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How to clean the Throttle Body?

A throttle body of the vehicle with a lot of mileage may be dirty, and it needs to be cleaned up. The symptoms of a dirty throttle body is a rough idle, engine stalling, sticking gas pedal, hesitant acceleration, and so on. Here is the procedure on how to clean the throttle body.

  1. Remove the intake air duct
  2. Push the lever arm to open the throttle plate
  3. Spray a cleaner and wipe off the gunk with a rag
  4. Put back the intake air duct

If your car has an Electronic Throttle Body…

Please note that if your car has an electronic throttle body, do not push the throttle plate to open. The electronic throttle body is fully controlled by a vehicle computer. The motor inside the throttle body opens and closes the throttle plate. If you push the throttle plate by hand, the vehicle computer may lose the throttle position. That can create another problem, and things will even get worse. What’s more, you might need a scan tool to reset or perform the idle relearn procedure for the engine to retain the correct idle speed. So, keep that in mind, and here is how to clean the electronic throttle body.

image of electronic throttle body
  1. Have someone in a driver’s seat
  2. Turn the key on without a start
  3. Have someone press the gas pedal all the way
  4. Now, the throttle plate is open

If you are alone, put something heavy on the gas pedal. Make sure that it’s heavy and secure enough not to move and release the gas pedal while you’re cleaning. If it happens, all precautions and efforts may be wasted, you may be going to need to reset or relearn procedure.

Read Also: Does my car need Idle Relearn? What is throttle body relearn?

What to use for throttle body cleaning?

There is a cleaner that is specifically designed for cleaning the throttle body. It may be called Throttle Body Cleaner or Air Intake Cleaner. Don’t confuse with Brake Cleaner and Carburetor Cleaner. Brake Cleaner is a stronger solvent in cleaning perspective. It will damage a rubber, seal, sensors, or special coating on an inner wall of the throttle body. Some people say that you can use Carburetor Cleaner to clean the throttle body. Although it’s safe to use it, it’s not as effective as throttle body cleaner. Carburetor cleaner evaporates quicker than throttle body cleaner. You may need to spray more than Throttle body cleaner to clean up the same amount of dirt. A throttle body cleaner will leave a thin layer of lubricant on the inner wall of the throttle body, which helps to prevent the dirt and gunk from sticking in the future.

How does a throttle body get dirty, anyway?

You may wonder why a throttle body gets so dirty. Isn’t only air from the atmosphere pass through it. The answer is that it’s not only the air passing through it but also a vapor from a crankcase and blow-by. To understand this, you need to understand the Positive Crankcase Ventilation (PCV) system. The crankcase is a housing of a crankshaft below cylinders, and the motor oil lubricates moving parts inside the crankcase and cylinder walls. The crankcase has to be ventilated. If not ventilated, excessive pressure builds up inside the crankcase, and it breaks a seal and causes an oil leak, and many other bad things happen. So, it needs to be ventilated, but not directly to the atmosphere due to environmental issues. So, that’s where PCV system comes in.

image of pcv system

As in the image above, ventilated air from the crankcase sucks into the engine, and the fresh air from the atmosphere goes into the crankcase from the other pipe. As a car gets old and more mileage, a vapor accumulates inside of the throttle body as dirt and gunk. Plus, worn piston rings and oil rings on the cylinders allow combustion gas to escape to the crankcase (=blow-by), and that produces more vapor and make the throttle body dirty more quickly.


Cleaning the throttle body may solve idle related problems. Use Throttle Body Cleaner to do the job. If your car uses an electronic throttle body, never push the throttle plate by hand. Instead, have someone press the gas pedal with engine key on while you are cleaning the throttle body.

Does my car need Idle Relearn? What is throttle body relearn?

Idle Relearn (aka throttle body relearn) is the procedure that is required to obtain the correct idle speed after replacing electronic throttle body, disconnecting a battery cable, clearing a check engine light, etc. The symptoms are, idle is too low, too high, or erratic. Sometimes the engine stalls when you stop at the traffic light. And you may see the check engine light come on with the idle speed related trouble codes.

image of electronic throttle body

Why does Idle Relearn need?

Many newer vehicles use an electronic throttle body which contains a throttle plate, motor, and sensors. They are responsible for regulating all air flow into the engine, including the air flow for maintaining idle speed. When idling, the vehicles computer sends a signal to the throttle body and controls the throttle plate to adjust the idle speed depending on the engine temperature and whether AC is on or off. When the computer loses the connection to the throttle body, it loses the position of the throttle plate. Thus, the vehicle computer needs to relearn the throttle plate after losing connection to it.

