Find Out How Coke A Cola Saved A Tranny Swappers Life

Find Out How Coke A Cola Saved A Tranny Swappers Life
Coke Saved My Life!


It was a hot summer morning just before midday. I was putting the final touches on a transmission swap on a classic old HD Holden I owned. She was a beauty. Metal flake blue with really wide fake wire pattern mags on the back and smaller matching wires on the front. I had home made tramp bars on the back that showed out under the diff to stop diff hop when I did burnouts. (Yes, at this stage I was still into all that sort of thing!  Now I worry more about all those $$ left on the road..)  Which just added to the whole look. Yes, in the mid day sun that car looked a real mean machine. My latest project was fitting up a Datsun 4 speed to the original six cylinder bored 186 bored to 192. This was to be one of the final bits of work to make my old Holden a true beast and bring it into the modern era by losing the old column shift!  Yes, I had been dreaming of this project. But this was a project that taught me many lessons. To say it had complexities and hazards was an understatement.

I thought I was all ready to go with an adapter plate in hand for the tranny, so that it would fit up to my fully reconditioned engine.

What To Consider When Doing A Swap?

What did I forget about?  Did I consider that I had to change the master cylinder to make it so that the clutch plate would disengage far enough to allow for pleasant gear changes? Um no. Yes, the displacement of the slave was different to the master…  The first fit up required the driver to be a master of gear management whilst double clutching like a trucky still driving a crash box. Did I think about the clutch plate from the Japanese box looking like a ‘toy’ compared to the size of the Holden one. Of course it had to match the box spline, so there was no using the Holden plate. Not only did the damn thing slip as I tried to burn up some rubber at the track; I think I spun the middle out of 3 of those plates, before the Repco dealer of the day took pitty on me. He figured out that a Kubutz truck clutch fitted just fine and woudld take all of that new power to weight ratio I was packing, if not more. I also found I was missing the brass bush that allowed the drive spline of the box to fit the fly wheel. Yes, this one had been a saga. But, I had it to a point where all the bugs were ironed out. The other thing I completely missed was the modifying of the spline on the propellor shaft.  I actually hand reamed one for testing.  But now I had a fully engineered one to fit up.  That would get rid of the last shudder in the drive train.  (And probably be a lot safer!)  It was now shifting like a treat and I had personally blown the doors off a V8 from a standing start up to 60mph. Yes, it was now becoming a really nice drive.

The last things to do, was to tidy up the windy hole that was in the floor that had been covered up with a poorly fitting gear shifting boot. I now had a really nice one. Fit a new rear seal on the tranny.  (It was leaking from my modified tail shaft fit up.  The other thing that I thought I would tighten up; was the issue of the gear shifter hitting the metal, where I had cut a hole in the propellor shaft tunnel. So just a little work with the grinder and I was ready to fit that nice shifter booty. Yeah!

I got myself wedged into the car with the grinder sitting between the bucket seats I had fitted. I had my head down near the hole under the dash to get the right angle. I was wedged in the passenger side. Sort of sitting on the corner of the seat but with my legs in all sorts of weird positions. I was working in the farm shed so the passenger side door would not open as it was up against one wall. The only exit was via the driver side. I started to grind a way and all was going pretty well, or so I thought.

Bad Situation!

Then, there was a little wisp of smoke, nothing to really worry about, pretty normal when you are grinding. I looked down the hole to the dirt floor.  “Hmm, looks ok..”  I said to myself.  Then I made one small final cut, watching one red piece of hot metal drop to the ground.  I was admiring my grinding work thinking I was pretty well done. When I noticed the smoke did not really seem to be going away this time. I looked down the hole again, noticing that little red piece of metal sitting on one small tuft of brown dead grass. Next thing there was a tiny flame from the grass; then boom, there was a woof of flames straight up in my face.  Flames were coming out of the gear shaft hold in the floor like it was a chimney. Little did I know at that point that oil from a leaky seal had gathered under the tail shaft tunnel, along with some spray on body deadener and paint.  This combination was actually highly volatile and had caught fire. Man, this was bad. I pulled back with horror. Watching the flames start to take hold fast. It was staring to take on the internal body deadener!  Yes, in my judgement this fire was not going to stop, it was growing and would soon take over the car. I couldn’t get out. There was no easy exit. I would risk the fire catching my overalls as I would have tried to climb over all the junk I had in the way sitting on the drivers seat. I also knew that if I tried to exit, by the time I got back and did anything to douse the flames my car would be toast!  What to do!!  Think quick and be calm. It was one of those times where you are cool in the face of a bad situation. I knew I better not panic. I knew there was a way out of this. No point considering how stupid I was. That was not going to help…


