Category Archives: Cars

How to Fix A 2016 Ford Transit With a 3.7L Ecoboost Engine That Has a P051B Error Code

So, we have a 2016 Ford Transit F150 van with the 3.7 liter EcoBoost engine. It’s actually surprising how powerful that engine is because it can launch that big rectangle! However, there is an irritating recurring issue that we’ve had and that is the “P051B – Powertrain” message when the Check Engine Light (CEL) turns on. The posts and forum threads weren’t always very clear about what to do so I figured I would write about my experience to try and help people out.

How do I read ODB2 codes?

I’ve written about it in the past, I use a BAFX ODB2 scanner that connects to my Samsung phone via Bluetooth. I then use the Torque Pro app to read error codes and reset them when needed. I’ve used this combo for years and am quite happy.

Here’s the error code in Torque Pro. There is a free Torque version and a Pro without advertising. I find ads annoying so I paid some really small amount of money to go to Pro years ago and think it is totally worth it.
The ODB2 port is located just above and to the left of the brake pedal on the lower parts of the dash panel.

What is error code P051B?

The P051B code is returned when the engine control module (ECM), or the vehicle’s powertrain control module (PCM), has detected that the engine crankcase pressure sensor is returning values that are outside of normal operating limits. Isn’t that just great?

Remember the positive crankcase ventilation (PCV) valve and exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) system that cars had when you were younger? This is related to that – the fumes inside of the engine needs to be pulled out and burned. This improves both efficiency and emissions. The sensor is reporting back pressure changes of the EGR.

Now this is where things went sideways. I had a ton of rubbish posts to read through until I found out that Ford used a different name for the sensor plus it wasn’t exactly clear about where the sensor was located on what to order.

What does Ford call the crankcase pressure sensor?

No, they couldn’t call it something that obvious. Ford calls it the Delta Pressure Feedback EGR (DPFE) sensor. So, if you are searching all over for Ecoboost and something with pressure sensor in the search text, you’re going to find a ton of confusing crap. Try searching with DPFE instead.

Trying to find out what DPFE stood for was really bugging the hell out of me. A fellow told me to go look at the official 2016 Model year ODB guide from Ford and finally, on page 120 they define it as the Delta Pressure Feedback EGR (DPFE) sensor.

One other comment – Ford has a lot of free reference information available online but you have to hunt for it. Click here and select the option for Free Resources – that includes OBD2 guides by model year, body repair and much more.

So what can cause the P051B error code?

There are a number of things that can cause this code so let me list them in the order I would check them starting with the easiest:

  1. Is the dipstick fully inserted?
  2. Is the O-ring that seals the cap in the tube intact on the dipstick?
  3. Is the engine oil overfilled?
  4. Is there water/coolant in the oil causing it to be too full? The oil will be frothy and colored like coffee with milk in it.
  5. Are any of the PCV lines cracked or otherwise knocked off?
  6. Look inside the oil fill cap – is there a ton of sludge? If so, pull off the lines and look at the valves to see if they are filled with sludge. You can pull them regardless if you want to be sure.
  7. The pressure sensor might have failed… yeah….

For me, the last two times, it has been #7. It’s getting annoying. I’m now on my third sensor. Note, if it is the sensor then it is not critical but I do like knowing whether the check engine light is telling me something new or not so having it lit all the time is very annoying for me. In other words, you can drive with the sensor having problems but you will not know if a new code is being generated unless you hook up your scanner.

I think the sensor location was a poor choice

Let me tell you that it’s my opinion that the EcoBoost has a design flaw – the crankcase pressure sensor is sitting on a PVC hose and it gets fouled out by moisture and oil. The location can vary depending on your vehicle and which EcoBoost engine you have but on my 3.7L, it’s on the driver’s side of the engine,

So that’s the Delta Pressure Feedback EGR (DPFE) sensor right there in the red circle. Note the oil fill cap in the lower right of the photo to help you get your bearings.

Why they did this, I have no idea and we are now on our third sensor. The first was replaced by the dealer right after we got the van because Ford had revised the design. That sensor then failed and I replaced it myself. It turned out to be real easy.

What to order

Now this is where things get confusing. If you search hard enough, you can find just the sensor unit itself and if Rock Auto is correct, it is the DPFE-30 unit part number FR3Z-9J460-A … but it has been discontinued. I know they revised the design of the sensor to try and reduce fouling and maybe this is the older version. I returned this to Rock Auto and did not install it. I can’t confirm DPFE-30 is the correct sensor just to be clear – I think it is the older design they revised. The part that goes into the tube looked different.

