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How I shop for new tires…

shop for tiresI have bought many sets of tires over the years for many different cars.  I also used to work at a tire store and installed my fair share of tires.  The majority of the time I am shopping at the worst time, the car needs inspection, or there is a hole in the tire which can not be patched.  Plus, since budgeting is not my strong suit, price is ALWAYS a consideration.  Here is my process…

  1. Research – I head over to and enter my vehicle specs and sort through the reviews.  As with anything on the internet, you will get idiots leaving mindless reviews, but I have found the quality of reviews on TireRack to be better than average.  You will be able to spot the idiots by their grammar and usually terse responses.
  2. Price – Once you have found 2 or 3 well reviewed tires in your price range, get a shipping quote and get an all-in price from TireRack, don’t purchase just yet.
  3. Installation – TireRack offers a service where they ship your tires to a local shop and for a set fee, that shop will mount, balance and install.  Convenient and price effective.  Most shops that participate in the program are independent shops, which do more than just tires.  Get the price for this service as well.  You can have the tires shipped to your house and go to any local shop and get them mounted and balanced, but call around and get prices.  In my area, Eastern PA, going rate is $25 per tire.
  4. Call your local tire stores and get pricing on the tires you researched on TireRack.  Not all local tire stores will carry all brands, so you may have to call around or check their websites out for the brands they carry.  Some of my local shops are matching TireRack pricing after shipping/install is considered.  This has been my favorite method, as I get to support my local store and get the best pricing, a true win-win.
Posted: 19th December 2013  |  Author: Kevin Schappell  |  Category: General

Waterless Car Wash – Is it any good?

I have had a lot of visitors asking about waterless car washes, which have become more popular as environmental concerns have grown.  Water is a precious resource, and the thought goes that conserving water, and keeping contaminants out of the water supply is a good thing.

What Are Waterless Car Wash products?

Most I have tried are a chemical spray which attempts to lift the dirt from the surface of your car.  You spray it on, and wipe it off, hopefully with a 100% cotton towel to avoid scratches.  Basically an instant detailer spray used by many enthusiasts before a car show to touch up their finish.

Does it work?

Probably works for light dirt, but in my mind the danger is the possibility of scratches.  The less liquid (water) the greater the chance for scratches from the dirt you are trying to remove.  I would also be concerned about how the waterless car wash spray would affect the top layer of wax.

I say be safe and wash your car the right way…

Posted: 31st October 2013  |  Author: Kevin Schappell  |  Category: Car Care

Broken Timing Belt?

My question…

Do the rest of the belts like the water and alternator they are still working when I crank the car…should they not be working?

or the timing belt works independent from the others?

I also check the distributor rotor and it’s not spining with the cap off…. that’s why I think it’s the tming belt…

Any help will be appreciated…



Yes, it’s the timing belt.  The accessory belts are driven from the crankshaft.  The timing belt is driven from the crankshaft as well and turn the camshaft/s.  The distributor is also usually driven off the camshaft.  So if the distributor is not turning, the camshaft is not turning, and the belt is broken.  The same holds true for timing chains as well.  Usually the chain will not break, but the teeth will wear off of the gears bolted to the camshaft or the crankshaft.

Posted: 29th October 2013  |  Author: Kevin Schappell  |  Category: Engine

Battery Drain and Cigarette Lighter Issues

cigarette lighter battery drainQuestion:

Alternator works.  I can drive the car for an hour or so -park it overnight and the battery is dead.  I have to charge it.  There appears to be a short somewhere but I don’t know where (The cigarette lighter doesn’t work???  Everything else works. Where should I begin looking.  I cannot find a web page  on how to replace the lighter on a 94 Mazda Miata   – Jerry




The best and fastest way would be to buy or borrow a clamp-on DC amp meter, which will allow you to hook up a freshly charged battery and measure the current draw with everything in the car off.  (key out, doors closed, underhood light unplugged)  If there is a drain you will see it on the current meter.  You can then start pulling fuses in the fuse box and see which circuit is causing the drain.  Once you have isolated the circuit you will then have to dig in and trace the wires.  More than likely the cigarette lighter circuit will be the culprit.  It’s possible there is a short, or I have even seen a penny get stuck in the cigarette lighter and cause issues!  (usually a blown fuse)  Your Miata also has a “fusible link” which may be blown as well, which would require a new socket, since the fusible link is built in to the socket.  Not sure on the specifics of how to remove the cigarette lighter, but I searched following my own advice and found this…


“I have my center console and center panel (the black strip that surrounds the radio/HVAC/cig-lighter area) removed at the moment for another purpose. And I just took my cigarette lighter out last night. Thing is, so far as I can tell, there’s no way of removing the cigarette lighter casing from the front without damaging it. I know you can yank it out with a needle-nose pliers, but it will get trashed. Since you already have a new replacement unit, maybe you should just go ahead and do that. Just be sure to break the cigarette lighter casing and not the center panel (the black plastic).

If you want to remove it without damaging it, you have to remove the center console and center panel. This sounds worse than it is. Once you have the center panel out, the cigarette lighter casing (and passenger side air-bag switch in my car) comes out with it. Then you can access it from behind. I actually used a cloth-wrapped flat-head screwdriver to slowly pry out the metal part from the front. When it’s out, there’s a clip on the plastic part that, when pressed in from behind, allows you to remove the plastic part from the front.” -

Posted: 29th October 2013  |  Author: Kevin Schappell  |  Category: Electrical

How to diagnose overheating engine.


I have a Ford F-150 1995 model it has a 302 in it. My question is, it keeps overheating I change the water pump about 6 months ago, it has a new thermostat also, the water wasn’t circulating in the radiator so I flushed it 3 times took it out and made sure everything was washed out of it, so I put it back in and the water is moving through it just fine now, so I figured I had the problem fixed well I don’t its still running hot . Do you have any idea what else it could be that’s making it run hot? I’m baffled and out of ideas. Hope you can help thanks. – Kirk

Here are the steps I use when diagnosing an overheating issue…

1. Check the radiator cap with a tester. A bad radiator cap will keep pressure from building and can cause an engine to overheat.
2. Pressurize the cooling system and check for leaks.
3. Have the hoses been changed lately? A soft radiator hose can collapse and restrict flow of coolant to the engine.
4. If the radiator was plugged and required a flush, maybe the engine has a blockage as well. Was any radiator stop-leak product used in the past? They can cause issues with head gasket coolant passages and other tight areas.
5. I have had brand new water pumps fail shortly after install. It’s possible that at higher RPMs the impeller is spinning on the shaft, reducing coolant flow.
6. Check airflow, fan clutch or electric fan if equipped.

Overheating issues can be a real pain to diagnose. Many shops and owners just start replacing until they find the culprit.

Good Luck,


Posted: 28th October 2013  |  Author: Kevin Schappell  |  Category: Cooling, Engine

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