Articles:

No Fountain of Youth (Aging Tires)

Can you think of anyone who enjoys aging?  Wrinkles where you don't want them, gray hair, eyes that won't focus any more, no stamina.  Believe it or not, your tires age, too, and they don't get better the older they get.  And here's the important thing to know, even if they can still pass a tread depth test, they may simply be too old to be safe  Here's the best way to understand this.  Have you ever found an old deck of playing cards with a rubber band wrapped around them?  Try stretching the rubber band.  SNAP! It's all cracked and brittle.  And you haven't stressed that rubber one bit since the time you put them in that drawer. Now you know what's happening to your tires.  Rubber ages.  Just like us, the day we come into the world, we start to go downhill (no pun intended).  Oh, engineers are able to make a tire last longer than ever before.  But that gas that keeps us alive—oxygen—seems to love to chemically mi ... read more

Categories:

Tires

That Squeal is Telling You Something (What Causes Squealing While Steering)

If you hear a squealing noise when you turn your vehicle, it's trying to tell you something is wrong.  After all, it never made that noise before, right?  The sound  you hear may becoming from a few sources.  Let's take a look (or a listen) to some of the possibilities. First, you almost certainly have power steering in your vehicle. Without power steering, you practically have to have arms like Arnold Schwarzenegger to turn, so automakers have technology to assist your steering, either mechanically or electrically.  For a long time, the most common power steering has been hydraulic, using a belt to supply power from the engine that turns a power steering pump full of a fluid that helps you steer.  Sometimes that fluid gets low because of a leak or some other problem.  The belt could wear out and start squeaking, and you might feel the steering start to become harder.  Your service repair facility can figure out the problem and offer some solutio ... read more

Categories:

Steering

Too Hot to Handle (Vehicle Overheating)

In the hot weather, seeing steam coming from the engine compartment is something we all dread.  No one wants that to happen to them. But if you know the signs of overheating and how to deal with it, you may be able to reduce the risk of damage to your vehicle, maybe even prevent getting stranded on the road. Besides the steam coming out of the engine compartment, here are a few signs of overheating.  Your vehicle has a heat gauge that may have a needle that can go into a red zone or up to the "H" (for High) position.  You may smell odors, perhaps a burning (could be hot oil) or a sweet smell (engine coolant leaking).  When you encounter any of those signs, you know you have to do something to keep the engine as cool as possible to avoid potentially catastrophic damage.  Turn off the air conditioning and turn up the heat.  While that last part may sound odd, it helps draw heat out of the engine.  If you can do it safely, pull off the road to a spot awa ... read more

Categories:

Cooling System

What's in a Number? (What Tire Numbers Mean)

You've probably never paid much attention to the writing on the sides of your tires, but they contain a wealth of information.  There's a long combination of letters and numbers that can tell you a whole lot about what tires your vehicle was designed to be riding on.  Let's check out this example found on an SUV: P245/70R17 108T. The first letter, P, means it's intended for passenger vehicles.  If there's no letter, it means it's a metric tire.  If there's an LT at the beginning or end that means a tire designed for light trucks. Moving on to our example, the 245 shows how wide the tire is in millimeters from sidewall to sidewall.  The number that follows in our example, 70, means the height of the tire is 70% of its width.  The letter after that in our example, R, describes the type of tire (on this vehicle, radial).  Following that is the diameter in inches, in our SUV example, 17 inches.  How much load the tires' sidewalls are designed to take ... read more

Categories:

Tires

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 wha ... read more

The Right Stuff (Choosing Replacement Parts)

Let's face it.  Vehicles are complicated machines, each having thousands of parts.  And since they're subjected to heat, cold, vibrations, bumps and much more, these parts wear out and need to be replaced.  When your service advisor says you need a new part, you may have many options.  Let's say you need a new muffler.  One choice would be to get exactly the same part that was installed when the vehicle was manufactured.  The advantages are that it will perform the same way as the one it's replacing and will likely last about the same amount of time as the original. Some mufflers are made by the same companies that supplied the automaker when your vehicle was new (they call that an OEM part—Original Equipment Manufacturer).  And often those are the same as the part you'd buy from a dealer. A reputable vehicle service facility will know which ones these are because they replace mufflers all the time and do their homework. The good news is there a ... read more

Don't be Fuelish (Signs Fuel Pump is Failing)

A driver of a large SUV loaded with equipment was heading on a 7-hour work trip when he stopped at a gas station to refuel.  When he went to restart his SUV, it turned over but wouldn't catch.  Try as he might, he was never able to get it started again.  Of course there are many things that can cause those symptoms, but the next day he had his SUV towed to a service repair facility.  Using their test equipment, they were able to pinpoint the problem.  His fuel pump had failed.  The pump, which was located in the fuel tank, had to be replaced, and after awhile he was back on the road, delayed, but happy to be up and running again.  What had happened is that the pump was not strong enough to deliver adequate  fuel to his engine, vital to being able to start it.  It had delivered just enough pressure in the morning to get it started the first time, but it was on its last legs.  He had been having trouble starting his SUV in the days leadin ... read more

Categories:

Fuel System

Bad Vibes

Your vehicle has a way of letting you know when something's wrong. Consider a vibrating steering wheel. It certainly didn't do that when it was new, so that shake is trying to tell you something. There are a few things that can cause your steering wheel to vibrate as you drive down the road.  One of the most common is out-of-balance tires.  You may not only feel that wobble in your steering wheel, you might also feel it in the tires.  Sometimes it's not there when you're driving at lower speeds through residential areas, and sometimes it starts when you hit highway speeds.  So what is tire balance anyway?  Well, you have a rubber tire that fits around a metal wheel.  It should have the same weight all the way around.  If it doesn't, it will start getting the shakes.  Ever load your washing machine so that all the clothes are at one side of that drum that spins?  When it hits the spin cycle, it can throw that washer against the wall.  Th ... read more

The Cable Guy (Battery Cables and Maintenance)

If you've ever noticed your vehicle's lights are dim or not working at all, the problem could be many things.  But one possibility is your battery cables aren't doing their job.  A power outage in your vehicle is similar to one in your house and needs to be repaired to get things back to normal. Battery cables connect your vehicle's battery to the vehicle itself.  There is a positive cable when provides the power and a negative cable that connects to the vehicle chassis and provides a ground for electrical components.  A failing battery cable may cause your vehicle not to start.  Your starter may turn over very slowly.  Or you may just hear a series of clicks.  One other clue is on your dash—the battery warning light.  There are many things that can cause power issues in a vehicle, but it's important to keep battery cables clean and maintained.  Salt and corrosion are enemies to any power system.  A technician can keep things in t ... read more

Categories:

Battery

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 eac ... read more

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