Top 7 Tips for Looking After Your Land Rover Freelander

Land Rover Freelanders need a little more care and attention than many modern day vehicles, but if you give it that little extra love it should reward you well by keeping away what could potentially be very costly repair bills.

So here are our top 7 pits for looking after your Freelander:

  1. Check your water regularly. This tip is particularly important with the petrol Freelanders but is certainly worth doing with any Freelander. Check your water level preferably once a week and before you go on any long journey and you will find you can soon tell if your Freelander is using more water than usual and get the problem seen to before it does serious damage to your engine.
  2. Change your viscous coupling unit (VCU) every 70,000 miles. This tip will save you thousands on having to replace other parts of the drive train because they got damage by running your viscous coupling unit (VCU) beyond its useable life. Don’t wait for any symptoms, by that time it could be too late, just bite the bullet and make sure you change that viscous coupling unit (VCU) every 70,000 miles.
  3. Service your Freelander regularly. I know this is important for any vehicle but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be reiterating it as one of the most important tips for looking after your Freelander. And don’t just give it a simple oil change service, the diesel model in particular has some very important filters that need to be changed regularly – if you don’t change these you could ruin your whole engine!
  4. Use the red coolant – no other colour! The red coolant’s composition is right for the Freelander engines, don’t put any other coolant in there, thinking they are all the same.
  5. For the 1.8 litre petrol Freelander make sure it is fitted with a multi-layer head gasket, preferably the modified / uprated ones. If your Freelander still has the old single layer gasket fitted then don’t wait for it to blow – change it NOW, it’ll be much cheaper that way.
  6. Check your oil regularly. Again a tip that should be obvious for any driver but it is amazing how often we don’t follow it! Don’t just check the level of the oil, take the cap off and check there is no water getting into it (if this is the case your oil would look creamy, and you would often get this creamy residue on the inside of the filler cap.)
  7. Check for any oil leaks on the IRD unit (transfer box) and the rear differential. I know, especially in the winter, we don’t really want to get down on the ground and look underneath our cars, but it is certainly worth doing it every once in a while. Have a quick look at the IRD unit (transfer box) connected to the front of your prop shaft, and the rear differential connected to the rear of your prop shaft, and make sure there are no leaks.

Most of these tips will take up less than five minutes once a week on your Freelander, but they could save you thousands in unexpected repair bills!

Leather Repair – How to Repair a Worn Leather Steering Wheel

I wrote a post a while back about how to repair a worn leather steering wheel and have gotten a lot of traffic to it but to be honest with you it’s what I call a quick fix, not a good permanent fix like what a person really needs in this business. So today I’m gonna write it a little different and give the right way to repair a worn leather steering wheel.

All the leather in today’s vehicles are being dyed with a water based dye. It’s not only safer for the environment, which we all know is really big right now, but it’s also more flexible and better for the leather itself.

My last post I wrote I gave you a quick fix using a solvent based dye. Now I’m not saying that if you were in a pinch that using a solvent based would be a bad thing, but like I said it’s a quick fix, nothing you would really want to do for a customer that’s expecting a long lasting repair.

The basic’s are the same as far as the use of a drop cloth to avoid over spray getting on the instrument panel, and the prepping is kinda the same too. But what I’m here to do is to show the right way to do this.

So with that said here we go.

After you’ve put your drop cloth behind the steering wheel, wrapping it around so that no over spray will get where you don’t want it to, take a scotch brite pad and my prepping solution and clean the leather steering wheel really good making sure you get the back of the steering wheel too. Nothing bugs me more the to see a steering wheel that has been repaired and all they have done is repaired the front. When you look through the windshield from the outside what do you see, umm the back of the steering wheel, so clean all the way around.

Once you have it clean, it’s time to address the wear that has been done to the leather.

If the leather has frayed then that frayness (not sure if that’s a word but it fits) needs to be sanded down smooth. You do this with a combination of the use of different grits of sandpaper, dry and wet sanding, and the use of leather filling compounds.

What I will do is start with a heavier grit, 240 usually but sometimes even a 120 to get there a little quicker. Wet the paper with my prepping solution and start sanding. The prepping solution will break through the dye that is already there and actually smear around bit, use this to your advantage, it kinda works as a filler and helps to smooth things out quicker. Sand until it becomes dry. Then move up to a finer grit like 400, and do the same. If it’s not as smooth as you want then move up to an even finer grit sandpaper like a 600. At this time you can still use the wet sanding technique or you can dry sand it, this will depend on the amount of damage your dealing with.

Once you have the area fairly smooth, you need to seal the leather with your water based grip base, this will not only help your compounds to stick better but make your repair easier to work with and last a lot longer in the end. I do this by taking my grip base in a small squirt bottle and put a small amount onto a folded wet paper towel then wiping it over the leather steering wheel.

