine the owner of Kens Quality Auto Repair in Thousand Oaks were we specialize in Lexus and Toyota vehicles. If you have any car questions please e-mail me at, visit or call 805-494-4344