When is Idle Relearn required?

As mentioned above, Idle Relearn is required when the vehicle computer loses the connection to a throttle body. And, many things cause it to happen.

image of vehicle battery
  • Disconnecting a battery cable
  • A battery dies
  • Replacing a battery
  • Clearing the check engine light
  • Replace an electronic throttle body
  • Cleaning an electronic throttle body in an inappropriate way
  • etc…

Please note that it doesn’t mean that you will need the idle relearn after these repairs or incidents. It totally depends on models of vehicles.

Read Also: How to clean the Throttle Body?

Does my car need Idle Relearn?

In general, the procedure of idle relearn is necessary on vehicles with electronic throttle body (=ETB aka DBW Drive-By-Wire).

How does Electronic Throttle Body work?

Vehicles with ETB don’t have a physical cable connected between a throttle body and accelerator pedal. It’s fully controlled by electricity. There is a sensor attached to accelerator pedal that tells the vehicle computer how deeply you press the pedal. And, the computer sends a signal to a motor inside ETB and make the throttle plate open or close. When idling, the computer sends a signal to open the throttle plate slightly, so the engine keeps running without stalling.

How does a conventional throttle body work?

image of throttle body

A conventional throttle body is simple. When you press an accelerator pedal, a cable that physically connects the accelerator pedal with throttle body pulls and turn to open the throttle plate. When you release, a spring turns back and closes the throttle plate. So, a conventional throttle body has another device to control the idle speed. It’s called the Idle Air Control Valve (IAC valve). The IAC valve is fitted over the throttle body, and it bypasses an air over the throttle plate. The computer sends a signal to the IAC valve and controls the air flow to maintain the idle speed. IAC valves need a procedure to initialize, too. The procedures are a lot simpler, though. For examples, leaving the key on for a few minutes or letting it idle without any load for several minutes.

image of idle air control valve ford

The point is that ETB is a much more complicated component than conventional throttle body. IAC valve is just an electric motor and used only for adjusting the idle speed. ETB, on the other hand, is responsible for not only maintaining the idle speed but also responding to the accelerator pedal. It communicates with the computer all the time. Thus a set of procedure to have the computer relearn is necessary after a certain repair or disconnecting a battery, etc.

How can you get the procedure of idle relearn?

Unfortunately, not all repair manuals have the information about idle relearn. And you may or may not find it in the owner’s manuals. So where can you find it? Go online, search “idle relearn + make, model, and year of your vehicle,” and you may get results. If not, search “idle relearn + make” only. The procedure may be the same among all vehicles from the same manufacturer.

List of Idle Relearn Procedures

Where can you get Free Check Engine Light Diagnosis?

Check Engine is one of the indicator lights in the instrument panel and also a part of On-Board Diagnostic system aka OBDII. When there is something wrong in the engine or emission system, the vehicles computer turns on the Check Engine Light to notify the driver. At the same time, the vehicle computer stores the code(s). You can see the codes by scanning the vehicle computer with a scan tool (also called a scanner or code reader.) Scanning the computer is the first step of check engine light diagnosis. And you can get free check engine light diagnosis in some ways

image of check engine light

Auto Parts Stores

Here is a list of auto parts stores that offer a free computer scan and tell you the codes. These are not all stores but my local stores I verified.

  • Advance Auto Parts
  • AutoZone
  • Napa Auto Parts
  • O’Reilly Auto Parts
  • Pep Boys Auto Parts

The reason why they do it for free is that it’s not technical job. What they do is to plug a scanner into an OBD port and press a few buttons, and they get the codes.

But still, why do they do that for free?

First of all, they are not repair shops but parts stores. I guess they are hoping you to buy the parts at their stores to fix the check engine light problems for yourself. They may even mention the common causes of the problems of the specific code. For example, the code P0136 is O2 Sensor Circuit Malfunction Bank 1 Sensor 2. A store clerk may mention that a bad oxygen sensor can be the cause. Sometimes, it’s true, but not always. Keep in mind that you can’t assume the cause of the problem without further diagnosis.

