When "Oh, no!" Turns Into, "All right!"
Posted April 21, 2019 07:09 AM
Things we don't expect happen to our vehicles. And let's face, no one really wants to spend money on an unexpected repair. But if you are putting off going to your vehicle repair facility because you're dreading bad news, you might just be putting off some good news.
There was one minivan driver who'd had the same van for years and never had a problem with the power sliding doors. Then one day, the electrical switches in the door pillars stopped working. The key fob would still open them, but the door switches wouldn't do a thing.
Of course, the van driver feared the worst: an electrical problem, a major computer failure, mice chewing up the wires. So, he put off going into the repair facility for a couple of months. One day, it was time for his regular oil change and the service advisor asked him if there was anything else going on with the van. The owner mentioned the door problem but said he didn't want to spend a fortune on it.
He waited for his van, and it wasn't long before the service advisor came out with good news. The doors weren't working because a switch on the overhead console had been turned off. (It was a safety feature to allow parents to disable them.) The owner had accidentally switched it when he was unloading the van. It was the first thing the technician had checked. Flip the switch back and all was working as usual.
Another example? A mother was driving a minivan with her two kids inside on a hot day when she felt the front end shaking violently as she drove down the road. Fearing something major had broken in the van (and fearing for the safety of her kids), she pulled into a fast-food restaurant parking lot and started to look underneath to see if it was anything obvious she could see.
She couldn't see any broken parts, but she also didn't feel safe getting back in the van with her kids. So, she called her local service facility and asked if they could send someone to look at it. When the technician arrived, he took it for a test drive on the same road on which she'd described having the trouble. Then he put her van up on the lift. His conclusion? Nothing was wrong with her van. It was the street she was driving on. Crews repairing it had left the surface full of potholes, and that was causing her rough ride.
Ultimately, what these two drivers feared would be an expensive trip to the shop resulted in each driver getting different news than they had expected. One learned something new about his vehicle. The other? Well, the technician saw that her tires were badly worn and convinced her to get them replaced, perhaps preventing an accident and giving peace of mind for a mom with two kids.
To Fix or Not To Fix: That Is the Question.
Posted March 03, 2019 01:18 AM
No matter what vehicle you drive, when certain things break, you have to make a decision. Should I get it fixed now, later or never? Air conditioning is one of those things. You can certainly live without air conditioning, but it sure is nice to have on a sweltering day.
Let's say your air conditioning breaks in the fall and you live in a climate where it gets quite cold in the winter. Should you get it fixed now, wait until spring since it won't get warm until then or maybe not get it fixed at all?
That can be a tough decision. There are several reasons air conditioning in vehicles break. One is fairly simple: It could be an electrical problem, perhaps a relay or solenoid is not turning on the system. It's also a fairly inexpensive repair and doesn't require hours of labor.
Or, the problem is that the coolant has leaked out. Your service facility can find the leak and replace the parts that are leaking. With a refrigerant recharge, you're back in business. The repair costs vary, depending on the reason for the leak.
When air conditioning malfunctions involve a compressor, evaporator or condenser, the costs can be significant since parts and labor add up. Depending on the age and value of your vehicle, you may choose to simply roll down the windows and live with it.
Keep in mind that many vehicles in cold climates use air conditioning in winter. Many vehicles automatically turn on the A/C when you use the defroster. The A/C dries the heated air it blows on the windshield and side windows to eliminate fogging more quickly. Outside conditions such as snow and ice can severely hamper visibility. Add to that fogging on the inside and it can present very challenging conditions for the driver.
In order for all systems to be functioning optimally, a vehicle owner might feel it's worth it for safety reasons to get a broken air conditioner fixed, even if it is done right before the approach of cold weather. Discuss these options with your service advisor so you can make the best decision for your situation.
The Edible Engine
Posted January 20, 2019 03:02 AM
You may have had a friend whose vehicle was the victim of hungry rodents. After all, mice, rats and squirrels—even rabbits—have been known to gnaw on wires in engine compartments, causing vehicle electrical systems to go haywire. They can disable a vehicle completely and be very expensive to fix.
In 2017, some drivers noticed their vehicle's wiring was being chewed and found out the automaker was using a relatively new material for covering their wires: soy. Many of the repairs to their new vehicles weren't covered under warranty by the manufacturer when it was discovered rodents were eating the wiring. So the owners filed a class action suit, saying the soy covering was essentially baiting the critters.
The automakers tell a different story, saying mice, rats and squirrels have been chewing through wire insulation long before it was made out of soy.
Regardless of what the insulation is made of, vehicle owners should make sure rodents aren't chowing down and creating a problem in the engine compartment. They can have their repair facility check for these signs: Little bits of acorns, leaves, chewed up plastic and animal droppings in the engine's nooks and crannies. Using a black light, your technician can detect animal urine, a sure sign that they've been using your engine compartment as a warm apartment, a nest and a dining room.
You can take steps to prevent rodents from chomping your vehicle's parts. Honda—one of the vehicle manufacturers that uses soy-based wiring covering—makes a rodent tape. It contains a spice called capsaicin that rodents find too hot to handle. Other preventative measures include installing metal mesh around wiring harnesses or spraying the engine compartment with special rodent-repellants.
Rodent damage can cost one vehicle owner thousands of dollars to fix, not the kind of bite anyone wants taken out of their bank account.
Tacky or Techie? The Tachometer.
Posted January 30, 2018 07:55 AM
There's a gauge that many vehicles have that says RPM on it. And there are a lot of people who either don't pay any attention to it or don't even know what it is. Here's why it's a good gauge to know about.
It's called a tachometer, and that "RPM" label means it is measuring how many revolutions per minute (RPM) the engine is turning. Automotive experts know that a vehicle's engine can be damaged if it turns too fast (revving too high) or too slowly ("lugging" the engine).
A tachometer (sometimes called a tach) is almost a "must-have" gauge for vehicles with a manual transmission; the driver has to manually change gears; the tach helps the driver know when revolutions are in the optimal range.
Some say you don't need a tachometer if you drive a vehicle with an automatic transmission. It's true that most drivers of automatics don't even look at it. But there are times when paying attention to the tach can help you prevent an expensive repair.
Here's a good example. Manufacturers now build many of their automatic transmission vehicles with shift paddles. They let you shift gears without a clutch. That's manual shifting, and drivers need to know they're not revving the engine too high. That's where the tachometer comes in, since it shows you visually when you are in the red zone (RPM too high).
Here's another way the tach can help you: fuel economy. Generally speaking, the lower the RPM, the better the fuel economy. It's not good to go too low, of course, and the tachometer will help you find that spot of maximum efficiency.
You can also spot problems by paying attention to the tach. When your vehicle stays in first gear longer than usual (higher reading on the tach), then the RPM dip lower than usual after shifting, it may be that your vehicle's transmission is skipping a gear. Plus, if your vehicle's RPM go up but your speed doesn't, it could mean your transmission is slipping. Either situation should be checked by a trained technician.
If your commute takes you down some long grades, you might like to put your vehicle in a lower gear to help slow down the car (and not burn up the brakes). Having a tachometer keeps tabs on when your engine is revving too high.
So, consider the tachometer a "bonus" gauge. It's one more helpful assistant that can help you spot and prevent problems in your vehicle.