Most Recent Articles

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

Time for a Brake (Brake Pad Replacement)

Stop! It's one of those things your vehicle has to do consistently and reliably.  That's why brake maintenance is vitally important, worthwhile for you to make sure stays up to date.

A brake system has many components. If your vehicle has disc brakes, they have pads that make contact with the rotors (the metal discs).  Those pads usually have a metal back, and the part that presses against the discs is made of a material which provides friction to stop the vehicle. Because of that friction, the pads are expected to wear down and eventually the rotors will, too.  But the pads usually are the part that will need to be replaced more often. But how do you know when it's time?

There are several signs, one of which is when your brakes squeak or make a high-pitched sound when you step on the brake pedal.  Many newer vehicles also have sensors on the brake pads.  When the pads get worn down to a certain point, the sensor will tell the vehicle's computer to turn on a light on the instrument panel.  When that light comes on, it's time to have your service facility check out what's going on.  If you don't know what that light looks like, ask your service advisor or look it up in the owner's manual.

Some vehicles also give you a reminder based on the distance you've traveled. It may be a message that displays on the dash or a light that illuminates. 

Your best bet is to have your vehicle regularly serviced at one shop you trust.  They will keep a record of your brake maintenance Then, when you take your vehicle in for oil changes or other routine things, they'll check your brakes for wear.  Sometimes you'll only need pads, but you may also need rotors or other parts replaced.  Oh, and you need pads replaced in pairs. That way stopping power will be equal on both sides and your vehicle won't pull in one direction. 

Brakes make up a key part of your vehicle's safety systems.  Keep them in good shape and they'll be able to stop your vehicle when you press down that pedal.

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

Why Alignment Matters (Vehicle Alignment Maintenance)

It's one of those things that can happen on a multi-day road adventure or a quick trip to the grocery store.  You hit a pothole, go too fast over a speed bump, nail a curb.  When it happens, you think, "I wonder if that was hard enough to do any damage?"  But things seem ok and you continue on your way. 

Keep in mind that any blow to your vehicle's suspension can throw it out of alignment.  It can be a hard knock from the road or from another vehicle, such as being involved in a minor accident.  When your suspension is out of alignment, it means that the wheels aren't all pointing where they should.  And after a while, it can make your tires wear unevenly and cause problems with steering and handling.

Let's go back to that pothole or curb you hit hard.  Even though you think there was no damage done, if you wait until you see tire wear, you may need to replace all four tires, not an inexpensive proposition.

That's why it's a good idea to make sure your alignment is regularly checked by a qualified technician. If you get regular oil changes (a MUST!), consider having an alignment check while your vehicle is in.  That's especially important if you drive roads that resemble the lunar surface.  If you buy new tires, it's also strongly recommended that you have your alignment checked. 

You can have your front wheels aligned or all four, and if your vehicle is newer, it's not a bad idea to spend a little extra for the four-wheel alignment check.  Good alignment pays off with better steering and handling, less tire wear and—BONUS—better fuel economy since aligned wheels offer less resistance when they roll on the road.

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

Low Power Mystery (Ignition Coil Service)

It's no fun when your vehicle just doesn't run the way it used to.   You may notice (especially in cold weather) the engine won't start easily or when it does start, it doesn't run smoothly. It may not have much power at all. You also may have had to stop at the gas station more often, a sign your fuel economy isn't what it used to be. 

There could be a few different things that cause those symptoms, but one culprit could be a bad ignition coil. The coil takes the voltage from your battery and multiplies it before that power is sent over to a spark plug. That allows the plug to fire off a good jolt of electricity that ignites the fuel in your cylinder and powers the engine. 

There's usually one ignition coil for each cylinder (or sometimes for a pair of cylinders). If only one of them is not pushing out enough electricity, it can cause big trouble with your engine performance.  Other signs of a bad ignition coil include engine backfire, an oil leak and your Check Engine light coming on.   When that light comes on and you have some of those other signs, you need to have your repair facility check things out fairly soon because you may be damaging your engine and wind up with a far more expensive repair.

A technician will check for a computer code to pinpoint which cylinder is having the problem.  Using other diagnostics, the technician can rule out other components that might be causing the engine to misfire.  Ignition coils usually last 100,000 miles/160,000 km, but other engine conditions can cause them to fail before then. 

Your service advisor may suggest getting all your coils replaced even though only one is malfunctioning. That's probably a good idea in a higher mileage vehicle since the other coils may be close to failure, too. It's also wise to do that if your vehicle's coils are located in a hard-to-reach spot so you likely won't have to spend the money for that labor again when another one fails.

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

Clean Slate (Protecting Vehicle's Finish)

Winter is one of the hardest times to keep your vehicle clean. But did you know neglecting to wash your vehicle in winter could cost you a significant amount of money in the long run? Here's why.

Many areas deal with snow and ice in the winter, and the salt and sand that are used to keep the road surfaces from being slick are also super corrosive to a vehicle's metal body and undercarriage.  That includes all the parts underneath that can be splashed with brine, saltwater and other road debris.  Winter is also tough on vehicles where there isn’t snow, sometimes from ocean salt or winter's extra humidity and rain. 

If you have any breaks in your vehicle's paint, whether it be from a little fender bender or a stone chip, that corrosive winter moisture can get through those cracks and start eating away at the metal underneath. 

If you can, you should get any dents or damage fixed as soon as possible so your vehicle has a protective layer of paint between road chemicals and the metal.  You may want to wait until the warmer weather, but while you're waiting, the damage is getting worse.  If you're not sure of a reputable body repair shop, check with the service advisor where you have mechanical work done.  They're usually knowledgeable about who is good and not so good. 

You also may be tempted to skip the car wash during the winter since your vehicle is just going to get dirty fast anyway.  You may want to reconsider.  Many winter road treatments now use brine that gets in every nook and cranny of your vehicle.  It's wise to clean that off regularly during the winter, and many washing facilities include a spray underneath that gets rid of that salt.  Your vehicle repair facility may even have its own car wash, a nice bonus when you take your vehicle in for repair or regular maintenance. 

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