Most Recent Articles

Cool Running (Water Pump)

Your vehicle is like you in a way.  When it gets hot, it needs to be cooled down.  And one of the key parts to keeping it cool is the water pump.

Now, that's a bit of a misnomer.  It IS a pump, but it's pumping coolant, not pure water.  Cooling off your engine is vital since it builds up heat when it creates power by burning fuel.  Your water pump acts as a way to recirculate that coolant.  It goes through a series of tubes and hoses through the engine where it picks up heat, then is sent off to the radiator to get rid of that heat.  Cooled off, the coolant is recycled through the water pump to start the journey again.

The water pump works by taking mechanical power from the engine, usually from a belt.  Obviously, that belt has to be in good condition and adjusted properly or else the water pump won't be able to do its job.

Here are some things to look for that will signal problems with your water pump.  If your heat gauge is erratic or showing a much higher than normal temperature, that could be a sign of trouble.  Another is if you hear a whine under the hood.  And if that gets louder when you go faster, get it checked right away.  You may see steam coming out from under the hood or coolant may be leaking. 

These signs signal that it's time for you to have a technician check to see where the problem is. Some water pumps are powered by a timing belt.  If your vehicle has that design and your timing belt is due for replacement, sometimes it's a good idea to replace the water pump too, even if it's working properly.  That's because the labor to replace the timing belt can be expensive and it may be wise to proactively take care of the water pump while it's disassembled.

Your service advisor will explain the options available and offer the best path to keeping your water pump doing its job.  Your engine's life depends on it.

PDR
1008 N. Cunningham Avenue
Urbana, Illinois 61802
217-367-9481
http://www.pdrauto.com

Start Me Up (Ignition Systems)

When you start up your gasoline engine car, you may not know that it's using the same ignition principles as it has for decades.  You have spark plugs that require enough power so a spark can jump across a gap at its tip.  Years ago, a vehicle's 12-volt system had to produce 15,000-25,000 volts to do that, so engineers came up with something called an ignition coil that bumps up the voltage. It also has to be done at just the right interval called timing.

The first systems had a distributor, a mechanical device with a rotating disc that switched the power to the ignition coil on and off.  That higher voltage then was sent to the spark plugs at the correct time interval. But the mechanical "points" had to be replaced and adjusted every 12,000 miles/20,000 kilometers.  Engineers later replaced the switching mechanism with solid state ones, but they still needed replacement after 120,000 miles/200,000 kilometers.

The next evolution came in the 80's when the distributor was replaced with a couple of sensors which talked to a computer.  This "DIS" (distributor-less automotive ignition system) was a big advance.  Plus, it didn't use just one ignition coil for all the cylinders.  It had coil "packs" that each provided spark to two cylinders.  That way, the voltage could be boosted even higher, to 30,000 volts, which helped engines be able to ignite a leaner fuel/air mixture.

Recently have come even more improvements.  Now instead of coil packs, there's a coil that's attached to each spark plug.  No more spark plug wires means less maintenance. Plus, a stronger, hotter spark of 50,000 volts can make an engine more reliable, increase fuel economy and reduce emissions.

No matter what ignition system your vehicle uses, your vehicle service facility has a staff of technicians trained to work on the latest technology.  Make sure to have your vehicle maintained regularly so you can take full advantage of these modern engineering marvels.

PDR
1008 N. Cunningham Avenue
Urbana, Illinois 61802
217-367-9481
http://www.pdrauto.com

Your Vehicle is Talking to YOU (Service Warning Signs)

Your vehicle may be like that famous battery bunny, the one that just keeps going and going.  But while it may seem sometimes like you never need to take your vehicle in to be worked on, there are some things you should keep your eyes, ears and nose out for. They are warning you about something that needs attention at your vehicle service facility.

