Articles:

Change is Good (Oil Change)

You've heard that expression, change is good.  When it comes to your vehicle's oil, change is not only good, it's vital for the health of the engine.  But there's one question that puzzles many drivers: how frequently should my vehicle's oil be changed? There is not one simple answer, but here are some guidelines that will help. It used to be pretty much a rule of thumb that vehicles got their oil changed once every 3 months or 3,000 miles/5,000 kilometers.  But times have changed.  Oil formulations have gotten better and engine designs have made longer oil change intervals possible.  Most experts advise you to read the recommendations that come from the manufacturer that designed and built your vehicle.  Their designers and engineers know more about your vehicle than anyone else.  They spell out their recommended oil change interval and type of oil in your owner's manual.  Many automakers say you can go at least 5,000 miles/8,000 kilometers betw ... read more

Categories:

Oil Change

THE IMPORTANCE OF VISIBILITY (Cleaning Vehicle Glass)

We've all been through it. The vehicle ahead of us kicks up mud, slush, snow or salt on our windshield and we can't see a thing.  And not being able to see a thing when we're driving?  Not a good thing. Debris on a vehicle's glass can be blinding when driving directly into the sun.  And other things can ruin visibility: scratches on the glass, fogged windows, mineral deposits.  So lets make one thing clear:  Your windows.  Here are some tips. Number one rule, don't use abrasives on glass. That means no gritty cleaners that are made for metal.  Avoid at all costs those dark green abrasive pads on some kitchen sponges that are made to clean metal pots and pans UNLESS the manufacturer specifically says they can be used on glass. Use the appropriate cleaner for the substance that's being cleaned off. Special automotive glass cleaners are available, and your Made In America Made In Japan service advisor can make recommendations. Vinegar can work wonders ... read more

DOG FOOD IN YOUR ENGINE (Keeping Rodents out of your Engine)

A technician was telling us the other day that he was servicing an engine and spotted something he'd never seen before: A collection of dry dog food siting on a horizontal metal ledge near the base of the engine.  It was neatly stashed and was in a spot where the food pellets couldn't have simply fallen down in there. Even though it's the first time he'd seen dog food in an engine, he immediately knew what was going on.  Critters like mice or chipmunks had found the dog food somewhere nearby and had used the engine as a nice storage unit.  Mice, squirrels, chipmunks—you name it—like the heat of the engine.  And they'll use that to store up supplies of food for use in cold weather when outside food supplies are scarce.  The problem is they'll also chew on engine components while they're there. And they can do a lot of damage if they start gnawing on the wires.  Depending on how much of your electrical system needs to be replaced, repairs can mou ... read more

NOT JUST ANOTHER CUSTOMER (Finding the Right Service Facility)

You might remember a hit TV sitcom that was set in a bar, a place where "everybody knows your name."  The idea, of course, is people feel more comfortable where they aren't just another customer among many; they're special because their relationship goes back a few years.   That comfortable relationship can extend to professionals you deal with, too.  Think of your accountant, your dentist, your doctor.  Most people try to stick with the same person or firm in those businesses.  They have grown to know their work over the years and they've learned to trust their professionalism, the quality of their work and their track record.    Ideally, you should have that same relationship with your automotive service facility, like your friends here at Made In America Made In Japan. You may have tried several facilities over the years until you found one that did good work at a reasonable price.  The longer your relationship with your service facility, the ... read more

Bad Vibes

Your vehicle has a way of letting you know when something's wrong. Consider a vibrating steering wheel. It certainly didn't do that when it was new, so that shake is trying to tell you something. There are a few things that can cause your steering wheel to vibrate as you drive down the road.  One of the most common is out-of-balance tires.  You may not only feel that wobble in your steering wheel, you might also feel it in the tires.  Sometimes it's not there when you're driving at lower speeds through residential areas, and sometimes it starts when you hit highway speeds.  So what is tire balance anyway?  Well, you have a rubber tire that fits around a metal wheel.  It should have the same weight all the way around.  If it doesn't, it will start getting the shakes.  Ever load your washing machine so that all the clothes are at one side of that drum that spins?  When it hits the spin cycle, it can throw that washer against the wall.  Th ... read more

