Category Archives: Engine Maintenance

Check Engine Light On? How to Check It Yourself

Oh boy, there it is. The dreaded check engine light has appeared on your dash, taunting you with its amber illumination. Whenever you are driving down the road, and your check engine light pops on, you can’t help but feel a tightening in your stomach. Whether it’s from fear that you could break down at any second, or anger about the presumed dent in your wallet that the inevitable repair is going to create, that tightening only gets deeper. If it isn’t flashing though, it may not be the catastrophe you are dreading. The check engine light can illuminate for any number of reasons. Indeed, some automakers specify up to 4,000 different Diagnostic Trouble Codes (DTC)!

You don’t absolutely have to go to the mechanic or the dealership if you want peace of mind. All you really need, at least to start with, is a scan tool. There are a many different types of scan tools out there, some that are just simple code readers and others that connect to your smartphone or laptop that can give you much more vehicle information, such as fuel economy and trip information. In order to use a scan tool properly, follow our simple guide to checking your codes, finding the answer to your check engine light’s spontaneous appearance, and ease your mind.

  • Scan Tool to Help You Diagnose that Check Engine Light
    Scan Tool to Help You Diagnose that Check Engine Light

    After you have bought the scan tool that best fits your needs, go ahead and plug it into your car, in the slot under the dash. Your owner’s manual will give you its exact location, in case you don’t see it immediately. Turn the key to the “On” position, but don’t start your car. Once the electric power is on, the scan tool may ask for information about your vehicle. Follow the instructions for inputting your vehicle’s info, then move on to the next step.

  • The scan tool will give you a few options to choose from, essentially giving you different functionality from the tool. You will see the option for checking codes, which you should click on, to let you know what is happening with your vehicle.
  • Once your code or codes show up on the screen, write them down. Some of the more expensive scan tools will show you the code and what the code means. Others just give you a paper code list, normally in a book form. But in this technological day and age, it might be best to look the code up online. This will give you far more information on your problem and help you decide if it’s an issue you want to tackle yourself, or have a professional take care of.
  • Your scan tool can also reset your check engine light if you want it to. Doing this is only a cosmetic solution though, only eliminating a symptom, perhaps only temporarily, but not fixing the root problem. If you are trying to remove the check engine light, in order to pass inspection, don’t expect to trick anyone with a simple code clearing. After you clear a check engine light, you must drive your vehicle for its inspection and maintenance readiness (I/M) tests.
  • There should be an option on the scan tool for I/M status, allowing you to see when it will be prepared for the inspection. If all monitors say “Ready,” then you should be good to go. Still, if the problem is still there after clearing the check engine light, then the light will come back on, making it impossible to pass inspection. So if you are trying to see if it’s just a malfunction causing the check engine light to appear, then clearing the code can help with the troubleshooting. But always remember that clearing the code is not the same as alleviating the code’s origin.

So whether or not you get an expensive scan tool or just a simple code reader, having the ability to check your car’s codes yourself can make whatever the price of the scan tool you bought worthwhile. As a do-it-yourselfer, you can now use this information to diagnose and repair your vehicle.

Replace a Radiator Hose the Right Way

Electrochemical degradation (ECD) sounds pretty daunting, and it could happen to you, or at least to your car. The truth is, while it is something that could happen to your radiator hoses, it is also something you can fix. The way ECD works is that the radiator hose, the engine coolant, and the radiator fittings create a sort of battery, which can cause microscopic cracks in the inner tube of the radiator hose. This makes it possible for the engine coolant to weaken the radiator hose’s chemical and physical structure, weakening it. This is clearly a bad thing but, with this DIY guide helping you out, you can fix it like a pro and have your engine coolant flowing the way it should be, once again.

  • As with all DIY auto repair projects, you will want to gather the necessary tools, and have them ready for the upcoming work. In this particular project, you will need a screwdriver, a sharp knife, tin snips, a wire brush, and perhaps a heat gun, depending on the clamp used.
  • Once you have all your tools ready to go, it’s time to begin the replacement process. You can do this by confirming that ECD has affected your radiator hose. You can do this by first allowing or ensuring your engine is cool. Then, use your fingers and thumb to check the hose for any weak spots in it. If you squeeze near the hose clamps, you should be able to see if ECD is affecting it or not by checking for any minor gaps from it being weakened. The feeling towards the middle of the hose will be different than near the clamps if ECD has occurred. They will feel soft and weak and then you will be absolutely sure that ECD has affected your radiator hose. Swollen parts of the hose, when the engine is at operating temperature, are another good indicator.
  • To start, you are going to remove the radiator hose. To do this, make sure you have drained the engine coolant to below wherever you are working at. Removing the hose should be relatively easy, once you have removed the clamps. Understandably, some hoses can stick to the fitting and/or the hose clamp can become rusted. In this case you will need to use the tin snips to cut the clamp off and use the knife to cut the hose. Do not try to force the hose off as this could damage the fitting, especially plastic fittings found on many new engines. Once the radiator hose is out of the way, check the fittings. Ensure there are no bursts or sharp edges that could damage the new radiator hose’s inner tube. You can even clean the fitting off with a wire brush.
  • You should add the new clamp, or the old one if it’s still in good condition, to the hose end, then slide the hose onto the fitting. We always recommend using new clamps to avoid future issues. There’s no reason to cheap out on such an inexpensive part of the job.
  • Be sure to push the hose far past the fitting edge, and then slide the clamp between the edge of the fitting and the end of the radiator hose. Check to see that the tightening part of the clamp is easy to reach.
  • If the hose is not an exact OEM fit, then a little bending may occur. This is alright, but only if it does not pinch or kink the hose.
  • Once you are all set, go ahead and tighten the radiator hose clamp.
  • Now that the hose is attached, you may refill with engine coolant, either using your previous product or adding new, and then start your engine. Once it is heated up, you may need to add more.
  • Now check there are no leaks and you are good to go!

