Most Recent Articles

"Current" Affairs (Blown Fuses)

You may be driving along and find that suddenly your radio stops working.  There are no numbers on the display.  Then when you get home, you notice the garage door opener doesn't do a thing when you press the button. Hmm, this was working just fine this morning.  Are the two problems somehow related?

No, your vehicle doesn't need an exorcism. This has all the signs of an electrical issue, and when you experience symptoms like those, you've probably blown a fuse.  Most vehicles have fuses just like most houses have circuit breakers (some houses still have fuses). They cut the power when it reaches a pre-determined threshold that could cause major damage if it was allowed to continue.  You might say fuses take one for the team.

Most modern automotive fuses are plastic with a thin strip of metal in them designed to melt when a calibrated amount of power passes through.  The philosophy is it's better for an inexpensive fuse to be destroyed than your sound system or your engine's main computer.

It can be tricky to figure out what fuse has blown and why.  Modern vehicles have many computerized electronic components; they can easily be damaged if too much electricity gets to the wrong spot.  At PDR in Urbana, we have technicians trained to trace which fuse has blown and why.

While sometimes a simple fuse replacement will fix the problem, other times there may be some other electrical component that has failed, causing the circuit overload.  Our technicians have special equipment to track down where the power problems are, get to the root of the problem and fix it at the source.

Keep in mind, fuses are there to protect your vehicle. And when they shut down your radio, garage door opener, vanity mirror or anything else, just be thankful they're doing their job. They may have saved you from a much more expensive repair. They've sent an important signal to you about your electrical system.  That's why it's good to keep up with "current" affairs.

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

DOG FOOD IN YOUR ENGINE (Keeping Rodents out of your Engine)

A technician was telling us the other day that he was servicing an engine and spotted something he'd never seen before: A collection of dry dog food siting on a horizontal metal ledge near the base of the engine.  It was neatly stashed and was in a spot where the food pellets couldn't have simply fallen down in there.

Even though it's the first time he'd seen dog food in an engine, he immediately knew what was going on.  Critters like mice or chipmunks had found the dog food somewhere nearby and had used the engine as a nice storage unit. 

Mice, squirrels, chipmunks—you name it—like the heat of the engine.  And they'll use that to store up supplies of food for use in cold weather when outside food supplies are scarce.  The problem is they'll also chew on engine components while they're there. And they can do a lot of damage if they start gnawing on the wires.  Depending on how much of your electrical system needs to be replaced, repairs can mount up to the thousands of dollars. 

Those electrical problems can be tricky to track down, too, because the rodents can get to spots technicians don't have easy access to.  Oh, the signs are there; they'll find mouse droppings, acorns… even full mouse nests in your engine.  Yikes.

OK, but even if you get your vehicle fixed, how do you keep the critters from simply setting up their personal pantry again? Here are some things to try:

  • Don't leave any food in your vehicle
  • Get rid of that sweet-smelling air freshener. The rodents can mistake the scent for food and head right for your vehicle.
  • If you have a garage, block all access points for rodents. This can be very hard since they can squeeze through the tiniest spaces you can imagine.
  • Some people keep mothballs under the hood; rodents don't love 'em.
  • Pop the hood every couple of weeks and look for signs of mice: nests, droppings or stored nuts, acorn shells and pet food.

The next time you bring your vehicle into PDR for maintenance or service, your technician will be on the lookout, too. Hey, the dog food belongs in the dog's dish, not supplying fast food for little critters with razor-sharp teeth that can create electrical system mayhem.

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

Fuel Injector Cleaning at PDR

In very simple terms, a fuel injector is a valve that squirts fuel into your vehicle engine. Your engine control computer tells the fuel injector how much fuel to deliver as well as the precise time it should be delivered. Of course this happens thousands of times a minute in every single fuel-injected vehicle driving down Urbana roads.

Most fuel injectors for gas engines are known in the Urbana automotive community as port fuel injectors because they deliver the fuel to a port just outside the cylinder. The fuel pump provides pressure needed to squirt the right amount of fuel into the engine.

A few have recently introduced gas direct injection systems on some engines. They are now available at some Illinois dealerships. These systems inject the gas directly into the cylinders under very high pressure – many times the pressure of port injection systems.

Although more complicated, direct injection technology promises greater power with improved fuel economy. Illinois motorists can expect to see more of it in the future.

