Here are the answers to important car care and repair questions. Please call (713) 781-6290 with questions, fill out our feedback form, or use our online diagnostics form so we can help you with any auto problems. Don’t forget to take advantage of our online coupons.
Are my tires properly inflated? Houston, TX
The correct auto-car tire pressure for a vehicle is determined by the size and weight of the automotive vehicle, the type of auto-car tires it uses, load hauled, and the type of automotive driving the vehicle is intended for. The auto vehicle manufacturer places a tire inflation placard in each vehicle that gives the proper car tire inflation pressures for that auto vehicle. This placard is located on the inside of the glove box door, inside the fuel-filler door, or on the car driver?s side doorpost (depending upon manufacturer). Most auto manufacturers also list tire inflation levels in the owner?s manual.
How long should wiper blades last? Houston, TX
For auto vehicles that are parked inside, car care experts recommend that the auto-car wiper blades be replaced at least once a year or when the wiper blades start streaking – which ever comes first. On auto vehicles kept outside or in areas where the auto-car wipers receive excessive use, changing the auto-car blades two or even three times a year is recommended for clear vision.
How often should I have my engine oil/filter changed? Houston, TX
According to automotive-car experts, regularly scheduled oil/filter changes are the single most important item for prolonging auto-car engine life. Most new auto vehicles have recommended oil/filter change intervals of 7,500 miles and some new auto vehicles have recommended oil change intervals of 11,000 to 15,000 miles under normal operating conditions, with “”normal”” operation described as the operation of the vehicle for at least 20 minutes at a medium speed, with a steady throttle and in a clean driving environment.
Short hops to the store, stop-and-go rush hour driving, driving on dirt roads and inclement-weather operation are all considered severe operating conditions that can cause impurities to build up quickly in the oil, resulting in increased wear and tear on internal parts. That is why most auto-car owner’s manuals and auto mechanics recommend changing the oil and filter every three months or 3,000 miles (whichever comes first) to assure that maximum engine lubrication occurs while a minimum of impurities are suspended in the oil. To find out what the recommended oil change frequency is for your auto vehicle, check your car owner’s manual or talk with your automotive service professional.
How can I tell if my automotive / car engine coolant is OK? Houston,Tx
It is impossible to determine the condition of the auto-car coolant in the radiator just by looking at it. Coolant, a mixture of ethylene glycol and water, breaks down with age, picks up contaminants that cause sludge, and becomes acidic. When this happens, it can cause the auto-car to corrode within the radiator and cooling passages of the engine. To determine its condition, coolant must be checked with coolant test strips that measure PH balance. The auto-car coolant is an environmentally hazardous substance. It pollutes the water table and is poisonous to people and animals and therefore must be disposed of as a hazardous waste. Your auto-car mechanic has special tools and procedures for testing and changing coolant.
Why is heat coming out of my air conditioner? Houston, TX
If your auto-car air conditioning system blowing hot air instead of cool, the auto-car refrigerant gas may have leaked out, you may have a clogged condenser, or the air conditioner’s blend door may be stuck. Whatever the cause of the problem, the auto-car air conditioning system needs immediate service. Turn the system off. You can cool the auto-car vehicle interior by putting the ventilation control in the “vent” position and/or opening the windows.
What can I do if my car overheats? Houston, TX
If you are driving at normal highway speed and the auto vehicle starts to overheat, turn off the air conditioner, turn on the heater and immediately pull over to the shoulder. Odds are if the vehicle starts to overheat at highway speed, there is a problem in the cooling system such as low coolant, a clogged radiator or a broken drive belt or burst hose. Once at the shoulder, shut off the auto-car engine, open the hood and let the car engine cool down – 20 minutes minimum. Once any overboiling stops and the car’s engine has cooled, look for obvious signs of trouble. DO NOT attempt to open the auto-car radiator cap unless the car engine is off and the top of the radiator is cold. If there is no noticeable problem such as a broken drive belt or burst hose, you can then add a coolant/water mixture to the radiator or overflow reservoir, start the auto vehicle and drive slowly to a service facility.
How often should my car get a tune-up? Houston, TX
The term “tune-up” actually applies only to older cars without electronic ignition (before 1981). On these auto-car vehicles a tune-up would generally be required every 15,000 – 20,000 miles and consisted of replacing the spark plugs, ignition contact points, rotor and distributor cap and adjusting the ignition timing as well as the carburetor.
On modern auto-car vehicles equipped with electronic ignition, fuel injection and computer controls, the term “engine performance maintenance” is a more accurate term. A “tune-up” for these newer vehicles is an orderly process of inspection, computer diagnosis, testing and adjustment to maintain peak auto engine performance, maximum operating efficiency and low car exhaust emissions. During this process, spark plugs, plug wires, sensors, and modules may be replaced. The frequency at which a newer auto-car vehicle needs a tune-up is dependent more upon driving conditions than mileage and recommended tune-up frequencies vary between 30,000 – 100,000 miles, depending on the manufacturer. To learn how often your auto-car vehicle needs a tune-up, check your owner’s manual or speak with your local automotive service provider.
Why are my brakes making noise? Houston, TX
If you hear a grinding or squealing sound when the pedal is applied, you probably need new brake shoes or pads. Auto-car brakes shouldn’t make any noise as they operate. Even if the actual problem turns out to be something minor, the only safe assumption is this one: noisy car brakes are unsafe brakes. Postponing service is unsafe and could raise the cost of the auto repairs later. If your car brakes are making noise, get them inspected or serviced right away.
Does my transmission ever need service? Houston,TX
Most auto-car care experts advise having an automatic transmission’s fluid and filter changed every two years or 24,000 miles, to keep it in good working order. This is especially important if the auto vehicle is more than five years old. Many auto vehicles newer than five years old may need scheduled service less often and some new auto vehicles have transmissions that need no scheduled service for the life of the car.
By-the-book service, however, may not be adequate if your vehicle is driven hard, tows a trailer, goes off-road or carries a camper. Under these conditions, the auto-car fluid and filter may need to be changed more often — every 12 months or 12,000 miles –because dirt and moisture buildup in the fluid can cause internal damage. Heat buildup can also be a problem. The harder the auto-car transmission works, the hotter the fluid gets and the quicker the fluid breaks down. To find out the recommended service schedule for your auto-car vehicle’s transmission, check the owner’s manual or talk with your local automotive service provider.
Manual transmissions generally need no regularly scheduled service, but may need service due to worn clutch and throw-out bearings and broken synchromesh gears. Check your owner’s manual for specific information on manual transmission service or talk with your local automotive service provider.
Techtips: Automotive / Car Repair Tips Getting the Most Out of Your Repair Shop Houston, TX
Find out what to do when your auto-car is sick! Today’s auto-cars, light trucks, and sport-utility auto vehicles are high-tech marvels with digital dashboards, oxygen sensors, electronic computers, unibody construction, and more. They run better, longer, and more efficiently than models of years past. But when it comes to auto-car repairs, some things stay the same. Whatever type of auto repair facility you patronize–dealership, service station, independent car garage, auto specialty shop, or a national auto franchise–good communications between customer and auto shop is vital. The following tips should help you along the way: Do your homework before taking your auto-car vehicle in for auto repairs or auto service. Today’s auto technician must understand thousands of pages of technical text. Fortunately, your required reading is much less. Read the owner’s manual to learn about the auto-car vehicle’s systems and components. Follow the recommended service schedules. Keep a log of all auto repairs and auto service. When you think about it, you know your car better than anyone else. You drive it every day and know how it feels and sounds when everything is right. So don’t ignore its warning signals. Use all of your senses to inspect your auto-car frequently. Check for: Unusual sounds, odors, drips, leaks, smoke, auto warning lights, gauge readings Changes in acceleration, auto engine performance, gas mileage, fluid levels. Worn tires, belts, hoses. Problems in handling, braking, steering, vibrations. Note when the problem occurs. Is it constant or periodic? When the auto vehicle is cold or after the auto engine has warmed up? At all speeds? Only under acceleration? During braking? When shifting? When did the problem first start? Professionally run auto repair establishments have always recognized the importance of communications in automotive repairs. Once you are at the auto repair establishment, communicate your findings. Be prepared to describe the symptoms. (In larger auto shops you’ll probably speak with an auto service writer/service manager rather than with the technician directly.) Carry a written list of the symptoms that you can give to the auto technician or auto service manager. Resist the temptation to suggest a specific course of auto repair. Just as you would with your physician, tell where it hurts and how long it’s been that way, but let the auto technician diagnose and recommend a remedy. Stay involved… Ask questions. Ask as many questions as you need to, to understand the problem. Don’t be embarrassed to request lay definitions. Don’t rush the auto service writer or the auto technician to make an on-the-spot diagnosis. Ask to be called and with a description of the problem, course of action, and costs before work begins. Before you leave, be sure you understand all shop policies regarding guarantees, and acceptable methods of payment. Leave a telephone number where you can be reached.
Techtips: Choosing the Automotive / Car Best Repair Shop Houston, TX
Choosing the Right Repair Shop for Your Vehicle No matter what you drive–sports car, family sedan, pick-up, or mini-van, when you go in for repairs or service, you want the job done right. The following advice should take much of the guesswork out of finding a good repair establishment. I. Preliminaries Don’t just drop your vehicle off at the nearest establishment and hope for the best. That’s not choosing a shop, that’s merely gambling. Read your owner’s manual to become familiar with your vehicle and follow the manufacturer’s suggested service schedule. Start shopping for a repair facility before you need one; you can make better decisions when you are not rushed or in a panic. Ask friends and associates for their recommendations. Even in this high-tech era, old-fashioned word-of-mouth reputation is still valuable. If possible, arrange for alternate transportation in advance so you will not feel forced to choose a facility solely on the basis of location. II. At the Shop Look for a neat, well-organized facility, with vehicles in the parking lot equal in value to your own and modern equipment in the service bays. Professionally run establishments will have a courteous, helpful staff. The service writer should be willing to answer all of your questions. Feel free to ask for the names of a few customers. Call them. All policies (guarantees, methods of payment, etc.) should be posted and/or explained to your satisfaction. Ask if the shop customarily handles your vehicle make and model. Some facilities specialize only in certain makes. Ask if the shop usually does your type of repair, especially if you need major work. Look for signs of professionalism in the customer service area: civic and community service awards, membership in the Better Business Bureau, AAA-Approved Auto Repair status, customer service awards. Look for evidence of qualified technicians, such as trade school diplomas, certificates of advanced course work, and ASE certifications–a national standard of technician competence. The backbone of any shop is the competence of the technicians. III. Follow-Up Keep good records; keep all paperwork. Reward good service with repeat business. It is mutually beneficial to you and the shop owner to establish a relationship. If the service was not all you expected, don’t rush to another shop. Discuss the problem with the service manager or owner. Give the business a chance to resolve the problem. Reputable shops value customer feedback and will make a sincere effort to keep your business.
Techtips: Getting Your Automotive / Car Ready for Summer! Houston, TX
Summer’s heat, dust, and stop-and-go traffic will take their toll on your vehicle. Add the effects of last winter, and you could be poised for a breakdown. You can lessen the odds of mechanical failure through periodic maintenance…Your vehicle should last longer and command a higher resale price, too! Some of the following tips are easy for anyone to do; others require a skilled auto technician. Getting Started: The best planning guide is your owner’s manual. Read it; and follow the manufacturer’s recommended service schedules. Air Conditioning: A Marginally operating system will fail in hot weather. Have the system examined by a qualified technician. Cooling System: The greatest cause of summer breakdowns is overheating. The cooling system should be completely flushed and refilled about every 24 months. The level, condition, and concentration of the coolant should be checked periodically. (A 50/50 mix of anti-freeze and water is usually recommended.) DIYers, Never remove the radiator cap until the engine has thoroughly cooled! The tightness and condition of drive belts, clamps, and hoses should be checked by a pro. Oil: Change your oil and oil filter as specified in your manual–more often (every 3,000 miles) if you make frequent short jaunts, extended trips with lots of luggage, or tow a trailer. Engine Performance: Replace other filters (air, fuel, PCV, etc.) as recommended–more often in dusty conditions. Get engine driveability problems (hard starts, rough idling, smiling, diminished power, etc.) corrected at a good shop. Windshield Wipers: A dirty windshield causes eye fatigue and can pose a safety hazard. Replace worn blades and get plenty of windshield washer solvent. Tires: Have your tires rotated about every 5,000 miles. Check tire pressures once a month; let the tires “cool down” first. Don’t forget your spare, and be sure the jack is in good condition. Examine tires for tread life, uneven wearing, and cupping; check the sidewalls for cuts and nicks. An alignment is warranted if there’s uneven tread wear or if your vehicle pulls to one side. Brakes: Brakes should be inspected as recommended in your manual, or sooner if you notice pulsation’s, grabbing, noises, or longer stopping distance. Minor brake problems should be corrected promptly. Battery: Batteries can fail any time of year. The only accurate way to detect a weak battery is with professional equipment. Routine care: Scrape away corrosion from posts and cable connections; clean all surfaces; re-tighten all connections. If battery. caps are removable, check the fluid level monthly. Avoid contact with corrosive deposits and battery acid. Wear eye protection and rubber gloves. Lights: Inspect all lights and bulbs; replace burned out bulbs; periodically clean dirt and insects from all lenses. To prevent scratching, never use a dry rag. Emergencies: Carry some basic tools–ask a technician for suggestions. Also include a first aid kit, flares, and a flashlight.
