Dear Tom and Ray:
I've been a fan for years. I had a great 2000 Ford Crown Victoria, which I always had serviced at a local muffler/repair shop. Last year, I gave the car to my daughter in Michigan. When she took it to her own mechanic for a tuneup, he discovered that all eight fuel-injector clips had broken off and the fuel injectors were held in position by plastic zip ties! My repair-shop owner is telling me that there is a problem with these clips, that they tend to break off, and that it is standard to use zip ties to hold them in place. He never mentioned this during the nine years he serviced my car. My daughter's mechanic says my guy is "blowing smoke," and he has never seen anything like this before. Who do I believe? I am very leery about returning to my old guy now with my newer 2005 Mercury. What do you fellows think? Would you go back to him? — Dorothy
Tom: No. He's endangering your life, Dorothy. And he's trying to cover up his bad judgment with a song and dance.
Ray: We used to try that, but very quickly, we ran through the entire 20th Century Songbook, and our feet were killing us.
Tom: Those clips do break sometimes. We've seen it happen when you remove the fuel injectors to make a repair. But if you break one, or two, or eight, you buy new ones. They're sold separately by dealers, and they're cheap. Very cheap.
Ray: So the only reason to use zip ties would be laziness. They're not an acceptable substitute.
Tom: They're plastic, so they're not designed to take the high underhood temperatures in the middle of the engine compartment, which can be several hundred degrees. And over time, the zip ties will get brittle and fail. If one breaks, a fuel injector can come flying out, spraying gasoline at high pressure all over the engine.
Ray: And that leads to what? Fire. So, to summarize: bad idea!
Tom: We use zip ties all the time to group bunches of wires together, or hold a wire out of the way if it's at the periphery of the engine compartment — and if the zip tie's failure would not result in anything dangerous happening. But we'd never use one to hold an injector in place.
Ray: To say that it's "standard to use zip ties" to secure fuel injectors is nuts. It's standard to use zip ties to close kitchen garbage bags, Dorothy. And if your guy doesn't know that, it's time for a new mechanic.
(Car Talk is a nationally syndicated column by automotive experts (and brothers) Tom and Ray Magliozzi. Write to them at the Car Talk website.)