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I tried to change my E200 spark plug. It broke, and a small piece of the ceramic (white material) fell into the combustion chamber. After I changed to the new spark plugs, I feared what could happen. I started it anyway, as I learned somewhere that the ceramic is hard but brittle and gets crushed easily. When I started the engine, it was quite sick, and shut off. Eventually, white smoke came out and it started to run smoothly. It is now okay, but I get worried if I am on a long journey, as I have two young kids. Need your advice. – Mudassir

Ouch, that is bad news. You should not have started the engine with that foreign object in a combustion chamber.

The fact the engine is still running would indicate the rogue ceramic is still there in one piece or that it has escaped past an exhaust valve or the rings in that cylinder. In either case, it has likely caused some damage to the cylinder wall, rings, valve or valve seat.

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There is also a small chance it is still in the cylinder. A technician with a video probe might be able to look into the cylinder to see if it is there and pull it out with a small clamping device.

You should also ask that same technician to do a compression check on the cylinder in question to determine if there has been damage and how much. Since there was some hesitancy upon first startup followed by smoke, I am guessing it did pass by the rings and oil entered the cylinder. It is highly unlikely you have escaped without some permanent and costly damage, but there is an outside chance.

Daytime running lights

I am seeing more and more cars and vans without "daytime running lights;" I thought this was a mandatory regulation that auto manufacturers spend lots of financial resources to develop and implement and we consumers pay. It is a wonderful regulation that's been proven successful in other countries (notably Sweden) and, since it being implemented here in Ontario in 1990, I have come to depend on DRLs for my peripheral vision. With more vehicles without DRLs, I find this troubling. I read that this regulation is not 'prosecutable.' Why is this? – Bernard

I suspect, because of your proximity to the U.S. border, you are seeing American vehicles that do not have them.

There is also the possibility some fools have disconnected them. Daytime Running Lights (DRLs) are a regulated safety item. They were mandated in this country under Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 108 in 1990. All vehicles produced or registered here or imported to Canada must have them.

There is incontrovertible proof they save lives. As for being prosecutable, it is a federal regulation so I cannot see why it could not be pursued in the courts. I am not a lawyer, but suspect it is one of those cases where issuing a ticket is low on the priority list for law enforcement officers.

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I doubt there was much research or development cost involved in meeting the regulations since it is merely a matter of re-wiring. My complaint about the regulations is that many manufacturers set them up in concert with the instrument panel lighting so drivers often think they have their headlights on when the see the dash lit up and a glow in front of the car. The tail lights are not on and they are all but invisible from the rear at night.

Daytime running lights started in Scandinavian countries more than 35 years ago where, like Canada, the long winters involve lengthy periods of reduced or poor daylight. Like you, I am a fan of DRLs.

Send your automotive maintenance and repair questions to globedrive@globeandmail.com

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