Read This Note Before Posting (Combined Notes)

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Old 12-13-02, 09:01 AM
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Arrow Read The Basics Before Posting

Here's some more information that might help with getting "The Basics" out of the way.

***Help Us Help You - Please include as much information as possible***

Always post:

1) State Year, make, model, transmission type, and engine size, body type.

2) What the problem is. A comprehensive description of the problem. Include the conditions if any of when the probelm happens and how often it happens.

3) What attempts have been made to fix the problem, either by you or a mechanic. What parts have been changed? No detail is too small.


1) for relevant Technical Service Bulletin titles that might apply to your problem. See the car dealer for a printout of the full bulletin. will only give you the titles of them! Also if it's a known recall, contact the manufacturer or the NHTSA at their website.

2) If the vehicle is perhaps under warranty. If not, and it is not that old of a vehicle (or has low mileage) consider contacting the manufacturer and working out a deal for a goodwill warranty. That is, the manufacturer will cover some of the repair and you cover some of the repair. The term "goodwill" means that the manufacturer will offer some help on the problem (financial assistance) to promote "customer goodwill" (the hope that you will buy another car from them).

- Lastly, Please keep all posts together on the same vehicle/problem by using your REPLY button for continuity and expedience.

- It is appreciated if you'd post back the results of your problem, our solution and what fixed the issue. Everyone learns more this way

Mechanical Basics
1) Must have spark, air, and fuel. Without these three you go nowhere.

Causes of no spark: Bad ignition parts, crank sensor, broken timing belt (to test: see if the distributor rotor turns when you crank the engine). If in doubt, start with a full tune-up including all filters to eliminate any possible questionable parts. When the car does run, it will run better with fresh parts.

Causes of no fuel: Bad fuel pump, relay, wiring, as well as clogs in the lines or filters. On cars with electric fuel pumps in the tank, avoid running the vehicle low on fuel. Doing this removes both the lubrication and cooling ability of the pump (the fuel!). Not to mention you will suck up dirt from the tank and cause problems. Not worth it!

Causes of no air: Clogged air intake, air filter, bad air flow meter, carbon in the intake, etc.

Rules of Safety
1) Never smoke while around cars or batteries. The results can be explosive. Literally. Extinguish all sources of flames and sparks. Never be too careful.

2) Always properly support a load when going under a vehicle. Make sure to put it on steady, level ground. A hurt or injured DIY'er is not a happy one.

3) Backup plan: If you have to, don't rush. Plan to hitch a ride with a friend or take public transit/alternate vehicle. Rushing through a job to get stuck the next morning is more expensive than waiting till the next day and doing it right.

4) A clean work shop is a happy one. While sometimes not avoidable, the job is better when you keep the area clean and clutter free. Keep all tools in good shape and use good quality tools. I like Craftsman products (Sears) due to the good warranty and overall good quality and value. Home Depot's Husky line is pretty good too. Snapon, Matco, SK and Proto are among other good professional brands out there, and cost considerably more.

Basics of Maintenance
1) Tuneups and filter changes regularly. Follow your manufacturer's recommendations for oil and fluids to be used. Look at the maintenance schedule and see how your driving fits into the schedule for "severe" or "normal" driving. Many folks do "severe" driving and don't know it!

2) "If you can't remember when, it's time". Good motto. If you can't remember when the last time you did a regular service, it's time now. Can never hurt.

3) Think simple. Most parts are not returnable to a parts store if they are not your problem. So, in that respect, don't go changing expensive parts in lieu of testing or diagnosis. Your wallet will thank you. Think about how the system works. Refer to your manual or the archives of the forum for more help.

4) Belts and hoses should be changed after four years. Prevent a breakdown! (Tow Guy can attest to this, I'm sure!)

Some Words of Wisdom
1) If you can rope, I mean convince , someone to help you, this is welcomed. I almost always do my work with the help of a friend. Two heads are better than one. A helper is also good for moral support and can lend an inevitable ride to the parts store when needed. Lol.

2) Know when you need the right tools. As an example: with A/C work, you need the right tools to do the job right. Ask yourself if the vehicle is worth fixing. Can I replace it for the same amount of money I am spending? Do I like this car? How is the condition of everything else? Am I fixing the A/C when I know the body is rotten and the transmission slips or the engine knocks?

3) If it's too cheap to be had, it's probably a bad used car. How right this often is. Unless you get it for free through a relative (and even at that, trust me on that one ), it still needs work.

