Category Archives: Automotive

A hydraulic assist system

When you turn the steering wheel, a spool valve directs the system pressure towards the direction you turn the wheel.  Fluid is constantly pumped from the power steering pump through the system when the engine is running.  After the fluid passes through the steering rack, it returns as a low pressure fluid back to the reservoir that maybe mounted on the pump.  This cycle repeats itself over and over through the life of the system.

 

Over time and exposure to high and low pressures, heat and cold, the “soft parts” of the power steering system will start to harden and sometimes shrink.  Hoses and seals will eventually not work as they were designed, allowing pressure to drop or cause a system leak.  Losing the power steering fluid and running the system dry will result in expensive repairs from over heating and lack of lubricant.

 

Determining that your power steering system has a leak can be as simple as checking the fluid level and noting that it has dropped in the reservoir.  Some reservoirs have dipsticks, others have a window where you can inspect the level.  There are usually two marks to check against, “Hot and Cold”.  The fluid expands as it heats up, so if the vehicle is hot the level should be closer to the hot level.  Cold vehicle, it should be near the lower level.

 

If the fluid level is low, an easy visual inspection of the system should help you locate the leaky spot or spots.  (Note: The following is best done on a cool vehicle.  If you should be going under the vehicle, use safe methods to raise and secure the vehicle.) Use a flashlight and trace the system from the reservoir down the hoses to the steering rack.  Visually inspect the steering rack top and bottom, side to side.  Note the black bellows on each end of the steering rack, squeeze and feel for fluid in them.  If you find them full of fluid you are probably looking at replacing the steering rack. Finish tracing the system from the steering rack back to the reservoir.

 

Sometimes the leaks can be as simple as a clamp coming loose over time.  Just tightening or replacing the clamp will solve your problem.  Leaks at pressure fittings may benefit from a gentle amount of tightening too.

Simple Car Care Tips

It’s foolhardy to head out in a poorly maintained vehicle in the dead of winter, of course, but even vehicle owners in temperate zones need a car care check as the days grow shorter, note the pros with the nonprofit National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), an independent group that tests and certifies the competence of auto technicians.

Regular, routine maintenance can help improve your gasoline mileage, reduce pollution, and catch minor problems before they become big headaches.

ASE offers these car care tips to give you peace of mind during winter driving:

  • Before you do anything else, read your owner’s manual and follow the manufacturer’s recommended service schedules.
  • Get engine performance and driveability problems — hard starts, rough idling, stalling, diminished power, etc. — corrected at a reputable repair shop that employs ASE-certified repair professionals. Cold weather makes existing problems worse.
  • Replace dirty filters, such as air, fuel, and PCV. A poorly running engine is less efficient and burns more gasoline.
  • As the temperature drops below freezing, add a bottle of fuel deicer in your tank once a month to help keep moisture from freezing in the fuel line. Keeping the gas tank filled also helps prevent moisture from forming.
  • Change your oil and oil filter as specified in your manual — more often if your driving is mostly stop-and-go or consists of frequent short trips. A poll of ASE Master Auto Technicians revealed that regular oil and filter changes is one of the most frequently neglected services, yet one that is essential to protect your engine.
  • The cooling system should be flushed and refilled as recommended. The level, condition, and concentration of the coolant should be checked periodically. A 50/50 mix of antifreeze and water is usually recommended. Do-It-Yourselfers: Never remove the radiator cap until the engine has thoroughly cooled! The tightness and condition of drive belts, clamps, and hoses also should be checked regularly by a professional technician.
  • The heater and defroster must be in good working condition for passenger comfort and driver visibility.

How to make driving run so well

“A Thanksgiving pre-trip inspection helps reduce the chance of costly and possibly dangerous on the road trouble. It also provides an opportunity to have repairs done by one’s own technician locally who knows the vehicle,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. “Especially important, it provides peace of mind. While no inspection can guarantee a car’s performance, it’s comforting to know proper precautions were taken to avoid a ‘turkey’ of a weekend.”

The Car Care Council suggests the following 10-minute checkup to help ensure vehicle safety and reliability on Thanksgiving, when millions of Americans take to the roads to visit family and friends:

•       Check all fluids, including engine oil, power steering and brake and transmission, as well as windshield washer solvent and antifreeze/coolant.