Then I thought, “glove box”. I remember one of the kids left a can of coke in the car and I put it in the glove box. I remembered nagging them about leaving those things rolling around under people’s feet.  “That’s dangerous, I had lectured.  What if it gets caught under my brake foot!”  I quickly opened the glove box and there it was. I thought for a moment as the flames really started to take hold under the car and in some rags I had left there. I can’t just tip the coke on there, its not directly under, I have one shot at this. So I shook like mad. The can was already hot from the heat of the day. I pointed it down and opened the ring pull just enough for a jet of this beautiful brown foam to shoot out. I mean…really shoot. It was like a rocket. The first spray was directed onto the fire under the car taking that out in one go. I mean this stuff just worked. I then covered the hole and gave another wild shake and aimed at the tunnel and then inside the car, hitting the oil and body deadner and paint work on the floor. Done!! I couldn’t believe it. I sat back thinking how that can of coke had turned the situation around from a potential burned out and trashed car to a few sticky patches. Not to mention me with maybe some burns or maybe even worse. Yes, I think I could have been fried in there. I did need to get out as the smoke was pretty putrid. But before I did, I pulled that ring fully off and had one swig of that hot coke thanking my lucky stars. It tasted damn good.

I have always worked much more carefully from that point on in the workshop. Yes, that day taught me a lot. Kids leaving their coke cans around can be a godsend. I did stop grouching so much about that. I was a coke hater before that. But also I took a lot more care around fire safety during repairs. Having exit strategies in place and thinking about all the materials that could burn when cutting and welding. I actually went out and bought a propper fire extinguisher and kept it close to hands reach when working. But I also keep a can of coke close by too, just for luck!  PS Here is some info on fire safety in the garage!

Yes, I think that coke may have just saved my life.

Do it Yourself Automobile Repair Information

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The Top 10 Reasons Why LED’s Are Cool For Your Car Right Now!

Let’s Talk About Why LED Lights Are Awesome For Your Cars, Autos and Trailers Right Now!

LED lights are rapidly displacing the old and outdated incandescent lights in the automotive industry.

I don’t know how many, car or trailer turning indicator, brake, headlight lamps I have replaced over the years, but its a lot! In some cases for reasons unknown to me, some of vehicles I have had, seemed to have the lamps fail with such frequency it would drive me nuts! Damn, there goes low beam again, “hey mate, did you know you’ve only got one brake light??” I kept my own stock of replacement lights that would make an auto accessory store proud! When I started to see LED lights appear online I quickly grabbed some for a trailer. I must say, I was not disappointed. The benefits are significant. For some time I had watched LED’s evolve, only a few years ago they were good for electronic projects, but that’s about it. The modern LED has certaily evolved and is now a real ‘commercial’ product for all of us to benefit from.

Sure LED’s are a bit more expensive than the incandescent job at the moment.  Let’s say that the LED re-fit doubles the initial cost; for argument, let’s take a simple example of replacing say 6-7  brake light bulbs over the life of the vehicle.  Compared to a couple of retrofit LED’s.  The LED’s will likely outlive the trailer or car and ultimately save you money on globes, not counting the your time or the local garage mechanic’s labour replacing them.

