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Why does my car seem to lean to the left?

They just do.  Conjecture on this subject has been wide and varied for many years, but nobody has quite been able to finger the exact reason.  The best theory thus far is that the lean is caused by the engine and driver being on the left-hand side. Nobody has complained thus far that it affects any part of the ride quality of the car, although a few people have commented that the right rear of the car tends to rattle a bit more. This may be because the lower left front tends to unload the right rear suspension slightly.

(Please note that this is the original unkillable thread, and not very interesting.  Resist the temptation to reopen the question.)

The Last Word: I can't figure out who started this. My car doesn't lean to the left. Neither does anyone elses DSM that I've ever laid eyes on. Weird.

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I own a [DSM]. What sort of preventative maintenance should I do?

Any dealer can tell you this. You can also obtain a copy of the owners manual for your year, make and model car from Mitsubishi or Chrysler. It's pretty much a typical regimen of changes for oil, filters, plugs and belts. You can also get a shop manual for your car which details the wheres, whens and hows for the various procedures.

There is now some maintenance information in this FAQ; see here for details.

New owners: PLEASE read the "Vital Information" section of this FAQ to inform yourself about important potential problems. Also note that timing AND balance shaft belts REALLY should be changed by 60 kmiles (90 kkm), so used-car owners will want to check that right away.

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What idle speed is normal?

You would already know this (hint, hint) if you had checked your shop manual. (You DO have a shop manual, right?)

1G owners can expect 1.8L engines to idle at 800 RPM, while 2.0L (non-turbo and turbo) idle at 750 RPM. With the air conditioning on, automatics will drop to 650 RPM, while manuals will rise to 850 RPM.

2Gers will get 800 RPM out of their non-turbos, and 750 RPM from the 2.0 turbo and 2.4L engines. Again, this will rise to 850 RPM with the air conditioning on.

If your car does not idle exactly at these levels, or changes its idle slightly, occasionally or while driving, don't freak out. Few cars idle at precisely the designed level, owing to variations in climate and engine components. All of the above levels are rated at plus or minus 100 RPM, and the car will sometimes adjust the idle acording to driving conditions. If you don't have a problem with the car, leave the idle alone.

Some DSMers have problems with an unstable idle, or with their car being unable to maintain idle when coming to a stop. The first problem is a symptom of a badly set base idle, while the second in an indication of a broken speed sensor. Those with idle surge problems go here; those with cars that die at stoplights go here.

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What gas mileage is normal?
My gas mileage stinks! Is there a fix?
My gas mileage was fine, but it's going down a lot! Is there a fix?
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Most owners get around 20 MPG (11.75 L/100km). On-highway use typically results in 25 MPG (9.5 L/100 km).  These numbers vary a fair amount according to season, location, altitude, type of driving, state of modifications, age of various parts, and quality of gasoline used; non-turbo owners often have the edge here. Owners have reported 'normal' mileage on both new and used cars that vary from typical by as much as 10 MPG.

Mileage in the 12-13 MPG (18-20 L/100 km) sometimes reflects a problem with the car.  An old or failing oxygen sensor is a prime suspect, as this component senses the air/fuel mixture and, when bad (or even weak), can cause the ECU to supply more fuel than is necessary. According to Todd Day of Technomotive, even a slightly weak O2 sensor can knock 1-2 MPG off of the normal mileage. Since weak or dead oxygen sensors often do not trip the "Check Engine" light (see here for why), owners may not realize their O2 sensor is on the blink.

However, this is not always the case. Mileage can often be lower in the winter simply because of the widespread sale of oxygenated gasoline, which tends to lower fuel mileage. Cold weather also leads to increased idling and more congested traffic.

Another common problem occurs when upgraded downpipes are installed. Techs often forget to re-connect the ground strap from the original downpipe, leading to a poor ground for the oxygen sensor that can have the car running rich.

If you're really desparate, try replacing your thermostat - a poorly operating unit can keep the car running so cold it never leaves it's 'warm-up' mode, during which the ECU runs the car richer than normal.

For some insight into how the EPA gets their mileage estimates, read Dean's Daily Discussions #9. Those interested can also read the rest of the series.

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Why does my oil pressure keep changing?
What is the normal oil pressure for a [DSM]?

