Category Archives: What Customers Should Know

Weather Station on Wheels (Vehicle Sensor Maintenance)

You probably never thought about it, but your vehicle is like a rolling weather station.  It can check the outside temperature, let you know when the roads are slippery and help you deal with rain. And how it does all those things is pretty cool. First, just like any weather station, a vehicle has sensors that measure the driving and weather conditions you find yourself in.  Some of those sensors can control computerized systems in your vehicle to react to the weather.  It depends on whether you have a 2-wheel, 4-wheel or all-wheel drive vehicle how those sensors will respond. Let's start with temperature.  Most vehicles now have a thermometer that measures the temperature outside.  It's usually in the front, and likely will tell you on the instrument panel what the outside temperature measures.  But a temperature sensor will also tell your vehicle's computers to turn on or off certain systems like the heating or air conditioning.  If your ambient tem ... read more

The Red Menace (How to Deal with Rust)

Rust.  It's worse if you drive in places that use salt on the roads in winter, or if you spend time driving near a body of salt water.  But any vehicle has to deal with rust after years on the road.  And it's not just that rust can eat away your vehicle's body and fenders.  It can be a real problem around your suspension, drivetrain or any place where there's metal. Rust takes its time.  You don't see it until it's already done its dirty work.  It can wreak havoc with your electrical system.  Sure, vehicle manufacturers do their best to keep it to a minimum, but especially with road treatments like brine around, their task is a difficult one. The one spot everyone notices is in the paint.  You see a little bubbling under the once-smooth surface.  By the time it bubbles, it's well involved in rotting away that spot of your vehicle.  You wouldn't believe how just a little thing can start the process on its way.  A stone chips the pai ... read more

I NEED All Wheel Drive (Pros and Cons of AWD)

So winter has arrived and you don't feel confident in how your 2-wheel drive vehicle does in the snow and ice.  You envy all those people with all-wheel-drive (AWD) and 4-wheel-drive (4WD) cars, trucks and SUVs.  You start thinking, "I need one of those.  I'll be able to go anywhere without any worries."  The truth is there might be another option for you that you might not have thought of.  Sure, you've seen the ads that tout the advantages of AWD and 4WD, and some of the videos make it look like they can handle everything Mother Nature can throw their way.  The truth, though, is that vehicles with drive wheels at all four corners can't stop any more quickly than those with 2-wheel-drive.  Yes, AWD and 4WD vehicle have advantages when it comes to acceleration, but when it comes to stopping and handling, they generally don't.  If you buy a new AWD or 4WD vehicle, you are going to spend thousands of dollars.  Maintenance and upkeep costs are ... 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

Drivers that "T" Us Off (Bad Driving Practices)

We've all seen drivers who do things that—let's be frank—really irritate us.  They're inconsiderate, can put people in danger and make the road a much less friendly place.  They really "T" us off.  These are the bad drivers who fit their description to a "T."  The Tailgater.  You've seen this terrible driver who follows a few inches off the bumper of the vehicle ahead.  We all know what's going to happen if the driver ahead of the tailgater has to slam on the brakes.  And we've all been that driver followed by the tailgater, whose vehicle fills up your entire rearview mirror.  The tailgater is likely not in a great frame of mind and, thanks to his or her stupid driving practices, the "tailgatee" is getting pretty ticked off as well.  That's a formula for a big problem. Know anybody who respects or likes a tailgater? Didn't think so The Texter. All sorts of people think they are perfectly capable of texting while driving.  I ... read more

Greeted by a Screech (Loud Noise when Starting Vehicle)

No one likes to be greeted in the morning by having someone screech at you.  The same goes for a loud, high-pitched noise your vehicle greets you with every time you start the engine.  If you're wondering if that's normal, no, it isn't.  And it is worth getting checked out.  The good news is that it might be nothing serious.  Then again, it may be. The first things to suspect any time you hear a high-pitched sound coming from the engine are belts.  They have tension on them and they're trying to turn lots of different pulleys, pumps and other equipment the engine needs to work properly.  The noise could come from the belts starting to wear out and dry out. If one of those belts breaks at an inopportune time, not only can it strand you somewhere, the damage to the engine could be very expensive to fix. Other things that will cause a high-pitched sound are the pulleys and tensioners.  The tensioners keep the right amount of pressure on the belts an ... 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

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

A "Mounting" Problem (Motor Mounts)

You know how heavy your engine and transmission are, so you can imagine how tough the parts that hold them onto your vehicle's sub-frame must be.  Not only must they support the weight, they also have to isolate vibrations and noise from the passenger cabin.  Pretty tall order, wouldn't you say? The parts that face that task daily are called the motor mounts, or engine mounts.  They are usually made of rubber with steel brackets.  Others contain a liquid for vibration and sound isolation.  Most vehicles have three or four motor mounts, and while rubber or hydraulic liquids do a good job of damping the vibrations from the engine, they also have their limitations.  The problem with rubber is that it gets old and brittle.  Plus, if there's an oil leak anywhere in your engine and oil gets on the rubber motor mounts, rubber will deteriorate even more quickly.  As for the liquid motor mounts, they can develop leaks and stop working.  Here are sign ... read more

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

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