Do It Yourself Car Tips
Useful information for every car enthusiast

How to Unlatch a Stuck Car Hood

When your car engine needs regular servicing or requires immediate attention, a stuck hood will delay matters, and it could affect your car's performance. That's why it's best to mend a car hood as soon as it begins to stick.

Car hoods are closed with two latches, the primary and the secondary latch. Both must be undone for the car hood to open. If you have found and pulled the release latch located under your driving wheel and the hood has not released even a little, then your hood has malfunctioned.

How to Unlatch the Hood

Hoods have two latches for safety reasons. If you inadvertently release the first latch while driving, the second latch will keep the hood in place so that it doesn't fly up, blocking the windshield and your vision. When you pull the inside lever, the hood pops open just a little bit. It is still, however, held in place by the second latch. You must release the second latch manually for the hood to open all the way.

If one or both of the latches or their attendant parts is broken, the hood will either stick or refuse to close. At this point, take your car to a professional repair shop.

Reasons Car Hoods Won't Open

Most cars have a lever that releases the hood. If you can't find it, you won't be able to open the hood. Also, older cars require that you physically pull the hood up after you've released the second latch.

Often the lever that opens the hood won't work because a cable that's part of the release mechanism is damaged or has become disconnected. It's easy to tell when a cable isn't working properly. When you pull the lever, there will be no resistance. What does this mean? Either the cable has come loose from the release device or there's a break in it.

Some latches won't open because of rust. Others may freeze shut in cold temperatures. If either of these is the problem, you can open your hood easily with the help of a friend. Simply pull it while your partner pushes the release lever inside the car.

Fixing your car hood could be an easy job, what is important is not to overreact and end up damaging your vehicle. If your hood won't open no matter what you try, don't force it. Doing so could damage the mechanism and cost you more money in repairs.

Instead, take your car to a mechanic.

Ten Do It Yourself Car Care Tips

In times like these when pinching a penny is more a necessity than a lifestyle choice every little money saving tip can be a goldmine. To get the most out of every dollar will take a bit of ingenuity, a keen eye, and a willingness to reuse items in ways that may seem odd or strange.

Frugal Interior Car Care

When looking to repair or repurpose items in regard to a car it is necessary to put aside any preconceived notions of what belongs in a car. Everything and anything can be used with enough creativity. For example, a carpet remnant or sample is the perfect substitute for a floor mat. No need to pay the inflated aftermarket part price.

Trying to keep clutter off the floor in the backseat? If kids are always leaving candy and snack wrappers or juice boxes on the floorboards use an old shoe bag or a plastic grocery bag as portable trash can. This one works for even the messiest family.

Cheap Fixes for Minor Imperfections

Dings in the paintjob? If there is no discoloration the ding can be filled in with clear nail polish. If there is a scratch color match it with a crayon. Use the colored wax of the crayon to fill in the scratch then cover it with the polish.

The same nail polish, which should now be a contender for the most important accessory in the glove box, can also be used to fix minor chips in a windshield or rear view mirror.

Miracle Maintenance

Cleaning corrosion off from battery terminals is as easy as cracking open a carbonated soda and pouring it over the corroded metal. Wipe the excess off and the terminals will be completely clean. No soda? Use a paste of baking soda and water. Leave the paste on for about an hour then wipe it clean. To keep the corrosion from coming back coat the terminals with petroleum jelly.

Is the radiator grille more of a bug gut collection rack than a functional part of the car? After cleaning it spray it down with non stick cooking spray. The bugs won't stick nearly as bad and when it comes time to clean the grille again it will wipe clean in no time. To keep the trunk from freezing shut spray the same vegetable oil on the gasket. This won't hurt the seal but it will keep moisture from building up and freezing.

Let other people worry aboutfrozen locks use this little gem of a trick to keep locks free from icing up all winter. Take one of those hundred refrigerator magnets off the fridge and place it over the door lock. Moisture won't accumulate inside the lock so there's no more freezing. If frozen locks continue to be a problem, let's say it was particularly windy and the magnet fell off or a neighborhood kid hit it with a snowball. Put some windshield washer fluid in a spray bottle for just such emergencies. The spray can be used to de-ice rearview mirrors or take care of ice on the inside of the windshield.

Only the Beginning

This is only the beginning. There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of DIY solutions for car care. A favorite that was mentioned by a reader is to put a garden sprinkler under the car in the spring to wash off all the dirt and grime that accumulated over the winter. Please feel free to add anything that was missed in the comment box.

