Articles:

Have a Ball! Know your Ball Joints (Ball Joints)

We all have joints in our own skeletal system, but did you know your vehicle has some joints of its own? One of the most important is called a ball joint. One of the interesting things is that it's somewhat similar to the ball and socket joints we have in our hips and shoulders.  A ball joint allows two parts it joins together to move in more than one direction at the same time. Think about your wheels.  They have to move up and down when there are bumps in the road but in sideways directions when you are making a turn. As you can see, the ball joints are important for your steering and handling to work correctly. Since ball joints do so much, they can wear out and become loose.  When the ball wears down or the socket gets worn, there can be too much play in them.  It can get so bad that the ball can come out of the socket and your wheel can fall off, a dangerous situation.  Ball joints can also seize up.  Some of them are sealed and never require maintena ... read more

Categories:

Steering

Steer Me Right! (Failing Power Steering Hose)

Most drivers love how easy it is to turn their vehicles, and they have power steering to thank.  Engineers have figured out a way to take some of your engine's power to help you turn. Without it, steering can be quite a chore.  New power systems are electric, but there are still plenty of the older hydraulic power steering systems out there, and it's wise to keep them working the way they should so you don't find yourself stranded without power steering. Those hydraulic power systems use a fluid under pressure that is pumped to a device that helps you turn your wheels more easily.  It's that pressure that presents the challenge.  After your vehicle's seen a few years on the road, you may find your steering isn't quite as easy as it was.  You may hear a groaning or humming sound when you turn.  One component that can fail is the pressure hose that carries that fluid from the power steering pump to that turning assist mechanism.  The hose is made of rub ... read more

Categories:

Steering

Breathe New Life into Your Engine (MAF sensor replacement)

If you’ve noticed your vehicle is hard to start, stalling, or has lost power, the culprit may be a part with an odd name: the MAF sensor.  You may have never even heard of a MAF sensor, but it’s important that it be working correctly, or you may be experiencing some fairly significant engine issues. All vehicles bring in air and direct it through an air filter before it goes into your engine, where it mixes with fuel to provide power to get you going. There’s a tube-like device with a sensor inside it that measures how much of that mass of air is passing through. That’s why it’s called a mass air flow sensor, or MAF sensor.  If the MAF sensor isn’t working right, the engine’s computer can’t figure out the right amount of fuel to mix with it, and your engine may hesitate or stall.  Sometimes this will cause your Check Engine Light to come on, and any time it does that, make sure you have your vehicle checked by a professiona ... read more

Categories:

Fuel Economy

Bad Vibes (Disc brake rotor problems)

If you were to name the most important safety feature on your vehicle right now, what would your answer be? A lot of driving experts would agree that it’s your brakes.  Most newer vehicles use a well-engineered and efficient style of brakes called disc brakes.  The name disc brakes comes from one of the components: a disc attached to the wheel hub that is squeezed by parts called calipers.  If you’ve ever ridden a bicycle with hand brakes, you probably have seen how they squeeze against the rim of the bike wheel to stop the bike. It’s similar to the way your vehicle’s calipers squeeze against the disc rotor, with added parts called brake pads attached to the calipers that are what create the friction and stop your vehicle. Here’s why disc brakes need regular maintenance.  Over time, that friction creates wear and tear on the brake pads and the rotors, and you’ll start to see the signs.  Your brakes may have one of the 3 &ldqu ... read more

Categories:

Brakes

A Door No One Can Step Through (Fuel Door Repair and Maintenance)

Your vehicle has lots of doors including that one usually near the back on the vehicle's side.  That's the fuel door, something you use every time you gas up.  These endure hundreds of open-and-close cycles, usually without any problems.  But when they act up, it can be a major inconvenience for you. When they stick in the "open" position, it can present real dilemma.  You can still pump your gas, but do you just drive around with that flap sticking out the side? What happens if someone steals the gas cap or it gets damaged? What happens if it rains? Yep, it's decision time. A fuel door that sticks open can be due to a number of factors.  The hinge on the door may have broken, possibly from corrosion or it may have been hit sometime.  Some vehicles have a cable that operates the door and it could be loose.  The latch that holds the door shut could have broken or it, too, could be bent from something hitting it.  You probably want to take care of ... read more