•       Check the hoses and belts that can become cracked, brittle, frayed, loose or show signs of excessive wear. These are critical to the proper functioning of the electrical system, air conditioning, power steering and the cooling system.

•       Check the tires, including tire pressure and tread. Uneven wear indicates a need for wheel alignment. Tires should also be checked for bulges and bald spots.

•       Check lighting to identify any problems with exterior and interior lighting as the chance of an accident increases if you can’t see or be seen.

•       Check wipers. Wiper blades should be replaced every six months. Make sure the windshield wipers are working properly and keep the reservoir filled with solvent.

The Car Care Council also recommends that motorists restock their emergency kit. To save on fuel costs during the trip, the council suggests that motorists avoid aggressive driving, observe the speed limit and avoid excessive idling. Gas caps that are damaged, loose or missing should be replaced to prevent gas from spilling or evaporating.

The Scare Out of Driving

Driving on Halloween can be frightening for motorists, especially when little “ghouls” and “goblins” – out after dark and full of excitement – forget road safety rules or wear costumes or masks that limit their vision. To help ensure safety on a night reserved for fun, the Car Care Council reminds motorists to drive slowly, be extra careful when entering or exiting driveways or alleyways, and make sure the vehicle’s brake system works properly.

The vehicle’s brake system is its most critical safety item but brakes wear out and eventually need replacement. The factors that affect wear are driving habits, operating conditions, vehicle type and the quality of the brake lining material. Symptoms of brake problems include the following:

  • The car pulls to one side during braking;
  • The brake pedal pulsates when the brakes are applied;
  • The brake pedal feels “mushy;”
  • There is a noise when stepping on the brake pedal; and
  • There is a repeated need to add brake fluid to the master cylinder.

Drivers should also check the windshield wipers and windshield fluid, as well as the vehicle’s lights for maximum performance and visibility on Halloween.

Parents and adults should remind their trick-or-treaters to get out of cars on the curb side and not the traffic side, to stop at all corners and to use crosswalks. Children should look left, right and left again before crossing, stay on sidewalks, avoid crossing through yards and wear bright, reflective and flame retardant clothing.

“We can help keep young pedestrians safe on Halloween by checking the vehicle’s safety items, reminding children of basic safety rules and taking extra precautions when driving through neighborhoods,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council.

Make Perfect Holiday Gifts

It’s crunch time and if you’re still struggling with what to give a loved one, family member or friend this holiday season, the perfect gift can be an item related to vehicle safety. Tire pressure gauges, ice scrapers, emergency kits, windshield wipers or the consumer Car Care Guide, published by the Car Care Council, are suitable items for any drivers on your list.

“These small and relatively inexpensive items play a big role in vehicle safety and reliability especially during winter driving when road conditions can be hazardous and unpredictable,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. “They’re a perfect stocking stuffer or holiday gift that shows the drivers on your list that you truly care about them this holiday season.”

Low tire pressure and windshield wipers were among the top six items that had the highest failure rate during National Car Care Month check-up events. Tire pressure should be checked at least once a month as properly inflated tires are critical to the vehicle’s ride, handling, traction and safety. For optimum performance, wiper blades should be replaced every six months or when cracked, cut, torn, streaking or chattering.

An emergency road kit is something that can be easily compiled or purchased. A kit should include an ice scraper and snowbrush, jumper cables, flashlight, flares, blanket, candles/matches, bottled water and dry food snacks.