What you want to buy is the assembly that includes the tubing and the sensor. This is the current part number as of my writing this blog to the best of my knowledge: GK4Z-6758-B

Here is the brand new part fresh from the dealer – GK4Z-6758-B
Here’s a close up of the assembly’s parts label.
This is the sensor still on the tubes. It is held in place by the two black “Ears” – one on the top left of the sensor and one at the bottom left. Gently pry them up with a small blade screw driver and the unit comes right out.
This is the part that goes into the hose.

Where to buy the GK4Z-6758-B Assembly?

Okay, you can get it from your local dealership for about $81 or you can buy it online for $38-42+S&H. We were going on a trip so I didn’t have time to wait and went with the dealer. While $81 may sound like a lot, if you mail order the part next day the price difference is less than it may first seem.

What I have been using more and more are vendors on eBay. You’ll see photos that look like what I showed above and also less detailed drawings that just show a tube. I’d go with reputable vendors and the ones with a real image or detailed drawing of the part.

Another options is to order online from one of the big Ford Parts vendors. Click here for a Google Search

How to remove the old tube?

First, use a small blade screw driver to slide under the retaining tab and remove the wiring harness from the sensor. With the tab slightly up, it pulls straight back.

This is the opposite end of the sensor. You need to lift that tab up front just a tad with a small blade screw driver.
The tab just has to rise over that tiny nub just above the “GL3A” printed text near the right end to then slide off.
That little black tab above the white plastic just barely has lift up and then the plug can be pulled back off the sensor.

Next is to remove the tubing from the engine. There are quick connect fittings on each end. You just push the band’s tab out and the band moves out of the slot in the PVC fittings. It helps to look at the replacement hose first to see how the tab moves. With the tab held out, you can lift the tube straight up and off the fitting. It’s actually easy once you do the first one. Again, play with the replacement and you’ll see how it works.

It’s a novel design really. Push that little grey tab to the right and it will allow the fitting to be lifted straight up off the male plug. The one at the bottom of the engine you will need to do by feel but it is the same way – feel the tab, push it out and hold the tab out while you lift.

So, the replacement assembly took less than a minute to click back into place and reconnect the wiring assembly. Done. I cleared the code and a month later, it hasn’t come back.

Lessons learned – be careful while reading in the Internet. There are some people posting stuff that have no idea what they are talking about plus the super secret different name Ford chose to use for the sensor didn’t help matters.

Follow the troubleshooting list I wrote above and if it is the sensor, it is an easy fix. It took me about 10-15 minutes being real careful and I bet the next one will take 5 minutes max. I did have a hard time sorting through all the low-value posts and hope this helps you get your engine taken care of.


If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at info@roninsgrips.com. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.


How To Fix A Broken Vacuum Line Fitting on the Air Box or Air Filter Housing Of A 2008 Toyota Highlander And Other Models – It’s Easy and Cheap!

I’m going to leverage my inner Forrest Gump – used cars are like a box of chocolates. You never know what you are going to get. In this case, it was our 2008 Toyota Highlander. I decided to check the air filter just in case and noticed both that the vacuum lines had cracked and that someone had done a “creative” fix on a 4mm vacuum port that had snapped off.

So this vaccum line was just resting in the hole. There’s some white glue – maybe silicone and som odd metal insert.

If there’s one thing I have learned with modern computerized cars – don’t mess with their sensors or vacuum lines. You can get odd random codes thrown, lose performance, fuel efficiency, etc. So, I knew this needed to be fixed. The big problem – the vacuum fitting was cast into the airbox!! By the way, the air box is the car part that holds the air filter in this case – the air filter housing is another way of thinking of the part.

Let me start by telling you the expensive and time consuming way – buy a replacement air box. Yeah, this is going to cost you a bundle. A OEM Toyota air box will run you $275-400, used is about $100-185 and aftermarket tends to be under $60-90 and maybe iffy quality. Then there is the labor to do the actual swap – it’s going to either take your time or you are going to pay a mechanic to do it and the cost is going to go up fast. There is an easier and faster way.

My Recommended Approach

The magic fraction for today is 5/32″. Why? Because 5/32″ is almost exactly 4mm. If we get a small brass, aluminum or stainless barbed 5/32″ hose fitting with a threaded rear, we can easily fix this. I live in a rural area and this isn’t something I can easily walk into a hardware store and find so I did some searching for NPT to 5/32″ hose barb and found both 1/16″ NPT and metric fittings plus some were brass, aluminum and mystery metal. I discounted anything plastic/nylon because I wanted a stronger fitting.