Automotive / Car Ignition Key Will Not Turn Houston, TX
1. You may have engaged the anti-theft rod or steering wheel lock in the steering column. Generally this happens when you turn your car off with the wheels cut hard in either direction. You can generally remedy this problem by “jiggling” the steering wheel right and left while attempting to turn the key. 2. The key is bent or otherwise damaged. Take a good look at your key to insure that it is not bent, cracked, chiped, or damaged in any way. If it is, try starting the car with an alternate key. (You do have more than one key for your car right?) In a pinch, you may also be able to repair a slightly bent key by squeezing it flat in a vice. 3. The ignition lock cylinder is shot. Over time ignition locks can wear out. You will note a bad lock cylinder because the lock will be difficult to turn with any key and often will not turn at all. As a quick remedy, you can try a bit of penetrating oil (WD-40 or similar) inside the cylinder and on the key, but this is likely only a temporary solution. At some point you will need to replace the cylinder. (The sooner the better.)
Automotive / Car No Start and No Sound. Houston, TX
When your car won’t start, and you hear no sounds, you are likely confronting a dead battery. A dead battery can be caused by a litany of things so we will take a quick look at what might be the cause, and also suggest some alternate causes if the problem does not lie in the battery. 1. Check the simple items. Check your headlight switch to insure you did not leave your automobile’s headlights on overnight. Next, check any and all interior lights (including that back seat reading light the kids like to use.) If either of these have been left on you have probably found your culprit. If neither of these prove the root cause, once you get the car started again make sure to check for a bad trunk, under-hood, or glove box light that doesn’t turn off properly. 2. Under the hood, take a good look at the battery while you’re under the hood. If the terminals are “cruddy” or “dirty” (or loose) you may well have a bad connection. Also while you’re under the hood, take a quick look at your alternator belt to insure it is in place, tight, and in good condition. Though a problem with the belt is much less likely the culprit, it never hurts to check. (Your alternator is responsible for constantly recharging your battery and if the belt is worn, damaged, or not securely in place, you battery may not be charging as it should.) 3. If you still have not rooted out the cause of your problem, you should “jump it” to get the car started again and check for additional problems. First, check the other lights that might be malfunctioning (trunk, glovebox, underhood). If none of these have caused the issue, and the problem recurs, you will need to have the charging system inspected. The cause could be anything from a bad solenoid, to a malfunctining alternator or voltage regulator. Check with your mechanic to determine the cause.
My automotive / car brake warning lights is on. What does that mean? Houston, TX
If your auto backfires while starting (not while driving) usually one of a few things is the culprit. 1. Is it wet? Most commonly, this occurs in “damp” conditions and can be attributed to moisture in the distributor cap. The humidity in the air causes some condensation within the cap and interferes with the ability of the distributor to function properly. 2. Carbs and Fuel Injection. If your problem seems more general in nature and occurs other than in wet conditions, you likely have a problem with your fuel injection system or carbuerator. Depending on how your car is equipped (fuel injected or carbuerated) you will likely find your problem here. · My automotive / car brake warning lights is on. What does that mean? Houston,Tx My automotive / car brake warning lights is on. What does that mean? Houston,Tx If the light is on all the time, it could mean you simply forgot to release the parking (emergency) brake. The brake warning light remains on when the brake is set as a reminder. If the brake warning light remains on when the parking brake is released, then something is amiss. In some cases, the brake warning light may remain on if the switch on the parking brake pedal or lever is misadjusted. Nothing is wrong with the brakes and a simple adjustment should fix the problem. If the brake warning light comes on when you apply the brakes, or is on continuously, it means that hydraulic pressure has been lost in one side of the brake system or that the fluid level in the master cylinder is dangerously low (due to a leak somewhere in the brake system). In either case, the fluid level in the master cylinder should be checked. Adding brake fluid to the master cylinder reservoir may temporarily solve the problem. But if there’s a leak, the new fluid will soon be lost and the warning light will come back on. Brake fluid leaks are serious because they may cause the brakes to fail! So avoid driving the vehicle until the system can be inspected to determine what’s wrong. Leaks can occur in brake hoses, brake lines, disc brake calipers, drum brake wheel cylinders or the master cylinder itself. Wet spots at hose or line connections would indicate a leak that needs to be fixed. Leaking brake fluid can also contaminate the brake linings, causing them to slip or grab. The uneven braking action that results may cause the vehicle to veer to one side when the brakes are applied. Brake shoes or pads that have been contaminated with brake fluid cannot be dried out and must be replaced. Brake Warning Light Circuit The brake system is divided into two hydraulic circuits. On most rear-wheel drive vehicles, it is divided so one circuit applies the front brakes and the other applies the rear brakes. On front-wheel drive cars and minivans, the system is usually split diagonally. One circuit works the right front and left rear brake, and the other works the left front and right rear brake. This is done for safety purposes so if one circuit loses all its brake fluid and fails, the vehicle will still have one remaining circuit to apply two wheel brakes. Usually located on the master cylinder or the brake lines exiting the master cylinder is a “pressure differential” switch. If either brake circuit develops a leak and loses its fluid, the difference in pressure when the brakes are applied will trip the differential switch causing the brake warning light to come on. Abs Warning Light On vehicles equipped with antilock brakes (ABS), a second warning light is provided to warn if a problem occurs within the ABS system. The ABS lamp comes on when the ignition is turned on for a bulb check, then goes out after the engine starts. If the ABS warning light remains on or comes on while driving, it indicates a fault has occurred in the ABS system. What happens next depends on the nature of the fault. On most applications, the ABS system disables itself if the ABS warning light comes on and remains on. This should have no effect on normal braking. Even so, ABS will NOT be available in an emergency situation or when braking on a wet or slick surface. CAUTION: If the brake warning light also comes on and remains on while the ABS warning light it on, it signals a serious problem. Your vehicle may not be safe to drive. The brakes and ABS system should be inspected immediately to determine the nature of the problem! If the ABS light comes on momentarily then goes out, the nature of the problem is usually minor and the ABS system usually remains fully operational. Some vehicle manufacturers call this kind of fault a “nonlatching” fault (meaning it isn’t serious enough to disable the ABS system). Regardless of the type of fault that occurred to trigger the ABS warning lamp, a special “code” is recorded in the ABS module’s memory to aid in diagnosing the problem. On some vehicles this code can be retrieved by putting the ABS system into a special diagnostic mode. The code is then flashed out through the ABS warning lamp. The code number refers to a diagnostic chart in a service manual that must be followed to pinpoint the faulty component. On other applications, a special “scan tool” must be plugged into the vehicle’s diagnostic connector to read out the fault code. Diagnosing ABS problems requires a fair amount of knowledge and expertise (as well as special equipment in many applications), so this job is best left to a competent professional.
Automotive / Car Starting and engine Backfiring. Houston, TX
If your auto backfires while starting (not while driving) usually one of a few things is the culprit. 1. Is it wet? Most commonly, this occurs in “damp” conditions and can be attributed to moisture in the distributor cap. The humidity in the air causes some condensation within the cap and interferes with the ability of the distributor to function properly. 2. Carbs and Fuel Injection. If your problem seems more general in nature and occurs other than in wet conditions, you likely have a problem with your fuel injection system or carbuerator. Depending on how your car is equipped (fuel injected or carbuerated) you will likely find your problem here.
Automotive / Car: The Shakedown on Engine Vibration Issues, Underhood Service Houston, TX
Diagnosing and correcting tire and wheel imbalance can cure many of your customer’s complaints of vehicle vibration. But as you may be aware, there are times when you can balance the wheels and find that the vehicle still shakes. Lets take a look at some of the more common driveshaft and engine-related causes of vibration. If wheel or tire runout is within specifications and the vehicle has rear-wheel drive (RWD) or four-wheel drive (4WD), driveshaft vibration may be what’s causing the problem. Driveshaft vibration is rarely encountered in front-wheel-drive (FWD) cars and minivans because the halfshafts turn at the same speed as the wheels, which run at about a third of the speed of the driveshaft in most RWD and 4WD vehicles. So unless a halfshaft is bent or damaged, it’s unlikely that it would be out of balance enough to cause a noticeable vibration. FWD halfshafts also run smoother because the CV joints on the ends of the shafts do not create cyclic vibrations as the operating angle of the joints change. With U-joints, though, changing the operating angle of the joint causes a cyclic change in the rotational speed of the driven shaft. The greater the operating angle, the greater the speed changes in the shaft. The speed of the driveshaft also amplifies U-joint-induced vibration. The maximum acceptable operating angle of a U-joint decreases in direct proportion to shaft speed. At 2,000 rpm, the maximum angle is about 8°, while at 4,000 rpm, it is only about 4°. It’s important that you inspect the driveshaft angle or pinion angle on the rear axle. If someone has modified the suspension to change the vehicle’s ride height, they may have created a U-joint vibration problem. Shimming the rear axle and rear transmission mount to reduce the operating angles of the U-joints may be necessary to reduce or eliminate this kind of vibration. Another source of vibration can be a worn center carrier bearing on a two-piece driveshaft. The bearing should be replaced if it shows any looseness. Alignment of the bearing is also important. If off-center, it can create unequal drive angles and cause vibrations. Driveshaft runout can also cause vibrations. Runout can be checked by positioning a dial indicator near the center of the driveshaft, then rotating the shaft to determine the amount of total run-out. More than .010″ of runout can cause trouble. Unbolt the rear U-joint and rotate it 180° in its yoke to see if that eliminates the run-out problem. If it does not, the shaft is bent and needs to be replaced. Driveshaft Imbalance Test Vibrations caused by driveshaft imbalance are more difficult to diagnose. One way to do this is to raise the rear wheels off the ground while supporting the rear axle (don’t let the axle hang otherwise it may create a driveline vibration by increasing the operating angle of the U-joints). 1. Start the engine and run the rear wheels up to speed (no more than 55 mph to be safe). When the vehicle starts to shake, note the speed. 2. Stop the engine, remove the rear wheels and reinstall the lug nuts to hold the brake drums in place. Then repeat the same test to see if the vibration is still present. If the vibration does not return, the problem is not the driveshaft but wheel and tire imbalance. If the vibration is still there, proceed to Step 3. 3. Stop the engine again, remove the brake drums and repeat the test once more. If the vibration is gone, the problem is drum imbalance. If the vibration persists, it’s the driveshaft. Caution: Do not step on the brake pedal while the drums are off, doing so will force the pistons out of the wheel cylinders. Just shut the engine off and let the drivetrain bring itself to a stop. To rebalance the driveshaft, send it to a machine shop that does balancing, or use an electronic on-car balancer to balance it yourself. (See following procedure.) If you’re using an on-car balancer, place the magnetic pickup head just behind the pinion nose under the axle housing and the strobe light under the rear of the driveshaft. Draw a chalk line on the shaft for a reference mark. Then run the shaft up to speed and note the relative position of the mark when it is illuminated by the strobe. The strobe will flash when the heaviest part of the driveshaft is at the six o’clock position (straight down). To correct the imbalance, install worm screw hose clamps on the shaft with the heavy part of the clamps positioned 180° opposite the heavy spot. Then run the shaft back up to speed to see if additional weight is needed to cancel out the vibration. Add more clamps as needed or weld a small chunk of iron to the shaft opposite the heavy spot. Repeat until the vibration is eliminated. If you don’t have an on-car balancer, install a pair of hose clamps on the shaft and make four reference marks 90° apart. Try the clamps at each of the various positions until you find the one that produces the least amount of vibration. Motor Mounts Often-overlooked engine components that may need to be replaced to eliminate vibration are motor mounts. These rubber mounts can deteriorate, collapse and/or separate with age. Fluid-filled “hydraulic” type mounts can often leak, allowing annoying engine vibrations to be transmitted to the chassis. Most mounts are designed so that separation won’t allow the engine to fall out onto the roadway. But a bad mount may cause a myriad of problems – many easily misdiagnosed. Often, bad motor mounts allow the engine to rock and move around, causing noise and interference problems with the throttle, transmission and clutch linkages. For example, a thumping noise when the transmission is put into gear or when the vehicle is accelerating is a classic symptom of a bad mount. Excessive engine rocking also can create exhaust leaks and rattles where the head pipe joins the exhaust manifold. Plus, the donut that seals the exhaust joint can be crushed or broken by the motions of the engine, or the head pipe or pipe flange may crack. Cracked or broken motor mounts can be an annoying source of vibration and noise, typically a clunk or shudder when accelerating hard. A broken or separated mount may even allow an engine-driven fan to scrape the fan shroud or contact the radiator, which also contributes to annoying noise. Because motor mounts maintain engine and driveline alignment in FWD cars and minivans with transverse-mounted engines, it’s important that the mounts be in good condition. The mounts support the engine and transmission or transaxle, and help dampen noise and vibration to isolate the powertrain from the rest of the vehicle. The upper mounts on FWD applications also help control engine rock as the engine applies torque through the driveshafts. While the design of the mount may prevent the engine from literally falling out of the car, it won’t keep the engine from twisting or hopping on its mounts every time the vehicle accelerates or is under load, which can produce thumping and rattling noises. It also can overstress components such as radiator and heater hoses, wiring connectors and the exhaust system. A broken or loose motor mount in an FWD application can be even more serious because it may allow engine movements that interfere with the throttle or shift linkage. If the bad mount is an end mount, it may also contribute to a torque steer condition and cause accelerated wear or separation of the inner CV joints on one or both driveshafts. The noise produced by a separated or broken motor mount often sounds like a bad U-joint or inner CV joint (a clunk when accelerating or placing the transmission or transaxle in gear). So before either of these other components are replaced, the mounts should be checked. Some mounts are “hydroelastic” and have hollow chambers filled with hydraulic fluid to dampen vibrations that would otherwise be transmitted across the mount to the chassis. Motor mounts need to be replaced when they’re loose, broken or collapsed. And, replacement mounts should be the same (fluid-filled hydroelastic or solid rubber) as the original. Caution: Substituting a less expensive solid mount for a fluid-filled mount can increase the transmission of engine noise and vibration to the rest of the chassis. These mounts may save your customer a few bucks, but won’t do the same job as the original. They feel harsher and transmit more noise and vibration to the rest of the vehicle, and ironically, may cause a customer to return with complaints of a harsh rides or vibration. Harmonic Balancer The harmonic balancer, also referred to as a vibration damper, is a device that is connected to the crankshaft in order to reduce the torsional vibration. As the cylinders fire, power is transmitted through the crankshaft. Since the front of the crankshaft takes the brunt of this power, it often moves before the rear of the crankshaft. This causes a twisting motion. As the power is removed from the front, the halfway twisted shaft unwinds and snaps back in the opposite direction. Although this unwinding process is quite small, it can cause “torsional vibration.” To eliminate this vibration, a harmonic balancer is attached to the front part of the crankshaft that’s causing the trouble. The balancer is constructed of two pieces connected by rubber plugs, spring loaded friction discs, or both. Therefore, when the power from the cylinder hits the front of the crankshaft, it tries to twist the heavy part of the damper. Instead, it ends up twisting the rubber or discs connecting the two parts of the damper. Since the front of the crank can’t speed up as much with the damper attached, the force is used to twist the rubber and speed up the damper wheel. This helps keep the crankshaft operation calm. According to one parts manufacturer, replacement “harmonic balancers” are quickly becoming a hot item for today’s car owners. The reason is “harmonic vibrations,” which can lead to a variety of mechanical failures. Harmonic vibrations are specific and repeated vibration patterns, which pass through an object. In today’s cars, such vibrations result from the combustion of the air-fuel mixture. Each time a cylinder fires, the connecting rod pounds the crankshaft journal as the force turns the crankshaft, causing energy to be dispersed throughout the engine. Multiply this by the number of cylinders (with variations in engine speed) and you have what is commonly called harmonic vibrations. Contributing to this column were Larry Carley and Gary Goms.