After you have sealed the leather it’s time to break out your leather repair compounds. Now I have found that applying it with your finger is the easiest then trying to use a pallet knife, kinda hard to curve your pallet knife around such a tight curve. Compounds that I use the most on leather steering wheels is the old Leather Crack Filler or I’ll use Viper Products Leather Extreme Fill. Both work really well with applying it with your finger and both stay put really well too. I mostly use the Leather Crack Filler first then if I need to fill smaller imperfections then I’ll use the Leather Extreme Fill. I’ve found that the Leather Crack fill just works the best, it sands out nicely as well as stays put when sanding too.

The biggest thing to remember in repairing a worn leather steering wheel is to get it as smooth as possible, the less amount of leather repair compounds you use the better. It’s just less to go wrong later and you have a better chance of the dyes sticking in the end.

One other tip I can give you is on the Chrysler leather steering wheels and it’s on these only I have found this. Not really sure why they do this but they do. The dye actually balls up and makes the steering wheel look really rough. You can sand this if you want but I have found a better way of dealing with this without wearing your arm out trying to sand the dye down smooth. Take a terry cloth towel and some lacquer thinner and rub the dye off with the lacquer thinner soaked towel. This will take it right down to the leather and make it nice and smooth. Sometimes you will have to sand a bit after wards to get the raw leather smooth but you will surprised at the time and energy this will save you. Once your done you can fill and seal the raw leather then dye to match.

After all the imperfections are sanded, filled and smooth, you will need to prep the leather for dye. I will wipe the leather steering wheel down with my prepping solution careful not to rub the filler out then apply another coat of grip base. This ensures the dye will stick and not come off later down the road.

Now it’s time to apply your water based dye to match.

You can do this a couple of ways, either wipe it on or spray it on with either a paint gun or a preval. I almost always spray my dyes, it just seems to look better in the end and less dye is wasted, but that is totally up to you. I have found it’s easier to also run the vehicle while your dying the leather steering wheel because you can position the wheel where you need it and your not trying to dye with your gun upside down. Remember the back of the leather steering wheel too 🙂

Some people after dying will stop and call it good, which is OK because the dyes I use are ready to spray and really don’t need anything else. But I like to topcoat all my dyes with a clear water based topcoat, to me it just gives more of a barrier to wear and makes the repair last longer. I use a low gloss topcoat applied with a spray gun just like the dye.

Now I still don’t stop there either…This is a little trick I came up with kinda on my own. I found that some of the leather steering wheels after being repaired and dyed just felt dry and didn’t look natural. What I do is apply a water based leather conditioner and then I apply a leather wax or chap wax. What this does is not only restore the oils lost in the repair process but make the leather steering wheel look and feel factory. The wax also protects the leather from water and lotions that may get on there later. It just makes the leather look and feel new again!

Products that I use in all my repairs are from one of I think is the best on the market, Viper Products. I have used a lot of different products in the past and have found Viper has a higher performance dye and compounds then any other I’ve used before. So go check them out, I really think you will be impressed!

Well I hope this helps more then my last post on how to repair a leather steering wheel. Just remember to take your time when doing any repair and use a water based dye on the leather, not only is it safer for you and everybody else but I promise you it will look better in the end and last a lot longer which is what you wanted in the first place.

Land Rover Freelander Head Gasket Blown – What Causes It?

Unfortunately it is true, the Freelander 1.8 petrol is prone to head gasket failure. In fact, this is a common issue for all cars that use the Rover K series engine. Why?

The original head gasket fitted to the Freelander 1.8 petrol model was a single layer gasket that proved a bit too flimsy for the job in hand – unfortunately they usually blow by about 75,000 miles. Since then a modified multi layer head gasket has been developed which is much more robust, and you should insist on one of these being used for any head gasket change as it protects the head cylinder from cracking and damage if the head gasket blows.

However this does not answer the question as to why the head gasket fails. The engine block and cylinder head are aluminum. Oil and water (with coolant) flow through channels here and if they lose their viscosity then it causes the engine to run at a higher temperature than normal, which puts pressure on the head gasket and can cause it to blow.

There are four main reasons why a head gasket blows:

1. Insufficient water;

2. Deterioration of antifreeze efficiency;

3. Deterioration of oil;

4. Failure of the thermostat.

Looking at each of these in turn will help us to understand what to look out for as warning signs and what we can do to avoid a head gasket failure.

1. Insufficient Water

Insufficient water in the system can be cause by a number of things:

a. Not topping up the water as general maintenance;

b. A leak from the water pump (which will be seen as water leaking from the front drivers side of the engine);

c. A leak in one or more of the coolant system hoses;

d. Water reservoir bottle pressurising, causing water to leak from the cap;

e. A deteriorated head gasket allowing water to leak into the oil. If this happens you will see a creamy mix of oil and water in the oil tank and/or possibly some sludge in the water reservoir bottle.

Although you cannot avoid all of these causes, making sure that you check the water bottle regularly, preferably every week, will give you an indication of whether your Freelander is using more water than normal. If it is – STOP DRIVING IT UNTIL YOU HAVE IT CHECKED OUT BY A PROFESSIONAL. Continuing to drive your Freelander when it is losing excessive water could cause a lot more damage than is necessary.