Local Mechanic Garage

If you have a good relationship with your local mechanic, they may scan the computer for you for free. But that’s all they offer for free. Unlike parts stores, mechanic garages fix the problem. They are capable of identifying the cause of the problem with further diagnosis. This diagnosis incurs a fee for labor of at least an hour. So, if you go to a mechanic garage, tell them that all you need is to have the computer scanned, and make sure if they do that for free in advance.

Scan for yourself

It’s not exactly free because you have to buy a scan tool, but it’s recommended for a DIYer. The prices of scan tools range from $20 to thousands of dollars. You can get a decent one for around $50. Once you bought one, you can scan the computer as many times as you need. You can freely use other features like clearing the check engine light, I/M readiness monitor, live data, and so on. BlueDriver is one of the most popular scan tools. Unlike conventional scan tools, BlueDriver is a Bluetooth adapter that connects with your smartphone and works with the app. It has advanced features like enhanced diagnosis (ABS, SRS, TPMS, etc.), Mode 6, Repair Report, and so on. Click here to see the details of BlueDriver.


Scanning the computer and getting the codes are the first step of tackling with check engine light diagnosis. With the codes, you can look up the details, possible causes, and possible fixes on the internet. In the end, you may still have to go to a mechanic garage to fix the problem, but it’s good to have some insight about the problem beforehand. If they tell you something unrelated to your research, you should ask for more details about that. You also have an option to go to another mechanic garage for a second opinion.

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Missing Car Owner’s Manual? You can download owner’s manual for free.

You may not have paid much attention, but a car owner’s manual contains lots of useful information such as how to operate A/C, audio, switches, and other interior components, descriptions and meaning of indicator lights, maintenance schedules, specifications of oil and fluids, and so on. New vehicles come with an owner’s manual from a manufacturer, and it’s stored in the glove compartment. But what if you don’t find one in there? If you have purchased a used car, there is a chance that the previous owner lost one. It’s been missing since you bought the car. Fortunately, you can download owner’s manual for free.

image of car owners manual in glove compartment

PDF, Digital-Version of Owner’s Manual

Most manufacturers offer digital-version of their owner’s manuals for free. First, you need to go to the manufacturer’s website of your vehicle and type “owner’s manual” in the search box. You will get a list of search results including an owner’s manual or something similar and click that. Then, you will enter the year and model of your vehicle or choose them from a drop-down. This is an example of PDF-version of Acura 2010 MDX owner’s manual. It’s clear and full-colored. And you can jump to the page from the index just like e-books.

You can download and keep it on your mobile device such as a smartphone which you may always have when you drive. Now, you can open the file and read them whenever you need it. It doesn’t matter if you are in the middle of nowhere or with no data connection. It may be even better than a printed-version of owner’s manual as it doesn’t take space in a glove compartment or anywhere else.

Booklet, Printed-Version of Owner’s Manual

If you prefer a traditional printed-version of owner’s manual, you need to order through the manufacturer’s website. It seems many manufacturers rely on the website called HELMINC. So, it’s better to check the website first if you are looking for a printed-version of owner’s manual. Unfortunately, the availability of printed-version of owner’s manuals is much smaller than the availability of digital-version of owner’s manuals. And, printed-versions of owner’s manuals are not free. Their prices range from $40 to $60.

image of find car owners manual

What if you don’t find an owner’s manual of your vehicle?

If you don’t find a printed-version of owner’s manual, just get a digital-version of owner’s manual. As mentioned above, it’s more beneficial than printed-versions when you download and keep it on your mobile device. If you want to stick to a printed version, you may find one on eBay. If you don’t find either version on the manufacturer’s website, your vehicle may be too old or rare. In this case, you may want to try to find one on eBay, too.

image of find car owners manual on ebay

Useful information from owner’s manuals, which you may not know

You probably know that an owner’s manuals contain information like how to operate switches, move seats, or where to find a fuse block and what each fuse is responsible for. But there are more, and you may not know of them. Here are some useful information you can get from an owner’s manual.

Bluetooth Connection Setup

Many modern vehicles have a Bluetooth-enabled audio player as a default option. Bluetooth allows you to play your favorite songs in your mobile device without physical wiring. But what if you rent a car? You may not even know where to begin for Bluetooth connection. Rental cars should have an owner’s manual in a glove compartment, and read it instead of guessing and make unsure attempts many times.

