Most Recent Articles

Stuck! (Vehicle Door Issues)

This may have happened to you.  You drive somewhere and get out of your vehicle only to try closing the door and it just won't stay closed!  What a helpless feeling.  You can't lock it; you can't leave it like it is. Or, let's say you head down to your vehicle to head out to work in the morning and you can't open the door.  What are you going to do now?

Vehicle doors take a lot of abuse.  They are opened and closed hundreds of times and we expect them to just keep working perfectly all the time.  They do require a bit of tender loving care.  Let's take a look at two different scenarios of stuck doors.

First: the door that won't close.  It's a security issue.  It's also a safety issue.  You can't really safely drive a vehicle with a door that won't close. What if you or a passenger is tossed out?  Sure, some people try to tie a stuck-open door closed or bungee it, but that's dangerous.  It's best to get that vehicle to the service repair facility as soon as you can, and having it towed is the safest way. 

Second: the door that won't open.  There are many reasons this can happen.  Freezing weather is one, a misaligned door is another.  There could be electrical issues.  Corrosion could have broken a part inside the door.  The possibilities, unfortunately, are numerous.

If you can't get into your vehicle's driver's door, with any luck another door might open and you can climb into the driver's seat and head on to the repair facility.  A lot of people may be tempted to try to fix a stuck door themselves, but many wind up causing more damage to the door and have to have a trained technician step in to repair the mess.

One way to minimize the possibility of having a door stick open or closed is to make sure it gets regular maintenance.  Door locks, hinges and latches should be lubricated at certain intervals.  Locks should be kept clean.  While many vehicles now have electronic locks, sometimes an electrical failure in the vehicle or key fob can inadvertently lock you out.  Nearly every vehicle has a mechanical key in case that happens; if you don't know how that works, have your service advisor show you how. 

Also, you technician can make sure your doors are properly aligned and aren't sagging. All of these things can help you keep your doors opening and closing the way they were designed to. Your next trip may "hinge" on your doors being in top condition.


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

How to Radiate Cool (Radiator Care)

There's nothing that radiates cool like a vehicle radiator that's helping to keep your engine running at the proper temperature.  You don't have to baby it, but you can't simply ignore it, either. 

Let's take a quick dive under the hood to let you know what the radiator is doing.  It takes the heat your engine produces and moves that heat outside.  It's not an easy job and heat is an engine's number one enemy.  Now that you're thinking how nice you want to be to your radiator, we have a couple of ideas how you can take care of it.

The easiest thing is to pay attention to your vehicle's temperature gauge. If it gets in the "too hot" or "not hot enough" range, have it checked out soon.  Make sure your coolant is kept at the correct level and if you see a trend that you have to add coolant more than a couple of times a year, you might have a leak.

Even if there are no obvious problems, every couple of years or so, consider taking your vehicle in for radiator maintenance.  A technician can run a pressure check for leaks and ensure that the thermostat and radiator cap are working correctly.  The technician will check that fans are running like they should so they can move air over the radiator and heat away from the coolant inside.

Ask your service advisor when you should have your radiator flushed and coolant replaced according to the manufacturer's recommended intervals.  In addition to cooling, coolant has corrosion inhibitors which stop working after a while.  Without those corrosion inhibitors, the inside of your radiator can literally start rotting away.  Keep in mind that the coolant level must be kept at manufacturer's specifications since if those corrosion-preventing chemicals aren't touching the metal, they're not preventing corrosion. 

Different vehicles use different coolants, so your service facility will make sure yours is getting the correct one.  Keep your coolant system happy and one day, maybe you can order up a custom license plate, "RAY-D-8."

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

Slipping into Fall (Driving with ABS Brakes)

As the weather changes over from hot to colder, drivers will have to deal with more slippery streets.  And it's important to know how to drive with the brakes you have on your vehicle. 

In the 1970s, anti-lock braking systems (ABS) started to be installed on vehicles and they've been a game changer for drivers.  Most modern vehicles have ABS and it's important to know how to drive with them.