2. Deterioration of Antifreeze Efficiency

The Land Rover Freelander uses a red antifreeze. Models up to June 2000 use antifreeze to specification BS 6580 and BS 5117 which is ethylene-glycol based with non-phosphate corrosion inhibitors, containing no methanol. The mixture should be 50% by volume. Models from 2000 onwards use ethylene-glycol based antifreeze, containing no methanol with only Organic Acid Technology (OAT) corrosion inhibitors.

It is important that you use only the recommended antifreeze in your Freelander, and always top up with an antifreeze mix and not plain water. Make sure that you renew the antifreeze every 36,000 miles.

3. Deterioration of Oil

As the oil in your Freelander gets older it thickens and picks up dirt. This means that it does not circulate in the system in the same way as fresh oil and can cause the temperature to rise, hence blowing the head gasket.

Make sure that you check your oil levels regularly, preferably every week, and that you have the engine oil replaced at every 12,000 mile service.

4. Failure of the thermostat

This is the most difficult fault to preempt. If the thermostat fails the temperature of the engine will increase and hence cause the head gasket to blow. A sign of a failed thermostat is the fan not cutting in – however this could also be a sign of other faults and may not be the thermostat.

Hence, in order to have the best chance of avoiding a head gasket blow on your Freelander you should:

(i) Have a routine change of the head gasket to a modified multi-layer gasket by 75,000 miles – this will be much cheaper than sorting it out after it has blown.

(ii) Check your water level weekly and note any unusually high usage or oil residue in the water reservoir.

(iii) Always use the recommended antifreeze in with the water and top up the water reservoir when required.

(iv) Check your oil level weekly and watch for any mixing of water with the oil.

(v) Have your oil changed at every 12,000 mile service.

(vi) Keep an eye on your temperature gauge and note if it is running hotter than normal (it should generally sit around the half way mark when the engine has heated up).

It is paramount to STOP DRIVING your Freelander if it is:

– overheating;

– losing an abnormal amount of water;

– mixing oil and water.

If you continue to drive your Freelander you run the risk of cracking the head cylinder or damaging the cylinder block liners – which will mean that on top of the cost of replacing the head gasket you will also have to buy a new cylinder head!

Summerizing Your Snow Blower

It’s time to put your snow blower away for the season. Chances are you’ve already stuck it in the corner of your garage or shed and happily forgotten about it but, trust me, drag it outside and take a little time to prep it for proper storage.

Besides, it’s a lot easier to work on it in the natural sunlight of your driveway or back yard than in the thick of a major Winter snow storm. It won’t take long at all if you have been taking good care of it. First of all, buy yourself a spark plug, some Winter weight oil such as 5W 20 or 5W30, the same year round oil that most cars use these days. Also, buy some fuel preservative such as Sta-Bi, Store Safe or any other comparable brand.

First off, change the spark plug even though it looks good. It’s worth the few bucks for the added benefit of a hot spark on a cold day. It wouldn’t hurt to snug down the head bolts in case any of them have become loose. If you don’t have a torque wrench, just snug them down while choking up on the wrench handle so as not to over-due it. Use a criss-cross pattern for even distribution.

Chances are the bolts won’t even move but it’s worth the extra 2 minutes. Top off the gas tank with fresh fuel, leaving enough room for the gas preservative recommendations and start the snow blower up and let it run for 10 minutes or so in order for the preservative to make it’s way into the carburetor and it’s small orifices and cavities where un-attended fuel turns to varnish and creates a no-start situation come the first snow fall.

Note: There is another school of thought that says to drain the fuel tank and run the carburetor completely out of fuel for storage. In my opinion, flip a coin and do whichever you want. They both prevent the problem of stale fuel plugging up your carburetor.

Next, take advantage of the warm engine to drain the hot engine oil while the nasty sediments are properly suspended and drain out with the old oil instead of staying behind in the bottom of the oil pan. Dispose of the oil properly at your local auto repair shop.

If you’re up to it, replace any worn or stretched drive belts and rubber faced drive disc if your snow blower has one. Otherwise, save that for your local servicing dealer. Lubricate all external pivot points on the levers, cables, linkage, etc. with some WD-40, white lithium grease or an appropriate substitute. All those small pivot holes dry out and become elongated over time if they are never lubricated.

That’s it. Enjoy your summer!

Paintless Dent Removal Technicians in Demand in a Niche Market

PDR Technician Earnings – Fact or Fiction?

Yes, that’s right – the claim made by some PDR Technicians are that an experienced PDR technician can earn as much as surgeons! The paintless dent removal industry has existed for the past 30 years in Australia and not many know about its existence! I would estimate that very few – perhaps 1 or 2 per cent of Australians have heard of this industry. Knowledge of those that do is often vague – referring to ‘sucking the dents out’. The industry has progressed technologically!

So when claims that there are people who train for up to a year or two and begin earning such money within 5 years, the reaction is often swift and hostile. I am often met with blank looks – friends politely nod and smile knowing that I normally don’t tell lies. Alas few if any accept the claims.

After all how can such an industry exist for so many years and not seem to appear in the media? How can people not know about it by word of mouth! The paintless dent removal industry has been rather secretive for years and deliberately so! Why would anyone want others to know what you are earning let alone how!

