Subaru automatic shifter solenoid question.

subaru shifterQuestion: I have a 92 Subaru loyale and the solenoid in the shifting mechanism isn’t receiving any power. My question is what powers the solenoid, is it the inhibitor relay or inhibitor switch that isn’t giving it power? I hooked the solenoid up to a voltage meter and there is absolutely no power, so the shifter is stuck in park and won’t switch gears unless I use the emergency release button. So my husband decided to bypass the solenoid completely and hook up the shifter to a light so the shifter will shift into other gears. But what is causing the no power to the solenoid?


Answer: Beth, the shifter solenoid is designed to keep you from shifting out of park when the brake pedal is not depressed. There should be a plunger switch under the dash directly above the brake pedal which activates your brake lights, and sends a signal to the solenoid to activate and allow shifting when the pedal is depressed.

I would first check to see if your brake lights work, if not then the switch is bad, a common issue on older cars. The replacement part is usually under $10 and easy to change.

If you have brake lights, then you need to check voltage at the relay when the car is on and the brake pedal is depressed. If you don’t have voltage (12 volts) follow the wiring from that brake light switch to the shifter solenoid and see if there is a break in the wiring, or a blown fuse. If you do have voltage coming in to the solenoid when the brake pedal is pressed, then the solenoid is likely bad.

Posted: 8th October 2014  |  Author: Kevin Schappell  |  Category: Brakes, Drivetrain, Electrical

My Ford Fusion

2011 Ford Fusion Review

2011 Ford FusionFor those of you shopping for a used car, the 2010 – 2012 Ford Fusion might find it’s way on to your short list of cars to consider. It made my list a few months ago when trading in my gas guzzling Ford Excursion. The Ford Fusion sits firmly in the family sedan class with the likes of the Honda Accord, Mazda 6 and Chevy Malibu. Below are a few notes which may help you decide if the Ford Fusion is right for you…

Engine and drivetrain choices.

The Fusion comes in front wheel drive and AWD trim. The AWD is scarce on the used market, offers slighly worse gas mileage and has more to go wrong with it, I chose the FWD for it’s simplicity.

The base engine is a 2.5L 4 cylinder mated with a 6 speed automatic or 6 speed manual transmission making 175 horsepower and 172 foot pounds of torque. The manual transmission is more rare than the AWD option, but on the one I test drove shifted well and seemed to make the 4cyl. engine a little more peppy. I did drive the automatic too, and it was simply not impressive in it’s power or shifting… more on that later. Reporting mileage seems to be in the 25 – 30MPG range depending on your location (hills vs. flat land) and driving style.

The next step up in the Fusion is the 3.0L V-6 engine which Ford has been running in their lineup for years and offers 240 horsepower and 233 foot pounds of torque. It’s a reliable work horse for Ford and has seen many 100′s of thousands of miles in the Taurus model. The fuel economy of this engine gets better and better with the addition of technology which allows cylinder deactivation on deceleration. In other words, you let off the gas and coast, the engine does not fire certain cylinders (and injectors) to save fuel. This results in a slight engine braking effect which is noticable but not undesired. Gas mileage in real life is 20 – 25mpg. I have this engine in my Fusion and can get 27 on long highway trips and average 24 – 25mpg in mixed driving. The only transmission available on the 3.0 V-6 Fusion is the 6 speed automatic.

The last engine is the 3.5L V-6 which is available on the Sport models and bumps the numbers up to 263 horsepower and 249 foot pounds of torque. I did not test drive this engine/transmission combination. There were several available in my area but from research then extra power was not really worth it, and the interior options were limited under the sport trim package. This engine is also only available with a 6 speed automatic transmission, but it’s a different transmission than the 3.0L gets. Again more on that later…

Trim Packages.

This is just a basic overview. You can search online for more details, or check the dealer’s websites to get specifics for the Fusion.

  • S – Basic cloth seats and manual A/C and 16″ wheels.
  • SE – Sunroof, cloth seats, fog lights and 17″ steel wheels.
  • SEL – Sunroof, leather seats, dual zone automatic A/C and 17″ aluminum wheels. Navigation optional as well as premium Sony audio.
  • Sport – 18″ wheels, fog lights, sunroof, with leather seats optional.

The Good…

The car looks good, now I know this is a personal thing and very subjective. Some like the grill, some don’t, I am in the later camp. If you could give me the front grill from the 2013+ Fusion and the rear from the 2010-2012 I would be a very happy camper.

