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Fears and Gears (Signs of Automatic Transmission Problems)

Automatic transmissions rule. The old days of shifting your own gears are a thing of the past for most drivers.  But automatic transmission trouble can be a big inconvenience for any driver if it comes at the wrong time in the wrong place.  Here are some signs to look out for that may mean you are having transmission issues. When you are driving, your vehicle seems to slip in an out of gear without you touching anything.  That's what some call, not surprisingly, a "slipping transmission."  When your vehicle shifts from one gear to the next, you hear a loud "clunk." Transmissions are supposed to be nearly silent when they shift, so that noise is telling you something is wrong.  If you notice there's a puddle of some fluid under your vehicle, your transmission could be leaking fluid.  Try to figure out what color it is (try putting a piece of cardboard underneath to capture some of the fluid).  If it is red or brown, that's a sign it could be transmissi ... read more

Categories:

Transmission

Such a Little Part (Climate Control Resistor)

You expect your heater/air conditioner to work like it should.  You have a control for temperature and one for fan speed.  You even have a control for what vents the air comes out of.  Don't be surprised one day if your blower fan develops a mind of its own and starts going crazy.  Most of the time, you may find that it starts blowing at full speed, and nothing you do to try to control it does any good.  This is what may be happening. Your blower motor has an electronic component called a resistor.  It does what its name says; it offers resistance.  When you want the fan to run more slowly, you turn the fan speed down.  That resistor accomplishes that by turning its resistance up.  When the resistor fails, the power has nothing to slow it and the fan speeds up.  It's a small part and can fail due to age or corrosion.  It's usually not an expensive part, either, but it's often found in a location that's not that easy for the technic ... read more

Don't Neglect Your Spare (Spare Tire Care)

If you've ever had a flat tire, then you know welcome it is to have a spare tire that is properly inflated, in good shape and easy to get to.  Problem is many of us don't even give our spare tire (if we even have one) a second thought. If you have an SUV or truck with a spare, it may be mounted outside the vehicle, such as on the tailgate or underneath the vehicle.  All of them, especially those underneath, take the brunt of debris, moisture, salt and dirt from the road surface, a potpourri of corrosion potential.  The hardware that holds these on can rust into a solid mess, making it hard for you or even a roadside assistance service to get off.  If you have one of those, have it checked and maintained at your vehicle repair facility on a regular basis.  They should be lubricated and cleaned periodically, and some recommend doing this service every time you have your tires rotated.  If the spare is the same size as the tires on the vehicle, it may be a go ... read more

Categories:

Tires

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, y ... read more

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 ... read more

Going (Lug) Nuts (Lug Nut Replacement)

Here's a part of your vehicle you probably don't think about much: lug nuts.  They're what fasten your wheels onto your axles.  Pretty important, right? In order to take the wheels off your vehicle to service the brakes, rotate the tires, etc., the lug nuts have to be in good shape so a wrench will grip them tightly.  Because lug nuts are on your wheels, they are exposed to all the elements of the road (salt, water, grime) and really take a beating. Unfortunately, some manufacturers have made them out of two different metals.  Underneath is the working part of the lug nut, made of steel.  On top is the decorative (the "good looking") part, made out of chrome, stainless steel or aluminum.  After a while, the steel part begins to corrode and expands.  That changes the shape of the outer cap, sometimes rounding off the hexagonal edges and making it hard (if not impossible) to either loosen or tighten the lug nuts since the wrench won't fit any more.  ... read more

The Right Oil for the Season (Engine Oil Viscosity)

As the temperatures plunge, certain types of engine oil may not flow as easily as they did when it was warmer.  Makes sense, doesn't it? Just like molasses gets thicker as the temperature goes down, engine oil does the same thing. So, maybe you're wondering if you have to change your oil as the seasons change so it's just the right thickness to lubricate your engine parts.  How well engine oil flows is called its viscosity. There are different types of oil—some that have just one viscosity and others called "multigrade" oils.  Here's the difference. A single viscosity oil will flow better when it's hot but not as well when it's cold.  A multigrade oil is engineered so that its flow properties at cold temperatures are different than they are at warm temperatures.  In other words, a multigrade oil can start out in colder temperatures acting like a thinner oil and then behave like a thicker oil when it's warm.  That's a pretty cool trick and it's why mu ... read more

Categories:

Oil Change

How Far We've Come (Newer Vehicle Technology)

Automotive design has come a long way since the days of the Model T, especially when it comes to safety technology.  You can thank computers for a lot of the latest innovations.  Here are a few that have been making their mark in recent years. Adaptive cruise control.  This is cruise control with a brain.  Not only will adaptive cruise control keep your vehicle going at a steady speed, it will also slow it down and even stop it if the vehicle ahead of you slows down and stops.  Automatic emergency braking.  We've all been distracted while driving, and you've probably been in a situation where the driver ahead of you has suddenly stopped.  Or maybe your attention wandered for a minute and you looked up to see your vehicle closing in fast on the car ahead of you.  (After all, there are a lot more distractions in your vehicle these days.)  New systems that use cameras, lasers and other types of sensors will warn you to start braking.  If y ... read more

Categories:

Automotive News

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 ... read more

The Vivacious Vernal Vehicle (Preparing Vehicle for Spring)

Most of us look forward to spring because the days are longer, the weather's warmer and we can finally get our vehicles into warm weather mode.  Here are a few things that will breathe fresh energy into anyone's car, SUV, truck or van. First thing is a good cleaning, especially underneath. If you live where salt and brine are used on the roads, it's important to get that off.  One thing to note… if you hose off your undercarriage, be careful not to get your spark plugs/wires wet.  You could notice your vehicle running rough plus the Check Engine light may come on. It usually dries out quickly, but if the engine light stays on for more than a couple of days, have your service facility check it out. Next, replace your windshield wipers.  They've taken a beating through the winter. New ones will have fresh rubber and you'll see clearly (and safely) out your windshield again. Have your brakes inspected.  That salt doesn't do your brake's metal components any ... read more

Categories:

Inspection
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