It may surprise you that actually the media has reported on this industry. After the controversial claims of bad practice by

“overseas hail chasers” were made after the 2011 Christmas Day Melbourne hailstorm. Check The Age news paper. Actually it was this media hype that consequently put the paintless dent removal industry into the spotlight!

“… One estimate puts chasers’ earnings at $5000 to $10,000 a week. It’s all pocketed, with no insurance costs to cover, no workplace premiums, no tax paid, no responsibility.”

Whatever the article set out to achieve ultimately underestimated the public reaction. Enquiries into PDR training skyrocketed!

Surgeons versus PDR Technicians

Analysing the earnings of the medical profession quoted by Business Insider – $250,000 to $500000 per year. Let’s not forget the investment into education and the years to get there! Just the cost of education can amount to $10,000 per year after HECS! We have not yet accounted for insurance. OK fair enough, PDR Technicians in the infancy of the industry paid between $10,000 to $40,000 for training or a business franchise in paintless dent removal industry. Now however, the cost of training PDR technicians have come down considerably to as low as $2900 for a 5 day PDR Course. Can it get any lower? Perhaps in the future – currently it has stabilised limited by the earnings of the PDR technicians themselves. For the time being, any lower than this and PDR technicians may as well just repair a car rather than train others – they can earn more!

Paintless Dent Removal Earnings can be substantial

Dwelling into what paintless dent removal is and their earnings – simply put, it is the art of removing dents without the requirement of painting the vehicle. The theory is that keeping the original factory paint work is important. PDR technicians complete an average hail damaged car within a day. OK so how can a PDR Technician clear 250K per year?

Consider a quotation on an average vehicle being about $2000-3000 during a hailstorm. Between 60-70 percent of this quotation goes to the PDR Technician. So even averaging $1000 per day to underestimate it during lost time, you are talking $200K to $300K per year!

Still not convinced? OK so not everyone can leave their family and chase hail around the country? There has to be an understanding between spouse and PDR Technician for them to go away for weeks or even months at a time not seeing their family!

The PDR Technician and Retail Sector Earnings

Well there is the retail market too. In the retail sector, paintless dent removal technicians contract to car sales yards, auctions, car rental fleet cars and the private clients to remove accidental vehicle damage such as car park and door dents. Although this usually requires more effort to come close to the larger earnings by hail repair standards, it still can be achieved! Here’s why…

The average rate for repair of one dent being $80 to $130 per dent depending on size or difficulty (not over-inflated when considering call out fees for plumbers and electricians). Repair one dent and charge even $80. Repairing 5 dents a day nets you $400! One dent can take a few minutes to 20 minutes to repair depending on experience. So hypothetically, even a single client can net $146000 per year! It is not uncommon to get several clients in a day but not every day. However, considering repeat clients and the odd customers who want their cars ‘clean’ of dents (cars are the second most important commodity in Australia), and further referrals for a good PDR technician, the numbers start adding up to that figure of $250k per year. And let’s face it, and you check yourself the next time you are stuck in a traffic jam, check the side of the cars for dents – you will be stunned to know how many dents there are around you! One in three readers of this article should have a dent on their vehicle…

So who qualified for paintless dent removal?

The next most common question I get asked is if I am not a panel beater, does it matter? The answer is no. Well, yes, a panel beater has knowledge of vehicles – models, panels, parts – they spend four years minimum learning the trade at TAFE and through apprenticeships. But so do spray painters. How about mechanics and their knowledge of cars. Throw in auto-scratch repairers, car detailers, window tinters and paint protection technicians. Yes, panel beaters are the most frequent clients for paintless dent removal training courses. But PDR courses can adopt other related trades.

What if I am not in a trade?

A course run in 2012 attracted a person who worked in administration within a bank. Yes a banker. It was our first non-industry person to train. We took on the challenge of training him but so did he! After a few hours on the first day of training, not only did he flourish, he actually excelled! Among his colleagues, it became apparent he was consistently producing the best dents amongst his group which included a panel beater! How can this be? He never touched a car in his life! He had to be taught how to remove and replace parts. Well, it is often said that attitude has a lot to do with success in PDR courses. He had everything to gain.

“Sometimes panel beaters are harder to teach if they come in with the wrong attitude, lack of patience or being two heavy handed.”

Are there women PDR technicians?

There is no secret that the paintless dent repair industry like the auto vehicle repair industry would be male dominated. Talking to a PDR trainer in 2015 who had trained mostly men but a few women. Those women however overall seemed to produce better work perhaps because they are not so “heavy handed” and perhaps some added “determination”. There are no conceivable reasons or barriers not to have women in the paintless dent repair industry.

A Career Changer?

The first phone call from clients tells me a lot about the person applying, their plans and underlying reasons. Some are subtle, others attempt to dominate the phone call – others simply know what they have researched and go for it! One of the myths however I immediately dispel is that this is not a “job” career change. Paintless dent removal is a business, a contractual business. Whether you work for yourself or contract to others it still is a business operation – no wages or salaries. So a sense of security is lost as well as challenges in finding the working clients. But there is a sense of freedom to work your own hours and choose your own clients once established. Despite the pros and cons, those that flourish are usually well known for their quality.

