Most Recent Articles

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

Lean Times (Shocks and Springs)

You may have noticed your vehicle going through lean times.  By that, we mean it's literally leaning to one side.  When you notice that, you should get it checked out at your service facility soon because you could have a serious problem.

Many things can cause a vehicle to lean.  You may have problems with your struts, shocks or springs.  They all work in tandem to make your ride more comfortable.  The struts bear the weight of the vehicle's body, the shock absorbers employ a piston that keeps your tires in contact with the road and controls movement of the vehicle's body.  Springs also absorb impacts from uneven road surfaces.

If these components get stuck, either too high or too low, they cause your vehicle to lean.  That's because that side of the vehicle isn't at the height it is designed to be.  A technician will determine where the problem is.  Outside elements such as moisture plus hard knocks to these components can weaken them, eventually resulting in a failure.  The metal can get so fatigued that it breaks.  Often when one side of a vehicle is too high or too low, your service advisor will advise you to have the other side done as well.  That's because if only one side has new parts installed, it won't be level with the side that has old parts. 

There are a couple of other reasons vehicles can lean.  One is that the suspension can be bent or the chassis twisted, again due to wear and tear by driving on rough roads, over badly maintained railroad tracks or in deep potholes. 

Another reason your vehicle may lean is that the tires and/or wheels aren't all the same size.  Or one side might have drastically over or underinflated tires.  This can be a dangerous condition since the imbalance can affect steering and handling.

Considering what drivers put suspension parts, tires and wheels through, it's not surprising that they can be punished so much that they don't hold up like we want them to.  A level-headed driver will make sure to be driving a level vehicle by making sure these components are maintained in good condition.

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

Something to Latch On To (Hood Latch Safety)

The other day, a driver was trying to open his vehicle's hood so he could add some windshield washer fluid.  But when he pulled the hood release inside the car, nothing happened. 

Usually, opening any hood is a 2-step process.  You pull the hood release (which is usually a handle under the dashboard to the left of the steering column) and listen for the hood to pop up slightly. (It doesn't open all the way because it has a safety latch to prevent you from accidentally opening it up while you're driving.) Then, you get out and find the latch, usually through the grille near the hood.  There's a little handle on it which you push, slide or pull (there are a few different types) at which point the hood can be opened up all the way. 

But in this driver's case, the hood would not release at all when he pulled the handle inside.  Not knowing what to do, he called his service advisor, who told him to bring it over.  The reason? A hood with a broken latch could be a safety hazard since it is possible it's not securely closed. And in this condition, it's possible for the hood to suddenly release while you are driving, obscuring your view of the road. 

Latch issues can be caused by many things, perhaps a broken cable between the hood release and the latch.  It's possible that cable just detached or frayed after being opened so many times.  If a hood release cable isn't kept lubricated, it can corrode and just lock up.

In this driver's case, the cable had corroded and broken, so it had to be replaced.  Unfortunately, many times you won't know you have a problem with your hood latch until one time you pull it and it breaks without warning.  When your vehicle is in for routine maintenance like an oil change, a technician will often keep an eye out for signs that your hood latch needs attention so you don't get "locked" out of your engine compartment.

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

Weather Station on Wheels (Vehicle Sensor Maintenance)

You probably never thought about it, but your vehicle is like a rolling weather station.  It can check the outside temperature, let you know when the roads are slippery and help you deal with rain. And how it does all those things is pretty cool.

First, just like any weather station, a vehicle has sensors that measure the driving and weather conditions you find yourself in.  Some of those sensors can control computerized systems in your vehicle to react to the weather.  It depends on whether you have a 2-wheel, 4-wheel or all-wheel drive vehicle how those sensors will respond.

Let's start with temperature.  Most vehicles now have a thermometer that measures the temperature outside.  It's usually in the front, and likely will tell you on the instrument panel what the outside temperature measures.  But a temperature sensor will also tell your vehicle's computers to turn on or off certain systems like the heating or air conditioning.  If your ambient temperature sensor isn't working right, some symptoms are a malfunctioning automatic A/C or a temperature display that is way different than the app on your phone says it should be.

Your vehicle will also have sensors that measure your speed at each wheel.  They work with an onboard computer to measure slippage in any of the wheels so traction control and antilock brakes work correctly in case of slick roads.

Your vehicle can measure something called longitudinal and latitudinal acceleration, and it uses a yaw sensor to do it.  That helps it determine if you might be in an oversteering or understeering situation.  It's important because it works with your vehicle's brakes to apply stopping power to keep you in control.

A steering wheel sensor tells the vehicle's computers what the driver is doing with the wheel.  It also can work with those wheel sensors to measure how slippery the roads are, whether it be due to a wet (rain) or granular (gravel or sand) surface.  By sending different torque or braking to each wheel, it helps the driver maintain control.

More and more vehicles now have a rain sensor that can turn on the wipers automatically when they measure precipitation on the windshield.