Retro Fit Aftermarket LED Trailer / Truck Lights

Retrofit LED lights for vehicles and trailers are now available. Whether for personal or commercial use.  They come in numerous shapes and sizes.  Here are just a few of the aftermarket retrofits available

LED Tail Lights
LED Retrofit Trailer Truck Lights

SUV 4×4 Tail Lights

Awesome Retrofit SUV 4WD LED Brake Array

LED Front Lighting / Cool And Classy

LED Headlamp Modules
Awesome Retrofit LED Headlamp Modules


LEDs are great for tail light and turn signals. LED or light emitting diode as it is commonly referred to, is a transistor, with a nobbled substrate that produces light when current is passed through it. Basically it’s a sold state light!  They are also beginning to replace front lighting as shown above.  These lights offer a number of benefits compared to the incandescent bulbs, such as the following:

Here are some of the top ten reasons why LED’s are cool for your car right now!

  1. Significantly brighter per watt of power used
  2. Much Longer life span
  3. More cost effective over the life of your vehicle
  4. Endures harsh environments effortlessly due to the moisture proof coverings
  5. With proper heat sinking modern LED’s can run much cooler
  6. A large range of colors are available
  7. The ability to pulse at a much greater frequency
  8. Faster to switch on
  9.  Smaller and more compact in size
  10. Can be made into flexible and novel designs

Today, LED lighting equipment is available for all sorts of applications to enhance the look and visibility of the modern auto. In fact, currently LEDs can be mounted effortlessly in multiple locations, via ways that were considered not be possible for locating an incandescent light bulb. You would also need a massive power supply beyond the average automobiles power system to put out the light comparable to what is achieved by modern LED arrays.

LED lighting was used for the very first Audi R8 and Lexus LS, which demonstrated that some of  the  most prestigious auto makers are seeing the time is right to move to this revolutionary lighting tech. LED’s are popping up on more and more production vehicles.  The LED allows a tranformative look to be applied to lighting, really giving a space age look and feel. The light emitted looks cleaner, sharper and comes from seemingly impossibly small / compact locations. These lights are being used for brake lights of automobiles to enhance the design, look and feel of vehicles, but also to enhance safety features. The brightness and ability to pulse under computer control is awesome. These features of pulsing and sequencing are being used to help avoid potential accidents in fast braking or hazard situations. Yes, car makers are now implementing LED lighting as a common design feature of a vehicle’s brake lights. Maybe your vehicles have these lights in place now. But for those of us still driving older or more traditionally lit wheels, the aftermarket LED’s can be a refreshing and cool look, not to mention the low maintenance beneifts.
With every day that passes, these lights are turning up in more places. The one thing which has been an obstacle in the pathway of this LED revolution is that there has been a significantly higher cost per unit. This has certainly held back the mass producers of the average family car. What we are seeing now, perhaps only in the last few years is the ready availablity of these very new high output low wattage LED’s at what I would call the ‘tipping point’ price that makes them affordable. Often we see the aftermarket industry taking advantage of these tech innovations first. Generally, the lights which are being used for substituting the old incandescent light bulbs are an array of LEDs. This makes them easy to spot on the road. Day by day, I am noticing more vehicles with the tell tale LED array signature look. Of course the capability of these lights to give off light in several colors is one of its added and important benefits, which is rapidly transforming the automotive illumination business. The tiny sizes of the LED light bulbs allows the designer to easily hide the lighting unit, thus guaranteeing that they do not offend the external appearance of the vehicle. Yes, we are wittnessing a revolution in the making. LED’s are here to stay and coming to a car near you soon! Consider the aftermarket options now as a great retrofit for your vehicles.

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Top 5 Ways To Avoid Damaged Mags And Care For Your Wheels!

How To Avoid Damaged Mags And Care For Your Wheels!

Here are the top 5 pain points for mag /alloy/chrome damage.

