Case Studies

A Collection of the Odd, Unusual and Interesting Found While Servicing Our Client Vehicles.

Originally intended as a showcase for customers of our workshop and staff’s abilities, this page has evolved in an interesting and informative teaching tool, and one of the most popular pages on our site!

By nature, these are rather extreme examples of failures, and not what we typically find during service. Our goal at Atlantic Motorcar is to prevent these from happening to you and your car. But rest assured, if we can fix these challenges, regular maintenance is breeze!

We like to call this our “YES WE CAN!” page. You can also view many of these concerns on our Facebook page. Each photo can be enlarged by clicking on it.

Porsche 911 (Type 991) – Engine Cover Latch Release Problem, and Correction

Case Studies

The Vehicle
The Porsche 911, type 991, is prone to a common problem relating to the remote release of the engine deck lid from the passenger compartment. We recently saw this at Atlantic Motorcar Center with a new client car and thought it would make an excellent case study.

How This Happens
It is not uncommon when service is being carried out on the car for the actuator, the electromechanical device that pulls on the cable, to become disconnected from the rear deck lid latch or to be moved out of the bracket on the actuator itself. This prevents the rear engine deck lid from opening. The actuator and cable are located on the passenger side of the engine bay, very close to the engine oil filter, and with the tight space, it is easy to knock the cable loose. This might not even be discovered until the next time service is done and the rear engine compartment can not be opened. Porsche has an emergency release cable in place in the event of an actuator failure, but this is only useful in the event that that cable is still attached to the latch.

Generally, there are three failures if you have a problem with the rear engine lid not opening. This tech tip will give you information on how to diagnose the nature of each failure and then how to gain access and correct it without damaging the car.

Problem
The first failure would be a failure of the latch actuator itself. The lock actuator is like an electric motor that pulls on the cable attached to the latch. Should the lock actuator fail, this is easily overcome by the emergency release located under the rear spoiler. That releases a cable that is attached to the end of the lock, actuator latch, and actuator, which allows you to remotely unlock the rear engine cover in the event of an actuator failure.

Trust But Verify
If you have access to an engine borescope, you can likely sneak that under the rear spoiler when it’s raised and over or under the plastic engine fan housing to get a view of the latch. You’ll note on the picture here that we could verify that the latch cable had popped out before disassembly. This can save considerable time and effort to understand if it is simply an electrical fault that can be reversed easily or a cable or latch issue, necessitating a more complex solution.

Failure Mode One – Actuator Or Controls
It’s easy to diagnose a failure of the actuator if, when operating the rear deck lid switch in the passenger compartment, you don’t hear the actuator motor run, which sounds like a whirling noise that lasts for about 2-3 seconds, then chances, are you have a failure of the actuator, the switch or the wiring and voltage supply. You still should be able to access the emergency cable and open the deck lid so you can diagnose and correct the problem.

Failure Mode Two – Cable To Bracket
The next cause is a failure of the cable which retains which connects the actuator to the latch itself. The cable itself is quite robust and unlikely to break on its own accord. However, because of its proximity to the engine oil filter, which is commonly accessed during service, it’s easy to knock the latch actuator cable out of the metal bracket on the actuator side. If this occurs, even the emergency cable will not allow access to the engine compartment, as the latch actuator cable is no longer properly connected, and the sheath will move back and forth. We’ll talk about how to overcome this failure mode shortly.

Failure Mode Three – Cable To Latch
The final cause of failure, and perhaps the most common, is when the latch actuator cable becomes disconnected from the latch itself. In this case, the plastic retaining clip that holds the cable onto the latch becomes displaced, which often occurs during service or changing the engine oil filter due to its proximity. If this occurs, even the emergency cable will not allow access to the engine compartment, as the latch actuator cable is no longer properly connected.

Why This Happens
Porsche has made no provision for positively anchoring the cable line into the latch; rather, it is not retained by a screw or bracket and only requires a small bump to become disconnected and misplaced from the latch. When this occurs, and it is not noticed before the engine cover is closed. Access to the engine cover is impossible, either through the emergency cable or the latch actuator. The cable will still move, but because it is no longer attached to the latch release arm, it does not operate the latch.

Photo Gallery – Visual Of Our Process

Correction – First, Do No Harm
The important thing is to protect the car from any damage; the correction, though it takes time, it’s not exceptionally difficult, especially with an automotive lift and the assistance of a teammate. We suggest using blue painter’s tape on any sharp edges, corners, or exposed areas of the paint to protect the finish.

Step One
The next step is to remove the rear, bumper, and carrier from the vehicle; this does take some time and will require the assistance of a teammate to ensure the damage does not occur, either to the car or to the bumper cover. Once the bumper cover is removed, it can be placed on top of large trash, container, or workbench to protect the finish from damage.

Step Two
With a bumper cover removed, you’ll need to remove the air intake boot from the engine and throttle body to access the area directly under the engine cover latch. If you’re very lucky, you may be able to snap the cable back into the latch and then use the remote control inside the car to operate the cover.

Step Three
If you find that difficult, the next best solution is to simply fabricate out of a stiff wire at a 90° angle pic, with a gentle bend to get around the engine. Using a mirror and a flashlight, place the end of that pic inside the area of the rear deck lid latch, where the cable normally goes, and operate the latch to the passenger side of the car until the rear deck lid opens. It will take firm and steady pressure rather than a fast pull.

It may take several tries with this method before you have success. Take your time, and ensure that no damage occurs to you or the car. If the latch still does not release, it is possible that you have a mechanical problem with the latch itself. You can still access the latch retaining bolts, two 10 mm bolts, from underneath, and once unbolted, raise the deckled to remove the failed latch.

Step Four
Once you have the rear engine cover open, you’ll need to remove the plastic cover that retains the two cooling fans on top of the engine. Be careful of the two wires that are used to power the fans; the connectors are small and can be fragile from the heat of the engine bay. Once you have that fan cover removed, you should be able to look in the center back portion of the engine bay and locate the release latch in the center back of the opening.

Step Five
We suggest removing the latch from the body of the vehicle. You’ll find it retained by two 10 mm bolts about an inch or so long. Removing those is easy, and you’ll probably find factory marks already described on the latch to show you its installed location; if not sharpie or grease pencil can be used to create your own witness marks so that the latch may be reinstalled in the correct position.

Step Six
Once you have removed the latch, you can install the cable carefully, snapping the retaining clip on the passenger side of the latch in place. You’ll note that that is not a very secure connection, and although it may work, it would be easy to displace again. May be a good idea to clean and lubricate the latch with some silicone spray.

Before testing the latch in the actuator, make sure the cable end closest to the actuator is actually snapped into the black metal bracket. If this is not snapped into the bracket, the cable will not operate correctly, as the sheath will move back and forth.

Final Step
With a cable verified to be correctly installed on both ends, we suggest operating the actuator a few times to verify the latch is working correctly before remounting it onto the body. Once the latch is installed back onto the car and lined up with your witness marks, close the rear engine lid and verify latch operation and release. Do it several times just to be sure that it is reliable.