  • If a warning light is on, don't ignore it; do something about it.  There are warning lights for battery, oil, engine heat, tire pressure… you name it.  And the manufacturer put them there for a reason.  They're telling you something isn't normal. So when one goes on, have it checked out soon, especially the blinking Check Engine light.  The earlier you have any warning light issue diagnosed, the more likely you are to avoid a more serious problem.
  • If your vehicle is vibrating or shaking, it's not only annoying, it could signal trouble.  You can bet your vehicle didn't do that when it came out of the factory! If you can feel a vibration in the seat of your pants or shaking in the steering wheel, head on over to your service facility and have them diagnose what is causing it.
  • Smoke coming out of anywhere in your vehicle is a signal (smoke signal, get it?) that there may be a troubling issue.  Likewise if you can smell something burning (like oil), the nose knows there's something amiss.  Time to find out what.
  • If you aren't getting the distance you used to out of a tank of gas, it may not simply be your lead foot. A lot of vehicles will give you a digital readout of your latest mileage.  If your fuel economy takes a dip, take a trip over to your service facility.  You might have a sticky brake caliper… or it might be something as simple as your tires need more air.
  • Yes, you know the dreaded puddle of something under your vehicle can be a bad sign.  It could smell sweet, it could feel oily.  But it means something is leaking.  Go get it checked.  Sooner is better when it comes to locating the source of a leak.
  • If your brake pedal travels further than it used to while stopping, that could be compromising your ability to stop safely.  Also, if the brakes are making odd sounds, pulsating, grinding or squealing, they're screaming at you for attention.  Proper braking is a must for your safety and those drivers around you.

An old 80s TV show called "Knight Rider" featured a talking car.  You already have a vehicle that's telling you things all the time.  Give it a listen and it will keep you going safely down the road for many years to come.

PDR
1008 N. Cunningham Avenue
Urbana, Illinois 61802
217-367-9481
http://www.pdrauto.com

Don't be Fuelish (Signs Fuel Pump is Failing)

A driver of a large SUV loaded with equipment was heading on a 7-hour work trip when he stopped at a gas station to refuel.  When he went to restart his SUV, it turned over but wouldn't catch.  Try as he might, he was never able to get it started again. 

Of course there are many things that can cause those symptoms, but the next day he had his SUV towed to a service repair facility.  Using their test equipment, they were able to pinpoint the problem.  His fuel pump had failed.  The pump, which was located in the fuel tank, had to be replaced, and after awhile he was back on the road, delayed, but happy to be up and running again. 

What had happened is that the pump was not strong enough to deliver adequate  fuel to his engine, vital to being able to start it.  It had delivered just enough pressure in the morning to get it started the first time, but it was on its last legs.  He had been having trouble starting his SUV in the days leading up to this trip, a clue that something was wrong. 

The engine relies on a certain pressure of fuel from the pump to run properly, and there are some other signs to be aware of that your fuel pump may need to be replaced.  If you are putting strain on your engine, such as going uphill or hauling a big load, and the engine sputters, it may be a sign that the pump isn't delivering that consistent pressure.  Another warning sign is if your engine is running hot and then stalls.  That could mean your fuel pump is getting weak.

Sometimes you might notice your vehicle suddenly speeds up on its own or your fuel economy goes from good to poor in a short time.  If your fuel gauge shows you have plenty of fuel in the tank and your engine stalls, that's another possible sign of a failing fuel pump. 

Technicians have special equipment to see where the fuel problems are, and there are many possibilities.  Have your vehicle checked before you're left stranded.  Oh, and one more tip to prolong the life of your fuel pump.  Since it is cooled and lubricated by the fuel in your tank, make sure you keep at least a quarter of a tank of fuel at all times.  Avoid your "low fuel" light going on and you may be helping yourself avoid having to replace your fuel pump. 

PDR
1008 N. Cunningham Avenue
Urbana, Illinois 61802
217-367-9481
http://www.pdrauto.com

Wired! (Battery Cable Service)

Colder weather brings out the worst in a vehicle's battery.  On a very cold day, you may have experienced that your engine cranks slowly when starting.  But while it may be the battery itself, it may also be the parts that transfer the power to other the other electrical components, the battery cables.  After all, you have to have some way to get the current out of the battery and out to where it needs to go.

Battery cables have a couple of enemies: corrosion and age.  You may have looked under the hood and noticed a light-colored powder or crust around the terminals.  That's what happens when acids corrode the ends of the battery terminals.  Corrosion inhibits the connection and may reduce the amount of power getting to the electrical accessories to the point where they are not working correctly, if at all.

Here are some symptoms of problems with your battery cables. You might notice a clicking sound when you turn the key, some of your vehicle's electrical parts (like the sound system or the horn) don't work or, in some cases, the vehicle won't start at all.