1/ Alloy / Mag Wheel Curb Damage

Scenario: Your [Please substitute name here] Son / Daughter / Better Half / Buddy, drive your car and the next day you are admiring your awesome mags glistening in the sun only to see, to your horror smashed rim lips and scuffing…. Man, that hurts! The cries of; “it wasn’t me!” Will surely follow… Wow, doesn’t it suck, when you hear that curb grinding into the side of your mag?! There goes [sustitute amount here] 200 / 300 / 500 bucks worth of wheel.. The truth: Always remember that very few people will treat your car as well as you do. People will be unlikely consider how much you paid for your awesome wheels or how much it kills you to see the scrapes on those rims every time you walk up to your

Solutions: Avoid loaning your car out to others. Full stop. Try mag rim protectors.  This product is aimed at protecting you assets. The protector is a hard plastic rib that is fitted onto the rim lip to make a barrier between the curb and the wheel. It is like a last line of defense. When I first saw these things I was blown away! What a great and simple idea. For a small investment and a little time to fit them you have got some protection against the evil of CURB DAMAGED WHEELS! I don’t know who invented these things but it is a stroke of genius. Not to mention the fact that they can add another dimension to the look of your mag wheels and the car itself.

Protects Wheels Looks Great!

Check this picture out. Umm the wheels I mean!

Car Rim Protectors Colours
Colours Mag Alloy Wheel Protectors

Cool colours too!

Of course they won’t protect you from a complete curb banger driving your car, that is committed to total destruction of your rims. But they do certainly help. If you are not really handy you may want to get some help getting them fitted. An air compressor is necessary as you will need to let air your of your tires to get them on.

2/ Under inflation / Flat Tire Induced Alloy Damage

Scenario: You are looking at that tire and it looks a little low.. “Hmm’” you wonder to yourself, “I wonder if that tire is a bit low?” “I will remember to check that when I fill up next time…” Of course before you fill up there is a horrific grinding sound as you go round a corner..

Solutions: Check your tire pressure regularly. This is particularly important on modern low profile tires and wheels. Make sure you monitor it. If you have one tire loosing pressure more than others, it likely indicates a slow leak. GET IT FIXED! A slow leak will catch you out. I have found that as tires get close to the end of their tread and are nearly worn out. They are much more likely to lose the seal on the rim or get a puncture. Consider changing to a new set of rubber as soon as you feel tread is a little low. Don’t spin it out and try to get more out of the tires than you should. Often it will result in flat and potential rim damage.

3/ Cleaning Damage

Scenario: How crazy does this sound. You are a compulsive or perhaps out of the blue cleaner… But the problem is that in your zeal to make those babies shine or get rid of that last little bit of tar kills the glow!  You use just a little steel wool or what about a bit of solvent.. to get that stuff off… It will be ok…  But its not!

Solutions: There is a huge range of cleaning products available for cars and in the household. You may have a garage full of cleaners. Remember that some of the surfaces on your groovy wheels are often quite soft comparatively. For example if you have some awesome matt powder coated wheels they will not look awesome for long if you hit them with an ajax type cleaner that is full of powdered abrasives! This stuff can even take the shine right off Alloys that have been highly polished at the factory. It can be mind blowingly difficult to get that shine back again. Sure you might have removed some tar and bugs, but the wheel may have lost that sparkle. Also avoid abrasive pads or steel wool for example. If you can feel any abrasiveness on your fingers it should not go on your wheels. Likewise with solvents or caustics. Some of these cleaners are mystery bottles. Who knows what is in them really; probably only the lab that concocted the stuff. There are cleaners for chrome rims and there are cleaners for alloy rims. Make sure to select only quality products or use basic car cleaning detergents and keep it really simple. Hose off any grit first. To avoid the grit scratching your rims as you try to clean it. Get them wet early and soaped up for a good soaking. Also avoid cleaning your wheels in the red-hot sun. Find a nice shady spot. This will cause your soap and water to have no time to penetrate. Chamois are great too. Use them to enhance your shine and dry off the rims fast. If you use a rag make sure it is clean when you start. Make sure if you use a sponge it does not get grit stuck in it. If it does don’t use it.

4/ Poor Fitting Tools

Scenario: You’re on the side of the road with a flat tire. You drag out the wheel brace to remove you alloy pleased that you didn’t stuff it up by driving it flat.. Whew! But man, this wheel brace is like wrestling with a seal, its slipping and jumping. Finally you look at what you’ve done. Two-damaged wheel nuts and ding in the alloys… Bummer!