Service Reminder, Engine Oil Life Reset

Many vehicles have an indicator light or message to remind you of maintenance. This maintenance is usually an oil change. These vehicles calculate the engine oil life based on how many miles you drive and how long the time passed since the last oil change. When the engine oil life gets close to 0%, you see the indicator light or message. And this system needs to be reset when you change the oil. The procedures of resetting it vary from manufacturer to manufacturer and model to model. You can find how to reset on an owner’s manual. I guess it’s good to know for not only owners of the vehicle but also auto mechanics. Because you can’t memorize the procedures of all vehicles, and many customers don’t know how to reset. Instead of opening a glove compartment and turn pages of customer’s owner’s manual with dirty hands, you can see that by looking up digital-version of owner’s manual on your computer.


Owner’s manuals are neglected by many people. Sometimes, they’ve never been opened by owners. But, I bet you will find some useful information about your vehicle from the owner’s manual. I suggest you glance all pages at least once when you buy a vehicle. If it’s a used car, and you don’t find one, just search online and download it. If you prefer a printed-version, keep in mind that they can be out of stock and no longer available. If it’s the case, go to eBay, print out all page of digital-version or just download to the mobile device you always carry when you drive.

Do Oil Change Yourself – DIY Oil Change Tips and Tricks and Benefits

The oil change is one of the maintenance items. It’s basic and simple but crucial to prolong the engine life. If you do an oil change yourself, there are many benefits for you. This post shows you how to do an oil change yourself and also benefits when you do it yourself.

image of do an oil change yourself

Benefits on DIY oil change

  • Save you money -If you do the oil change yourself, you don’t have to pay the labor to a mechanic. You will need to buy some tools and equipment, but they cost you only once. After you buy the tools and equipment, all you need to pay for are motor oil and an oil filter. When you go online and search for the oil and filter, you can find ones at deeply discounted prices. For example, 5-quart full synthetic oil costs less than $20 at I have never used this brand of oil before, but according to reviews, it seems OK.
  • More cautious to engine condition – If you do the oil change yourself, you will become more perceptive and more understanding of the condition of the engine. Mechanics in a repair shop probably don’t pay much attention to the old oil draining from the oil pan, They throw the old oil to a big container mixing with the old oil from many other customer’s cars. But when you do it yourself, you can examine the old oil thoroughly. Then you can get information like whether or not it was enough oil in the engine, it was dirtier than usual, or there are debris and other particles.
  • Other benefits – The reason why an oil change is important is not only benefits directly from the new oil and filter, but also the opportunity to inspect other components of the vehicle. Under the hood, there are many other fluids to check. When the vehicle on the jack, you can check the front end. You can also perform tire rotation by using another jack stand. And then, you can also check the brakes as well. If you think they are too much for you to do, you take your car to a mechanic every two or three times of oil changes.

How to find the right oil and filter

An owner’s manual of your vehicles tells you how much oil and what “weight” you need. Weight actually means thickness or viscosity. It shows like 5W20, 10W30, 20W50, etc. The larger the number, the thicker. Just follow the recommendation on the owner’s manual. However, if your vehicle has a lot of mileage, it may be better to choose a thicker oil than the recommendation.

When you buy oil, I recommend to buy a jug of gallon or 5-quart rather than many 1-quart bottles. The reasons for that is you can use the jug as a container for old oil after you put new oil into the engine. It’s a hassle to divide old oil into many bottles. Old oil has to be recycled. You can take it to gas stations, or parts stores like Pep Boys. They usually take it for free.

To find the right oil filter of your vehicle, in parts stores, there is usually a book to tell you a part number by looking up with your vehicle’s year, make, and model. Or you can just ask a store clerk. If you purchase it online, websites of parts stores automatically show you the right filter of your vehicle after creating an account and entering your vehicle’s year, make and model.

