What Customers Should Know

Objects in the Mirror (Rearview Mirror Safety and Maintenance)

You may remember a song that went, "Objects in the rearview mirror may appear closer than they are." While that was a song about life's lessons, there are a few things we should all know about how important rearview mirrors are to safe driving.

While new electronic devices are helping drivers be aware of surrounding traffic in high-tech ways, the good old rearview mirror is still a dependable way of letting you know what's around you.  There are usually 3 on each vehicle, 1 attached to the windshield inside and 2 attached outside on each of the front doors.

It's important that they be adjusted properly before you start driving (not while you're driving). Experts say the windshield rearview mirror should cover the area behind the vehicle while the outside mirrors should not simply duplicate that view but extend it to the sides, where blind spots normally are.

Your rearview mirrors must be able to hold the positions they're adjusted in; it there's play in them or they move around, you'll never be sure they're pointed in the direction that will let you see where traffic is.  The one on the windshield must be firmly attached.  If it won't stay where you want it, head to your service facility where they can tighten it or replace any parts necessary to let the mirror maintain its aim. If it has fallen off the windshield completely, a technician can reattach it with the proper adhesives or fasteners.  There may be electronics that need to be properly connected as well.

The outside mirrors cover your blind spots and they must be able to hold their adjustments, too.  Many adjust electronically; switches and motors can fail, electrical connections can detach or become corroded and the reflective glass can crack, discolor or develop a hazy fog.  A technician can diagnose and repair those problems and recommend any replacement parts you might need.  Mirrors that are adjusted manually also should be restored to proper working order in order for you to maintain this important rear visibility.

Drivers don't think about their rearview mirrors all that much.  On reflection, don't they deserve respect and care for the important job they do?

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

A "Mounting" Problem (Motor Mounts)

You know how heavy your engine and transmission are, so you can imagine how tough the parts that hold them onto your vehicle's sub-frame must be.  Not only must they support the weight, they also have to isolate vibrations and noise from the passenger cabin.  Pretty tall order, wouldn't you say?

The parts that face that task daily are called the motor mounts, or engine mounts.  They are usually made of rubber with steel brackets.  Others contain a liquid for vibration and sound isolation. 

Most vehicles have three or four motor mounts, and while rubber or hydraulic liquids do a good job of damping the vibrations from the engine, they also have their limitations.  The problem with rubber is that it gets old and brittle.  Plus, if there's an oil leak anywhere in your engine and oil gets on the rubber motor mounts, rubber will deteriorate even more quickly.  As for the liquid motor mounts, they can develop leaks and stop working. 

Here are signs a motor mount is going bad.  You may hear a loud clunking or banging sound under the hood.  That means the weight of the engine is shifting around enough to bang against other metal parts.  You may feel bad vibrations, and the engine may feel like it's moving around in a strange way.

When things get to that point, your vehicle can be damaged from that heavy engine knocking against things, and its time to replace one or more motor mounts.  Schedule a visit to your vehicle service facility. There, a technician will assess your motor mounts; if one bad one is found, it's not unusual that others are likely to fail soon and should be replaced before they do.

Because all vehicles are configured differently, some motor mounts are easily replaced.  But others can be much trickier, take a lot longer and therefore are more expensive to replace. 

It's important for your engine's health to make sure motor mounts are sound and solid.  You will maintain that quiet, vibration-free ride and could save your engine and transmission from major wear and tear.

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

Visibility Disaster! (Windshield Washer Pump Replacement)

Let's say you live in a cold climate where the snowy, icy weather challenges you to clear the salt and debris tossed up on your windshield.  You push your windshield washer switch expecting a good stream of fluid so the blades can wipe the glass clean. Yet nothing comes out.  Nada, zip.  What's going on? You know you filled up the windshield washer reservoir within the last week or so. 

Well, there could be a few things causing your windshield washing system to fail.  One culprit? The hoses that are supposed to carry that fluid from the washer pump to the spray nozzles may be frozen, or maybe they're cracked and leaking. It could be the nozzles themselves are stopped up, either iced up or jammed full of debris.  Your windshield wiper/washer switch could be worn out or the electrical system may not be conducting power to the washer pump. 