Solution: Make sure that you have the right brace for your wheel nuts. Often when we fit new wheels, we are excited and focusing on the wheels and tires, not 6 months down the track when the flat tire arises. Its right about then we find that our groovy new wheel nuts are not really quite the same as the old standard ones. Get a wheel brace that is exactly right for the new lug nuts. That will avoid a lot of heart ache damaged knuckles and possibly rims and lug nuts.

5/ Car Wash Damage

Scenario: The car is pretty clean, but I think I’ll just give it a little spruce up and whip through the car wash… “Wow, those whirly things on the side of the car hitting my rims are pretty full on!!”

Solutions: Hand washing is the best! I don’t know how many times I have thought I will try this car wash it looks really modern. Only to have my spoiler get the clear coat stripped off by the whirly brush that ripped into it. Or finding out I followed the four wheel drive club and all the spinning chamois were full of grit .. If you have a nice set of wheels don’t take the risk. Car washes can be like mechanized death for your car finish. Hand washing is best.

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My Engine Is Blowing Smoke! What Does It Mean?

My Engine Is Blowing Smoke, What Does It Mean?

So, you put the pedal down and a cloud of smoke can be seen. That’s not good. But what does it mean? Well it depends. Some small amount of smoke may not be a fatal sign in your motor, but too much can be sign things are not well.

Let’s deal with petrol or gasoline type motors and consider some of the symptoms that will help us tell how bad things are.

Firstly how much smoke is your vehicle blowing? When did you notice it?

  •  If you noticed the engine smoke in the rear view mirror. Then it can be a very bad sign. Generally there has to be quite a bit of smoke for you to see it in the rear view mirror! If it wasn’t you that noticed it and someone else has seen it and alerted you, or you saw your own car under heavy acceleration blow some black smoke, it can simply be over rich mixture. This will usually be a puff of dirty black smoke which only really shows up under heavy acceleration. The injectors or carburettor are pushing more fuel into the engine than can be easily burned all at once. This may be no real problem.

What colour is the smoke?

  • If it is blue or blue-white in colour, then it can be another not so good sign. If there is blue in the engine smoke, that means it may be produced from burning oil. Whereas if it is more of a black smoke it may be over rich mixture under heavy acceleration as outlined in the previous point.

 When did you notice the smoking motor?

  • If it is at any time the vehicle is under load or accelerating then this once again may be a not so good sign. If it also seems to get worse as the engine gets hotter. This is also not so good

How is your engine oil holding up?

  • If your oil needs topping up often and there does not seem to be a lot of fresh drips of oil on the ground after parking your car for a while. Then this is a pretty strong indication the oil is going somewhere else than on the ground.

Does the engine seem to be a bit lower in power than it used to be?

  •  If the engine seems to not quite have that same ‘zing’ as it used to, then it could be re-enforcing our oil burning concerns. An oil burning car engine will lose power generally. This can make the car feel sluggish, especially under load. Often this is most noticeable up a decent sort of hill. If it is really feeling like the vehicle is working hard getting up a decent hill, then it is a sign something is not right.

Is the engine running a bit hotter than it used to?

  • If you have a temperature gauge and it seems to have crept up from where it used to be by a few degrees then again this can be a sign we have a tired engine on our hands. Once again this heating will be more pronounced in the up a decent long hill type scenario. If you notice the gauge creeping up as you climb, when you have not noticed it before then this is a sign the motor is not performing well under load.

Is the motor making more noise than it used to under load?

  • Once again, we are on that hill and the motor seems to be clattering, or making more noise than it should every time we push it.  The smoke is there and the rattle is not good.

Does the engine fume when you open the oil filler cap?