Can anyone do paintless dent removal?

In the extensive research across the internet and reading the many minds of PDR technicians themselves, there is a unique set of circumstances and conditions that has led PDR technicians to approach the industry and succeed. PDR technicians have the following qualities:

  • determination
  • perseverance
  • self belief to succeed at all odds
  • hard working
  • good eyesight
  • business minded
  • innovative
  • ability to work alone or in a team
  • ability to work in a variety of conditions
  • flexible

Most of the older generation of PDR technicians were fortunate enough to know or come across another PDR technician and get trained. Increasingly though more are getting into the industry through PDR training companies. The qualities listed above though are still important.

Success is hard earned

Becoming a PDR technician requires complete determination and perseverance because it is not easy to begun with. The first few hours of a paintless dent removal training course quickly sets the record straight: metal tool on metal panel is not a good mix. Paintless dent removal requires ultimate skill, determination and perseverance. It is too easy to get wrong, too easy to quit! Hundreds of hours of practice to make it through and become comfortable. In fact, two different sources of “training on a bonnet stand in the lounge room next to their wife watching TV” says it all. Just like intense determined training gets some to the Olympians to a gold medal – it takes such practice and determination to succeed in PDR.

Supply and demand

The old rule of “supply and demand” has a lot to do with the earnings of PDR Technicians. There are conflicting reports on there being too many PDR technicians out there. Are they simply trying to protect the industry for themselves? Because every time there is a major hailstorm, vehicle repairs often take up to 12 to 18 months to complete! Why? Supply and demand – there simply is a lack of quality PDR technicians in this country to do an ample amount of work. Furthermore, should we allow overseas PDR technicians to the work Australians can do? Heaven forbid when Sydney with a population of 5 million gets another April 1999 hailstorm! Why we still get car loving repairers into spray painting and panel beating when there are opportunities to get into the paintless dent removal industry defies belief!

Conclusion: Who will ride the lucrative rollercoaster?

Convincing anyone to enter this industry is like drawing blood from a stone! Making the change is difficult, requires planning and commitment. Do the risks outweigh the odds of success? You never know if you have what it takes to get into this industry. From the writing on the wall if you get through, whoever does ride the rollercoaster may be set for a lucrative and rewarding career! You never know if you have what it takes to get into this industry.To this day, I have yet to see an unsatisfied PDR Technician!

Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) Versus Original Equipment Equivalent (OEE) – Auto Glass

But I Thought You Said This Windshield Was Original Equipment?

Here is a common story for a consumer. A person has a brand new or leased vehicle and a piece of glass becomes damaged. They call an auto glass company and the consumer is told OEE is an original equipment equivalent replacement piece for their vehicle. But when the auto glass technician shows up to complete the replacement, the piece of glass does not actually have the vehicle makers OEM manufacturer logo.

OEM – Original parts installed by the vehicle’s maker during the assembly of your vehicle.

OEE – Parts produced for installation in the “aftermarket” by third party companies.

What Is OEM Auto Glass? (Original Equipment Manufacturer)

When a new vehicle is designed the vehicle maker can use an existing windshield part from an older model vehicle, or they can create a whole new windshield and part number. If the decision is made to create a whole new windshield the vehicle maker contracts a glass manufacturer to create the part. The glass manufacturer and vehicle maker create a unique mold and a unique molding/firing process to produce the OEM windshield (Original Equipment Manufacturer). The parts are installed when the vehicle is assembled at the vehicle makers factory.

OEM parts are available for purchase through your local dealership or through an auto glass company. Do be aware that OEM installations through a dealer will be significantly higher priced than choosing a third party company for the replacement. OEM parts are typically more expensive than OEE. In fact, OEM can cost over 100% more. Although Carlite (Ford) windshields are extremely affordable!

What Is OEE or OE Auto Glass? (Original Equipment Equivalent)

After a new vehicle has reached dealerships and is sold to consumers, third party glass manufacturers will actually acquire OEM glass and reverse engineer a mold to manufacture their own aftermarket glass parts. This mold is created after they digitize an outline of the part. Then the companies create a firing process to bend and shape the glass. OEE aftermarket parts are slightly different in size, they have slight differences in the bend of the glass, and the glass may have high distortion when viewed from a side angle. All of these differences may be minimal or dramatic depending on the manufacturer. The cheaper the glass, the cheaper the manufacturing was.

Removal Of The Manufacturer Logo

Some auto glass installation companies remove the windshields manufacturer logo to fool consumers into thinking its actually OEM. Remember to never buy glass without a manufacturer product label. The label is usually about 1 square inch in size and is located in the bottom areas of the windshield right above the painted black ceramic band. The manufacturer logo includes information about where the glass was manufactured, and has information for the Department of Transportation. Removing the logo is illegal.

What Are The Main Differences Between OEM and OEE.

