Car has been sitting almost a year, Want to get it working again

  • 2 POSTS
  • 2.2L
  • 4 CYL
  • FWD
  • 121,000 MILES

Hey guys,

My car has been sitting outside my driveway since late December due to bad weather, so it been around 10-11 months. I'm not really sure on how to properly start my vehicle. Should I just go ahead and try to see if it works? I read online that the gasoline in there is probably bad now, so I'm scared of starting it unless I take out the gas first. I also replaced the battery in my vehicle. When I put the key in, the electrical system started to work again. The power window in the rear however dropped down and wouldn't go back up again. I took apart the door panel, and it looks like the wires connected to the motor are frayed. Its been about 2-3 weeks since I connected the fresh battery. I'm hoping that by me taking off the negative cable I'd be saving the battery from draining until I'm able to start the car up. Will that work?

For the gas, I have about 3/4 of a tank filled. I would like to drain all of it out and put fresh gas in it. So far I have tried sticking a clear vinyl tube down the fuel neck but it didn't go all the way through, so I think this car has one of those anti-siphon security features, either that or I'm doing it wrong. What are the other ways of draining a fuel tank?

Other methods of draining the fuel tank I have found online are to either put a tube on the valve of a fuel rail and turn the car to the On position in the ignition to activate the fuel pump and continue to do so until all the gasoline has been siphoned out, or an alternative method would be to access the gas from where the fuel pump is located. Are these methods right for my car? My fuel filter is located under the hood of my car. Is the fuel rail near that area?

I'm also thinking about changing the fuel filter. The directions say that I have to release the fuel pressure first but I'm scared of starting my engine with the bad gasoline after I pull the fuel pressure fuse from inside the fuel box. Is this something I should be worried about?

The coolant level in my car also completely drained, so I refilled it with a 50 50 solution. Is this bad?

What is the proper way of getting my car up and running again?

Do you
have the same problem?
Sunday, September 21st, 2014 AT 9:54 AM

3 Replies

  • 29,775 POSTS

You are seriously over-thinking this. Just put the battery in, start the engine, and drive the car. I have a 1980 car with 45,000 miles, and a carburetor, and a 1993 model with 4,600 miles and fuel injection. Both of them have gas that's over five years old because I drive them so little, and they start and run fine. The one thing I would be a little concerned with is running gasohol if it's going to sit a long time because mold lives and grows on that alcohol.

If you are determined to get the old gas out, punch a hole in the bottom of the gas tank. (I'm being sarcastic; don't do that). The fuel pump will only run for about one second after you turn on the ignition switch so to pump the gas out, you'd have to turn the ignition switch off and back on thousands, or probably millions of times. Wear gloves because you're going to get a blister on your thumb.

The pump shuts off as a safety measure on all cars. If it ran with just the ignition switch on, you'd have a major fire hazard if a fuel line got ruptured in a crash. Raw fuel would get dumped onto the ground. Instead, the pump will only run when the Engine Computer sees engine rotation, (cranking or running). To make the pump run continuously, find the fuel pump relay and bypass that. Then you'll have to figure out where to get the gas out, then what are you going to do with it?

You also have to consider that anything that is going to become plugged from the old gas, is already plugged. Draining the old gas isn't going to solve that. Also, no matter how much gas you pump out, you'll never get what's in the fuel lines and injectors out, so you'll have fresh new gas in the tank, and the same stuff in the injectors that you thought you removed. Your engine might be hard to start unless you hold the accelerator pedal down 1/4", but that isn't related to the gas. That would be due to the Engine Computer losing its memory when the battery was disconnected. That will usually resolve itself from normal driving when the computer relearns the characteristics of some of the sensors.

All service manuals tell you to release the fuel pressure when working on the fuel system as a liability issue. Professionals don't have time to do that when customers are paying us by the hour. We pull the hoses off the filter and just let that couple of tablespoons of fuel spray onto the floor. The excitement is about the same as pressing your finger over the faucet on your kitchen sink for half a second. Consider than in a lot of service manuals, the first step listed for almost any repair procedure is to:"disconnect the battery". It's almost so laughable that you must disconnect the battery first to replace a wiper blade. The concern is protecting the manufacturer from liability involving stupidity. If someone gets hurt and they threaten a lawsuit, one of the questions will be. "Did you follow the listed procedures"? If you didn't disconnect the battery, you didn't follow procedures. "Case dismissed".

