Most Recent Articles

Going (Lug) Nuts (Lug Nut Replacement)

Here's a part of your vehicle you probably don't think about much: lug nuts.  They're what fasten your wheels onto your axles.  Pretty important, right? In order to take the wheels off your vehicle to service the brakes, rotate the tires, etc., the lug nuts have to be in good shape so a wrench will grip them tightly. 

Because lug nuts are on your wheels, they are exposed to all the elements of the road (salt, water, grime) and really take a beating. Unfortunately, some manufacturers have made them out of two different metals.  Underneath is the working part of the lug nut, made of steel.  On top is the decorative (the "good looking") part, made out of chrome, stainless steel or aluminum.  After a while, the steel part begins to corrode and expands.  That changes the shape of the outer cap, sometimes rounding off the hexagonal edges and making it hard (if not impossible) to either loosen or tighten the lug nuts since the wrench won't fit any more. 

The reason that's so important is those lug nuts must be functional, especially if you find you have a flat tire somewhere on the road.  If the wheel can't come off to be swapped with a spare, it leaves few options, one of which is your vehicle may have to be towed.  All that for corroded lug nuts!

When you take your vehicle in for service, the technician who works on it keeps an eye on many things, especially if he or she is removing wheels.  It's not unusual for your service advisor to recommend you replace several lug nuts at once since some corrode at a different rate than others. Your repair facility is trying to help you avoid driving a vehicle that has wheels that can't easily be taken off when they need to be.

The good news is there are one-piece lug nuts that don't have the problem the two-piece lug nuts have, so replacing them could eliminate that from happening again any time soon.  And that's not "nuts" at all.

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

Don't Be Shocked (Shock Absorbers)

If you've ever ridden down a rough road on your bicycle, you know how hard a ride it can be.  Yet drive down the same road in your car, truck or SUV and it miraculously will smooth out the ride.  That's because it is equipped with shock absorbers.  They are built to dampen impacts from road irregularities.  But after taking hundreds of hits from potholes, railroad tracks and curbs, your shock absorbers can wear out.  Besides the rough ride that can cause, there are other ways your vehicle's performance can be affected.

When it comes to braking for example, you may take a longer distance to stop.  That's because shocks help keep your tires in contact with the surface of the road.  If the shocks aren't working properly, the tires won't make contact like they should.  So when you slam on the brakes, your vehicle will take longer to stop.

Consider what worn out shocks are doing to your tires.  Since the bumps aren't being dampened as much, your tires can bounce up and down more.  That can produce a problem of uneven wear called cupping.

And when you start out from a stop, your vehicle may not have the traction it should since the shocks aren't keeping them down on the road as you accelerate.  If you have front wheel drive, you may lose some steering control on acceleration. Obviously, many of these things involve safety concerns.

Pay attention to any deterioration in your vehicle's ride quality.  If your vehicle is starting to bounce up and down and its ride feels bumpier than before, head on over to your vehicle service facility and get your suspension checked out.  Do the same if steering response isn't as good as it used to be.  Notice that your vehicle nose dives when you brake?  Are your tires wearing in an unusual manner? All are signs that your shocks may be on their last legs.

If the last time you replaced your shocks was 50,000 miles/80,000 kilometers ago, a technician should evaluate them.  Don't be "shocked" if it's time for new ones.


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

Greeted by a Screech (Loud Noise when Starting Vehicle)

No one likes to be greeted in the morning by having someone screech at you.  The same goes for a loud, high-pitched noise your vehicle greets you with every time you start the engine.  If you're wondering if that's normal, no, it isn't.  And it is worth getting checked out.  The good news is that it might be nothing serious.  Then again, it may be.

The first things to suspect any time you hear a high-pitched sound coming from the engine are belts.  They have tension on them and they're trying to turn lots of different pulleys, pumps and other equipment the engine needs to work properly.  The noise could come from the belts starting to wear out and dry out. If one of those belts breaks at an inopportune time, not only can it strand you somewhere, the damage to the engine could be very expensive to fix.

Other things that will cause a high-pitched sound are the pulleys and tensioners.  The tensioners keep the right amount of pressure on the belts and some pulleys contain rubber that dampens engine vibrations.  The rubber in the pulleys can crack or deform with age, which prevents them from working correctly and may cause your belts to wear out.

A technician will check to see if the belts are worn or cracked.  He or she will also check the tension on the belts, the condition of the pulleys and whether all  components are aligned the way they should be.

Sometimes, the noise is nothing major to worry about, but it's still worthwhile to rule out any problems that have cropped up now or may appear in the future.  You'll have a properly running vehicle that sounds like its engineers intended… quiet and smooth.


