Wednesday, September 23, 2009


The buzzword of the past several months has been bailout. Each day we see and hear where the government is extending our tax dollars to prop up banks and automakers, industries that have long been considered pillars in our economy. News reports tell us how Ford, General Motors and Chrysler are being forced to shut down plants and buy out dealers to adjust their output downward to match a weakening demand for their products. Considering there are fewer plants producing vehicles and fewer dealers open to sale and service those vehicles, you might wonder how this will affect your ability to keep your automobile properly maintained. Fortunately, you need not worry. Supply and demand, the same economic forces that have automakers scaling back production of new vehicles, will see to that. As people choose to keep their old vehicle longer, they will have to spend more on repairs as parts wear out. This demand for vehicle repair will do two things. One, it will keep independent shops and surviving dealers busy working to keep your vehicles road worthy. Two, it will keep parts manufacturers busy working to supply the parts needed. Eventually, a vehicle will reach a point where it can no longer be repaired, requiring it to be replaced. This will increase demand for used or new vehicles. At that point, automakers will begin producing more vehicles to keep up with demand. With all the bad news we hear, it’s easy to think that things will never improve. But the economy works in up and down cycles (expansion and recession). As people buy new products, the increased demand causes manufacturers to produce more. This creates jobs to keep up with the increased demand. As more and more people have new products, fewer are needed, causing manufacturers to produce less and employ fewer people. When the new products wear out, people will begin replacing them, putting more to people to work to produce the new products needed and starting the cycle all over again.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

When Should I Replace Shocks or Struts?

skd255208sdc, originally uploaded by cwbody.

It is not always easy to determine when it is time to replace worn shocks and struts. Since it is difficult to see or hear the effects caused by worn shocks, you may wonder how you can determine when it is time to replace them. It is impossible to say how long shocks and struts will last. This is determined by several factors such as road and weather conditions, driving habits, condition of suspension and tires, vehicle load and road contaminants. It is best to have a certified mechanic inspect and test the shocks, struts and suspension system of your vehicle at least once a year or every 12,000 miles. There are also some signs that you may notice yourself.

An obvious sign is excessive bouncing as you drive. Test specifically by bouncing each corner of the vehicle. If it bounces more than 1 ½ times after you release, your shocks and struts could be worn.

Tire wear is another sign. Test by running your hand over the tire tread all the way around. Worn shocks, struts or suspension parts will cause a cupped tire wear pattern. Worn suspension parts will cause a random cupping pattern. Worn shocks or struts will cause a repeated cupping pattern.

Shocks and struts should always be replaced in pairs as they are exposed to approximately the same amount of wear and abuse. It is important to replace worn shocks and struts as soon as possible because they are responsible keeping the tires in contact with the road surface. The amount of contact your tires with the road directly affects your vehicles ability to stop, steer and maintain stability.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Cabin Air Filters

Since the mid 1980’s, many automobile manufacturers have begun including cabin air filters, also known as passenger compartment filters, interior ventilation filters or dust filters in new vehicle designs. Cabin air filters work by filtering the outside air coming into your vehicle. These filters were initially designed to remove solid contaminants such as soot or dust from the air circulating inside your vehicle. Cabin air filters work to remove nearly 100 percent of air-borne particles like pollen, road dust, soot and other microscopic particles that decrease the quality of the air being emitted from your vehicle’s air vents.

Cabin Air Filters are typically located under your vehicle’s dashboard or attached to the glove box. Others may be located in the engine compartment. Please consult your vehicle owner’s manual to find out if your vehicle has a cabin air filter and its location.

The general guideline for replacing cabin air filters is every 12,000 to 15,000 miles, or at least once a year. In addition to an unpleasant odor, filters not changed after 20,000 miles can result in decreased heating and air conditioning performance caused by restricted airflow through the cabin air filter. Cabin air filters are a great benefit to anyone, especially those with allergy-related problems, that spends a lot of time in their vehicle.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Why Should I Repair or Replace a Cracked Windshield?

Many of us have had the following scenario happen. We are driving down the road, when suddenly a rock or other piece of debris hits our windshield. Within hours or days, a crack starts to creep across our field of vision to remind us of our unfortunate encounter. Most of us simply call our insurance company and have our windshield replaced. Others, for a variety of reasons, decide to not to concern themselves with the damage. Those in the latter group could be making a deadly mistake.

Most people may not realize that in addition to protecting us from wind, noise and debris while we drive, our vehicle’s windshield also is a vital part of its safety restraint system (SRS). Your windshield works in conjunction with your vehicle’s airbags and seat belts to help protect you if you’re in an accident. The windshield serves to keep occupants inside the vehicle as well as to help support the roof to prevent it from collapsing should the vehicle roll over. In some vehicles, the windshield helps support the passenger side airbag during deployment. A damaged windshield may not be able to function as it is designed to in the event of an accident.

But what if your windshield is simply scratched, pitted or dinged, do you need to be worried about seemingly minor damage? Even this relatively minor damage can have major consequences if it affects your vision and leads to an accident. The best advice is to have a technician certified by the National Glass Association determine if your windshield can be repaired or if it needs to be replaced. A repair will preserve the factory seal between the windshield and vehicle. If your vehicle’s windshield must be replaced, be sure to use a glass shop that endorses the Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standard (AGRSS) and trains their technicians to that standard.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Be Prepared for a Flat Tire or Dead Battery

Two of the most common emergencies vehicle owners face while out driving are a flat tire or a dead battery. These may seem like simple problems to fix to some, but if done improperly, it could prove dangerous.