It's kind of the same with fuel pressure except you have to add common sense to the story. Common sense tells you fuel is going to spray out, but it's not so well known that not very much is going to spray out. On a lot of filters, depending on how the hoses or pipes are attached, the leakage will eliminate the pressure before you get the fittings completely removed, so the worst damage is that some gas dribbles down your arm.

For the power window, there is one motor and two wires that are used to run it in both directions. If the window moves one way, the motor and wires are okay. In the past, to have a window not move the second way could only be caused by a defective switch. The confusing part is for a passenger window, it can be either the driver's switch or that passenger's switch that is bad. Often one switch will run the window both ways and the other switch will only run it one way. That means nothing in determining which switch is bad. Both switches actually have four switches built in to each one. Two of the four switches are used when that switch button is pressed, and two of them are used when that switch is released and the OTHER switch is pressed. That means both switches have to work for the window to move, and the window will be dead in one direction if EITHER switch has a burned contact.

We can tell with voltage readings which switch is causing the problem, but for the typical car owner it's faster to just get a pair of used switches from a salvage yard and plug them in to see which one solves the problem.

There is a second potential cause of a window to not move one way on newer cars. Most manufacturers have gone to really cheap and flimsy cable driven assemblies with plastic pulleys that crack. If the cable becomes frayed, it can get wrapped around stuff and tangled, preventing smooth movement. The clues here are you'll hear scratching noises or at least some attempt to move. If it's quiet and smooth going down, and there's no noise at all when trying to go up, it's not a cable issue.

Your coolant is supposed to be 50 percent water and 50 percent antifreeze, but the question is, where did the old stuff go?

Disconnecting the battery will stop it from draining over time although it can still self-discharge over long periods. I start my 1980 car once a year and the battery has always been strong enough to not need a jump-start. It's a different story on newer cars with all their computers. Most of them draw a small amount of current to maintain their memories. Unless the manufacturer specifies differently, the industry standard is a good, fully-charged battery will still be strong enough to start the engine after sitting for three weeks. In actual practice it's fairly common to find it can sit for four or five weeks, but that's starting to get a little optimistic.

You might consider getting a small 2-watt solar charger that can be plugged into the cigarette lighter if the car is going to sit for long periods regularly. You have to check though that the lighter works with the ignition switch off. If it doesn't, the solar charger won't feed the battery either. Then you have to connect the charger right to the battery. The biggest harm in disconnecting the battery is it's fairly common to blow multiple fuses when you reconnect it. That's due to the current surges from those computer memory circuits charging up. Most of the time you just pop in a new fuse and everything works, and that should be the case with a 2001 model. As the cars get newer from there, manufacturers have started to built in tricks where computers will lock up, and you have to get the car to the dealer to have them unlock them. If that were to happen, it would happen from disconnecting the battery, not from simply blowing some fuses.

Was this
Sunday, September 21st, 2014 AT 9:27 PM
  • 2 POSTS

Hey caradiodoc, thank you for taking the time to answer my question

I separated my questions into different categories:
fuel tank drain, coolant leakage, power window motor, and water leakage.

Fuel Tank Drain

From what I have read online, there seems to be three options, drain the tank, top the tank off with high octane gas or to simply drive it and burn it off like you suggested.
If draining the fuel tank is a possible DIY task, I would like to try to do it. It would really put me at ease knowing that the engine is using fresh gasoline rather than running into the possibility of clogging the engine with 3/4 worth of old gasoline. But then again I'm not a mechanic and am only beginning to understand how my car works and how to take care of it. When I was reading the instructions in the service manual on how to remove the fuel tank, step 3 says to drain the fuel tank. This was preceded by disconnecting the neg battery terminal and relieving the fuel pressure. Because of this I feel like there has to be some proper and not too difficult method of draining the fuel tank. I'm just not sure how to do it. I also saw a Youtube video of someone siphoning their car from under the hood. Would I be able to this in order to drain my car?

