A Procrastinator’s guide to passing a vehicle inspection: Volume 1

26 Apr

Tomorrow, I have an appointment for my annual vehicle safety inspection, as is mandatory in Pennsylvania, just five days before driving my car becomes illegal. I’m not an ASE mechanic for sure, but there are a few things that I can fix.

For some time now, my gear position indicator has not worked. The automatic transmission works fine, but the orange indicator doesn’t budge when you shift. So I decided to take off the center console and see what could be done – and perhaps finally clean up that milkshake that seeped under the cup holder. If you ever have a similar problem with a like-model vehicle, you can benefit from the following instructions.

Tools you will need:
#2 Phillips Screwdriver
10mm double ended offset socket wrench
Shipping tape

Step 1:
Make sure the local forecast does not call for severe thunderstorms. If you skip this step, a one hour job may be extended to three

Step 2:
Remove the two screws in the front cup holders, one from each.

Step 3:
Squeeze the divider between the rear cup holders to dislodge the plastic retaining clips and remove the panel

Step 4:
Use the socket wrench to remove 3 flange nuts that hide below the cup holder panel

Step 5:
Put the emergency brake lever in the highest position. Begin to remove the brake lever shroud with a plastic scribe tool or putty knife. You have to dislodge the plastic retaining clips shown in step 6. Dislodge two on one side, then the two on the opposite side should lift away with ease.

Step 6:
Slide the elastic gathering out the recess where the top of the emergency brake shroud meets the lever and pull it up, up and awayyyyy from the brake lever

Step 7: Lift the center console directly up then maneuver it away from the shifter and emergency brake lever for removal. You may need to start the vehicle and put it into gear to have enough clearance to remove the console. Remember to keep your foot on the brake if you do this! (Disclaimer – it’s not my fault if you go plowing into the neighbor’s parked car if you fail to do this. It’s also not my fault if you completely fuck this whole project up because you use excessive force and/or are an idiot). You will now see what lies beneath the console. Don’t disturb any of the wiring here, because your airbag control module is located there, among other important stuff.

Step 8:
Identify and fix the problem. In my case, the thin plastic film that attaches the gear position indicator to the shifter surround was detached. It was a clean break, so all I had to do was neatly apply some parcel packing tape to the ribbon to re-attach it. Professional mechanics would probably just replace the whole assembly. And charge you $200.
I recommend using a long strip of tape to hold the two separated pieces of film, then reinforce that by wrapping a strip of tape perpendicular to the formerly broken area. Trim any excess tape.

Voila! Now the little orange dot moves through the P-R-N-D-L letters as they correspond to the gear. And I will pass state inspection.

Simply reverse the steps to reinstall the console. While you’re down there, clean up any spilled substances/buried treasure. Again, just be careful not to disturb anything while you’re at it.

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Posted by on April 26, 2011 in Cars



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