Most Recent Articles

What Is an EGR Valve? (EGR Valve Service)

If you've ever felt your vehicle hesitate, go, then hesitate again, you might think there's something wrong with the transmission.  After all, it's not moving smoothly  down the road.  But there are plenty of malfunctions that can cause those symptoms, one of them being something you may have never heard of: the EGR valve.

EGR stands for Exhaust Gas Recirculation. It's a system that channels small amounts of exhaust back into the engine to cool down the cylinders and reduce polluting gases.  Those include nitrogen oxides that can cause smog. The EGR valve regulates how much of the vehicle's exhaust gas is recirculated. After years and long distances traveled, that valve can get clogged or fail. Sometimes the EGR valve can stick open.  When the EGR valve isn't working properly, your vehicle can start releasing those nitrogen oxides and pollute the air.

The symptoms of a malfunctioning EGR valve include:

  • Engine losing power
  • Engine idling roughly
  • Pinging and knocking sounds in the engine
  • Stalling and hesitation
  • Fuel economy decreasing
  • Check Engine light illuminated

Depending on its condition, the EGR valve can be cleaned or it may need to be replaced.  Consult with your service advisor to see what options are recommended to you.

The EGR system is part of your vehicle's pollution and emissions control equipment. If you care about keeping our planet's atmosphere clean, you'll want to make sure it's doing its job—for everyone's benefit.

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

It's Brake Time (Brake Calipers)

Race car drivers have demonstrated the advantages of disc brakes, so most modern vehicles use them.  Sometimes just the front wheels have disc brakes, but many vehicles now have them all the way around. 

A major component of the disc brake is called a caliper.  It works by squeezing brake pads against the disc or rotor, kind of like a bicycle hand brake.  The brake pads themselves are what contact the rotor, causing friction to build and the wheel to slow down, but it's the calipers that apply the pressure to the pads.

Caliper design has evolved over the years, and there are two common types.  One is called a floating caliper.  It has one or two pistons on one side of the disc. When you push down the brake pedal, the piston or pistons in your caliper put pressure on that one side.  A mechanism connected on the other side of the disc applies pressure as well, squeezing your disc so the vehicle stops.  Floating calipers are less expensive since they have fewer parts.

The other type is called a fixed caliper.  They use pistons on both sides of the disc, sometimes several.  They are often used in more high-performance or heavy-duty vehicles.

Calipers can have rubber seals to keep out dirt, debris and moisture, but when that rubber wears out, sometimes the calipers can get contaminated.  They can stick or start leaking; they can even rust.  Then your caliper can get stuck applying that "squeeze" when you are not pressing on the brake pedal.  Or they can get stuck in the other position, not applying stopping power when you press the pedal.

When this happens, it's not unusual to feel your vehicle pull to one side when you brake.  You might notice a burning smell from the constant friction if the caliper is stuck on, plus you may feel the heat from the wheel after you park and get out of your vehicle.  Sometimes you'll hear a high-pitched sound or clunk if your calipers are binding up. 

That's your cue to have them checked out at your vehicle service center.  If your calipers aren't working correctly, it can be a safety hazard.  Sticking calipers can affect your ability to steer and stop; this is the kind of "brake time" you need so you can get them back on track and working properly.

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

Bad Vibes (Disc brake rotor problems)

If you were to name the most important safety feature on your vehicle right now, what would your answer be? A lot of driving experts would agree that it’s your brakes.  Most newer vehicles use a well-engineered and efficient style of brakes called disc brakes. 

The name disc brakes comes from one of the components: a disc attached to the wheel hub that is squeezed by parts called calipers.  If you’ve ever ridden a bicycle with hand brakes, you probably have seen how they squeeze against the rim of the bike wheel to stop the bike. It’s similar to the way your vehicle’s calipers squeeze against the disc rotor, with added parts called brake pads attached to the calipers that are what create the friction and stop your vehicle.

Here’s why disc brakes need regular maintenance.  Over time, that friction creates wear and tear on the brake pads and the rotors, and you’ll start to see the signs.  Your brakes may have one of the 3 “S” sounds: squeaking, squealing, or scraping. The sound is usually the first sign of brake pad wear which can lead to rotor damage.  Soon you may notice a pulsating or vibration when you brake. That’s because your once smooth and straight rotor disc is warping from the heat generated from friction. Or it may be due to wear.  Eventually, your brakes will take a longer distance to stop your vehicle, and the rotors can have grooves carved into them.

When you start noticing any of these signs, it’s a good idea to have them inspected by a trained technician.  They will measure the rotor thickness, check wear patterns for grooves and heat discoloration, and see how much of the brake pads remain. They will also check to make sure all brake components are moving freely, check your brake fluid, and look for corrosion.

Most vehicle manufacturers require worn or damaged rotors to be replaced, not resurfaced. It’s all part of a complete brake job, replacing pads and the brake hardware parts along with the rotors. It reduces the chance of premature failure.

How often you will need your brakes serviced depends on the manufacturer’s recommendations, your driving habits, and the environment you live in.  Your service facility can recommend the best replacement parts based on those factors. 

Regular maintenance and attention are vital for keeping your brakes performing like they are designed to. Remember, your brakes are your vehicle’s most important safety feature.

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

The Flat Fix that Fits (Tire Repairs)

Can you think of anyone who likes getting a flat tire?  Of course not.  But when one of your tires winds up with a flat or leak, whether it be from things like hitting a curb, running over a nail or picking up a sharp stone, it's time to have someone who knows what they're doing take care of it.

