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Why Alignment Matters (Vehicle Alignment Maintenance)

It's one of those things that can happen on a multi-day road adventure or a quick trip to the grocery store.  You hit a pothole, go too fast over a speed bump, nail a curb.  When it happens, you think, "I wonder if that was hard enough to do any damage?"  But things seem ok and you continue on your way.  Keep in mind that any blow to your vehicle's suspension can throw it out of alignment.  It can be a hard knock from the road or from another vehicle, such as being involved in a minor accident.  When your suspension is out of alignment, it means that the wheels aren't all pointing where they should.  And after a while, it can make your tires wear unevenly and cause problems with steering and handling. Let's go back to that pothole or curb you hit hard.  Even though you think there was no damage done, if you wait until you see tire wear, you may need to replace all four tires, not an inexpensive proposition. That's why it's a good idea to make sur ... read more

Categories:

Alignment

Light's Out! Trouble Ahead (Exterior Light Bulb Service)

Whether or not your exterior light bulbs are all working probably is not at the top of your list when you think about your vehicle.  But those exterior lights are more important than you think, and they're vital to your safety and that of other drivers near you. Headlights are important.  Not only do they help you see safely down the road at night, they also help oncoming drivers know that the vehicle they're approaching is not a motorcycle.  Both headlights should be working properly and aimed so that they don't blind other drivers. Taillights are also important for a few reasons.  They tell drivers what your intentions are (changing lanes, turning, stopping).  So, the bulbs back there must be all in working order for maximum safety. Ditto for the front turn signal lights.  They alert oncoming drivers to your lane changes or turns (if you use your turn signals!).  Some side mirrors also have turn signal bulbs in them. There are a few other important ... read more

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Safe Driving

A Non-Starter (Alternator Problems in Cold Weather)

As the temperatures dip, we all know there could be problems starting our vehicles. After all, batteries can grow old and not hold a charge as well as when they were newer. Or starters can go bad.  But there's one more component to keep an especially sharp eye on during winter: your alternator. The alternator is sort of like a small generator. It sends power out to various parts in your vehicle that need electricity.  That includes the battery, which needs charging to keep its power topped off.  The alternator creates electricity by taking mechanical energy from the engine and turning it into electricity.  It is connected to the engine by belts and pulleys.  In cold weather, the material the belt is made from is less flexible than it is in warm weather.  That means it may not be turning the pulleys as effectively since it doesn't have the same grip. Also, when it's colder, lubricants, including the engine oil, are a little stiffer and parts just don't move ... read more

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Alternator

Time for a Brake (Brake Pad Replacement)

Stop! It's one of those things your vehicle has to do consistently and reliably.  That's why brake maintenance is vitally important, worthwhile for you to make sure stays up to date. A brake system has many components. If your vehicle has disc brakes, they have pads that make contact with the rotors (the metal discs).  Those pads usually have a metal back, and the part that presses against the discs is made of a material which provides friction to stop the vehicle. Because of that friction, the pads are expected to wear down and eventually the rotors will, too.  But the pads usually are the part that will need to be replaced more often. But how do you know when it's time? There are several signs, one of which is when your brakes squeak or make a high-pitched sound when you step on the brake pedal.  Many newer vehicles also have sensors on the brake pads.  When the pads get worn down to a certain point, the sensor will tell the vehicle's computer to turn on a li ... read more

Categories:

Brakes

Visibility Disaster! (Windshield Washer Pump Replacement)

Let's say you live in a cold climate where the snowy, icy weather challenges you to clear the salt and debris tossed up on your windshield.  You push your windshield washer switch expecting a good stream of fluid so the blades can wipe the glass clean. Yet nothing comes out.  Nada, zip.  What's going on? You know you filled up the windshield washer reservoir within the last week or so.  Well, there could be a few things causing your windshield washing system to fail.  One culprit? The hoses that are supposed to carry that fluid from the washer pump to the spray nozzles may be frozen, or maybe they're cracked and leaking. It could be the nozzles themselves are stopped up, either iced up or jammed full of debris.  Your windshield wiper/washer switch could be worn out or the electrical system may not be conducting power to the washer pump.  It's important that this system work properly, especially on days when the sun may be in front of you and your wind ... read more