  • This can be a good test. But of course it is not wise to do this with a hot engine. If you are not confident to do this step leave it to a professional. Start the engine up and leave it to idle. Loosen the oil filler cap gently. Then remove it completely. If you notice a lot of fumes and pressure coming out of the cap this is also not a good sign. If the fumes look contaminated with smoke too then its a very bad sign. Basically there should be very little ‘fumes’ blowing out of the motor in a motor that is in good condition. There will always be some, but there should not be a lot. Remember to fit the oil cap back in place and clean any spots of oil that may have come out with a rag. Note that the engine may stumble a little bit as you open the cap as the pressure change may affect some controls hooked up to the engine.

 How many miles or kilometres has your engine done?

  •  If you are noticing some of the other signs listed previously and your engine has done a lot of kilometres then this is a big re-enforcer to our diagnosis. If the vehicle has done quite a few hundred thousand kilometres, or a couple of hundred thousand miles. It will surely have wear. If the kilometres are under 100 thousand or under 60 thousand miles and the vehicle has been well serviced; never run out of oil, then it would be very strange for it to have an oil burning issue. If your vehicle has done a lot of work and is showing other signs mentioned then it may be at the end of its life.  It is important to note that you only have to let the engine oil run low once to cause catastrophic damage to the motor.  This hardly seems fair.  But it is the case.

 What will a mechanic do to test and confirm my concerns?

  • A mechanic has a device that can test the compression of a motor or engine. Basically the compression tester goes in one of the spark plug holes and as the motor is cranked by the starter motor it will show the pressure build up in the cylinders. A loss of compression from the standards laid down by the manufacturer for the motor in your vehicle, will tell the mechanic how badly worn things are. This is usually pretty accurate as far as a test of the engine wear goes.

To sum up, let’s say that our engine is blowing blue smoke under acceleration, it does seem sluggish up hills and seems to be getting hot too. When the oil filler cap is removed there are visible fumes blowing out with some pressure. Ok, so now with this set of questions answered we can pretty safely say, we have an oil burning engine on our hands.

Why does the engine or motor smoke?

The engine relies on very precise tolerances between operating parts. It needs oil between all these moving parts too. This avoids the motor seizing or locking up due to friction. But you can imagine that if over time, due to wear, the gaps between these parts gets a bit too wide we can get an issue where oil ends up where it should not be in large quantity. Such as in the combustion chamber. You can imagine that if we put oil on a fire we are going to get smoke! So what happens is the oil in a worn motor is allowed to pass by things like valves and piston rings. This allows it to get into the combustion chamber and with each firing of the fuel air mix the excess oil gets turned to smoke. The harder you work the motor the worse this gets. It can often be called bypass. Not only does the oil bypass the seals, but also the pressurised gas. This also means that the pressure can flow back into the crank case and up into the rocker covers. If you did the check of removing the oil filler cap. Then you may have seen those fumes. The ones that bypass the sealing engine parts such as the valves and pistons.

The two illustrations below show in very simple graphic terms where the oil and pressure bypass the worn parts.

Oil Bypasses Worn Rings And Valve Stem Seals

Oil In The Engine By-Passes Seals And Piston Rings
Oil In The Engine By-Passes Seals And Piston Rings

Hot Gasses Bypass Worn Valve Stem Seals And Rings

Hot gasses bypassing worn rings and valve stem seals
Hot Gasses Bypassing Worn Rings And Valve Stem Seals


What can I do about this problem?

It is possible through diagnosis to find that the valve stems are worn according to the graphic but the piston rings seem ok.  Or vice versa. Some mechanics may advise getting the head reconditioned as a cost effective option. This can be a very short term fix. What can happen is that the reconditioned head which now has the full seal back pushes the pressure right up to where it should be. But due to the bottom end and rings not being put back to standards, the extra pressure now starts to bypass the old rings. Even if it was not doing that before. This is due to the old rings not really bypassing that much under the low pressure of the worn and tired valves keeping the pressure extra low. So often what happens if one part of the motor is re-built is that the other will fail due to the extra pressures being placed on it by the reconditioned parts. The best options are to either recondition all parts of the motor. Or alternatively get a replacement used engine that has plenty of miles/kilometres left on the clock.  Here is a great place to buy used engines with plenty of miles left on the clock.