The Fix
While the actuator cable is retained with the plastic positive clip, we’re a big fan of the belt and suspenders approach and suggest fabricating a small metal bracket that can be placed under the passenger side latch retaining bolt removed earlier.

If you look at our picture, you can see that the short bracket, less than 2 inches long, covers and positively retains the actuator cable into the latch body. The cable can only be removed in the future by loosening one of the 10 mm bolts and rotating the bracket out of the way.

Check Both Ends
While this is an elegant solution to the problem on the latch end, one must still be cognizant of the potential ease of knocking the actuator and the cable out of the bracket there. Consider a carefully placed back nylon wire tie, or perhaps, just a check process to make certain on service that the lock actuator works before closing the engine cover. And then retest after the service is complete.

Reassemble In Reverse Order
At this point, with the latch reinstalled, the small bracket fabricated, and the operation of the latch thoroughly tested, simply reverse the process, reinstalling the air, boot air boxes, and rear engine cover, carefully lining everything up. Remove the blue painter’s tape placed for protection, and you should be ready.

Watch The Video
You can review a narrated short video of this tech tip on the Atlantic Motorcar YouTube page; see below.

How We Can Help You
The Service Team here at Atlantic Motorcar is well experienced in this issue, and others, with over 35 years of European auto specialization, serving clients from the areas of New England, we are familiar with the needs of the special service of your auto.

As Maine’s leading European auto specialists, we provide expert-quality services at a fair rate than nearby dealerships and specialty shops. If you’re experiencing any of the above-mentioned symptoms in your auto, please call us immediately; we can usually see your car the same day! At Atlantic Motorcar, we’ve developed some very specific procedures and tooling, combined with our expert technicians, to make this otherwise onerous repair a snap.

Finally
Questions, or if we can help with service on your Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Sprinter, Honda, Infiniti, Lexus, Mini Cooper, Porsche, Volvo, and VW, please contact us. Our team of Service Specialists is here to help, for even the newest autos! (207) 882-9969.

Knowing, not just “doing,” that’s the Atlantic Motorcar Center way.
Thanks!

Warmly,
The Atlantic Motorcar Center Service Team

 

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Porsche 944 and 951 – Balance Shaft Alignment During Timing Belt Service

Case Studies

AMC Tech Tip – Porsche 924/944/951 Balance Shaft Alignment
We have a very nice 951 in the workshop today that came in with a very noticeable vibration. Engine mounts had been recently replaced at another shop, apparently in an attempt to correct this.

Tis The Season

Spring is the season for Porsche 924/944 timing belt calls and quotes, and invariably someone always needs one “redone” because all the parts were not replaced or replaced correctly.

Important – No Shortcuts

There is a huge temptation to do the “economy job” on these, but this is a false economy, and over the years, I’ve seen timing belts replaced with the old balance shaft belt and tensioners left. They rarely make it to the next service, which results in significant engine damage when they fail. Do it right the first time, and you won’t have to pay twice. 😉

Easy oversight on this job is to mistime the balance shafts, so the weights on the shafts, which are meant to cancel out the engine vibration, actually ADD to it. Not a good thing.

Service Tips
There is real science and trick to doing this correctly, and over the last 30 years, we’ve corrected many of these that have come out of other service facilities. I’ve even made a mistake a few times but caught it quickly.

The trick in these cars is to be sure that not just the timing belt is replaced; you’ll want to ensure the water pump (driven by the timing belt), rollers, and tensioners get attention. Also, a quick look at the camshaft, crank, and balance shaft seals will save you headaches in the long run.

Questions, we’re here for you and your car!

Your Advocate, On Your Side
At AMC, because we are independent and locally owned, we are YOUR advocate. Knowledge, Integrity, Value.

Questions
If you have any questions, or need a copy of your service history, please do not hesitate to contact us directly. (207) 882-9969.

Thank you,
Bruce and the AMC Team

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Porsche 944 and 951 Timing Belt Service – Doing It Right

Case Studies

Porsche 944 and 951 Timing Belt Service – Doing It Right
The recommended timing belt replacement interval for the 944 engine is every 30,000 miles, to which we would also add a time interval of 3-5 years.

As the timing and balance shaft belts being rubber, deteriorate over time, these vehicles are now rarely driven more than 3,000 to 5,000 miles per year.

Timing belts are made of very durable rubber, with layers of cord to prevent stretching. This arrangement provides years of trouble-free service and precise valve timing.  Eventually, the rubber and cords begin to deteriorate. Our rule is 3 -5 years at most.

Due to the normal expansion and contraction of the 944 engine, Porsche recommends that the engine is at room temperature (68 degrees) when replacing the timing belts. Installing the belts at a different temperature will cause an incorrect belt tension adjustment because the engine expands and contracts as it heats and cools.

Important Service Note – New belts should be re-tensioned after their first 2000 miles of use and again after another 15,000 miles.

Why – Engine Damage
All 944 engines are interference engines. The valves and pistons have an overlapping space on interference engines, hence the name interference. If the piston is at the very top of its stroke and the valve is fully open, the valve and piston will collide. The timing belt controls the opening and closing of the valves. The Porsche 944 timing belt is made of rubber and therefore is susceptible to normal wear and tear.

Additionally, it can loosen over time or even completely snap if the rubber becomes torn, brittle, or excessively worn down. Because the engine is an interference engine, when the 944 timing belt breaks, it sends the valves and pistons colliding with each other. The end result is bent valves and potentially damaged pistons. Replacing valves and pistons will require the engine to be opened up, which is labor-intensive and expensive.

Service Plan – Design Changes
The 944’s timing belt design has been upgraded several times since the first car rolled off the assembly line.
Some of these changes were field fixes, and others were production updates.

The updates began in Porsche 944’s first model year, with most of the updates occurring between 1984 and 1986. Almost all the cars have now had the updated parts installed, the most common being the use of the 951 water pump, with guide rail and outlet block-off plate. But you might be surprised from time to time by what you find out there. Original cars with super low mileage and only the timing belt changed or aftermarket parts installed, even balance shaft belts installed incorrectly, result in significant engine vibration.

Upgrade/Update
Each of the following parts have been changed as part of the service upgrade process:
• Belt design
• Camshaft belt tensioner
• Balance shaft belt preload tensioner
• One-piece timing belt cover modification
• Two-piece timing belt cover
• Shaft seals
• Water pump

A Word About Water Pumps
We are frequently asked about reusing water pumps on the engine when the timing belt is serviced. And while that might sound like a good idea, remember what the pump is, and what the consequences are of failure. Water pumps circulate coolant through the engine. They are generally a pretty common maintenance item for all cars.

Why do water pumps fail? Water pumps naturally fail over time from wear and tear and old age. The Porsche 944 water pump fails for a few different reasons. First, the internal bearing can go bad, which will cause a “bearing” noise from the water pump. Secondly, the impeller can separate from the shaft, or the shaft seal can go bad, which will cause coolant leakage. Lastly, the pulley connecting the water pump to the timing belt can slip or break and cause engine failure.