H20 No! (Driving Through Standing Water)

In a year marked by unusually heavy flooding in North America, drivers are very aware of the possibility they may find themselves driving where water has come over the road.  It can be a daunting and frightening situation.  Flooding waters can move quickly and unpredictably, so you have to keep your wits about you when you encounter that situation. Here a sample of one vehicle manufacturer's guidelines on what to do.  First, the vehicle is designed to go through some water, but you must be careful.  Never attempt to drive through water deeper than the bottom of your tires. You can get out of your vehicle to check the depth of the water, but you can never be sure that you aren't going to drive into a spot where the road has washed away.  You can't see below the surface of the water, and suddenly you could find yourself in a place where the road drops off unexpectedly.  In swift moving storm runoff, your vehicle could literally be floating away with the curr ... read more

Low Power Mystery (Ignition Coil Service)

It's no fun when your vehicle just doesn't run the way it used to.   You may notice (especially in cold weather) the engine won't start easily or when it does start, it doesn't run smoothly. It may not have much power at all. You also may have had to stop at the gas station more often, a sign your fuel economy isn't what it used to be.  There could be a few different things that cause those symptoms, but one culprit could be a bad ignition coil. The coil takes the voltage from your battery and multiplies it before that power is sent over to a spark plug. That allows the plug to fire off a good jolt of electricity that ignites the fuel in your cylinder and powers the engine.  There's usually one ignition coil for each cylinder (or sometimes for a pair of cylinders). If only one of them is not pushing out enough electricity, it can cause big trouble with your engine performance.  Other signs of a bad ignition coil include engine backfire, an oil leak and your Che ... read more

3 Winter Windshield Tips (Care of Windshield)

Cold weather can present some real challenges when it comes to your vehicle's windshield.  Think of it.  Your windshield is your window to the world when you're driving, and clear visibility is extraordinarily important for safe travels. So here are 3 tips to ensure that your windshield can do its job during the cold weather. Don't ever pour hot water on a frozen windshield.  Let's say you head outside and see your vehicle covered with ice. You think, hey, maybe I can heat up a pot of water on the stove and melt that off fast.  Don't do it!  You run the risk of shattering the glass the second that hot water hits the frigid glass.  Ditto for using a propane torch.  Glass does not do well with sudden temperature changes.  Instead, turn on your engine and start the defroster, which heats the windshield up gradually.  Use a plastic scraper designed for windshields (don't EVER use metal to scrape) and be patient.  Don't hammer on the ice to ... read more

Idle Talk about Engines (Causes of Rough Engine Idling)

When you slow down at stoplight, your vehicle's idle should be smooth as silk.  But what happens when the engine is missing or idling roughly? That's your engine's way of telling you, "Hey, I've got something wrong with me and if you don't get someone to find out what it is, I may not start the next time you turn the key." You can help your service facility if you can describe the problem in detail.  Here's a list of things to make a note of: When is the problem happening, when the engine is cold or when it's been running for a while? Does the rough idling occur when I'm accelerating or when I'm going at a steady speed? Does it happen at high speeds?  Does it happen low speeds? Does it happen at both? Make sure you describe the problem in as much detail because it will help a technician diagnose the problem. One of the first things they'll check is how the spark plugs are firing.  Modern iridium plugs are supposed to last a long, long time.  But they CAN even ... read more

Ready, Set, COLD! (Getting Vehicle Ready for Winter)

When the temperatures plunge, your vehicle better be ready because it faces a whole new set of challenges.  Rubber stiffens, glass fogs, fluids freeze.  Just thinking about it can get your heart beating faster.  So here are some tips for getting ready for those inevitable colder temperatures. Make sure your tires are in good shape and properly inflated.  Traction can be less than ideal on slippery streets, so your tires must have enough tread to grip the road.  They should also be inflated properly, and inflation will change as the temperatures go down. One last thing on tires. Do you know how old yours are? They actually have a birthdate printed on them.  Old rubber can compromise drivability and handling.  Some tires look great but their rubber doesn't handle stresses like it used to.  Have your vehicle service facility inspect all of these aspects of your tires so you are riding on tires that are fit to go. Anyone who lives in an area where th ... read more

Categories:

Winter Prep