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Yearly Archives: 2021

Thoughtful Gifts for the Winter Driver

You may be one of those romantics who don't like giving (or getting) practical gifts for special occasions.  Just wait until one of those gifts helps you out of a big predicament in cold weather, and you realize that practical gifts can be life savers. Here are a few things you may give the cold-weather driver in your life—or suggest to someone else to give you! A portable air compressor.  If you've ever had a flat and you can't imagine trying to change a tire on a snowy, winter day, this may just get your tire pumped up enough to drive over to the repair facility.  Some are fancy and pricey, some are only a few bucks.  They plug into the cigarette lighter/12v outlet and will take a few minutes to pump up your tire. But it could save you a tow. Portable jump starter. These are relatively small power units (they easily fit in a car trunk) that can jump start your vehicle that has a dead battery.  Some even have an air compressor built in.  If you've ... read more

Something to Latch On To (Hood Latch Safety)

The other day, a driver was trying to open his vehicle's hood so he could add some windshield washer fluid.  But when he pulled the hood release inside the car, nothing happened.  Usually, opening any hood is a 2-step process.  You pull the hood release (which is usually a handle under the dashboard to the left of the steering column) and listen for the hood to pop up slightly. (It doesn't open all the way because it has a safety latch to prevent you from accidentally opening it up while you're driving.) Then, you get out and find the latch, usually through the grille near the hood.  There's a little handle on it which you push, slide or pull (there are a few different types) at which point the hood can be opened up all the way.  But in this driver's case, the hood would not release at all when he pulled the handle inside.  Not knowing what to do, he called his service advisor, who told him to bring it over.  The reason? A hood with a broken latch cou ... read more

The New Blade in Town

If your windshield wipers are streaking and chattering when you turn them on in the rain or snow, it's time for a little "blade renewal." And when it comes to new wiper blades, there are some new designs that are worth a look. One of the latest is called the beam blade.  It's different than conventional blades you might be used to.  Instead of a metal frame and a rubber blade that slides in the frame on a track, the beam blades have an enclosed spring-steel band that allows the rubber wiper to conform to the windshield glass shape much more tightly.  There are some key advantages to beam blades, which is why many vehicle manufacturers are making them standard on their latest models.  For one thing, they work well in all weather conditions, including the heat of summer and the icy, snowy cold of winter.  Since there is no separate frame, snow and ice can't form in gaps like conventional wipers and prevent the blade from clearing your windshield.  Many beam ... read more

How Much Does It Cost? (Variations in Vehicle Repair Costs)

Ever wonder why it costs so much more to fix a similar problem in two different vehicles? Let's say you now own an SUV and before that, you owned a car.  Your SUV's air conditioning system needs a new evaporator, but the cost for the new one is way more than you remember it was for your car.  How can there be that big of a difference? There are many reasons.  For one thing, vehicles aren't all the same.  Yes, they have engines and steering wheels and suspensions, but engineering and design can vary widely among different styles and brands.  In the case of replacing the evaporator, the one in your former car may have been located in a spot where the technician could get to it easily.  Plus, the part may have been less complicated and, therefore, cheaper.  Your SUV may require the entire dashboard to be removed with special tools to detach the a/c lines from the evaporator.  Plus, since it is supplying cool air to a bigger cabin, it may be more com ... read more

Don't Start with That (Bad Starter Motor)

We've all heard that expression, "That's a non starter." When it comes to your vehicle, that's not music to a driver's ears. That sickening sound when you start the ignition and instead of hearing the engine crank, you hear it slowly turn over and your dash lights go dim.  There can be many reasons a vehicle won't start, so here's a little history of how the starter came to be an important component of modern vehicles. You have to move the engine's components to start it. The first cars had a crank that the driver would insert into the front, then start turning things over by hand.  When the engine started, you had to release that crank immediately or risk a broken arm.  Yes, it happened many times.  So, they came up with a better idea: an electric starter, which was a big advance in automotive technology. With this system, an electric motor rotated a series of gears that turned the gasoline engine's crankshaft so its pistons and parts moved and the engine drew in a ... read more

Start Me Up (Ignition Systems)

