Articles:

A Squirrely Problem (Animals Nesting in Engine)

If you park your vehicle outside, you are exposing it to all sorts of critters that would love to use it for nesting, food storage and shelter.  There are plenty of pictures online of people who've discovered there was more than an engine under the hood.  In one case, the driver of an SUV started to smell a slight burning odor when she was driving.  Turned out to be 200 walnuts and a lot of grass had been stored there by some industrious squirrels preparing for the upcoming cold weather.  The SUV owners had their vehicle inspected not long before this happened, but it doesn't take some animals long to set up house in what they think is the ideal spot to make their winter home.   Obviously, that can create problems.  Squirrels, mice, rats and other small animals can chew through hoses and wires.  Plus what they store as food and nesting material may prevent engine parts from moving the way they are supposed to.  Imagine a radiator fan that wo ... read more

The Puzzling Puddle (Leaks Under Vehicle)

Ever notice a little spot of liquid under your vehicle after you've parked in your driveway or garage? It may have been something as simple as water left from air conditioning condensation.  But then again, it could be a sign that there's trouble brewing in one of your vehicle's systems. You can help your service facility diagnose the problem by getting a little sample of the drip.  At the same time, you may save yourself a tougher clean up task by preventing the leaky fluid from really messing up the driveway or garage floor.  The first thing is to put something under the vehicle. A flattened out cardboard box will do fine.  You may also want to slip a little disposable aluminum tray or pan under it to catch a bit of the fluid.  Chroma and consistency can help a technician quickly figure out what kind of fluid you're dealing with.  You can take your sample with you when you go to your service facility. Also note how much of the substance is there over wha ... read more

In the Hot Seat (Repair and Maintenance of Seat Heaters)

It's chilly outside. You flip on that switch that looks like a picture of a seat with little heat waves rising from it.  You expect soon you'll feel that warmth but… wait! It's not getting warmer.  Oh no, what's wrong with my seat heater? There could be lots of reasons it's not working, and it could be as simple as a fuse or as major as the heating element itself.  But it's something to leave to a pro to diagnose and repair. Let's say it turns out to be a blown fuse.  Simply replacing the fuse may not fix it because there was a reason the fuse blew in the first place.  It's possible the on-off switch has worn out or corroded.  Perhaps the wiring connection isn't completing the circuit (could be corroded or full of dirt) or the voltage reaching the heating element isn't correct.  There's a little sensor that keeps track of the seat heater's temperature called the thermistor.  When the seat is hot enough, it will stop the juice from heating ... read more

The Byte Stuff (Your Vehicle's Computers)

Nobody has to tell you that computers are a part of so many things in our lives.  Smartphones, kitchen appliances, vacuum cleaners, televisions.  You name it—it has a computer in it.  And your vehicle is no exception. The earliest cars relied on the technology of their time, and there was no such thing as a computer.  But now, it's not unusual for a vehicle to have as many as 150 computers in it. They perform a variety of functions. An important one is diagnosing your vehicle's problems.  There are various sensors throughout modern vehicles that measure thousands of data points.  When something is not working correctly, they send a signal to another computer that stores that information. The data can be read by someone who has a special computer that plugs into a port in your car.  It displays certain codes that help technicians track down the culprit.  But it's not just the diagnostics that are computerized.  Everything from your vehi ... read more

Chilly Warning (Diagnosing a Noise in Cold Vehicle)

When the weather gets colder, sometimes the noises your vehicle makes will change.  For example, you may notice a whining sound when you get going in the morning.  It may go away when the vehicle warms up, but it's best not to ignore that sound because it could be a warning of worse things to come. Colder temperatures cause different components to behave differently.  Let's take a look at a few of them.  First, the fluids in your vehicle.  Cold temperatures can make them behave a little differently, such as engine oil, transmission fluid and power steering fluid. Those characteristics could change if the fluids are older and full of contaminants. Belts also can create a whining noise when cold.  Since they turn pulleys that move other things, several factors can create issues.  Increased friction can change proper tensions on belts.  Plus, belts change as they age and may crack, get loose or develop a glazed surface. Belts and pulleys also must b ... read more