Automotive /Car No Start and a Normal Sound. Houston, TX
Unlike many diagnosis, a slow starting sound can be traced back to a number of potential problems. Let’s go over each to see if we cannot find your problem. 1. Is it the Battery? The simplest cause of the slow start problem can be a low or discharged battery. If the starter motor cannot get enough energy from the battery to turn over fast enough it will not start the car. 2. Starter Motor If your problem isn’t due to a weak or partially discharged battery, you may be looking at a faulty starter motor. If the car was running for some time recently and you have reason to believe the battery has a charge, you might have a worn starter. Have your mechanic test your starter draw to check for this problem. 3. Faulty connection Also fairly common is a faulty connection somewhere between the battery and the starter. If the wiring that connects the two is loose, shorted, or show other signs of a problem this may well be the cause of the dilemma.
Automotive / Car No Start and Grinding Sound Houston, TX
The grinding sound that you hear is generally indicative of a bad starter drive gear. The gear is attempting to interconnect with the engine flywheel gear and the grind is a clear indication that something is wrong. This situation will need mechanical attention, but before calling for a tow you can try and start the car a few additional times to drive it to the station and avoid the tow costs. If you do wish to attempt to restart it, here’s how: 1. Be Gentle and Patient First, give the car a few minutes. Then turn the key to the start position and see if the gear will engage. If you hear the grind again, immediately turn the key to the off position. You may try this a few times waiting a couple of minutes between each. If the car will still not start, and you have the time, try it again a few hours later, and the next morning. Your only goal here is to get the car started “one more time” so you can drive it to the repair shop to avoid the tow costs. If the car will not start after you have given it time and multiple tries, you will need to have it towed in and repaired.
Automotive /Car No Start and Spinning or Whirring Sound. Houston, TX
This spinning sound is indicative of a bad starter drive. Here, the whirring or spinning is the sound of the starter motor shaft spinning freely when it hasn’t engaged. Most likely in this situation you will need to replace your starter. But before you need to pay the costs for a tow, you can make a few attempts to start the vehicle one last time and drive it into the shop. Here’s how: 1. Be Gentle and Patient First, give the car a few minutes. You want to let everything come to a complete stop. Once the time has passed, turn the key to the start position. If the spinning is still present, immediately turn the key to the off position. If the car did not start, and you have the time, try it again a few hours later, and the next morning. Your only goal here is to get the car started “one more time” so you can drive it to the repair shop to avoid the tow costs. If the car will not start after you have given it time and multiple tries, you will need to have it towed in and repaired.
My automotive / car “CHECK ENGINE ” light is on. What does that mean? Houston, TX
It means your vehicle’s onboard computer system has self-diagnosed some kind of problem. The “Check Engine” light, which is also called a “Malfunction Indicator Lamp” (MIL) or “Service Engine Soon” (SES) lamp, is there to signal you when a problem occurs that may require attention. This can include anything from a momentary hiccup that has has little or no noticeable affect on engine performance or driving safety to a failure of a major electronic component. There’s no way to know what the light means without running a diagnostic scan on the system to determine the nature of the fault. As a rule, a continuous Check Engine light usually signals a “hard fault” or failure that has occurred. If the light comes on and off, or only blinks momentarily, the problem may be minor or intermittent in nature. To help identify the problem, it helps to make a mental note of the conditions that occurred when the light came on. Where you driving at a certain speed? Accelerating or slowing down? Shifting gears? Onboard diagnostic systems are very complex and require a fair amount of expertise as well as special tools to troubleshoot. To find out what’s wrong, a technician has to “get into” your system through a diagnostic connector which may be located under the dash, under the driver’s seat or in the engine compartment. The diagnostic connector serves as a port of entry for accessing information and/or for putting your vehicle’s computer system into a special diagnostic mode for further testing or displaying “fault codes”. Fault codes are numeric codes that are generated when a problem is detected. If a sensor circuit reads out of range or some electronic component fails to respond to a command from the computer, the computer recognizes it as a fault and records a number that corresponds to the nature of the problem. The technician must then retrieve the code and refer to specific diagnostic chart or “fault tree” that gives him the step-by-step checks he has to perform to isolate the failed component. It can be a very time-consuming process depending on the nature of the problem. Usually the process works but sometimes it doesn’t. An intermittent fault can be very difficult to track down, and may require repeated attempts to repair it
My automotive /car engine oil pressure warning light is on. What should I do? Houston, TX
Don’t ignore it. An oil pressure warning light (or low gauge reading) means one of two things: either your engine has dangerously low oil pressure (for a variety of reasons which we’ll get to in a minute), or the oil pressure sending unit that triggers the warning light (or operates your gauge) has failed. The question here is whether you have a serious problem or a minor one. First, do not keep driving if the oil warning light is on or your oil pressure gauge has dropped. Stop the engine, let it sit for a few minutes, then check the oil level. Is the level low? If the oil level is down more than two quarts or no oil is showing on the dipstick, adding oil to bring the level back up to the full mark may be all that’s necessary to make the light go out. Just keep your fingers crossed that you haven’t damaged the engine from running it too low on oil. If you hear rapping or knocking noises the engine starts, you’re too late. The damage is done and now you’re stuck with the consequences. Note: On some late model vehicles, the warning light will come on (or a message will appear) if a sensor in the oil pan detects a low oil level. The light is supposed to come on before the level gets low enough to cause any damage. If your oil level was low, it means your engine is either leaking oil or burning it. Leaks can be fixed by finding and replacing leaky gaskets and seals. Sometimes the oil filter will leak if it isn’t installed or tightened properly. But an oil burning problem means the valve guides, rings and/or cylinders are worn or damaged and more costly repairs are needed. If the dipstick shows a full oil level, then low oil obviously isn’t your problem. The oil pressure may be low because of a worn or broken oil pump, a plugged oil pickup screen in the engine’s crankcase, possibly a plugged oil filter or excessive bearing wear. Or, the oil pressure may be fine but the oil pressure sending unit has failed. Further diagnosis will be required to determine what’s wrong. Should you attempt to drive your vehicle home or to a service facility? It’s risky. If the problem came on suddenly, your engine does not have a lot of miles on it (less than 60,000) and you noticed no unusual noises (no valvetrain clattering or engine knocking), there’s a good chance that all that’s wrong is the sending unit. But, there’s no way to know for sure without actually checking the engine’s oil pressure with a gauge, or replacing the sending unit to see if a new unit makes the light go out. If the problem is only the sending unit, your engine still has oil pressure and you can continue to drive it until the sending unit can be replaced. But, if you’re wrong you risk ruining your engine. If you think you might have a low oil pressure or oil delivery problem because of a bad oil pump or one of the other problems we mentioned, do not drive your vehicle. Doing so only increases the probability of further engine damage. Have the vehicle towed to a service facility for repairs.
My automotive / car front-wheel drive car makes a clicking sound when turning. Is anything wrong? Houston, TX
Yes. A clicking sound when turning is one of the classic symptoms of a worn or damaged “constant velocity” (CV) joint. Your car has four such joints on the two front axles: two inboard joints and two outboard joints. The outboard joints are the ones that make a clicking sound when they go bad. Inside the joint are six steel balls, positioned in grooves between an inner race and an outer housing. The balls are held in position by a cage that looks something like a wide bracelet with windows or slots cut in it. When the joint is new, the balls fit tightly into the cage windows. But as the joint accumulates miles, the cage windows become worn and allow the balls to rattle around. The grooves in the inner race and outer housing also wear, which further contributes to noise. When driving straight, a worn CV joint is usually quiet (constant noise would indicate a bad wheel bearing or other problem). But when the wheels are turned to either side, the joint bends causing the balls to click as they slide around in their cage windows and grooves. The noise is usually loudest when backing up with the wheels turned. Repacking the joint with grease won’t help because the joint is worn and needs to be replaced. The “normal” life of a CV joint is usually 100,000 miles or more. But a joint can fail prematurely if the rubber boot that surrounds it is damaged or develops a leak. Cv Joint Boots The boot, which is made of rubber or hard plastic, serves two purposes: it keeps the joint’s vital supply of special grease inside, and it keeps dirt and water out. After five or six years of service, it’s not unusual for the boot to develop age cracks or splits. Boots can also be damaged by road hazards or a careless tow truck operator who uses J-hooks to tow your vehicle. Once the boot seal is broken, the inside grease quickly leaks out. Starved for lubrication, the CV joint soon fails. Dirt and water can also enter the boot and contaminate any grease that’s left inside. Either way, a damaged boot is bad news for the joint. CV joint boots should be inspected periodically (when the oil is changed is a good time) to make sure they are not cracked or torn, and that the clamps are tight. If you see grease on the outside of the boot, it is leaking and needs to be replaced (the sooner the better). If a clamp is loose and the boot is leaking grease at one end, the clamp needs to be replaced. Original equipment boots are a one-piece design, which means the driveshaft and CV joint have to be removed from the vehicle and disassembled to replace a bad boot. However, there are aftermarket “split-boots” designed for easy do-it-yourself installation. The split-boots eliminate the need to remove and disassemble the joint and driveshaft. You simply cut off the old boot, clean out as much of the old grease as possible from the joint, pack the joint with fresh high temperature CV joint grease (never ordinary chassis grease), then install the new boot. Most split-boots have a seam that is glued together. The seam must not have any grease smeared on it and the glue must be applied carefully for a good seal. Also, the vehicle must not be driven until the glue has cured (about an hour or so). NOTE: Most professional mechanics do not use split-boots because (1) they don’t think a split-boot is as reliable or as long-lived as a one-piece original equipment style boot, and (2) they don’t like the idea of installing a new boot on a questionable joint. By the time a damaged or leaky boot is noticed, the joint has usually lost most of its grease and/or been contaminated by dirt. Unless the joint is removed, disassembled, cleaned and inspected, there’s no way to know if it is still in good enough condition to remain in service. If it’s making noise, replacing the boot would be a waste of time because the joint is bad and needs to be replaced (most new joints come with a new boot, clamps and grease). But even if the joint isn’t making any noise, it may still have wear or internal damage that will soon cause it to fail. WARNING: A CV joint failure can cause loss of steering control under certain circumstances. If the joint locks up, it can prevent the wheels from being turned.
What’s the difference between a automotive /car U-joint and a constant velocity (CV) joint? Houston, TX
A U-joint (the “U” stands for “Universal”), which is also called a “Cardan” joint after the guy who invented it, is a type of flexible coupling typically used on both ends of the driveshafts in rear-wheel and four-wheel drive vehicles. Each U-joint consists of a four-legged center cross with needle bearing cups on the ends of each leg of the cross. The bearing cups on one pair of legs are mounted to the driveshaft. The other pair of cups are held in place by a pair of U-bolts attached to a yoke that mates to either the transmission or differential. The bearing cups allow the joint to swivel and bend as the driveshaft follows the motions of the differential and axle as the suspension bounces up and down. Most original equipment U-joints on newer vehicles are “sealed” and do not require periodic greasing. But many replacement U-joints as well as the U-joints on older vehicles do have a grease fitting which allows the joint to be lubed periodically. Cv Joints A constant velocity (CV) joint does essentially the same thing as a U-joint, only better. There are two basic types: “ball-and groove” CV joints (called “Rzeppa” joints after the guy who invented them), and “tripod” CV joints. Rzeppa CV joints, which are used as the outer joints on most front-wheel drive cars and minivans, consist of a cup-shaped outer housing, a center race and cage assembly. Machined into the outer housing and center race are six grooves that hold six steel balls. The balls are held in position by windows or slots cut into the cage assembly. The joint is designed so that when it bends, the balls are always positioned at the midway point inside the joint. This eliminates the cyclic variations in speed that a U-joint experiences when it operates at more than a few degrees off-center. A variation on the Rzeppa CV joint is the “cross-groove” CV joint. It also has six balls between an inner race and outer housing. But this type of joint is designed to move or plunge in and out to compensate for changes in driveshaft length that occur as the suspension moves up and down. This type of joint is used as the inboard CV joint on many European and Japanese front-wheel drive cars. The tripod style of CV joint consists of a three-legged cross or trunnion with roller bearings on the end of each leg. The trunnion is attached to the driveshaft, and the roller bearings run in machined grooves or channels in an outer “tulip” housing. This type of joint is also designed to plunge in and out, and is used as the inner CV joint on most domestic front-wheel drive vehicles. There are also some Japanese and European front-wheel drive cars that use a tripod-style joint as the outer joint. All CV joints are enclosed by a rubber or hard plastic boot. The boot keeps grease in and contaminants out. CV joints do not require periodic maintenance or greasing, and are engineered to last 100,000 miles or more. All front-wheel drive cars and minivans have four CV joints: one inner joint and one outer joint on each of the vehicle’s two driveshafts (which are also called “halfshafts”). CV joints are also used on the driveshafts of some rear-wheel and four-wheel drive vehicles, too.