Oil pressure is directly related to

When changing the oil you often end up with a slightly different amount of oil in the engine then you had previously.  Less oil means less oil pressure - add a little more oil and the pressure will rise.

Also, the oil pump is driven by an accessory belt. Operating the engine at higher speed runs the oil pump faster, raising oil pressure. Consequently, oil pressure is lowest when the car is idling (and hot), and will rise during cruising.

Normal oil pressure on these cars is between the Low and Mid mark when idling, and between the Mid and High marks when cruising. These marks, unfortunately, do not correspond to any known psi rating.

Limited testing by DSM owners with mechanical oil pressure gauges indicate that DSMs tend to have around 70-90 psi of oil pressure while cruising, and only 10-20 psi while idling. Cold starts can generate oil pressures of over 100 psi, a fact verified by the DSM manuals when discussing proper oil filter selection.

Consistently low oil pressure while driving could be an oil leak, or a bad oil pressure sending unit. Be careful.

The Last Word: Some DSMs just show low oil pressure, period. My car has shown low oil pressure for years, but nothing comes of it.

And, despite what some people have told me, oil pressure DOES depend - a little bit, at least - on the amount of oil. I've seen the oil pressure on my car go up by adding a bit more oil. There is a danger of overfilling the oil and causing oil "frothing", but I consider that a low-probability problem, whereas my car (and most DSMs, by now) does definitely leak and/or burn oil. Personally, I'd rather have a bit too much than not enough.

The oil light on the dash may come on under hard braking when your oil is low. Top up immediately.

Finally, the little connector that connects the oil pressure sender to the dash gauge can wear out and/or fall off. The gauge will show zero oil pressure and scare the bejeezus out of you, but the dash oil light doesn't light up. The sender is located between the oil filter and the wheel, under the car.

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Do I have to use a factory oil filter in my [DSM]?

No, you don't. It is true that the original Mitsu/Chryco oil filters have a small check valve in them. The common belief is that this check valve helps maintain oil pressure, and keeps oil in the engine while the car isn't running. (Dealers often repeat this tidbit of DSM 'lore' in an effort to steer owners away from the popular oil-change companies.) Some suspect, however, that the valve is nothing more than a bypass valve that allows oil to circulate even if the oil filter becomes too clogged to operate properly.

In any event, the aftermarket oil filter manufacturers include the check valve in their own offerings for the DSM triplets. This makes perfect sense, as it is unlikely that either Mitsubishi or Chrysler manufacture their own oil filters. Those who prefer OEM parts may, of course, stick with what they are most comfortable with, but it is by no means mandatory.

Those interested in oil filter anatomy and comparisons may find this Engine Oil Filter Study a good read.

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Why is there a button to pop up the headlights on my [DSM]?
Why is there a blank spot in my dashboard for an extra switch?
There's a switch missing in my [DSM]! What is it supposed to be?
What kind of switch can I install in the "missing" switch spot of my [DSM]?
How can I keep my pop-up headlights from raising when turned on?

1990-1991 DSMs had pop-up headlights. The popup button raised the lights even if they were off. Since 1992-1994 DSMs did not have pop-up headlights, this switch is not installed. There is a "blank" where the switch would have gone. The installation of such "blanks" is commonplace in automotive design. If desired, a pop-up switch, fog light switch or other stock DSM switch can easily be installed into the "blank" spot to control auxiliary lighting or other special equipment.

It is true that the pop-up switch is slightly redundant on 1990-1991 cars since the headlights pop-up automatically when switched on. It is possible to prevent them from doing so. Owners sometimes want to do this to allow them to look "cooler" when using the headlights as daylight running lights. Others prefer to run the headlights down and use the high beams to make up for the lost light. [Note: The writer of this FAQ does not recommend operating the headlights down at night.]

A "staple" mod for DSMs in the early years, the mod was generally forgotten since no DSM since 1991 has had pop-up headlights. Those who want to do it can check this guide.

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What does the yellow light on the A/C button mean?

From a post by Lorrin Barth:

"When the yellow light is on, the air conditioner delivers cold air when the interior of the car is hot and then gradually tempers the air as the interior of the car cools down. This is done by gradually changing the temperature set points at which the compressor cycles to higher temperatures."

"To see exactly how this all works check out the graph at the bottom of page 24-4 of the "Technical Information Manual"."