I have a bottle of STP fuel injector cleaner that I would like to use in the gas. I also read online that there is also a chance that there would be water in my tank due to the cold weather. Should I purchase Heet to take care of condensation in the fuel tank, if any, and use it along with the fuel injector cleaner?

I can't legally drive the car right now. I was hoping to fix the car and make sure that it can run first and then go to the DMV afterwards. Would I be able to perform most of the fixes without driving the car?

Coolant Leakage

My heater core was bypassed previously. What happened was that my car overheated due to a coolant loss probably from a rupture from something I hit as I was driving on the road. I stopped the car, waiting for the engine to cool down and added water to it. I drove the car to the nearest gas station to add in more coolant. After I drove another short distance, the coolant was leaking again. I had the vehicle towed to a repair shop, where the radiator, thermostat, hoses were all replaced. The mechanic also told me that the heater core might be cracked and suggested a heater core bypass, since at the time, I was living in a warm area where the car heater wasn't necessary at all. Since then, I have moved to an area where the winter is pretty cold, so I need to get the heater core fixed.

During this past winter, I idled my car twice to keep my car warm because I thought that would help maintain it. The car took a while to warm up on the temperature gauge. Like 5-10 minutes I think? Could this be a possible reason why I experienced coolant loss?

I also discovered that the floor under the steering wheel was wet. I dried this area up several times. The first time it was coolant and water mixture. Now I think its completely water if it rains on my car.

Power Window Motor

When I first turned the car on, I tried to roll up and down the power windows from the driver console. The one on the rear right went down a bit but wouldn't go down any further and wouldn't go back up either. I later tried to use the console specific to that window, and it made clicking sounds every time I hit the switch. I played around with it, and manually slid the window up and hit the up switch on the control to see if they would connect. Later the motor completely went silent. I opened up the door panel, and found out that the motor wires were frayed, so I think it's a cable issue like you said.

The windows were working just fine before the winter. Was it cause of the bad weather that damaged the mechanism? and why did it only affect that particular window and not the other ones?

I purchased a Innova 3300 multimeter from Walmart. Would I be able to use this to check the switches like you were talking about? I'm not really sure how to use it.

Water Leakage

I think water is able to get into my car past the vehicle doors weatherstripping. If I spray the weatherstrip with some silicone, would that make the doors watertight again? Or would I have to replace the weatherstrip with new weatherstrips?

These are the steps I would like to take:

- Drain the gas. Refill it with fresh gas. Dump a bottle of STP Fuel Injector Cleaner along with some Heet.
- Change the fuel filter to catch the clogs? Is that how it works?
- Change the motor oil and oil filter. Should I do this before or after starting the car up?
- Top off power steering fluid.
- Start the car up, if it starts, yay, if it doesn't its the alternator/starter at fault right? in which I should replace parts as necessary?
- Hook up OBD II bluetooth and launch the free Android Torque app and see if there are any error codes
- Look at the coolant level when the car is idling, see if reservoir is losing coolant. Should I have the car professionally flushed? I was also thinking about getting a UV light/dye from the store to try to see the leak. Is this a good idea? Also I have been reading about a chemical called KSeal, would this chemical work on my car?
- Once the car is able to start and the cooling system is okay, the car should be fine right? All I have to do is worry about the braking system in order for the car to properly drive?
- Look at braking system, replace brake rotors and pads for all 4 wheels. Possible brake bleeding?
- Change power window motor/regulator
- Uninstall seats and dashboard panel, Install heater core. Re-install panel and seats. Since the heater core has been replaced, how would I go about undoing the bypass and installing the heater hoses?
- Use some type of spray to make the door seals watertight.

Tools I have:
192 piece Craftsman mechanic set
the tools needed to take off a door panel
Jack Stands, Creeper, and 2 wheel chocks
two 5 gallon gas cans, one 2 gallon gas can,
clear 20' vinyl tube

I attached some pictures that I found in the manual. After all of this is done, my car should be okay right? Thanks again for all your help.

Was this
Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014 AT 12:56 PM
  • 29,775 POSTS

Oh my. You sound like my cousin. Most of what you want to do is a waste of time and no professional would do it, but if it will make you sleep better, I'll give you the short version. I could type a chapter on each item.