Growing Old Together (Maintaining an Older Vehicle)

More and more of us are hanging on to our vehicles longer.  A company by the name of HIS Markit recently released a report that shows the average age of light vehicles in the U.S. is now 11.8 years.  Light vehicles are cars, SUVs (sport utility vehicles) and CUVs (compact utility vehicles).  In Canada, the average life expectancy of a vehicle there is around 13 years, and in the U.S., it's around 15.  Vehicles are lasting longer these days, and there are several reasons for that. One expert cites better technology and overall quality improvements.  While in past years, vehicles were made mainly of heavier steel components, more modern vehicles contain lighter magnesium and aluminum alloys, high-strength steel, polymers and carbon fiber.  They last longer and reduce the overall vehicle weight, and that can contribute to better fuel economy. Modern internal combustion engine designs have been improved, and since they use more computers, they are more efficie ... read more

Categories:

Older Vehicles

Your Biggest Fan (Radiator Fan Problems)

Your vehicle's engine makes a lot of heat when it's powering you down the road, so it needs a way to get rid of that energy.  That's why your vehicle has a cooling system, complete with a radiator and one or two radiator fans, also called cooling fans.  Those fans make sure air keeps moving across the radiator so that the heat stored in the coolant can be dissipated outside when the vehicle is stopped or not traveling fast. Radiator fans can develop problems and can stop working properly or stop working altogether.  Some signs to look for? If you're driving slowly and idling and you see your temperature gauge moving toward the red or hot zone, that could spell trouble.  Another thing you may notice when a radiator fan is failing is that there may be a loud noise coming from the engine compartment. There are two types of radiator fans.  One is mechanically connected to the engine and uses the engine's rotational energy to turn it.  The other is an electric ... read more

Categories:

Cooling System

Not-So-Common Sense (Sensor Failures)

So your vehicle won't start.  What's the first thing that comes to mind?  Battery dead? Starter motor worn out? Out of gas?  Well, those are all reasons that make sense.  But your vehicle may be refusing to start because one of its computers is being warned that to do so might damage it.  Here's how that works. You have lots of computers in your vehicle.  They need to know the status of things so there are several sensors monitoring various things going on.  These sensors send information to the computers that adjust the fuel and air mixture so you don't waste fuel.  They know when things aren't quite right and prevent you from starting your engine if that's going to damage it.  Other sensors make sure the coolant is the right temperature, check to see you are not polluting the air and make sure other electronic components are performing their tasks correctly. Here's an example of a sensor doing its job.  Your engine needs oil to lubric ... read more

Unlock the Secret (Malfunctioning Door Lock Actuator)

What a convenience power door locks are on a vehicle.  The latest don't even require you to push the button on the key fob; all you have to do is have it with you.  But sometimes there's a component of power door locks that can fail, especially when they are used several times each day.  Those are called the door lock actuators. The actuator is an electric part that works with others (like motors and gears) to lock and unlock doors.  You can hear them work, sometimes with the little whirr of the gear or the quiet clunk of the lock finishing its cycle.  And it's good to pay attention to that sound because if it starts to sound different, it could be a signal that your lock is on the brink of failing. Another sign of a failing power door lock actuator is they start working intermittently or quickly and erratically.  The driver's door is often the first to start acting up since it's the one that usually gets the most use. When you start to notice these signs ... read more

Categories:

Auto Safety

The Best Test

Would you buy a jacket without even trying it on? Probably not, but it might surprise you that one study shows about half the people buy a vehicle after a short test drive around the block or none at all.  If you're in the market for another vehicle, make sure you check out the most important things so you'll know if that's the right vehicle for you. Check out the gadgets.  Love a good sound system? Then turn it up loud.  Does it have enough bass for you? See how you like its navigation system if it has one.  Try pairing your Bluetooth smartphone with the vehicle.  Test out how to set the cruise control and how steady it keeps the speed. Back up and check out the rearview camera. If you buy this vehicle, you'll have to live with all of these things every time you drive. Test the vehicle on roads you know.  See how it handles bumps and potholes, how it takes that tight curve that you drive every day to and from work.  Driving on familiar roads gives yo ... read more

Categories:

Automotive News
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