The Edible Engine
Posted January 20, 2019 03:02 AM
You may have had a friend whose vehicle was the victim of hungry rodents. After all, mice, rats and squirrels—even rabbits—have been known to gnaw on wires in engine compartments, causing vehicle electrical systems to go haywire. They can disable a vehicle completely and be very expensive to fix.
In 2017, some drivers noticed their vehicle's wiring was being chewed and found out the automaker was using a relatively new material for covering their wires: soy. Many of the repairs to their new vehicles weren't covered under warranty by the manufacturer when it was discovered rodents were eating the wiring. So the owners filed a class action suit, saying the soy covering was essentially baiting the critters.
The automakers tell a different story, saying mice, rats and squirrels have been chewing through wire insulation long before it was made out of soy.
Regardless of what the insulation is made of, vehicle owners should make sure rodents aren't chowing down and creating a problem in the engine compartment. They can have their repair facility check for these signs: Little bits of acorns, leaves, chewed up plastic and animal droppings in the engine's nooks and crannies. Using a black light, your technician can detect animal urine, a sure sign that they've been using your engine compartment as a warm apartment, a nest and a dining room.
You can take steps to prevent rodents from chomping your vehicle's parts. Honda—one of the vehicle manufacturers that uses soy-based wiring covering—makes a rodent tape. It contains a spice called capsaicin that rodents find too hot to handle. Other preventative measures include installing metal mesh around wiring harnesses or spraying the engine compartment with special rodent-repellants.
Rodent damage can cost one vehicle owner thousands of dollars to fix, not the kind of bite anyone wants taken out of their bank account.
Tacky or Techie? The Tachometer.
Posted January 30, 2018 07:55 AM
There's a gauge that many vehicles have that says RPM on it. And there are a lot of people who either don't pay any attention to it or don't even know what it is. Here's why it's a good gauge to know about.
It's called a tachometer, and that "RPM" label means it is measuring how many revolutions per minute (RPM) the engine is turning. Automotive experts know that a vehicle's engine can be damaged if it turns too fast (revving too high) or too slowly ("lugging" the engine).
A tachometer (sometimes called a tach) is almost a "must-have" gauge for vehicles with a manual transmission; the driver has to manually change gears; the tach helps the driver know when revolutions are in the optimal range.
Some say you don't need a tachometer if you drive a vehicle with an automatic transmission. It's true that most drivers of automatics don't even look at it. But there are times when paying attention to the tach can help you prevent an expensive repair.
Here's a good example. Manufacturers now build many of their automatic transmission vehicles with shift paddles. They let you shift gears without a clutch. That's manual shifting, and drivers need to know they're not revving the engine too high. That's where the tachometer comes in, since it shows you visually when you are in the red zone (RPM too high).
Here's another way the tach can help you: fuel economy. Generally speaking, the lower the RPM, the better the fuel economy. It's not good to go too low, of course, and the tachometer will help you find that spot of maximum efficiency.
You can also spot problems by paying attention to the tach. When your vehicle stays in first gear longer than usual (higher reading on the tach), then the RPM dip lower than usual after shifting, it may be that your vehicle's transmission is skipping a gear. Plus, if your vehicle's RPM go up but your speed doesn't, it could mean your transmission is slipping. Either situation should be checked by a trained technician.
If your commute takes you down some long grades, you might like to put your vehicle in a lower gear to help slow down the car (and not burn up the brakes). Having a tachometer keeps tabs on when your engine is revving too high.
So, consider the tachometer a "bonus" gauge. It's one more helpful assistant that can help you spot and prevent problems in your vehicle.