You'll never get all of the old gas out, but to do that you'll need to use the pump to pump it out. If you want to drain it from the test port on the engine, as you described earlier, you can't just throw a hose on it. There's a valve in the center that has to be pressed, just like on a tire valve. How are you going to press it if there's a hose over it? You could unscrew that valve core, but I've never done that so I don't know if it's just like a tire valve and if the same tool will work. I don't know of any mechanic who ever tried to do that.

The next best thing is to remove a hose from the fuel filter. The filter is along one of the frame rails on the side of the car. Quick-connect fittings are used. You push the hose further onto the filter, squeeze the two plastic locking tabs, then pull the hose off. If you had the ignition switch turned on within the last few weeks, there will be pressure in there and some fuel will spray out. We wear safety glasses just out of principle, but if you don't, just hold a rag over the hose. The fuel will be done spraying within a few seconds.

Now you need to power the fuel pump so it will pump the fuel into your cans. The easiest way to do that is to remove the fuel pump relay and insert a jumper wire, like a stretched-out paper clip, between two terminals. Look on the relay to see if they labeled the terminals. You will typically find numbers 85, 86, 87, and 30. You need to connect 30 and 87. Be aware that fuel pump motors are cooled by the gas they sit in so if you run the tank empty, there's a risk of overheating the pump and damaging it. That can show up as a warped housing that causes intermittent no-starts weeks or months later, and is more common in real cold weather.

Pumping the fuel out at the filter won't remove the fuel in the line from that point up to the engine, so any mold growing in it won't be removed. The most effective remedy is to do nothing because your car uses a fuel pressure regulator on the engine, and a return line to the gas tank. As soon as you start the engine, about a gallon of gas per minute is pumped through the filter, the regulator, and gets dumped right back into the tank. That means all the fuel, even the stuff you can't drain out, is going to go through the filter hundreds or thousands of times before a tiny little bit veers off to go through the injectors and into the engine. The more you run the engine, the more the fuel is going to get filtered. Any mold or other debris will get trapped in the filter, then you can replace that at the next scheduled service.

Your fuel filter looks similar to a Chrysler filter. It is very common for Chrysler filters to last the life of the vehicle unless they get so old they rust out and start to leak, like mine did when it was 20 years old. Also, you will never solve a running problem by replacing their filters, except on any diesel truck. Even if some mold did have time to start growing in your gas, it's not going to be nearly enough to plug the filter.

When you get the gas out, give it to me and I'll run it in my van. As I mentioned, I have a '93 Dodge Dynasty I bought new. I drove it a total of 600 miles the first year, a total of 4,400 miles the next ten years, then I parked it until this summer. I put a new battery in it, started it up, and drove it another 200 miles. I don't drive it much for the silly notion it is so comfortable that I don't want to wear it out. I've never found another car I liked so much, and if I wear it out, I won't be able to replace it. I put a half a tank of gas in it three or four months ago, but otherwise, the old gas was at least five years old. It runs fine.

As for the additives in a can, forget that nonsense. Injector cleaners are concentrated versions of the detergents already found in even the cheapest gasoline. If you wash your hands with soap, they won't get any cleaner if you use the entire bar. What you need is in the gas you buy, and adding more isn't going to do anything. There's not that much that needs cleaning.

There's three places where fuel-related running problems occur. One is at the very fine screens where the fuel enters an injector. Stuff collects there and stays there forever. If gas can't through that debris, it won't get through the screen on the injector either. I have yet to remove an injector and find it blocked with debris.

The second place is at the nozzle where the fuel sprays out. If any debris were to make it that far, it would fall out and get burned harmlessly in the engine. What is a bigger concern is varnish buildup that can block the nozzle and affect the spray pattern. Varnish is a byproduct of heating gas. The more gas that flows through the injector, the more varnish will build up. All gas today has real good detergents to combat that so it isn't much of a problem anymore. There are some professional cleaning systems that involve disabling the car's fuel pump, then they run the engine just on a can of very concentrated detergent for about 20 minutes. GM owners are most likely to notice an improvement in engine performance, but for the rest of us, it's money wasted.

