Articles:

Unlock the Secret (Malfunctioning Door Lock Actuator)

What a convenience power door locks are on a vehicle.  The latest don't even require you to push the button on the key fob; all you have to do is have it with you.  But sometimes there's a component of power door locks that can fail, especially when they are used several times each day.  Those are called the door lock actuators. The actuator is an electric part that works with others (like motors and gears) to lock and unlock doors.  You can hear them work, sometimes with the little whirr of the gear or the quiet clunk of the lock finishing its cycle.  And it's good to pay attention to that sound because if it starts to sound different, it could be a signal that your lock is on the brink of failing. Another sign of a failing power door lock actuator is they start working intermittently or quickly and erratically.  The driver's door is often the first to start acting up since it's the one that usually gets the most use. When you start to notice these signs ... read more

Categories:

Auto Safety

The Best Test

Would you buy a jacket without even trying it on? Probably not, but it might surprise you that one study shows about half the people buy a vehicle after a short test drive around the block or none at all.  If you're in the market for another vehicle, make sure you check out the most important things so you'll know if that's the right vehicle for you. Check out the gadgets.  Love a good sound system? Then turn it up loud.  Does it have enough bass for you? See how you like its navigation system if it has one.  Try pairing your Bluetooth smartphone with the vehicle.  Test out how to set the cruise control and how steady it keeps the speed. Back up and check out the rearview camera. If you buy this vehicle, you'll have to live with all of these things every time you drive. Test the vehicle on roads you know.  See how it handles bumps and potholes, how it takes that tight curve that you drive every day to and from work.  Driving on familiar roads gives yo ... read more

Categories:

Automotive News

Wash Me, Wash Me Right (How to Wash a Vehicle)

Most would agree they'd rather drive around in a clean, shiny vehicle than one coated with a layer of dirt.  When warmer weather comes around, some of us are bound and determined to wash our own vehicles.  And to protect the paint and its luster, there are a few things to keep in mind when you get out the bucket and soap. Cool body.  It's not a good idea to wash a vehicle when the body is hot.  If it's been sitting out in the sun or you've been riding around on a sunny day, make sure you cool your vehicle off by either moving it to the shade or wetting it down with cool water. The problem with washing a hot vehicle is that it's going to dry so fast, minerals in the water can form hard-to-remove spots on the paint.  And some of those can be really difficult to get out.  Best to avoid it. Slippery when wet.  Make sure you wet your vehicle down thoroughly before you get the washing mitt out.  Experts keep a couple of buckets of soapy water on hand ... read more

Not-So-Common Sense (Sensor Failures)

So your vehicle won't start.  What's the first thing that comes to mind?  Battery dead? Starter motor worn out? Out of gas?  Well, those are all reasons that make sense.  But your vehicle may be refusing to start because one of its computers is being warned that to do so might damage it.  Here's how that works. You have lots of computers in your vehicle.  They need to know the status of things so there are several sensors monitoring various things going on.  These sensors send information to the computers that adjust the fuel and air mixture so you don't waste fuel.  They know when things aren't quite right and prevent you from starting your engine if that's going to damage it.  Other sensors make sure the coolant is the right temperature, check to see you are not polluting the air and make sure other electronic components are performing their tasks correctly. Here's an example of a sensor doing its job.  Your engine needs oil to lubric ... read more

Follow the Bouncing Vehicle (Bad Struts and Shocks)

If you hit a bump in the road and your vehicle just keeps bouncing up and down for a lot longer time than it used to, you may have bad struts and shocks.  They're the things that help to keep your vehicle's wheels and tires planted to the road surface. But they don't last forever.  With care and depending on where and how you drive, shocks and struts should be replaced at intervals ranging from 50,000 miles/80,000 km to 100,000 miles/160,000 km.  If you drive on bumpy roads with a lot of potholes, that interval will likely be shorter. Rough surfaces can take their toll. But how do you know if your shocks and struts are doing their job properly? The best way is to have your vehicle checked by a technician.  He or she can inspect the shock absorbers and struts for leaks, corrosion and damage.  Mounts and bushings can also go bad and they should be evaluated as well.  A thorough examination by a technician will also include looking at other suspension parts ... read more

Categories:

Shocks & Struts

Your Biggest Fan (Radiator Fan Problems)

Your vehicle's engine makes a lot of heat when it's powering you down the road, so it needs a way to get rid of that energy.  That's why your vehicle has a cooling system, complete with a radiator and one or two radiator fans, also called cooling fans.  Those fans make sure air keeps moving across the radiator so that the heat stored in the coolant can be dissipated outside when the vehicle is stopped or not traveling fast. Radiator fans can develop problems and can stop working properly or stop working altogether.  Some signs to look for? If you're driving slowly and idling and you see your temperature gauge moving toward the red or hot zone, that could spell trouble.  Another thing you may notice when a radiator fan is failing is that there may be a loud noise coming from the engine compartment. There are two types of radiator fans.  One is mechanically connected to the engine and uses the engine's rotational energy to turn it.  The other is an electric ... read more

Categories:

Cooling System

No Fueling! (Fuel Filler Location)

If you've ever gotten in an unfamiliar vehicle, maybe a rental car, you may have pulled up to the gas pump and wondered, "Which side is the fuel filler on?" Here's a tip for you.  There is usually a little arrow on the instrument panel near the fuel gauge that points to the side where the fuel filler is.  But why are the fuel fillers not all on the same side, anyway? There are lots of reasons.  At one time, many manufacturers tried putting them in an easy-to-reach spot: in the center of the vehicle's rear end.  Some even hid them behind a hinged license plate door.  Cool place, but it turned out not to be a good idea.  When a vehicle with a fuel filler in the rear was hit by another vehicle from behind, it was much more prone to catch fire and explode. Safety regulations now dictate that the fuel filler doors be placed within crumple zones and away from where they can drip fuel on hot exhaust pipes or near electrical connections.  But why do manufactu ... read more

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 , Tires

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

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