Tools and Equipment needed for an oil change

  • Jack – It’s fine to use a scissor or screw jack which is one of original equipment usually found in the truck.
  • Jack Stands – Don’t ever use a jack alone. After lifting a car up, you should always put jack stands and sit vehicle’s weight on them for a safety.
  • Wheel Chocks – Optional. If you don’t have it, set an emergency brake for a similar advantage.
  • Socket Wrench – for loosen and tighten a drain plug. The size is not likely written on the owner’s manual. Neither is it on a repair manual. For the first time of changing the oil, you should bring the whole set of sockets or wrenches. But usually, the size of drain plugs are between 13mm and 19mm. (1/2-inch to 3/4-inch)
  • Oil Filter Pliers or Wrench – Metal oil filter can be loosen with the pliers. Paper filters are widely used on European vehicles. They can be accessed by opening a plastic lid. Don’t use pliers, or a plastic lid may get damaged. You should use an appropriate wrench, maybe a socket to open a lid.
  • Drain Pan – Choose the size of a drain pan which is more than enough. If it’s just enough, and old oil gets nearly to the edge of a drain pan, it is hard to put it into a container without spilling on the ground.
  • Funnel – It’s a must especially when you put oil oil into a container.
  • Rubber Gloves – Don’t use cloth or nylon gloves. They are useless when they got oil. For rubber gloves, you can wipe the oil off. You can’t do that on cloth or nylon gloves, and there is a risk getting a burn if you get a hot oil.
  • Rugs, Brake Cleaner – For cleaning hands, tools, and so on.

Tips and Tricks on Oil Change

  • Find a safe and level ground – Unless you have your own garage, you will have to do an oil change on a driveway or the side of the road. Find a level ground with less traffic, preferably one-way street.
  • Warm the engine before draining the oil – Warming the engine warms up the oil as well. That will allow the oil to drain smoothly. You don’t have to warm up too long. A few minutes are enough. If it’s cold weather, it may need a little longer than that.
  • Jack up on one side may be enough – Drain plugs are typically located on the lowest point of an oil pan. And many vehicles have a drain plug on the bottom of either side with an angle. So, jacking up on either side will help to drain the oil fast and thoroughly.
  • Set an emergency brake – After jacking up, set an emergency brake. It locks the rear wheels.
  • Use rubber gloves – You can wipe the oil off of rubber gloves easily. You can’t do that with cloth or nylon gloves. And you may get burned your hands when you have hot oil on cloth or nylon gloves.
  • When loosening a drain plug, apply slight pressure to the oil pan – After loosening a drain plug, unscrew it by hand with sightly pressing to the oil pan until you feel it got out of the thread. Make sure of the place of a drain pan while keeping pressing then take a drain plug away. Without pressing it, the oil flows out through the thread. And soon, the drain plug gets too hot to touch.
  • Use the same gasket unless it’s damaged – You can re-use the same gasket for a drain plug unless it’s damaged. It fits well most of the times.
  • Use a socket wrench only when loosening and tightening a drain plug – After loosening a drain plug, you should unscrew it by hand. When you re-install a drain plug, you should screw it by hand as much as possible then tighten with a socket wrench. This prevents the threads from damaging accidentally.
  • Gasket of oil filter is NOT reusable – Use a new gasket with a new oil filter. For metal oil filters, make sure that a gasket of an old oil filter doesn’t stick on the engine block and if there is a gasket on a new oil filter and properly seated. For paper oil filters, a gasket is on a lid. Change it to a new one, which should come with a new oil filter.
  • Check the oil level after starting the engine for seconds – Until starting the engine, the oil is not inside of a new oil filter. To make the oil flow to a new filter, you should start the engine until the oil-pressure indicator light goes off. Turn off the engine, and now you can check the correct oil level. Keep in mind that some cars take a little while to stabilize the oil level.

DIY vs. Quick Lube vs. Mechanic Garage

image of mechanic garage

DIY oil charge saves you money the most. Plus, you have free choices on the brand of an oil and filter. Quick Lube shops probably save you time the most. Many shops have cash wash, and you may get a free car wash with an oil change. The drawbacks of quick lube shops are they don’t lift the vehicle. They may check under the hood for you, but not on the front end, suspension, etc. And workers of quick lube shops may not be mechanics. They may not have much knowledge other than an oil change. Mechanic garages, on the other hand, lift the vehicles all the way up. It’s a great opportunity to ask a mechanic to check other components like brakes, front ends, mufflers, etc. But it all depends on garages, personalities of mechanics, and relationship with them. Whichever you end up with, it’s good for you to try to do an oil change yourself once.

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Synthetic Motor Oil vs. Conventional Motor Oil

When you go to a quick lube place or mechanic garage for an oil change, you are probably asked which oil you’d like for your car. Does it simply mean you want to pay more for synthetic oil or less for conventional oil? What is exactly the difference? What’s the important factor of using synthetic motor oil vs. conventional motor oil?

image of oil change

What are Synthetic oil and Conventional oil?