How often do I need to have my automotive / car wheels aligned? Houston, TX
Once. If the wheels on your vehicle are correctly aligned when the vehicle is manufactured at the factory, they should not change alignment until something in the suspension wears out or is damaged. Alignment doesn’t change. The only thing that changes it is wear or damage. Hitting a pot hole or a thousand pot holes won’t knock your suspension out of alignment unless you hit something hard enough to actually bend metal. That really doesn’t happen very often, so having the wheels aligned periodically is a waste of money. On the other hand, there are valid reasons for having the alignment checked periodically: If your tires are wearing abnormally, alignment should be checked to find out why. Chances are something is amiss and needs to be readjusted or replaced. It only takes a 1/8 inch of toe misalignment to drag the front tires sideways the equivalent of 28 feet for every mile traveled! If you’re buying a new set of tires and want to maximize tread life, it’s a good idea to have the alignment checked as insurance. Even if the factory alignment is within the acceptable range specified by the vehicle manufacturer, there’s often room for improvement. Resetting alignment to the “preferred specs” (which means the midrange or optimum specs) will usually extend tire life — sometimes significantly. Considering the high cost of many performance tires today, assuring maximum tire life with an alignment is money well spent. If you’re experiencing any kind of steering or handling problem, an alignment check may be necessary for diagnostic purposes. An important aspect of aligning the wheels is performing a preliminary alignment inspection of the suspension and steering linkage. This is necessary to determine if there are any worn, damaged or mislocated parts. It’s impossible to realign worn or damaged parts so any such parts must be replaced before the wheels can be realigned. Wheel alignment is also required when certain suspension and steering components are replaced. On most cars with MacPherson struts, the front wheels should be realigned if the struts are replaced (NOTE: This is not necessary on certain import vehicles that have replaceable strut cartridges). Alignment is also required if the tie rods, tie rod ends, idler arm, steering links, control arms or control arm bushings, steering knuckle or steering rack have been replaced. Another benefit of having the wheels aligned is to assure optimum handling and traction for driving safety. Camber, in particular, is a very important angle with respect to keeping the tire’s treads in full contact with the road. Tires that lean in or out ride on the shoulder and reduce traction, cornering ability and tread life. Camber can even affect braking. Uneven camber or caster side to side can make a vehicle lead to the left or the right.
My automotive / car engine has too much compression due to excessive carbon buildup. Houston, TX
When fuel burns, it leaves behind deposits that stick to the combustion chamber, valves and top of the piston. How quickly the deposits accumulate depends on the type of driving done and the quality of the fuel burned. Carbon deposits gradually accumulate in a new engine for the first 5,000 to 15,000 miles, then level off. A state of equilibrium is reached where old deposits flake off at about the same rate as new deposits are formed. However, infrequent driving, infrequent oil changes or internal engine problems such as worn valve guides, or worn, broken or improperly seated rings that allow oil burning can greatly accelerate the accumulation of deposits. This may cause the carbon deposits to reach a much greater than normal thickness, which in turn raises compression and causes spark knock or detonation problems. The deposits may even build up to the point where they cause physical contact between the piston and head. This, too, can make noise as well as be very damaging to your engine. Getting Rid Of Deposits To get rid of the deposits, pour a can of “top cleaner” down the carburetor while the engine is idling (follow the directions). Allow the chemical to soak for the recommended period of time, then restart the engine to blow out the loosened deposits. An oil change afterwards is recommended because some of the solvent will leak down into the crankcase and dilute the oil. If chemical cleaning fails to do the trick, it may be necessary to pull the head and scrape the deposits off. Some shops also have equipment that allows them to blast deposits loose by blowing a “soft” blasting media such as crushed walnut shells into the combustion chamber through the spark plug hole.
What is a automotive / car ” valve job ” and when is it necessary? Houston, TX
A valve job is removing the cylinder head(s) from the engine so the valves, guides and seats can be refurbished to restore compression and oil control. A valve job may be necessary by the time an engine has 80,000 or more miles on it, or to fix a “burned valve,” compression or oil burning problem. Before we describe all the steps that a typical valve job involves, we should warn you that some shops don’t necessary do all the steps. In other words, you get what you pay for. A “cheapie” valve job might skip a lot of things that saves you a few dollars in the short run, but may end up costing you a lot more in the long run. So look for a shop or service facility that does quality work. A valve job typically begins by disassembling, cleaning and inspecting the cylinder head. Cast iron heads are “Magnafluxed” to check for hairline cracks. This involves applying a strong magnetic field to the head and sprinkling iron powder on it. Cracks disrupt the magnetic field and attract the iron powder, making invisible cracks easy to see. Cracks are bad news because they can leak coolant into the combustion chamber damaging the cylinders and/or causing the engine to lose coolant and overheat. If cracks are found in any critical areas of the head, the head must either be repaired or replaced. Cracks in cast iron heads are most often repaired by “pinning” (installing a series of overlapping threaded pins). Cracks in aluminum heads are very common and can often be repaired by welding. If a head has been repaired (pinned or welded), most shops will usually pressure test the head afterward to make sure there are no leaks. Some may also apply a sealer compound to the inside of the water jackets as added insurance against future leaks. Once the head passes this point, it is also checked for flatness. The surface of the head must be flat to seal the head gasket against the block. Excessive warpage, roughness or any damage can cause the head gasket to fail. If the head exceeds the maximum allowable out-of-flatness specs, it must be resurfaced or replaced. Usually there’s enough metal in the head to allow for a certain amount of resurfacing. But on many import aluminum cylinder heads, the amount of resurfacing that’s possible is minimal. Overhead cam aluminum cylinder heads are often found to be warped (usually the result of overheating). If the condition cannot be corrected by resurfacing, the head can often be straightened by heating it in a special oven and then bending it until it is straight. Next come the valves, guides and seats. The guides are checked for wear. They’re almost always worn, so they either need to be replaced, relined or knurled (a process whereby grooves are cut into the inside diameter of the guides to decrease the bore size). Few shops knurl guides anymore. Most install new guides, guide liners or bore out the old guides to accept new valves with oversized stems. Aluminum heads have cast iron or bronze guides that can be replaced but most cast iron heads do not. If the valves are to be reused, they will be inspected, checked for straightness then refaced. Many shops automatically replace all the exhaust valves to reduce the risk of failure (exhaust valves run much hotter than intakes and are much more likely to fail). The seats in the head are either cut or ground to restore the sealing surface. If a seat is cracked or too badly worn to be refaced, the seat must be replaced. If that isn’t possible (as is the case on many late model cast iron heads because the casting is too thin), then the entire head must be replaced. All aluminum heads have hardened steel seats that can be replaced. The valve springs are all inspected and tested to make sure they are still capable of maintaining proper pressure. The spring retainers, keepers and other hardware is likewise inspected. Any worn or damaged components are replaced. New valve guide seals are always used. The valves are then installed in the head and shimmed to restore proper valve height. This is necessary because machining the valves and seat alters their dimensions. Valve height is important because it affects valvetrain geometry and guide wear. If it is an overhead cam engine, the cam is also installed and the valve lash adjusted prior to returning the head to the customer.
Is it necessary to replace my automotive / car belts periodically? Houston, TX
Yes. Although the auto makers don’t usually specify a replacement interval for V-belts or serpentine (flat, multi-ribbed) belts, most belt manufacturers do recommend periodic replacement for preventative maintenance. Here’s why: the incidence of belt failure rises sharply in the fourth year of service for the typical V-belt, and the fifth year for serpentine belts. What’s more, eight out of ten V-belt failures and ten out of ten serpentine belt failures end up causing a breakdown! That’s because belts have the uncanny knack of always picking the worst possible moment to fail — like when you’re heading out of town on that long-awaited fishing trip, when you’re hurrying to pick up a hot date who told you NOT to be late, or when you’re giving your dear mother-in-law a ride to church. A broken belt is always bad news because when it snaps, all drive power to whatever it turns is lost. That means the water pump quits circulating coolant through the engine, the alternator quits producing amps, the power steering pump ceases to assist steering, and the air conditioner quits cooling. Many newer vehicles have a single serpentine belt that drives all of the engine’s accessories, so when it fails everything stops working. The good news is that replacing the belts periodically can go a long way towards minimizing the risk of a breakdown caused by belt failure. After all, it’s a lot easier to replace a belt at your convenience than having the belt fail unexpectedly Heavens knows where. For optimum protection, most experts recommend replacing V-belts every three to four years, or every 36,000 to 48,000 miles. A recommended replacement interval for serpentine belts would be every four or five years, or 50,000 miles. Belt Life The service life of a V-belt depends on mileage as well as load, tension and heat. Every time a belt passes around a pulley, it bends and flexes. This produces heat which age hardens the rubber over time. The wear process can be greatly accelerated if the belt is loose and slips because any added friction between belt and pulley makes the belt run even hotter. This can cause glazing on the faces of the belt and cause it to slip even more. So one of the most important factors that affects belt life is making sure it is properly tensioned when it is installed and that the proper tension is maintained throughout its service life. Symptoms that may be the result of improper belt tension include: Belt squeal, especially on the fan, A/C compressor or power steering drives. A battery that keeps running down (due to belt slippage). Excessive sidewall wear on a V-belt that causes it to ride lower than normal in the pulley grooves. Severe cracking along the underside of a V-belt. Noisy alternator, power steering pump, air pump, A/C compressor or water pump bearings (from excessive belt tension). Belt Replacement Replacement V-belts must be the same length and width as the original. A belt that’s too long or too short may not allow enough adjustment for proper tension. A belt that’s too wide or too narrow will not ride at the right depth in the pulley grooves. CAUTION: When installing a new belt, do not attempt to “stretch” it over pulleys. Doing so can break the internal cords causing the belt to fail. Always loosen the pulleys so there is adequate clearance to slip the belt over the pulleys. Once the belt has been installed on the pulleys, a belt gauge should be used to adjust belt tension to factory specifications. The old rule of thumb of allowing 1/2 inch of “give” between the furthest pulleys is not a very accurate guide for today’s engines. So follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for belt tension. Once tension has been adjusted, it should be rechecked and readjusted (if necessary) after a short break-in period (say after 500 to 1,000 miles of driving). It should then be checked twice a year or every 5,000 or 6,000 miles thereafter. On vehicles with a single serpentine belt, tension is usually self-adjusted automatically via a spring loaded tensioner. No additional adjustment is necessary. If your engine has been eating or twisting belts, misaligned pulleys may be your problem. Alignment can be checked with a straightedge. If a pulley is bent or not in the same plane as the rest, the problem should be corrected otherwise the “bad” pulley will continue to ruin belts.