So, you're driving your own weather station, and making sure all this data is coming in properly depends on how each component is working.  Regular service and maintenance on these systems is important to make sure they can do their job. Your rolling weather station can't predict the weather, but it can sure help you deal with it, so help it do its job right.


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

Don't Neglect Your Spare (Spare Tire Care)

If you've ever had a flat tire, then you know welcome it is to have a spare tire that is properly inflated, in good shape and easy to get to.  Problem is many of us don't even give our spare tire (if we even have one) a second thought.

If you have an SUV or truck with a spare, it may be mounted outside the vehicle, such as on the tailgate or underneath the vehicle.  All of them, especially those underneath, take the brunt of debris, moisture, salt and dirt from the road surface, a potpourri of corrosion potential.  The hardware that holds these on can rust into a solid mess, making it hard for you or even a roadside assistance service to get off. 

If you have one of those, have it checked and maintained at your vehicle repair facility on a regular basis.  They should be lubricated and cleaned periodically, and some recommend doing this service every time you have your tires rotated.  If the spare is the same size as the tires on the vehicle, it may be a good idea to have it rotated with the others. 

Some vehicles have compact spares that are in a small well in the trunk or some other spot. Most drivers don't pay any attention to them.  Over time, air leaks out of those spares, leaving them flat when you most need them.  When you have your vehicle in for service or routine maintenance, ask your service advisor for his or her advice on making sure the spare is inflated properly and cleaned, usually at least twice a year.

You may not know it, but your vehicle may not have any spare at all.  Instead, it may have an inflator kit that you are supposed to use to inflate and seal a flat tire.  That sealant has a limited life span and should be replaced every few years.  Check with your service advisor to make sure the kit is up to date and will do the job when called upon.

Manufacturers know a flat tire's always a possibility.  No matter what contingency solution they've included with your vehicle, keep it in shape and in good working order.  When you need it, you'll be very glad you did.

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

Poor Reflections (Door Mirror Problems)

Mirror, mirror on the door, why is my vision there so poor? Well, you could have a broken outside rearview mirror that's disabled your blind spot vision there and endangering your ability to see some of the traffic around you. 

Outside rearview (or door) mirrors are important safety devices that are thoughtfully designed to help drivers see.  And there are a variety of ways those door mirrors can develop problems.

One is when the glass is broken in them.  Sometimes it's caused by an accident or vandalism.  But without your ability to see in that mirror, you could be driving blind, unable to see drivers approaching from the rear in adjacent lanes.  Sometimes it's as simple as having the glass replaced.  You'll greatly enhance your safety if you do.

Then there's the door mirror that you can't adjust.  First, let's look at a common scenario in later models, the power mirror.  They're great when they're working, awful when they're not.  Sometimes the motor fails, the switch goes bad or the wiring fails to deliver power.

Or how about the manually-adjusted door mirror that has either frozen up or just flops around? In this case, the mechanism has corroded, jammed up or a part has broken.  In both power- and manually-adjusted door mirrors, it sometimes can be hard to keep them in the right position.  Plus, every time there's a driver change, it may be hard to adjust those broken mechanisms by hand.

Finally, heated door mirrors can be extraordinarily useful in eliminating fogging or icing up in certain weather conditions.  But those heating elements can fail, switches can break or wiring can go bad.  Suddenly your fogged over, frozen mirrors aren't doing you any good at all. 

Good drivers use those outside rearview mirrors all the time.  They should be working the way designers intended, to provide the driver with vital traffic position information.  That's the kind of safety device you should get fixed or replaced sooner rather than later.  It's well worth it if you prevent even one little accident. 

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

The Key Won't Turn! (Ignition Problems)

You've just arrived at the store shopping and you're ready to head home.  You put your key in the ignition and… oh, no! The ignition won't turn! What do you do now?

Don't panic.  There are some things you can do to get going again.  The first thing to do is see if you have a locking steering wheel, an anti-theft feature that was introduced around 1970.  Sometimes it sticks.  Move the steering wheel side to side while you try to turn the key and you might be able to get it to release. 

Another thing to check is to see if your vehicle is in gear.  Most vehicles will only allow you to start the ignition if it's in park or neutral.  If you have an automatic transmission vehicle and it is in park, try jiggling the shift lever and try the key again.  Sometimes the safety mechanism doesn't properly make contact or gets a little sloppy. 

If both of these don't work, it could be your vehicle's battery is dead.  Some newer electronic systems require power so the key can turn. Others have alarm systems that detect if doors are open. 

Other issues that can cause key problems include something jammed in the lock cylinder.  Or some of the springs or pins inside may be stuck.  Consider that it may be the key itself.  Sometimes they get bent or simply wear out from the number of times they've been put in and taken out of the cylinder.

No matter what the cause, the first time this happens you should have your repair service facility check it out. That’s because if it happens once, it can happen again.  Even if you were able to get going again on your own, your ignition/key has warned you that something's wrong.  Have it checked out by a pro so you’re not locked into a bad situation.

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