Another reason I went with 1/16″ NPT is that it can fill a pretty big hole all by itself up to about 0.31″ given the taper plus I could then use a 1/16″ to 1/8″ bushing adapter if I needed to go larger.

After much digging around using Google and Amazon, I opted for an Aeromotive #15630 hose fitting made from 6061-T6 aluminum that I did order off Amazon. There was a no-name generic brass one but no spec so I didn’t go with it. By the way, searching for fittings like this really shows the limitations of general search engines to find parts. I spent a ton of time filtering through tons and tons of search results that turned up the wrong products. What a headache.

Aeromotive #15630 that has 1/16″ NPT thread on ne end and a 5/32″ hose barb on the other.

Installation

The first thing to point out is that the molded vacuum fitting is above the air cleaner so you can safely work on the box without removing it from the vehicle! Any debris from drilling or sanding will land on the filter and you can vacuum it out later. If you have a used car, peak inside and make sure the air cleaner is there and intact.

If you have just the old busted remains of the hose fitting to contend with then Dremel or sand the area flat. You want the installed barb to be able to sit flat against the wall of the box.

Next, pick a drill bit that is just the same size as the tapered bottom of the thread. NPT thread is tapered so the bottom has a smaller diameter than the top. If the air box was steel, we would use a letter “C” drill bit to make a 0.242″ hole. Notice how this is slightly smaller than 1/4″ but I am betting most people do not have lettered drill bit sets so you pick a close size and run with it. We do want the hole slightly smaller in order to thread it. Because this is plastic, we are going to push forward with the metal adapter fitting while turning and let the thread on the adapter cut the thread into the plastic. We aren’t going to bother tapping it first. That’s right – don’t buy a tap to do this uness you are a tool junky and perfectionist, which is fine if you are – I get accused of that a lot.

I’d recommend you start with a bit smaller than 1/4″ where the bit is slightly smaller than the bottom of the adapter, drill the hole and see if you can press it in. If not, go to a bigger bit. If you mess up and have a slightly too big hole, all is not lost – read the “Well crap” section below 🙂

Let’s say that everything goes great and you can screw the fitting into the plastic – Once threaded in, it’s done. Just screw it in and quit. Don’t put too much torque or you can strip it. That works just fine unless the previous guy bubba’d it, which takes us to the next part of the story.

Well crap….

In my case, I had a box of chocolates moment. The previous owner or a mechanic had drilled the hole out and installed some small metal bushing that was hidden due to the white silicone on it. I have no idea what it was from. Once I discovered and removed it, the hole in the air box turned out to be just a tad bigger than the entire 1/16″ tapered thread. Argh… not what I wanted to deal with.

Dear bubba, thank you for hiding this under the white silicone. You just made my fix a bit more complex but not impossible.

Okay, I wanted to get this job and had three options, go to the hardware store and try and find a 1/16 to 1/8″ bushing, install a 1/16″ NP threaded nut on the back to hold it in position, which I also did not have, or glue the hell out of it and call it even.

Because I am always working on cars and pressure systems due to Ronin’s Grips, did have a tube of black Permatex Optimum BlackGasket Maker that I could use. Being black, it wouldn’t be so glaringly obvious. By the way, I opted not to use epoxy due to the flexible plastic walls and expected vibrations that might break down the bond with time.

This is what I had on hand at the time and worked great. I could have used any quality black silicone RTV glue/gasket maker and gotten the same results. I tend to either have Permatex or LocTite brand products that I use the most.

First, I scuffed the surface around the hole with 100 grit sand paper so the glue could get a better grab on the surface. The second thing I did was to spray brake cleaner on the area to remove any trace oils that might prevent a good bond.

I was wearing nitrile gloves and also sprayed brake cleaner on the fitting to make sure it was clean. Gloves both keep your hands clean and also prevent you from getting oils from your skin on the parts — assuming the gloves are clean of course. Having a clean surface makes a HUGE difference in terms of how well any glue is going to stick.

Next, I applied a bead around the top of the NPT thread of the fitting and pushed it into the hole. Since I was wearing nitrile gloves, I just took a finger and smoothed the glue out a bit and let it cure for about an hour or so. You want it cured enough to hold the adapter in place – you don’t need it fully cured yet. With warmer weather it will cure faster and in cold weather it my take a long time and need a hot light or something to warm it up above 70F to get things done. Depending on what I am working on, I try to get somewhere between 60-110F. The warmer it is, the faster it will cure but don’t burn it or melt the plastic either!

This is the first pass. It’s not pretty but it will dry strong enough to hold the fitting in place while the second thicker coat is applied.