High temperatures under your vehicle hood and variations in Urbana gas quality cause fuel injectors to be fouled with wax, dirt, water, additives and carbon. Injectors can become partially clogged, preventing them from delivering the proper amount of fuel at the correct pressure.

When injectors are dirty, the fuel doesn't burn as efficiently resulting in poor fuel economy and loss of power. So it's wise for Urbana residents to keep their fuel injectors clean.

Your technician at PDR can perform a fuel system service for you in which the fuel injectors are cleaned so that they operate properly and deliver the right amount of fuel at the right time.

Proper maintenance of your vehicle fuel system means that you will spend less on gas, enjoy strong performance and prevent repair bills down the road.

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

Fuel System Cleaning at PDR for Better Performance

Hi Urbana residents. Let's talk fuel injectors. A fuel injector is a valve that delivers fuel to a vehicle's engine. It has to deliver the precise amount of fuel to precisely the right place, precisely when the engine needs it. The fuel also has to be mixed with air before it can burn in the engine.

Fuel injectors are engineered to spray fuel in a specific pattern into the engine. (The pattern varies by engine type and design.) In order to achieve these spray patterns, the fuel must be pressurized.

Vehicles have one fuel injector for each cylinder in the engine. Your vehicle's control computer constantly monitors the engine and various sensors in the vehicle.  It also adjusts the fuel injectors accordingly so that they can deliver the proper amount of fuel to the engine. As you can see, fuel injectors are a sophisticated and vital part of your vehicle's engine. Because fuel injectors are such precision instruments, dirt and contaminants are a serious detriment to their performance. When an injector gets gummed up, it affects the pressure, pattern and timing of the fuel delivery. The result is a decrease in fuel efficiency and loss of engine performance for Urbana residents.

So it's to Urbana residents' advantage to keep their fuel injectors clean. That starts with keeping the fuel in your tank clean. High-quality fuel contains detergents and additives that help clean your engine. Brand-name fuel companies also deliver a more consistent quality of fuel to Urbana vehicles than do bargain Urbana area service stations.

The second way to keep your injectors clean is to keep your fuel filter clean. This filter screens dirt and rust out of the fuel as it travels from the tank to the engine. If the filter clogs up, fuel will bypass it and carry its load of dirt into the engine.

Urbana residents should check their owner's manual to find out how often they should change their fuel filter. This should be part of your regular preventive maintenance. Also, remember that if you use bargain-brand or low-grade fuels, or if you drive an older vehicle, your filter will need to be changed more often.

You can also purchase cleaners at PDR that will protect your fuel injectors. These cleaners are added to the fuel tank. They work best at preventing build-up in your fuel injectors and can clean up small amounts of carbon, gum and varnish. But they won't be able to clean a fully gummed-up injector. Read the labels before using any of these products for full directions on their use. If your fuel injectors are gummed up, you can get a professional deep cleaning service at PDR in Urbana that will result in better fuel economy and improved vehicle performance.

Good vehicle care will prevent serious damage to your fuel injector system. And this is one system that you want to keep in perfect condition.

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

Change is Good (Oil Change)

You've heard that expression, change is good.  When it comes to your vehicle's oil, change is not only good, it's vital for the health of the engine.  But there's one question that puzzles many drivers: how frequently should my vehicle's oil be changed? There is not one simple answer, but here are some guidelines that will help.

It used to be pretty much a rule of thumb that vehicles got their oil changed once every 3 months or 3,000 miles/5,000 kilometers.  But times have changed.  Oil formulations have gotten better and engine designs have made longer oil change intervals possible. 

Most experts advise you to read the recommendations that come from the manufacturer that designed and built your vehicle.  Their designers and engineers know more about your vehicle than anyone else.  They spell out their recommended oil change interval and type of oil in your owner's manual.  Many automakers say you can go at least 5,000 miles/8,000 kilometers between oil changes and many recommend even longer intervals now.  If you use synthetic oil, it doesn't have to be changed as often. 

Ever wonder why you have to change your oil?  Your vehicle lives in a dirty environment.  Contaminants build up in your engine oil and, after time, they inhibit the lubricating properties of the oil.  Without optimal lubrication, increased friction inside the engine starts wearing down the metal parts, shortening the engine's life.