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What does the green light on the A/C button mean?

Most people believe that the green light means the air conditioner compressor stays on all the time. This is not true.

From a post by Lorrin Barth:

"When the green light is on the air conditioner cycles off when the oulet temperature of the evaporator drops to 37 degrees and cycles on when it rises to 39 degrees. In other words, cold air all of the time. Of course, as in really hot weather, the evaporator temperature may take a long time to drop to 37 degress, and this is going to depend on the condition of the system too, making you think it never cycles.

So, as you can now see, the compressor cycles in either mode. To see exactly how this all works check out the graph at the bottom of page 24-4 of the "Technical Information Manual". "

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Why does the A/C come on, by itself, when I turn the defroster on?

This is peculiar to 2G DSMs. Likely the factory installed this feature to ensure that the defrost air is dry. Trying to defrost a freezing windshield with humid air does more harm than good, and blowing snow can easily get into the fresh air intakes.

It was previously posted that the rationale for this 'feature' is that disuse of the A/C feature during winter can lead to premature seal cracking. Having the A/C on with the defrost ensures that the A/C system stays "active" and keeps the seals properly wetted. This might be considered suspect since chronic A/C seal failure is not known to be a problem on 1G DSMs - even Canadian ones.

If you hate it, you can remove the little tab on the vent dial that is responsible. Essentially, there is a small tab on the A/C selector knob that automatically trips the A/C if the defroster is selected. Breaking off the tab "fixes" it.

The Last Word: Your experience may vary, but the only reason I keep A/C in my car is to dry the air and keep the windows fogging up in rainstorms.

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Why does the brake light keep coming on?
My brake light comes on for [some time], then goes away, every day. How come?

Your brake fluid is probably low. Check it. Another possibility is that your brake pads are wearing out.

Some owners have found that the brake light comes on when it is cold out. However, this is often a symptom of another problem, and not the problem itself. Check your brake system to make certain.

Another possibility is some malfunction in the antilock braking system of your car. If you find your fluid is ok, have the ABS system checked out. It has been reported that 1991 cars may occasionally experience a glitch in a wheel sensor, causing the ABS system to reset.

Still another possibility is that you are accidentally bumping the parking brake handle with your right knee. This can happen to taller people.

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My ABS light will sometimes come on, sometimes not. How come?

This may be a symptom of a failing battery - the ABS system can misbehave under low-voltage conditions.

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What does the power/economy switch on the automatic transmission do?

Changes the shift points the transmission uses - that's all.  Mitsu recommends that the economy setting not be used except over 50 MPH, to avoid unnecessary wear and tear on the transmission.  See Club DSM Automatic for more information.

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I keep hearing a 'click' after shutting the car off! Is there a fix?
What is the 'click' I hear after shutting the car off?

That is the ECU turning off. It is perfectly normal.

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Other people know the "number" of their DSM. How can I find out what number my car is?

The serial number of your car is the last 6 digits of its Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). Unfortunately, the serial numbers for DSMs are largely mixed in with those of other vehicles built in the same plant - in our case, the Sebring and Avenger. To make things worse, the Laser, Talon and Eclipse serial numbers were similarily mixed up, meaning there is no reliable way of knowing how many of the same model vehicle were made prior to your own.

The exception may be very early 1990 cars - the Talon was apparantly a late addition to the model lineup, so it is somewhat more likely that Talons were made with sequential serial numbers up to a point.

Galant VR-4 owners have the advantage here, as there were a limited number of Galants made in early model years. Owners that list their cars "number" are typically GVR4 owners, as GVR4s have a dash plate listing the "number" of the car in that production year. This number does not correlate to the VIN, which throws more cold water onto the theory that Talon, Eclipse or Laser owners have the ability to figure out their car number.

The VIN also holds lots of other information. Some of it is in this answer, or check in the shop manual for details. In addition, there is a sticker on the driver's door that lists when the car was manufactured: MDH stands for month, date, and hour.

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How can I tell if my car has a 7-bolt engine?

You would already know this (hint, hint) if you had used the FAQ Locator; specifically, this section. The two engines have different oil pans, among other changes.

Before the oil pan method was identified, the only way to 'tell' if you had a 7-bolt engine was the production date of the car. According to the staff of Conicelli Mitsubishi, cars produced between March, 1989 and the third week of April, 1992 have 6-bolt motors; May, 1992 to the first week of May, 1994 have 7-bolt motors.