1. Side View Clarity – All glass that is bent during manufacturing has some distortion when viewed from a side angle. This can be described as waves or waviness. Aftermarket glass is pressed, molded and fired during manufacturing in a slightly different way than the original process set by the vehicle maker. As a result of the difference in manufacturing the aftermarket process typically creates more distortion in glass when viewed from a side angle. Sometimes its a lot more!

2. Safety – Both types of glass meet all federal safety standards and also go through testing at such places as AMECA, Automotive Manufacturer’s Equipment Compliance Agency Inc.. Because both types meet certain safety guidelines, many auto glass installation companies push the argument that aftermarket is equivalent to the vehicle makers original replacement equipment simply based on this one similarity.

3. Glass Thickness – The federal government actually has mandates on the thickness of a windshield. Most windshields are between 2-3mm (millimeters) thick. OEE glass may have a.01mm or more difference in thickness. This may result in the idea that aftermarket is more cheap. Although this is still as safe and equivalent to OEM, I find it is different none the less and may have a higher risk of cracking from debris impacts.

4. Black Ceramic Paint Design – Both types of glass will typically have the same exact paint designs around the edges of the glass, although there are a few unique OEM windshields out there. This black design only hides areas from view (ex: under the dashboard, behind side pillars) and it protects the urethane glass adhesive from UV emitted by the sun. UV will degrade the adhesive which will result in the glass falling out or coming loose. One of the few differences found in paints bands may be, the vehicle maker or vehicle model logos embedded in the design. An example is a Ford Mustang windshield. The OEM windshield includes a picture of the Mustang logo above the rear view mirror bracket in the third visor.

5. The Manufacturer/Vehicle Maker Logo – OEM windshields have a logo that matches all of the other pieces of glass on your vehicle. This is the easiest to see if a piece of glass has been changed before, or to confirm if an auto glass company has ordered the right glass for you. The logo will either have the vehicle maker logo or the original vendor logo.

6. Rear View Mirror Brackets And Sensors – Aftermarket windshields (OEE) use a different process to adhere the mirror brackets to the glass. I find that their quality of adhesion and location is not as accurate as OEM parts. In fact, aftermarket distributors repeatedly drip glue on the glass below the bracket which may stain the black ceramic band on the interior side of the glass. When it comes to sensor components such as a rain sensors, the problem it not as rampant. But on a BMW windshield, a mirror bracket not correctly aligned may hinder the re-installation of the mirror’s plastic cover assembly which hides the sensor and bracket.

So Which Windshield Should I Choose, OEM or OEE?

The biggest impact on your decision will be budget. OEM parts are almost always higher priced. Most consumers simply choose OEE because they have no choice, everyone needs to save a few bucks. Don’t be scared of choosing aftermarket glass though because safety is mostly impacted by the technician installing the windshield correctly, not the glass itself. But if you really love your vehicle and expect the best quality, you should choose OEM. And if you are leasing your vehicle, your dealer may have restrictions on what type of glass is acceptable upon returning the vehicle. You may get a fee added if you have an aftermarket glass installed. Call your dealer for more information.

Fixing Your 2006-2009 Ford Explorer Radiator Problems

Some 2006-2009 Ford Explorers are experiencing failure in their radiators. This article will share some of the things that you can do to prevent this failure from occurring, and get you back on the road if your radiator does fail.

While not a difficult repair, replacing a radiator does have significant cost associated with it. Wholesale cost from Ford on a radiator for a 2006-2009 Explorer runs as high as $470 for the part alone, and labor costs can take replacing the unit much, much higher.

It is thus prudent to take steps to avoid replacing the unit is possible. Regular coolant flushes are your best ally in keeping your Explorer Radiator in tip top shape. I personally do a complete machine flush of my coolant right before each winter. This not only keeps all my cooling lines and the interior of my radiator as clean as possible, but gives me a good time to check my coolant to make sure it can handle a hard freeze. Use a standard anti-freeze tester that you can buy at any local auto parts store to periodically check the coolant to make sure it can handle hard freezes in your area. If you think the temperature will fall to 20 below, make sure you are rated 20 degrees lower than that – handle 40 below! The alternative is a cracked radiator, or possibly even a cracked engine block.

One of the most common problems with 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009 Ford Explorer radiators is not with the radiators themselves. It is, rather, with the starter. The wiring leading to and from the starter corrodes. When this happens, there is, of course, electricity introduced into the frame of the vehicle. Electrolysis can cause coolant to eat through a radiator faster than you can blink an eye.

Ford has a Technical Service Bulletin (TSB) out stating that anytime you replace a radiator on one of these vehicles, you should check for electrolysis in the cooling system. According to Ford, you should not ground the heater core in a 2006-2009 Ford Explorer. Rather, you should check for electrolysis. You check for electrolysis by disconnecting the battery cables, making sure they are not touching each other or the car, putting the negative DC voltmeter probe on the engine ground and the the positive probe in the coolant and checking to see if you get more than.2 Volts in the coolant. Ford says.4 in the TSB, but that is too much for me!