Solving Problem of Water Car Damaged

With heavy rain pounding many parts of the country, there’s a good chance that you’ll drive through high water that could damage your vehicle. Even though your vehicle may not have been flooded or completely covered in water, the Car Care Council recommends that motorists follow these guidelines to check for damage due to water intrusion or contamination:

  • Check interior carpets, upholstery and door and trim panels for dampness. If they are wet, then the vehicle will need professional attention. If you simply let the carpet dry, it will quickly grow mildew and give off nasty odors. Seat brackets, motors and modules should also be checked for rust and proper operation.
  • Pull the engine oil and transmission fluid dipsticks and differential plug. If the fluid appears milky, diluted, is no longer its original color or is beige in color, then it is likely the pans contain water. The vehicle should be towed to your ASE-certified technician or repair shop. Driving the vehicle with water present may damage the internal parts and require extensive overhaul or repairs. The council reminds motorists that some new synthetic differential fluids may appear to be milky but are not water contaminated. When in doubt, a professional automotive technician should make the evaluation.
  • Check the air filter for water. If it is wet, replace the air filter and change the oil.
  • Check the undercarriage, bumpers, radiator area and frame for mud, grass, dirt, debris and rust. If any of these are present, the vehicle should be washed and cleaned as soon as possible.
  • Have the brake system checked by a professional automotive technician.
  • Check the exterior lights for moisture and water. Replace headlights and bulbs that contain water.
  • Listen for abnormal noises while the engine is running. Make a note of where the noise is coming from and take the vehicle to a professional automotive technician as soon as possible. Pay particular attention to the alternator, serpentine belt, starter, power steering unit, air conditioner and wheel bearings.
  • Inspect the suspension joints and lubricate as necessary. Many newer vehicles are lubricated at the factory for life; however, these joints should be checked for rust.

“It all comes down to how much water the vehicle took in and where it reached,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. “By being car care aware and following these simple guidelines, you can help minimize the potential for damage to your vehicle.”

Auto technicians to ensure your vehicle

Studies from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) show vehicles that receive regular maintenance and service retain more of their value, get better gasoline mileage, and pollute less than cars that are neglected. But today’s computer-loaded systems leave many former do-it-yourselfers hesitant to do much weekend tinkering. What’s a conscientious vehicle owner to do?

How Consumers Benefit from ASE Certification

Finding a competent auto repair professional should not be difficult … and with that guiding principle, the nonprofit, independent ASE was founded in 1972.

The mission was clear: Develop a mechanism by which working auto technicians could prove their competence to themselves, their employers, and to consumers.

The solution: A series of national certification exams covering all major automotive repair and service specialties.

The result: An elite group of automotive service professionals at work in repair establishments throughout the nation.

Why Use ASE-Certified Auto Technicians?

Consumers benefit from ASE’s certification program because it takes much of the guesswork out of finding a competent technician.

Perhaps years ago, any shade-tree mechanic would do; after all, cars were simpler, less complex. But with today’s high-tech vehicles — family sedans, sports coupes, rugged SUVs, and powerful pickups — the margin for error is small because mistakes are more costly. It makes good financial sense, then, to protect your sizeable automotive investment through regular maintenance and service performed by ASE-certified professionals.

Because the program is voluntary, technicians who have taken the time and expense to earn ASE certification can be counted on to have a strong sense of pride in accomplishment and professionalism — which should be good news for consumers. Moreover, prior to taking ASE exams, many technicians attend training classes or study on their own in order to brush up on their knowledge. The time they spend sharpening their skills translates directly to the work they perform on vehicles every day on the job.

How Does ASE Certification Work?

More than 100,000 candidates sit for ASE exams each year. These exams — the only independent national certification tests available to automotive professionals — are developed and regularly updated by representatives from the service and repair industry, vocational educators, working technicians, and ASE’s own in-house technical specialists. The exams stress real-world diagnostic and repair problems, not theory.

Mechanics who pass at least one exam and fulfill the hands-on work experience requirement earn the title of “ASE-Certified Automobile Technician,” while those who pass all eight automotive exams earn “Master Auto Technician” status. There are also tests for parts specialists, collision repair technicians, automotive service consultants, and segments of the repair industry. however, ASE certification is not a designation for life; technicians must recertify every five years in order to demonstrate a commitment to continuing education and staying abreast of constantly changing technologies.

How to Find an ASE Professional

ASE technicians can be found at every type of repair facility: new car dealerships, independent garages, service stations, franchised outlets, collision shops, tire dealers, parts stores and more. There are more than 360,000 ASE-certified professionals at work nationally. Repair facilities employing ASE professionals usually display the distinctive blue and white ASE sign on the premises and post their technicians’ credentials in their customer service areas.