In older vehicles without ABS, the driver applies the brakes by pushing down the pedal.  That, in turn, sends braking pressure to all four wheels at once.  But all four tires don't have the same traction because the road surface they're each on isn't exactly the same.

ABS allows sensors to determine when particular wheels are slowing down more quickly.  The ABS then reduces braking pressure to the wheels that are about to lock up.  That way the wheel turns and the tires keep some grip. (You have to have grip to stop.) It's kind of what drivers try to achieve when they pump the older-style brakes without ABS.

Another engineered feature of ABS is that it makes sure your front wheels will continue to rotate and maintain some traction.  That's important because the front wheels are used to steer, and being able to steer gives a driver more control in a quickly-changing situation.  So ABS is all about stopping as fast as the road surface will allow but at the same time enabling the driver to maintain control. 

ABS is designed for the driver to put steady pressure on the brake pedal and let the vehicle’s computerized system handle the braking.  Pumping the pedal in a vehicle with ABS can defeat what the system is trying to do to help you maintain control.

Because stopping techniques in a vehicle with ABS are different than those without, it’s important to know which brakes you have so you can operate them accordingly. 

If you have any doubt, consult your service advisor.  ABS involves sophisticated technology and must be maintained in order for it to work properly.  Your service advisor can recommend a maintenance schedule for you to follow so your ABS is always on the ready to help you stop when you need to.

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

The Light Nobody Wants to See (Check Engine Light)

You've probably had your Check Engine Light go on.  Then it goes off and you figure, hey, whatever the problem was, it's gone now and I don't have to worry about it.  Well, the problem may have gone away and it may not have.

Your vehicle likely has one of these warning lights on the instrument panel: an amber light that looks like an engine or reads "Check Engine" or "Service Vehicle Soon."  If that light comes on and stays on, it usually means there's something amiss but not urgently in need of service.  (Now if it's blinking, that's another story that we'll deal with in a minute.)

Sometimes when it comes on and stays steadily lit, the problem will go away and the light will go out.  Sometimes it will stay on until you get the problem fixed.  Either way, the engine's computer will store a code that can provide clues to what's not working—or wasn't working—the way it's supposed to.

If you are just dying to know what that code is, you can buy a little code reader or take your vehicle to an auto parts store and they'll read it.  Problem is, the code offers so many options that unless you are a trained technician, you probably won't have a clue what those codes mean. 

So if you want to be sure, take it to your vehicle repair facility and have them check it.  Technicians are trained to decipher the codes and, using their experience and other diagnostic equipment, can get to the root of the problem and fix it. 

As we mentioned before, if that Check Engine light comes on and is blinking, it means a more serious engine malfunction that can damage expensive components such as the catalytic converter and even the engine itself.  It's important to have that checked by a professional as soon as possible. 

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

How Much Does It Cost? (Variations in Vehicle Repair Costs)

Ever wonder why it costs so much more to fix a similar problem in two different vehicles? Let's say you now own an SUV and before that, you owned a car.  Your SUV's air conditioning system needs a new evaporator, but the cost for the new one is way more than you remember it was for your car.  How can there be that big of a difference?

There are many reasons.  For one thing, vehicles aren't all the same.  Yes, they have engines and steering wheels and suspensions, but engineering and design can vary widely among different styles and brands. 

In the case of replacing the evaporator, the one in your former car may have been located in a spot where the technician could get to it easily.  Plus, the part may have been less complicated and, therefore, cheaper.  Your SUV may require the entire dashboard to be removed with special tools to detach the a/c lines from the evaporator.  Plus, since it is supplying cool air to a bigger cabin, it may be more complicated; the part itself may cost quite a bit more.

But you're not an expert, so how do you know the price is fair? This is where it helps to establish a good, long-lasting relationship with a reputable service repair facility.  They know you, they know your vehicle and they value keeping you as a customer. A facility that doesn't care about repeat business may try to suggest more repairs than are needed or inflate their prices.  But those shops are unlikely to stay in business very long since their reputation gets around. 

