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Don't Start with That (Bad Starter Motor)

We've all heard that expression, "That's a non starter." When it comes to your vehicle, that's not music to a driver's ears. That sickening sound when you start the ignition and instead of hearing the engine crank, you hear it slowly turn over and your dash lights go dim.  There can be many reasons a vehicle won't start, so here's a little history of how the starter came to be an important component of modern vehicles. You have to move the engine's components to start it. The first cars had a crank that the driver would insert into the front, then start turning things over by hand.  When the engine started, you had to release that crank immediately or risk a broken arm.  Yes, it happened many times.  So, they came up with a better idea: an electric starter, which was a big advance in automotive technology. With this system, an electric motor rotated a series of gears that turned the gasoline engine's crankshaft so its pistons and parts moved and the engine drew in a ... read more

The Power Behind your Engine (Alternator Diagnosis and Repair)

There's nothing like that sinking feeling when you turn the key and nothing happens in your vehicle.  A lot of us are quick to blame the battery.  But it may instead be your alternator that's failing. Your battery supplies power to start your vehicle, but the alternator is what sends power when your engine is running.  The good news is alternators last a fairly long time, and it's not unusual to get seven years out of one. But they can give up the ghost thanks to the harsh conditions in the engine compartment. Alternators have bearings inside them that keep things turning smoothly.  Debris, liquid, dirt and more can team up with the high temperatures your engine generates to cause those bearings to seize up.  That's not good, and if that happens, you may even be able to hear the bearings grind. Other symptoms of a dying alternator are a squealing noise in the engine compartment or your headlights may go dim and bright, dim and bright.  You might even notic ... read more

Categories:

Alternator

Don't Do It Yourself (Perils of DIY Vehicle Repair)

Your vehicle is a complicated machine, and yes, it would be nice if you could take care of all of its problems yourself.  There was a time when vehicles were simpler and it wasn't too hard for a weekend mechanic to replace brakes, adjust a carburetor or perform a tune-up.  But vehicles are far more complicated these days, with traction and stability control, anti-lock brakes, air bags and fuel injection just a small sample of the new technologies.  Like a lot of things these days, technology changes in leaps and bounds.  Anyone who repairs vehicles has to stay up on the latest computers, sensors, suspensions, steering, electronics, hydraulics and more.  Many power steering, braking and heating and air conditioning systems that used to be mechanical are now being replaced by electronic systems.  Computers are an integral part of  much of the latest automotive technology, something you didn't see a lot of until as recently as the 1990s. Today's most hig ... read more

That Vexing Vapor Venting (Vapor Coming out of Vents)

You may have noticed sometimes on a hot and humid day, vapor will come out of your vehicle's vents when you have the air conditioning on.  Is that something to be concerned about? Well, it depends. Sometimes that steam or vapor can be caused by water accumulating in the vent system after it has condensed.  And sometimes water can pool at the bottom of a vent.  When you turn on the blower mower, the air hits the water and may create steam or vapor that you can see in the cabin. One thing to check is if that vapor smells like anything.  If it doesn't, that's a good sign. You may be able to run the fan for a while and the issue may just go away when things dry out.  But moisture collecting in the ventilation hoses in a hot vehicle may be a breeding ground for mold, and that can have health consequences. There's another possibility. Ventilation systems often have drains to get rid of any accumulated water, and debris can sometimes clog them.  A technician can ... read more

Water Everywhere (Clogged Drains)

It's bad enough when you mistakenly leave a window open in your vehicle on a rainy day and you find your carpet soaked.  But what in the world is going on when your windows are closed tight, not leaking and you STILL wind up with wet carpet? The answer could be something you might not even know your vehicle has. And the answer is? Drains. And those drains can get clogged.  Yes, your vehicle has several drains with tubes or hoses attached to them that you really never see.  There are some in and around the hood that channel rainwater down to the ground.  There are some that take condensation from the air conditioner and allow it to flow outside.  And if your vehicle has a retractable sunroof or moon roof, there are small drains at each corner that connect to tubes that go through the vehicle body down to an exit near the ground.  Considering all the leaves, dirt, dust and other debris your vehicle encounters on a daily basis, it's not surprising that these ... read more

Busted! Air Conditioning (Air Conditioning Maintenance)