My Automotive /Car engine has a steady miss and gets terrible fuel milage. What’s wrong? Houston, TX
A steady miss indicates one of three things: a cylinder that isn’t firing because of an ignition problem, a cylinder that isn’t firing because it isn’t receiving fuel (multipoint fuel injected engines only), or a cylinder that has lost compression. The first step in diagnosing this kind of problem is to identify the dead cylinder. A professional mechanic can do this quickly by hooking the engine up to an ignition oscilloscope and displaying an ignition raster pattern. The dead cylinder will show a firing voltage that is significantly higher or lower than its companions depending on the nature of the problem. He might also do a “power balance” test and/or a compression test to find the dead cylinder. One way you can find a weak or dead cylinder is to momentarily disconnect each of your engine’s spark plug wires one at a time while the engine is running. When the plug wire is removed from the spark plug, there should be a big drop in idle speed and idle smoothness. When you pull a wire and there’s little or no change in idle speed or quality, you’ve found the bad cylinder. It makes no difference whether you remove each plug wire from the spark plug or the distributor (or coil pack on distributorless ignition systems). The idea is to simply disconnect each cylinder for a moment to see if it makes any difference in the way the engine runs. The one that makes no difference is the problem cylinder. CAUTION: Disconnecting spark plug wires while the engine is dangerous because you risk getting shocked. You can minimize this danger one of several ways. One is to wear rubber gloves and use insulated spark plug wire pliers to momentarily disconnect each plug wire. Another is to make sure no part of your body is touching or leaning against any metal surface on the vehicle (the fender, hood, grille, etc.). Or, you could turn the engine off, remove a plug wire, restart the engine, note any change in idle, then repeat for each of the remaining spark plugs. Ignition Diagnosis If you disconnect the plug wire from the spark plug and hold the end of the wire close to the plug terminal or other metal surface, you should see a spark and/or hear a crisp snapping noise if voltage is getting through the wire. No spark would tell you the plug wire is bad, voltage is arcing inside the distributor cap (remove and inspect the cap for cracks and carbon tracks — replace if any are found) or a dead coil on a distributorless ignition system (Note: on most distributorless ignition systems, each coil fires two cylinders. So if both cylinders are dead, you know for sure the coil is not working. If only one cylinder is dead, however, it’s not the coil). If all of the plug wires seem to be sparking okay, the next step would be to remove the spark plug in the problem cylinder. Fouling is a common cause of ignition misfire. Examine the end of the plug. If the electrode is covered with deposits, clean or replace the spark plug. Also, note the type of deposits on the plug. Thick, black, wet or oily-looking deposits would tell you the cylinder is burning oil (probably due to worn valve guides, rings and/or cylinder wall). If the deposits are a powdery black, the cylinder is running too rich (probably due to a leaky injector on a multipoint fuel injected engine). If the deposits are brown or gray, it indicates a normal buildup. However, the plug may be fouled because it hasn’t been changed for a long time, because it is the wrong “heat range” for your engine application (you need a hotter plug), or because of frequent short trip stop-and-go driving. In any event, if the plug is fouled you should probably remove, inspect and clean or replace all of the spark plugs. Fuel Diagnosis If the dead cylinder is receiving spark through the plug wire and the spark plug itself appears to be okay (not wet or fouled), and your engine has multipoint fuel injection you may have a dead fuel injector. To check for this kind of problem, start the engine and place your finger on the injector. You should feel a buzzing vibration if the injector is working. No buzz means the injector is either defective or it is not receiving a voltage signal through its wiring harness. You can check for the presence of voltage with a 12 volt test light or voltmeter. Disconnect the injector wiring connector and attach the test light or voltmeter between the injector and connector. If the light doesn’t flash or you don’t see a voltage reading when the engine is running, it indicates a wiring or computer problem that will require further diagnosis. If voltage is getting through but the injector isn’t working, then the injector is defective and needs to be replaced. Sometimes the injector will appear to be working but really isn’t. It will be receiving voltage and buzzing as normal, but because it is clogged up with varnish deposits little or no fuel is actually being squirted into the cylinder. If ignition and compression are both okay in the bad cylinder, therefore, it would tell you the injector is clogged. On-car cleaning may reopen the clogged injector is the varnish isn’t built up too thick. But a completely clogged injector usually doesn’t respond well to this type of cleaning. It either has to be removed for off-car cleaning (which may or may not succeed id reopening it) or be replaced. Compression Diagnosis If the dead cylinder is getting spark and fuel, the only thing that’s left is a compression problem. The most likely causes here would be a leaky valve (probably an exhaust valve since they run much hotter than intake valves and usually fail or “burn” first), a blown head gasket (this usually involves two adjacent cylinders, however), or a rounded or badly worn cam lobe. A compression check will verify if the cylinder is developing its normal compression. Little or no compression would verify any of the above problems. A leakage test could also be used to further diagnose and identify the nature of the problem (valves, head gasket or cam). Air leakage through the exhaust port would indicate a bad exhaust valve. Air leakage back through the intake manifold would indicate a bad intake valve. Air leaking into an adjacent cylinder would indicate a blown head gasket. Minimal leakage would indicate a rounded cam lobe. Leaky valves would require removing the cylinder head and having a valve job performed. A leaky head gasket would require removing the head and replacing the gasket (and probably resurfacing the head to restore flatness). A cam problem would require removing and replacing the camshaft and lifters (old lifters should never be reused with a new cam).
Automotive / Car Fuel injectors are dirty and need to be cleaned. Houston, TX
“Dirty” is actually a misnomer. Rarely are injectors clogged with dirt. Rather, they are usually clogged or restricted by a buildup of fuel varnish deposits. This reduces the amount of fuel that the injector sprays, which in turn may cause the engine to run lean and misfire, hesitate or stall. A fuel injector is nothing more than spray nozzle. With mechanical injectors, a spring loaded valve allows fuel to squirt out of the nozzle when line pressure overcomes spring tension that holds the valve shut. With electronic injectors, a spring-loaded solenoid pulls open a pintle valve or ball type valve when the injector is energized by the computer. This allows the pressurized fuel in the fuel rail to flow through the injector and squirt out the nozzle. Injectors come in a variety of styles. Early Bosch style injectors have a pintle valve and are the ones most prone to clogging. In 1989, General Motors introduced its new “Multec” style injectors which have a ball valve design and are claimed to be more resistant to clogging. Other injectors have a disc-valve design that is also said to resist clogging. The truth is ANY injector can clog. Nobody’s injectors are immune to this kind of problem, but some are obviously better than others. Problems can occur even with a slight buildup of deposits. Because the injector orifice is so small, it doesn’t take much crud to restrict the flow of fuel or to disrupt the spray pattern. For good combustion, the injectors must produce a fine cone-shaped mist of fuel vapor. Wear or deposits in the nozzle can create “streamers” of liquid fuel that vaporize and burn poorly. This, in turn, can cause hesitation, emissions and performance problems. Injector Cleaning The cure for a set of clogged injectors is cleaning — or replacement if they’re too badly clogged to respond to cleaning. Injectors are expensive to replace. New domestic injectors sell for $60 to $100 each, with new import injectors fetching $125 to $175 each. Injectors should only be replaced as a last resort. If your injectors are clogged, they can be cleaned with pressurized solvent, or removed for off-car cleaning. There are also fuel tank additives that claim to clean clogged injectors, but the cleaning such products do is usually minimal. So save your money and put it towards a professional cleaning. There are do-it-yourself on-car injector pressure cleaning kits that are similar to the equipment professionals use. But some of these kits can be tricky or even dangerous to use. Our advice is to let a professional do it. On-car injector cleaning involves feeding solvent under pressure into the injector fuel rail or supply line. The concentrated solvent passes through the injectors and loosens and washes away the accumulated varnish deposits. The results are usually good, and make a noticeable difference in idle smoothness, emissions and fuel economy. If your injectors are really clogged and fail to respond well to on-car cleaning, off-car cleaning using special fuel injection cleaning equipment would be the next logical option. Some of this equipment is designed to “reverse” flush the injectors so any debris that’s trapped inside the injector or above the inlet screen will also be removed. Off-car cleaning also allows a mechanic to observe the spray pattern of the injectors to make sure there aren’t any streamers or problems. Off-car cleaning is more expensive because of the labor involved to remove the injectors, but the results are usually better. Keeping Injectors Clean The best way to minimize or eliminate the need for injector cleaning is to use a quality brand of gasoline that contains sufficient detergent to prevent varnish buildup. Most brand name gasolines today have enough detergent to do this. As a rule, premium grades usually contain a somewhat higher concentration of cleaners. You can also use fuel tank additives to keep your injectors clean. Such products really aren’t necessary if you’re using quality gasoline. But if you’re buying the cheapest gas you can find, using an additive might be good insurance.
How can I tell if my automotive / car fuel filter needs to be replaced? Houston, TX
The only way to tell for sure is to remove the filter and blow through it. If there’s little resistance, the filter is still okay and does not need to be replaced. But if there’s more than minimal resistance, the filter is dirty and should be replaced. CAUTION: Gasoline is poisonous, does not taste very good and may burn sensitive lips. So don’t hold the filter to your mouth to blow through it. Instead, attach a short piece of clean rubber hose to the filter and then blow through the hose to test the filter. Filter Problems A completely plugged fuel filter will stop your engine cold by choking off the flow of fuel to the carburetor or injectors. The engine may not start, or it may start, then stall and die. Some filters have a spring-loaded bypass, however, that allows fuel to bypass the filter element if it becomes clogged. Fuel continues to flow, but it may carry dirt to the carburetor or injectors, which can create additional problems. A partially restricted filter will usually pass enough fuel to keep the engine running at idle or low speed, but may starve the engine for fuel at higher speeds or loads. So your engine may run fine putting around town, but sputter and lack power when you try to drive at highway speeds or pass someone. Tank Filter Located inside the fuel tank is a screen or mesh sock that acts like a prefilter to keep big pieces of dirt and rust from being drawn into the fuel pickup tube or tank-mounted electric fuel pump. If the screen becomes clogged with debris, it can have the same effect as a plugged or dirty fuel filter. Therefore, if you’ve been experiencing a fuel starvation problem and have replaced the fuel filter — and it didn’t help — the screen in the tank is probably the culprit. To clean or replace it, the fuel tank usually has to be removed. WARNING: The fuel tank must be drained prior to removal. The fuel must be stored in a sealed “approved” container. The battery should also be disconnected to prevent any accidental sparks from an in-tank electric fuel pump connection from igniting the vapors. Do not smoke when working on the fuel tank, filter or fuel lines, and keep all other sources of ignition away (electric heaters, pilot lights, etc.) from the work area. Filter Replacement Replacing the fuel filter periodically (every year or so) for preventative maintenance can reduce the risk of filter-related driveability problems. Most vehicle manufacturers, however, no longer specify a replacement interval for the fuel filter. Or, if they do it’s some incredibly long interval like once every five years or 50,000 miles. Many mechanics feel this is unrealistic. Waiting that long to change the filter is asking for trouble, especially if you drive on gravel or dirt roads, buy the cheapest gas you can find from “cut-rate” stations, use gas with alcohol in it, or your vehicle is more than six or seven years old and may have rust in the tank. The fuel filter on carbureted engines is usually located at the inlet fitting of the carburetor, or an “in-line” filter is used between the fuel pump and carburetor. When replacing a filter that screws into the inlet fitting on the carburetor, be careful not to overtighten the filter. The threads in the carburetor are relatively soft and can be easily stripped. But also make sure the filter is snug so that it doesn’t leak. It’s okay to apply some gasket sealer to the filter threads to assure a leak-free connection. But do not use RTV silicone sealer (which gasoline dissolves) or teflon tape (pieces of which can flake loose and end up in the carburetor). When replacing an in-line filter, most filters come with two new rubber hoses that go on either side of the filter. Use them. Don’t reuse the old hoses because rubber hoses deteriorate over time and can leak or shed small flakes or rubber that can end up in the filter or carburetor. Also, make sure the hose clamps are properly positioned and tight. NOTE: Most in-line filters have an arrow showing the direction fuel should flow through the filter. Install the filter so the arrow points toward the carburetor. Fuel Injection Filters Fuel filters on fuel injected engines are usually larger and have a finer filter element than those on carbureted engines. Consequently, they are usually more expensive. The filter may be located anywhere between the fuel tank and injector fuel supply rail or throttle body. On many cars, light trucks and minivans, the filter is located underneath the vehicle along a frame rail. On some, the filter is part of the electric fuel pump assembly inside the fuel tank! Refer to a shop manual for your fuel filter’s location. CAUTION: Fuel injected engines usually have a lot of residual pressure in the fuel line, even when a vehicle has sat overnight. So either follow the manufacturer’s recommended procedure for relieving pressure in the line prior to removing the filter (applying vacuum to the fuel pressure regulator manifold fitting, or cranking the engine with the ignition disabled), or wrap a rag around the hose connections and slowly loosen them. If the filter has an arrow indicating the direction of flow, it should be installed with the arrow pointing toward the engine and away from the fuel tank. If the filter is located inside the tank, the tank will probably have to be removed. Follow the same precautions as previously described for replacing a plugged pickup screen.
How often should I change my automotive /car fuel filter? Houston, TX
For high mileage vehicles, replacing the fuel filter annually for preventative maintenance is a good idea for two reasons. By the time a vehicle is six or seven years old, there can be a fair amount of rust and debris in the fuel tank. Rust can be formed by moisture and condensation, and debris can get into your tank anytime you add fuel. So changing it on a periodic basis can help minimize the risk of plugging. Most newer vehicles do not have a specified interval for replacing the fuel filter. In fact, some even have “lifetime” filters that supposedly never need to be changed. But any filter can plug up if enough rust or debris gets sucked into the fuel inlet. Gasoline is supposed to be filtered at the pump. But it sometimes isn’t. What’s more, the fuel you put in your tank may be contaminated with water from leaky underground storage tanks, improperly mixed alcohol blends, or even watered-down by an unscrupulous operator who’s trying to make a fast buck. So there are no guarantees. Replacing the filter periodically for preventative maintenance is simply insurance that reduces the risk of it plugging up. Given enough time, every filter will eventually reach the end of its service life. Even the filter in a brand new vehicle right off the showroom floor is at risk if the owner happens to get a dirty tank of fuel. Filter Inspection If you don’t want to replace the filter unnecessarily, you can remove it and check it to see if it passes air easily (More information on replacing fuel filtersis available). If the filter creates any significant resistance when you blow through it, it needs to be replaced.