Even the fuel spray pattern isn't a bid deal anymore, and few mechanics are even aware it used to be a problem. Some engines had a cold running problem caused by "puddling" where the cold fuel would condense into droplets on the back of the cold intake valves. Liquid gas does not burn. It goes out the tail pipe, wasted. That's why we used to use a choke on engines with carburetors. We dumped in WAY too much fuel in hopes a large enough percentage would vaporize and burn. Puddling, which caused an irritating stumble, or hesitation on acceleration when the engine was cold, was solved by raising fuel pressure from around 14 psi to over 50 psi, and changing the angle the gas sprayed into the intake manifold. We don't even discuss that anymore because no manufacturer has that problem.

Keep in mind too that people go to jail, they travel around the world, or they join the military to protect us, and when they come home a year or two later, they charge the batteries in their cars, and they drive them. You're worried way more than anyone about the gas issue.

The third area of concern is that carbon can accumulate on the throttle blade and cause running problems. I've never actually fixed a car for that myself, but it's apparently common enough that I read about it quite often. That's not an issue of OLD gas. It's an issue with gas, period. And even that is less common now with better formulations and additives. Chrysler used to have a problem with an air passage getting blocked by carbon that formed from condensed fumes after the engine was stopped. I cleaned those passages on a few vehicles in the early '90s, but I haven't seen that problem for a long time, again, thanks to the better additives. Younger mechanics don't even know that used to be a problem.

Don't waste your money on Heet. If you think that is necessary, I have two or three bottles here that are over 20 years old. Heet is alcohol, and it absorbs moisture in the gas tank. The moisture doesn't magically disappear. It just gets dissolved into the alcohol so it can go through the engine. The engine can't run on water, but it can run on the alcohol. If you're worried about water in the gas, where exactly did it come from? The water some people worry about comes from the humidity in the air that goes into the tank as the gas is used up. If the car has been sitting, the engine wasn't running, no gas was used, no air went into the sealed tank, and no more moisture went in. Running the engine like normal is when the moisture comes in, and when was the last time you saw someone sitting on the side of the road in a pile of tears because there was so much water in their gas that the engine wouldn't run?

Guess what's in our gas today? Alcohol. Up to ten percent ethanol. When you buy ten gallons of gas, you might get up to a gallon of alcohol, and you want to add more? Your comment about high-octane gas also involves misinformation. Gasoline has a specific amount of BTUs per gallon, and no more. To get a different amount of power, you'd have to switch to diesel, or butane, (I'm guessing), or propane, (I'm just trying to make a point). There is nothing you can add to gas to make it produce more power. The problem with any fuel is when you squeeze it, just like air in an air compressor, it gets hot. All the BTUs of heat are crammed into a smaller space, so the temperature goes up, ... A lot. We rely on that heat to ignite diesel fuel, but we control that by spraying it into the engine at a very precise time. We don't have, or need that precision with gasoline. That's where spark timing becomes critical. The problem is we're still squeezing the gas and making the temperature go up, AND we're putting it into a space that's already real hot. It can self-ignite just from the high temperature, and when that happens, we can't control when the burning starts. When that occurs too late, the engine will have very low power and high emissions. To prevent that, we use a spark plug to light the mixture off. When that self-ignition occurs too soon, it starts a flame front moving from one molecule of fuel to the next one, and it travels across the top of the piston. Eventually it bangs into a second flame front started by the spark plug somewhere else and you hear that as a knock or ping. Lighting the mixture too soon can also cause the rapidly-expanding gas to try to push the piston down backward before it has reached top dead center. That can be damaging to the pistons and bearings.

To prevent these knocking problems we add or modify the additives to adjust the octane rating. Those additives make the gas harder to ignite, so it will only ignite with a spark plug, not from the heat in the engine. This is where the common misconception comes in. A lot of people think higher octane gas PRODUCES more power, and their reasoning is it is used in high-performance cars. Well, if you think about this logically, that means you could turn any engine into a high-performance one just by using high-octane gas. Everyone would do that and no one would buy regular gas.

The truth is, higher-octane gas allows engineers to design an engine to produce more power. That is done mainly by increasing the compression ratio. The air and vaporized gas is squeezed tighter than normal, and that raises its temperature more than normal. Self-ignition becomes a bigger problem, and a higher octane rating prevents that. High-octane gas is simply harder to ignite, but the spark from a spark plug is still sufficient to overcome that. It is the design of the engine that produces the increased power, not the octane rating of the gas. If you are worried about a running problem related to fuel quality, you want the lowest octane gas you can find because it is the easiest to make burn.