ECD may sound like a scary thing, but with this guide, and your DIY prowess, you will be well on your way to changing your radiator hose like a true pro!

Twelve Step Plan – Toyota Engine Oil Change

Eager to replace your Toyota engine oil, but not quite sure how? We have a twelve step plan designed to help you get the old oil out and the new oil in, both easily and safely. Make sure to grab all the tools needed for your oil change, before embarking on the oil change adventure. The tools necessary for this project include:

  • Engine Oil – Check your owner’s manual for type and quantity.
  • Engine Oil Filter – The autoparts store should have an application list specifying the exact filter you need, based on year, make, model, and engine.
  • Drain Plug Gasket – There are a number of different styles available, including plastic, fiber, copper, and steel crush gaskets. The steel crush gasket is the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) type, but they all work well.
  • Oil Filter Wrench – There are different types of oil filter wrenches, including band, strap, and socket types. Choose one that fits both your Toyota and your budget.
  • Metric Socket Set or Wrenches – Make sure your set is complete. In other words, don’t try to use a 15 mm socket on a 14 mm drain plug. You might strip the drain plug head, making it difficult to remove.
  • Oil Drain Pan, Oil Fill Funnel, Gloves (preferably impermeable, so they won’t absorb hot oil), and Rags (for cleanup).

Once you have gathered all your tools and supplies, you are ready to start the twelve-step plan.

  1. First, when beginning the oil change, you want to warm your vehicles engine by starting it up and allowing it to get to normal running temperature. If you’ve just come off home from work, you’ll want to give your engine a few minutes to cool off, because the engine oil will be too hot to work with comfortably!
  2. Second, make sure your car is parked in a level area. Also, be sure to give yourself plenty of space to both get under and get out from under the car. Always be extremely careful when jacking up and supporting your Toyota.
  3. Third, after parking your vehicle in appropriate position for working, grab your keys from the ignition to ensure a safe work environment, while working and lying under your car.
  4. Fourth, remove the oil fill cap that is located on the top of the engine, and then move your way under the car. Find the drain plug underneath the engine, and move your oil pan into a position where it can catch the old oil. Go ahead and remove the drain plug, slowly and carefully, as the pressure may cause it to overshoot the pan and also burn your skin. Let the oil drain for about four to six minutes.
  5. Fifth, remove the old drain plug gasket and install a new one. Make sure it is the right size and type for your Toyota.
  6. Sixth, reinstall the drain plug, threading by hand until the drain plug gasket makes contact with the oil pan. Use a metric wrench or socket to tighten the drain plug and seat the gasket, typically no more than a quarter-turn. Do not over-tighten as it can cross-thread or strip the drain plug.
  7. Seventh, now that your old oil has been dispersed and you have sealed the engine with the drain plug, it is time to change the oil filter. There may still be some excess oil behind the filter, so position the oil pan beneath it. Then, use the oil filter wrench to slowly remove the oil filter. The filter may be hot, so use caution and handle with gloves or a rag. Set the old filter on the oil pan and allow it to continue draining into the pan.
  8. Eighth, clean the surface on the engine, cleaning up the old oil leftover from the oil filter removal. Also, make sure the old oil filter gasket is not stuck to the engine. Now, take out the new filter from the box and lather the gasket with some oil, using your finger. Then, thread the new engine oil filter on by hand until the gasket makes contact. Using your hand or the oil filter wrench, tighten an additional quarter- to two-thirds of a turn. Depending on gasket type, each filter should have instructions on how much to tighten to properly seal.
  9. Ninth, you have replaced the oil filter, you have drained the oil, and you have prepared your engine for the next step. It is now time to add the new oil. Using the funnel, carefully add the new oil. You can use the meter on the side of the can as a guide. Only fill up as much as your owner’s manual specifies. Finally, reinstall your oil cap.
  10. Tenth, check to make sure you have removed all tools, rags, the oil pan, and then check for any leaks from the appropriate spots. Start the engine and let it run for about three minutes. You may see the engine oil light appear for a moment, until the oil pressure builds. After the pressure increases, it should turn off. After letting it run, three to five minutes, turn the engine off. Go ahead and check for leaks, then move on to the next step.
  11. Eleventh, use the dipstick to check the oil level. It should read full or almost full. As long as the level is in the safe zone, you are good to go. If the oil level is low, add half a quart and return to step 10.
  12. Twelfth, you want to record the date and mileage of the oil change, that way your next oil change can be done at the right time.

After following these twelve steps to change your Toyota’s oil, and safely disposing of the old oil, you are ready drive your Toyota until the next time you need an oil change. And when that time comes, you will be ready.

How to Perform a Toyota Corolla Coolant Flush (1993–2002 Models)


The purpose of a coolant system in any car is to circulate a cooling liquid throughout the engines channels, and then flow to a radiator to manage the temperature. The operation of this system is very important to engine health, and a poorly maintained system can cause catastrophic damage and a failure of the engine.

In this article we cover the basic steps on performing a Toyota Corolla Coolant Flush. Continue reading How to Perform a Toyota Corolla Coolant Flush (1993–2002 Models)

How to Replace a Toyota Camry Engine Air Filter

Replacing a Toyota Camry engine air filter is an extremely simple process. And even though it’s simple, this task has an incredible effect on the health of your Camry’s engine health—a periodic filter change can yield up to 20% improvement in fuel economy! Learn how easy it really is with the following 5-step guide. Continue reading How to Replace a Toyota Camry Engine Air Filter