However, they are known to fail a bit more frequently on the Porsche 944. The 944’s water pump is driven by the timing belt, which is also why we recommend replacing them at the same time. A water pump issue necessitates the removal of the timing belt and engine covers to replace, so might as well do it correctly the first time. The cost of a pump is far less than the cost of an engine or engine repair.

Quote It Right – Don’t Get “Slapped”
We must know what you are buying when pricing a timing belt replacement. Some companies quote a phone price for replacing the belt alone, in a less than ethical way to get the car there. Quality auto repair shops refer to this as a “belt slap” (you’ll also hear the “slap” term on shops that just “slap on” brake pads without the full service. This may seem like savings until they call back with the real cost.

Perhaps worse is only replacing the belt, only to have another component fail, for instance, if the water pump fails a few thousand miles after the timing belt is replaced. Repair means another full disassembly, and the water pump can actually cause the replaced timing belt to break, causing engine failure.

Another problem is a seal that starts to leak after timing belt replacement. The seal could have been replaced for a minimum cost while the timing belt was off. Now many of the same components must again be removed. Worse, the oil from the leaking seal can ruin a new timing belt. Remember, you never get more than you pay for.

The Only Correction Is Prevention
An once of prevention (as in a replacement of the timing belt, BEFORE failure) is worth a pound of cure.
If your Porsche qualifies, and the timing belt has not been replaced in the last 3-5 years, we strongly advise you do it proactively.
Do not wait, time is engine. Your engine.

Need More Help?
We hope we’ve been able to shine some light and help you better understand what exactly a timing belt is and what can actually go wrong with them. And more importantly, how to prevent that from occurring! To discuss the best approach for your car, give our service team a call us or email service@atlanticmotorcar.com.

Finally
Questions, or if we can be of help in any way with service on your Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Mini Cooper, Porsche or other European import, please contact us.
Our team of Service Specialists is here to help, for even the newest autos! (207) 882-9969.

Knowing, not just “doing,” that’s the Atlantic Motorcar Center way.
Thanks!

Warmly,
The Atlantic Motorcar Center Service Team

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Batteries – The Care and Feeding Of The Power Source Of Your Car

Case Studies

The Care and Feeding Of The Power Source Of Your Car
Though it is now changing with the advent of newer vehicles, the vast majority of car batteries currently on the road are still part of the lead-acid battery group. These batteries constitute six galvanic cells – see the ‘Anatomy of a car battery’ diagram for details – laid out in series. Each cell delivers 2.1 volts of electromotive force that, when combined, produce the common 12.6-volt automotive battery (commonly advertised as 12-volt). One of these 12-volt batteries is powerful enough to keep a car’s systems running for years with the proper care, and larger diesel vehicles may employ two.

Construction
Each galvanic cell consists of a series of lead and lead dioxide plates submerged in an electrolyte solution – a mix of sulphuric acid (35 percent) and water (65 percent). This acidic bath triggers a reaction with the lead dioxide plate (the positive electrode), which produces ions and lead sulfate. These sulphuric ions then react with the adjacent lead plates (the negative electrode) to produce hydrogen ions and lead sulfate.

This chemical reaction, in turn, generates electrons that can flow out via conductive terminals as electricity to power essential functions. The reaction is not permanent, with the lead sulfate reforming into lead dioxide and lead when the battery is recharged. Over time, the battery’s efficiency will deplete, with most working optimally for about 3-4 years.

Why Does A Battery “Die”?
A battery is just an ongoing chemical reaction under the hood or in the trunk of our cars. The interaction of sulfuric acid with the surface area of the lead plates is at the heart of a battery’s ability to create, store, and release energy. Basically, a battery can store and supply energy if enough of the active plate material is available to allow an energy transfer to occur naturally. Batteries don’t give up the ghost or fail without warning. Generally, they will be showing plenty of signs and symptoms before failure. Those signs might be a slow cranking over of the engine, hesitation to start, a clicking noise before starting, and warnings on the dash about the battery state or condition of some newer cars.

Cold Weather
Batteries are usually the first to suffer from the cold—losing 35% of their strength at 30° F and 60% at 0° F. Temperature also affects charge and discharge rates. A cold battery will charge and self-discharge slower than a warm battery, but will also exhibit lower capacity. When it’s cold outside, sulfating buildup in combination with the slow down of the chemical reaction within the battery will rob the battery’s ability to provide operational power and is only exaggerated as vehicle fluids thicken due to the cold. This cold condition causes even more available power and capability to be taken from the battery to start the vehicle, so the battery has to work harder than normal to provide additional power demanded by the vehicle and, as a result, realizes a further reduction in voltage, causing a faster buildup of sulfates on the lead plates.

A Long Life
In theory, batteries should last many years, but they usually don’t because of a series of detrimental problems caused by “excessive sulfating buildup” that leads to premature battery failure. It can take up to twice as much current during cold temperatures to start a vehicle as under normal conditions. A poorly maintained battery just doesn’t stand a chance. Extremes of hot and cold can also take their toll on a battery.

Also, keep in mind that a battery that is allowed to remain in a discharged state for an extended period of time, creates high levels of plate sulfating that have a lasting effect on the battery’s capacity. In other words, a dead or deeply discharged battery rarely bounces back to its full potential and will always have reduced capacity, even if it is relatively new. This is why we always recommend some sort of battery tender, or trickle charger on batteries during periods of extended storage, two or more weeks.

Need More Help?
Please contact us if we can help in any way with service on your Audi, BMW, Land Rover, Mercedes, Mini Cooper, Porsche, or other European imports. Our team of Service Specialists is here to help, for even the newest autos! (207) 882-9969, or you can email our Service Team at service@atlanticmotorcar.com.

Knowing, not just “doing,” that’s the Atlantic Motorcar Center way.

Warmly,
The Atlantic Motorcar Center Service Team

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Helping Your Car Live Longer – The Truth About Rustproofing and Corrosion Protection

Case Studies

What We Think At Atlantic Motorcar
Talking about rustproofing is much like arguing over which is better, chocolate or vanilla ice cream.
Everyone has an opinion, and everyone is sure their opinion is right. What we are basing our recommendations on are nearly 40 years of European automotive service experience, as well as practical day-to-day observations. 

It’s important to note that what we share here applies to late-model European autos with their excellent and extensive factory rustproofing systems. It’s also important to note that Atlantic Motorcar does not do rust-proofing; we leave that to the professionals who enjoy working with tar and wax. 😉

Our Recommendation For European Autos
We generally don’t recommend aftermarket undercoating on German autos, they are very well undercoated from the factory, and often a second coat of undercoating serves to dirt and moisture, which is not a good thing. Even the oil spray that you’ll often see advertised can do more harm than good. It can damage rubber components if not carefully applied, make a mess in your garage or driveway, and makes it difficult to determine if the vehicle has any fluid leaks when in for service. For Land and Range Rovers, especially vintage models, we do recommend a proper and professional application of the oil-based systems.

