What Customers Should Know

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

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

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

Power Failure (Broken Power Seat)

Know anyone who doesn't love a power seat in an SUV, a car, truck or van? They're convenient and precise in their adjustments.  But when they break, oh, what a pain.  Not only is it inconvenient, it may leave your seat position too close to the steering wheel or too far from the pedals.  This is a must-fix problem.

There are many things that cause a power seat to fail:

  • Seat controls.  These are either at the side of the seat or in the door.  Both are places that can be exposed to moisture or other contaminants.  When the controls stop working, they usually need to be replaced.
  • Seat motor.  Electric motors are what make a power seat move, and sometimes they fail.  Sometimes they just get worked to death and die of old age.  Replacement is the most common remedy.
  • Fuses. A power seat is, after all, powered by electricity and all vehicle power systems have fuses to protect them.  A technician can determine which fuse may have blown and replace it.  But it's also important to figure out what caused the fuse to blow and deal with that, too.
  • Wires.  There are wires under the seats that move when you move the seat.  Sometimes they get stretched, kinked or ripped.  In a power seat malfunction, it may be a wiring harness that needs to be replaced.
  • Gears.  They help the seat move and may need to be realigned or replaced.
  • Obstructions.  Yes, a piece of trash or a kid's toy has been known to jam up the works of a power seat. Taking them out of the mechanism may get your seat working again.

Most people pay extra to have power seats in a vehicle. So make sure you keep that convenient feature working. And don't forget that it's a safety issue, too.

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

When Your Air Bag Light Comes On (Illuminated Air Bag Light)

There are some dashboard lights you should pay more attention to than others.  One is the air bag light.  If it's on and your vehicle is in an accident, your air bags probably won't do their job.

Automakers began installing air bags in the late 1990's since they were mandatory in the United States, and manufacturers have included them in Canadian vehicles as well.  Safety experts say using a seat belt in combination with an air bag gives passengers the best chance of surviving a crash and minimizing serious injury.

The air bag warning light takes a few different forms.  Some look like a picture of a belted passenger with an inflated air bag from a side view.  Or there may be a warning light that says something like "Air Bag," "SRS" (for supplemental restraint system), "Airbag Deactivated" or "Air Bag Off."

Different things cause the air bag light to come on.  Your vehicle may have been in an accident during which, while the air bags didn't inflate, crash sensors were activated.  Some of them may be connected with your vehicle's seat belts.  A technician can reset the air bag if this has happened.

Fuses can also blow which will cause the air bag light to come on.  Another possible cause? A sensor that tells the vehicle's computer whether or not there is someone riding in the passenger front seat may be malfunctioning. 

Air bags are not for the do-it-yourselfer.  They are sophisticated systems that require specialized training and equipment to diagnose and repair.  If an air bag light is on, take it to a qualified service repair facility.  One more thing: remember that safety experts have designed air bags to work in conjunction with seat belts for maximum protection in accidents.  So always wear your seat belt.  

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

A Honking Big Jam (Stuck Horn)

At one time or another, most drivers honk their horn at someone who might be texting at a stoplight or not paying attention when they're driving.  But what happens when you tap on your horn and all of a sudden it won't quit? Everyone's looking at you like you're an angry jerk and all you want to do is turn it off!

It helps to know the basics of what's happening when you honk your horn.  There's a switch in the steering wheel, of course, and when you press on it, it sends power to a relay which then energizes the horn.  Bingo.  Sound.  When the horn sticks on, one of these parts or the wiring has developed a problem. 

With the ear-splitting noise inside your cabin, it may be hard to keep your cool, but do your best to stay calm.  Try pushing the horn several times; it may un-stick the switch if you're lucky.  If not, there are a couple of things you can try.

First, if you can, pull your vehicle off the road and into a spot where you're not disrupting traffic.  If you feel comfortable rummaging around in your vehicle's fuse box, you might be able to pull the fuse that manages the circuit for your horn system.  A hint: the fuse boxes sometimes have a label inside showing which fuse goes to which part of the vehicle. Find the fuse that goes to the horn and pull it out (sometimes there's a fuse-pulling tool inside the fuse box).

But many people don't feel like tackling that.  Yes, you can drive over to a service facility with the horn blaring (not the best idea).  Or call your service facility and see if they might be able to send someone over to where you are so they can shut off the horn.

At the shop, a technician can check wiring, switches, relays and other components to find out what's wrong.  This is something that should be left to a professional for a couple of reasons.  First, repairs around the steering wheel can involve airbags.  Second, some horn components may be part of a vehicle's alarm system. 

The bad news is that your horn may not give you any warning before it starts blaring uncontrollably.  But the good news is that a horn doesn't malfunction all that often, and now you have a plan if it does.    

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

Gas Smell! (What Causes Gasoline Odors)

If you've ever walked into your garage and noticed it smelled like gasoline, pay attention. Gasoline can be dangerous, both from the health problems fumes can cause and the fire danger gasoline presents. 

There are many things that can cause a vehicle to give off a gasoline odor.  One of the easiest to track down is the gas cap.  It could be missing or it doesn't seal well any more (they do wear out).  That can also cause the Check Engine light to light up, so those are clues to tell your service advisor when you take it in for diagnosis.

Another thing that can cause the Check Engine light to come on and produce a gasoline smell is the fuel filler neck. It's the part that goes from the place you put your fuel in to the gas tank. Over time, these can wear out and fail (they're made out of rubber or metal).  They can leak gasoline, too.

It's always a good idea to check the garage floor for any gasoline puddles.  Note the location of the puddle in relation to the vehicle. If it's near the back, that's possibly the fuel filler neck or the gas tank leaking.  In the middle of the vehicle? May be fuel lines.  Near the front? Could be fuel injectors (or carburetor if you have one) or fuel pump. 

There are other causes of gas odors, and you need an expert to figure out the source soon.  Gasoline leaks are nothing to play around with.  Gasoline is flammable, potentially explosive and its fumes can damage your lungs. A trained technician can pinpoint the cause and get your garage back to smelling like a normal garage again.

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

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