What Customers Should Know

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 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

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

The Third Brake Light (Third Brake Light Service)

So you thought you only had two brake lights.  Look again and you'll see one in the center at a higher level than the two on either side of the vehicle.  They're sometimes in the inside of the vehicle behind the back window, or they could be in the deck lid, on the roof or on the spare wheel carrier,

But why is that third brake on your vehicle? Experts say it helps prevent rear end collisions. Tests done by installing the third brake light in taxis and fleet vehicles showed fewer rear end crashes in the ones that had the extra light. The third brake light was mandated in new passenger cars in 1986 in the US and Canada.  The requirement was added to new light trucks and vans in 1994.

Sometimes it's difficult to know if your third brake light is even working.  Many vehicles have bulb warning systems that alert you to non-functional bulbs, but not all do. Your vehicle service facility will often check to see if all your turn signals, taillights and headlights are working during routine maintenance inspections, and they may notice that the third brake light is out. 

So, do you have to have it replaced? Not necessarily. Many areas only require one brake light to work in the rear of a vehicle. So even though new vehicles have to have the third brake light, you may not get a ticket if it eventually stops working.  But you may be missing an opportunity to drive a safer vehicle if you don't get it fixed.

In 1995, an insurance institute study found that 1986 model cars were involved in 5 percent fewer rear-end collisions from 1986-1991 than they would have expected without the extra light.

Ask your service advisor for advice.  Keep in mind that in these days of drivers distracted by everything from texting to putting on makeup while driving, you can reasonably conclude that anything that makes you more visible to the vehicle behind you adds one more—possibly life saving—safety margin. 


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

Passing the Test (How to Prevent Emissions Test Failure)

Vehicle emission testing has become ubiquitous in North America and for a good reason.  Clean air quality is important for the environment and all of us.  Since vehicle emissions are among the main causes of air pollution, emission testing can alert you to problems in your vehicle than can be fixed so it won't needlessly pollute.

Emissions tests are looking for certain toxic gases internal combustion engines produce, such as nitrogen oxide, particulate matter, non-methane organic gases and formaldehyde.  Emissions control systems reduce these gases if they are working properly. 

The best way to minimize pollution is to keep those vehicle systems working properly, and periodic inspection and maintenance is the key.  So if you want to make sure your vehicle will pass an emissions test, it helps to know what might go wrong.

Let's start on the easy one.  Your gas cap could be loose, allowing vapors to escape into the atmosphere.  The most common solution is to replace it.  Or your air filter may be dirty.  A dirty air filter may push your hydrocarbons pass the acceptable level.

Now to the more complicated things.  The mixture of fuel and air in your engine may be tilted toward the "too much fuel" side.  That could cause problems for your vehicle's catalytic converter, a device that converts toxic gases from your exhaust into less toxic pollutants.

Your vehicle has a closed system that prevents fuel tank vapors from escaping into the air; it's called the EVAP system.  A technician can track down problems.

Vehicle engineers have gone to great lengths to minimize the amount of pollution your vehicle produces.  Your vehicle's manufacturer recommends how frequently those systems need servicing.  Keep those systems in good shape and you're likely to pass emissions tests with flying colors.  Neglect them and you might find your vehicle failing an emissions test.  When that happens, you'll have to get the problems repaired before you can get back on the road.

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

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

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

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

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