Articles:

What's in a Number? (What Tire Numbers Mean)

You've probably never paid much attention to the writing on the sides of your tires, but they contain a wealth of information.  There's a long combination of letters and numbers that can tell you a whole lot about what tires your vehicle was designed to be riding on.  Let's check out this example found on an SUV: P245/70R17 108T. The first letter, P, means it's intended for passenger vehicles.  If there's no letter, it means it's a metric tire.  If there's an LT at the beginning or end that means a tire designed for light trucks. Moving on to our example, the 245 shows how wide the tire is in millimeters from sidewall to sidewall.  The number that follows in our example, 70, means the height of the tire is 70% of its width.  The letter after that in our example, R, describes the type of tire (on this vehicle, radial).  Following that is the diameter in inches, in our SUV example, 17 inches.  How much load the tires' sidewalls are designed to take ... read more

How to Radiate Cool (Radiator Care)

There's nothing that radiates cool like a vehicle radiator that's helping to keep your engine running at the proper temperature.  You don't have to baby it, but you can't simply ignore it, either.  Let's take a quick dive under the hood to let you know what the radiator is doing.  It takes the heat your engine produces and moves that heat outside.  It's not an easy job and heat is an engine's number one enemy.  Now that you're thinking how nice you want to be to your radiator, we have a couple of ideas how you can take care of it. The easiest thing is to pay attention to your vehicle's temperature gauge. If it gets in the "too hot" or "not hot enough" range, have it checked out soon.  Make sure your coolant is kept at the correct level and if you see a trend that you have to add coolant more than a couple of times a year, you might have a leak. Even if there are no obvious problems, every couple of years or so, consider taking your vehicle in for radiator ... read more

Don't Miss a Beat (Importance of Regular Maintenance)

In many places, license plates have to be renewed every year or else you can't drive your vehicle legally.  Usually, you'll get a reminder from the agency that issues the plates. That kind of regular attention needs to be paid to your vehicle as well.  Its manufacturer has determined a schedule of service items that need to be done regularly, just like renewing your plates. Some depend on time, others depend on distance.  A perfect example is oil changes.  It's the most important scheduled maintenance you can have done to give your engine its longest life possible.  The manufacturer recommends the oil filter be changed at the same time. Here are some more items.  Your engine air filter gets dirty and needs adequate air to run most efficiently.  The manufacturer recommends an interval for replacing that.  Also tires, brake pads, timing belt, oxygen sensor and other items require regular replacement.  This is one of the reasons to find a servi ... read more

No Strain, No Gain (The Basics of Oil Filters)

Ever wonder what one of the best things is to ever happen to your vehicle's engine?  It's the little thing that usually looks like a can, the oil filter. Just like your kitchen sink strainer filters out errant particles of food from clogging your drain, the oil filter cleans out small particles that could cause your engine harm. Your engine operates in a dirty, hot environment and gathers a lot of tiny contaminants like dirt, dust, little metal shards and unlucky bugs that get sucked in.  Get those things circulating in your engine and those little particles can cause friction, which starts wearing out those finely machined metal parts.  You know how important it is to change your oil regularly.  It's vital that you change your oil filter at the same time to keep the oil as close to brand new as possible. Most oil filters look like a metal can with some holes in the bottom.  Inside there are carefully chosen materials that can screen out the contaminants while ... read more

Power Failure (Broken Power Seat)

Know anyone who doesn't love a power seat in an SUV, a car, truck or van? They're convenient and precise in their adjustments.  But when they break, oh, what a pain.  Not only is it inconvenient, it may leave your seat position too close to the steering wheel or too far from the pedals.  This is a must-fix problem. There are many things that cause a power seat to fail: Seat controls.  These are either at the side of the seat or in the door.  Both are places that can be exposed to moisture or other contaminants.  When the controls stop working, they usually need to be replaced. Seat motor.  Electric motors are what make a power seat move, and sometimes they fail.  Sometimes they just get worked to death and die of old age.  Replacement is the most common remedy. Fuses. A power seat is, after all, powered by electricity and all vehicle power systems have fuses to protect them.  A technician can determine which fuse may have blown and rep ... read more

The Neglected Windshield (Windshield Care)

You look at it every day, yet you don't really see it.  We're talking about your vehicle's windshield, and if you're not seeing it at all, that's probably a good sign.  The fact is that unless our windshields get fogged up, hazy or cracked, we don't pay all that much attention to them.  Considering how vital front visibility is in a vehicle, paying a little more attention to your windshield will pay off in the long run. Keep it clean!  In ancient times when gas stations had attendants who filled your tank for you, they used to clean the outside of your windshield while the fuel was being dispensed. In these days of self-serve gas, we don't have that luxury any more.  But it's a good idea to clean your windshield regularly, even when it's not filthy. If you let dirt build up on the outside, it acts like fine sandpaper when you turn on your wipers when the glass is dry. Really, try to avoid turning on your wipers unless your windshield is wet.  If you must u ... read more

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Getting from E to F (Fuel Gauge Problems)

Who thinks about their fuel gauge?  You probably don't… until it doesn't work any more.  Then you have to guess how much fuel is in your tank, and that's no way to live life on the road.  Fuel gauges, like every other part in your vehicle, can fail.  And when yours stops working, you will probably want to head over to your service facility soon, because no one relishes running out of fuel. The fuel gauge system is much more than just the gauge you can see on your instrument panel. Most systems have a float inside the fuel tank that goes up and down depending on the fuel level.  It's called the fuel sending unit, and it sends an electrical signal to the gauge (on the dash) telling it to display how much fuel is left in the tank.  So, what could go wrong?  Well, a few things.  For one thing, corrosion from bad fuel can cause it to stick and it won't move up and down any more.  So you could fill up your tank and the gauge would still rea ... read more

The Sign of the Shield (Heat Shield Repair and Replacement)

Even in the months where temperatures are cooler, heat is still an enemy of your vehicle.  When your engine runs, it creates heat, so there are numerous heat shields that protect other parts from those higher temperatures. Heat shields are installed around several areas of the exhaust system.  Others prevent heat from reaching parts of the vehicle.  Still others prevent heat from reaching the ground (or maybe grass underneath) and starting a fire.  If you remember your space travel history, you'll know how important a heat shield can be. John Glenn was the first American to orbit the earth, but during that maiden orbital flight, a sensor on board was indicating the heat shield on his capsule, Friendship 7, was loose.  If it had come off, his spacecraft could have burned up upon re-entry.  Fortunately, the heat shield stayed on, and Glenn made history. Unfortunately, the heat shields on your vehicle don't have warning systems like the space vehicles did.&nb ... read more

Not So Cool (Air Conditioning Systems)

There's nothing quite like getting in your vehicle on a hot day, switching on the air conditioning and having warm air blow out of the vents.  You may have had no problem for months and then, one day, you are driving around in a sauna. You're hot stuff, but not in a good way! So what goes wrong when the AC isn't working? It could be a lot of things because the system has many different components.  One thing that's a common cause is the vehicle is low on refrigerant (it used to be called Freon).  If that's the case, it's not as simple as simply adding more.  Sure, it may fix it quickly for a short time, but it's more likely than not that the refrigerant will just leak out again. The original Freon used in air conditioners was destroying the Earth's ozone layer, so that's not used much any more.  But the one that's currently used also contributes to global warming, so it's important that as little of that escapes as possible.  So a technician will determine ... read more

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