Repair and Maintain Slot Car Tracks: Speed up Slot Car Racing by Cleaning Conductors and Removing Rust

Since slot car tracks are so basic, they tend to hold up well. If a car is not running at top performance on a track, there are three things to check: the car, the slot, and the conductors.

Inspecting the Slot Car

A lot of slot car owners overlook a few basic things on the car. If a car is not performing well, the first things to check are the pick-ups and the rear tires. It is important that the pick-up shoes or braids are contacting the track well and can float freely; it is also important that the rear tires are not rubbing on the body and that the axle is not bent.

Inspecting a Slot Car Track

If the car is not the problem, the track is likely to be the culprit. Slot car tracks in humid areas often develop rust. Rusty track conductors will not allow electricity to flow to the pick-up shoes or braids very well.

If a slot car track is left exposed for long periods of time in an unfinished basement, garage, or loft, dirt and dust can accumulate on the track and hamper the flow of electricity. If a track cannot be kept in a clean, dry location, it should be covered or put away when it is not in use.

Repairing Slot Car Tracks

It is important to keep the track clean and free of corrosion.

  • First, power to the slot car track should be disconnected.
  • Next, the slot car tracks need to be wiped down with a damp micro-fiber cloth.
  • After this, the slot car tracks need to be wiped again with a dry micro-fiber cloth. It is essential to leave no moisture on the conductors.
  • If the slot car tracks have rust, 220 grit sandpaper or a fine wire brush can be used to scrub it off.

A lubricant should be applied to the slot car tracks to prevent rust from coming back. Marvel Mystery Oil, RailZip, Automatic Transmission Fluid, and WD-40 will all work, but should be used conservatively.

If a car becomes hung up in a slot and the electrical contacts are not the problem, it may be that either a foreign particle is lodged in the slot or there is damage to the slot itself. A slot that is broken, cracked, or gouged can be repaired with wood putty.

Slot car track pieces are available at most hobby stores. If an entire set is damaged or rusted, enthusiasts may prefer to by a new track.

Hobbyists can also check out related articles covering slot car modification, slot car repair, and digital slot car racing.

For decades, slot car racing has been a hobby confined to scaled cars and tracks. But, according to the LA Times, the future of transportation may well involve life-size slot cars powered by nationwide electric rails. Will today's slot car racers be using slot cars for tomorrow's daily commute?

car fire extinguisher

Car Air Conditioning Parts, Service, Repair and Auto AC Recharge

Automotive air conditioning systems can be very expensive to repair when it's not cooling like it should. In some cases, parts and labor can run over a thousand dollars. Is there any routine scheduled maintenance that can be performed to prevent expensive AC repairs?

This article looks at methods to help prevent premature parts failures as well as some basic auto air conditioning know how.

Car Air Conditioning System Parts And Repairs

When the AC isn't blowing cool like it should, there's a multitude of parts that could be the cause. Often times it could be something simple and relatively inexpensive. Other times the problem could be an expensive component like the compressor or condenser. A catastrophic failure, like the compressor, could damage other AC components by introducing metal contaminants.

Some of the car air conditioning components could include:

  • compressor and clutch
  • condenser
  • dryer
  • accumulator
  • compressor drive belt
  • ac hoses
  • blower motor
  • evaporator
  • controls (in dash)

These are just a few of the major components. There's also smaller, less expensive parts like a recycle switch, blender motor and resistors, just to name a few. Some cars, SUVs and vans can also have auxiliary AC, which can add even more to the parts list.

Auto Air Conditioning Service and Maintenance

When a car's taken to the shop for a service, the first thing that's usually checked is the AC temperature at the registers or vents in the dash. Simply insert a thermometer into the vent to get a temperature reading, Keep in mind that the air usually cools better as the car is moving.

Unfortunately there's not a specific temperature that the AC should be at the vents. The temperature can vary somewhat by the car make and model. The actual coolness will also vary by he ambient (outside) temperature. As a general rule of thumb, the AC reading should be about 40 degrees Fahrenheit less than the ambient temperature.

As far as preventive maintenance, there's not much that can be done. As part of a service check, besides reading the temperature at the vents, a visual inspection for leaks of the AC components under the hood should be performed. Also the compressor drive belt should be checked for cracks and replaced as needed.

