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Emergency! (Vehicle Emergency items)

"I never expected it could happen to me." Countless drivers have said that after they've had an emergency turn their lives upside down. So before that happens to you, let's thinking about planning ahead for an emergency with a few things you should keep in your vehicle. Road flares. If you've ever driven by a disabled vehicle sitting at the side of the highway at night, you know how terribly hard it is to see, especially in bad weather like rain.  If you are the one in that broken down vehicle, you run the risk of being hit by a vehicle whose driver literally may not be able to see you.  The best emergency signal includes one or more road flares.  There's a reason police officers and firefighters carry them in their vehicles.  When you see a series of burning red flares at the side of the road, you know something serious is going on.  These are far more visible at a much longer distance than nearly any other portable signal device.   Fire extinguisher ... read more

Categories:

Safety

Out with the Old (Vehicle Parts that Wear Out)

Some drivers don't pay any attention to their vehicles until something breaks.  Others take them into their service repair facility for maintenance even before a problem develops.  Still, even if you fit into the second group, there are some parts on a vehicle that will simply wear out over time. Your vehicle has gaskets in several places.  They use a flexible material to seal the gaps between metal parts that fit together. After time, that material shrinks or gets brittle and fails.  Eventually, after time, you will have to get gaskets replaced. Same goes for belts.  Your engine has belts that help take the mechanical energy of the engine to drive other parts such as the generator and air conditioner.  Heat and age will eventually cause these belts to wear out or break, so you'll need new ones at some point. You'll also find yourself buying brake pads.  As much as you may try to go easy on them, brake pads work by wearing off a little bit of them eac ... read more

Why You Have an O2 Sensor (Oxygen Sensor)

If someone asked you what gas made up the largest portion of the atmosphere, what would you guess? Well, it's not oxygen; it only makes up 20.9 percent.  But since we're talking about oxygen, you should know that your vehicle uses oxygen sensors to make sure your engine is running the way it should. The oxygen sensors measure how much oxygen is in your exhaust.  If there's too much, it means there's a problem with the mixture of fuel and air.  The sensor sends signals to computers in your engine and adjusts the mixture so it maximizes performance and efficiency.  It does this constantly.  Many vehicles have multiple oxygen sensors.  Some have one close to the engine, another close to the muffler.  Two measurements are better than one since they allow readings to be more accurate.  You may have a vehicle with a dual exhaust, so you'd have twice as many oxygen sensors. Your oxygen sensors can fail.  One thing that can damage them is contaminat ... read more

The Key Won't Turn! (Ignition Problems)

You've just arrived at the store shopping and you're ready to head home.  You put your key in the ignition and… oh, no! The ignition won't turn! What do you do now? Don't panic.  There are some things you can do to get going again.  The first thing to do is see if you have a locking steering wheel, an anti-theft feature that was introduced around 1970.  Sometimes it sticks.  Move the steering wheel side to side while you try to turn the key and you might be able to get it to release.  Another thing to check is to see if your vehicle is in gear.  Most vehicles will only allow you to start the ignition if it's in park or neutral.  If you have an automatic transmission vehicle and it is in park, try jiggling the shift lever and try the key again.  Sometimes the safety mechanism doesn't properly make contact or gets a little sloppy.  If both of these don't work, it could be your vehicle's battery is dead.  Some newer electronic ... read more

Alternator Facts (Failing Alternator)

If you notice that your headlights are flickering at night, that's something to pay attention to. While there could be many different things that could cause that problem, one possibility is your vehicle's alternator. The alternator takes mechanical energy from the engine and turns it into electricity, in essence a generator.  The current it makes charges the battery and supplies power to the vehicle's electrical systems.  An alternator is made up of several different parts: a pulley, magnets, coil wires, brushes and a voltage regulator.  While your vehicle is running, these parts get a good workout and, after time, they begin to wear out. Other symptoms of a failing alternator include your vehicle's lights dimming, the power windows going up and down more slowly than they used to, your power seats not moving quite as fast as before.  Another sign of a worn out alternator is engine stalling.  Vehicles with fuel injection require a certain amount of power, and w ... read more

Categories:

Alternator

Don't Be Shocked (Shock Absorbers)

