Most Recent Articles

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 manufacturers put them on either side?

Some say it should be on the side away from the road.  That way if you run out of gas and have to add a little from a gas can as your standing at the side of the road, you'll be a little farther away from passing traffic.  So some companies from North America and many European firms with left-hand drive put their fillers on the right side.

Some manufacturers think convenience for the driver is paramount, so they put their fuel fillers on the driver's side.  If you have a vehicle with a cable release for the fuel door inside the cabin, it's usually on the same side as the steering wheel.  As you can see, there's no standardization.

Fuel doors need regular maintenance such as lubrication, and your gas cap (if your vehicle has one) should seal properly.  Have your service facility inspect those regularly. Wherever your fuel filler is, it's obviously important that you can get at it easily because you have to fuel up sometime. Otherwise, you're not going to go too far!

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

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… don't idle any longer than you have to.  If you will be idling for more than 30 seconds you'll save money by turning off the engine and re-starting it.  More and more of the latest vehicles now do this automatically.

Some like it cold.  But air conditioning uses a lot of extra fuel.  If you can live with the cabin at 72 on a hot day rather than turned down to arctic freeze levels, you'll save some cool cash.  Turn off the A/C all together can save you from 5-20 percent

The key to a fuel-efficient vehicle is keeping it well maintained.  If your spark plugs are old, your belts frayed and your brake pads worn, you're just throwing away fuel.  Try a few of these gas-saving suggestions and while you're at it, you'll be helping to reduce your carbon footprint that will help everyone on Planet Earth.

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

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. Some may contribute to making your vehicle behave the same way if they're broken, corroded, worn or bent.     

If you need new shocks and struts, your service advisor will make sure that you get those that meet manufacturer's specifications.  That's important because they want to make sure you're getting the handling and performance engineers designed your vehicle to have.

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

H20 No! (Driving Through Standing Water)

In a year marked by unusually heavy flooding in North America, drivers are very aware of the possibility they may find themselves driving where water has come over the road.  It can be a daunting and frightening situation.  Flooding waters can move quickly and unpredictably, so you have to keep your wits about you when you encounter that situation.

Here a sample of one vehicle manufacturer's guidelines on what to do.  First, the vehicle is designed to go through some water, but you must be careful.  Never attempt to drive through water deeper than the bottom of your tires.

You can get out of your vehicle to check the depth of the water, but you can never be sure that you aren't going to drive into a spot where the road has washed away.  You can't see below the surface of the water, and suddenly you could find yourself in a place where the road drops off unexpectedly.  In swift moving storm runoff, your vehicle could literally be floating away with the current, putting your life and those of your passengers in mortal danger. 

Never go more than 5mph/8 km/hr when you drive through standing water.  That minimizes the waves you create.  If you DO find yourself in water that is touching your drivetrain components, that water can damage them.  And if you get water in your engine, it can lock up in seconds and stall.  The potential damage can be catastrophic.

You may have found yourself driving in water deep enough to reach your drivetrain components, and it's essential that you have a technician check the fluids to make sure they haven't been contaminated.  That includes engine oil, transmission and axle.  Driving with fluids contaminated with water can severely damage those components. 

The bottom line is to avoid driving through water at all if you possibly can.  Check your vehicle's owner's manual to see if there are specific guidelines for driving YOUR vehicle in standing water.  It's information that could save your life.

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

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 recommended by your vehicle's manufacturer. 

When steering linkage wears out or a wheel bearing goes bad, both of those can cause a vehicle not to track straight. When components age and loosen up, they can present a safety hazard and premature tire wearing. 

Maybe you notice the pulling only when you are braking.  That points to a failure of your braking system, perhaps a sticky brake caliper.

When your vehicle was brand new, it went straight unless you guided it on a different path. It's best to have it checked out if it is showing some of these symptoms.  It could save you money in the long run and you'll be driving a safer, better performing vehicle.  That's what they mean by steering you right!

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

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 lubricate metal components so the friction doesn't damage them.  Your engine has an oil pressure sensor that tells a computer called the Electronic Control Unit (ECU) if things are good to go or if there's something wrong, maybe the oil pressure is too low to keep things lubricated.  If it is, it gives a signal for the vehicle not to start, protecting the engine. 

Of course, the sensors can go bad, too, with some of the same results.  And so someone has to figure out if it's the sensor that's failed or if it really has detected a problem.  That is the challenge for technicians with specialized equipment to decipher the signs.  If a bad sensor is found, it may need to be replaced.  Sometimes a thorough cleaning can do the trick.  In either case, your service facility can track down the problem and get you back on the road.  Makes sense, doesn't it?

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