Everyone at some point or another, myself included, runs into a problem with their vehicle. Based on my 24 years experience in the automotive parts industry, here are a few things to consider when something pops up:
1. Establish a baseline
- The most important thing to remember is that in principle, the automobile hasn't changed a whole lot over the last hundred years. More often than not, when a problem arises, it's because of a condition that's been slowly building over time.
To assess a problem, think about the affected system, and try to recall the last time it was maintained. Before doing anything else, think to yourself, could this have occurred from lack of maintenance, and will some basic maintenance cure the problem? So many people, especially with Honda and Acura products, never do anything but oil changes, but are taken by total surprise when their car doesn't start due to a worn out set of spark plugs or something simple.
The baseline of maintenance on ANY vehicle, especially one that you recently obtained, will not only assist in diagnosis, but in many cases prevent the problem from happening in the first place. In many cases, you'll end up working backwards through the basics anyway.
- When a person goes to the doctor because of an ailment, the first thing that the doctor asks you is if you're on any meds, when does it happen, does it hurt when I do "this", etc. Fixing a car works the same way. Does it happen on first drive in the morning, does it happen only in certain weather, is it all the time, etc? Has this been worsening over a period of time? Chances are that you drive your car daily, so always make a mental note of anything that changes, and look at it as soon as possible. This most often will lead to a cure.
3. Start simple
- This is one thing that I can't emphasize enough. Part of my philosophy as an employee of Acura of Peoria is to make sure that your car is fixed, rather than sell wild guesses. For example, if your car has a vibration in the front end, it might be a bad wheel bearing, but try rotating the tires first. Over my 11 years of doing business on the internet, I've run into many people that will swap out ECU's, sensors, etc to no avail on a runability problem that isn't traced to a check engine light. Low coolant, for example, on Honda vehicles, can cause a huge fluctuation of the idle speed. This goes hand in hand with the previous points. While cars have undoubtedly become more complex, and sensors and such do fail, don't ignore the mechanical side of the car.
To make a vehicle run, you need spark, fuel, timing, and compression. That's it. Any no start situation will be caused by an error or failure of one of those four.
4. The MIL
- The Malfunction Indicator Light, or "check engine light", while standardized since OBDII, will point only to a system failure in most cases, rather than towards a direct part replacement. For example, a "catalyst below threshhold efficiency" could be the converter, could be the rear oxygen sensor, but it could also be a tank of bad gas. A code for "EGR Insufficient flow" could be the EGR, or it could be carbon buildup within the EGR port on the intake. There are variables here, and don't be shy in investigating those and asking for advice.
5. Go OEM
- Some things just make sense to do, and the one thing that you'll always be safe with is OEM Acura and Honda parts. Of even greater importance for the longevity and performance of your vehicle are OEM fluids. Things such as automatic transmission fluid, dual pump fluid, and VTM-4 fluid are exclusively produced by Honda and engineered for your vehicle. There's always those that argue the point, but sometimes it's better safe than sorry