What Customers Should Know

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 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

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

Thoughtful Gifts for the Winter Driver

You may be one of those romantics who don't like giving (or getting) practical gifts for special occasions.  Just wait until one of those gifts helps you out of a big predicament in cold weather, and you realize that practical gifts can be life savers.

Here are a few things you may give the cold-weather driver in your life—or suggest to someone else to give you!

  • A portable air compressor.  If you've ever had a flat and you can't imagine trying to change a tire on a snowy, winter day, this may just get your tire pumped up enough to drive over to the repair facility.  Some are fancy and pricey, some are only a few bucks.  They plug into the cigarette lighter/12v outlet and will take a few minutes to pump up your tire. But it could save you a tow.
  • Portable jump starter. These are relatively small power units (they easily fit in a car trunk) that can jump start your vehicle that has a dead battery.  Some even have an air compressor built in.  If you've ever tried to use conventional jumper cables in freezing weather, they can be stiff and hard to manage.  Really handy when there are no other people or vehicles around and you need a jump.
  • Flares.  When bad winter weather reduces visibility to dangerously short distances, flares can make the difference between someone seeing you broken down at the side of the road and them ramming into you. Flares put out far more light than nearly every other warning device; just ask law enforcement officers who carry flares in their patrol vehicles. 
  • A good tire gauge.  Winter is when temperatures plunge.  When the temperature drops, so does your tire pressure, so it's important to check your air pressure properly and accurately so you don't wind up with one or more deflated (and flat) tires.  The proper time to check pressure is in the morning, before you hit the road and your tires heat up.  Properly inflated tires are important for safe traction, especially during winter.
  • Kitty litter.  The lowest-tech gift of all.  Keep a bag in your vehicle and it can provide much needed traction if you get stuck in the snow.

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

The Best Book that's Not a Best-Seller

Sometimes the movie is better than the book, sometimes it's the other way around.  But when it comes to your vehicle, the best book of all is the owner's manual. The plot is simple: Owner wants long life and dependable performance from the vehicle, manual has the way to achieve that long life and dependable performance.

And yet, it's amazing that some people will own a vehicle for years and never even crack this book.  They'll only read it when they absolutely have to, for things like finding out how to change the clock. 

Ok, so you're probably not going to rush right over to your glove box and start reading the owner's manual cover to cover.  We know that.  But just think of what you can get out of it.

Consider this.  Those who wrote or helped write this book include the engineers who designed it and the people who tested and refined it.  They know more about your vehicle than anyone, period.  They know how long a part is likely to last and what you need to do to take care of it. They know how far a distance or how long a time you can drive before you have to change certain fluids in it.  They know what temperature it can reach before things will start to break.

And they've put your vehicle model through torture, testing it in the absolute worst conditions to see how to make it stand up to more abuse than it will ever receive.  They've then torn it down, examined it and, in many cases, redesigned the parts to make them even better. 

And they've put down—in fairly minute detail—this blueprint that, if you and our experts at PDR follow their suggestions, will make it very likely that your vehicle will serve you well for a long time.  If you don't follow those suggestions, all bets are off.

We didn't even mention that the owner's manual tells you how to operate everything in your car.  How to adjust the heat and air conditioning, how to pair your smartphone with the audio system, how to program your key fob so it won't sound the horn when you lock your vehicle.

Have you lost your manual or did you buy a vehicle that didn't come with one?  Many are available either online or in paper form. If you don't know where to begin with such a long book, try a couple of pages a week, just three minutes.  You’ll discover your vehicle does things you never even knew it could do.  And the movie will never be as good.


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

Don't Start with That (Bad Starter Motor)

We've all heard that expression, "That's a non starter." When it comes to your vehicle, that's not music to a driver's ears. That sickening sound when you start the ignition and instead of hearing the engine crank, you hear it slowly turn over and your dash lights go dim. 

There can be many reasons a vehicle won't start, so here's a little history of how the starter came to be an important component of modern vehicles.

You have to move the engine's components to start it. The first cars had a crank that the driver would insert into the front, then start turning things over by hand.  When the engine started, you had to release that crank immediately or risk a broken arm.  Yes, it happened many times.  So, they came up with a better idea: an electric starter, which was a big advance in automotive technology.