To comment about, " This was preceded by disconnecting the neg battery terminal and relieving the fuel pressure", if I didn't mention it already, darn near every procedure in the service manual starts with "disconnect the battery". That's so when you get hurt and try to sue the manufacturer, they'll ask if you followed the procedure, and if you didn't disconnect the battery, you didn't follow procedure, and they're not responsible. What exactly are you going to prevent by disconnecting the battery? There's no voltage going to the fuel pump or fuel gauge sending unit when the ignition switch is off, and if you turn the switch on, it's pretty likely you're doing some test that requires the battery. If you're doing something that doesn't require the battery, just leave the ignition switch off.

I don't know about your manufacturer, but most of them tell you to relieve fuel system pressure by disconnecting one fuel injector, then connecting it to the battery with a pair of small jumper wires. Doing that will dump that fuel into one or two cylinders where it will wash down the cylinder walls and wash the oil film off. The resulting dry startup later will cause a lot of wear, and the raw gas that runs into the oil will reduce the oil's lubricating properties. If a mechanic actually followed that procedure, there's a good chance he would not get fired for wasting time, but he could sure be expected to not be very productive or earn a good income for himself and his employer. I'm not proposing we ignore safety rules and procedures, but if we followed every step outlined by the manufacturers, we'd get half as much work done in a day and we'd have to charge twice as much per hour. What YOU should do is follow the instructions until you learn shortcuts AND you understand why they won't cause a safety concern. The service manual instructions have to be written to protect all of us from lawyers, and to insure the dumbest among us don't hurt themselves.

For my last word on fuel, go out and drive the car. If there is a running problem related to the gas, it's already there and draining and refilling isn't going to solve anything. If there isn't a running problem, you risk breaking quick-connect fuel fittings, having a connection that doesn't seal properly, and you end up with a leak and a fire hazard, overheating the fuel pump, or at a minimum, you wasted a lot of time. I mentioned I have two cars with five-year-old gas, and all I do is drive one once a year without even having to charge the battery first. I can also share that we had over 50 donated cars at my community college for students to work on, but we regularly used only about a dozen of them. The rest might go years without being started, but when we did, we carried a battery out to them, started them, and drove them away. There was never any thought given to fuel age or quality.

It does sound like the heater core is leaking based on your observation of liquid on the floor, but the question is why that happened. If you hit something that punctured the radiator, there couldn't be any pressure in the system. With no coolant the engine would overheat but nothing would happen to the heater core. There's no pressure and there's no more coolant going to it. Even if there was, the core is expected to handle hot coolant. I can only suggest two possible causes but it doesn't matter. It's leaking and it has to be fixed. The typical cause of a leak is corrosion. That is prevented by replacing the antifreeze every two years. Antifreeze is alcohol, and it will always be alcohol, but it's the water pump lubricants, seal conditioners, and corrosion inhibitors that wear out. It's normal for acids to form in the coolant and that's what leads to corroded metal parts and the need to get new antifreeze in with its fresh additives. In general your car is too new to have a corroded heater core, but that IS common on some other brands, and in fewer years.

My only other guess is the impact from hitting something pushed on the radiator and momentarily caused the system pressure to go so high that it blew out the heater core before the radiator cap had time to relieve that pressure. That would be a stretch, but if someone smarter than me determined that was the cause, I'd have no reason to doubt them.

Overheating, regardless of the cause, and a leak are the only things that will cause a loss of coolant. If idling the engine to warm it up caused that, you'd see green or red puddles on the ground all over the place. Idling an engine for extended periods is normal operation, and cooling systems are designed to handle normal operation.

Replacing a heater core on almost any car model is a real big job and not really for a do-it-yourselfer. If you want to consider trying it, understand the air conditioning system will have to be discharged and recharged. That requires expensive specialized equipment, and refrigerant is extremely dangerous to work with. You'll want to wear gloves, safety glasses, and a face shield. Don't even think about attempting this job without reading through the entire procedure in the manufacturer's service manual. This can easily take an experienced professional more than a day to complete. I would expect it to take me at least two days, and I've done some before. If you have this done by a mechanic, he will reconnect the heater hoses correctly.