Synthetic oil is artificially created engine lubricant. Some synthetic oil started with conventional oil as a base then chemically altered. And some other type of synthetic oil is created from other raw materials. Conventional oil is naturally refined from crude oil. It’s also called standard oil or mineral-based oil.

Advantages of Synthetic oil over Conventional oil

Synthetic oil is thinner, but resists high and low temperatures better, and lasts longer than conventional oil. While recommended change interval of conventional oil is 3,000 to 5,000 miles, recommended change interval of synthetic oil is around 7,500 miles.

How much do they cost?

image of amazonbasics full synthetic oil 5 quart

Synthetic oil can cost twice as much as conventional oil. However, you should take the longer interval into consideration. It can be cheaper because you don’t frequently pay the labor for oil change.

Do some cars requires synthetic oil?

Many late-models of European makes such as BMW, VW, Mercedes Benz, and Audi most likely require full synthetic oil. And newer Subaru, Honda, Toyota, and some high-performance vehicles also need to use synthetic oil. You can make sure of it by checking the owner’s manual. If the owner’s manual says synthetic oil is required, you should follow that. Otherwise, you may lose warranty coverage.

Should I use Synthetic oil or Conventional oil?

If your owner’s manual doesn’t mention about use of synthetic oil, is it still worth using synthetic oil for your car? You should consider two things.

First, how often you prefer to change the oil. If you are lazy and tend to postpone the oil change, you’d better use synthetic. As mentioned above, synthetic oil can last longer than conventional oil. A short life of conventional oil may break down while you postpone the oil change, and it may cause an expensive repair in the future.

Second, it depends where you drive. If you live in a place with extreme temperatures, you should use synthetic oil. In severe weather, high or low temperature, Synthetic oil maintains its viscosity better than conventional oil. It’s one of the reasons synthetic oil has been developed in the first place.


image of maintenance motor oil

To find out which oil is the better for your car, you should check your owner’s manual first. Then, think about climate or weather of the area you drive and take this into consideration. And also ask yourself if you are strict about the oil change interval. Regardless of choice, oil change is one of the most important maintenance jobs. You should never neglect it. It must be done regularly.

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Timing Belt Replacement Guide – read this if you DIY timing belt replacement

Timing belt is a significant role on vehicle’s engine. Unlike other belts such as serpentine, v-belt, and accessory belts, they are hidden by covers. It’s not necessary to check often. But you need to follow the recommendation of change interval on a repair manual. This post is timing belt replacement guide.

image of timing belt replacement

What is a timing belt?

A timing belt is driven by a crankshaft, and it rotates camshaft(s) in the proper sequence. The proper sequence is accomplished by aligning marks on the camshaft and crankshaft sprockets when you install a timing belt. This sequence allows the intake and exhaust valves to open and close at the exact timing along with the position of the piston.

How does a timing belt look?

image of timing belt

Timing belts are much wider than serpentine belts or v-belts. They are flat and thin, but they have teeth on one side. These teeth mesh with the sprockets of camshaft and crankshaft and rotate them all together without slipping.

When to replace a timing belt

You can find change interval of the timing belt on an owner’s manual or repair manual. It ranges from 60,000 to 105,000 miles. And a timing belt needs to be replaced when related components such as a water pump and oil pump need to be replaced. On many models, these components are driven by a timing belt, and a timing belt has to be removed when you replace these components. In this case, you have to replace a timing belt to a new one for two reasons. One of the reasons is that a lot of work has to be done to replace these components. The other reason is that a timing belt may be contaminated by water or oil and shortened its life.

What happens when a timing belt breaks

Image of bent valves

A pair of Poppet valves bent by collision with a piston after timing belt breakage at 4500 RPM

First of all, a broken timing belt can never start the engine. If a timing belt breaks when the engine is running, it may cause extensive damages to the engine. On some engine, intake valves have to be closed when pistons are at the top dead center. Otherwise, they can hit and damage each other. Whether your car has this type of engine or not, it’s wise to follow the change interval on a repair manual to avoid this incident as much as possible.

A time belt or a timing chain?

image of timing chain

Some cars use a timing chain instead of a belt. A timing chain usually doesn’t need to be replaced. If you are not sure which one your car uses, you see that in an owner’s manual or a repair manual. For your information, a cover of a timing chain is most likely metal and completely sealed. That’s because a timing chain has to lubricated by motor oil. A cover of a timing belt, on the other hand, is most likely plastic. And there is no need for sealing completely. You can even peek at a timing belt by removing a few bolts on the cover and making a room.

