Articles:

Idle Talk about Engines (Causes of Rough Engine Idling)

When you slow down at stoplight, your vehicle's idle should be smooth as silk.  But what happens when the engine is missing or idling roughly? That's your engine's way of telling you, "Hey, I've got something wrong with me and if you don't get someone to find out what it is, I may not start the next time you turn the key." You can help your service facility if you can describe the problem in detail.  Here's a list of things to make a note of: When is the problem happening, when the engine is cold or when it's been running for a while? Does the rough idling occur when I'm accelerating or when I'm going at a steady speed? Does it happen at high speeds?  Does it happen low speeds? Does it happen at both? Make sure you describe the problem in as much detail because it will help a technician diagnose the problem. One of the first things they'll check is how the spark plugs are firing.  Modern iridium plugs are supposed to last a long, long time.  But they CAN even ... read more

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

An Oil for All Seasons (Engine Oil Selection)

You swap your winter boots for flip-flops in the summer.  Why not change your winter engine oil for summer, hot-weather oil?  While it may seem like it makes sense, there's some good news.  Most drivers don't have to, and here's why. Engine oil can be made in different thicknesses.  That thickness is called viscosity, how easily it flows.  Now, it makes sense that the hotter it gets, oil gets a little thinner and doesn't lubricate as well.  So if you used a thicker oil in the summer, it's logical that it would protect better in the hotter weather.  While there was a time when oils could be only made in one viscosity, times have changed.  Using an ingenious formula, oil can now be created that changes its viscosity (called "multi-viscosity") as the temperature rises and falls.  It self-adjusts to match the conditions.  Now that's what I call a great invention. In most temperate climates, you don't have to swap out the type of oil you use ... read more

Categories:

Oil Change

A Not-So-Straight Story (Vehicle Pulls to One Side)

A vehicle should travel straight down a straight road with the steering wheel centered.  But time and travel can take their toll and soon you may find your vehicle pulling to the left or right.  Those are not good signs and should be taken care of fairly quickly. One thing that you should note is when this is happening: if it is all the time, only when you brake, only when you accelerate. If you describe these symptoms to the service adviser or technician, it may help them pinpoint the cause more quickly.  Many things can cause a vehicle to pull to one side, one of which is that it's out of alignment.  If so, you could be doing damage to other components of your vehicle if you keep driving with it this way. If your tires show signs of uneven wear on the treads or if your wheels squealing, that is another clue. Improperly inflated tires can also cause your vehicle to pull in one direction.  Your service facility can check to see if your tires have the pressure r ... read more

Categories:

Alignment

Pinch Petroleum Pennies! (Fuel Saving Tips)

If you saw a dollar bill on the ground, you'd pick it up, right? Well, whether you find that dollar on the ground or in savings at the gas pump, money is money, and here are some ways to hold on to more of it. Slowing down is the easiest way to save fuel, especially for every speed increase over 50 mph/80 k/hr.  Tone down the speed, turn up the cash savings.  Drive smoothly (not like a race car driver) and you'll also save money in fuel.  Aggressive, fast-start, jerky-stop habits are just pulling the bucks out of your wallet about a third more than if you drove just a little more gently.  Oh, and cruise control can help with that smooth, steady speed, so use it on the highway. Bonus! Are you hauling around a set of dumbbells or a box of books? That extra weight is costing you dough.  Store them somewhere else.  When's the last time you checked to see your tires were inflated properly? That's another money saver and makes your vehicle safer. An idle thought ... read more

No Yolk! Rotten Egg Smell (Sulfur Smell Causes)

The pungent smell of rotten eggs can send people running for the hills.  So when that odor is inside your vehicle, yikes!  Yolks!  The good news is that a trained service technician can search the source of that smell and stanch the stench… that comes from another words that begins with S.  Sulfur. Fuel contains small amounts of hydrogen sulfide, but they're enough to stink up a vehicle when it's not properly burned.  You may know that the smell of rotten eggs can often be a sign of a catalytic converter that isn't working the way it should.  That could be due to age, damage or an abundance of oil that's clogging it up.  If a sensor in charge of managing the fuel has failed, the engine can run with too rich of a fuel mixture.  That can overload the catalytic converter and allow some of the byproducts to escape without interruption from the chemical reaction that is supposed to prevent them from going out the tailpipe. There's another possi ... read more

When Metal Meets Metal (Wheel Bearings)

What part of your vehicle has little metal balls inside that are lubricated and allow you to cruise on down the road?  They are wheel bearings, and automotive designers might argue they are human beings' second greatest invention of all time (the first is, of course, the wheel!). You have a wheel bearing at each wheel.  They allow your wheels to turn freely, minimizing friction that would ordinarily slow you down when metal meets metal.  When one of your wheel bearings starts to go bad, it lets you know. A wheel bearing does its work quietly when it's in good health but starts getting noisy when it isn't.  People describe the noise differently.  Sometimes it sounds like road noise, a pulsating, rhythmic, sound.  That pulse speeds up when your vehicle speeds up.  Here's what's happening when you hear that sound.  As mentioned, the bearing has these little metal balls inside a ring.  They have a lubricant inside to reduce friction between the ... read more

Categories:

Wheel Bearings

DOG FOOD IN YOUR ENGINE (Keeping Rodents out of your Engine)

A technician was telling us the other day that he was servicing an engine and spotted something he'd never seen before: A collection of dry dog food siting on a horizontal metal ledge near the base of the engine.  It was neatly stashed and was in a spot where the food pellets couldn't have simply fallen down in there. Even though it's the first time he'd seen dog food in an engine, he immediately knew what was going on.  Critters like mice or chipmunks had found the dog food somewhere nearby and had used the engine as a nice storage unit.  Mice, squirrels, chipmunks—you name it—like the heat of the engine.  And they'll use that to store up supplies of food for use in cold weather when outside food supplies are scarce.  The problem is they'll also chew on engine components while they're there. And they can do a lot of damage if they start gnawing on the wires.  Depending on how much of your electrical system needs to be replaced, repairs can mou ... read more

Change is Good (Oil Change)

You've heard that expression, change is good.  When it comes to your vehicle's oil, change is not only good, it's vital for the health of the engine.  But there's one question that puzzles many drivers: how frequently should my vehicle's oil be changed? There is not one simple answer, but here are some guidelines that will help. It used to be pretty much a rule of thumb that vehicles got their oil changed once every 3 months or 3,000 miles/5,000 kilometers.  But times have changed.  Oil formulations have gotten better and engine designs have made longer oil change intervals possible.  Most experts advise you to read the recommendations that come from the manufacturer that designed and built your vehicle.  Their designers and engineers know more about your vehicle than anyone else.  They spell out their recommended oil change interval and type of oil in your owner's manual.  Many automakers say you can go at least 5,000 miles/8,000 kilometers betw ... read more

Categories:

Oil Change

"Current" Affairs (Blown Fuses)

You may be driving along and find that suddenly your radio stops working.  There are no numbers on the display.  Then when you get home, you notice the garage door opener doesn't do a thing when you press the button. Hmm, this was working just fine this morning.  Are the two problems somehow related?   No, your vehicle doesn't need an exorcism. This has all the signs of an electrical issue, and when you experience symptoms like those, you've probably blown a fuse.  Most vehicles have fuses just like most houses have circuit breakers (some houses still have fuses). They cut the power when it reaches a pre-determined threshold that could cause major damage if it was allowed to continue.  You might say fuses take one for the team. Most modern automotive fuses are plastic with a thin strip of metal in them designed to melt when a calibrated amount of power passes through.  The philosophy is it's better for an inexpensive fuse to be destroyed than your sou ... read more