With this system, an electric motor rotated a series of gears that turned the gasoline engine's crankshaft so its pistons and parts moved and the engine drew in air.  While this happened, electricity went to the spark plugs and fuel headed to the cylinders.  When the gasoline engine caught, the starter quickly disengaged. Hey, no more broken arms!

Modern systems use the same principle, so when your vehicle won't start, here are a few things to look out for that might point to the starter. 

If the engine turns over s-l-o-w-l-y, it may mean the electric starter motor may just be wearing out and doesn't have enough cranking power.  Bushings, brushes, wire windings and a special switch called a commutator may be going bad.

If when you engage the ignition you hear a faint click, that could be a symptom one or more of the starter's components have failed. If you hear a loud click, it could mean that an electrical switch called a solenoid may not be switching the motor on.

If you hear your engine start to turn over but then it stops and is followed by a grinding sound, some gears may not be meshing the way they should.

There may be many more causes (bad alternator, relay, battery, engine, key fob), so this is when it's time to turn it over to your service facility.  Sometimes they can send out their own tow truck or recommend a reputable towing company.

But it's best not to let it get to this point.  Starter problems often give you advance warning that there is a problem with "almost" not starting or "almost" not turning over.  So when you see that very first sign, "start" on over to talk this one over with your service advisor.  The opposite of a "non-starter" is a starter, and that is music to anyone's ears.

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

Beware of Potholes! (Avoiding Pothole Damage)

You may live in a region where roads become pockmarked with craters known better as potholes.  They're caused by moisture seeping through a compromised road surface that can freeze, expand and literally punch holes in the road.  And when your vehicle hits one of those holes that's big enough, the impact can flatten a tire, bend a wheel or tear apart a suspension component. 

To minimize pothole damage, leave enough room between you and the vehicle in front of you so you can see the road surface and any upcoming potholes.  That way you'll have time to slow down and steer around them.  Also, if you see what looks like a puddle of water, it may be hiding a pothole underneath, so treat it as if was a pothole.

If you keep your tires inflated to the manufacturer's specifications, they're more likely to withstand hard impacts.  And the slower you're going when you hit a pothole, the less likely you are to break something.   But if you do find you've hit a pothole pretty hard, here are some signs to watch out that could signal damage.

  • Your vehicle pulls to one side
  • The steering wheel shakes
  • You hear noises or clunks coming from your suspension
  • Your steering wheel is not centered when you are going straight

These are all symptoms you should have checked at your vehicle repair facility as soon as you can. The longer you wait, the more damage you may be doing.

You also may find after hitting a pothole hard that the tire on that wheel is flat. Try not to drive any more on that tire since you could do a lot more damage to the tire and/or wheel. A call to roadside assistance may save you money in the long run by limiting the damage to what's already done.

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

Singing a Different Tune (Up) (Tune Ups)

Engines required a lot more maintenance in earlier times.  You'd have to have your spark plugs, wires, rotors, caps, distributor points, fuel and air filters changed periodically.  There were mechanical adjustments of a vehicle's timing, dwell, spark gap and idle mixture, too. Unless you like to tinker with old cars, a lot of those terms won't mean much to you. 

That service was called a "tune up" back then, and you can see why.  But now, computers have reduced the number of maintenance items, and a tune up is a whole lot different than it used to be.  In fact, in some vehicle service facilities, that term is also a thing of the past. 

A tune up of today would more accurately be called simply periodic maintenance. Now, most vehicles still have spark plugs and wires, fuel filters, air filters and PCV valves, and they should be inspected tested and/or replaced at regular intervals.  Your vehicle's manufacturer has made recommendations on how often that should be. But it depends on your driving habits. Do you regularly tow a trailer? Do you drive on dusty roads often? Are you driving mostly stop and go in the city?  Depending on your answers, to those maintenance intervals might have to be more frequent.