I then put a second layer of black gasket maker on and fanned it out to get a good grip and to securely hold the fitting. I then let this all cure overnight. I’ve learned long ago not to rush faster than what the adhesive’s manufacturer recommends or you are liable to ruin an otherwise good job.

Here is the second heavier coat this was meant to reinforce the part.

So, once it was fully cured I then needed to change the cracked vacuum lines which are what I noticed in the first place.

4mm Vacuum Lines

What got me started on all this in the first place was noticing that two 4mm vacuum lines were very cracked where they slid onto their respective hose barbs. This happens as rubber ages and gets brittle so finding them wasn’t surprising.

This is one of the ends that was badly split.

Fixing this is easy. You just need either real 4mm vacuum hose or 5/32 vacuum hose. You can either go with one formulated from rubber or more expensive silicone. The advantage to the latter is that it ought to last longer.

Because we own a number of aging Toyotas, I bought an assortment bag of metric sized silicone vacuum hose of Amazon some time ago. It comes with 4mm x 82″, and the 52″ lengths of 6mm, 8mm, and 12mm. It was expensive but now I have an assortment for when I need to repair small lines such as this case.

You can see the two pieces I replaced because the new silicone hose is shiny black and a thicker diameter.

Conclusion

Going this route saved us a ton hundreds of dollars and has held up just fine. I did this repair last fall and have not had a single problem. Yeah, the glue does make it a big of a bubba fix but it is revsersible and the fitting isn’t going to fall out. The black gasket maker has held the little barb in just fine and the hose is very supple and shows no wear at all. I hope this helps you out as well.


If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at info@roninsgrips.com. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.


Why The Mophorn Pneumatic Lift Is a Huge Help When Working On Cars and Trucks But Has One Small Issue You Need To Address

Nothing like getting old and realizing that most of your joints hate you. I bring this up because I have two manual pump floor jacks that I have used countless times over the years and the oldest is probably 25 years old – literally. Well, let me put it this way – I had no problem pumping the handle to lift cars and trucks 25 years ago but starting about two years ago, the action really started to cause elbow and shoulder injuries I had to flare up. It got so bad that I had to make a choice either to stop working on vehicles or to find a different approach.

I work on cars and trucks in our driveway so a permanently installed lift was not an option. It had to be something portable. My first thought was to get a low profile air-over-hydraulic jack that is mounted in its own wheeled carrier. They have an incredible lifting capacity (around 22 tons) but they are heavy (around 80 pounds), slow (air over hydraulic is many things but fast is not one of them) and expensive (they start around $200 and just go up from there). What really stopped me was the weight and the cost. I can’t lift or drag as much weight as I used to and the entry-level units were a tad more than I wanted to spend.

So, I kept digging and ran across pneumatic/air jacks. Think of the air suspensions you see under a big rig. Basically one or more air bladders fill with air and lift the top of the jack. They max out in terms of lift height around 18 inches and 3 tons of lift but it depends on the model. Definitely spend some time researching before you buy. I found that I needed to think about:

  • How low I needed the unit to collapse down to fit under our cars to get in position prior to lifting
  • How much weight did I need to lift
  • How high I needed the unit to lift
  • How much did it weigh?
  • What was it going to cost?

I then started reading listings on Amazon plus paying careful attention to review scores. I also talked to a mechanic friend of mine about the safety of the unit and what his thoughts were. He told me to consider two things: 1) always immediately put jack stands in place and 2) don’t lave the unit out in the sun and weather thus harming the rubber. Those suggestions made a lot of sense to me.

On January 8, 2019, I wound up buying a Mophorn Pneumatic Jack, 3 Ton, Triple Air Bag, with a 16″ lift height for about $150 with free shipping. The unit arrived with just little bit of assembly needed. I recall I had to install the handle and the pressure line but that was it.

I get about 15″ of lift at 90 PSI.
Left lever is the exhaust and due to the lever design, you can adjust how slow you want to drain air out. Even if you hit it and have an “oh shit” moment, you typically have a few seconds before the vehicle starts to go down. The middle unit with the pull ring is the safety blow off valve. The far right lever is the air inlet and there is a Milton M-series male plug under the Milton quick connect female fitting. If you want a reliable air system, use Milton fittings – they last.

As you can guess from the sticker above, the lift is made in China and the instruction sheet is pretty terse but it’s really not that hard to figure out. I do want to cover a few specifications with you and convert them from metric to US customary measures – these are from the owner’s manual included in the kit unless otherwise noted:

DescriptionMetricUS
Capacity3,000 kg6,613 lbs
Air Pressure5-10 Kg/cm^271 to 142 PSI
Air pressure from label on handle – presumably the recommended pressure8 kg/cm^2113 PSI
Minimum Height145mm5.71 in
Maximum Height400mm15.75 in
Lifting Time5 seconds5 seconds
Working Temperature-69C to +50C-92F to 122F

What have I lifted with it?