Every used car is sold because something better is out there. There are good used cars, you just have to find them. Think about your budget, what you want to spend on fixing it, and what your abilities are. A 1000 dollar car that is always out of service and costs you 200 to fix it each time 5 times a year makes the 3000 dollar used car you snuffed not look so bad after all.

4) If in doubt picking up a used car, have a mechanic look at it. Chances are he/she can spot things you can't because they know what to look for. Many mechanics will check good customer's cars for free, others might charge a fee or by the hour for a detailed report.

5) Do I have an alternate plan to fix this? Do I have a ride tomorrow to get to work in case it's not done? While this sounds extreme, the pressures of fixing a car can make headaches and jobs done twice as mentioned above.

Have a backup plan to hitch a ride with a coworker or take public transit in case you don't have it working in time. A good night's sleep oftentimes will give you the fresh start to tackle that bolt that won't start or that wire you couldn't figure out. Rome wasn't built in a day.

6) Charging system basics. A digital meter is very handy here. In short, a fully charged modern battery should have 12 to 12.5 volts to start. 14.2 when the engine is running with no acessories. Slowly add accessories (lights, blower, A/C, radio, wipers, etc). Watch the meter. With full load, if you get below 13.5 on the meter, the alternator is likely worn out.

More information to come from the vast experience that gets posted in the forum or through diligent reading!


- For information on how to read and interpret your trouble codes (if applicable), check out Knuckles & 0Patience's website at

-Service information can also be purchased at

Note: The best, most comprehensive, and recommended manual is the OEM factory service manual.

-Go to the following URL for phone numbers and OE contact information regarding how to order them (as well as owner's manuals and service tools):

-Safety first! When in doubt, always consult the appropriate service manual. Always disconnect the battery before working on the electrical system. Wear the appropriate eye, ear and skin protection to avoid injuries. Extinguish and keep away all sources of sparks and flames and vapors while working on motor is no accident!

Good luck!
Davo - ASE Master Technician.

Compiled By The DIY Automotive Forum Moderator Team.

Last edited by davo; 11-08-04 at 02:45 PM.
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Old 06-16-03, 10:10 AM
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Old 10-27-03, 07:02 AM
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Give the Tow Guy a break

Just some suggestions to make your next towing experience better and give the overworked and underpaid driver a break:

1. If your vehicle is at/near an address or intersection, don't try to give directions to the location - just give us the address. If we're not familiar with your area we'll ask for clarification. Telling us to "turn right on Elm St" is only helpful if we're coming from the direction you THINK we're coming from.

2. Don't assume we'll be there in an hour and a half if we said 45 minutes. Barring any emergencies, we'll be there when we say.

3. Please make sure the car is accessible for towing; if it's blocked in by another vehicle, please clear the way before we arrive. If there is going to be a problem getting to the car, let us know in advance; sometimes we need a different truck or will need to schedule you for a later time. Additional note: If your car breaks down every other day and needs to be towed, please don't park it in weird locations where a tow truck can't go.

4. Please locate your keys BEFORE the truck pulls up to your house and if you have other keys on the ring, please remove them.

4a. If you are leaving the keys for an unattended pickup (under the seat, under a floor mat), do NOT lock the car door! DUH!

5. Remove your important stuff, babies car seat, CDs, beer cooler, school books, and anything else you need before we are hooked up and starting to drive away.

6. If you have instructions for the garage/mechanic, communicate with them directly or write out a note and leave it on the driver's seat. Sometimes what you tell us to pass on to the mechanic gets lost in the translation. Plus, if you tell us to "have them fix that transmission leak while they're doing the brakes", your leak's probably not getting fixed until the mechanic talks to you anyway.

7. Don't assume we'll take a check. Especially don't assume we'll take it if the check number is 101.

8. Please don't stand in the way giving hand signals unless requested.

9. Most tow trucks can only carry one or two passengers. If you have 4 people in your vehicle, you will need to make transportation arrangements for the overflow.

10. Please don't wait until you car is already hooked up to tell us you have a motor club. Inform us when you request the tow; we may or may not be able to do the tow for you. ESPECIALLY don't use the phrase "I have Triple-A"!

11. Don't call for a tow/jump start if you are going to continue to try to fix the car/get it started yourself. We just LOVE driving 10 miles out for a tow and as we pull in you're slamming the hood and saying, "Nevermind, I got it started".

12. Don't expect the driver to make a diagnosis or repair. Our insurance company doesn't like it and neither does your mechanic.

13. Make sure all the parts that you took off while trying to fix it yourself are reinstalled properly before we haul it off down the road.

