Articles:

Not a Good Vibe (Driveshaft Failure)

When you feel your vehicle vibrating as you're driving down the road, one cause could be something you may not have ever seen: your driveshaft.  It is underneath the vehicle and most drivers don't climb under there to take a look very often.  The driveshaft is a cylindrical part that helps conduct the rotational power from your engine to your drive wheels.  If you have a four-wheel drive vehicle, you may have two driveshafts.  The drive shaft has bushings, and when they wear out, that's a likely source of the vibrations.  When the bushings are in good condition, they prevent the driveshaft from vibrating.  And if you don't get your vehicle repaired fairly soon after discovering vibrations, they'll continue to get worse and cause other components of the drivetrain to wear out. The driveshaft is, of course, only one part of the drivetrain.  It includes other parts such as axles, transmission, differentials and joints.  They all work together and ne ... read more

Categories:

Drive Train

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

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

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

Too Hot to Handle (Vehicle Overheating)

In the hot weather, seeing steam coming from the engine compartment is something we all dread.  No one wants that to happen to them. But if you know the signs of overheating and how to deal with it, you may be able to reduce the risk of damage to your vehicle, maybe even prevent getting stranded on the road. Besides the steam coming out of the engine compartment, here are a few signs of overheating.  Your vehicle has a heat gauge that may have a needle that can go into a red zone or up to the "H" (for High) position.  You may smell odors, perhaps a burning (could be hot oil) or a sweet smell (engine coolant leaking).  When you encounter any of those signs, you know you have to do something to keep the engine as cool as possible to avoid potentially catastrophic damage.  Turn off the air conditioning and turn up the heat.  While that last part may sound odd, it helps draw heat out of the engine.  If you can do it safely, pull off the road to a spot awa ... read more

Categories:

Cooling System

An Oil for All Seasons (Engine Oil Selection)

You swap your winter boots for flip-flops in the summer.  Why not change your winter engine oil for summer, hot-weather oil?  While it may seem like it makes sense, there's some good news.  Most drivers don't have to, and here's why. Engine oil can be made in different thicknesses.  That thickness is called viscosity, how easily it flows.  Now, it makes sense that the hotter it gets, oil gets a little thinner and doesn't lubricate as well.  So if you used a thicker oil in the summer, it's logical that it would protect better in the hotter weather.  While there was a time when oils could be only made in one viscosity, times have changed.  Using an ingenious formula, oil can now be created that changes its viscosity (called "multi-viscosity") as the temperature rises and falls.  It self-adjusts to match the conditions.  Now that's what I call a great invention. In most temperate climates, you don't have to swap out the type of oil you use ... read more

Categories:

Oil Change

Pinch Petroleum Pennies! (Fuel Saving Tips)

If you saw a dollar bill on the ground, you'd pick it up, right? Well, whether you find that dollar on the ground or in savings at the gas pump, money is money, and here are some ways to hold on to more of it. Slowing down is the easiest way to save fuel, especially for every speed increase over 50 mph/80 k/hr.  Tone down the speed, turn up the cash savings.  Drive smoothly (not like a race car driver) and you'll also save money in fuel.  Aggressive, fast-start, jerky-stop habits are just pulling the bucks out of your wallet about a third more than if you drove just a little more gently.  Oh, and cruise control can help with that smooth, steady speed, so use it on the highway. Bonus! Are you hauling around a set of dumbbells or a box of books? That extra weight is costing you dough.  Store them somewhere else.  When's the last time you checked to see your tires were inflated properly? That's another money saver and makes your vehicle safer. An idle thought ... read more

A Not-So-Straight Story (Vehicle Pulls to One Side)

A vehicle should travel straight down a straight road with the steering wheel centered.  But time and travel can take their toll and soon you may find your vehicle pulling to the left or right.  Those are not good signs and should be taken care of fairly quickly. One thing that you should note is when this is happening: if it is all the time, only when you brake, only when you accelerate. If you describe these symptoms to the service adviser or technician, it may help them pinpoint the cause more quickly.  Many things can cause a vehicle to pull to one side, one of which is that it's out of alignment.  If so, you could be doing damage to other components of your vehicle if you keep driving with it this way. If your tires show signs of uneven wear on the treads or if your wheels squealing, that is another clue. Improperly inflated tires can also cause your vehicle to pull in one direction.  Your service facility can check to see if your tires have the pressure r ... read more

Categories:

Alignment , Tires

No Yolk! Rotten Egg Smell (Sulfur Smell Causes)

The pungent smell of rotten eggs can send people running for the hills.  So when that odor is inside your vehicle, yikes!  Yolks!  The good news is that a trained service technician can search the source of that smell and stanch the stench… that comes from another words that begins with S.  Sulfur. Fuel contains small amounts of hydrogen sulfide, but they're enough to stink up a vehicle when it's not properly burned.  You may know that the smell of rotten eggs can often be a sign of a catalytic converter that isn't working the way it should.  That could be due to age, damage or an abundance of oil that's clogging it up.  If a sensor in charge of managing the fuel has failed, the engine can run with too rich of a fuel mixture.  That can overload the catalytic converter and allow some of the byproducts to escape without interruption from the chemical reaction that is supposed to prevent them from going out the tailpipe. There's another possi ... read more

"Current" Affairs (Blown Fuses)

You may be driving along and find that suddenly your radio stops working.  There are no numbers on the display.  Then when you get home, you notice the garage door opener doesn't do a thing when you press the button. Hmm, this was working just fine this morning.  Are the two problems somehow related?   No, your vehicle doesn't need an exorcism. This has all the signs of an electrical issue, and when you experience symptoms like those, you've probably blown a fuse.  Most vehicles have fuses just like most houses have circuit breakers (some houses still have fuses). They cut the power when it reaches a pre-determined threshold that could cause major damage if it was allowed to continue.  You might say fuses take one for the team. Most modern automotive fuses are plastic with a thin strip of metal in them designed to melt when a calibrated amount of power passes through.  The philosophy is it's better for an inexpensive fuse to be destroyed than your sou ... read more

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