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Move it or Lose It (Dormant Vehicles)

When it comes to your vehicle, driving it too much can cause some issues.  But what about not driving a vehicle enough? That has consequences as well. Here are a few things that can happen if a vehicle isn't driven enough.  When the engine doesn't operate, the oil isn't lubricating. That means some mechanisms that need periodic lubrication aren't getting it.  And oil that sits around breaks down over time.  In fact, some experts say you should change oil more often if your vehicle sits in the driveway than if you drive it regularly.  You've heard that expression, "Take it on the highway and blow out the engine.” Well, carbon buildup used to be a problem in older vehicles.  But the real culprit these days is moisture that builds up from combustion if your vehicle never gets hot enough to burn it off. That water vapor can mix with oil and cause sludge to form. There are many vehicle systems (battery, exhaust system, engine seals, etc.) that benefit fro ... read more

Water Everywhere (Clogged Drains)

It's bad enough when you mistakenly leave a window open in your vehicle on a rainy day and you find your carpet soaked.  But what in the world is going on when your windows are closed tight, not leaking and you STILL wind up with wet carpet? The answer could be something you might not even know your vehicle has. And the answer is? Drains. And those drains can get clogged.  Yes, your vehicle has several drains with tubes or hoses attached to them that you really never see.  There are some in and around the hood that channel rainwater down to the ground.  There are some that take condensation from the air conditioner and allow it to flow outside.  And if your vehicle has a retractable sunroof or moon roof, there are small drains at each corner that connect to tubes that go through the vehicle body down to an exit near the ground.  Considering all the leaves, dirt, dust and other debris your vehicle encounters on a daily basis, it's not surprising that these ... read more

Have a Ball! Know your Ball Joints (Ball Joints)

We all have joints in our own skeletal system, but did you know your vehicle has some joints of its own? One of the most important is called a ball joint. One of the interesting things is that it's somewhat similar to the ball and socket joints we have in our hips and shoulders.  A ball joint allows two parts it joins together to move in more than one direction at the same time. Think about your wheels.  They have to move up and down when there are bumps in the road but in sideways directions when you are making a turn. As you can see, the ball joints are important for your steering and handling to work correctly. Since ball joints do so much, they can wear out and become loose.  When the ball wears down or the socket gets worn, there can be too much play in them.  It can get so bad that the ball can come out of the socket and your wheel can fall off, a dangerous situation.  Ball joints can also seize up.  Some of them are sealed and never require maintena ... read more

Categories:

Steering

It Wears on You (Tire Rotation)

If someone told you there was a fairly inexpensive way to improve your vehicle's handling, fuel economy and extend the life of your tires, you'd probably ask, "What do I have to do?" The answer is to rotate your tires.  But you have to do it regularly. A lot of drivers think skipping tire rotation is a way to save money.  But when you don't rotate your tires, they will almost certainly wear unevenly.  That's because when your tires touch the surface of the road, the friction and traction causes miniscule parts of the rubber to come off.  And that process isn't exactly the same on each corner of your vehicle.  Some vehicles have the drive wheels in the front, some in the rear and some on all wheels. Rotating your tires at regular intervals minimizes the differences in the way the tires wear.  The amount and pattern will be spread out equally if your tires spend time at all different positions.  The more even the wear, the more consistent traction, hand ... read more

Categories:

Tires

Don't Do It Yourself (Perils of DIY Vehicle Repair)

Your vehicle is a complicated machine, and yes, it would be nice if you could take care of all of its problems yourself.  There was a time when vehicles were simpler and it wasn't too hard for a weekend mechanic to replace brakes, adjust a carburetor or perform a tune-up.  But vehicles are far more complicated these days, with traction and stability control, anti-lock brakes, air bags and fuel injection just a small sample of the new technologies.  Like a lot of things these days, technology changes in leaps and bounds.  Anyone who repairs vehicles has to stay up on the latest computers, sensors, suspensions, steering, electronics, hydraulics and more.  Many power steering, braking and heating and air conditioning systems that used to be mechanical are now being replaced by electronic systems.  Computers are an integral part of  much of the latest automotive technology, something you didn't see a lot of until as recently as the 1990s. Today's most hig ... read more