Thank you and have a pleasant day.


Last edited by the_tow_guy; 09-12-08 at 05:33 AM.
Old 11-19-03, 04:19 AM
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Tow Guy - why should one not tell the tow truck driver "I've got AAA"? Just curious. Actually, I would assume the driver already knows as it was AAA who dispatched him.
Old 11-19-03, 04:41 AM
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Right, assuming the customer CALLED AAA like they are supposed to rather than picking a tow company from the phone book or asking their regular garage to call a wrecker. Happens at least once a week; get to a call, get the keys from the owner, roll it out in the street, get it on the wheel lift, ask the customer if they have everything they need out of the car, and as you turn to leave you hear those dreaded words, "I've got AAA.......". The GOOD news is that, fortunately, the majority of people just say, well, okay, when you tell them that won't help on THIS tow, next time call AAA and they will dispatch a AAA affiliate. And to answer the NEXT question, the reason lots of tow companies don't want to deal with AAA as an affiliate? They pay squat for a local tow - latest info in our local area is they are paying $13.50 for a local tow (our local retail rate is $36; other companies local rates run between $30-45); sowewhat LESS than our average overhead per tow. AAA towing is only a money maker for garages that can get some of the dispatched tows back to THEIR shop and that's not a given - AAA members can have their cars towed to any destination they desire. Some AAA towing affiliates AGGRESSIVELY try to get the customer back to their own shop. This is especially true for employee drivers who typically get payed 30%, or in this case the driver would make $4.50 per local AAA call. AAA drivers are frequently not popular with garages because the tendancy is to drop the car and haul @$$ to the next call rather than ask the garage where they want it. At least once a week we re-spot a vehicle for one of our regular accounts that's been dropped in a bad location (blocking a door, middle of the driveway, middle of the road). In all fairness these are not always from AAA calls, but often they are.
Old 11-19-03, 05:08 AM
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Thanks for the comments, Tow Guy. Another question - Why would a towing company contract with AAA for a rate which doesn't even cover the gas and driver's wages? It's not as if they are forced into the agreement.
Old 11-19-03, 12:26 PM
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Why run AAA if it doesn't pay well? AAA will keep the trucks moving. If your truck is sitting at the shop all day waiting for the private call, it is not out on the road ADVERTISING. The more people you help, the more referals your company will get. The more you are out on the road, the more poeple remember the name on the side of the truck when something goes wrong for them. You may sit for 2 hours waiting for the private call for $40, or, if you have a good dispatcher, you can get 6 AAA calls done. With the rates I got from AAA, $19-service call and $22-hookup+miles, I was getting $120 for the 2 hours and at 30% com as a driver, that was $18 an hour.

More things to add to your list.

1. Don't try to "help" by putting the car in neutral with the brakes off as your car will roll away into a house and be your fault.(seen it twice, a neon will take out a whole living room).

2. The phone number is not on the side of the truck so you can call and complain to the dispatcher who isn't listening to you anyways. There is probably a reason the truck is sitting broadside in the middle of the hiway with the annoying lights on with the cable strung across the road and hooked to that BMW so you can't get around. Yes, it is just to make you mad.

3. Don't tell the driver how to tow your car, he has probably done it a couple times more than you have. And no, we are not going to rip the bumper off unless you keep that *****ing up.

In closing, when your friendly tow truck driver gets to your vehicle, remember that he is there to help and not piss you off. Please stand next to your vehicle with keys in hand and credit card or cash close. Stand there quietly as the driver preforms his magic. If it is cold, ask to jump in the truck til the job is done. this will make both of your days much better and get you going much quicker.