Your service advisor will likely remind you about those "must check" items such as spark plugs and wires, air filter and oxygen sensor.  And now that the old-fashioned tune ups don't require you to take your vehicle in for maintenance as often, you can get the same benefit from scheduled oil changes or tire rotations.  When your vehicle is in for those, a technician can keep an eye on your other systems (fuel, emissions, ignition) to make sure they are operating correctly.

One thing to remember.  When you take your vehicle in for regular service or a specific issue, don't ever hesitate to ask you service advisor to explain what's being done and why.  Hey, "In Sync" may have been a boy band of an earlier era, but it's always good for you and your service advisor to be "in sync" when it comes to what maintenance is good for your vehicle.

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

Move it or Lose It (Dormant Vehicles)

When it comes to your vehicle, driving it too much can cause some issues.  But what about not driving a vehicle enough? That has consequences as well.

Here are a few things that can happen if a vehicle isn't driven enough.  When the engine doesn't operate, the oil isn't lubricating. That means some mechanisms that need periodic lubrication aren't getting it.  And oil that sits around breaks down over time.  In fact, some experts say you should change oil more often if your vehicle sits in the driveway than if you drive it regularly. 

You've heard that expression, "Take it on the highway and blow out the engine.” Well, carbon buildup used to be a problem in older vehicles.  But the real culprit these days is moisture that builds up from combustion if your vehicle never gets hot enough to burn it off. That water vapor can mix with oil and cause sludge to form. There are many vehicle systems (battery, exhaust system, engine seals, etc.) that benefit from driving your vehicle at its optimal operating temperature for a while.

Spark plugs can deteriorate unless they are fired up.  The gas tank can rust from the inside if the metal is exposed from not having fuel in it.  Rodents and insects may see a sitting vehicle as a luxury hotel.  Brakes can rust after sitting around without being used.  Seals and gaskets can dry out.

One wise thing to do is check the operating manual. Some will spell out a maintenance schedule for vehicles that aren't driven regularly. 

One suggestion? Discuss your vehicle's maintenance with your service advisor. Let him or her know how often you drive the vehicle and what you use it for.  Then, you can come up with a maintenance schedule tailored for you, one that might not be covered in the owner's manual. 

If you do have a vehicle that's been sitting around for a long time, it may be wise to have it towed to your service facility rather than trying to drive it with brakes that may not work, spark plugs that may not fire reliably and other systems that may compromise your safety and those of others on the road. 

You may think it's great to have a low-mileage vehicle that you've barely driven, but a complicated, sophisticated machine such as a car, SUV or truck needs regular attention to keep it running safely… and reliably.

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

Start Me Up (Ignition Systems)

When you start up your gasoline engine car, you may not know that it's using the same ignition principles as it has for decades.  You have spark plugs that require enough power so a spark can jump across a gap at its tip.  Years ago, a vehicle's 12-volt system had to produce 15,000-25,000 volts to do that, so engineers came up with something called an ignition coil that bumps up the voltage. It also has to be done at just the right interval called timing.

The first systems had a distributor, a mechanical device with a rotating disc that switched the power to the ignition coil on and off.  That higher voltage then was sent to the spark plugs at the correct time interval. But the mechanical "points" had to be replaced and adjusted every 12,000 miles/20,000 kilometers.  Engineers later replaced the switching mechanism with solid state ones, but they still needed replacement after 120,000 miles/200,000 kilometers.

The next evolution came in the 80's when the distributor was replaced with a couple of sensors which talked to a computer.  This "DIS" (distributor-less automotive ignition system) was a big advance.  Plus, it didn't use just one ignition coil for all the cylinders.  It had coil "packs" that each provided spark to two cylinders.  That way, the voltage could be boosted even higher, to 30,000 volts, which helped engines be able to ignite a leaner fuel/air mixture.

Recently have come even more improvements.  Now instead of coil packs, there's a coil that's attached to each spark plug.  No more spark plug wires means less maintenance. Plus, a stronger, hotter spark of 50,000 volts can make an engine more reliable, increase fuel economy and reduce emissions.

No matter what ignition system your vehicle uses, your vehicle service facility has a staff of technicians trained to work on the latest technology.  Make sure to have your vehicle maintained regularly so you can take full advantage of these modern engineering marvels.

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