Articles:

Clean Slate (Protecting Vehicle's Finish)

Winter is one of the hardest times to keep your vehicle clean. But did you know neglecting to wash your vehicle in winter could cost you a significant amount of money in the long run? Here's why. Many areas deal with snow and ice in the winter, and the salt and sand that are used to keep the road surfaces from being slick are also super corrosive to a vehicle's metal body and undercarriage.  That includes all the parts underneath that can be splashed with brine, saltwater and other road debris.  Winter is also tough on vehicles where there isn’t snow, sometimes from ocean salt or winter's extra humidity and rain.  If you have any breaks in your vehicle's paint, whether it be from a little fender bender or a stone chip, that corrosive winter moisture can get through those cracks and start eating away at the metal underneath.  If you can, you should get any dents or damage fixed as soon as possible so your vehicle has a protective layer of paint between road che ... read more

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

Categories:

Alternator

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

Categories:

Safe Driving

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

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

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

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

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

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

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