While changing a flat or jump starting a car, it is important to follow certain procedures. When changing a flat tire, be sure the spare is properly inflated. Unfortunately, the spare tire falls in the “out of sight, out of mind” category. Too many times, we begin to change our tire only to find out the spare is flat as well. All tires lose about a pound of air pressure a month. If you haven’t needed the spare in a while, it could be flat by the time you do. A good rule of thumb is to check the air pressure of all the tires, including the spare, once a month. Secondly, make sure the jack and lug wrench is in the vehicle at all times. It is easy to misplace these if you don’t use them very often. Finally, when putting the spare tire on the vehicle, tighten the lug nuts in a star pattern as opposed to clockwise or counter-clockwise. Otherwise, the wheel could come loose while driving.

Improperly jump starting a car could lead to a couple of problems. Sparks might cause any hydrogen gas leaking from the battery to explode. Your vehicles electronic components could also be damaged as the result of an improper hook up. To properly jump start a car, you may use either jumper cables or a portable battery booster. If using jumper cables, attach the positive clamp to the positive terminal of the good battery and the other positive clamp to the positive terminal of the dead battery. Next, attach the negative or ground clamp to the negative terminal of the good battery and the other negative clamp to the engine block, frame or other grounded metal in the car with the dead battery as far as possible from the battery. Do not connect it to the negative terminal of the dead battery. Remember that the red clamps are positive and the black clamps are negative. The terminals on the battery will be marked “+” or “-“.

The process to connect a portable battery booster is similar to jumper cables. First, connect the positive clamp of the battery booster to the positive terminal. Next, connect the negative clamp to the engine block or other grounded metal away from the battery.

Automatic Transmission Maintenance

Many of today’s vehicles have automatic transmissions that don’t require regular adjustments. The owner’s manual for many of these vehicles even suggest that you may go as high as 100,000 miles before it is necessary to change the transmission fluid. All this makes it sound as though your automatic transmission is almost maintenance free. Unfortunately, this is not entirely true. For best results, have your transmission fluid and filter changed every 2 years or 24,000 miles. Be sure to use the type recommended by your vehicles owner’s manual.

The purpose of automatic transmission fluid is to clean, lubricate, cool and protect your vehicles transmission. It also transmits force and pressure required to keep your transmission operating effectively when you drive. Its final purpose is to prevent varnish build-up in the transmission.
Most transmission failures are heat-related as transmission fluid quickly breaks down when exposed to high temperatures. Several situations could result in enough heat to shorten the life of transmission fluid. A few of the situations include; towing a trailer, driving up and down mountain roads, sudden starts or stops and spinning wheels in slippery road conditions.
The same reasons that may shorten the life of your vehicle’s transmission fluid will do the same to your transmission filter. This filter prevents contaminants such as metal chips from gears and bushings and fine material from normal wear from entering the hydraulic system where they can cause increased wear and tear.

When changing the transmission fluid, it is a good idea to flush the transmission. This will remove more contaminants than just draining the fluid. If you’re doing this or having someone do it, be sure the transmission pan is removed in order to change the filter before refilling it with new fluid. If a new filter is not installed, any contaminants from the old fluid or those removed from the transmission during the flushing process could impede flow through the filter and lead to transmission problems.

Air Conditioning and Battery Maintenance

With the hot, humid weather of summer right around the corner, many of you may notice your air conditioner doesn’t put out cold air like it used to. Some vehicle owners, depending on their make and model, may have to spend a few hundred dollars or more to repair their air conditioning. The reason is that R-12 refrigerant, which goes by the trade name DuPont Freon, has been replaced by R-134a. R-134a has been the industry standard since 1994 and is safer for the environment than R-12.

If you have an older vehicle with an air conditioner in need of major repairs, be prepared to replace refrigerant and the oil in the compressor in addition to the old components. It may also be necessary to install a retrofit conversion. R-134a and R-12 are not inter-changeable. Do not allow anyone to mix the two refrigerants. An air conditioning system with R-12 must be flushed before R-134a is added.

To help prevent expensive repairs, have your vehicle’s air conditioning system inspected annually. It will help keep you comfortable this summer and help protect the environment.

The excessive heat, along with overcharging, will also shorten the life of your battery. Heat causes the fluid in your battery to evaporate. As a result, the internal structure of the battery will be damaged. If a component in the charging system, usually the voltage regulator, is malfunctioning, the battery will charge at too high a rate. Eventually, you will have a dead battery.

In order to avoid the cost of a road service call and a new battery, the following tips might be beneficial.

1. If your battery is the type that needs to be topped off, check regularly, especially in hot weather. Add distilled water when necessary.

2. Keep the top of the battery and the terminals clean. Dirt becomes a conductor, which drains battery power. Corrosion on battery terminals becomes an insulator, inhibiting current flow.

3. Be sure the electrical system is charging at the correct rate; overcharging can damage the battery as quickly as undercharging.

4. Always replace a battery with one that’s rated at least as high as the one originally specified.

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