Categories:

Fuel System

Lean Times (Shocks and Springs)

You may have noticed your vehicle going through lean times.  By that, we mean it's literally leaning to one side.  When you notice that, you should get it checked out at your service facility soon because you could have a serious problem. Many things can cause a vehicle to lean.  You may have problems with your struts, shocks or springs.  They all work in tandem to make your ride more comfortable.  The struts bear the weight of the vehicle's body, the shock absorbers employ a piston that keeps your tires in contact with the road and controls movement of the vehicle's body.  Springs also absorb impacts from uneven road surfaces. If these components get stuck, either too high or too low, they cause your vehicle to lean.  That's because that side of the vehicle isn't at the height it is designed to be.  A technician will determine where the problem is.  Outside elements such as moisture plus hard knocks to these components can weaken them, even ... read more

Categories:

Shocks & Struts

The Third Brake Light (Third Brake Light Service)

So you thought you only had two brake lights.  Look again and you'll see one in the center at a higher level than the two on either side of the vehicle.  They're sometimes in the inside of the vehicle behind the back window, or they could be in the deck lid, on the roof or on the spare wheel carrier, But why is that third brake on your vehicle? Experts say it helps prevent rear end collisions. Tests done by installing the third brake light in taxis and fleet vehicles showed fewer rear end crashes in the ones that had the extra light. The third brake light was mandated in new passenger cars in 1986 in the US and Canada.  The requirement was added to new light trucks and vans in 1994. Sometimes it's difficult to know if your third brake light is even working.  Many vehicles have bulb warning systems that alert you to non-functional bulbs, but not all do. Your vehicle service facility will often check to see if all your turn signals, taillights and headlights are worki ... read more

Water Everywhere (Clogged Drains)

It's bad enough when you mistakenly leave a window open in your vehicle on a rainy day and you find your carpet soaked.  But what in the world is going on when your windows are closed tight, not leaking and you STILL wind up with wet carpet? The answer could be something you might not even know your vehicle has. And the answer is? Drains. And those drains can get clogged.  Yes, your vehicle has several drains with tubes or hoses attached to them that you really never see.  There are some in and around the hood that channel rainwater down to the ground.  There are some that take condensation from the air conditioner and allow it to flow outside.  And if your vehicle has a retractable sunroof or moon roof, there are small drains at each corner that connect to tubes that go through the vehicle body down to an exit near the ground.  Considering all the leaves, dirt, dust and other debris your vehicle encounters on a daily basis, it's not surprising that these ... read more

Give it the Boot (Ball Joint Boot Replacement)

Your vehicle may be wearing boots right now and you might not even know it.  They're called ball joint boots.  They're actually protective, flexible things that protect parts of your suspension (called ball joints) from all the hazards the road can fling at them.  If one of those ball joint boots fails and you don't get it replaced, the ball joints themselves could wind up failing, a repair that can be even more expensive.  Ball joint boots not only keep things like rocks, salt, water and dirt out of your ball joints, they also help the ball joints keep their lubrication inside and working properly.  To do that, the boots have to be made of a flexible material, sometimes rubber, sometimes a synthetic.  They do take a beating, exposed to temperature extremes and debris, and eventually they can tear or crack just because of their age.  Unless someone is keeping an eye on your ball joint boots, you may never know there's a problem.  That's why when ... read more

Beware of Potholes! (Avoiding Pothole Damage)

You may live in a region where roads become pockmarked with craters known better as potholes.  They're caused by moisture seeping through a compromised road surface that can freeze, expand and literally punch holes in the road.  And when your vehicle hits one of those holes that's big enough, the impact can flatten a tire, bend a wheel or tear apart a suspension component.  To minimize pothole damage, leave enough room between you and the vehicle in front of you so you can see the road surface and any upcoming potholes.  That way you'll have time to slow down and steer around them.  Also, if you see what looks like a puddle of water, it may be hiding a pothole underneath, so treat it as if was a pothole. If you keep your tires inflated to the manufacturer's specifications, they're more likely to withstand hard impacts.  And the slower you're going when you hit a pothole, the less likely you are to break something.   But if you do find you've hit ... read more