The interior is comfortable, and at 6’4″ I consider this a major factor. I am however almost out of headroom depending on how I have the seat back adjusted. Fully up, and my head hits. This is most likely due to the sunroof, as the cars I test drove without the sun roof seemed to have plenty of headroom. The fit and finish is good, not excellent but good and the leather seating surfaces are comfortable and should hold up to spills. I owned a 2004 Acura TL which I have been comparing with my Fusion and the interior on the TL was excellent, no surprise there, but the Fusion comes closer than any other American car I have driven.

The 3.0L engine is silky smooth, quiet and powerful. There is enough power on tap with an acceptable MPG rating at the end of the drive, sounds about right! Then engine is so quiet that when you start it, you will wonder if it’s actually running.

The ride is the perfect mix of confidence and compliance which leads to spirited driving and comfort on long trips. It’s not a corner burning sports sedan, but it’s not a boat either.

The Bad…

This may be a minor issue, and it may be just me, but the steering wheel controls are ass-backwards! I prefer the Honda layout where the most common controls are on the left side of the wheel. This means the audio volume, channel and mode switches can be accessed with the hand steering. I drive with my left arm on the door and wheel, right hand is on the shifter or resting on my leg. Again maybe it’s just me and the way I drive, but I am sure there are some people which will agree with me.

The heating and A/C controls are too low in the center stack to make it easy to change settings. It’s just too low! I don’t even have the navigation screen to take up the room higher up on the dash.

The electronic throttle is touchy. In first gear the slightest touch of the gas pedal will result in the car lurching forward. You get used to it, but it’s not great when a new driver gets in the car. No way to adjust it, and while there is a recall out on the throttle body, my car has been fixed and it has not helped the sensitivity issues.

And The Ugly…

The transmission! I am going to blame my wife for this one… she did not like the idea of the manual transmission 4cyl. SE I test drove, so I opted for the V-6 SEL. Yeah I got the better interior, Sony speakers and cool dual exhaust but the transmission almost makes it not worth it. The transmission shifts at odd times, hunts for gear, and at times slams in to gear with a shudder that would make an owner without a warranty crap his pants. I bought a certified Fusion so I am good, and fully expect the transmission to be replaced before that warranty expires. Some of the issues are from the simple fact that there are 6, count them 6 speeds in this slush box. I know EPA regulations have put pressure on manufacturers to get the most MPG out of a car, and adding more shift points keeps the engine in most economical RPM range, but really Ford??? If I drive the can in “Manual Mode” it’s fine, but put it in Drive and it’s an annoying experience.

Wrap Up

Would I buy it again? Maybe… I might take the 2.5cyl 6-speed manual SE and teach my wife to drive stick-shift. I did mention I was comparing the car to my old 2004 Acura TL quite often, and if I did not have the desire to own an American car, I would buy another one. The TL was just as fast, if not faster, close to the same interior room, and the fit and finish was top notch. Also maintenance was easy, and the reliability was second to none. Not much experience with maintenance on the Fusion yet, time will tell…

Update – 2/21/15

The transmission seems to be better, or I am getting used to it, not sure which. In the very cold mornings of this PA winter, it sometimes contemplates the meaning of life before shifting, but all in all, once warmed up it seems better. Might be the colder weather making a difference.

Another complaint I have is with the climate control system. On the lower end of the digital temperature range, you have 60 which is full outside air. The next step on the system is 65 degrees. So if it’s winter and the outside air is 30 degrees, you either have ice cold air hitting you or hot air at 65 degrees. This makes regulating the temperature a dance between fan speed and the temperature dial. It would be nice of Ford to give finer control of the temp.

Posted: 15th August 2014  |  Author: Kevin Schappell  |  Category: Buying A Car

A Parents Guide To Dipping Your Car

Mom & Dad, I want to dip my car!

plasti dip carSay what?!?!? If your son or daughter is of driving age or close to it, they may have already asked you this question. And if you are not up to speed on the latest trends in the automotive world then you are likely to reply back with a blank stare, or a reactionary “NO way in hell!” What follows in a parents guide to dipping your car

What is dipping your car?

“Dipping” refers to coating wheels, body panels, or the entire car in a temporary rubberized coating. The original product used was Plasti Dip, designed to “DIP” tool handles in a rubberized non-slip coating. Plasti Dip initially came in a handy can and had a thick viscosity to give an extra thick coating to those tool handles. Eventually they offered the product in gallons and aerosols, any some bright person figured out that you can use this stuff on wheels and body panels.

Is Plasti Dip safe for your car?

It is a “temporary” coating, which will peel off of body panels, glass, rubber moldings and about anything else found on a car. For easy removal, there must be enough coats (4-6) of Plasti Dip on the car. What about the paint underneath? I am not aware of any formal testing of the effects of this coating on the underlying clear coat, but real-world evidence suggests there is no harm to the paint underneath. The only evidence of damage I have seen is the result of too few coats and an overly ambitious teen attempting to remove the Plasti Dip coating with a pressure washer. The damage to the paint was from the high pressure water spray not the rubberized coating over top.