Your vehicle's air conditioning is something you count on when the weather heats up.  But there's bound to be a day when you turn it on and one of these things happens: Only warm air blows out Cold air starts blowing out but then it turns warm on its own It's not blowing air at all It blows smelly air out Some people are tempted to try to make the diagnosis—and the repair—on their own.  They think it's just run out of refrigerant and they can pick up a can at a local auto parts store and re-charge it.   If only it was that easy. A vehicle's air conditioning system is complex and made up of many parts.  A compressor, evaporator, condenser, tubing, hoses, sensors, valves… the list goes on and on. Each of these components could be the reason for the problem.  It could be a leak that's letting the refrigerant escape, but simply re-charging the system hasn't fixed the problem. You have to find the source of the leak and fix it. Service faci ... read more

Categories:

Air Conditioning

It Wears on You (Tire Rotation)

If someone told you there was a fairly inexpensive way to improve your vehicle's handling, fuel economy and extend the life of your tires, you'd probably ask, "What do I have to do?" The answer is to rotate your tires.  But you have to do it regularly. A lot of drivers think skipping tire rotation is a way to save money.  But when you don't rotate your tires, they will almost certainly wear unevenly.  That's because when your tires touch the surface of the road, the friction and traction causes miniscule parts of the rubber to come off.  And that process isn't exactly the same on each corner of your vehicle.  Some vehicles have the drive wheels in the front, some in the rear and some on all wheels. Rotating your tires at regular intervals minimizes the differences in the way the tires wear.  The amount and pattern will be spread out equally if your tires spend time at all different positions.  The more even the wear, the more consistent traction, hand ... read more

Categories:

Tires

Passing the Test (How to Prevent Emissions Test Failure)

Vehicle emission testing has become ubiquitous in North America and for a good reason.  Clean air quality is important for the environment and all of us.  Since vehicle emissions are among the main causes of air pollution, emission testing can alert you to problems in your vehicle than can be fixed so it won't needlessly pollute. Emissions tests are looking for certain toxic gases internal combustion engines produce, such as nitrogen oxide, particulate matter, non-methane organic gases and formaldehyde.  Emissions control systems reduce these gases if they are working properly.  The best way to minimize pollution is to keep those vehicle systems working properly, and periodic inspection and maintenance is the key.  So if you want to make sure your vehicle will pass an emissions test, it helps to know what might go wrong. Let's start on the easy one.  Your gas cap could be loose, allowing vapors to escape into the atmosphere.  The most common solution ... read more

The Part You've Never Seen (Flat Tires and Solutions)

They say your vehicle has one, but you've never seen it.  And you might not even know it if you stumbled on it accidentally. We're talking about the jack, that tool that allows you to lift one corner of the vehicle up so someone can change a flat tire. So you say you'd never try to change a flat anyway, so you don't care where it is.  But one day, you may find yourself in a spot where you're stranded with no cell service and you'll need to at least know the basics of what to do. Well, here's the ironic part.  Many of today's vehicles don't even have jacks and spares!  Recently, manufacturers have been saving weight by supplying another solution for a flat tire, such as an inflator kit that has a tire sealant in it, or a small compressor.  If your vehicle has one of those, it's a good idea to get to know how to use it before you need to use it.  Hopefully you'll be able to call roadside assistance and they can take care of things, but circumstances may prev ... read more

A Door No One Can Step Through (Fuel Door Repair and Maintenance)

Your vehicle has lots of doors including that one usually near the back on the vehicle's side.  That's the fuel door, something you use every time you gas up.  These endure hundreds of open-and-close cycles, usually without any problems.  But when they act up, it can be a major inconvenience for you. When they stick in the "open" position, it can present real dilemma.  You can still pump your gas, but do you just drive around with that flap sticking out the side? What happens if someone steals the gas cap or it gets damaged? What happens if it rains? Yep, it's decision time. A fuel door that sticks open can be due to a number of factors.  The hinge on the door may have broken, possibly from corrosion or it may have been hit sometime.  Some vehicles have a cable that operates the door and it could be loose.  The latch that holds the door shut could have broken or it, too, could be bent from something hitting it.  You probably want to take care of ... read more

Categories:

Fuel System
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