How to get your alternator running smoothly and silently

Alternators can be scary things. They play a crucial role in keeping your car going, and if they fail, can leave you stranded. More, as complex and intricate electrical units, they are not the sort of thing many would rush to disassemble should something need to be repaired. So why did I have mine open on the kitchen table the other night?

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Give your pulleys a new lease on life

The belt that drives the accessories on the front of your engine is routed around a number of pulleys. Some of these are attached to things like the alternator and power steering pump, and there is also a pulley on the belt tensioner. You may find that your car has a separate pulley, called the idler pulley, that solely functions to route the belt a particular way.

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Bangshifting brilliance

Powershifting, or bangshifting, as it is sometimes called, is a technique drag racers often used in the past to get down the track more quickly. Without any of the modern driver aids, it was entirely up to the driver to squeeze every last tenth of a second out of the car. This is where the practice of powershifting came in, which basically entailed keeping the throttle wide open as you quickly shifted the car into the next gear, in order to maintain as much momentum as possible. It takes some skill to do it well, and if done wrong, could have catastrophic results. If you ever watch Roadkill Garage, you will know that Steve Dulcich often likes to exhibit his bangshifting abilities.

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Liquid matters

Not counting the fuel in your tank, your car will have at least twenty litres of different fluids in it. Those fluids all perform crucial functions, and you need to keep a close watch on them if you are going to enjoy motoring adventures that do not end in some kind of catastrophic fashion.

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Over at Not £2 Grand (which you ought to follow on Twitter and Facebook, by the way), I have a new post telling you a little bit about all these different fluids and helping you think about how to keep them healthy. Head on over and have a read, because ‘ultimately, your vehicle’s fluids are vital to its life, and there are few more important things you can do for your car than to keep them all clean and topped up’. You can find the full post here.

How to clean dirt and moss from your door seals

If you follow me on Twitter or have seen previous posts on this blog, you will know that for about as long as I’ve owned my SEAT Leon, I have had issues with moisture getting inside the car. For the most part, I have now solved that, by addressing the main problem areas. The one thing I haven’t yet done is to clean the rubber door seals. Dirt and moss will often accumulate on, around, and inside of these seals, reducing their effectiveness.

Parking your car outside in Britain means it is frequently going to get wet, and when it routinely sits it in a place with little sun, as mine does when it is parked on the drive of a more north-facing house, that moisture does not dry up, feeding the growth of moss. If I’m honest, the problem is compounded by the fact that I don’t wash the Leon enough.

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Mileage milestones

When you’re a car person, hitting a big mileage milestone is always an event worth marking. This is usually acheived by pulling over at the appropriate moment and taking a photo of the mileometer, which is what I did earlier today.

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With this milestone, I’ve now clocked up close to 12,000 trouble-free miles on my Outback in the last fifteen months. Aside from regular maintenance and replacing a few consumables – well, and someone driving into it – the only unexpected problem has been a blown exhaust gasket. Other than that, the car just gets on doing everything we ask of it, comfortably and effortlessly, and feels like it will happily do so for another 150,000 miles. And I couldn’t ask for more than that.

Realigning the bumper cover on a BL/BP Subaru Outback

A few months ago, someone with a distinct lack of ability in navigating car parks gave the Outback a blow to the face. My wife was out at the shops and returned to the car to find this big mark on the front bumper cover. When she got home, I took a good look at it and, in addition to seeing a big crack, discovered the cover was hanging a bit loose, owing to what I surmised was probably a couple of broken clips.

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A display of failure

In the twenty years I have now been working on cars, I have achieved a good deal of success. Brake jobs, every bit of suspension, thermostats and water pumps, more intricate things like valve timing solenoids, and even cambelts – I have done them all and been able to make cars run and drive better. But automotive electrics remains one area I do not have a good working knowledge of, or much experience with, having only ventured into doing simple things, like repairing frayed wiring on a boot lid release.

Still, how are you going to learn if you don’t try? The radio display on my Subaru Outback has not worked since the day I bought the car. This has not bothered me, as I don’t use the radio, but instead use my phone to stream music through the Bluetooth setup the previous owner installed. But every now and then I get an itch to take stuff apart and tinker, and so I figured it was time to have a go at fixing the radio display.

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