How can I tell if my automotive / car catalytic converter is working properly? Houston, TX
The catalytic converter is our main line of defense against air pollution, so it’s important to make sure it is functioning efficiently and passing exhaust without creating undue restrictions that might reduce performance, fuel economy or emissions. That’s one of the reasons for periodic vehicle emissions testing. If the converter isn’t working, you won’t pass the test. If the your converter is plugged, it will create a restriction in your exhaust system. The buildup of backpressure will cause a drastic drop in engine performance and fuel economy, and may even cause the engine to stall after it starts if the blockage is severe. The easiest test for converter plugging is done with a vacuum gauge. Connect the gauge to a source of intake vacuum on the intake manifold, carburetor or throttle body. Note the reading at idle, then raise and hold engine speed at 2,500. The needle will drop when you first open the throttle, but should then rise and stabilize. If the vacuum reading starts to drop, pressure may be backing up in the exhaust system. You can also try to measure backpressure directly. If your engine has air injection, disconnect the check valve from the distribution manifold, and connect a low pressure gauge. Or, remove the oxygen sensor and take your reading at its hole in the manifold or headpipe. Refer to the backpressure specs for the application. Generally speaking, more than 1.25 psi of backpressure at idle, or more than 3 psi at 2,000 rpm tells you there’s an exhaust restriction. If there appears to be an exhaust restriction, disconnect the exhaust pipe just aft of the converter to relieve pressure and recheck the readings. CAUTION: The pipes will be hot so wait awhile for things to cool down. If vacuum goes up and/or backpressure drops, the problem isn’t not a plugged converter but a plugged muffler or collapsed pipe. If there’s little or no change in readings, the converter is plugged. Just because a converter is passing gas doesn’t mean it is okay. If the catalyst inside is contaminated or worn out, high carbon monoxide (CO) and/or hydrocarbon (HC) readings will be present in the exhaust. If you have access to a high temperature digital pyrometer (or an oven thermometer will do), check the converter’s temperature fore and aft. A good converter will usually run 100 degrees F hotter at its outlet than its inlet. Little or no temperature change would indicate low efficiency, or a problem with the converter’s air supply. Converters need supplemental oxygen in the exhaust to reburn pollutants, so if the air injection system or aspirator valve isn’t doing its job the converter can’t do its job either. Check the air injection pump, belt and check valve. If you suspect that the check valve is allowing exhaust to flow backwards, remove it and blow through both ends. It should let air pass in one direction, but not in the other. Examine the air injection manifold, too, because it tends to rust out and leak air. Check the diverter valve to make sure it is working correctly, too. It should be routing air to the converter when the engine is at normal temperature. On engines with aspirator valves instead of air pumps, you should hear and/or feel the fluttering of the internal flapper as the engine is idling. Causes Of Converter Failures Fouling, clogging, melt-down and breakage of the ceramic substrate inside a converter are common conditions that can cause problems. Plugging is usually the end result of a melt-down, which occurs because the converter gets too hot. This happens because the engine is dumping unburned fuel into the exhaust. The excess fuel lights off inside the converter and sends temperatures soaring. If it gets hot enough, the ceramic substrate that carries the catalyst melts. The unburned fuel may be getting into the exhaust because of a bad spark plug or valve, but an overly rich air/fuel mixture is another possibility. In older carbureted engines, a heavy or misadjusted carburetor float may be the underlying cause. But on newer engines with “feedback” carburetion or electronic fuel injection, the engine may not be going into “closed loop” (the normal mode where the computer regulates the air/fuel mixture to minimize emissions). A bad oxygen sensor or coolant sensor may be giving the computer bogus information. A sluggish or dead O2 sensor will make the computer think the exhaust is running lean, so the computer will try to compensate by making the fuel mixture rich. A coolant sensor that always indicates a cold engine will also keep the system in open loop, which means a steady diet of excess fuel. But it might not be the sensor’s fault. A thermostat that’s stuck open or is too cold for the application can prevent the engine from reaching its normal operating temperature. So if your converter has failed and needs to be replaced, the engine should be diagnosed for any underlying problems before the new converter is installed. Another cause of converter clogging and contamination is excessive oil consumption. Worn valve guides or seals can allow oil to be sucked into the engine’s combustion chambers. The same goes for worn or damaged rings or cylinders. Oil can form a great deal of carbon, and metals present in the oil can contaminate the catalyst. A compression check or leak-down test will tell you if the rings are leaking, while a fluttering vacuum gauge needle will help you identify worn valve guides.
My automotive / car keeps blowing fuses. Should I install a larger fuse? Houston, TX
Not unless you are willing to risk electrical damage or a fire! A fuse is a protection device that is designed to blow if the amp load in a circuit exceeds the “safe” limit for that circuit. Fuses are built with a specific amp rating which is marked on the fuse. The wiring and design load of the circuit dictates the size of fuse that’s required to protect the circuit. Circuits that draw a lot of power need fuses with high amp ratings (20 or 30 amps) while those that use minimal power require smaller fuses (5 to 15 amps). When the current in a circuit exceeds the normal limit for whatever reason, the metal element in the fuse melts and opens the circuit stopping the flow of current. A short, for example, causes a runaway electrical current. If not stopped, wires can start to melt and things can catch on fire. So respect the amp ratings specified for fuses (which can usually be found in your vehicle owners manual, on the fuse block itself or a fuse block reference decal). What happens if you install a fuse with the wrong amp rating? If you install a 20 amp fuse in a circuit designed for 10 amps, you’re asking for trouble. A difference of 10 amps might not sound like much, but it may be enough to fry a sensitive electronic component or to overheat wires to the point where the insulation may start to melt. WARNING: Under no circumstances should you ever bypass or eliminate a fuse. No electrical circuit should ever be operated without fuse protection. This is extremely dangerous, especially if you’ve had problems with a fuse blowing before. If a fuse keeps blowing, it usually means something is amiss in the circuit. The wiring should be checked along with the components in the circuit to determine if there’s a short or other problem. The fuse for the windshield wiper circuit, for example, may blow if ice or debris builds up in the cowl areas and interferes with the movement of the wiper arms. If a fuse blows in a motor circuit (heater blower motor, cooling fan motor, power seat or window, electric fuel pump, etc.), it often indicates a shorted motor. If a fuse in a light circuit blows, look for wiring or connector shorts. Adding driving lights may also overtax the headlight circuit unless a separate circuit is provided for the driving lights. An A/C fuse will blow if the system is low on refrigerant and is working unusually hard, or if the compressor is hanging up. Stereo systems with high amp boosters should also have their own electrical circuit with fuse protection to avoid overloading the normal radio circuit.
My automotive / car has two fuse panels,one under the instrument panel and one in the engine compartment. Houston, TX
The fuse panel inside the vehicle is usually for the headlights and electrical accessories such as the heater, radio, power windows, seats, defroster, etc., while the one under the hood (which is sometimes called the “power distribution center”) is for high amp systems such as the ignition circuit, fuel injectors, starter motor, fuel pump and antilock brake system Most domestic cars built up until the late 1980s had only the one fuse panel inside the vehicle. The other high amperage electrical circuits were typically protected by “fusible links,” special pieces of wire that were designed to melt just like a fuse if the circuit was overloaded. The Japanese and Europeans started using a separate fuse panel under the hood for the engine-related circuits almost a decade before the domestic automakers primarily because most of these vehicles were fuel injected. As fuel injection became more common on domestic-built cars, the need for a second fuse panel became obvious and fusible links were soon replaced with fuses. The fuses under the hood are typically large capacity fuses (30 amps or more) while those inside a vehicle are typically 20 amps or less.
On my automotive / car I have a bad voltage regulator, and do I have to replace my engine alternator? Houston, TX
The voltage regulator controls or regulates the alternator’s output. Think of it as the brains of the charging system. It senses how much voltage is needed by your vehicle, then modifies the field current within the alternator so it puts out just the right amount of current. Too little current can allow the battery to run down while too much can damage it and other electrical and electronic components. When the regulator fails, the charging system usually ceases to function — except in cases where the nature of the failure causes the alternator to run wild and overcharge the battery. In any event, the only cure for a dead or defective regulator is replacement. In older vehicles, the regulator was a separate component usually mounted somewhere in the engine compartment. If this type of regulator failed, it could be easily replaced in a matter of minutes with a new one. But for the last decade or more, most regulators have been mounted in or on the alternator itself. This was done by the vehicle manufacturers to simplify wiring and assembly. It was also made possible by advances in electronics that allowed the regulator to be reduced in size to a small chip. Charging systems that have a separate regulator mounted away from the alternator are referred to as “externally regulated” charging systems while those that have the regulator in or on the alternator are called “internally regulated” charging systems. On some vehicles there is no regulator at all! Voltage regulation is controlled by the engine computer. Unfortunately, internally regulated alternators are packaged as a unit — which means that if either component fails (alternator or regulator) both must be replaced. This is because internal regulators are not available separately (at least not to the general public or the typical service facility). Electrical shops and remanufacturers who rebuild alternators can get them and can replace the regulator separately if that’s all that’s wrong with the unit — but they’ll usually charge you the same as if you bought a rebuilt alternator. The truth is, the high cost of labor today has made it impractical for most service facilities to fool around trying to rebuild or repair components like alternators, starters, carburetors, front-wheel driveshafts, transmissions and even engines. It’s faster, easier and usually cheaper to simply replace the old unit with a new or remanufactured one than to try to overhaul or fix it. Besides, most new and remanufactured parts come with a guarantee.
My automotive / car battery keeps running down. Does that mean I need a new battery? Houston, TX
It might, but then again it might not. The only way to know for sure is to (1) test the condition of the battery to see if it is capable of holding a charge, (2) check the output of the charging system to see if it is functioning properly, and (3) if the battery and charging system are okay, check for a possible current drain on the battery when the key is off. In other words, if the battery is okay and the charging system is doing its job, then something is draining voltage from the battery and running it down when the key is off. One way to check the battery is to recharge it, then let it sit for a day with both battery cables disconnected. If the battery holds the charge and doesn’t run down, it’s probably okay, and the problem is in your charging system or wiring. To see if the charging system is working properly, start the car and turn on the headlights. If the headlights are dim, it indicates the lights are running off the battery and that little or no juice is being produced by the alternator. If the lights get brighter as you rev the engine, it means the alternator is producing some current, but may not be producing enough at idle to keep the battery properly charged. If the lights have normal brightness and don’t change intensity as the engine is revved, your charging system is functioning normally. You can also check the charging system by connecting the leads of a voltmeter to the battery. When the engine starts, the charging voltage should jump to about 14.5 or higher. If the reading doesn’t change or rises less than a volt, you have a charging problem that will require further diagnosis. If the battery and charging system seem to be working normally, the only thing that’s left is the electrical system. If the battery runs down overnight or when the vehicle sits for several days, it means something is remaining on and drawing current when the ignition is turned off. It may be a trunk light or cigarette lighter that remains on all the time, a fuel pump relay or other relay with frozen contacts that’s drawing current, a rear window defroster that doesn’t shut off, or a short in the radio or other electrical accessory. All vehicles draw a little current from the battery when the key is off to run the clock, keep the memory alive in a digital radio (so it doesn’t forget the station settings) and the engine computer. Alarm systems need current to keep their circuits armed as do cellular phones. Current drain on the battery can be checked with an ammeter. Make sure the ignition is off, then disconnect one of the battery cables. Connect one ammeter lead to the battery and the other to the cable. The normal current drain on most vehicles should be about 25 milliamps or less. If the key-off drain exceeds 100 milliamps, there’s an electrical problem that requires further diagnosis. Finding the hidden current drain can be time consuming. The easiest way to isolate the problem is to pull one fuse at a time from the fuse panel until the ammeter reading drops. This will tell you which circuit is draining the battery. Then you have to check the wiring and each of the components in that circuit to pinpoint the problem.
Is there any danger to me or my automotive / car vehicle if I give someone a “jump start”? Houston, TX
Yes. The danger to you is a battery explosion. Batteries contain hydrogen gas, which can ignite and explode if a spark occurs anywhere near the battery. Batteries also contain acid which may be splashed on you if the battery explodes. The danger to your vehicle is if someone reverses the jumper connections or touches the jumper cables together. The voltage surge that results may damage your charging system and/or other electronic components in your vehicle. To minimize these risks, use the following procedure when jump : Do not smoke. You should also wear eye protection. Make sure the vehicles are not touching (contact could provide an unwanted electrical path). Turn your engine off. Connect the red jumper cable from the positive (+) post or terminal on your “good” battery to the positive post or terminal on the low or dead battery in the other vehicle. Connect the black jumper cable from the negative (-) post or terminal on your good battery to a solid ground on the other vehicle. CAUTION: DO NOT make the final jumper connection directly to the low or dead battery itself. The reason for not doing this is because the final jumper connection usually produces a spark. Making the final connection away from the battery will minimize any danger of an explosion by keeping the spark well away from the battery. Make sure the ground connection on the vehicle with the low or dead battery provides a good electrical contact. Use an unpainted metal surface like an engine bracket or a frame member. Make sure the cables do not touch each other and that the cables are clear of the fan and pulleys on both vehicles. Start the engine in the vehicle with the good battery. Run the engine at fast idle for several minutes before attempting to start the vehicle with the low or dead battery. This will allow the charging system to pump some life into the other battery lessening the drain on the good battery and charging system. As soon as the vehicle with the dead battery starts, disconnect the battery cables. The vehicle should then be run or driven at least thirty minutes to recharge the low or dead battery. Additional charging time may be required depending on the battery’s condition and state of charge. If the vehicle does not crank or cranks slowly, recheck the jumper connections. If it still doesn’t crank, the problem may be something other then the battery (such as a bad starter, solenoid, battery cable connection or internal engine problem). If the vehicle cranks normally, but refuses to start, it may have an ignition, fuel or mechanical problem. Do not crank the starter more than thirty seconds at a stretch. Allow the starter to cool for about two minutes before cranking the engine again. Continuous grinding of the starter can cause it to overheat and fail. Continuous cranking can also sap the juice out of your good battery and/or overload and possibly damage your charging system, too!
