Ask the Diesel Dyke: Travel safe with winter safety kit

BTL Staff
By | 2018-01-15T16:16:38-04:00 December 14th, 2006|Entertainment|

By Lena Thompson

It’s that time of the year, when we should think about our safety, if we happen to breakdown in the cold. Here is a list of items to make your own safety kit. The kit should include:
* An ice scraper and snow brush;
* Flashlight with working batteries;
* Empty coffee can with candles and matches (for warmth);
* Sleeping bag or blankets (also for warmth);
* Reflective emergency blinker;
* Bright tie that can be attached to an antenna;
* Small shovel;
* Bag of sand, cat box litter or traction mats (in case you get stuck);
* Tow rope or cables;
* Pair of jumper cables;
* Basic first aid kit; and
* Non-perishable food, like cereal bars or a jar of peanut butter and some crackers.
Carrying some water also is recommended; easy-to-open canned fruit or vegetable juices also quench thirst and help keep the body hydrated.
People who like to add weight in a car trunk or truck bed should choose cargo that won’t shift, such as moisture-resistant sandbags.
I know that last year I finally broke down and bought a snow thrower and as a result we got no snow in the Detroit area. So, maybe the same holds true for making a safety kit. Hopefully, you won’t need to use it!
Now for the questions of the month:

Security system disables

Dear Diesel Dyke,
I am having trouble out of my vehicle. It’s a Pontiac Bonneville 97. Something with the security system: it will not allow my car to start; only my security light flashes. What’s wrong, and how much should I be spending on this?

Dear Val,
Many newer vehicles have what is called a Passive Anti-Theft System. These passive systems can disable the ignition, fuel injectors, or starter, if the correct ignition key is not used to start the vehicle. Active systems flash lights and horn, etc. Manufactures have many ways to accomplish the disable feature, but the principle is the same: your ignition key has a resistor built into it that is read by some hardware at or near the ignition switch. The resistance signal is sent to a computer that contains the theft-system software (it varies as to what module: powertrain control module, instrument cluster or a stand-alone anti-theft module, etc.). The module will determine if the key you are using contains the correct resistor and allow your car to start. If it is not the right key or the transmission of data is interrupted, your engine may start and immediately die or not crank at all. Your technician will be able to determine what to troubleshoot, by the state of the theft light (flashing, solid) and any diagnostic trouble codes he/she may pull. Your concern could be due to the key itself, wiring, module hardware or software; so the price for repair can vary. Make sure to get an estimate before any work is performed. It is customary to be charged at least one hour for diagnostics.

Take care! Diesel Dyke

Bad struts, ball joints

Hi Ms. Diesel Dyke,
My name is Lori and I have a 1992 Chrysler LeBaron and my baby is giving me trouble. Recently I went to Precision Tune to get an alignment but wouldn’t give one because they claim I need struts and lower ball joints and quoted the price of $544 for the repair.
Ms. Diesel Dyke, I know absolutely nothing car repair, so my questions is that a reasonable price, how long can I drive without the repair (I don’t get paid until next week), and what damage can I do to my baby by waiting a 10 days?

Thank you,

Dear Lori,
You need the struts to keep the wheel/tire on the ground. Many people do not understand that the strut damper actually pushes down on the wheel, to keep it from bouncing excessively. That means better contact with the road and better braking. If the struts are leaking, it’s not really safe to let it go too long. Ask yourself these questions … when you hit many bumps (like railroad tracks), do you find it difficult to control your vehicle? Does it seem to drift away from you? do you have to overcompensate on your to turns? If you answered yes, then you need them, yesterday. Some other symptoms of bad struts are noise and tire wear (strange scoops in the tread).
Ball joint wear is also bad, for your tires and potential safety reasons. Look at the tire tread and see if it’s worn funny on one side. If it is, then an alignment won’t help. The joints are loose and they cannot make a robust repair until they are replaced. But those are more difficult to diagnose, so you may want to get a second opinion.
As far as the quote, unfortunately, it is reasonable. My research shows the total labor hours to be around 4.8 hours and the parts approximately $280. If they charge 60/hr, that’s $288 in labor. Total estimate I came up with was $568.

Good luck! Diesel Dyke

About the Author:

BTL Staff
Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 25th anniversary.