Most Recent Articles

Keeping Your Cool (Coolant leak repair)

If there’s one thing you should pay attention to with your vehicle, it’s the temperature gauge. It’s the one that may say C---H (that means “cold---hot”).  Or maybe yours has a picture of a thermometer on it and a blue and red zone.  If you see the needle heading farther to the “H” or red area, that means your vehicle’s engine is running hotter than it normally does.

One of the most common causes of an engine running hot is a leak in your cooling system.  Maybe you’ve seen puddles of coolant under your vehicle, or you’ve smelled the coolant, either inside or outside your vehicle (it has a sort of “sweet” or fruity smell). That’s your engine giving you a warning signal that it’s time to head over to your repair facility to find out what’s going on.

Your vehicle’s coolant can leak for several reasons.  You may have hoses that are deteriorating (heat and age take their toll). It’s possible the pump that circulates coolant has developed a problem (seals and bearings can fail from heat and wear).  You may have something as simple as a bad radiator cap.  Or your radiator or heater core may have holes in it. 

If your coolant is leaking out, this can cause serious damage to your engine if you just let it go.  Your engine could get so hot that some of the metal parts start to warp.  Sometimes, your coolant can start mixing in with your engine oil.  That can result in a very expensive repair if it gets to that stage, so have it checked out before that happens.

A technician will visually inspect your coolant system, including the reservoir tank, check hoses and fittings, test the water pump, and also may pressure test the radiator.  When the problem or problems are found, they will replace the necessary parts and get you back on the road. 

When it comes to a coolant leak, finding the cause can be tricky.  But it’s important to catch a cooling system issue in time—before your engine sustains more serious damage.  Now, that’s pretty cool.

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

Out with the Old (Vehicle Parts that Wear Out)

Some drivers don't pay any attention to their vehicles until something breaks.  Others take them into their service repair facility for maintenance even before a problem develops.  Still, even if you fit into the second group, there are some parts on a vehicle that will simply wear out over time.

Your vehicle has gaskets in several places.  They use a flexible material to seal the gaps between metal parts that fit together. After time, that material shrinks or gets brittle and fails.  Eventually, after time, you will have to get gaskets replaced.

Same goes for belts.  Your engine has belts that help take the mechanical energy of the engine to drive other parts such as the generator and air conditioner.  Heat and age will eventually cause these belts to wear out or break, so you'll need new ones at some point.

You'll also find yourself buying brake pads.  As much as you may try to go easy on them, brake pads work by wearing off a little bit of them each time they help you stop your vehicle.  Do a lot of stop-and-go driving and you'll hasten the process.

No battery lasts forever, and your vehicle's battery is no exception.  It can only charge and discharge electricity so many times.  Count on getting no more than 4 or 5 years out of a battery, fewer if you live in a very hot spot.

Other parts that don't age well? Tires.  They can have plenty of tread left on them, but rubber gets old and loses its flexibility. Tires have their date of manufacturer stamped on them for a reason.

Finally, your muffler is being subject to moisture from inside and out: inside because of moisture-containing exhaust and outside from the elements outdoors. Stainless steel or other alloys will last longer, but after a while, either the moisture or constant pounding from vibrations will take their toll.

That's why it's important to maintain every part on your vehicle. You can't wave a magic wand and make everything last forever, but take care of your vehicle and it'll take care of you.


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

The Truth about Tire Pressure (Tire Inflation)

Most light vehicles (under 10,000 pounds/4,500 kg) in North America sold from 2008 model year on have a feature that many people are confused about.  It's the tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS).  You may have some experience with it yourself if you own a newer vehicle.  Vehicles with TPMS have sensors in each tire that are supposed to warn the driver when tire pressure gets dangerously low.  That's important because tires that are significantly under-inflated can cause very serious accidents.

Unfortunately, many drivers think the TPMS does all the work keeping track of tire pressure. To them, as long as the warning light or gauge isn’t giving a warning, the tires must have the proper amount of air pressure in them.  That's not the case.

Tire pressure monitoring systems aren't all created equal.   Some give you a digital readout of the pressures in each individual tire.  But many simply have a warning light that looks like the cross section of a tire with an exclamation point in the middle.  If you don't know what it is, it's because it's not instantly recognizable as a tire.  In fact, one company that makes TPMS, Schrader Performance Sensors, surveyed drivers.  Their study showed that more than 40 percent of drivers didn't know that that warning light was. 

One out of 5 of the drivers who did know what the light was only looked at their tires after the light came on to see if they could see any that needed air; they never checked them with a tire gauge or had someone else do it.  Ten percent of them didn't do anything when the light came on.

In most vehicles with TPMS, the warning comes on only when the tires are more than 25% underinflated.  The American Automobile Association says that's under the pressure you need for safe vehicle operation.

The bottom line is once a month you should make sure your tires are inflated to the manufacturer's recommendations.  That means each tire should be measured with an accurate, external tire gauge.  To be confident you are getting a correct reading, take your vehicle to a reputable service facility where their equipment is calibrated and they know what they're doing.

Severely underinflated tires can contribute to an accident that kills or severely injures people.  The idea behind TPMS is well intended, but the system was never meant to replace regular inflation measurements and maintenance.  Periodically have your tires checked for proper inflation.

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

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

They say your vehicle has one, but you've never seen it.  And you might not even know it if you stumbled on it accidentally.

We're talking about the jack, that tool that allows you to lift one corner of the vehicle up so someone can change a flat tire.

So you say you'd never try to change a flat anyway, so you don't care where it is.  But one day, you may find yourself in a spot where you're stranded with no cell service and you'll need to at least know the basics of what to do.