Our opinion on rust prevention varies for domestic and Japanese cars and trucks, from washing them often in the winter to keeping them wet with spray oil treatments. See our Prevention section for more details. So for non-European vehicles, read on.

The Exception
The exception to this rule is in case of body damage; in that case, ensure that the body shop caring for your car reapplies a professional rust protection system on the new or damaged sheet metal. When you see a late-model European car with rust, it is almost always a result of accidental damage that was not professionally repaired and protected.

Rust Proofing History
Remember “Rusty Jones,” the iconic character of an automotive rust-proofing chain two or three decades back?
Or the exotic-sounding “
Ziebart“? Probably not, as the big chain rust-proofing shops have largely disappeared over the years as manufacturers have stepped up their factory undercoating systems and metal treatments.

Add in better vehicle design, newer metals, and factory corrosion treatments, with body side moldings no longer held in place with metal clips that promote rust but instead now use an adhesive, and many of the former rust hot spots have disappeared. In fact, our friend Rusty Jones Inc. filed for bankruptcy protection in 1988, claiming that automakers’ extension of factory warranties against rust had caused business to deteriorate.

Better Living Through Design
To better understand the present, it often helps to look to the past. In the early days, cars were just built, they were basic conveniences to get down the road and not expected to last a long time, so little thought was put into durability from a body standpoint, and the sheet metal quality varied widely. Early cars were built on a heavy metal backbone, called a “frame,” with large, heavy components, like the engine, transmission, and suspension, attached to the steel frame. The car body, often of thin sheet metal, sometimes built over wood in earlier cars, served to keep the driver dry in the rain and warm in the winter. And perhaps to add a styling element to the vehicle.

Various types of high-strength steel are found in today’s cars. The blue color is the “crumple” zone, designed to absorb impact energy, and the red is the high-strength steel to build the protective passenger cage.

Today’s cars are very different because the frame system has largely disappeared on most passenger cars and SUVs. Engines and transmission bolt directly or indirectly right to the sheet metal. The body of the car is now not just a structural component that needs to support the engine and transmission but is also a carefully engineered safety system, with crumble zones and various high-strength steel and aluminum parts to protect the occupants.

It’s also become common for manufacturers to use galvanized steel in their vehicle frames. With a zinc coating, galvanized steel doesn’t react with oxygen like iron, significantly reducing the risk of rust. Cars built these days aren’t going to rust out as you’d see decades ago completely. Factors like the climate you will be driving in, the terrain you will be driving on, and the amount you will be driving affect the degree of rust. Rust-proofing will make more sense if your vehicle is regularly subjected to the elements, but if you mainly plan to do city driving in a warm climate, chances are it is optional. Plus, many manufacturers now offer a factory warranty to cover rust and sheet metal perforation, as we read above that our friend Rusty Jones sadly found out.

Rust-Proofing Treatments and Types – Tar and Oil
There are two primary forms of aftermarket rust-proofing today: tar-based spray and oil/paraffin mix.
Both have pros and cons, as outlined below, and it’s important to consider which might work better for you.

Tar Based Sprays
Let’s start with the tar-based spray. You’ll often see this type of coating in cans at your local auto parts store. Also known as “undercoating,” tar-based sprays were introduced in the 1950s to make car ride quieter. Undercoating is an asphalt-based substance similar to tar once it’s dry. It’s 10 to 12 mils thick (think 20 sheets of paper) and acts as a barrier against rust and corrosion by sealing out your vehicle’s underside to protect it from the harmful elements of the road.

The procedure involves spraying a black, tar-like substance on the floor pans, wheel wells, and other exposed parts of your car’s underbody, which then hardens and acts as a permanent shield against moisture, salt, and other elements. Unfortunately, over time moisture can seep behind the hard outer seal and corrode the metal beneath. Furthermore, the rigid nature of a tar-based spray makes it susceptible to cracks, which will pose an entrance for water to get in. For those that choose a tar-based spray, yearly inspections are often required to reduce this risk. Ziebart is one of the largest providers of this method of rust protection. 

Oil and paraffin-based product.

Dripless Oil Spray
Another product, dripless oil, has similar properties to a tar-based spray in that it hardens after being sprayed, creating a moisture seal for your vehicle. Oiling is exactly what it sounds like; it’s an oil-based substance that coats your vehicle’s underside, repelling anything water-based that the road throws to protect it from rust and corrosion. Oil undercoating is extremely thin (think one sheet of paper) and must be reapplied annually to remain effective. It has a firm waxy texture and clings to your vehicle’s frame without any run-off (if very carefully applied).

A dripless oil spray covers more surface area than its tar-based counterpart because it’s applied to more interior regions of the vehicle. Still, this added protection comes with a price. The application process often involves drilling holes into the vehicle’s frame to maximize the area covered. If done by a trained professional, these holes are discreetly drilled and shouldn’t be visible. Additionally, these sprays will often leave smaller crevices, and tight seams on your vehicle unprotected because of their high viscosity. As mentioned, because of the nature of the oil, it does wash off, and it is recommended to be reapplied annually.

How to Prevent Car Rust
My mom said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
So how does one go about preventing or mitigating rust if they live in a winter climate?
As you can see, rust on a car can be a very serious issue. This is why learning how to prevent car rust is so essential. Keeping your vehicle rust-free is pretty straightforward. Start with these five tips.

1. Wash Your Car Frequently
One of the easiest ways to prevent rust on a car is to wash it often. Not only will it keep your car looking shiny and new, but it will also remove corrosive debris, salt, and grime. It’s important not to wait for your car to look dirty before washing it. The elements that attack your car’s paint aren’t visible to the naked eye, so by the time you see that you’re due for a wash, some damage has already occurred. 

While any car wash is better than not washing your car, a high-pressure cleaner is the most effective. This will allow you to easily clean tricky areas – like your undercarriage and the inside of your wheel arches. For the best protection, plan to wash your vehicle once a week and have it professionally cleaned, waxed, and detailed twice a year.

2. Don’t Forget the Wax
To keep your car in the best possible condition and prevent rust from forming, you’ll want to wax it at least twice a year. This adds another layer of protection between your car’s paint and rust-causing moisture. If you’re not storing your car in a garage, you’ll need to wax it more often to compensate for the extra exposure to the elements. It’s easy to wax your car on your own, but if you don’t have the time, consider adding a hand wax when you take it for professional cleaning.

3. Protect Your Car from the Elements
Constant sun, rain, and snow exposure can do a real number on your car. If you want to avoid rust, you should park it under cover. If your home doesn’t already have a garage, consider adding one. While a heated garage is excellent, the warmth can speed up the chemical reaction of rust, so leaving it outside in the cold is a good idea after all. 

Common trouble spots on Rovers, but also applies to almost any vehicle.

5. Repair Rust Before It Spreads
It’s a good idea to give your car a once-over each time you wash it.
Keep an eye out for any paint damage or small spots of rust.

Paint chips are easily touched up with inexpensive factory kits, which are small containers with a little brush inside. Every car owner should have a paint chip kit for their car, and there is no better time to check and correct paint chips than after a car wash.