The bypass you're talking about simply involves pulling the two heater hoses off the pipes for the heater core, then connecting them together with a piece of plastic pipe. If there is a difficult part of reinstalling those hoses, it would be getting your hands into the tight places they put them sometimes.

Five to ten minutes to warm the engine up is fast. Don't expect that on a cold winter day. Idling doesn't require much power or much gas so little heat is generated. You'll get heat the fastest by driving the car, not letting it idle. As for "maintaining" the engine, remember that air is drawn through it when it's running to pull fumes out to be burned. That air has moisture in it that will condense on internal engine parts when they're still cold, and that water will be in the oil. You need a good 20 30 mile run at highway speed once a week to warm that water enough to vaporize it so it can be drawn out.

Idling the engine to warm it up just for the sake of warming it up once in a while is much more harmful to its life than just letting it sit. 99 percent of engine wear takes place when it is cold and parts haven't expanded to fit properly, and when the oil isn't warm enough to flow freely or allow contaminants to vaporize. Running the engine a lot when it's cold promotes the formation of sludge from the contaminants in the oil.

You'll notice when you start the engine, it revs up to around 1500 rpm for a few seconds, then settles down to around 800 rpm. That insures the oil is flowing, fuel pressure is up, and things like that. Beyond that, if it's what I consider miserable, like around 40 degrees, letting the engine warm up for thirty seconds wastes about 15 seconds worth of gas. Wear takes place when the engine is cold so you want to get it warm as quickly as possible. Prolonged idling doesn't do that. For what I consider uninhabitable climate, like below 0 degrees, a minute of warm-up time is usually sufficient. The goal is to get the oil warm enough so it flows freely.

When it gets to minus 20 or 30 degrees like it does in the middle of Wisconsin, no one in their right mind would go outside so warming the engine up isn't worth discussing! Four or five minutes of warm-up time is common, ... But I'm not discussing that. Some people let their engines run a long time so they can hop into a warm car, ... But I'm not going to talk about that. I hate being cold in winter, but I expect it, so I think heated seats are silly. Why should I want to roast the hair off my butt when my nose is frozen? But that's an issue I don't want to talk about!

Everything you elaborated on about the window suggests it's a regulator problem, not an electrical problem. The window only went down part way, then stopped due to the frayed cable. Don't confuse the cable with wires for the motor. Those don't move so they aren't going to become frayed, and the insulation won't get hard and brittle, and flake off for another 30 to 50 years. Parts on cars break all the time, and just because something happens to one doesn't mean it will happen to the rest when there's more than one on the car. When one spark plug fails and causes a misfire, we replace all of them even though the rest were still working fine.

There's no magic elixir to fix weatherstrip. When there's a leak, it is mispositioned, torn, or the gap is too big. Wind noises are not much of a problem anymore because doors fit very nicely, and most manufacturers have gone to using two or three seals on each door. When there's a water leak, it has to get by all those seals and find a way in over the sill plate. That almost always means a gap in that plastic rain shield you found when you took the door panel off. There's a number of things you can do to check those rubber seals. One is to run water over the tops of the doors, or wait until it rains, then open the door and look on the seal to see if there's a dry area or if wetness has made its way inside. You can buy a can of leak-detection powder from the dealer's parts department. That's like white talcum powder in a spray can. You spray that on the painted door surface, slowly and gently push the door closed, then open it and check that it transferred onto the surface of the seal. Look for any gaps where no powder transferred. The last method is to use a dollar bill, hold it over a spot on the seal, close the door over it, then see how hard it is to slide the bill out. You'll feel the resistance and soon learn that as normal, then you'll recognize when you run into a spot that isn't sealing so well.

For wind leaks, you'll see there's tiny holes in the rubber seals. Be sure those are clear. Air gets blown into them and causes the seals to expand at highway speeds. For water leaks that occur when the car is parked, look for deformed seals or where the door and body lines don't match. In severe cases, you can cut a slit in the seal, then slide in a piece of rubber vacuum hose to hold it out, but then you have to figure out how to seal that cut.