If you are experiencing electrolysis in the early stages, and use a voltmeter to check all grounds. This is long and tedious, but if it isn’t done, you’ll have the same problem again. No companies will honor a warranty on a radiator that has been subjected to electrolysis. Once you have repaired issues causing improper grounding, flush all coolant.

If your radiator is beyond hope (cracked tank, leaky core), you will need to purchase a new one. There is no need to purchase an OEM Ford Explorer Radiator, as aftermarket radiators can be found with better warranties for much less money. Silla is a leading brand and has an excellent radiator available for this application. When you get it in, again, check for electrolysis!

P0171 and P0174 Codes – Don’t Replace an Oxygen Sensor Before Reading This

So your car’s CEL (Check Engine Light) is on and you had the codes scanned at a local parts store. Your car has either a P0171, P0174 lean fault code or both stored in the computer, these codes are based on Oxygen Sensor (O-2) readings. A lean code or codes indicate that there’s too much oxygen in the exhaust. Remember parts stores have employees that have good intentions but they may not have the experience necessary to interpret what the trouble codes really mean. These codes are based on oxygen measurements in the exhaust. A common mistake with lean codes is to replace the oxygen sensors. This could be a very expensive mistake that will not fix the problem. Especially if both codes are present, because the chance of both O-2 sensors failing at the same time is very unlikely.

Most likely the cause is a vacuum leak. A vacuum leak can be caused from a vacuum hose, intake gasket or maybe even a leak in the air intake hose from the MAF (Mass Air Flow Sensor). Listen for a hissing sound that may lead you to the source of the problem. Some technicians will use a propane bottle with a hose attachment to help pinpoint vacuum leaks. With today’s computers it’s not quite as easy to check for vacuum leaks this way because the ECU (Electronic Control Unit) will compensate quickly for the added fuel and a change in idle is harder to notice. Oxygen sensor readings can be monitored with a scan tool while checking for leaks with propane, by looking for increased readings when enriching the mixture. Another way technicians can check for vacuum leaks is with a smoke test. By introducing smoke into a vacuum hose on the engine, the leak will be revealed when the smoke escapes from the problem area.

Aftermarket air filters that use oil on the element can sometimes damage the MAF. Over oiling the air filter may allow some excess to get on the MAF sensor wire or element. This can alter the reading, fooling the ECU into seeing more or less air flow therefore changing the air/fuel mixture incorrectly. I once worked on a car that would not start that had a problem with a MAF. When looking at the wire in the MAF, there was a burned piece of trash that made it’s way past the air filter. After cleaning the sensor the car ran perfectly. The ash that was on the MAF sensor wire was altering the reading by enriching the mixture so much that the car could not run. After talking with the customer, he said the air filter was just changed. This was obviously when some trash got into the air intake hose that settled on the hot wire of the MAF.

Fuel Pressure could also cause a lean condition. If the fuel filter is clogged or the fuel pump pressure is low, there could be higher level of oxygen in the exhaust also. Most of the time though, the ECU will compensate for the reduced fuel volume. So this is one of the least likely causes of a lean code.    

Beware of Buying a Used Freelander Viscous Coupling Unit (VCU)

Some of the most expensive parts to replace on a Land Rover Freelander are in the drive train – the IRD unit (transfer box), rear differential and gearbox. So why would you risk damaging any, or all of these parts? If your viscous coupling unit (VCU) has past its useable life then instead of paying out for a replacement viscous coupling unit (VCU) you could be spending thousands on ALSO replacing the IRD unit (transfer box), the rear differential and possibly even the gearbox.

The viscous coupling unit of a Land Rover Freelander is a sealed unit positioned in the centre of the prop shaft. Inside the unit is a viscous fluid. Over time this fluid gets thick – much as your engine oil would – and eventually causes the prop shaft to rotate at a slower speed than is required. You can tell when you have reached this point as your Freelander will feel as though it is holding back on you, especially when turning on full lock – but don’t wait this long, by then you may have already done expensive damage!

The problem with the viscous coupling unit (VCU) is that it is a sealed unit, so you cannot check the condition of the viscous fluid inside it. There are a number of tests that people say will test if your fluid has had it, but none of these are really reliable.

The viscous coupling unit (VCU) has a life span of about 70,000 miles – after this time you are dicing with, not death, but very large bills!

So why should you not buy a used viscous coupling unit (VCU)? Well, simply because you have no idea as to the condition of the viscous fluid inside it, because generally you have no idea of the mileage it has done. So how will you know when to change it? How will you protect yourself from those big bills? You can’t!

If you have been unfortunate enough to suffer from a damaged IRD unit (transfer box) or rear differential was your mileage over 70,000 miles? Had your viscous coupling unit (VCU) been replaced previously? If your mileage was over 70,000 miles and you never replaced your viscous coupling unit (VCU) then this will generally have been the cause of your empty wallet! And if you still don’t replace your viscous coupling unit (VCU) and fit a new IRD unit (transfer box) or rear differential, then it is almost certain the same thing will soon happen again!