Lean Times (Shocks and Springs)

You may have noticed your vehicle going through lean times.  By that, we mean it's literally leaning to one side.  When you notice that, you should get it checked out at your service facility soon because you could have a serious problem. Many things can cause a vehicle to lean.  You may have problems with your struts, shocks or springs.  They all work in tandem to make your ride more comfortable.  The struts bear the weight of the vehicle's body, the shock absorbers employ a piston that keeps your tires in contact with the road and controls movement of the vehicle's body.  Springs also absorb impacts from uneven road surfaces. If these components get stuck, either too high or too low, they cause your vehicle to lean.  That's because that side of the vehicle isn't at the height it is designed to be.  A technician will determine where the problem is.  Outside elements such as moisture plus hard knocks to these components can weaken them, even ... read more

Categories:

Shocks & Struts

Before You Buy that Used Vehicle (Having a Used Car Inspected Before Buying)

Let's face it.  New vehicles are expensive, so finding a good used one can save drivers a lot of money.  It's tempting to look through ads, find a private seller who has what you're looking for and pay a price you think is a great deal.  But when you go over to look at a used car, do you really know what to look for to uncover potential problems with it? The answer is probably no.  Used cars can look great on the outside, maybe even have lustrous paint and a super clean interior. But is it possible that vehicle's been in an accident? Does it have electrical problems you can't detect easily? Is any fluid leaking that you don't know about? Think about it.  You are about to spend thousands of dollars for a complex machine and you're considering judging its condition without much expertise.  That's why it makes sense to have a qualified technician inspect any used vehicle you're considering buying. Many vehicle repair facilities will do it for around ... read more

Some New Boots (Suspension Maintenance)

There are some boots that don't come in a shoe box and aren't worn on your feet.  They are called axle or CV boots, and they can be important parts for many vehicles. That CV stands for constant velocity.  CV axles are mainly used in front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive vehicles. They're also used in some rear-wheel drive vehicles with independent suspensions.  They have two CV joints, one inner and one outer, placed between the axle and the drive wheels.  That way the vehicle's engine power can drive the wheels, no matter what angle they are.  They also adjust for the different speeds wheels turn as they go around corners.  Because roads are full of all sorts of hazards (dirt, oil, water, grime), these CV joints need to be protected.  They also have grease in them to keep the bearings moving smoothly.  That's the job of the rubber boots that are supposed to keep that debris out.  These CV or axle boots are made of rubber or plastic and usu ... read more

Categories:

Suspension

What is a TPS? (Throttle Position Sensor)

You know you have an accelerator pedal; step on it and your vehicle is supposed to go.  But did you know there is a part in your vehicle that keeps track of where the throttle is? It's called the Throttle Position Sensor, or TPS. The TPS is a sensor that helps your vehicle figure out the right mix of air and fuel is reaching your engine.  It does that by keeping track of the throttle and sending that information to your vehicle's computer.  Other factors play a role in how well your engine is performing, including air temperature, how fast the engine is turning over and air flow.  When the TPS isn't working right, you may find your vehicle won't accelerate or doesn't have the power you're expecting when you press on the accelerator.  In some cases, it may accelerate on its own.  Sometimes your vehicle won't go over a certain speed.  Your Check Engine light may go on. Any of these symptoms should be checked out soon.  If your TPS stops working rig ... read more

Conventional or Synthetic? (Switching to Synthetic Oil)

If you keep up on technology trends, then you may be intrigued about synthetic motor oil.  It was introduced in the 1960s when Mobil came up with it.  Mobil's oil was different from conventional motor oil because it was first broken down to its basic molecules.  Then, Mobil removed additional impurities from crude oil and "tailored them to the demands of modern engines." Synthetic oil is becoming more popular now because of its advantages over conventional oil. It's more resistant to sludge forming in an engine.  It is more efficient and protects engines better under temperature extremes.  Because it allows drivers to go longer between oil changes, many feel it's more convenient.  The downside is that synthetic oil is more expensive, but because it doesn't need changing as often, the cost can be pretty comparable in the long run. Those who drive high performance vehicles (think Audi, BMW, Mercedes) are already using synthetic oil if they're following their ... read more

Categories:

Oil Change