If you've been taking your vehicles to the same shop for several years, you've had experience with them and know their policy on labor costs and parts prices.  At some point you may wonder if it's worth it to keep putting money into your vehicle, and if you know your service advisor, you have developed a trust for his or her advice. 

Keep this in mind, too.  Vehicle designers and engineers have made significant progress in things like powertrain technology and rust prevention.  That means today's vehicles are meant to last longer.  One study in a major consumer magazine shows that if you can keep your vehicle on the road for 200,000 miles/320,000 km, an average of 15 years, some vehicles can save you up to $30,000 or more. Investing in repairs can make a lot of sense. 

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

The Power Behind your Engine (Alternator Diagnosis and Repair)

There's nothing like that sinking feeling when you turn the key and nothing happens in your vehicle.  A lot of us are quick to blame the battery.  But it may instead be your alternator that's failing.

Your battery supplies power to start your vehicle, but the alternator is what sends power when your engine is running.  The good news is alternators last a fairly long time, and it's not unusual to get seven years out of one. But they can give up the ghost thanks to the harsh conditions in the engine compartment.

Alternators have bearings inside them that keep things turning smoothly.  Debris, liquid, dirt and more can team up with the high temperatures your engine generates to cause those bearings to seize up.  That's not good, and if that happens, you may even be able to hear the bearings grind.

Other symptoms of a dying alternator are a squealing noise in the engine compartment or your headlights may go dim and bright, dim and bright.  You might even notice an electrical smell.  Any of these signs warrants a trip to your service facility.

Here's something else to think about.  If your alternator's bearings have seized up and the unit's shaft is not turning freely, that can destroy the belt that's attached to it.  So don't be surprised if your service advisor says both parts have to be replaced. 

There are different grades of alternators you can buy, but consider just how important this part is to keep your vehicle running.  Your service advisor will give you options based on your driving style and vehicle.  Remember, if you notice any of those symptoms that may signal a failing alternator, have it taken care of before you wind up stuck somewhere at the side of the road.

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

Not Too Hot and Not Too Cold (Temperature Gauge)

You know your body temperature is supposed to be 98.6 degrees F, 37 degrees C.  Your vehicle has a normal temperature, too, and if you pay attention to it, that can save you some big headaches down the road.

Many vehicles have a temperature gauge on the dash that takes the temperature of the engine's coolant.  Some have a thermometer symbol, some read C-H (cold to hot). Many will have a red zone that shows when water temperature is getting into the danger zone.  Others are digital and have a red warning light that signals overheating.  And some vehicles have a light that goes on when the engine temperature is out of the normal range.

If your vehicle has a gauge, pay attention to it.  If you need help locating it, ask one of our PDR experts to give you a quick explanation.  Chances are when the vehicle has been running for 15 minutes or more, the temperature gauge will settle into its own "normal" zone, often just below the midway point.  If you have a digital readout, remember what that "normal" temperature is.  Here's why.

At any point when you're driving, the temperature gauge is the quickest way to get a sense that the engine is running the way it should, a quick health checkup, as it were. Say you're on a 3-hour trip, glance at that gauge every hour or so.  It should always be in the same spot.  If it starts to move one way or the other, you may be able to catch a problem before it gets serious.

Pay special attention to it moving into the hot zone.  The needle on the gauge is the easiest and least distracting way to see an engine heating up, but on a digital gauge, start paying attention if the temperature reaches 240ºF/115ºC or more.

Remember, though, that just because the gauge reads "hot" doesn't mean your engine is on the verge of burning up.  It could be a bad sensor and the engine will be at a normal temperature.  But it also could be a failing water pump, coolant leak or thermostat.  By pulling off the road and observing your engine, it will give you a pretty good idea if it's running hot or not.

If the gauge is too "cold," it could be a broken gauge or thermostat sticking open.  Usually being in the cold range isn't as worrisome, but you should have it checked out since other systems may be affected.

Heat is one of a vehicle's worst enemies, especially when it comes from within.  Know your vehicle's normal temperature and keep an eye on it.


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