It's important that this system work properly, especially on days when the sun may be in front of you and your windshield is covered with a cloudy, icy mess.  Seeing what's going on in front of you may be like trying to peer through frosted glass, and that's not a safe situation for you or the drivers around you. You need to have this checked out by a technician as soon as you can.

Let's say the technician discovers it's not any of those components.  Turns out it's the electric windshield washer pump itself that's failed. After replacing it, everything is working fine, and you can see again.  As so often is the case with today's complex vehicles, figuring out the root cause of a problem can be tricky.  Rely on your vehicle service facility since they have the know how and diagnostic equipment to make sure your view of the road will always be crystal clear.

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

The Puzzling Puddle (Leaks Under Vehicle)

Ever notice a little spot of liquid under your vehicle after you've parked in your driveway or garage? It may have been something as simple as water left from air conditioning condensation.  But then again, it could be a sign that there's trouble brewing in one of your vehicle's systems.

You can help your service facility diagnose the problem by getting a little sample of the drip.  At the same time, you may save yourself a tougher clean up task by preventing the leaky fluid from really messing up the driveway or garage floor.  The first thing is to put something under the vehicle. A flattened out cardboard box will do fine.  You may also want to slip a little disposable aluminum tray or pan under it to catch a bit of the fluid.  Chroma and consistency can help a technician quickly figure out what kind of fluid you're dealing with.  You can take your sample with you when you go to your service facility.

Also note how much of the substance is there over what period of time, when you started to notice it and its location relative to the vehicle.  Is it on the passenger's or driver's side? Front, middle or back? Vehicle's have different designs, so where their equipment is located will depend on make and model. 

The leaky fluid will have a certain look to it and consistency.  If it's blue, it may be windshield washer fluid and a sign that your washer fluid tank has a leak.  If it's green, it could be antifreeze.  Orange may mean rusty water or transmission fluid.  Brown? Might be oil.

There should be no leaks in your powertrain if things are maintained properly.  A small leak may not seem like a big deal, but sometimes they can get much bigger quickly.  A coolant leak, for example, may suddenly go from pinhole to flood, draining your cooling system and putting your engine in danger of overheating. 

It is a really good idea to have a professional check out your leaks as soon as you notice them.  And the more clues you can provide, the happier the technician will be as the search for the problem gets underway.

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

3 Winter Windshield Tips (Care of Windshield)

Cold weather can present some real challenges when it comes to your vehicle's windshield.  Think of it.  Your windshield is your window to the world when you're driving, and clear visibility is extraordinarily important for safe travels. So here are 3 tips to ensure that your windshield can do its job during the cold weather.

  1. Don't ever pour hot water on a frozen windshield.  Let's say you head outside and see your vehicle covered with ice. You think, hey, maybe I can heat up a pot of water on the stove and melt that off fast.  Don't do it!  You run the risk of shattering the glass the second that hot water hits the frigid glass.  Ditto for using a propane torch.  Glass does not do well with sudden temperature changes.  Instead, turn on your engine and start the defroster, which heats the windshield up gradually.  Use a plastic scraper designed for windshields (don't EVER use metal to scrape) and be patient.  Don't hammer on the ice to break it into pieces.  Sudden pressure and glass don't mix.
  2. Keep your wiper blades up off the glass.  If you park your vehicle outside and you think there's a chance of frozen precipitation falling, do what smart winter drivers do.  Lift the wiper arms off the glass and leave them extended with the blades not touching the glass at all.  That way when you go back to your vehicle, you won't have to try to pull the wipers off the icy glass (which can damage the rubber blades) or start the wipers with them frozen solid to the windshield.  Many drivers have burned out their wiper motor that way, and that can be a pricey repair.
  3. Keep your windshield washer fluid topped off and use it often.  So you've followed the steps above and you're on the road. Salt, brine and sand can muck up the windshield fast, causing your wiper blades to smear the glass, re-freeze the icy snow and blind you.  It's important to use wiper fluid made for low temperatures so it doesn't freeze on your glass.  Use it often so any road debris won't scratch the glass like sandpaper.  And make sure your defroster is working properly, keeping your windshield warm enough to prevent ice from forming.  