When I say “lift”, I am talking about the front end or the back end – not the whole vehicle.

  • 1994 Toyota Corolla DX
  • 1996 Toyota Land Cruiser
  • 2000 Toyota Camry
  • 2006 Toyota Solara
  • 2008 Toyota Highlander
  • 2016 Ford F150 Transit
  • Others more or less along the lines of a Camry or Highlander

There are a few things I have noticed

First, let me point out that I like this unit and would recommend it but there are a few things I want to point out:

  • The highest my lift will go is 15″ and that may be a function of my only running 90 PSI to the jack
  • I don’t think it actually can lift 3 tons. It bogs down on the front of our old 96 Landcruiser and also our full size F150 Transit. Again, I think it’s my lower air pressure. This summer I might plumb a dedicated 120 PSI line and see what that does. It will depend on time and money.
  • There are stabilizing cones made from steel inside the jack. Maybe 1 in 20 lifts they need a whack to start coming down. I may polish and lube these if I get a chance.
  • The rubber is pretty thick on the bladders. With that said, I do store it indoors away from the sun and the weather. I’m writing this a year later and the bladders show zero signs of wear.

The One Little Thing You Must Do: Blue Loctite Your Screws!!

I have used my jack many times since I bought it. Starting around September I was hearing faint air leak and thought the jack had bent. When I had time I found out that the bottom screws had loosened up and air was simply escaping from between the gasket and the bottom plate. I was surprised and disappointed to note that none of the screws had any thread locker applied to any of them. Many were in varying states of coming lose.

The unit is well made. The air bladders secure to that steel plate you see on them and then that assembly bolt to the dolly.
It’s the screws that attach the bladder to the while disc-shaped plate in the previous photo that came loose. Here are the metal stabilizing cones. I wish I had polished and lubed them when I had it apart and will go back and do that at some point. I did apply air tool oil to the cones after cleaning them of a gritty dust that probably dated back to when they were manufactured.
Before re-assembly I put a thin bead of Permatex Blue RTV gasket seal on the rubber gasket and then applied Blue medium-strength Loctite to each srew and brought them down lightly. I then went criss-cross lightly bringing down each screw to firm and then applied a final torque of 11 NM (about 8 ft-lbs or 97 in-lbs.

I then did the same thing to the top plate as well just to play it safe. No more leaks.

The reassembled bladder assembly then screws back down to the baseplate of the dolly. Note, this photo is actually from when I was taking it apart. The screws were so scuffed up that I just replaced them. Did I mention I use this a lot?

The following is the exact jack on Amazon that I bought and this review is about:

Bottom Line

I would buy this again and recommend it as well – just due the Loctite thing I mentioned. Note there are other Chinese suppliers on Amazon also but they do not get as good of reviews as the Mophorn units so my recommendation is only for that brand.


If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at info@roninsgrips.com. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.


How To Find Out Torque Specifications for Screws and Bolts: An Outstanding NASA Reference Guide

We’ve all been there – you’re working on a project and wondering how much to torque something so either we don’t bother or just take a guess. What I only found out recently was that in 2017, NASA published a really cool guide called “Installation Torque Tables for Noncritical Applications” – with the document ID as NASA/TM—2017-219475.

The document provides the torque specifications for a ton of general purpose fasteners that do not have an exact specification assigned – hence the term non-critical. As you can imagine, they get very specific in critical/risky situations.

At any rate, given the size of the bolt or screw, the thread pitch, the material and the depth, they provide a reference torque specification you can follow for both metric (M6, M8, M10, etc.) and SAE (#8, #10, 1/8, 1/4, 3/8, etc.) fasteners. Note, they provide an assembly torque (which is a 65% load from failure) and 100% torque. I use the assembly torque spec.

They also recommend that the depth of thread engagement be 1.5x the diameter of the fastener. So a 1/4″ (0.25″) fastener should have at least 0.25″ x 1.5 = .375″ (3/8″).

Here’s an example table. This is for fasteners going into 6061-T6 aluminum with a thread depth of 3/16″. If we go down for a 10-32 UNF screw, the assembly torque is 22.2 inch pounds. I’d use that lacking any other detailed information. I could go up to 34.2 inch pounds but I have stripped so many fasteners I don’t risk it. I’m a huge fan of Loctite so I go with that and the assembly spec.

