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lou's garage

I am a 17-year-old student really interested in mechanics. I recently bought a 1993 FX-GT Toyota Corolla as a project car. After having driven it for just a couple of kilometres, it has quite a decent oil/or other fluid leakages in the engine bay. I checked the dipstick and sure enough, it was overfilled. Do you think that this was the reason why it was leaking? Do you think it may need fresh new seals now? Or will all be good just by emptying out 2 or so quarts of excess oil out? – Isaac S

I’m happy to see a young person with an interest in mechanics and great choice for a first car. Corollas are robust, long-lasting cars, especially from this generation. First, you will have to immediately remove any excessive oil. I will also make an educated guess and say that you bought it in that leaking condition. The reason it was overfilled is because the previous owner was likely constantly filling it with oil and accidentally overfilled it one day. While an overfilled oil condition can cause a leak, I’m going to say that is not your root cause. Age and maintenance neglect are the culprits and have led to multiple oil leaks appearing as one large mess. Start by shampooing the engine and locate the most obvious oil source. Fix one leak at a time, whatever your skill level affords, and you will slowly develop your skills and prevent future harassment from your parents about the oil slick on their driveway.


Hi Lou,

I have winter tires on separate rims that I swap myself on my 2011 VW Jetta TDI. When I purchased the tires, they used nitrogen in the tires instead of air. So my winter tires have nitrogen, my summer tires are filled with air. Two questions: Why do they use nitrogen in winter tires? How do I fill the tires when the pressure gets low? – Mike

The air versus nitrogen debate is tired. Pun intended. Yes, nitrogen provides a more consistent tire pressure because of a couple primary factors. Air will migrate through rubber at a faster rate than nitrogen, meaning over the long-term you will see less pressure loss with nitrogen. Air also brings moisture into the tire, which can cause corrosion and faster pressure changes due to temperature change. That being said, air is 78-per-cent nitrogen and approximately 21-per-cent oxygen, so we are not talking about huge differences. Tire manufacturers typically recommend both air and nitrogen as suitable for inflation.

Nitrogen use is unquestionably better for your tire, but is it worth the hassle? If every corner gas station or service shop had a readily available nitrogen fill station, I would easily push for the answer to be nitrogen all the way. However, the use of nitrogen does not mean you can be lax in checking tire pressure – you still have to do the same amount of work. Therefore, if you have someplace nearby that conveniently offers nitrogen keep going with it. If not, air will work just fine, too.

Lou Trottier is owner-operator of All About Imports in Mississauga. Have a question about maintenance and repair? E-mail globedrive@globeandmail.com, placing “Lou’s Garage” in the subject line.

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