Car Air Conditioning Freon Recharge

Since the auto AC is a sealed system, the refrigerant should last for years without needing a recharge. If the air conditioning system is low on refrigerant, it usually indicates a leak. If a leak cannot be detected visually, a hand held leak detector can be used. Another method for detecting a leak is to insert a florescent dye into the AC system. A black light is then used to pinpoint the leaking component.

Typically the most common major component to fail in a car's AC system is the compressor or clutch. Keeping the compressor free of rust can help to extend its useful life. The most common part to develop a leak is typically the condenser. Leaks can also develop in hoses, dryer, evaporator and the accumulator.

A musty smell from the car's air conditioner is usually not an indication of a component failure. This offending odor is usually caused by condensation in the evaporator core housing. There are ways of getting rid of the musty smell as well as methods to prevent re-occurrence. Leaving the AC controls in the open circulation position, when the engines turned off, will allow air to pass through the evaporator housing. This is one method of eliminating and preventing a reoccurrence of that musty smell.

To recap, under the hood AC components and parts should be inspected for leaks. If there are any noticeable leaks, the car should be taken to the nearest auto shop for repair. If the air conditioner isn't cooling like it should, the vehicle should be taken to a repair shop for diagnosis. Hopefully the diagnosis will require an inexpensive part replacement, but be prepared to shell out a few dollars for a major component failure.

How To Tell If Your Car's Fuel Pump Is Going Out

How do you know what is wrong with your car if the engine will not start right away after the motor has been turned off?

The first thoughts might be battery, starter or alternator. The starter might be suspected as not spinning the engine fast enough to get it running. Remember movies of old cars that had the hand crank in the front that had to be turned to get the motor running? That's what the electric starter does on a modern automobile.

The next suspect will probably be the battery that sends the charge to the starter in order for it to spin the flywheel attached to the crankshaft of the engine. If the battery does not have enough cranking power, it will not send enough energy to the starter to spin it fast enough to start the motor.

If the battery is found to be sound, the next culprit to be suspected is the alternator. If the alternator is not generating enough current when the car is running, then the battery could be draining and losing power as you drive and that could drop the battery power low enough that it will not start the engine.

Trouble Shooting The Engine Starting Problem

When your car's engine does not start right away, you need to break down the behavior of the car. How fast was the engine spinning and did it sound like it was going to start normally? Was the engine spinning fast and then started spinning slower and then slowly spun to a stop? Was there a loud shrieking sound when the ignition key was turned or a clicking sound?

If there was a loud clicking sound, it could be the solenoid that is either physically attached directly to the starter or by a cable that runs down to the starter. The solenoid is a switch that allows the power to flow to the starter to turn it on and off.

A loud clicking indicated that something is wrong with the solenoid and power is not flowing to the starter. A loud shriek could mean that there is a problem with the starter itself. If the battery, starter and alternator seem to be operating properly, then the problem could be something else, the fuel pump.

Symptoms Of A Failing Fuel Pump

Most modern vehicles have electric fuel pumps as older mechanical pumps from when most cars had carburetors have given way to electric pumps and fuel injection. Often times fuel pumps will fail in stages. Your car's engine may take longer to start but seem to run fine after the engine is running.

Sometimes there may be a hesitation or what seems like a miss or stumble. What could be happening is a loss of fuel pressure from the fuel pump. There is enough pressure to eventually start the engine, but it is not delivering enough to start it immediately or keep it running at full efficiency. Sometimes the engine will sputter as it is running.

A total fuel pump failure will not be hard to miss as no fuel will reach your engine and it will not start. Sometimes a fuel pump will stop working as the vehicle is running down the highway and the engine will die and this could be a dangerous situation as you could be in the middle of high speed traffic.

In most cases modern fuel pumps are not items that fail often and it could be well over 100,000 miles before an initial failure. Fuel pump replacement can be expensive as many automobiles have in-tank mounted fuel pumps and this requires the removal of the gas tank in order to replace the pump. It is not uncommon for an in-gas tank fuel pump replacement to cost over $1,000.

If you notice signs of a failing fuel pump, don't roll the dice because you could be stranded anywhere when it finally fails completely. Take your car in to get it checked out before it places you in a bad spot. AutoZone Auto Parts stores will test your starter, battery and alternator free, if those check out fine, then get your fuel pump checked by a mechanic.