Why is it so popular?

This one is a little tougher to answer, just because there are so many reasons.

  • It gives a matte (flat) finish which is very “in” right now. The range of colors available and the additives, clear coatings and effects than can be achieved are awesome.
  • It’s easier and cheaper than repainting a car or a set of wheels. Automotive painting is a tricky business, with tons of prep time and specialized equipment (air compressor, paint guns, mixing equipment etc.). Dipping your car with Plasti Dip can be done in your driveway with a minimum of over spray and completed in a weekend.
  • It’s easily removed so mistakes can be fixed or the desire for a new color can be realized in short time.
  • It’s a hacker mentality! Kids are taking something that was designed for one purpose, and turning it around to serve another. It’s a creative outlet with almost unlimited potential.

So should I let my kid dip his car, or mine?

Sure! With a few caveats… Do it safely, use a respirator, be careful of over spray, and make sure to tape up anything you don’t want coated. It will peel off, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. There are plenty of forums out there which spell out the best ways to get the job done and tons of YouTube clips as well. It’s great to let kids be creative, learn a little more about cars, and be proud of something THEY did to their car. (or yours)

Posted: 6th June 2014  |  Author: Kevin Schappell  |  Category: General

Essential Automotive Websites You Have Probably Never Heard Of.

essential automotive websitesJust spent some time today driving across the countryside looking for parts for my step-son’s car and I remembered a cool website which helps me search local junkyard (first website on the list). Even I need a reminder sometimes of the cool essential websites out there on the interwebs. So as a placeholder for myself and others, here is a list of some of my favorites…

  • – Need a part for your car and considering a used part from a junkyard? Don’t spend hours on the phone, go to this website to search online and find the exact part you need at the price you want.
  • – We all know the big automotive price guides, Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds, but is my favorite pricing guide with the most accurate pricing information. If you are buying or selling, your first stop should be to this website.
  • – If you are a car guy, or girl, you know Jalopnik, but for the general public it made this list. If you want to understand the passion that goes in to the automotive enthusiast lifestyle, read Jalopnik. Automotive articles, cool race cars and a good dose of weird automotive stuff will keep you coming back for more.
  • – One of the best resources for new car news! Keep up with the news from your favorite car brand and drool over killer concept vehicles without having to attend a crowded auto show in your area.
  • – Get your green on, with They cover bio-fuel, electric, and alternative energy topics as they relate to cars, trucks and motorcycles. Well written and balanced view of the issues at hand.
  • – From the people who brought us “People Of Walmart”, offers a glimpse in to the distorted minds of car owners across the globe. Maybe score some ideas to customize your ride, or just sit back and shake your head!
Posted: 18th April 2014  |  Author: Kevin Schappell  |  Category: General

Why a Clean Car Matters

For the busy professional, a clean car may be the last thing on your mind. Meetings, family commitments and hitting the gym usually rank way before getting your ride spic and span. But what happens if you get elected to drive to lunch with your boss, or business associates? What impression would your car leave? The old saying “A clean desk is the sign of a sick mind” won’t work when it comes to your car, even if you are a traveling salesman and your car is your office.

Let’s look at some other benefits besides aesthetics…

  • Better Gas Mileage: Your car will slip through the air better if it’s clean. Sound crazy, it’s not, it’s science! Check out the Myth Busters getting 2MPG better in their tests of a clean vs. dirty car. YouTube Video Link
  • Longer Lasting Paint: Your paint is more delicate than you think, and keeping it clean will keep it shining for years to come. Modern paints are made from Urethane and consist of a base color coat and a clear top coat that provides the shine. Dirt can become embedded in the top clear coat and cause damage over time. Small metal particles like rail dust and brake pad dust can eventually oxidize (rust) and stain the top layer of paint unless cleaned off regularly.
  • No annoying “Wash Me” graffiti phrases across the window from neighbor kids or your own offspring. Case in point, one of my twin daughters thought she would be cute and write on one of my latest projects…
  • Clean duds: Nothing sucks more than getting in or out of your car in business attire and rubbing up against a dirty car. In the winter road salt is also very easy to get on pant legs and jackets.
  • Less Rust: Speaking of road salt, (or ocean salt spray) it speeds up the oxidation process and will leave your car a rust mess if not cleaned off! Don’t forget the under carriage of your car too, as the road salt and ocean spray gets in every nook and cranny.

Hopefully I don’t have to further convince you of all the benefits of a clean car. Whip out that hose and bucket, or read more in our Car Care Section.

Posted: 16th April 2014  |  Author: Kevin Schappell  |  Category: Body, Car Care

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