When checking your vehicle, also pay close attention to the condition of any drain holes, water channels, and seals, especially at the bottom of doors. If moisture collects here, rust can start to form unseen.

Any time you notice a possible sign of rust, it’s essential to keep it from growing. Taking care of it before it spreads can save you time and thousands of dollars in future repairs and greatly improve your vehicle’s resale value!


Need More Help?

Questions, or if we can be of help in any way with service on your Audi, BMW, Land Rover, Mercedes, Mini Cooper, Porsche, or other European import, please contact us. Our team of Service Specialists is here to help, for even the newest autos! (207) 882-9969, or you can email our Service Team at service@atlanticmotorcar.com.

Knowing, not just “doing,” that’s the Atlantic Motorcar Center way.

Warmly,
The Atlantic Motorcar Center Service Team

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Porsche IMS Bearing: The Facts Made Simple – How We Can Help!

Case Studies

 

The Porsche IMS Bearing: The Facts Made Simple
Credits: LN Engineering and Atlantic Motorcar Service

As a late model Porsche owner, you have likely heard the acronym “IMS” but every time you’ve searched on the internet, you’ve come away with more questions than answers.

Our Background
After 35 years of European, and specifically Porsche service, we know a thing or two about this problem. We’ve spent considerable time in the workshop speaking with our technicians and distilling the very best factual information about IMS bearings, their importance and what exactly does go wrong. Below you’ll find the most commonly asked questions regarding the IMS bearing along with a simple easy to understand explanation of the issues!

We hope this will help you have a better overall grasp of what exactly the IMS bearing is, as well as what goes wrong and what is involved to make sure it doesn’t happen to you and your Porsche

What Is An IMS bearing?
IMS stands for ‘Intermediate Shaft’, and the IMS bearing supports the intermediate shaft, on the flywheel end of the motor (See below).

The purpose of the intermediate shaft is to drive the camshafts indirectly off the crankshaft. By using an intermediate shaft, the speeds of the chains are reduced, which is better for the chain life. This basic design was used through the entire lifespan of aircooled six-cylinder Mezger engines used through to 1998. The inclusion of an intermediate shaft which drives the camshafts indirectly off the crankshaft has been a mainstay of the horizontally-opposed flat 6 engine utilized by Porsche.

Application
The same design has been retained with the water-cooled Turbo, GT2 and GT3 models as their engines are based off the same 964 engine case with the same internals as the earlier aircooled engines. Although these engines use an intermediate shaft, with a bearing, they have a fundamentally different design, and are not subject to the same type of failure as the M96 engine.

What Porsche models are prone to IMS failure and would benefit from an IMS upgrade.
– All 996 models (not including: GT and Turbo models)
– All 986 Boxster models.
– 987 Cayman & Boxster models up to engine number 61504715
– 997 3.6 liter with M96/05 up to engine number 6950745

So What Actually Goes Wrong?
There are so many reasons for bearing failure, and usually each failure is due to a combination of factors, not just a single cause.

Spalling, one of the most common of failures, occurs as a result of normal fatigue where the bearing has reached the end of its normal lifespan but this is the most common cause of IMS failure.

Spalling detected in bearings can generally be attributed to a number of factors; a common cause of bearing failure is due to high load and lack of lubrication to the IMS bearing, causing continuous over heating. Dirty, or low quality engine oils will contribute to this failure, as will a low quality filter, improper warm up, or excessive engine revving when cold.

Spalling will ultimately weaken the bearing and fracture it, leaving behind a jagged depression (or a ‘pit’). Once this cycle begins, wear is greatly accelerated and the bearing will fail very quickly.

What Is The Worst Case Scenario?
In worst-case scenarios, the cam timing can also be thrown off, causing valve to piston contact. In that case, the engine will need a full tear down and rebuild.
Check the photos below for what severe failure looks like.

An once of prevention (as in a replacement IMS bearing, BEFORE failure) is worth a pound of cure.
One thing is for sure; once you have experienced an IMS bearing failure, there is NO turning back.
A complete engine disassembly is required to replace the intermediate shaft and in most cases, complete rebuild or engine replacement is your ONLY option.

What Can Be Done To Fix This Common Problem?
Aside from the proactive approach of replacing the IMS bearing prior to such a failure, prevention and early detection are some of the steps that can be taken to try and minimize the risk of a costly engine failure. With model year 1997 through 2005 engines, the bearing is indeed readily accessible with engine removal.

An IMS bearing replacement is intended to be installed as a pro-active measure in preventative and regular maintenance. Once an engine has suffered a failure, replacement of the intermediate shaft bearing is no longer an option. Installing a replacement IMS bearing in an engine that has already suffered a failure will result in a subsequent failure due to collateral damage, including but not limited to debris contaminating the new bearing.

Are There Any Warning Signs? 
There are three warnings signs which can indicate a bearing is failing; you’ve found metallic debris in the oil filter while carrying out an oil change, which means you actually have to open up and carefully examine the pleats. These may initially appear as fine flecks, rather than large particles.

You may have found that there’s an oil leak located at rear of engine, in the area of the rear main seal.
Or perhaps have started to hear knocking and metallic sounds coming from the rear of the motor.

It’s important as soon as you spot or hear the problem, call us at (207) 882-9969 for some advice.
Please do not drive the car until it has been inspected by a trained Porsche technician, as you could cause catastrophic engine damage and failure.

The Only Correction Is Prevention
An once of prevention (as in a replacement IMS bearing, BEFORE failure) is worth a pound of cure.
If your Porsche qualifies, and the IMS bearing has not been replaced with an update kit in the last 30,000 miles, we strongly advise you do it proactively.
Do not wait, time is engine. Your engine.

Likewise, if your IMS bearing has been replaced 30,000 to 40,000 miles ago, it’s time to do it again, don’t wait until it fails.
The replacement bearings, though very good, and very durable, do wear out, and can fail like their OEM predecessors.

Need More Help?
We hope we’ve been able to shine some light and help you have a better understanding of what exactly an IMS bearing is and what can actually go wrong with them. And more importantly, how to prevent that from occurring! To discuss the best approach for your car, give our service team a call us or email service@atlanticmotorcar.com.

Finally
Questions, or if we can be of help in any way with service on your Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Mini Cooper, Porsche or other European import, please contact us. Our team of Service Specialists is here to help, for even the newest autos! (207) 882-9969.

Knowing, not just “doing,” that’s the Atlantic Motorcar Center way.
Thanks!

Warmly,
The Atlantic Motorcar Center Service Team

Photos of Atlantic Motorcar IMS Bearing Installation – Porsche Boxster

Photos of Classic IMS Bearing Failures
CATASTROPHIC ENGINE FAILURE, CAUSE: IMS BEARING FAILURE

 

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How to Prepare Your Car for Long-Term or Winter Storage

Case Studies

Top Tips To Protect Your Car While You’re Away
Many vehicles we service here at Atlantic Motorcar are often used seasonally, spring to fall. We are frequently asked how to store these for the off-season so they are ready to use in the spring without damage or problems.