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

The Neglected Windshield (Windshield Care)

You look at it every day, yet you don't really see it.  We're talking about your vehicle's windshield, and if you're not seeing it at all, that's probably a good sign.  The fact is that unless our windshields get fogged up, hazy or cracked, we don't pay all that much attention to them.  Considering how vital front visibility is in a vehicle, paying a little more attention to your windshield will pay off in the long run.

Keep it clean!  In ancient times when gas stations had attendants who filled your tank for you, they used to clean the outside of your windshield while the fuel was being dispensed. In these days of self-serve gas, we don't have that luxury any more.  But it's a good idea to clean your windshield regularly, even when it's not filthy. If you let dirt build up on the outside, it acts like fine sandpaper when you turn on your wipers when the glass is dry. Really, try to avoid turning on your wipers unless your windshield is wet.  If you must use your wipers to clear off something like bird droppings, use your washers liberally to help avoid scratches.

It's also important to wash the inside of the windshield, too. Even if you're not a smoker, you might notice the inside glass sometimes get a greasy film on it.  That's the plastic inside your vehicle off-gassing petroleum products that they're made of.  A hazy windshield when you are driving directly into low sun can blind you.  Use soaps that are made for automotive glass since they won't streak or harm vehicle interiors.  Your service advisor can recommend some.

Keep an eye on your windshield wiper blades.  Let them go too long without replacing them and you might wind up with the metal wiper frame actually touching the glass, a recipe for major scratches when you turn your wipers on.

Finally, do a quick inspection every once in a while for chips in your windshield glass.  Catch them quickly and they can be repaired while they're still small.  Often they will spread into a major crack, and at that point you'll have to have the whole thing replaced. 

So there you have it. Give your windshield a little love and it will reward you back with a beautifully clear view of the road up ahead.

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

Fears and Gears (Signs of Automatic Transmission Problems)

Automatic transmissions rule. The old days of shifting your own gears are a thing of the past for most drivers.  But automatic transmission trouble can be a big inconvenience for any driver if it comes at the wrong time in the wrong place.  Here are some signs to look out for that may mean you are having transmission issues.

When you are driving, your vehicle seems to slip in an out of gear without you touching anything.  That's what some call, not surprisingly, a "slipping transmission." 

When your vehicle shifts from one gear to the next, you hear a loud "clunk." Transmissions are supposed to be nearly silent when they shift, so that noise is telling you something is wrong. 

If you notice there's a puddle of some fluid under your vehicle, your transmission could be leaking fluid.  Try to figure out what color it is (try putting a piece of cardboard underneath to capture some of the fluid).  If it is red or brown, that's a sign it could be transmission fluid. Sometimes you may smell the transmission fluid, too; it has what some consider a "sweet" odor.

You may have a warning light that goes on when your transmission fluid is low (it could be a special transmission symbol or simply the Check Engine light).  That light could also mean the fluid is too hot or has low pressure.

If you shift your vehicle into D (for Drive) and it doesn't move or slowly engages after some delay, you may be seeing the start of a serious problem.

Of course, you don't want a malfunctioning transmission to strand you at some inopportune time. So if your vehicle is showing any of these signs, arrange a time for a technician to check it out.  Not only are broken transmissions an inconvenience, they can be a safety hazard, too. 

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

Alternator Facts (Failing Alternator)

If you notice that your headlights are flickering at night, that's something to pay attention to. While there could be many different things that could cause that problem, one possibility is your vehicle's alternator.

The alternator takes mechanical energy from the engine and turns it into electricity, in essence a generator.  The current it makes charges the battery and supplies power to the vehicle's electrical systems.  An alternator is made up of several different parts: a pulley, magnets, coil wires, brushes and a voltage regulator.  While your vehicle is running, these parts get a good workout and, after time, they begin to wear out.

Other symptoms of a failing alternator include your vehicle's lights dimming, the power windows going up and down more slowly than they used to, your power seats not moving quite as fast as before. 

Another sign of a worn out alternator is engine stalling.  Vehicles with fuel injection require a certain amount of power, and when an alternator is going bad, your engine could stall because the alternator isn't cranking out enough of it.

An alternator on its last legs can also fail to charge your battery properly.  Sometimes your battery isn't getting enough charge from the alternator and will go dead.  It also can be the opposite problem. The battery is getting too much power and will cause the battery to get hot.  Your vehicle may give you a clue on the instrument panel.  If you see any of these warning lights, take note: Check Engine, ALT, CHARGE or one that looks like a picture of a battery.  If that light is on, it's time to have your service facility give it a look.

As mentioned earlier, there are other components of your vehicle's electrical system that can fail, such as a worn out serpentine belt or a malfunctioning voltage regulator.  A reputable service facility has diagnostic tools to pinpoint the causes of your problems. And when your issues are fixed, your electrical system will be back to its hard-working self.  You'll get a real charge out of it!

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