Not only do vehicle manufacturers recommend oil change intervals in the manual, many also now alert drivers by a light or other electronic indicator on your dash.  It doesn't exactly say, "Hey, time get your oil changed. This oil's starting to wear on me." But it does give you a pretty good hint.  Some of these warning systems simply measure the distance you've traveled.  More sophisticated vehicles have sensors that measure temperature, driving time and engine revolutions to determine when the oil is getting past its useful life.  Here's one situation where it's easy to see the light.  Do yourself a favor and don't wait too long before coming in for an appointment at PDR. 

Oh, and driving habits matter, too.  Short trips with a lot of stop-and-go driving will stress your engine and oil more than longer trips at highway speeds. 

And here's one more plus side to getting your oil changed regularly at PDR in Urbana.  Our technician will also keep an eye on the rest of your vehicle to spot anything that might need attention.

The bottom line is this: Oil changes are good for your vehicle in so many ways and probably the most important maintenance service you can get.

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

THE IMPORTANCE OF VISIBILITY (Cleaning Vehicle Glass)

We've all been through it. The vehicle ahead of us kicks up mud, slush, snow or salt on our windshield and we can't see a thing.  And not being able to see a thing when we're driving?  Not a good thing.

Debris on a vehicle's glass can be blinding when driving directly into the sun.  And other things can ruin visibility: scratches on the glass, fogged windows, mineral deposits. 

So lets make one thing clear:  Your windows.  Here are some tips.

  • Number one rule, don't use abrasives on glass. That means no gritty cleaners that are made for metal.  Avoid at all costs those dark green abrasive pads on some kitchen sponges that are made to clean metal pots and pans UNLESS the manufacturer specifically says they can be used on glass.
  • Use the appropriate cleaner for the substance that's being cleaned off. Special automotive glass cleaners are available, and your PDR service advisor can make recommendations.
  • Vinegar can work wonders. Sometimes you'll see hard, grayish water spots on your windows that nothing seems to take off. Distilled white vinegar (available in the grocery store) gets rid of them safely, quickly and easily.
  • Use a microfiber cloth designed for cleaning glass; that's what professional detailers choose.
  • Clean the insides of windows, too. That film that develops on the inside of vehicle windows can be the result of plastic interior surfaces decaying in the heat of sunlight (plastic contains oil). The film can also be caused by cigarette smoke. Clean that oily layer off thoroughly.

Now that you have clean windows, here's how to keep 'em clean.

  • Replace your wipers at least once a year. Rubber deteriorates the older it gets, even if you rarely use your wipers.
  • You might consider a newer type called a "beam" blade. Most have an aerodynamic design that cleans your windshield better, especially at higher speeds.

Your service advisor at PDR will be able to recommend good wiper blades for your vehicle and install them properly.

Visibility.  See what we mean?

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

QUIET TIME (Listening for Vehicle Problems)

Everybody's got friends like this.  You know, the kind who, the minute they get in their vehicle and turn the key, the sound system is deafening.  They just love to hear that music, sports, news… anything but the sound of the vehicle itself.

And maybe you're that person, too.  Here's something to consider: your sound system might be drowning out some valuable clues that could help you diagnose problems with your vehicle, problems that need to be dealt with. So, turn down the volume and listen for these things:

  • A clicking sound when you're braking or turning—You could be missing some parts in your braking system, or it could be damaged. That sound could also signal that components are just plain worn out.
  • Rattling under the hood—If it sounds like metal clanking against metal, you could have something serious going on, maybe an overheating engine or your timing needs adjusting. That knocking sound could also be as simple as you've been using lower octane gasoline than is recommended for your engine.  Time to get that checked out.
  • A squealing or high-pitched sound coming from the engine compartment. Could be a belt is loose, wearing out, dried out or cracked. A pulley might be failing or a bearing might be on its last legs.  Better to have that fixed now than be stranded somewhere later.

Here’s our PDR suggestion - set a regular weekly alarm in your smartphone alerting you to listen to your vehicle once a week for five minutes.  Just five minutes without the music or the sports show or public radio… whatever your taste is. You can even use your smartphone to record any noise you might be hearing.  Between that and your description to your service advisor, a PDR technician should be able to diagnose the source of the noise and get your vehicle sounding healthy again. Do it before that noise turns into the sound of a serious problem. 

Who knew a little quiet time could be so useful?

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