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

Low Power Mystery (Ignition Coil Service)

It's no fun when your vehicle just doesn't run the way it used to.   You may notice (especially in cold weather) the engine won't start easily or when it does start, it doesn't run smoothly. It may not have much power at all. You also may have had to stop at the gas station more often, a sign your fuel economy isn't what it used to be. 

There could be a few different things that cause those symptoms, but one culprit could be a bad ignition coil. The coil takes the voltage from your battery and multiplies it before that power is sent over to a spark plug. That allows the plug to fire off a good jolt of electricity that ignites the fuel in your cylinder and powers the engine. 

There's usually one ignition coil for each cylinder (or sometimes for a pair of cylinders). If only one of them is not pushing out enough electricity, it can cause big trouble with your engine performance.  Other signs of a bad ignition coil include engine backfire, an oil leak and your Check Engine light coming on.   When that light comes on and you have some of those other signs, you need to have your repair facility check things out fairly soon because you may be damaging your engine and wind up with a far more expensive repair.

A technician will check for a computer code to pinpoint which cylinder is having the problem.  Using other diagnostics, the technician can rule out other components that might be causing the engine to misfire.  Ignition coils usually last 100,000 miles/160,000 km, but other engine conditions can cause them to fail before then. 

Your service advisor may suggest getting all your coils replaced even though only one is malfunctioning. That's probably a good idea in a higher mileage vehicle since the other coils may be close to failure, too. It's also wise to do that if your vehicle's coils are located in a hard-to-reach spot so you likely won't have to spend the money for that labor again when another one fails.

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

Clean Slate (Protecting Vehicle's Finish)

Winter is one of the hardest times to keep your vehicle clean. But did you know neglecting to wash your vehicle in winter could cost you a significant amount of money in the long run? Here's why.

Many areas deal with snow and ice in the winter, and the salt and sand that are used to keep the road surfaces from being slick are also super corrosive to a vehicle's metal body and undercarriage.  That includes all the parts underneath that can be splashed with brine, saltwater and other road debris.  Winter is also tough on vehicles where there isn’t snow, sometimes from ocean salt or winter's extra humidity and rain. 

If you have any breaks in your vehicle's paint, whether it be from a little fender bender or a stone chip, that corrosive winter moisture can get through those cracks and start eating away at the metal underneath. 

If you can, you should get any dents or damage fixed as soon as possible so your vehicle has a protective layer of paint between road chemicals and the metal.  You may want to wait until the warmer weather, but while you're waiting, the damage is getting worse.  If you're not sure of a reputable body repair shop, check with the service advisor where you have mechanical work done.  They're usually knowledgeable about who is good and not so good. 

You also may be tempted to skip the car wash during the winter since your vehicle is just going to get dirty fast anyway.  You may want to reconsider.  Many winter road treatments now use brine that gets in every nook and cranny of your vehicle.  It's wise to clean that off regularly during the winter, and many washing facilities include a spray underneath that gets rid of that salt.  Your vehicle repair facility may even have its own car wash, a nice bonus when you take your vehicle in for repair or regular maintenance. 

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

In the Hot Seat (Repair and Maintenance of Seat Heaters)

It's chilly outside. You flip on that switch that looks like a picture of a seat with little heat waves rising from it.  You expect soon you'll feel that warmth but… wait! It's not getting warmer.  Oh no, what's wrong with my seat heater? There could be lots of reasons it's not working, and it could be as simple as a fuse or as major as the heating element itself.  But it's something to leave to a pro to diagnose and repair.

Let's say it turns out to be a blown fuse.  Simply replacing the fuse may not fix it because there was a reason the fuse blew in the first place.  It's possible the on-off switch has worn out or corroded.  Perhaps the wiring connection isn't completing the circuit (could be corroded or full of dirt) or the voltage reaching the heating element isn't correct. 

There's a little sensor that keeps track of the seat heater's temperature called the thermistor.  When the seat is hot enough, it will stop the juice from heating it any more.  Sometimes those fail.  But if all of these components are healthy, you may need a new heater element. 