Anything short of these two solutions will usually come back as another problem in the near future. Please also see the section on fitting a replacement engine for other useful tips about the cooling system etc.

Having tried many short cuts over the years, I can vouch for how much money I have wasted not doing the job correctly from the start. If the motor is showing that it is an oil burner then it is really a terminal engine and is needing to be replaced or given an extensive reconditioning.

Why not just keep driving?

Well often you can for a while. But remember the EPA (Environmental Protection Authority) or RTA (Road Traffic Authority) may think otherwise. In many states, it is encouraged to report offenders. So it is probably only a matter of time before you get caught and end up with a fine.

Beside the penalty for being a polluter there is also the issue of pollution to the environment at a real and moral level. The more people that make sure they have an engine in good working condition in their vehicles, the less pollution we have. This will help us all minimise damage to our shared air quality and cut the detrimental effects to human health. So consider all these things when you are working out what to do with your old smokey.

If you put a replacement power plant in, you will often feel the joy of driving a fully powered vehicle again. Often we don’t realise how much power the old work horse has lost. With a freshly replaced well performing engine, driving can become a joy again. Not to mention avoiding having to stop constantly and check that fast diminishing oil level!

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Diagnosing Car-Auto Motor-Engine Knock Motor-Engine Pinging For Your Car-Auto. Do I need a new motor-engine?

Replace My Car Or Auto Engine / Motor? Understanding Pinging, Knocking & Other Sounds in my engine.

This post is applicable to petrol and gas / LPG  engines.  (The diagnosis of diesel engines is different and will be the subject of a further blog post.)

So there is a strange noise in your car-auto engine or motor?  Perhaps you had heard it before but wanted to ignore it?  A noise like this can be very annoying.  It is possible to diagnose what is going on, with some understanding of the the sound and what the various sounds may mean.  Let’s go through some of the noises and their possible cause and solutions.

So what does the engine-motor noise sound like?

Not all engine knocking sounds are the same.  It’s a little bit like when your doctor listens to your chest for the sound of the heart.  It’s exactly the same principle.  The doctor is listening for tell tale sounds that may indicate the heart mechanics, including valves, are not opening and closing as they should be.  How amazing is that?  A skilled ear can make quite an accurate diagnosis!  So what does a skilled ear listen for when diagnosing an engine knock.  If you imagine that there can be a tonal scale to the knock and its like tuning a piano.  There are keys that are high pitched and there are low pitched or deep sounding keys.  With various problems in a motor that cause a knock there is also the very high pitched metallic sound right down to a dull hard knock.  We are going to categorise these sounds into two possible categories and keep this at the basic level:

  1. Knocking

  2. Pinging

Knocking implies a much stronger sound.  A mechanic that might say that an engine has an ‘engine knock’ is referring to a strong sound almost like you were hitting a very solid metal object with an equally hard metal hammer.  If the sound is like that; very low in tone, it could be a very bad sign.  This indicates that the engine has something possibly going very wrong.  An engine has a lot of moving parts, they are covered in a film of oil where they come into close contact.  The parts must also have the correct tolerances to function properly.  If something starts to fail, it will usually be associated with some kind of warning sound.  Here are some of the possible points of failure in an engine that will often cause a ‘knock’:

  • Big end bearing failure

  • Engine oil pump failing

  • Wear gets to a point that engine oil pressure cannot be maintained

  • Valve sticking and hitting the piston

  • Broken piston or valve

  • And of course many others

So as we can see there are lots of points for failure.  Any one of these, will generally be associated with a pretty definite engine sound.  Usually something broken will sound pretty loud and become more pronounced under revs even with no load.  Usually getting much, much worse as you pedal the accelerator.  Of course there is cases where these sounds are not so pronounced even in a motor that is failing.  But generally they get worse progressively and without too much time.  If you start hearing a dull, deep knocking sound in any motor the first thing you should do is look for any engine warning signals on your interment cluster.  Immediately stop the motor.  Once stopped, you should check the engine oil level carefully.  If you are driving, of course pull over where it is safe to do so.  The procedure for this is important to get a good reading of your oil level, don’t short cut it as it is possible to think your oil is good when it is indeed low:

Stop the engine

  1. Pull the dipstick

  2. Clean it or all oil, with a lint free rag (Observe the high and low points on the stick for future reference, they are usually stamped into the stick)

  3. Insert the dipstick and count to 10

  4. Pull it out again carefully without touching any part of the car or your hand on the reading end

  5. Check the low and high points for oil mark

If the oil is not bang on the high point, add oil in small amounts to get it to the high point following steps 1-5 until it is exactly on the right mark.  NEVER over fill the engine with oil!  It can damage the motor.