Another way might be to check the front brakes. 7-bolt engines are associated with big brakes; cars that have big brakes often have 7-bolt engines. Unfortunately, nobody seems to know if this method is reliable or not.

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How can I tell if my car has a 4-bolt rear end?

According to the staff of Conicelli Mitsubishi, all 1G cars produced before the second week of June, 1991, have 3-bolt rears. This essentially covers all 1990 and 1991 DSMs. All 1992-1994 cars have 4-bolt rears.

Many DSM owners are under the mistaken impression that the changeover between the original 3-bolt rear end and the stronger 4-bolt version occurred halfway through the 1992 model year. This is not so.

Those curious to know the production date for their car can check the driver's side doorjamb sticker. The acronym MDH stands for month, day and hour of production.

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Why can't I tow an AWD [DSM]?
My AWD [DSM] was towed [at some time]! Did anything break?

You can tow an AWD DSM. The trick is to have all four wheels off the ground while it is being towed. This can be done using a flatbed tow truck, or putting the front wheels on dollies.

The reason that AWD DSMs should not be towed with two wheels on the ground is the limited-slip differential (LSD) which is present on many AWDs. The function of the LSD is (surprise!) to allow a limited amount of speed difference between the front and rear wheels.

[Please note that the operation of the LSD has been simplified here for the purposes of discussion. This is not a dissertation on the LSD itself.]

Under normal driving conditions, the front and rear axles rotate at the same speed. (This is what differentiates AWD from older 4WD vehicles - on 4WD vehicles, it is assumed that the front and rear wheels usually rotate at different speeds while the 4WD is engaged.) During this time, the LSD does no work, and is 'open', providing no coupling between the front and rear wheels of the car.

The LSD is a viscous (fluid-based) device, and contains no mechanical interlocks. When one set of wheels begins to slip, plates in the LSD rotate at different speeds. The speed difference creates friction, and therefore heat, in the LSD fluid. When enough heat is generated, the LSD fluid abruptly changes state from 'open' to 'closed' providing a semi-solid junction between the two plates. With the fluid now 'locked' the plates are forced to rotate at near-equal speeds, which is turn forces the axles to turn together. When the slip condition disappears, the LSD quickly loses heat and returns to an 'unlocked' state.

So, the raison d'etre of the LSD is to prevent excessive wheel slip between the front and rear axles. The only problem with this occurs if two wheels are forced to slip, while the other two remain stationary. This occurs, of course, if two wheels are on the ground (rolling) and two are stationary (lifted) while the car is being towed.

In this scenario, the LSD will quickly build up heat and 'lock', attempting to rotate both axles equally. Unfortunately, it is unable to do so, since the stationary axle is locked securely into place by the tow operator. The other option is to halt the rolling axle, but the LSD does not have the strength necessary to resist the force provided by a tow truck designed to pull much larger vehicles. So the LSD plates continue to slip, even when the LSD is 'locked'.

When placed into such an impossible situation, the LSD does the only thing it can do - build up heat until it self-destructs. The tow truck driver, driving a dually burdened with the added weight of a 3000 lb car, is unlikely to notice either the extra resistance provided by the LSD or the lack of resistance once the LSD burns out. By the time the car is again dropped to the ground, the LSD is literally toast.

This situation can easily be avoided by only towing the car with all 4 wheels off of the ground. The exact method used is not critical. And no, it isn't going to hurt the LSD to load the car - technically, the front and rear axles are never going to rotate at exactly the same speed during driving, so the LSD plates are always rotating at slightly different speeds. Obviously, this doesn't hurt it, since it runs in 'open' mode normally - the problems occur when it is 'locked' and still cannot equalize the axle speeds.

Those interested in the exact operation of the LSD can read all about it in their technical manual (you do have one, right?).

Those interested in the details of the AWD system should read Eliot Lims Introduction to AWD Systems.

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What are the grilles / vents / slots in the side of the car for?

They are functional. They let air out of the car when the windows and sunroof are closed up.

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Last edited 09/01/06

Maintained by Sean Costall. Changes and suggestions are welcomed!  If you have any information on the answers to any of these questions or wish additional questions, please mail me.

This page is an extension of Club DSM .