PS. we don't mean to laugh out loud when you have put your car in that most precarious of positions in the ditch, but it isn't our fault and it is quite funny. And yes, if we laugh, it is gonna cost you more.
Old 11-20-03, 05:07 AM
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Oh, I agree, AAA works for SOME people, but the days we sit for two hours waiting for a call are few and far between. We are a two-man, owner-operated business running daylight hours. A good day for us is 15-20 calls or so, but at AAA prevailing rates here, that would only add up to about $200-270; our overhead is roughly $100/day. What would I rather do, 15 calls @ retail or 30 calls @ AAA rates? I'll take the retail. Among other things, we don't wear out our equipment nearly as fast and as you know tow trucks are not cheap (another one of those things people don't realize goes into the cost of their tow; difficult to make a living if we had to pay for our $50,000 trucks running $10 tows like in the "old" days). About 90% of our business comes from the couple of dozen indedpendent garages where we are the "preferred" towing company (i.e. if you call the garage and ask for either the name of a towing company or for them to call a tow truck, you'll get us). We get PLENTY of calls from people who KNOW they have AAA, but don't want to wait for AAA (our average response time, unless it's to a remote location, is about 30 minutes). Couple of thing about AAA - the owner has to stay with the car until they show up; with independent tow'ers you can drop your keys off with your mechanic or leave them under the seat and go on to work while we're towing your car. Also, if I'm not mistaken, AAA calls are "priority" calls, i.e. if you run AAA and you have three non-AAA calls waiting you are obliged to proceed to any of their calls that are dispatched FIRST. We prefer to give ALL of our customers outstanding service and response time. You should have been around here back in June; we had some very VERY wet weather and some localized flooding. AAA was telling their members to expect 6 hour wait and if they didn't want to wait to call any towing company and AAA would reimburse them for the full amount. Have to admit I LOVED AAA that week, LOL. We only ran about 2 hours behind, max, all week.

Loved your additions to my list; don't know how I missed them. Coincidentally, about 30 minutes after I posted my last, at my very next call I got the car on the wheel lift, strapped down, tow lights on, ready to go, customer is in their van to follow me to their mechanics, and the wife leans out her passenger side window and says, "Do you do AAA?" . LMAO. I politely told her, no, and if she wanted AAA she had to call them directly. After about a 2 second pause she said, "That's okay, we like you better". Made my day.

Have you checked out our photo gallery? You'll recognize some of the customer problems. My favorite is the Sub-urban down the boat ramp:
Old 11-22-03, 07:47 AM
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AAA or emergency roadside service?

I have an old clunker that unfortunately broke down three times in the past two years, and that's why I purchase the emergency service option on my State Farm auto insurance. It costs very little, and it will pay for a tow to the nearest available repair garage.

I just want to say THANKS to the tow truck operators that I have had to use. All have been very pro and helpful.
Old 11-22-03, 12:28 PM
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Most insurance-covered tows are for up to $50 and do not require the nearest facility. Only takes one and you've paid for the premiums on the coverage for about 3 or 4 years.

Thanks for the kind words.
Old 11-23-03, 04:05 PM
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3. Don't tell the driver how to tow your car, he has probably done it a couple times more than you have. And no, we are not going to rip the bumper off unless you keep that *****ing up.
Sorry, I disagree there. It may annoy a driver but if there are special precautions to take when towing your vehicle why not remind the driver of them? I have seen countless vehicles towed improperly by "professional" drivers. 4wd and all wheel drive vehicles and vehicles with ride control suspension all require an experienced knowledgeable driver to tow them properly. Most people do not do a background check when they call for a tow. I would definitely suggest making it known if special precautions should be made when towing your vehicle.
Old 11-24-03, 04:36 AM
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No need to argue; you're BOTH right.

Wolverine is correct that any special problem areas or quirky stuff on your vehicle SHOULD be pointed out.

Blaze is ALSO correct, Wolverine; you'd have to be on the receiving end every day to believe some of the ridiculous things customers come up with as advice for the tow guy.

Such as: I had customers on two separate occasions try to tell me their Mustang was FWD.
Recently recounted a story here about a lady with an AWD Explorer who didn't know she had 4WD much less AWD; would have been nice if THAT customer had clued us in before we showed up with the wheel-lift.
Customers FREQUENTLY insist that their vehicle HAS to have a flatbed which is not true about 99% of the time. Loved my partner's answer to the guy with the '57 Chevy that HAD to go on a flatbed: "How do you think they towed '57 Chevys in 1957?". This was NOT someone just wanting extra security for a classic car; he really thought his car could not be wheel-lifted for some obscure reason.
Had a customer tell me one time his car couldn't be wheel-lifted because it would bend the frame (or words to that effect). Huh?
Often have people stuck in the sand/mud where they are inaccessible from the hard surface who INSIST that it's okay to drive closer to get the winch attached (in my 9000 lb wrecker, right!).

Wish I had on-board video like the cops; could make a fortune selling the tapes.
Old 12-20-03, 08:02 AM
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Exclamation Private Messages

Private messages should be checked occasionaly.This applies even more to members who do not wish to recieve email from other members or moderators.Sometimes the need arises to communicate to a member without using the open forum.Please do not ask questions about your vehicles to moderators in a pm as it does not benefit the forum as a whole.Questions regarding this can be sent to me and you will get an answer asap.

Last edited by davo; 12-05-04 at 05:48 AM.
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