Kudos to the two authors and to NASA for making it available. The PDF is a cool reference document and one I use whenever I can’t find a specific torque value for a given application. All you machinists and engineers – you know way more than me so please let me know if you have other resources you recommend.

To access this cool guide, click here for the NASA link or click here for the copy on our server.


If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at info@roninsgrips.com. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.


Videos: How to Diagnose Faulty 2008 Toyota Highlander Hood Latch Switch Causing Intermittent Alarm Problems Plus Replacing the Micro Switch

Okay, while researching what to do with my 2008 Toyota Highlander’s flaky alarm, I ran across some good videos you can watch on how to diagnose the switch and even how to replace the microswitch. As for me, I wrote up how I bypassed the sensor by creating a loopback plug from the old sensor’s wire. My approach still allows the rest of the alarm system to work just fine and can be done in less than an hour with little to no cost. With that said, let’s take a look at these really well done videos that helped me think out my approach – especially the first one on diagnosing the switch.

Diagnosing the Switch

The following is the best video I found on diagnosing the problem and he even disassembles the latch to show you what is going on in detail – it’s very well done. This video helped me figure out my approach and kudos to Ozzstar for making it:

If You Want To Replace the Microswitch

This next video is really well done and is specific to the 2008 Highlander. He ordered the same Panasonic automotive grade micro switch that Toyota used: ABS1413409 from Digikey.

I hope this helps you out.



If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at info@roninsgrips.com. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.


Easy & Cheap Solution for 2008 Toyota Highlander Hood Latch Sensor Switch Causing Faulty Alarms: Make A Loopback Plug

We recently became the new owners of a 2008 Toyota Highlander. It was in great shape and I thought we got a pretty good deal on it. The previous owner disclosed to us that the hood alarm switch was flaky and the car alarm would go off randomly.

After we bought the Highlander and returned home I did some research that night. There is in integral microswitch in the hood latch assembly that detects if the hood is open or closed. The alarm system will not arm if it detects that the hood is open and it will sound an alarm if someone tries to open the hood. Uhm… ok. My first thought was “you can only open it from the inside lever that is protected by the door alarms so why have this one?”

Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your perspective, the switch is a known problem. It’s also one of the rare times where I will say Toyota did a bad design. Putting a basic microswitch in the front of a car where it will get wet all the time and corrode, not to mention the impacts and grease/oil from the latch itself, is not really that good of an idea — at least not to me.

After reading and watching videos, it seemed like there were three options:

  • Replace the whole hood latch assembly that includes the sensor. Third party, these latch assemblies were about $56 on Amazon and $50-60 on eBay. Original Toyota would be higher, of course. Pro: It is pretty easy to remove the assembly and install this one. Con: It’s a relatively expensive and will fail sooner or later unless someone fixed the switch design and sealed it better.
  • Replace just the microswitch. You can get the unit real cheap from Digikey and other suppliers plus there are Youtube videos that show you what to do. The previous owner did this and it worked for about two years he said. Pro: Real cheap (under $10 including shipping). Cons: Takes time and will not last without figuring out some better way to seal the original design.
  • Simply bypass the switch. As mentioned earlier – you can’t open the hood from the outside so what are the odds that someone will successfully break into the car and then open the hood without setting off the alarm? The risk is real low – low enough for me to go with this option. Pro: Easiest of all and is a permanent solution. Con: The hood alarm sensor will no longer work. This is the one I went with.

I’d like to point out that just unplugging the sensor is not an option. Doing that will make the computer think the hood is open and the car alarm will not arm at all. This means you must pick one of the three options listed above. I opted for the last one – I bypassed the sensor by creating a loopback plug – a fancy term meaning I joined the input and output wires together thus making it look like the switch was always closed so the computer would think the hood was closed regardless of whether it was or not.

If you’d like to learn more about diagnosing the problem, seeing how to remove the latch and/or how to replace the microswitch, click here.

What I want to do next is walk you through what I did. If you are not comfortable with basic wiring, I’d recommend against your trying this just to be up front. Always ask yourself if you can reverse what you are about to do or can you recover if something goes wrong – if the answer is “no”, then don’t do it. For example, don’t cut wires off right next to a fitting – leave yourself some pigtails in case you need to reconnect them.

One last comment – these directions are just based on my 2008 Highlander. Different years and models may not be like this. Research your vehicle before doing anything like this.

Bypassing the Sensor

So, to bypass the sensor we just need to create a circuit that normally exists when the switch is closed. First, I needed to get a better look at the location of the wiring so the cover needed to come off.

