Let's Talk Wheels

Mike Herzing answers questions about trailers, backup cameras, and cleaning your engine

Always check and re-check the hitch.

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On his show "Let's Talk Wheels," Mike Herzing answers questions from listeners who write in. While their specific situation might not match yours exactly, there's still plenty to be learned from their experiences — and his expertise.

Dennis writes: I have a 2014 F150, and I accidentally spilled oil all over the engine when I was adding oil. It is a mess! I have always heard that you shouldn't ever wash an engine because it will cause problems. Is that still true?

Mike Herzing: Like you, I have heard the same thing for years. But keeping your engine and engine compartment clean helps you locate oil leaks and other problems when they first occur.

I wash my engine and engine compartment at least once a year. One important thing is to do it when the engine is cold. I spray the area with a degreaser first, let it sit, and then wash it. You can use a pressure washer on a low setting, but you need to be very careful and not spray the alternator, belt idler bearings, or any electrical connections. To be honest with you, I think it's probably best to just use a garden hose. Once you are finished, use an air nozzle to remove the water that's sitting. Then start the engine and let it dry itself off. Do not close the hood. That causes a condensation problem. Good Luck!

Ronnie writes: I have never towed a trailer before and just bought a small camper. Any special rules or procedures I should develop that have worked for you?

MH: Over the past 50 years, I have towed everything from a motorcycle trailer to a 40-foot flatbed to a 35-foot travel trailer, and I always start out the same way. My "walk around rule" has saved me dozens of times. First, check that all the lights are working by having someone sit in the vehicle and cycle through everything. I always re-check the tire pressure on the tow vehicle and the trailer; this is a big deal, because trailer flats really stink!

Then after checking the hitch, I always re-check it again after driving a block. If you are OCD about this like I am, you will avoid a ton of heartache.

Dean writes: I have a 2013 GMC Yukon and the backup camera screen has become blurry. How do I find out if this is a camera or screen problem? Also, could an accident have caused this problem? I had a small fender bender a few months ago.

MH: I have heard from my GM tech friends that this does happen occasionally. First, use a clean microfiber cloth to make sure the camera lens is clean. Sometimes a sharp impact (like an accident) or slamming the tailgate hard can cause the camera lens to separate. The usual repair is a replacement camera. I'd check with the body shop that did your repairs and see if they think it could be related.

For more tips from Mike, visit LetsTalkWheels.com. Be sure to subscribe to the new "Let's Talk Wheels" podcast on iTunes, Spotify, or Google Play.

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Nuts & Bolts

 
 

There's an easier way to repair hail damage

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On his show "Let's Talk Wheels," Mike Herzing answers questions from listeners who write in. While their specific situation might not match yours exactly, there's still plenty to be learned from their experiences — and his expertise.

Astrid writes: I have a 2016 Ford Explorer that has hail damage from a recent storm. My Jeep was parked next to it and has no damage. Why is this? Is the metal thinner? What is the best way to have this fixed?

Mike Herzing: The race for better fuel economy had caused car companies to make vehicles as light as possible. Your Explorer has an aluminum hood and other panels to save weight. Unfortunately, aluminum dents easily. Luckily, there is a process called paintless dent repair (PDR) that would work for you. PDR services employ body men with specialized tools and training that allow them to massage out the dents. It is the perfect repair for this type of damage. Best of all, your hood doesn't need to be re-painted. It's also cheaper, so the insurance companies love it.

Bill writes: I want to buy a new SUV, but I remember my father saying to wait a year and let the bugs get worked out. What are the pros and cons of buying a new model?

MH: That used to be the rule, but nowadays, with computer-generated simulations and a lot of road testing, most production and design problems are avoided. However, I still recommend waiting a couple of months to allow the early adopters to buy first. Once the newness wears off — and inventory builds — dealers will be ready to make some deals.

George writes: I have a 2009 Kia Sorento that has been running a little hotter than usual and is losing antifreeze. My shop tells me it has a leaking water pump. Since it has the original hoses, should I replace them even though they aren't leaking?

MH: Since you are already replacing the pump, the labor cost is almost nothing to go ahead and replace the hoses. If you plan to keep the vehicle, I recommend you use OEM parts. The price of the original parts is just a little more than aftermarket parts, and the quality is better. Hey, they lasted 11 years, didn't they?

For more tips from Mike, visit LetsTalkWheels.com. Be sure to subscribe to the new "Let's Talk Wheels" podcast on iTunes, Spotify, or Google Play.

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Stay cool this summer.

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Just like humans, cars don't like extreme heat or extreme cold. Since summer is upon us, let's talk about the maintenance you can be doing to avoid a costly breakdown.

Cooling system: One of the most common primary cause of summer breakdowns is overheating caused by a cooling system malfunction. A cooling system that isn't running at peak efficiency cannot keep the engine at the correct operating temperature. Get it flushed every 30,000 miles to ensure everything is moving smoothly.

A note for do-it-yourselfers: The most common coolant type contains ethylene glycol, which according to the EPA is toxic to humans and animals. Because of this it must be disposed of properly, so a flush might be something you should let a professional perform for you. When performing a coolant flush, the technician should also check the condition of the belts, hoses, engine fan, and thermostat. Any of these could cause a problem, so they should be inspected by a trained professional.

Oil: We all know that oil is the lifeblood of your engine, and it also provides cooling for your engine so don't overlook this important element. Replacing the oil at the OEM (original equipment manufacturer) suggested intervals is essential. It is just as important to use the oil weight and grade specified by your OEM (check your owner's manual for the requirements).

Air conditioning: Your car's A/C keeps you cool, but if it's not clean it can cause engine overheating. The A/C condenser is located right in front of the radiator and a dirty condenser can block airflow to it. As a result of emission requirements, newer engines have higher operating temperatures than engines built, say, 20 years ago. Because of this, their cooling systems must be operating at peak performance to provide the durability we have come to expect.

Overall, maintenance is the keyword to remember here. By doing a little upkeep now, your car should be running happily into the fall.

For more tips from Mike, visit LetsTalkWheels.com. Be sure to subscribe to the new Let's Talk Wheels podcast on iTunes, Spotify, or Google Play.

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