Maybe you have a convertible that you love to drive in the summer, but now winter has arrived. Or perhaps you’re going to leave town for a job or an extended vacation. Or maybe you are in the military and are being deployed overseas.

Whatever the reason for your time away from the vehicle, you’ll need to put it in storage, and you want to do this in a wise manner that protects your car and your investment.

If you just let your car sit on the street or in a garage for an extended period, you may return to a dead battery or — worse yet — a damaged engine, rusted brakes, flat-spotted tires or a rodent’s nest under your hood.

Simple First Steps
Here are basic essential steps to take before you store a vehicle. They will preserve the engine’s life and ensure that your car starts when you return to it.

• Use an all-weather car cover if you cannot leave your car in a garage.

•Try not to park over grass, ideally part over gravel, asphalt, or cement; this will prevent or slow down condensation from rusting your brakes and car’s body.

• Get the car fully detailed, or at the very minimum, washed and waxed before placing it in storage.

• Be sure to fill up the gas tank and add a gas stabilizer if you will store the car for more than 30 days.

• Use a battery tender to avoid jump-starting or replacing the battery.

Keep It Covered
A heated or climate-controlled garage is an ideal place to store a vehicle. This will protect it from the elements and keep it at a temperature and humidity that’s relatively stable. This helps prevent condensation and corrosion on metal parts and surfaces.

If you don’t have a garage or can’t find such accommodation at a reasonable price, consider putting the car in a public storage facility. If you have to leave the car outdoors, consider getting a weatherproof car cover, we like the (Covercraft and Wolfe brands) ideally, one that locks, which will help keep the vehicle clean and dry. This will prevent sun damage to both your paint and interior. And remember to try and park your car over solid surfaces.

Clean It Up
It may seem counterintuitive to wash the car when you’re about to put it away for months, but it is an easy step that shouldn’t be overlooked. Water stains or bird droppings left on the car can damage the paint. Make sure to clean the wheels and undersides of the fenders to get rid of mud, grease, or tar. For added protection, give the car a good coat of quality wax. And consider treating all interior leather surfaces with a good quality cleaner and protectant, like “Lexol” or “Hide Food.” This will go a long way to saving your leather from drying out and cracking.

Change the Oil and Check Fluids
Skip this step if you only store the car for a week or two. Consider changing the oil if you will be storing the vehicle for longer than 30 days. Most manufacturers recommend this step in their owner’s manuals, saying that used engine oil has contaminants that could damage the engine. Please ensure that the shop uses a quality oil filter that meets factory standards, like OEM, Bosch, Mann, or Mahle, and like quality engine oil like Castrol or Mobile 1.

For longer-term storage, remember that brake fluid should be changed every two years, and we recommend coolant (antifreeze), especially on aluminum engines, be replaced every three years. We have an expression at Atlantic Motorcar, “Oil Is Cheaper Than Metal.“, meaning fluid changes are much less costly and invasive than replacing parts.

Top Off the Tank
This is another long-term car storage tip. Fill the tank with gas if you expect the car to be in storage for more than 30 days. Topping it off will prevent moisture from accumulating inside the fuel tank and keep the seals from drying out. You should also purchase a fuel stabilizer such as Sta-bil to prevent ethanol buildup and protect the engine from gum, varnish, and rust. The fuel stabilizer will prevent the gas from deteriorating for up to 12 months.

Keep It Charged
An unattended battery will eventually lose its charge. Get someone to start the car every two weeks and drive it for about 15 minutes if possible. Driving the car periodically has several benefits. It will maintain the battery’s charge, help the car “stretch its legs,” and keep the engine and other components adequately lubricated. It is also a good idea to run the air conditioner to keep the parts in working order and the air quality fresh.

If you cannot arrange for someone to start the car, there are two other options. The low-tech solution is to disconnect the negative battery cable. We’re not a fan of this, as you’ll likely lose the stereo presets, time, and other settings. If you want to keep those settings and ensure that your battery starts the moment you return, the ideal solution is to purchase a battery tender, also known as a trickle charger. This device hooks up to your car battery on one end and plugs into a wall outlet on the other. It delivers just enough electrical power to prevent the battery from discharging. Good quality units will turn on and off and often display an LED status. Most of these units cost under $100, far less than the cost of replacing your battery. 

Don’t Set the Parking Brake
Using the parking brake is usually a good idea, but we don’t advise doing this when you leave a car in storage. If the brake pads make contact with the rotors for too long, there is a chance that they might rust together and stick, preventing the car from moving. Instead, purchase a tire stopper, also called a wheel chock, to prevent the vehicle from moving.

Prevent Flat Spots
Make sure your tires are inflated to the recommended tire pressure. If a vehicle is left stationary for too long, the tires could develop flat spots as the car’s weight presses down on the tires’ footprints. This process occurs faster in colder temperatures and vehicles equipped with performance or low-profile tires. In some cases, merely having someone drive the car for a while will bring the tires up to their normal operating temperature and eliminate any flat spots. In more severe cases, a flat spot can become a permanent part of the tire and need to be replaced.

If your car is in storage for more than 30 days, consider taking the wheels off and placing the vehicle on jack stands at all four corners. This step requires more work, but it can save you from needing a new set of tires. When you return, your tires will be in much better shape if they haven’t been bearing the vehicle’s unmoving weight for a month or more. If you don’t want to jack up your car, you can try slightly over-inflating the tires by 5PSI, then lowering them back to spec when taken out of storage. This is often enough to prevent the tires from flat spotting during extended periods.

Keep Critters Out
A garage will keep your car dry and relatively warm. Unfortunately, those are also two things that make a garaged car attractive to rodents. There are plenty of places in your car for critters to hide and plenty of things for them to chew on. Try to cover any gaps where a mouse could enter, such as the exhaust pipe or an air intake. Steel wool works well for this.

Next, spread mothballs or cotton swabs dipped in peppermint oil along the vehicle’s perimeter. The smell is said to drive mice away. At Atlantic Motorcar, we’re a big fan of the natural rather than poison method of rodent control. There is an all-natural product made from cedar and pine, “FreshCab,” which you can find at local hardware stores, or Amazon, that works amazingly well.

If you want to take a more proactive approach, or for challenging cases for which “Fresh Cab” doesn’t work, you can lay down a few mousetraps. Just make sure someone can check the garage periodically in case there are some casualties. Otherwise, you’ll have to deal with a smell much worse than mothballs when you take the car out of storage.

Maintain Insurance
You might be tempted to cancel your auto insurance when your vehicle is in storage. Although that might initially save money, there is a chance that the insurance company will raise your rates due to the coverage gap, which could cost you more in the long run. This can vary based on where you live and who your provider is, so contact your insurance company to see what options are available to you. Consider that many storage facilities do not properly insurance clients’ cars for damage, so having some basic coverage when stored is a smart idea.

