Articles:

Some New Boots (Suspension Maintenance)

There are some boots that don't come in a shoe box and aren't worn on your feet.  They are called axle or CV boots, and they can be important parts for many vehicles. That CV stands for constant velocity.  CV axles are mainly used in front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive vehicles. They're also used in some rear-wheel drive vehicles with independent suspensions.  They have two CV joints, one inner and one outer, placed between the axle and the drive wheels.  That way the vehicle's engine power can drive the wheels, no matter what angle they are.  They also adjust for the different speeds wheels turn as they go around corners.  Because roads are full of all sorts of hazards (dirt, oil, water, grime), these CV joints need to be protected.  They also have grease in them to keep the bearings moving smoothly.  That's the job of the rubber boots that are supposed to keep that debris out.  These CV or axle boots are made of rubber or plastic and usu ... read more

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Suspension

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

Taking the Heat (Batteries in Hot Weather)

Quick question.  Which is tougher on a vehicle's battery, the heat or the cold? Believe it or not, it's the heat.  Think about it.  The battery often sits in the engine compartment next to that motor generating lots of heat.  That can accelerate corrosion in the battery and may even cause water in it to evaporate.  That will weaken the cranking power of your battery and shorten its life span. To take care of your battery, here are a few suggestions.  It's a good idea to have it checked out to see what shape it's in.  At your vehicle service facility, they have diagnostic equipment that can evaluate its condition.  That can help you know how long you can expect it to last before having to replace it.  At the same time, you should have your charging system evaluated.  If your battery is not getting charged properly, it can be in great shape but not very useful when it comes to starting your vehicle.  A technician will also check the ... read more

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Battery

Not So Cool (Air Conditioning Systems)

There's nothing quite like getting in your vehicle on a hot day, switching on the air conditioning and having warm air blow out of the vents.  You may have had no problem for months and then, one day, you are driving around in a sauna. You're hot stuff, but not in a good way! So what goes wrong when the AC isn't working? It could be a lot of things because the system has many different components.  One thing that's a common cause is the vehicle is low on refrigerant (it used to be called Freon).  If that's the case, it's not as simple as simply adding more.  Sure, it may fix it quickly for a short time, but it's more likely than not that the refrigerant will just leak out again. The original Freon used in air conditioners was destroying the Earth's ozone layer, so that's not used much any more.  But the one that's currently used also contributes to global warming, so it's important that as little of that escapes as possible.  So a technician will determine ... read more

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Air Conditioning

Visibility Disaster! (Windshield Washer Pump Replacement)

Let's say you live in a cold climate where the snowy, icy weather challenges you to clear the salt and debris tossed up on your windshield.  You push your windshield washer switch expecting a good stream of fluid so the blades can wipe the glass clean. Yet nothing comes out.  Nada, zip.  What's going on? You know you filled up the windshield washer reservoir within the last week or so.  Well, there could be a few things causing your windshield washing system to fail.  One culprit? The hoses that are supposed to carry that fluid from the washer pump to the spray nozzles may be frozen, or maybe they're cracked and leaking. It could be the nozzles themselves are stopped up, either iced up or jammed full of debris.  Your windshield wiper/washer switch could be worn out or the electrical system may not be conducting power to the washer pump.  It's important that this system work properly, especially on days when the sun may be in front of you and your wind ... read more

Why Alignment Matters (Vehicle Alignment Maintenance)

It's one of those things that can happen on a multi-day road adventure or a quick trip to the grocery store.  You hit a pothole, go too fast over a speed bump, nail a curb.  When it happens, you think, "I wonder if that was hard enough to do any damage?"  But things seem ok and you continue on your way.  Keep in mind that any blow to your vehicle's suspension can throw it out of alignment.  It can be a hard knock from the road or from another vehicle, such as being involved in a minor accident.  When your suspension is out of alignment, it means that the wheels aren't all pointing where they should.  And after a while, it can make your tires wear unevenly and cause problems with steering and handling. Let's go back to that pothole or curb you hit hard.  Even though you think there was no damage done, if you wait until you see tire wear, you may need to replace all four tires, not an inexpensive proposition. That's why it's a good idea to make sur ... read more

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Alignment

Time for a Brake (Brake Pad Replacement)

Stop! It's one of those things your vehicle has to do consistently and reliably.  That's why brake maintenance is vitally important, worthwhile for you to make sure stays up to date. A brake system has many components. If your vehicle has disc brakes, they have pads that make contact with the rotors (the metal discs).  Those pads usually have a metal back, and the part that presses against the discs is made of a material which provides friction to stop the vehicle. Because of that friction, the pads are expected to wear down and eventually the rotors will, too.  But the pads usually are the part that will need to be replaced more often. But how do you know when it's time? There are several signs, one of which is when your brakes squeak or make a high-pitched sound when you step on the brake pedal.  Many newer vehicles also have sensors on the brake pads.  When the pads get worn down to a certain point, the sensor will tell the vehicle's computer to turn on a li ... read more

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Brakes

Low Power Mystery (Ignition Coil Service)

It's no fun when your vehicle just doesn't run the way it used to.   You may notice (especially in cold weather) the engine won't start easily or when it does start, it doesn't run smoothly. It may not have much power at all. You also may have had to stop at the gas station more often, a sign your fuel economy isn't what it used to be.  There could be a few different things that cause those symptoms, but one culprit could be a bad ignition coil. The coil takes the voltage from your battery and multiplies it before that power is sent over to a spark plug. That allows the plug to fire off a good jolt of electricity that ignites the fuel in your cylinder and powers the engine.  There's usually one ignition coil for each cylinder (or sometimes for a pair of cylinders). If only one of them is not pushing out enough electricity, it can cause big trouble with your engine performance.  Other signs of a bad ignition coil include engine backfire, an oil leak and your Che ... read more

A Non-Starter (Alternator Problems in Cold Weather)

As the temperatures dip, we all know there could be problems starting our vehicles. After all, batteries can grow old and not hold a charge as well as when they were newer. Or starters can go bad.  But there's one more component to keep an especially sharp eye on during winter: your alternator. The alternator is sort of like a small generator. It sends power out to various parts in your vehicle that need electricity.  That includes the battery, which needs charging to keep its power topped off.  The alternator creates electricity by taking mechanical energy from the engine and turning it into electricity.  It is connected to the engine by belts and pulleys.  In cold weather, the material the belt is made from is less flexible than it is in warm weather.  That means it may not be turning the pulleys as effectively since it doesn't have the same grip. Also, when it's colder, lubricants, including the engine oil, are a little stiffer and parts just don't move ... read more

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Alternator

Light's Out! Trouble Ahead (Exterior Light Bulb Service)

Whether or not your exterior light bulbs are all working probably is not at the top of your list when you think about your vehicle.  But those exterior lights are more important than you think, and they're vital to your safety and that of other drivers near you. Headlights are important.  Not only do they help you see safely down the road at night, they also help oncoming drivers know that the vehicle they're approaching is not a motorcycle.  Both headlights should be working properly and aimed so that they don't blind other drivers. Taillights are also important for a few reasons.  They tell drivers what your intentions are (changing lanes, turning, stopping).  So, the bulbs back there must be all in working order for maximum safety. Ditto for the front turn signal lights.  They alert oncoming drivers to your lane changes or turns (if you use your turn signals!).  Some side mirrors also have turn signal bulbs in them. There are a few other important ... read more

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Safe Driving