Tools for timing belt removal and installation

Depending on a car model, you may need special tools for timing belt removal and installation. For example, you may need a belt tension gauge, tensioner adjuster tool, crankshaft wrench tool, etc. This information is not on an owner’s manual but a repair manual. It’s important to know the tools you need and have them before starting a job.


Replacing a timing belt usually take you hours of work. Think about replacing other items because only accessing a timing belt requires a lot of works. For example, a water pump is driven by a timing belt on many car models. It highly recommends replacing a water pump as well when you replace a timing belt. Don’t forget about tools you may need for timing belt removal and installation. All the information has to be gathered from a repair manual before you start a job. This initial work will save you time in the end.

image of timing belt alignment marks

OBD Diagnostic Codes Explained

The check engine light comes on, and you can scan the vehicle’s computer and get OBD diagnostic codes. The codes don’t tell you which part is needed to replace. They just tell you that the symptom of the problem and you will need to diagnose further to determine the cause of the problem.

image of obd scan tools

The codes consist of one alphebet and 4-digit number. Without looking up the meaning of the code, you can tell some information from the alphebet and the first 2 digit.

The codes are categorized into four different types. B is for Body, C is for Chassis, P is for Powertrain, U is for Network. P-codes are responsible for check engine light. The P-codes starting with 0 are generic codes. They are standardized. It doesn’t matter which manufacturer. The code starting with 0 are the same meaning among any manufacturers. However, the P-codes starting with 1 are manufacturer specific codes or enhanced codes. These codes have a different meaning for each manufacturer. Some cheap code reader can pull out the codes but without descriptions. You will need to look up the meaning of the codes online or repair manuals.

The second digit of P-code tells you the following categories. You don’t have to memorize them, but it’s good to know that they are categorized into those systems.

  • 1 Fuel and Air Metering
  • 2 Fuel and Air Metering Injector Circuit
  • 3 Ignition System
  • 4 Emission Controls
  • 5 Vehicle Speed Controls and Idle Control
  • 6 Computer Output Circuit
  • 7 Transmission
  • 8 Transmission
image of bluedriver

Now you have a better idea of OBD diagnostic codes. You can tell which system is having the problem from the codes. Then you will have to diagnose further to narrow down the cause of the problem. An OBD scan tool called BlueDriver is a very popular OBD adapter. It is focused on vehicle diagnostics. You will get the detail of the codes and repair reports that contains possible causes and verified fixes. And it can scan enhanced codes including ABS, SRS, Transmission, TPMS, etc. With a good repair manual, you can tackle complicated OBD-related problems with confidence.

Read Also: What should you do when Check Engine Light comes on?

Gas Station Rewards Programs – Saving gas money is easy

Gas price had hiked many years ago. It’s been up and down a little, but it seems not to go back to the price from decades ago. I understand people want to complain about the price. However, complaining doesn’t lead to any solutions. If you want to save money on gas, you can do that by using one or more gas station rewards programs.

image of gas station

BP Driver Rewards

  • Earn 10 cents off per gallon for every $100 spent on BP gas
  • Redeeming the rewards are valid for a single use up to 20 gallons
  • Rewards expire 365 days after the last day of the month you earned

If you are a frequent flyer program of United Airlines, you can choose to earn rewards as miles of MileagePlus programs instead of discount on gas money. Rules as follows.

  • Earn 1 mile per gallon of BP gas purchase
  • Earn 2 miles per gallon of regular or mid-grade BP gas purchase with a debit or credit card linked with BP Driver Rewards account
  • Earn 3 miles per gallon of premium grade BP gas purchase with a debit or credit card linked with BP Driver Rewards account
  • Earn 200 bonus miles when you select MileagePlus miles as your reward type and link a debit or credit with BP Driver Rewards account
  • Redeem 60 miles per gallon for 50 cents off per gallon up to 20 gallons
  • Other benefits, expiration date, etc are subject to the rules of MileagePlus program

Sign-up is free. After the signup, you will receive a Driver Rewards loyalty card soon. But you don’t have to carry around the card and your wallet to fill up gas. It’s a trend that you can pay at the pump by using smartphones app. For BP gas stations, download and install BPme app from Google Play Store or Apple App Store.