Get Back in Action
Here’s a checklist of what to do when you’re ready to bring your vehicle out of storage:

• Check under the hood for any evidence of rodents. Look for chewed belts, hoses, wires, or nests.

• If you covered the muffler or air intake, remove that material before you start the car.

• Check the windshield wipers to see if the rubber is cracked or brittle.

• Check the tire pressure and inflate the tires to the recommended specs.

• Check the brakes. Rust may have accumulated on the rotors. In most cases, it should go away after you drive the vehicle for a short time, but you may hear a “thumping” noise while applying the brakes until the rust cleans off.

• Check fluids to ensure there have been no leaks and they are at the recommended levels.

• If the battery cable has been disconnected, ensure that you reconnect it and that the battery terminals are clean.

Wash your vehicle to remove any dirt that may have accumulated.

Have Questions?
Please call one of our Service Advisors for more information or questions on your car.
They can offer valuable information on the proper service and repair for your vehicle.

Our Goal For You and Your Car
Our goal is to save you money, not spend it, which is why every car we service gets a free Courtesy Maintenance Inspection during its first and every subsequent visit.

We aim to inform you about the minor problems before they become big ones. Right now, we have a number of customer cars with well over 200,000 miles and several approaching 300,000!

And these cars are not just limping along – most look and drive pretty much the way they came out of the showroom. Proper maintenance is an investment in the life of your vehicle. Be sure it is properly performed, and take it to Atlantic Motorcar…Extraordinary Service for Extraordinary Cars. (207) 882-9969

Finally
Questions, or if we can be of help in any way with service on your Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Mini Cooper, or other European (and now Japanese) import, please contact us. Our team of Service Specialists is here to help, for even the newest autos! (207) 882-9969.

Knowing, not just “doing,” that’s the Atlantic Motorcar Center way.
Thanks!

Warmly,
The Atlantic Motorcar Center Service Team

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Reasons for Door Lock Actuator Failure in Your BMW

Case Studies

Reasons for Door Lock Failure in Your BMW
BMW is known for its luxury and performance. Car owners have fallen in love with the brand for its innovative technology. However, being one of the auto industry leaders doesn’t mean that there are no minor issues from time to time. Door lock failures can be a common problem BMW owners, and other car lines as well will face. To correct the problem, you need to know the reasons why these issues happen, and understanding some basics can help you guide your service professional when you report the symptoms. Here are some of the more common reasons why door locks fail, and what it occurs.

Blown Fuses
Blown fuses are a common occurrence in door lock systems. The good news is that fuses can be easily replaced and isn’t costly.
It’s a quick fix for many, but you still have to know why your fuse blew in the first place. If your BMW door locks are the only system affected, then the fuse is the culprit, but if there are other systems going haywire, you will need to identify the source of the problem. The more information you can supply, the more helpful it is to your service provider.

Important Tip – Fuses do not fail on their own, they do not “wear out”, and a blown fuse is a warning that something is a problem in the system. Never attempt to replace a blown fuse with a higher current rating, this can result in major electrical damage or even cause a fire.

Faulty Key FOB Or Remote
Key FOBs are one of the perks of advanced technology. You can unlock and lock your car, arm or disarm your car alarm, or even close and open the trunk remotely with just a push of a button. When key fobs malfunction, you will surely encounter door lock problems with your BMW.

It could be a dead battery or a glitch in your key fob programming. A simple battery replacement can sometimes solve the problem and is an excellent place to start when solving your door locking issues. We can also program and reset the FOB to the car’s computer, this is sometimes required with a dead battery or jump start when an electrical glitch occurs in the system.

Wiring Problems
BMWs are wired differently compared to other cars, and these complex systems may malfunction, particularly in the area of the door harness, which flexes each time the door is open or closed. This is often difficult to track down, and duplicate in the workshop, and is a frequent cause of fuses blowing intermittently. 

If the key fob and fuses are working, the next culprit is the wiring in your BMW’s electrical system. Wiring is not something that we often think of as wearing out, but through repeated use, it actually can burn out and become faulty. Often with wiring issues, you will notice fluctuations in power that will result in door locks working sometimes but not others, similar to low (but not quite dead) key fob batteries.

Replacing the wiring does not require taking apart your entire vehicle, as there are usually separate electrical systems for different parts of your car, but it will involve taking your door apart and getting to the battery. You will definitely need a professional BMW technician to take care of wiring issues in your vehicle.

Faulty Door Lock Actuators
A final common cause of door lock failure is when the door lock actuators malfunction. These actuators are the electronic mechanisms that physically engage the door locks when the lock button is pressed. These do not usually deteriorate quickly, but excessive use will wear them out over time, and the door locks are one of the most used functions of your BMW. How will you know if your door lock actuator is going bad?

Symptoms of lock actuator failure include weird noises coming from the door locks when operated or automatic locking and unlocking even when the buttons are not pressed. Likewise, intermittently blown fuses can signal an actuator motor that is drawing too much current and will eventually fail. Failure can be manageable at the onset, but you need to get them replaced if you don’t want to get locked out of your car.

Control Modules
A control module failure can cause issues with your locking system. Diagnosing the problem is not an easy task, but the failure of these modules is, fortunately, a rare event, usually caused by battery issues, jump-starting, or water intrusion. These units contain security coding and need to be diagnosed and programmed correctly by our BMW computer. You will need a professional BMW technician, equipped with the BMS ISTA computer, to program your system after service.

Have Questions?
For more information or questions on your BMW, please call one of our Service Advisors, they can offer valuable information on the proper service and repair for your car.

Our Goal For You and Your Car
Our goal is to save you money, not spend it. Which is why each and every car that we service gets a free Courtesy Maintenance Inspection during its first visit, and every subsequent visit.

Our goal is to let you know about the small problems, before they become big ones. Right now we have number of customer cars with well over 200,000 miles, and several approaching 300,000! And these cars are not just limping along – most look and drive pretty much the way they came out of the showroom. Proper maintenance is an investment in the life of your vehicle. Be sure it is properly performed, take it to Atlantic Motorcar…Extraordinary Service for Extraordinary Cars. (207) 882-9969

Finally
Questions, or if we can be of help in any way with service on your Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Mini Cooper or other European (and now Japanese) import, please contact us. Our team of Service Specialists is here to help, for even the newest autos! (207) 882-9969.

Knowing, not just “doing”, that’s the Atlantic Motorcar Center way.
Thanks!

Warmly,
The Atlantic Motorcar Center Service Team

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With Honor – A Life Well Lived, Extraordinarily Well

Case Studies
With Honor

When I first met Robert, he was referred to our facility to solve some previously unresolved problems with his classic 1998 Mercedes wagon. He was 95 at the time and informed me that he was interested in driving his Mercedes until he was 100.

I truly believed, given his grace, determination, and experience, that he’d make that. A very resolute, yet kind and gracious spirit. We solved the Mercedes wagon problems, and then he brought me his pride and joy, pictured here, a 1971 Mercedes 250C that he had brought over from Europe.

