Most Recent Articles

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 cable connections that should be free of corrosion and tight.

Keep in mind that under certain conditions, a vehicle battery can cause an explosion if close to an electrical spark.  This is why the safe way to go is to have a qualified, trained technician do the work. 

Your battery is important both in hot and cold weather.  When it comes to starting your vehicle, make sure it's always up to the job.

PDR
1008 N. Cunningham Avenue
Urbana, Illinois 61802
217-367-9481
http://www.pdrauto.com

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 if there's a leak in your system, where it is and fix that before adding new refrigerant. 

Your vehicle also has an evaporator or two, and those can fail.  Leaks are often the problem with them as well.  The big component that can go bad is the compressor, often a victim of age, wear or neglect. 

A technician will also check to see that the blower is working correctly.  That's what blows that cool air into the cabin.  Sometimes the motor will fail, a relay will go bad or a fuse will blow.  As you can see, there are lots of different parts involved here! 

The good news is that your vehicle's service facility has the special equipment to recover the refrigerant and check the system's pressure, both vital to properly servicing the air conditioning system.

As with many vehicle components, regular maintenance can go a long way to minimizing problems in the air conditioning system. It can reduce the chance of the compressor having to be replaced, too.  Pretty cool, huh?

PDR
1008 N. Cunningham Avenue
Urbana, Illinois 61802
217-367-9481
http://www.pdrauto.com

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 windshield is covered with a cloudy, icy mess.  Seeing what's going on in front of you may be like trying to peer through frosted glass, and that's not a safe situation for you or the drivers around you. You need to have this checked out by a technician as soon as you can.

Let's say the technician discovers it's not any of those components.  Turns out it's the electric windshield washer pump itself that's failed. After replacing it, everything is working fine, and you can see again.  As so often is the case with today's complex vehicles, figuring out the root cause of a problem can be tricky.  Rely on your vehicle service facility since they have the know how and diagnostic equipment to make sure your view of the road will always be crystal clear.

PDR
1008 N. Cunningham Avenue
Urbana, Illinois 61802
217-367-9481
http://www.pdrauto.com

The Turn Signal Mystery (Turn Signal Problems)

Some problems are easy to diagnose on a vehicle; others aren't.  Figuring out what's wrong with a malfunctioning turn signal sometimes fits into both categories.  By the way, if your tempted to just leave your broken blinker broken, remember you can get a ticket for not using them, not to mention you are missing a great chance to communicate your intentions to other drivers on the road.

There can be lots of signals that your signals are on the blink.  Does only the driver's side signal not work or the passenger's side? Do your hazard signals work? Do the lights illuminate but not flash? Can you see the indicators on the dash blinking? Do your turn signals turn off after you've finished your turn or do they stay on?  These are all great clues for the technician.

Here's one common symptom to take note of.  Your signal all of a sudden starts blinking much more quickly than it used to.  It could be a simple as a burned out bulb.  But there are many different parts that go into the turn signal system.  There are fuses that blow, switches that can fail, flasher modules that go bad and light bulb sockets that can simply get corroded or dirty.  When that happens, it's possible there's no contact between the bulb and the socket.

So it's understandable how tracking down the source of the problem can involve some detective work.  Your service facility has equipment that can nail down the cause of your problems. They may also consult the repair manual.  One thing to be aware of: if your vehicle has airbags, they may have to be disabled so they don't accidentally go off.

You can make sure your turn signals are working correctly by having them checked by a trained technician.  Other drivers will thank you for showing them the courtesy of signaling your intentions.  It's a courteous and considerate thing to do, not to mention it makes the road a safer place. 

PDR
1008 N. Cunningham Avenue
Urbana, Illinois 61802
217-367-9481
http://www.pdrauto.com

The Puzzling Puddle (Leaks Under Vehicle)

Ever notice a little spot of liquid under your vehicle after you've parked in your driveway or garage? It may have been something as simple as water left from air conditioning condensation.  But then again, it could be a sign that there's trouble brewing in one of your vehicle's systems.

You can help your service facility diagnose the problem by getting a little sample of the drip.  At the same time, you may save yourself a tougher clean up task by preventing the leaky fluid from really messing up the driveway or garage floor.  The first thing is to put something under the vehicle. A flattened out cardboard box will do fine.  You may also want to slip a little disposable aluminum tray or pan under it to catch a bit of the fluid.  Chroma and consistency can help a technician quickly figure out what kind of fluid you're dealing with.  You can take your sample with you when you go to your service facility.