Exxon Mobil Rewards+

  • Earn 3 points per gallon on gas purchase
  • Earn 2 points per gallon for every dollar spent in convenience store or car wash
  • Redeem 100 points for $1 off
  • Points will expire after 1 year of earning

From time to time, there are special bonus offers that accelerate your point earning. And, they have a mobile app, too. It’s called Speedpass+ app, available at Google Play Store and Apple App Store.

Shell Fuel Rewards Network

  • Earn 10 cents off per gallon for every $50 spent on participating restaurants, bars, and clubs
  • Earn 5 cents off per gallon for every $50 spent when you book flights, hotels, rental cars and vacations
  • Earn at least 5 cents off per gallon for every $50 spent when you shop online
  • Earn at least 5 cents off per gallon for every $50 spent on participating retailers
  • Earn rewards when you shop specially-marked items in convenience stores

Fuel Rewards Network is different from other loyalty rewards programs. You don’t earn reward by filling up gas. Instead, your everyday spending on somewhere else may be eligible for the rewards.

Fuel Rewards Network has two tiers Silver and Gold. Gold status offers 5 cents off per gallon every fill-up. To reach and maintain the Gold status, you only need to fill up gas 6 times within 3 months.

You can track rewards on a free app Fuel Rewards Network available at Google Play Store and Apple App Store

Speedway Speedy Rewards

  • Earn 10 points per gallon on gas purchase
  • Earn 20 points per dollar in convenience store, plus bonus points on specially-marked items
  • Earn points by shopping online
  • Many other ways to earn reward points
  • Redeem points (a minimum of 1000 points) for a variety of stuffs including a bottle of water, soda, candy, sandwich, pizza, gift cards, and XX cents off per gallon discount
  • Points will expire after 9 month of inactivity

Speedway Speedy Rewards is very unique. There are many ways to earn points and varieties of stuffs for redemption.

You can keep a track of rewards points on a free app called Speedway Fuel & Speedy Rewards available at Google Play Store and Apple App Store.


Please note that these are not the whole list of gas station rewards programs. Many rewards programs have additional ways to earn rewards such as linking grocery loyalty programs. And, they are most likely geographically limited offers. Some of them can combine earned rewards with gas stations rewards programs, and some can’t. You need to use them separately. Keep in mind that you can track rewards with a mobile app. You don’t have to carry physical loyalty cards. You will never miss an opportunity of earning rewards as long as you have a smartphone installed these apps.

Read Also: Better Gas Mileage Tips – How to improve fuel economy

Better Gas Mileage Tips – How to improve fuel economy

Many products claim you will get better gas mileage. Some of them are additives that go into a fuel tank, and some of them are magnets that are placed on a fuel line. Unfortunately, they won’t work at all. There are no such magical items. How can you improve fuel economy then? The answer may be straightforward yet effective, and you don’t have to spend any money on it. Here are some better gas mileage tips.

image of driving a car

Avoid Aggressive Driving

When you step on a gas pedal hard, a throttle gets wide open to let more air into the engine. At the same time, the vehicle’s computer sends signals to injectors to let out more fuel to meet the demands of the driver. Sometimes, hard acceleration is necessary, but not always, It’s a bad habit a driver speeds up to beat a yellow light just to get to the next traffic light. It’s more likely the next traffic light is just a couple of hundred yards away . What benefit is from it? Saving time? Not really! What you actually get is wasting gas and risk of accidents and speed camera or red light camera to trigger.

Drive Steadily, Avoid Speeding

Maintaining a steady speed helps the engine perform efficiently. And, don’t drive too fast because “sweet spot” for most passenger cars are between 30 to 50 mph, which is even lower than you might think.

image of fuel_economy_vs_speed_1997

No Unnecessary Idling

Idling doesn’t do anything but wasting gas. Unless you need to do that for warming up the engine, Just turn the key off.

Keep Your Vehicle Well-Maintained

Worn-out tires tend to use more gas than new tires because they are slippery and losing energy by slipping. Dirty air filter can’t provide enough air into the engine. That may cause a fuel-air ratio to be rich all the time and end up destroying a catalytic converter. Every component of the vehicle has to be good condition for the vehicle to perform effectively and efficiently. Ideally, they were in brand-new condition, but most of them are consumable. Thus, maintenance is important. Follow the maintenance schedule which service manuals recommend.

Read Also: Gas Station Rewards Programs – Saving gas money is easy