Sniffing Out a Problem

Your parents probably taught you to have common sense. When it comes to your vehicle, common scents can also come in handy. Different smells may tell you about some conditions in your vehicle that need attention. For example, you know what rotten eggs smell like.  If you smell them around your vehicle, it means sulfur can't be far away. Here's a surprising fact: Gasoline has a little sulfur in it.  There's a device in your exhaust system that's supposed to convert it to something that doesn't pollute the atmosphere. That device is a catalytic converter.  If you are smelling rotten eggs, maybe your catalytic converter is wearing out.  But it could also be a problem with your fuel injectors.  Either way, something's rotten that should be repaired. Ever smell something sweet around your vehicle, maybe a little like pancake syrup? If you sniff out a little sweetness just when your engine is warming up or after you shut off your engine, you might be smelling some co ... read more

Categories:

Fluids

A Bright Idea

You've probably noticed how much easier it is to see when you're driving in the daytime as opposed to at night. It's one of the main reasons about half of all fatal vehicle accidents happen when it's dark. That's why it's important that your vehicle's headlights are in top condition and working the way they should.  That means that they're aimed correctly and producing the amount of light they are intended to produce. For many years, headlights were a standardized size and shape.  They were what is called a "sealed beam," and when you needed to replace one, it was pretty simple.  You just took the old one out and plugged a new one in.  But now there are hundreds of different types of lighting systems on vehicles, producing light with such illuminating technology as light-emitting diodes (LEDs), halogen bulbs, high-intensity discharge (HID) bulbs and more.  Some vehicles have systems that turn your lights in the direction you turn your steering wheel so you can ... read more

Categories:

Headlamps

For 4x4s (Maintenance of 4x4 Vehicles)

Some people love 4x4 vehicles, the true 4-wheel drive works of engineering like Jeeps and 4x4 pickups that allow you to seemingly go anywhere on the planet. You can climb up a 40-degree rock trail with some planning and skill (always careful to protect the environment, of course), or you can get through the deepest snow. But with that added capability comes additional complexity, drive-train components and other systems that less capable vehicles don't have.  And that is why when it comes to 4x4s, you have to maintain them a little differently from those vehicles that spend their lives on pavement.  Here are some of the key things to keep an eye on: Transfer case—This transfers power from the engine to the wheels.  A transfer case has fluid in it that needs to be changed at intervals recommended by the manufacturer.  Your service advisor will let you know how often that is and will keep track of your service dates.  You will need to make sure the transfe ... read more

Not So Hot in Sacramento

When the weather turns cold, it's nice to crank up the furnace and enjoy the heat. But if your home's furnace doesn't work, it's not too comfortable. Same goes with your vehicle. When the heater's not working, things can get miserable. It could also signal some major problems, which we'll discuss later. A vehicle's heating system is fairly complicated. It's made up of several parts, including a blower motor/fan, a heater core and some mechanical and electrical components. In basic terms, a vehicle's engine warms up coolant which is then sent to the heater core (which is kind of like a small radiator) behind the dash. That blower motor sends cold air through the heater core which heats up the air. Voila! Heat. Diagnosing problems in this system takes a trained mechanic because of the different possible issues. Your heater core may need replacing; they are sometimes in tight spots and may be difficult to work on. Another possible problem could be a defective thermostat, which regulates h ... read more

Categories:

Cooling System

A Stitch in Time at Made In America Made In Japan

You probably have heard that expression, "A stitch in time saves nine." In other words, if you fix an issue at its early stages, it will prevent a much more difficult problem later. That's certainly the case with your vehicle, and here's a true story to demonstrate it. A driver noticed his vehicle was due for an oil change, so he took it in to his service facility early in the morning so he could wait while the work was performed. The technician routinely checks the battery on vehicles just before extreme weather is approaching (cold or hot), so with winter coming up, he hooked up the load tester (it measures voltage while a load is put on the battery). It showed the battery wasn't holding a charge well. The technician checked the manufacturing date on the battery, too (most batteries have a date stamped in code somewhere on them). The date showed it was five years old. While batteries can last more than five years, many technicians say you should expect to get anywhere from three to s ... read more

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