The plastic cover between the grill and the frame needs to come off. It is held in place by Toyota push-type retaining clips and two 10mm screws. The screws are to the front on the left and right sides. Note that two of the clips on the right side are bigger than the others – this will help you with reassembly later.
I use a small flat screw driver to pop the middle part up. You then grab hold of that, lift up and the clip comes right out.
Just remove the clips and then the plastic cover simply lifts off. I found one more that anchors the grille in the middle of the grille vertically and I removed it. That gave me ample room to work and I did not need to remove the grille given what I planned to do.

I did not take as many photos as I should have so let me explain. With the plastic cover off and the middle anchor clip removed, I had plenty of access to the switch and wiring to see what to do. The wire assembly runs from the hood latch – and there is only one wire – do not pick the hood cable used to open the hood. The wire runs from a small switch in the latch assembly and then plugs into a connector shortly below it.

I inserted a small blade screw driver to release the plug from the socket. To be safe, make sure you confirm the wires that you plan to cut lead up to the sensor and are *not* the wires going to the harness / wiring loom.

Why care? Because if you cut the wires on the sensor side and connect them together, you can easily replace the hood latch assembly and go back to having a sensor if you want. However, if you cut the wiring loom, it’s gone. You can manually splice in but it simply is not an elegant approach.

Note I am saying wires and when you look at the plug it looks like just one black wire. What you are seeing is the insulation tube that is black. Inside are two thin green wires that run from the plug to the sensor switch.

I’ll not get awards for artwork but hopefully this will give you an idea. When I faced the front of my Highlander, the wiring from the sensor was on the right hand side. You need to confirm this just in case. It is the wire to the sensor switch wire that you want to cut and not the wiring from the harness. On my 2008 Highlander, the harness wiring was on the left.

Once I was certain which wire to cut, I reached in with some snips and cut the wire leaving a couple of inches to work with. DO NOT CUT THE WIRES FLUSH TO THE PLUG!! You need a short length of the wires to connect together to make the circuit loop back.

To make work easier, I took the short wire with the plug on it and worked at a bench where everything was handy, I stripped a bit off the end of each wire, twisted the bare wires together, soldered them, bent them over the small wire pigtail and then used heat shrink tubing and electrical tape to secure everything. Total overkill but I never wanted to bother with this again.

Here’s the finished result. The front of the car is to the left. Part of the hood latch spring is to the upper right and we are looking down at the newly made loopback plug. As far as the alarm system is concerned, the hood is closed. The red color is the heat shrink tube I had on hand. I folded the heat shrink tubing over at the end and then applied electrical tape to seal it.

I installed the newly created loopback plug back into the socket. I then tested the system by turning the alarm on with the key fob, putting the key fob out of signal range in the garage and waited for the system arm. Once the alarm indicator light went solid on the dash, I simply reached in through the open window and tried to open the door from the inside and the alarm went off. Yeah, I had to run back to that fob to shut it off 🙂

If the system thought the hood was open, it would never have armed by the way. That’s why you can’t just unplug the switch. I then reinstalled the plastic cover by installing the clips and then pushing the middle piece down to lock it in place. By the way, remember that the right two clips are bigger than the others. The two 10mm screws went back in with a dab of non-seize on each just in case they ever need to come out again.

That was it – the alarm is happily armed and protecting the Highlander as I write this and not one single false alarm since. I hope this helps you out.

5/23/2020 Update: This has worked great for me. Not one single problem since.


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The EZRed MR34 Extendable 3/4″Socket Wrench is a Beast With Two Quick and Easy Tweaks

I have both SAE and Metric 3/4″ socket sets that come out once or twice a year when I am working on big bolts on cars and trucks. As you may know, the longer the wrench, the more torque you can apply. Back when I was younger would would slide a piece of pipe or heavy wall tube over a ratchet or breaker bar to get even more mechanical advantage. We definitely snapped some socket wrenches while doing this as we exceeeded their design specs.

You see, a ratcheting socket wrench has limits as to how much torque the mechanism can handle before something either bends or breaks. Quite often, the rathchet pawl would bend/crumple and no longer be able to engage the teeth of the gear. When that happens, we’d toss the cheap wrench.

This is why breaker bars were made by the way – they have no ratcheting mechanism and, thus, can handle more torque. There’s one problem though, there are times where you can’t get the breaker bar into position because you can’t turn the handle relative to the socket. So, what is a person to do when they need a ton of torque and a ratchet mechanism?

The short answer is to get a wrench with a long handle that is designed to handle a ton of torque. A ton of companies make socket wrenches with longer handles. I have a couple of these but what I find really handy are wrenches with extending/telescoping handles. When you are working in a relatively tight space, you may not have room for the fully extended handle or you have need to work it into position before you can open the handle.