Well, here's the ironic part.  Many of today's vehicles don't even have jacks and spares!  Recently, manufacturers have been saving weight by supplying another solution for a flat tire, such as an inflator kit that has a tire sealant in it, or a small compressor.  If your vehicle has one of those, it's a good idea to get to know how to use it before you need to use it.  Hopefully you'll be able to call roadside assistance and they can take care of things, but circumstances may prevent help from coming for a long time. The next time you're here at PDR for routine maintenance, ask one of our pros to show you the basics of your vehicle's flat tire tools.  Consider watching an online video, too; there are plenty out there and may be specific to your make and model.

Some vehicles have a space-saving spare, a smaller one that is meant to get you on the road long enough to find a place to have it repaired or replaced.  Those vehicles will also have a jack.  Then there are vehicles that have a full-size spare tire and a jack.  Again, you may prefer to call roadside assistance, but if no one is available or reachable (which is sometimes the case in a major storm), you may have to fix your own flat.

Some drivers do a "dry run" of changing a tire in their driveway during daylight hours so they at least know where the jack and spare are and how to use them.   Our service experts may be able to help you locate each part and give you some tips.  And again, there are many videos online that can show you the fundamentals of jacking your make and model of vehicle. 

Nobody relishes a flat tire.  You may be lucky and never have to change one.  But in this case, a little knowledge is better than no knowledge at all.  In the unlikely case you are stranded at the side of a highway at night in the middle of the rain with no cell service, you'll at least be one step ahead.


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

Losing Your Spark (Spark Plug Replacement)

When's the last time you thought about spark plugs? You probably don't remember.  That's because spark plugs usually last a long time and don't need much attention.  But they don't last forever, and when they start going bad, they'll send you a few clues.

  • Vehicle is hard to start. 
  • Fuel economy is going down
  • Acceleration isn't what it used to be
  • Engine runs roughly
  • Check Engine light is on

There are many things that can cause those symptoms, so it's wise to head on over to your vehicle repair facility to have them look over your vehicle.  But the problem could be your spark plugs. They do wear out, not producing a strong enough spark to ignite your fuel the way they're designed to.  A closely related problem is failing spark plug wires, and a technician will test for both possibilities… and more. 

Your vehicle's manufacturer recommends changing wires and/or plugs at certain intervals.  Spark plugs are made out of different materials and some last far longer than others.  Ask your service advisor to let you know when yours should be changed.  Badly misfiring plugs can cause expensive damage to a vehicle's catalytic converter, so it's best to take care of them before that happens.  Replacing your spark plugs and/or wires is money well spent to have your vehicle running smoothly, dependably and efficiently.  

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

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

Ever wonder what one of the best things is to ever happen to your vehicle's engine?  It's the little thing that usually looks like a can, the oil filter.

Just like your kitchen sink strainer filters out errant particles of food from clogging your drain, the oil filter cleans out small particles that could cause your engine harm.

Your engine operates in a dirty, hot environment and gathers a lot of tiny contaminants like dirt, dust, little metal shards and unlucky bugs that get sucked in.  Get those things circulating in your engine and those little particles can cause friction, which starts wearing out those finely machined metal parts. 

You know how important it is to change your oil regularly.  It's vital that you change your oil filter at the same time to keep the oil as close to brand new as possible.

Most oil filters look like a metal can with some holes in the bottom.  Inside there are carefully chosen materials that can screen out the contaminants while at the same time allow the lubricating oil to pass through.  Early oil filters had steel wool, metal mesh or actual screens.  Then they tried fabric filters using material such as linen and cotton.  Finally, a less expensive disposable filter using paper and cellulose did the trick.

Cellulose or other synthetic media are used in most oil filters today.  Cellulose is inexpensive and effective.  Fibers filter out particulates and let the oil flow.  The other synthetic media have the ability to screen out even tinier particles while not significantly restricting the oil from getting through.  Engineers continue to work on even more advanced filter material.

Choosing the right oil filter is something our pros at PDR can help you with  because there are a lot of them out there.  Factoring into that decision are your driving habits, how far you drive and the temperatures to which your engine will be subjected.  While some filters will cost more than others, they may be worth it to extend the life of your engine. 

But most important is remembering to come have your oil changed at PDR regularly at the intervals recommended by the vehicle's manufacturer. Just like you wouldn't want to have a plumber come over to fix a clogged kitchen drain, you certainly wouldn't want to have to pay for major engine repairs if they could be prevented by regular oil and filter changes.


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

Chilly Warning (Diagnosing a Noise in Cold Vehicle)

When the weather gets colder, sometimes the noises your vehicle makes will change.  For example, you may notice a whining sound when you get going in the morning.  It may go away when the vehicle warms up, but it's best not to ignore that sound because it could be a warning of worse things to come.

Colder temperatures cause different components to behave differently.  Let's take a look at a few of them.  First, the fluids in your vehicle.  Cold temperatures can make them behave a little differently, such as engine oil, transmission fluid and power steering fluid. Those characteristics could change if the fluids are older and full of contaminants.

Belts also can create a whining noise when cold.  Since they turn pulleys that move other things, several factors can create issues.  Increased friction can change proper tensions on belts.  Plus, belts change as they age and may crack, get loose or develop a glazed surface. Belts and pulleys also must be aligned properly to work the way they're designed to.

As you can imagine, it's easier for a technician to diagnose a noise if the vehicle is making it.  And if a vehicle only makes a noise when it's cold, that sound may be gone by the time the vehicle makes it to the repair facility.  That means a driver may have to consider dropping off the vehicle the night before so the technician can be the first to start it the following morning.  Most service facilities can accommodate that with either a drop-off box or other arrangement.  Heed your vehicle's warning when you start to hear unusual noises.  That's a cool idea you should be able to easily warm up to.

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