When you start up your gasoline engine car, you may not know that it's using the same ignition principles as it has for decades.  You have spark plugs that require enough power so a spark can jump across a gap at its tip.  Years ago, a vehicle's 12-volt system had to produce 15,000-25,000 volts to do that, so engineers came up with something called an ignition coil that bumps up the voltage. It also has to be done at just the right interval called timing. The first systems had a distributor, a mechanical device with a rotating disc that switched the power to the ignition coil on and off.  That higher voltage then was sent to the spark plugs at the correct time interval. But the mechanical "points" had to be replaced and adjusted every 12,000 miles/20,000 kilometers.  Engineers later replaced the switching mechanism with solid state ones, but they still needed replacement after 120,000 miles/200,000 kilometers. The next evolution came in the 80's when the distributor ... read more

Beware of Potholes! (Avoiding Pothole Damage)

You may live in a region where roads become pockmarked with craters known better as potholes.  They're caused by moisture seeping through a compromised road surface that can freeze, expand and literally punch holes in the road.  And when your vehicle hits one of those holes that's big enough, the impact can flatten a tire, bend a wheel or tear apart a suspension component.  To minimize pothole damage, leave enough room between you and the vehicle in front of you so you can see the road surface and any upcoming potholes.  That way you'll have time to slow down and steer around them.  Also, if you see what looks like a puddle of water, it may be hiding a pothole underneath, so treat it as if was a pothole. If you keep your tires inflated to the manufacturer's specifications, they're more likely to withstand hard impacts.  And the slower you're going when you hit a pothole, the less likely you are to break something.   But if you do find you've hit ... read more

Straight Ahead (Wheel Alignment)

If every road was straight and smooth, we wouldn't have to worry much about wheel alignment. But they're not, so we do.  Hitting potholes or driving on rough pavement can knock your vehicle out of alignment and you'll notice it in one of several ways. Your steering wheel may not be centered when you're driving straight ahead, or your vehicle may pull to one side.  You may find your tires wearing on one side or they may squeal.  All are signs that could point to you needing an alignment. Your wheels should be perpendicular to the road and parallel with each other.  If not, your tires will wear out faster and your vehicle won't go straight on a level straightaway. In alignment, there are several factors that must be checked.  One is camber.  Your wheels should be straight up and down if you look at them from the front. If not, you'll wear your tires unevenly on one side. Another factor is caster, the angle of the steering pivot.  Most vehicles have what ... read more

Categories:

Alignment

Losing Your Spark (Spark Plug Replacement)

When's the last time you thought about spark plugs? You probably don't remember.  That's because spark plugs usually last a long time and don't need much attention.  But they don't last forever, and when they start going bad, they'll send you a few clues. Vehicle is hard to start.  Fuel economy is going down Acceleration isn't what it used to be Engine runs roughly Check Engine light is on There are many things that can cause those symptoms, so it's wise to head on over to your vehicle repair facility to have them look over your vehicle.  But the problem could be your spark plugs. They do wear out, not producing a strong enough spark to ignite your fuel the way they're designed to.  A closely related problem is failing spark plug wires, and a technician will test for both possibilities… and more.  Your vehicle's manufacturer recommends changing wires and/or plugs at certain intervals.  Spark plugs are made out of different materials and some ... read more

Categories:

Spark Plugs

Power Failure (Broken Power Seat)

Know anyone who doesn't love a power seat in an SUV, a car, truck or van? They're convenient and precise in their adjustments.  But when they break, oh, what a pain.  Not only is it inconvenient, it may leave your seat position too close to the steering wheel or too far from the pedals.  This is a must-fix problem. There are many things that cause a power seat to fail: Seat controls.  These are either at the side of the seat or in the door.  Both are places that can be exposed to moisture or other contaminants.  When the controls stop working, they usually need to be replaced. Seat motor.  Electric motors are what make a power seat move, and sometimes they fail.  Sometimes they just get worked to death and die of old age.  Replacement is the most common remedy. Fuses. A power seat is, after all, powered by electricity and all vehicle power systems have fuses to protect them.  A technician can determine which fuse may have blown and rep ... read more