Also note how much of the substance is there over what period of time, when you started to notice it and its location relative to the vehicle.  Is it on the passenger's or driver's side? Front, middle or back? Vehicle's have different designs, so where their equipment is located will depend on make and model. 

The leaky fluid will have a certain look to it and consistency.  If it's blue, it may be windshield washer fluid and a sign that your washer fluid tank has a leak.  If it's green, it could be antifreeze.  Orange may mean rusty water or transmission fluid.  Brown? Might be oil.

There should be no leaks in your powertrain if things are maintained properly.  A small leak may not seem like a big deal, but sometimes they can get much bigger quickly.  A coolant leak, for example, may suddenly go from pinhole to flood, draining your cooling system and putting your engine in danger of overheating. 

It is a really good idea to have a professional check out your leaks as soon as you notice them.  And the more clues you can provide, the happier the technician will be as the search for the problem gets underway.

PDR
1008 N. Cunningham Avenue
Urbana, Illinois 61802
217-367-9481
http://www.pdrauto.com

3 Winter Windshield Tips (Care of Windshield)

Cold weather can present some real challenges when it comes to your vehicle's windshield.  Think of it.  Your windshield is your window to the world when you're driving, and clear visibility is extraordinarily important for safe travels. So here are 3 tips to ensure that your windshield can do its job during the cold weather.

  1. Don't ever pour hot water on a frozen windshield.  Let's say you head outside and see your vehicle covered with ice. You think, hey, maybe I can heat up a pot of water on the stove and melt that off fast.  Don't do it!  You run the risk of shattering the glass the second that hot water hits the frigid glass.  Ditto for using a propane torch.  Glass does not do well with sudden temperature changes.  Instead, turn on your engine and start the defroster, which heats the windshield up gradually.  Use a plastic scraper designed for windshields (don't EVER use metal to scrape) and be patient.  Don't hammer on the ice to break it into pieces.  Sudden pressure and glass don't mix.
  2. Keep your wiper blades up off the glass.  If you park your vehicle outside and you think there's a chance of frozen precipitation falling, do what smart winter drivers do.  Lift the wiper arms off the glass and leave them extended with the blades not touching the glass at all.  That way when you go back to your vehicle, you won't have to try to pull the wipers off the icy glass (which can damage the rubber blades) or start the wipers with them frozen solid to the windshield.  Many drivers have burned out their wiper motor that way, and that can be a pricey repair.
  3. Keep your windshield washer fluid topped off and use it often.  So you've followed the steps above and you're on the road. Salt, brine and sand can muck up the windshield fast, causing your wiper blades to smear the glass, re-freeze the icy snow and blind you.  It's important to use wiper fluid made for low temperatures so it doesn't freeze on your glass.  Use it often so any road debris won't scratch the glass like sandpaper.  And make sure your defroster is working properly, keeping your windshield warm enough to prevent ice from forming.  

PDR
1008 N. Cunningham Avenue
Urbana, Illinois 61802
217-367-9481
http://www.pdrauto.com

The Need for Speed (Wheel Speed Sensor Maintenance)

Today's vehicles have some pretty amazing technology in them, including a computerized braking system we all pretty much take for granted these days.  Antilock brake systems (ABS) have been around for years but they help drivers stop in much shorter distances reliably than ever before.  When you see your ABS warning light come on, it's important to find out what's causing the problem. It's a safety issue.

Often the problem when the ABS light comes on is a faulty wheel speed sensor.  (In some cases the traction control light will also come on, perhaps because of a non-working wheel speed sensor.) Your vehicle uses the speed sensors to measure the rotational speed at each wheel. That sensor sends the speed data to a computer that can then adjust braking power and prevent your wheels from locking up. 

If any of the wheel speed sensors isn't working right, the ABS warning light will go on and the vehicle's computer will turn off the antilock brake system.  You'll still have working brakes, but you will lose the functionality of that computerized system.

When your vehicle warns you the ABS has a non-working sensor, you can have a technician check to see what's going on. It could be one of the sensors is dirty and a cleaning will solve the problem.  But it also could be that one or more sensors needs to be replaced. 

A technician will use computerized diagnostic equipment to determine what and where the problem is, replace any bad parts and then check to make sure the system is fully operational. 

Antilock brakes and traction control are significant technologies that help prevent your vehicle from slipping on less-than-perfect road surfaces, especially useful during wintery weather.  Make sure they're helping you drive the way they designed to.

PDR
1008 N. Cunningham Avenue
Urbana, Illinois 61802
217-367-9481
http://www.pdrauto.com