The only chemical that is of any benefit to weatherstrip seals is Silicone Spray. It goes on like water, evaporates, and leaves a film of "slippery" behind. That will solve seals that stick to doors when they're opened, seals that squeak when worn doors flop around, and seals that are rubbing and tearing apart. It is also real good for window tracks when those windows get sluggish and go up slowly, and for seat belts that retract slowly due to sticking on the upper anchors. Body shop people really hate Silicone products because it's hard to clean off before painting, and it leaves "fish eyes" in the paint, so avoid getting that on painted surfaces.

There's two schools of thought on changing oil. Most people say to drain it when it's hot, just like is done when you take it to any shop or speedy lube place. Hot oil is thin and drains more completely, and contaminants are suspended in it. Some people say to drain it after the engine has been off for a while because that gives the oil time to run down from on top. I prefer to let the engine cool down for an hour so I don't get burned by hot oil and a hot drain plug, but then I let it drain for another hour while I do other stuff. Understand that when an engine calls for five quarts of oil during an oil change, there's going to be another two quarts that never drains out. It's trapped in the many passages and it pools in places where it can't run from unless you flip the car over. For that reason, it's silly to obsess over getting every last drop to drain out. You want the majority of the old oil out with the contaminants it holds, you want the sludge-producing gunk out that has been collected in the filter, and you want the additives in the new oil. Those additives typically wear out in around 3,000 miles, that's why we change oil every 3,000 miles.

Unless there is a leak, forget about topping off the power steering fluid. If there's no leak, there's no need to add. You need a place for the fluid to go when it heats up and expands. If there's a leak, that needs to be diagnosed and addressed. Brake fluid too. Never fill the reservoir unless a leak was just repaired. The fluid level will go down as the front brake pads wear. Low fluid level means it's time to inspect those brake pads or there's a leak that must be fixed. To install new pads, the pistons have to be pressed back into the calipers, and doing that pushes the brake fluid up into the reservoir. If someone filled the reservoir previously, the fluid will overflow and make a mess. Brake fluid eats paint too so that has to be washed off right away.

Any time you check or add brake fluid, be absolutely certain you get no hint of petroleum product in it. That means engine oil, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, or axle grease. I even wash my hands first to avoid getting fingerprint grease in there. I can elaborate if that becomes necessary, but for now, petroleum contamination of brake fluid is a REAL expensive repair and it can easily cost more than the car is worth.

"Start the car up, if it starts, yay, if it doesn't its the alternator/starter at fault right?" Nope. Definitely not. When you say the engine "doesn't start", the first thing we think is we have no idea what the symptom is. Does the starter crank the engine but the engine doesn't run? Does it fail to crank the engine? "Doesn't start" can mean a lot of different things and most of them have nothing to do with the starter itself.

The generator isn't even in the picture yet until the engine is running. It recharges the battery which was run down a little from cranking the engine. I said "generator" to be technically correct. Chrysler developed the alternator and copyrighted the term in 1960, but that's nit-picking.

For diagnostic fault codes, if one is set related to something that could adversely affect emissions, the Check Engine light will turn on. There's over a thousand potential codes, and half of them don't turn the light on. Chrysler makes reading codes yourself real easy by just cycling the ignition switch. Some other manufacturers have you jump two terminals together in the diagnostic connector. There may be a way to read them on your car too but the wireless internet is not working right now so I can't check that page. If you go to the top of this page and click on "Repair and Service", then "Diagnostic Fault Codes" you can see if your brand is listed. If it is, it will describe what is needed to read the codes.

The ultra-violet dyes are made for searching for leaks that are too small to find by watching for fluid running out. Most auto parts stores where you buy the dye will have a light you can borrow or rent. Dye isn't practical for a leaking heater core. Get that fixed before you go looking for other leaks.

I'm not sure where you're going with the brakes. After sitting for a year, you can expect to hear some minor grinding the first few times you use the brakes. That's from the rust that builds up on the rotors and will go away shortly. You don't bleed the brakes unless a repair was done that allowed air to get into the system. When you DO bleed them, there's a number of ways to do it. Most do-it-yourselfers think it has to be done with two people, one pushing on the pedal, and they usually press the pedal all the way to the floor. That is very likely to damage the master cylinder on any car more than about a year old. Never push the pedal more than about halfway to the floor.

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Wednesday, September 24th, 2014 AT 1:54 AM

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