Does a replacement automotive /car battery have to be the same size as my old one? Houston, TX
No. If your old battery has reached the end of the road and needs to be replaced, or if you think you need a battery with a bigger amp capacity for easier cold weather starting or to handle added electrical accessories (such as a killer stereo system, driving lights, etc.), then there’s no reason why you have to install a battery that’s the same size as your old one. The word “size” may be a bit confusing here because what we’re really talking about is the battery’s amp or power rating, not the physical dimensions of its case. A battery with a bigger case is not necessarily a more powerful battery. Battery manufacturers can cram a lot of amps into a relatively small box by varying the design of the cell plates and grids. So two batteries with identical exterior dimensions may have significantly different power ratings. Batteries come in many different sizes and configurations (which are referred to as “group” sizes) because the vehicle manufacturers can’t get together and standardize anything. So when you’re choosing a battery, you have to consider three things: (1) the group size (height, width, length and post configuration), (2) whether your battery has top or side posts, and (3) how many amps will be needed for reliable cold starting and vehicle operation. Group Sizes Because there are 57 different group sizes, many aftermarket replacement battery suppliers consolidate group sizes to simplify inventory requirements. So some replacement batteries may not fit exactly the same as the original. The battery may be slightly shorter, taller, narrower or wider than the original. But as long as it fits the battery tray and there are no interference problems (too tall a battery may cause the cables to make contact with the hood causing a dangerous and damaging electrical short!), it should work fine. Some replacement batteries come with both side and top posts to further consolidate applications. Some also have folding handles to make handling and installation easier. Battery Ratings Though many replacement batteries are marketed by the number of “months” of warranty coverage provided (36, 48, 60, etc.), what’s more important in terms of performance is the battery’s power rating which is usually specified in “Cold Cranking Amps” (CCA) rating. The CCA rating tells you how many amps the battery can deliver at 0 degree F. for 30 seconds and still maintain a minimum voltage of 1.2v. per cell. In the past, the rule of thumb was to always buy a battery with a rating of at least one CCA per cubic inch of engine displacement. But twice that is probably a better recommendation for reliable cold weather starting. At the very least, you should buy a replacement battery with the same or better CCA rating as your old battery or one that meets the vehicle manufacturer’s requirements. For most small four-cylinder engines, this would be a 450 CCA or larger battery, for a six cylinder application, a 550 CCA or larger battery, and for a V8 a 650 CCA or larger battery. Bigger is usually better. Extra battery capacity is recommended if your vehicle has a lot of electrical accessories such as air conditioning, power windows, seats, electric rear defogger, etc. Battery Installation Most batteries are “dry charged” at the factory, which means they’re activated as soon as acid is poured into the cells. Even so, the battery may require some charging to bring it all the way up to full charge. Most experts recommend charging the battery before it is installed regardless of whether it is dry charged or not. This will ensure the battery is at full charge and lessen the strain on your charging system. When the battery is installed, it must be locked down and held securely by a clamp, strap or bracket. This will not only keep the battery from sliding around on its tray (which might allow the positive cable to touch against something and short out the battery or start a fire!), but will also help to minimize vibration that can damage the battery. The battery cables should also be inspected to make sure they’re in good condition, too. If the cables are badly corroded, don’t fit the battery posts or terminals tightly, or have been “fixed” by installing temporary clamps on the ends, the cables should be replaced. At the very least, you should clean the cable clamps and battery posts with a post cleaner, sandpaper or a wire brush to ensure good electrical contact. A light coating of grease, petroleum jelly and/or installing chemically treated felt washers under the cable clamps will help prevent corrosion
Pulsation or vibration in the automotive / car brake pedal. Houston, TX
A pulsating brake pedal, which may be accompanied by a shuddering or jerky stop during normal braking, usually means a warped rotor or an out-of-round drum — although it can sometimes be caused by loose wheel bearings, a bent axle shaft or loose brake parts. If the vehicle is equipped with ABS, however, some pedal feedback and noise is normal during panic stops or when braking on wet or slick surfaces. But you should not experience any ABS pedal feedback when braking normally on dry pavement. The faces of a disc brake rotor must be parallel (within .0005 inch on most cars) and flat (no more than about .002 to .005 inches of runout) otherwise it will kick the brake pads in and out when the brakes are applied, producing a pulsation or vibration that can be felt in the brake pedal as the rotor alternately grabs and slips. You can often see warpage in a brake rotor by simply looking at it. If the rotor has telltale glazed or discolored patches on its face, chances are it is warped. Measuring it with a dial indicator and checking it for flatness with a straight edge will confirm the diagnosis. Resurfacing the rotor to restore the faces will usually eliminate the pulsation (unless the rotor is bent or is badly worn and has started to collapse in which case the rotor must be replaced). But it may only do so temporarily because of metallurgical changes that take place in the rotor. Hard spots often extend below the surface of the rotor. Resurfacing will restore the surface, but the hard spot may reappear again in a few thousand miles as the rotor wears. For this reason, GM and others recommend replacing warped rotors rather than resurfacing them. Pedal pulsation caused by drum warpage isn’t as common, but it can happen. A drum can sometimes be warped out-of-round by applying the parking brake when the brakes are hot. As the drum cools, the force of the shoes causes the drum to distort. What causes a rotor to warp? Overtorquing or unevenly torquing the lug nuts with an impact wrench is a common cause. For this reason, most experts recommend using a torque wrench to tighten lug nuts when changing a wheel. There are also special torque-limiting extension sockets called “Torque Sticks” that can be safely used with an impact wrench to accurately tighten lug nuts. But a plain impact wrench should never be used for the final tightening of the lug nuts because most provide no control whatsoever over the amount of torque applied to the nuts. Overheating can also cause rotors to warp. Overheating may be the result of severe abuse or dragging brakes. Defects in the rotor casting, such as thick and thin areas can also cause uneven cooling that leads to warpage. Hard spots in the metal due to casting impurities can be yet another cause.
Replacing the automotive / car tires,do I have to use the same size as the originals? Houston, TX
On ABS-equipped vehicles, all vehicle manufacturers recommend using the same size and aspect ratio tire as the original. ABS systems monitor the rotational speed of the tires through individual wheel speed sensors. Changing to an oversize tire with a taller diameter than stock would cause the tires to rotate at a slightly slower speed relative to vehicle speed than the stock tires. Changing to a low profile tire with a shorter diameter would cause the tires to rotate at a slightly faster speed relative to vehicle speed. Though the difference either way isn’t much, it may be enough to upset the calibration of the ABS system and have an adverse effect on its ability to detect and prevent skids. Another reason for not changing tire sizes is because it can affect the speedometer, odometer and transmission shift points on a vehicle with an electronic automatic. Oversize tires will make your speedometer read slower than normal (which may get you a speeding ticket unless you have the speedometer recalibrated to compensate for the change in tire size!). Smaller diameter tires will make the speedometer read faster than normal, and increase the mileage readings on your odometer at a faster than normal rate. All this doesn’t mean you can’t change tire and wheel sizes, however. If you maintain the same overall tire diameter as before, you can switch to larger wheels with a shorter aspect ratio tire. This is the basic idea behind “Plus 1, Plus 2” tire and wheel sizing. Replacing a stock 14-inch wheel and 70 series tire with a 15-inch 60 series tire would be Plus 1. Plus 2 would be moving up to a 16-inch wheel and possibly a 50 series tire. Plus 3 would be going to the new 17-inch tire and rim combination — which could turn out to be a Plus 4 application if the vehicle originally had 13-inch wheels. Aspect Ratio The “aspect ratio” of a tire is the ratio of its section height to its section width. The smaller the number, the shorter the sidewall and the wider the tire. Low aspect ratio tires started with 60 series some time ago, then progressed to 50 series and now 45, 40 and even 35 series tires. Shorter aspect ratio tires (60 and less) are usually considered to be performance tires because they lower vehicle ride height, have a wider tread and put more rubber on the road to improve handling. But the shorter the sidewall, the harsher the tire rides. A tire’s ability to support a given load depends on its air volume. If you go to a lower aspect ratio tire with a shorter sidewall, the tire must be wider to maintain the same air volume. If you just go to a shorter aspect ratio tire without increasing width, the load carrying capacity goes down. That’s why when you go from a standard wheel to a Plus 1 wheel, the rim is usually wider to accommodate a wider tire. It’s important to follow the tire manufacturer’s recommendations as to load capacities when going to larger wheel and tire sizes. There’s no hard rule that says you have to drop 10 points in aspect ratio when increasing wheel size one inch, but that’s the general recommendation.
My automotive / car brakes are squealing. Does that mean I need a brake job? Houston, TX
Not necessarily. A certain amount of brake noise is considered “normal” these days because of the harder semi-metallic brake pads that are used in most front-wheel drive cars and minivans. This type of noise does not affect braking performance and does not indicate a brake problem. However, if the noise is objectionable, there are ways to eliminate it. Brake squeal is caused by vibration between the brake pads, rotors and calipers. Pad noise can be lessened or eliminated by installing “noise suppression shims” (thin self-adhesive strips) on the backs of the pads, or applying “noise suppression compound” on the backs of the pads to dampen vibrations. Additional steps that can be taken to eliminate noise are to resurface the rotors and replace the pads. Some brands of semi-metallic pads are inherently noisier than others because of the ingredients used in the manufacture of the friction material. Strange as it may sound (pardon the pun), cheaper pads are sometimes quieter than premium quality or original equipment pads. That’s because the cheaper pads contain softer materials that do not wear as well. For that reason, they are not recommended. Premium quality pads should cause no noise problems when installed properly and will give you better brake performance and longer life. Conditions that can contribute to a disc brake noise problem include glazed or worn rotors, too rough a finish on resurfaced rotors, loose brake pads, missing pad insulators, shims, springs or antirattle clips, rusty or corroded caliper mounts, worn caliper mounts, and loose caliper mounting hardware. Drum noise may be due to loose or broken parts inside the drum. Most experts recommend new caliper and drum hardware when the brakes are relined, a thorough inspection of the calipers and rotors for any wear or other conditions that might have an adverse affect on noise or brake performance, and resurfacing the rotors (and drums) if the surfaces are not smooth, flat and parallel. If you hear metallic scraping noises, on the other hand, it usually means your brake linings are worn out and need to be replaced — especially if your brake pedal feels low or if you’ve noticed any change in the way your vehicle brakes (it pulls to one side when braking, it requires more pedal effort, etc.). Some brake pads have built-in “wear sensors” that produce a scraping or squealing noise when the pads become worn. In any event, noisy brakes should always be inspected to determine whether or not there’s a problem. And don’t delay! If the pads have worn down to the point where metal-to-metal contact is occurring, your vehicle may not be able to stop safely, and you may score the rotors or drums to the point where they have to be replaced.
How to Jump Start a Automotive / Car with a Dead Battery. Houston, TX
Here are few tips and instructions on jump starting a dead battery. First things first, though. You need to inspect the dead battery. If you see any damage such as leaks or cracks. DO NOT go any further. Put away the jumper cables and call a wrecker. A damaged battery can explode and really hurt you. If the battery looks ok, then park the cars close enough to each other for the jumper cables to reach and shut off both engines. Now make sure the terminals are not caked with corrosion. Try to clean them off as best you can. A corroded terminal will make it a lot harder to jump the battery. At this point you are ready to hook up your jumper cables to the batteries. (Normally, the red cable is (+) positive and black cable is (-) negative) They must be connected in this exact order: 1. Connect one end of the (+) positive cable to the (+) positive terminal on the dead battery. 2. Connect the other end of the (+) positive cable to (+) positive terminal on the good battery. 3. Connect one end of the (-) negative cable to (-) negative terminal on the good battery. 4. Connect the other end of the (-) negative cable to the engine block of the dead car. You are ready to start up the good car’s engine and charge the dead battery. First of all, shut off all electrical equipment on the good car. (head lights, radio, etc.) Let the good car’s engine run for a minute or so before you attempt to start the dead one. Now get in the dead car and attempt to crank it. If it sounds like it wants to start but won’t quite get there, give it some more time and try again. When the dead has started and is running, it is time to remove the jumper cables. This must be done in reverse order. Here are the steps: Disconnect (-) negative cable from the engine block on dead car. Disconnect (-) negative cable from the (-) negative terminal on the good battery. Disconnect (+) positive cable from the (+) positive terminal on the good battery. Disconnect (+) positive cable from the (+) positive terminal on the dead battery.
Tips for Maintaining your Automotive / Car Battery. Houston, TX
You seldom think about your car battery until you are in a deserted parking garage late at night and your car won’t start. Then it becomes very important in your life. Car batteries require simple and routine maintenance in order to work properly over their lives. If you can open your hood and use a wire brush, you can maintain a car battery. First thing is to pop open your hood and locate your battery. Don’t worry, it won’t bite. The 2 posts that the battery cables are connected to must be clean and free of corrosion. Corrosion can prevent the cables from getting a charge from the battery and prevent your car from starting. Simply keeping your terminals clean can keep those troubles away. Get a wire brush and scrub the contacts clean. If you are really motivated, you can remove the cables and scrub the inside of connector and the terminal post. You should have a good contact after you complete this little chore. You also need to check your water level, especially when it is hot outside. If the water level drops too low, the battery will have a difficult time holding a charge. Next time you fill up, ask the guy at the service station to check it for you. Don’t wait until your car is slow to crank up. If your battery is not putting out enough juice, it may be too late to save it. The time to save your car battery is before these symptoms show up and always have a pair of jumper cables or a battery booster in your truck. You never know if that old battery has cranked for the last time.
Automotive / Car No Start and Clicking Sound Houston, TX
1. Try again. Though the battery is nearly “dead” the clicking indicates that there is still some life left. Give your auto a few minutes and try the key again. There may be enough energy to start your car. (Make sure you do not pump the gas over and over while doing so as you will likely flood the engine. This will also prohibit the car from starting.) If the car starts, allow it to run for at least 20 minutes to provide time for your alternator to recharge the low battery. 2. Check under the hood. If the car doesn’t restart after a few tries, take a look under the hood. Look at the battery while you’re under the hood. 3. “Jump It” You will need to boost the battery. (Alternatively, you can take the battery to a service station or call AAA for a recharge or jump.)