The EZRed MR34 Wrench

So, when I need a ton of torque and mechanical advantage to help me get there (I’m at the age where I need to work smarter because my body doesn’t support harder any longer 🙂 – I break out the wrench I affectionately call “The Beast”. It is a beautifully made and chromed giant 3/4″ ratchet wrench.

The wrench is sold in the US by a firm called “EZRed” with a lifetime warranty and, like many things, is actually made in Taiwan. When you do some digging around, there are a lot of guys using this wrench for heavy equipment, farm equipment, trucks, steam pipes and more. After reading about the real world experiences with the wrench, I ordered one in.

Here is the wrench closed and you can see it is about 24″ overall.
Here is the MR34 fully open and about 40″ long overall.

The first things I noticed was that it’s a big wrench even without the handle extended. Next, it’s a heavy wrench and weighs in at about 8.5 pounds. I have to be honest, I don’t usually pay much attention to looks but the chrome finish is gorgeous.

Pull the collar down and a detent is released that allows the handle to telescope out. The handle then locks into position in the next available hole. The locking feature is definitely nice.

I use this for 3/4″ sockets and also have a SunEx 3/4 to 1/2″ reducer for those times I want to apply a ton of torque to a smaller bolt.

Here’s the wrench with a SunEx 3/4 to 1/2″ adapter.

So far, I am very happy with the wrench. As you can tell, I haven’t used it a ton yet but for the few quick jobs so far, it worked great.

Two Big Tips

A fellow recommended apply Blue Loctite to the head screws and grease the wrench while it was open. He was spot on – the screws were surprisingly lose. Even though they have blue thread locker on them from the factory something seems odd and guys have reported losing the screws. I really think if Ihad not followed the fellow’s advice I would have already lost mine as well – they are that loose.

The screws come out and then the head is very serviceable. You can see the two pawls and their springs plus the selector in the middle. What you don’t see is any lubricant! I must say I am a bit surprised.
You can see the faceplate and the 24 tooth geared head.

So, I used a brush and lightly applied SuperLube grease to everything, reassembled the wrench and put Blue Loctite on the two head screws before tightening them down. The whole thing took maybe 10 minutes start to stop including taking the photos.

If you ever need it, the EZRed sells a rebuild kit – part number RK34.

Summary

I really like the wrench. It’s worked great so far but I really haven’t done anything super stressfulso far – just breaking some very rusty 1/2″ diameter carriagle bolts free off my plow. It’ll definitely get used this upcoming summer a lot more.


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Do It Yourself Cold Weather Mechanic Work Gloves That Are Insulated But Still Allow You To Work

Here’s a quick tip for you when you need to turn a wrench outside except it is really cold but you still need to feel what you are doing or can’t wear bulky insulated work gloves.

What you need to do is real simple – put on nitrile gloves first. This layer next to your skin insulates and protects you from both the wind and your hands getting wet. This is a big deal when there is snow. The second layer is your regular thin mechanics gloves. I have several brands of work gloves but Mechanix is probably the brand I use most followed by Ace.

I meant to write about this last year but forgot. Yesterday I had to work on my plow and it was +9F. The above worked great. Of course there is a limit and I don’t want anybody getting frostbite so use your common sense and play it is safe it is super cold.

At 9 degrees Farenheit, holding steel tools and moving metal parts around is a recipe for frostbite. It was this kind of work last year that led me to experimenting with putting Nitrile gloves under my thin Mechanics gloves.

I buy boxes of 5 mil Nitrile gloves whenever they go on sale at Harbor Freight. I think the sale prices tend to be around $5.99 and there are 100 in each box. I use a ton of them with my plastics work but also when working on cars. Any brand ought to work but I think the Harbor Freight gloves are a great deal when on sale.

I settled on 5 mil thick gloves because thinner ones fall apart very easily and thicker ones start to be bulky and mess with your sense of touch. I tried both 7 and 9 mil gloves before going back to 5.

I like 5 mil. It’s neither too thin nor too thick in my opinion. Note, they are meant to be disposable so you may or may not get more than one use from them.

The outer gloves are just basic Mechanix brand gloves.

I literally snapped this photo on my way out to work on the plow in 9 degree snowy weather.

I hope this little trick helps you out! I set up some Amazon product links for you below this post in case you would like to buy gloves.


If you find this post useful, please share the link on Facebook, with your friends, etc. Your support is much appreciated and if you have any feedback, please email me at info@roninsgrips.com. Please note that for links to other websites, I may be paid via an affiliate program such as Avantlink, Impact, Amazon and eBay.