When you take your vehicle to a repair facility, the technician will use instruments to check voltages to see how much current is getting to what location. That includes a starter draw test during which the battery's voltage is checked when the starter is cranked.  The technician will also visually inspect the cables and the charging system. To make sure the alternator is putting out the right voltage, the technician will measure that as well. 

If the problem is found to be the battery cable assembly, the entire set may have to be replaced. Sometimes they can be repaired. 

During the colder months, it's vital that your vehicle has the proper power going to its electrical components.  Having a vehicle that won't start or run smoothly is not something you want to battle with when you're already up against challenging weather.  Keep your electrons flowing… and your vehicle moving.


PDR
1008 N. Cunningham Avenue
Urbana, Illinois 61802
217-367-9481
http://www.pdrauto.com

A Real "Pane" (Window Maintenance and Repair)

It's pretty frustrating when your driver's window won't work.  You can't get your food at the drive-thru without opening the door, have a tough time using the ATM from your vehicle, can't have that fresh breeze blowing through your hair as you listen to your favorite road tunes.

Plus, there's a safety factor.  Your windows provide an escape route in case you need to get out and the doors won't work.  Let's take a look at what's going on when your window won't operate.

Most vehicles these days have power windows.  They have an electric motor in each power window and sometimes those fail.  They often give you a warning that they're on their last legs by making a noise or hesitating, so if you get a sign like that, have a technician check it out. Loss of power can also be due to a blown fuse, a bad switch or faulty wiring.

All windows have something called a regulator that moves the glass up and down.  They have a lot of moving parts in them which can break, become bent, rust or get out of alignment. The glass moves along a window track guide.  Sometimes if the glass gets out of the track, it won't move up and down the way it's designed to do.

When you take your vehicle over to a repair facility, a technician can pinpoint the cause of your malfunctioning window.  Often it involves having to remove the door panel to gain access to the components inside.  But when everything's working right, you'll be able to throw that annoying inconvenience right out the window.

PDR
1008 N. Cunningham Avenue
Urbana, Illinois 61802
217-367-9481
http://www.pdrauto.com

I Had No Idea! (Four Things You Didn't Know About Vehicles)

Bet you didn't know:

Some of the earliest rearview mirrors were marketed as "Cop Spotters" so drivers would know when police were following them. Who wants a ticket, anyway? According to eBay Motors, Elmer Berger first patented a rearview mirror that was mounted on the front fenders, on the spare tire secured to the side of the car of at the top of the driver's door frame. 

About 80 percent of your vehicle is recyclable. So says The Balance. That means four-fifths of most vehicles can be recycled.  Much of that recycling is done by automotive aftermarket recyclers.  Between the U.S and Canada, they reclaim enough steel to produce 13 million new vehicles.

The man who invented the first modern cruise control couldn't even drive a car because he was blind! His name, says Smithsonian.com, was Ralph Teetor.  Blinded at a young age by a knife accident, Teetor was inspired to create a speed control by a couple of things.  One, the U.S. imposed a mandatory 35 mph/55 kph during World War II to conserve fuel and tire rubber, and Teetor wanted drivers to go a safe and steady speed.  Plus, a chauffeur who drove him around used to randomly slow down and speed up which irritated Teetor.  So he invented a speed control to encourage drivers to drive at a more constant and safer speed.

The first grooved tires were invented in 1904 by Continental.  But that was a big improvement over the very first "tires" which were actually metal hoops that made riding in the first cars a pretty rough experience.  The first rubber tires were solid rubber, not inflatable like today's tires.  Things have come a long way.  Modern tires are made with sophisticated rubber compounds that can deal with heat and cold.  Plus their tread patterns help drivers get better traction on wet roads when it storms.  Still, it's important to make sure yours have enough tread and are properly inflated for maximum safety and performance.

Quite frankly, there's a lot we don't understand about the vehicles we drive.  They're much more complicated than the old horse and buggy that preceded  them.  Leave your vehicle's maintenance and service to highly trained technicians who DO understand how to maintain, diagnose and repair today's modern, sophisticated vehicles. 

PDR
1008 N. Cunningham Avenue
Urbana, Illinois 61802
217-367-9481
http://www.pdrauto.com