The key is to always buy a new or reconditioned viscous coupling unit (VCU) which has had the viscous fluid replaced. This way you know you have another 70,000 miles of carefree motoring without having to worry about damaging your expensive drive train.

So, whatever you do, DO NOT buy a used viscous coupling unit (VCU) for your Land Rover Freelander just to save a few pounds – it may turn out to be the most expensive saving you’ve ever made!

The OBD II Scanning Tool: Worth Its Weight in Gold

One of the best tool investments you can make for you do-it-yourself garage is an OBD II Scan tool. The previous statement can not be overstated. This little tool is worth its weight in gold and will save you lots of money over the life of your vehicle. If you have more than one vehicle, it will save you twice as much.

What is an OBD II scan tool?

An OBD II scan tool basically communicates with your vehicle’s onboard computer and tells you what code the computer is throwing and if there is a problem that needs to be resolved. We have all experienced the dreaded check engine light (CEL). This little amber light can make tough women squeal and tougher men cry. Well, I might be exaggerating a bit, but it does make you think about dollar signs and your local mechanic. Two things that should not be in the same sentence. The OBD II scanner can not only read the codes from your vehicle, but it can also reset the check engine light.

Many states won’t even let your vehicle pass the state inspection because of a check engine light. This point alone puts more emphasis on the importance of diagnosing and resolving check engine lights.

Typically, you have to take your vehicle down to your local auto mechanic’s shop and have them read the codes for you. This will require a minimum charge for inspection and diagnosis which can easily exceed $100. Do that twice, and essentially you’ve paid for the cost of an ODB II scanner. An ODB II scanner will not only allow you to find answers to a lot of simple automotive problems, but it can also provide guidance for more complex issues.

What’s the deal with OBD II?

All modern vehicles are controlled and managed by computer systems. These computer systems or On Board Diagnostics, monitor your vehicles functions as it operates. They monitor and measure such things as the ignition timing and fuel injection calibrations to reading data from a variety of sensors such as your oxygen and mass airflow sensors. OBD II was introduced in 1996 and was made mandatory for all cars being sold in the United States. OBD II codes are alphanumeric and can be referenced in a vehicle service manual. You just have to read the code and look it up. The code will tell you where the problem is. “If only my car could tell me what was wrong”. Guess what? It can.

Types of ODB II Scanners

There are lots of different types of scanners available. There are simple versions that are manufacturer specific. There are also more complex scanners that not only read OBD II codes, but also earlier versions of OBD. Several are available in multiple languages. Most have LCD screens that allow you to read the codes and view graphics such as charts and graphs. You can also purchase extender cables that are sure to come in handy. Most of the versions with LCD screens allow you to view live engine data, record and playback stored vehicle information, and even the ability print information through a personal computer. Watching your live engine data is really cool! Prices range from $30.00 on the lower end and up to $800 and above on the higher end.

How to use the tool

Using an OBD-II scanning tool is relatively simple. Each type of scanner is going to have specific functionality, menus, and screens. Make sure that you refer to the owner’s manual of your device. In general terms, you need to connect the scanning tool to the OBD II port of your vehicle. The port is also called the Data Link Connector. The port will be more than likely located under the steering wheel and below the dashboard. It should be near where your knees would be while in a driving position. It is supposed to be located within 2 feet of the steering wheel. What you’re looking for is a 16-pin connector that looks similar to an old parallel port printer connector, for those that remember them. The connector will probably have a cover on it that may have a “Diagnostics” label or symbol on it.

Simply plug your scanner into the sport. Most scanners will require the ignition switch to be turned on. The vehicle may or may not need to be running. Please refer to your owner’s manual. Once the device is on, navigate to the diagnostics menus. You should see options for code reading and code erasing. In the code reading section, note any active codes. You should also see a section for pending codes. Pending codes are those that may have come up and the computer is waiting to see if they will reappear. The code will appear as one letter followed some numbers and symbols. Take a look at your service manual to find the meaning of the code or just refer to the internet.

Fix the problem

Now that you have the code(s), you need to correct the problem(s). The code will identify what system is having a problem and what the problem is. It could point to an emissions issue, spark plugs, mass airflow, or even a transmission problem. Once you’ve identified the problem, you need to decide how you’re going to fix it. If it is within your skill level, by all means fix it. If the problems above your skill level, you may need to seek professional help. After you’ve rectified the problem, you can now use your scan tool to reset the check engine light (CEL).

An OBD II scan tool can save you a lot of worry and anguish when it comes to the check engine light(CEL). You can perform much of the diagnostics from behind the driver seat. You no longer have to be a victim of check engine light(CEL) anguish. You also don’t have to be a hostage and at the mercy of your local auto mechanic. Though all check engine lights(CEL) are important and must be investigated, you can decide if the problem is urgent or whether you have a little bit of time before it needs to be addressed.

By using a scan tool, you will save yourself money in diagnostic fees that would normally be paid to your mechanic. You could let your mechanic know what the code is and he/she could go directly to the problem. This will save you labor charges. Purchase an OBD II scan tool as soon as you can and buy the best you can afford. It will take a load of worry off your shoulders and help ensure your peace of mind!