Those seat-heating elements are made up of wires that get sat on.  A lot.  That can put significant strain on them.  Putting something heavy on the seat can break them. Or, if you put your knees on the seat cushion as you're getting something in a rear seat, that can also damage the element.  Sometimes they can be repaired but often they have to be replaced.  And here is where the technician's expertise comes into play.  That heater element is attached to the seat's fabric and replacing it can be tricky.  It also can require disassembling a lot of the seat to access it. 

Seat heaters are a wonderful feature and they make your vehicle oh, so much cozier.  So keep them working and enjoy the warmth!

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

A Squirrely Problem (Animals Nesting in Engine)

If you park your vehicle outside, you are exposing it to all sorts of critters that would love to use it for nesting, food storage and shelter.  There are plenty of pictures online of people who've discovered there was more than an engine under the hood.  In one case, the driver of an SUV started to smell a slight burning odor when she was driving.  Turned out to be 200 walnuts and a lot of grass had been stored there by some industrious squirrels preparing for the upcoming cold weather. 

The SUV owners had their vehicle inspected not long before this happened, but it doesn't take some animals long to set up house in what they think is the ideal spot to make their winter home.   Obviously, that can create problems.  Squirrels, mice, rats and other small animals can chew through hoses and wires.  Plus what they store as food and nesting material may prevent engine parts from moving the way they are supposed to.  Imagine a radiator fan that won't turn because it's laden with heavy walnuts.  Or the fire hazard created by flammable brush on a hot manifold.

Probably the best solution is to store your vehicle inside a rodent-tight building, but that's no guarantee.  Unfortunately it doesn't take a very big hole or gap for small mice or other creatures to get in.  Some careful sealing with materials like cement or steel wool can reduce rodent access effectively, but they're always looking for access so you can't let down your guard.

If you're not able to store your vehicle inside, you may try spraying lavender or mint essence around the engine or in the wheel wells.  Rodents don't seem to like those odors very much.  If you drive your vehicle every day, you're less likely to have unwanted residents than if you leave it sit for days.  In either case, if you have experienced animal problems in the past, open your hood and inspect your engine frequently. 

Check with your service adviser for recommendations on how to keep animals out of your vehicle.  You're not the only one whose vehicle looks like the perfect winter apartment to some critters.  Preventing animals from getting to your vehicle is worth some time and expense because damage from gnawing teeth can be very costly and difficult to repair.

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

Wash Me, Wash Me Right (How to Wash a Vehicle)

Most would agree they'd rather drive around in a clean, shiny vehicle than one coated with a layer of dirt.  When warmer weather comes around, some of us are bound and determined to wash our own vehicles.  And to protect the paint and its luster, there are a few things to keep in mind when you get out the bucket and soap.

  • Cool body.  It's not a good idea to wash a vehicle when the body is hot.  If it's been sitting out in the sun or you've been riding around on a sunny day, make sure you cool your vehicle off by either moving it to the shade or wetting it down with cool water. The problem with washing a hot vehicle is that it's going to dry so fast, minerals in the water can form hard-to-remove spots on the paint.  And some of those can be really difficult to get out.  Best to avoid it.
  • Slippery when wet.  Make sure you wet your vehicle down thoroughly before you get the washing mitt out.  Experts keep a couple of buckets of soapy water on hand, and they use soap especially engineered to remove dirt from a vehicle without stripping off the wax that might be on it. 
  • The washing mitt.  Experts say to use a mitt with hundreds of moisture-absorbing strands on it.  Start washing at the top and move down.  If you keep dipping the mitt in the buckets frequently, a minimal amount of dirt will stick to it and that will prevent scratching the paint. 
  • Wheels last.  Wait until you've finished washing the body before washing the wheels.  Some detailers prefer special wheel-washing tools or brushes. 
  • Rinse it well.  Hose the vehicle off thoroughly to get all the soap off, then dry immediately.  Some people swear by a chamois, others like cloth better.  Cotton or microfiber towels will do.  

The next time you have your vehicle in for maintenance, you might ask your service advisor for recommendations on vehicle washing accessories.  They are usually up on the brands that produce the best results.  You may not be a detailing pro, but there's no reason your vehicle can't look like you are.

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