If you've ever ridden down a rough road on your bicycle, you know how hard a ride it can be.  Yet drive down the same road in your car, truck or SUV and it miraculously will smooth out the ride.  That's because it is equipped with shock absorbers.  They are built to dampen impacts from road irregularities.  But after taking hundreds of hits from potholes, railroad tracks and curbs, your shock absorbers can wear out.  Besides the rough ride that can cause, there are other ways your vehicle's performance can be affected. When it comes to braking for example, you may take a longer distance to stop.  That's because shocks help keep your tires in contact with the surface of the road.  If the shocks aren't working properly, the tires won't make contact like they should.  So when you slam on the brakes, your vehicle will take longer to stop. Consider what worn out shocks are doing to your tires.  Since the bumps aren't being dampened as much, your ... read more

Categories:

Shocks & Struts

The Right Oil for the Season (Engine Oil Viscosity)

As the temperatures plunge, certain types of engine oil may not flow as easily as they did when it was warmer.  Makes sense, doesn't it? Just like molasses gets thicker as the temperature goes down, engine oil does the same thing. So, maybe you're wondering if you have to change your oil as the seasons change so it's just the right thickness to lubricate your engine parts.  How well engine oil flows is called its viscosity. There are different types of oil—some that have just one viscosity and others called "multigrade" oils.  Here's the difference. A single viscosity oil will flow better when it's hot but not as well when it's cold.  A multigrade oil is engineered so that its flow properties at cold temperatures are different than they are at warm temperatures.  In other words, a multigrade oil can start out in colder temperatures acting like a thinner oil and then behave like a thicker oil when it's warm.  That's a pretty cool trick and it's why mu ... read more

Categories:

Oil Change

A Door No One Can Step Through (Fuel Door Repair and Maintenance)

Your vehicle has lots of doors including that one usually near the back on the vehicle's side.  That's the fuel door, something you use every time you gas up.  These endure hundreds of open-and-close cycles, usually without any problems.  But when they act up, it can be a major inconvenience for you. When they stick in the "open" position, it can present real dilemma.  You can still pump your gas, but do you just drive around with that flap sticking out the side? What happens if someone steals the gas cap or it gets damaged? What happens if it rains? Yep, it's decision time. A fuel door that sticks open can be due to a number of factors.  The hinge on the door may have broken, possibly from corrosion or it may have been hit sometime.  Some vehicles have a cable that operates the door and it could be loose.  The latch that holds the door shut could have broken or it, too, could be bent from something hitting it.  You probably want to take care of ... read more

Categories:

Fuel System

Do you have a Clue (Get the Most Out of a Service Visit)

When you head to the doctor, you probably have it in your mind what you're going to say about why you don't feel good.  That way your doctor can use that information to diagnose your problem. You might want to think of that same approach when you take your vehicle in for a repair. Experts say what will help the service advisor most is for you to bring in some well-organized descriptions about your vehicle's issues.  You might even want to write them down so you don't forget.  Is there an unusual smell?  What does it smell like?  Does the problem happen first thing after starting out? If there's an odd sound you hear, is it dependent on speed?  Does it change when you turn a corner?   Keep your expectations realistic.  Some conditions may take a long time to diagnose and repair.  If you go thinking you'll be in and out in no time, you might be disappointed when you're told there are other customers ahead of you and you may have to come b ... read more

What Is an EGR Valve? (EGR Valve Service)

If you've ever felt your vehicle hesitate, go, then hesitate again, you might think there's something wrong with the transmission.  After all, it's not moving smoothly  down the road.  But there are plenty of malfunctions that can cause those symptoms, one of them being something you may have never heard of: the EGR valve. EGR stands for Exhaust Gas Recirculation. It's a system that channels small amounts of exhaust back into the engine to cool down the cylinders and reduce polluting gases.  Those include nitrogen oxides that can cause smog. The EGR valve regulates how much of the vehicle's exhaust gas is recirculated. After years and long distances traveled, that valve can get clogged or fail. Sometimes the EGR valve can stick open.  When the EGR valve isn't working properly, your vehicle can start releasing those nitrogen oxides and pollute the air. The symptoms of a malfunctioning EGR valve include: Engine losing power Engine idling roughly Pinging and knoc ... read more