Robert didn’t quite make 100, passing away a few years back at 97. Ironically, this year, 2022, would be the 100th anniversary of his year of birth in his native England. Fittingly, we share this announcement.

 

But first, before we talk about the new area, let me tell you a little about Robert…

A most extraordinary gentleman, meeting this WW2 hero (how often do you meet a living Royal Air Force Spitfire pilot these days, especially one who shared a cigar with Winston Churchill?) and resurrecting his classic Mercedes was truly one of the highlights of my then 34-year career in automotive service.

After the completion of his first Mercedes, we sat in my office, talking about life and cars, when he suddenly spotted a Morse code key and practice sounder sitting on my desk. Being a ham radio operator, I frequently used it in my spare time to keep my Morse code sending sharp. Like a boy in a toy shop, he grabbed it up and began sending Morse code, a skill that he had learned some 75 years earlier in the RAF. I was delighted to gift him that, and so it was that when he would later call, I’d pick up the phone to the melodious tones of Morse code being sent.

If I may, I’d like to share the story of a life well-lived, very well lived. I knew he was extraordinary, but humble man he was, I didn’t know quite how much, until I read his obit. I knew I found a kindred spirit, didn’t realize how much. A part of Robert’s story can be found here – https://tinyurl.com/amc-robert-gray

So it was, when we bought our second location last July, we had some freed-up space at the main shop.
Discussions ensued, and our team agreed that it would be an ideal location to make a simple showroom, and there to display Robert’s car.

So a renovation was undertaken late last year, recently completed, the floor was epoxy coated with a wonderful vintage flake finish, the walls painted, cove molding installed, and antique lighting put into place. This is the result. We plan artwork for the wall and a couple of overstuffed leather chairs. I think Robert would be proud…

– Bruce
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That’s Hot! – Air Conditioning and Climate Control Diagnosis and Service

Case Studies

Air Conditioning In Modern European Autos
From the entry-level to the top-of-the-line, every modern car comes equipped with climate control. It is not just a feature; it is the standard. Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Mini Cooper, Land Rover, and Volvo, all have different designs, but the theory of operation of reach of these systems is the same.

Even though you might not get the heated seats or automatic climate controls, your car will still have A/C as standard. Interior comfort is one of the many reasons why we need a good air conditioning system in our cars. Often thought of only as a summer convenience, did you know that in modern cars, air conditioning is also used when the heat is on, to dehumidify the air inside the cabin, and to aid in defrosting the windows?

But then again, no matter how good anything was in beginning, it will always come to an end. Air conditioning is no different. They sure make our life a lot easier and more comfortable, but with time their cooling also starts to fade, and the system requires service.

Why Is My Air Conditioning Not Cold Enough?
Well, when you talk about A/C not working properly, it means that your A/C is malfunctioning. Now malfunctioning can be caused due to several reasons. But when we talk about A/C not being cold enough, well then, the reasons are always obvious.

If your vents are pushing less volume of air or you see dust or the air smells different, that will be a bad cabin micro-filter.

But otherwise, it could be a failed component or it’s just out of refrigerant.  To understand it better let’s first understand the working of a modern air conditioning system.

The functioning of an air conditioning system is nearly universally the same in almost all cars. The first thing you should understand is that your A/C does not create or generate cold air, it simply converts hot air into the cold. Your A/C system does so by either regulating the cabin air or bringing it in from the outside.

Understanding Air Conditioning Operation
It all starts from one unit called a compressor. It is a device that is used to reduce the volume of gas by increasing its pressure. Due to an increase in pressure the temperature also increases. Now, this hot gas moves into another unit called the condenser. The condenser is like a radiator and as the gas moves through it, it loses its temperature while being at the same pressure.

This in turn converts the gas into a liquid. Now the liquid moves through a dryer which separates the liquid from any remaining gas. Then the liquid moves to a thermal expansion valve which then simply turns your hot high-pressure liquid into a cold, low-pressure gas. The cold gas is now passed through an evaporator which is also like a radiator.

The hot air from the outside or from your cabin then passes through the evaporator. As the hot air comes into contact with the cold gas, the air loses its heat and you get cold air from your vents.

Then the cold gas from the evaporator goes back into the compressor and a cycle is created. This is how your air conditioning works. We would call it a heat exchanger, moving heat energy from one area to another.

How and Why Does Air Conditioning Fail?
You might be wondering, how does this explain your A/C not cooling air.
There are two answers to that.

a. Any one of the many AC components has stopped working.

b. Your compressor has run out of refrigerant due to a system leak, or the normal loss because of age.

What Is Refrigerant?
A refrigerant or freon is a substance used to transfer heat from one area to another. Yes, it is the same substance that keeps converting into liquid and gas as explained above. With time your car runs out of refrigerant and you need to recharge it.

Without refrigerant, your compressor will not work, and your evaporator will not have any cold gas to convert hot air into the cold.
But how would you know whether you have a malfunctioning AC or you just don’t have enough refrigerant?

How Much Does A Simple Air Conditioning Recharge Cost?
The total cost of getting your refrigerant refill or A/C simply recharged will generally not be more than $270-$300, but if a component replacement is needed, then the cost can be considerably higher. This is why it is important to have your system professionally diagnosed and checked for leaks, so parts are not needlessly replaced, or refrigerant wasted.

How Often Do You Need To Recharge Your A/C System?
Recharging your A/C doesn’t come with a time period or expiry date. Refrigerant is not consumed with use, but over time does seep out of the system, though this often takes years. So there is no time limit or frequency to how often you should recharge your air conditioning. It depends on the area you live in and the amount of time you use A/C and at what intensity you use your air conditioning, and system integrity.

The Proper Repair And The Alternative
If you search, you’ll see all kinds of “do it yourself” (DIY) kits to “repair and recharge” your air conditioning.  In days gone by, 20 or 30 years ago, this sometimes worked, when A/C had a “sight glass” to view the charge level.

Today’s modern systems no longer have a sight glass, and instead, rely on very accurate (down to the level of ounces) proper refrigerant charge. Any of these DIY kits will almost certainly damage your vehicle’s A/C system, and end up costing you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars more. DON’T TAKE THE CHANCE.

The only true and permanent repair is to confirm system integrity, correct any leakage, or replace worn or damaged components. Then the system must be thoroughly evacuated (vacuum drawn on the system for testing), a leak detection dye is then added, and then the system is properly recharged with the correct refrigerant, while pressure is monitored. It’s just not worth the risk, do it right the first time professionally, and it’s good to go.

Value
At Atlantic Motorcar, we’re all about providing our customers not only Great Service but also Value. We understand that “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” (my mom would be proud I remembered that.), in other words, preventing, or catching problems like these brake lines early, can save you more than just money.

Finally
Questions, or if we can be of help in any way with service on your Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Mini Cooper or other European (and now Japanese) import, please contact us.

Our team of Service Specialists is here to help, for even the newest autos! (207) 882-9969.
Knowing, not just “doing”, that’s the Atlantic Motorcar Center way.

Thanks!

Warmly,
The Atlantic Motorcar Center Service Team

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