If the engine oil was too low, it can cause the knocking noise.  It can also do major damage to the engine.  So if that was the problem, you need to get the engine checked out for the following:

  • Leaking gaskets

  • Wear, creating bypass where the oil gets burned up or blown out in smoke

If the oil level is ok and the knock is still there.  Then there may still be some other major problem.  If the knock is getting progressively worse or perhaps is worse under load then these may also not be good signs.  It is best to get the engine checked out by a professional.   If you are pretty sure that you need a replacement engine then you can check out our preferred suppliers on our partner page to get some help.  This company has a lot of low mileage engines car parts and are happy to help.

What if the sound is not so loud and is not so low in tone?  If it almost sounds like the hammer is a much lighter one and it is tapping very fast on aluminium.  If this sound is also not always there, but can be heard under load or high revs.  It can be something quite different.  It may be ‘pinging’.

It can be a big mistake to over react to pinging.  So let’s summarise the sounds and conditions of pinging.

The sound is more like a higher pitch tap of light metal on metal.  It can even sound like something is rattling or lose in the motor.  It can be much worse under higher revs and under load.  It may be completely non existent at low revs with no load on the engine.  The sound may also get worse as the engine runs in very hot conditions.

So what is pinging caused by?

The pistons in the engine are forced down in the cylinders by the explosion of fuel within the cylinders.  The idea is that the triggering of this explosion at the right time is critical to the motors proper functioning.  You can imagine what would happen if the explosion happened too soon?  It causes the rising piston to hit a wall of gasses.  This is called pre-ignition.  In simple terms causes the piston to ‘rattle’ in the bore and slap the sides of the metal bore as it rattles.  It results in pinging.  What causes this?

Here is a picture of what is going on inside the motor.

Pinging caused by pre-ignition

In general a couple of things:

  1. Poor quality fuel

  2. Bad engine timing

How much of an issue is poor quality fuel?

Well it’s a big one, if you are located in Australia like me.  The quality of fuel we get is massively variable.  This can be a clue to your problem.  If you recently filled up your fuel tank, then very close to this event the ‘pinging’ started; it is a dead give away.  Often we get fuel that has been sourced from lower quality sources.  These fuel sources may have lower ‘octane’ levels than what your car can handle.  This can lead to pinging.  The other thing can be accidentally putting the wrong fuel into your car.  Some cars are mean’t only to be run on the higher octane or premium fuels.  This will cause these higher specification engines to have difficulty adjusting to the lower octane fuels.  (Octane level is in simple terms how much explosive force in the fuel.  The higher the octane, theoretically the higher the energy output for the same amount of fuel.)

Not all engines are the same.  Some are far more prone to this engine pinging issue.  For example, I have a BA Ford Fairmont and this vehicle is very prone to the affects of pre-ignition or pinging, when it gets bad fuel and when its a very hot day.  This combination seems to really bring on the issue.  It is nearly impossible to accelerate and put the car under load without hearing some pinging.  The car has been for multiple tune-ups and it seems that the engine is not able to adjust its computer enough to correct the ignition to the right point.  Ideally pinging should not be left unattended to.   Obviously if your pistons are rattling in the bores constantly there is damage done to the motor.  The engine will also not be developing full power.  So get the engine looked at by a professional mechanic. Or of course change your fuel if you think that could be the cause.  I would also encourage you to experiment with various fuel providers.  If you have a vehicle you think may need high octane fuel, make sure you give it only that.

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