My automotive / car suspension is not adjustable. Does that mean the wheels can’t be aligned? Houston, TX
No, it simply means the vehicle manufacturer was too cheap to design adjustable suspension components when it engineered your car. When a car maker designs a car, engineers and accountants scrutinize each and every component to figure out how they can reduce manufacturing and assembly costs. If a few cents can be saved by leaving out an adjustable camber bolt, caster shim or whatever, they’ll do it. They may have great faith in their own ability to build a vehicle that never needs to be aligned or fixed, but we all know from experience that such notions are untrue. So even though a suspension is nonadjustable and shouldn’t require any corrections, that doesn’t necessarily make it so. Even brand new vehicles can roll off the assembly line with wheels that don’t meet their own alignment criteria. Fortunately, the aftermarket has come up with ways to correct the “mistakes” of the vehicle manufacturers. If the car maker doesn’t include provisions for adjusting the suspension, it creates an opportunity for some aftermarket part’s supplier to come up with means of making such adjustments possible. These include offset bushings, shims, wedges and other alignment aids. So even though your suspension may have few if any adjustments for things like camber, caster and rear toe (front toe is adjustable on all cars and trucks), there are probably aftermarket alignment aids that allow at least some limited corrections to be made on nonadjustable suspensions.
Do my automotive / car wheels need to be realigned after the struts have been replaced? Houston, TX
On most vehicles they do. Here’s why: MacPherson struts are more than overgrown shock absorbers. They’re an integral part of your vehicle’s suspension. They replace the upper control arms and ball joints and serve as the steering pivots for the front wheels. When the strut assembly is unbolted and removed from the vehicle, the original alignment of the suspension is lost — unless the position of the camber bolts and upper strut plate are first marked so they can be reinstalled in exactly the same position as before. But this only works if the same original strut is being put back into the car. If the strut is being replaced because it is leaking, damaged or worn out, the dimensions of the new strut will usually vary enough to cause a change in wheel alignment. So wheel alignment should at least be checked to see if adjustment is necessary (which it usually is). On some import cars, the struts are “rebuildable.” The housing has a removable nut that allows the old guts inside to be dumped out and a new cartridge installed. On these vehicles, it should not be necessary to realign the wheels after rebuilding the strut
Driving down the highway, my automotive / car pulls to one side. Houston, TX
A steady steering pull or “lead” to one side may have any of a number of causes. The most likely cause is wheel misalignment. This may be due to rear wheel toe or axle misalignment, front wheel camber misalignment, too much cross camber or caster alignment (more than a degree of difference side to side), or someone having “aligned” the front wheels without the steering wheel being properly centered beforehand. In any event, it will probably be necessary to have the alignment checked to diagnose and correct the problem — unless one of the following is causing the pull: An underinflated front tire on one side. Check tire pressures and make sure they are the same side-to-side (no more than a couple of pounds of difference). Mismatched tires. Tires of different size, aspect ratio or even tread pattern on one side can create enough of a difference in rolling resistance to cause a pull. A weak or sagging spring. Measure and compare ride height on both sides of your vehicle (measure at the fender openings). If one side is an inch or more lower than the other side, chances are you have a spring that needs to be shimmed or replaced. A dragging brake. This can be caused by a frozen or sticking disc brake caliper that doesn’t allow the pads to kick back out from the rotor or weak or broken return springs in a drum brake that don’t pull the shoes back from the drum. Another possibility here might be a packing brake that isn’t fully releasing on one side. An uneven load. If you, your significant other or a passenger is causing your vehicle to lean to one side, it can cause the steering to lead in that direction. Don’t laugh, a few hundred extra pounds can make a big difference in a small vehicle — especially if the weight isn’t evenly distributed side-to-side. If you can’t do anything about the extra weight, it is often possible to compensate by having the wheels realigned with a “simulated” load positioned in the vehicle. Of course, then your vehicle may lead in the opposite direction if the extra weight is removed. Excessive road crown. Roads are usually sloped (crowned) from the center towards the sides for drainage. If you spend a lot of time driving on highly crowned roads and find the constant lead to the outside shoulder annoying, you can have the wheels realigned to compensate for the excessive crown. Adding or subtracting camber from one wheel or the other to create a difference in the cross camber alignment of your front wheels can counteract this kind of problem.
Finding a auto repair shop You Can Trust. Houston, TX
How do you find a shop you can trust to service your vehicle—one that will make you feel confident about your choice and provide quality repairs at a fair price? Here are some tips: Start with the most obvious. Is the facility neat and clean? Are employees genuinely concerned with your questions and are their answers direct, to the point and reasonable? Look at the credentials of the business and the employees who will service your vehicle. Most shops will post educational certifications or accomplishments and professional business affiliations in their waiting areas. Some affiliations to look for include trade association membership, such as the Automotive Service Association (ASA). Look for certification or education offered by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), the Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair (I-CAR) and the Automotive Management Institute (AMI). Ask about the equipment used to diagnose and perform the service. Is it up-to-date and are the technicians educated in the proper equipment use? Make sure a written estimate is provided prior to letting the business begin the repair. A good rule of thumb is to request approval on any changes to the original estimate that exceed 10 percent. Ask about the shop’s warranty. Most automotive service facilities will warranty their parts and labor either in writing or in shop posted announcements. Ask family, friends and neighbors for their recommendations. Word-of-mouth referrals are the shop’s best form of advertising.
10 tips to improve fuel milage for automobiles / cars. Houston, TX
With gas prices at an all-time high, motorists are looking for ways to improve gas mileage. Here’s a few things to remember: Warming up your vehicle in the driveway wastes gas. Drive slowly for the first few blocks instead to bring your engine to optimal driving temperature. Smooth, gradual acceleration increases fuel mileage; rapid starts waste gas. Try to maintain a steady rate of speed and take advantage of timed traffic lights. Watch your speed. For every mile per hour over 50, mileage decreases roughly one percent. When traveling at a steady speed, most vehicles get their best fuel econonmy between 35 and 45 mph. Proper tire inflation and wheel alignment decrease road resistance and increase mileage. Check tire pressure monthly and rotate tires using your vehicles specific maintenance schedule. A well-maintained vehicle will run properly and use fuel more efficiently. Use your air conditioning wisely. With the air on, your engine uses more fuel. Drive less by planning ahead. Try to do all your errands in one trip and plan the most efficient route. Don’t vent your anger behind the wheel. Aggressive acceleration wastes gas and can be dangerous as well. When you see a red light or stop sign ahead, take your foot off the accelerator and let your vehicle coast in gear. This lets momentum get you to the intersection. Shift properly. If you have a manual transmission, shifting into high gear as soon as possible without straining the engine reduces drag and uses less fuel.
Important items to carry in your vehicle in case of road-side emergencies. Houston, TX
In case of road-side emergencies, accidents or bad weather always have in your vehicle the following items: Jumper cables, Pliers, an adjustable wrench and a screwdriver. A first-aid kit, blankets, a supply of any regularly needed or taken medications, candles and matches, sand or kitty litter for climates with snow or ice, clean water, canned fruit or nuts and a can opener.
High Water Headaches for car / auto floods. Houston, TX
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), floods are one of the most common and widespread of all disasters. Most communities in the United States have experienced some level of flooding from high water due to spring rains, heavy thunderstorms or winter snow thaws. While your vehicle may not have been flooded or completely covered in water, that doesn?t necessarily mean that you should not be concerned about water damage. If you drove through high water, there?s a chance that you may have damaged your vehicle. It all comes down to how much water the vehicle took in and where it reached. Follow these guidelines to check for damage due to water intrusion or contamination. Check interior carpets, upholstery and door and trim panels for dampness. If they are wet then the vehicle will need professional attention. If all you do is let the carpet dry, you will quickly be rewarded by mildew and nasty odors. Seat brackets, motors and modules should also be checked for rust and proper operation. Pull the engine oil and transmission fluid dipsticks and differential plug. If the fluid appears milky, diluted, is no longer its original color or is beige in color, then it is likely the pans contain water. The vehicle should be towed to your ASE certified mechanic or repair shop. Driving the vehicle with water present may damage the internal parts and require extensive overhaul or repairs. (NOTE: Some new synthetic differential fluids may appear to be milky but are not water contaminated, when in doubt let a professional make the evaluation.) Check the air filter for water. If it is wet, replace the air filter and change the oil. Check the undercarriage, bumpers, radiator area and frame for mud, grass, dirt, debris and rust. If any of these are present have the vehicle washed and cleaned as soon as possible. Have the brake system checked by a professional. Check the exterior lights for moisture and water. Replace headlights and bulbs that contain water. Listen for abnormal noises while the engine is running. Make a note of where the noise is coming from and take the vehicle to a mechanic as soon as possible. Pay particular attention to the alternator, serpentine belt, starter, power steering unit, air conditioner and wheel bearings. Inspect the suspension joints and lubricate as necessary. Many newer vehicles are lubricated at the factory for life; however, these joints should be checked for rust. Following these simple guidelines, you can help minimize the potential for damage to your vehicle.
Car / Auto Preventive Maintenance That You Can Do Yourself Houston, TX
The vehicle’s fluids are very important and should be checked regularly. These fluids include the following: Brake Fluid — This check is done by loosening the clip on the master cylinder and removing the lid. If fluid is needed, consult the vehicle owner’s manual for correct type and fill to recommended level. Engine Oil — Correct engine oil level should be maintained to assure proper lubrication of your vehicle’s engine. It is best to check engine oil level approximately five minutes after a fully warmed up engine is turned off or before starting the engine after is has sat for a long period of time. Remove the engine oil dipstick, wipe the dipstick clean with a lint-free cloth or paper towel. Reinsert dipstick until it fully seats in its tube. Remove dipstick and read oil level. Add oil only when the level is at or below the ADD OIL mark. Power Steering Fluid — This check is done by removing and checking the dipstick. NOTE: The dipstick is attached to the cap of the power steering fluid reservoir. Use the dipstick to check fluid level in the same manner as you would check engine oil. Transmission/Transaxle Fluid — This check should be done while the engine is running in neutral with the parking brake securely set. The transmission should be at operating temperature. Remove dipstick, wipe clean, insert and remove again to check fluid level. CAUTION: DO NOT OVERFILL! Windshield Washer Solvent — This check should be done by removing the cap and reservoir and refilling with solvent. Antifreeze — This check is done by removing the radiator cap from the cool engine and refilling, if needed, with antifreeze.
Save Money at the Pump for auto / car Houston, TX
Despite historic high gas prices, Americans continue to travel the roads in record numbers. Follow these guidelines to have a little extra money in your pocket when you hit the road. Tires tie in to gas savings: You can save money at the pump simply by checking the air pressure in your tires regularly. The U.S. Department of Energy reports one pound of underinflation costs consumers two to three miles of gas per gallon. That wastes four million gallons of gas per day nationwide. Take time out of your busy schedule at least once a month to make sure your tire pressure matches the manufacturer’s recommended amount found in your owner’s manual. Tune in to tune ups: Keeping your engine properly tuned can save you big bucks. The U.S. Department of Energy says fixing a car that’s noticeably out of tune can improve gas mileage by 4 percent. Healthy air filters: You should check and replace air filters regularly. Replacing a clogged air filter can improve your car’s gas mileage by as much as 10 percent. Get the pedal off the metal: Fifty-five not only saves lives, it saves gas. Government figures show gas mileage decreases rapidly at speeds above 60 mph. Each 5 mph you drive over 60 mph is like paying an additional $0.15 per gallon for gas. Beat the heat: Buy gasoline when it’s cooler outside, like early morning or later at night. That’s because gas is denser in cool temperatures, and gas pumps measure by volume. You’ll get more bang for your buck. Plan ahead: Cars hate gridlock as much as we do. Avoid congested areas in order to keep your car from idling. Drive sensibly: If you drive aggressively, by accelerating and braking abruptly, you’re wasting fuel. By driving a little more sensibly, avoiding jackrabbit starts and stops, you can save yourself money by increasing gas mileage by up to 33 percent at highway speeds amd by 5 percent around town.
Be Aware of auto /car Tire Wear. Houston, TX
While irregular tire wear is a good indication that it might be time to have your tires replaced, did you know that it can also be a warning sign that your vehicle is experiencing steering, alignment or suspension problems? Becoming familiar with these early warning signs is a good preventative maintenance tip that will keep you on the road. Steering If your vehicle is pulling to one side, make sure you first check your tire pressure. If your tire pressure is balanced, your steering problems could be due to any of the following: an uneven tire rod length, incorrect toe, unequal camber or caster, or an incorrect center link/rack height. If you are experiencing excessive steering play or hard steering, have your technician check for loose or worn struts, strut mounts, shocks, springs and/or bushings. Suspension There are many components within the suspension system of your vehicle. If you are experiencing suspension problems, have your technician check the tire alignment, bearings, bushings, strut rods, springs and/or control arms. Be sure to inspect all suspension components and repair all parts that are worn or damaged. Failure to do so may allow the problem to reoccur and cause premature failure of other suspension components. Alignment Wheel alignment is needed for proper handling and tire wear. Proper wheel alignment keeps the wheels from scuffing, dragging or slipping. It also reduces fuel consumption and strain on steering and suspension parts, and improves steering ability. There are three alignment angles that affect your vehicle; camber, caster and toe. Camber is the inward or outward tilt of the wheel at the top from a true vehicle line and is measured in degrees. The purpose of this adjustment is to distribute the vehicle load closer to the point of road contact. This makes steering easier and helps prevent excessive tire wear. Caster is a directional control angle measured in degrees and is the amount that the steering axis tilted from true vertical backward or forward. Caster affects turning ease, straight-line stability and steering wheel returnability. Toe is the difference between the front and rear of the corresponding tires at spindle height. This is easier to understand when you compare your car’s wheels to your own feet. When the fronts of the tires face in toward the car, this is called toe-in. When they face out from the car, this is called toe-out. Incorrect toe will increase tire scrub and wear.