Maintaining Present Vehicle

“Whether it’s an oil change, replacing brakes or new belts and hoses, that periodic repair bill is a drop in the bucket compared to monthly payments on a new car,” said Rich White, executive director of the Car Care Council. “The bottom line is that a properly maintained vehicle is safer, more dependable, more fuel efficient, less polluting and more valuable. The smartest way to get a solid return on investment is to keep your car through what we call the ‘Cinderella Era’. It’s that period of time after the payoff when your car is still in great shape and needs only modest repairs.”

The Car Care Council estimates that more than $68 billion in vehicle maintenance and repair is not performed every year, evidence that there is considerably more that consumers should be doing to protect their automotive investment.

“We advise our clients that if they want a 10-percent increase on their investments every year they need to cut down on their expenses,” said Terry Mulcahy, vice president of investments for R.W. Baird in Mequon, Wis. “A new automobile is for most people their second biggest investment next to a home, so a great way to save money and increase financial assets is to hang onto their current vehicle rather than buy a new one every few years. Budgeting for and doing preventative maintenance on your car is one of the best ways to cut your costs and keep your car.”

What happen with Potholes

They’re back and they’re bad. Potholes have returned and hitting one with your car can do a number on tires, wheels, steering and suspension, and alignment. To help determine if hitting a pothole has damaged your vehicle, watch for the following warning signs provided by the Car Care Council.

  • Loss of control, swaying when making routine turns, bottoming-out on city streets or bouncing excessively on rough roads. These are indicators that the steering and suspension may have been damaged. The steering and suspension are key safety-related systems. Together, they largely determine your car’s ride and handling. Key components are shocks and/or struts, the steering knuckle, ball joints, the steering rack/box, bearings, seals and hub units and tie rod ends.
  • Pulling in one direction, instead of maintaining a straight path, and uneven tire wear. These symptoms mean there’s an alignment problem. Proper wheel alignment is important for the lifespan of tires and helps ensure safe handling.
  • Low tire pressure, bulges or blisters on the sidewalls, or dents in the rim. These problems will be visible and should be checked out as soon as possible as tires are the critical connection between your car and the road in all sorts of driving conditions.

“Every driver knows what it feels like to hit a pothole. What they don’t know is if their vehicle has been damaged in the process. If you’ve hit a pothole, it’s worth having a professional technician check out the car and make the necessary repairs to ensure safety and reliability,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council.

Potholes occur when water permeates the pavement – usually through a crack from wear and tear of traffic – and softens the soil beneath it, creating a depression in the surface of the street. Many potholes appear during winter and spring months because of freeze-thaw cycles, which accelerate the process. Potholes can also be prevalent in areas with excessive rainfall and flooding.

Do You Think About Your Coolant

It’s the beginning of fall, and time to consider your coolant.

This is a good time to think about your engine cooling system. Regular inspections and pressure tests of your cooling system are of utmost importance, as is good maintenance by following the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended coolant change intervals.

As time passes, the protective anti-corrosive additives in the antifreeze break down and lose their effectiveness. But antifreeze has two other very important jobs as well:

• It is used to decrease the temperature at which the coolant freezes.

• It is used to raise the temperature at which the coolant will begin to boil.

It is also very important that the proper ratio of water to antifreeze is always maintained. Unless specified otherwise by the vehicle manufacturer, the coolant in most vehicles should consist of a mixture of 50% water and 50% antifreeze before being added to the cooling system. This 50/50 solution not only prevents freezing, but also preserves proper cooling properties.

Also concerning the antifreeze to water mixture ratio: adding more antifreeze to the mix (once again, unless otherwise specified by the vehicle manufacturer) to increase its percentage in the mixture is not better. Generally speaking, after the ratio exceeds more than about 65% antifreeze to 35% water, freeze protection can actually diminish, but even worse, heat dissipation can radically decrease, since the water is the primary substance used for this purpose. Antifreeze itself actually has fairly poor heat transfer characteristics. Having too much antifreeze in the mixture can actually cause engine overheating.

When having your mobile A/C system professionally serviced, insist on proper repair procedures and quality replacement parts. Insist on recovery and recycling so that refrigerant can be reused and not released into the atmosphere.