If you're thinking you'd like to avoid having to buy a new tire, you wonder if a patch or plug will suffice.  It depends where the puncture is and how big the hole is.  Most tire experts will say if the hole in the tire is less than ¼ of an inch or 6 mm, a patch can work.  But a patch likely won't work if the compromised part of the tire is on its shoulder or sidewall.

Here's why.  The shoulder of a tire is the part between the sidewall and tread and it's usually rounded.  It's under a lot of pressure, more than even the sidewalls. And because of that curved shape, it's hard to get a patch or plug to hold.

The sidewall is the side of the tire.  Sidewalls flex a lot when you drive, and the strain can cause a patch or plug to loosen up.  A weak spot in a sidewall is much more likely to fail and cause a blowout.  So if you have damage in the sidewall or shoulder, that tire is a good candidate for replacement, not repair.

If you have a cut or gash in your tire, it's possible the cords that strengthen your tire have also been cut.  That weak spot can spell trouble, and this type of damage usually means you should get a new one.

Your service advisor can tell you what the appropriate action is to take when you have tire damage.  You may be able to get good results with a patch, or you may have to replace one or more tires.  Your safety is riding on them.

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

The Daily Grind (Grinding Noise)

If your vehicle makes a grinding sound when you turn the steering wheel, it's speaking to you.  No, really, it is.  So listen to what it's saying and you could avoid a much more costly repair down the road.

A grinding sound coming from the front of your vehicle when you are turning can offer some very informative clues as to what's going on.  One cause could be that there's a problem with the mechanical linkage that enables you to turn the wheels.  Another is that the hydraulic system that makes turning the steering wheel easier may have its own problems. 

Think of it.  Hydraulic power steering has many components that need to work in tandem.  The power steering fluid may be too old and contaminated.  Or its level may be low. That may be caused by a leak somewhere in the system. A technician can check things over to find out exactly what's happening.

Other causes of grinding while turning can be problems with the suspension in the front.  You may have a failing CV (constant velocity) joint.  It could be your brakes are partially engaging while you are turning.  That metal-on-metal sound is never a sign that things are working just the way they're supposed to.

To a technician looking to pinpoint the problem with your vehicle, it's not a daily grind at all.  Experience and training will help her or him zero in on what's causing the noise and get you back on the road. Maybe you can enjoy your sound system more after that distracting background noise has disappeared!

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

Steer Clear of Power Steering Problems (Power Steering Maintenance)

We usually take our vehicle's easy steering for granted until something goes wrong.  Power steering is what makes it almost effortless to turn the steering wheel, aiming your vehicle in the direction you want to go. Without the assistance of power from the engine, steering would be a laborious process, so you want to make sure the system is working well.

Power steering systems are usually one of two types, hydraulic and electric.  The hydraulic type uses a pump that is driven by either a belt or an electric motor.  This system uses hydraulic fluid to create pressure that gives your steering the power assist.  Since that pump is always working, time and distance traveled eventually take their toll, and these systems need to be periodically inspected.  Also, while that hydraulic fluid can last for years, it should be replaced periodically as it degrades over time. Your vehicle's owner's manual contains the manufacturer's recommendations.

A technician can check for leaks in the hoses, pump housing or reservoir.  Also, the belts should be inspected and so should the pump, as these can fail.  Signs of a failing pump are a groaning noise when you turn the steering wheel, stiff steering, squealing noises when you first start your car and puddles of a reddish-brown fluid under your vehicle. 

The other type is called EPS, or electric power steering, which is becoming more commonly used in the latest vehicles.  It only delivers power assist when you need it and has an electric motor that supplies that steering help.  It's more efficient, accurate, compact and clean. And because it has a lot fewer components, it's easier to maintain. 

If you have electric power steering, you may notice sometimes it's hard to turn the wheel or your Check Engine light comes on.  Sometimes the power assist motor fails or there can be problems with electrical connections.  Any time you have symptoms, it's important for your safety and that of drivers around you that you have a technician check them out.

Properly working brakes are essential for the safe operation of any vehicle.  Stop! And make sure yours are working properly.


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

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

Your vehicle is a complicated machine, and yes, it would be nice if you could take care of all of its problems yourself.  There was a time when vehicles were simpler and it wasn't too hard for a weekend mechanic to replace brakes, adjust a carburetor or perform a tune-up.  But vehicles are far more complicated these days, with traction and stability control, anti-lock brakes, air bags and fuel injection just a small sample of the new technologies. 

Like a lot of things these days, technology changes in leaps and bounds.  Anyone who repairs vehicles has to stay up on the latest computers, sensors, suspensions, steering, electronics, hydraulics and more.  Many power steering, braking and heating and air conditioning systems that used to be mechanical are now being replaced by electronic systems.  Computers are an integral part of  much of the latest automotive technology, something you didn't see a lot of until as recently as the 1990s.

Today's most highly-trained technicians are able to keep up with how to perform the latest repairs and service by continuing education about their craft.  When once an auto repairman could do fine with a lift and a good set of tools, now specialized electronic analysis equipment and tools are must-haves when it comes to vehicle repair.

Because of how fast technology changes, access to the latest repair databases and manuals is also important.  Manufacturers require certain service procedures to be performed precisely, and any other way can leave a vehicle compromised when it comes to performance and safety. 

Your vehicle is capable of traveling at high speeds on challenging surfaces with ever-increasing traffic issues and unpredictable obstacles.  You need your vehicle to be working up to its engineered potential.  That's why you should leave repairs and service to professionals.  They work on vehicles every day, and years of experience with hundreds of repairs equip them to deal with the unexpected as well as the routine. 

When you develop a trusting relationship with a reputable service facility, you can have confidence that the maintenance, service and repairs are being done by people who know what they're doing.  Your safety and your vehicle's performance and reliability are well worth it.

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