Author & Automotive Expert James D. Halderman



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Halderman newsletterOctober 2013

I read recently that the average age of a vehicle on the road is a record 11+ years. That means that a 2002 model year (MY) vehicle is now average. I have worked on several vehicles lately and their model years were 1997, 2000 and 2002. All of them had way over 100,000 miles on them but they still looked and ran great. It used to be that once a car hit 100,000 it was time to junk it.

Everything is lasting longer and it is not unusual to see vehicles that have over 200,000 roll into the shop needing tires or brakes or other routine service.   While some vehicle owners are not fixing the air conditioning (you can spot them on a hot day driving with the windows down), many are asking about fixing leaks and other repairs in an effort to avoid having to purchase a new or newer vehicle.

Another thing I have noticed is that a car is a car and whether it is a domestic or an import brand does not seem to matter to many shops or technicians.  In fact, I have heard students tell me that they thought that Honda and Toyota were domestic vehicles. In many ways they are because they are being built in North America in places near me in Ohio or Kentucky. As long as you have service information and a scan tool that is able to access the various systems, then diagnosing and servicing vehicles of all types in about the same. 


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ASE Sample Question
Tech Tips
Straight Talk
ASE Sample Certification Question



A compression test gave the following results:


Cylinder #1 = 155, cylinder #2 = 140, cylinder #3 = 110, cylinder #4 = 105


Technician A says that a defective (burned) valve is the most likely cause.  Technician B

says that a leaking head gasket could be the cause.  Which technician is correct?


a.         Technician A only

b.         Technician B only

c.         Both Technicians A and B

d.         Neither Technician A nor B



The correct answer is b.  Technician B is correct because if the head gasket were leaking between cylinder number 3 and 4, the compression on these cylinders would be lower than normal.  The defective gasket would allow compression to escape to the adjacent cylinders.  Technician A is not correct because a burned valve would only affect one cylinder.  It would be very rare that two cylinders side-by-side would both have a burned valve and is therefore not a "likely" cause.  Answersc and d are not correct because only Technician B is correct.


For FREE sample ASE test questions with answers, visit my website where you will find 15 questions for each of the eight ASE areas (120 total questions).

For an excellent resource for all eight ASE content areas, consider this test preparation book:

Tech Tips

Your Nose Knows

Using the nose, a technician can often identify a major problem without having to connect the vehicle to an exhaust analyzer. For example:

* The strong smell of exhaust is due to excessive unburned hydrocarbon (HC) emissions. Look for an ignition system fault that could prevent the proper burning of the fuel. A vacuum leak could also cause a lean misfire and cause excessive HC exhaust emissions.

* If your eyes start to burn or water, suspect excessive oxides of nitrogen (NOx) emissions. The oxides of nitrogen combine with the moisture in the eyes to form a mild solution of nitric acid. The acid formation causes the eyes to burn and water. Excessive NOx exhaust emissions can be caused by:

* A vacuum leak causing higher-than-normal combustion chamber temperature

* Over advanced ignition timing causing higher than- normal combustion chamber temperature.

* Lack of proper amount of exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) (This is usually noticed above idle on most vehicles.)

* Dizzy feeling or headache. This is commonly caused by excessive carbon monoxide (CO) exhaust emissions. Get into fresh air as soon as possible. A probable cause of high levels of CO is an excessively rich air-fuel mixture.

Straight Talk

From the September 7, 2013, Wheels section in the Dayton Daily News:


The Case of the No Start Honda


Sherry S. wrote by e-mail:

 "I'm the original and sole owner of a 1993 Honda DelSol.  The car has 156,000 original miles.  The car has been maintained per owner's manual. 

My problem:

The last few years I've had some ignition problems on occasion.  I drive the car to the store and park.  When I get back to the car and try to start it, the car will crank over but won't fire.  Sometimes I'll take the gas cap off and put it back on.  I'll let it sit for a time and try to start again.  That seems to work.  I haven't had it towed yet, but it is frightening to be marooned like that.   Hope you can help.   Thank you."



Because the car will start after you remove the gas cap, tells me that the problem is fuel system related. The most common cause would be a weak fuel pump. I suggest that you have a shop test the pump for pressure and volume to see if this is the cause. Check your service history and see when the fuel filter was last replaced. If it is partially clogged, this could be a cause also. Most shops will replace the fuel filter at the same time the pump is replaced so be prepared for that minor extra expense. Other possible causes include a weak main relay or a bad ignition control module.


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Jim Halderman
James D. Halderman writes automotive technology textbooks for Pearson Education. He is an ASE-certified Master Technician with more than 20 years instructional experience.