Most Recent Articles

Unlock the Secret (Malfunctioning Door Lock Actuator)

What a convenience power door locks are on a vehicle.  The latest don't even require you to push the button on the key fob; all you have to do is have it with you.  But sometimes there's a component of power door locks that can fail, especially when they are used several times each day.  Those are called the door lock actuators.

The actuator is an electric part that works with others (like motors and gears) to lock and unlock doors.  You can hear them work, sometimes with the little whirr of the gear or the quiet clunk of the lock finishing its cycle.  And it's good to pay attention to that sound because if it starts to sound different, it could be a signal that your lock is on the brink of failing. Another sign of a failing power door lock actuator is they start working intermittently or quickly and erratically.  The driver's door is often the first to start acting up since it's the one that usually gets the most use.

When you start to notice these signs, consider a visit to your service facility to get your vehicle checked out.  If you wait too long, you may find yourself getting locked out of your vehicle. Many vehicles do have mechanical keys available as a failsafe so you are at least able to get inside.  Some of them are hidden inside the key fob and you should know how to access them.  Check with your owner's manual or ask your service advisor.

It's extremely inconvenient to have to unlock your vehicle with the mechanical key, then get inside and unlock the other doors. It's even more inconvenient if you have passengers in the rear seats.  And that doesn't even count having to go through the same thing to lock the doors when you arrive at your destination.

There are many things that can cause power door locks to malfunction, but if it turns out to be a power lock actuator, the most common remedy is to replace it.  Some are easier for technicians to reach than others, depending on your vehicle's design.  But once your locks are working again, you might think you've found the "key" to happiness!

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

A Squirrely Problem (Animals Nesting in Engine)

If you park your vehicle outside, you are exposing it to all sorts of critters that would love to use it for nesting, food storage and shelter.  There are plenty of pictures online of people who've discovered there was more than an engine under the hood.  In one case, the driver of an SUV started to smell a slight burning odor when she was driving.  Turned out to be 200 walnuts and a lot of grass had been stored there by some industrious squirrels preparing for the upcoming cold weather. 

The SUV owners had their vehicle inspected not long before this happened, but it doesn't take some animals long to set up house in what they think is the ideal spot to make their winter home.   Obviously, that can create problems.  Squirrels, mice, rats and other small animals can chew through hoses and wires.  Plus what they store as food and nesting material may prevent engine parts from moving the way they are supposed to.  Imagine a radiator fan that won't turn because it's laden with heavy walnuts.  Or the fire hazard created by flammable brush on a hot manifold.

Probably the best solution is to store your vehicle inside a rodent-tight building, but that's no guarantee.  Unfortunately it doesn't take a very big hole or gap for small mice or other creatures to get in.  Some careful sealing with materials like cement or steel wool can reduce rodent access effectively, but they're always looking for access so you can't let down your guard.

If you're not able to store your vehicle inside, you may try spraying lavender or mint essence around the engine or in the wheel wells.  Rodents don't seem to like those odors very much.  If you drive your vehicle every day, you're less likely to have unwanted residents than if you leave it sit for days.  In either case, if you have experienced animal problems in the past, open your hood and inspect your engine frequently. 

Check with your service adviser for recommendations on how to keep animals out of your vehicle.  You're not the only one whose vehicle looks like the perfect winter apartment to some critters.  Preventing animals from getting to your vehicle is worth some time and expense because damage from gnawing teeth can be very costly and difficult to repair.

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

Wash Me, Wash Me Right (How to Wash a Vehicle)

Most would agree they'd rather drive around in a clean, shiny vehicle than one coated with a layer of dirt.  When warmer weather comes around, some of us are bound and determined to wash our own vehicles.  And to protect the paint and its luster, there are a few things to keep in mind when you get out the bucket and soap.

  • Cool body.  It's not a good idea to wash a vehicle when the body is hot.  If it's been sitting out in the sun or you've been riding around on a sunny day, make sure you cool your vehicle off by either moving it to the shade or wetting it down with cool water. The problem with washing a hot vehicle is that it's going to dry so fast, minerals in the water can form hard-to-remove spots on the paint.  And some of those can be really difficult to get out.  Best to avoid it.
  • Slippery when wet.  Make sure you wet your vehicle down thoroughly before you get the washing mitt out.  Experts keep a couple of buckets of soapy water on hand, and they use soap especially engineered to remove dirt from a vehicle without stripping off the wax that might be on it. 
  • The washing mitt.  Experts say to use a mitt with hundreds of moisture-absorbing strands on it.  Start washing at the top and move down.  If you keep dipping the mitt in the buckets frequently, a minimal amount of dirt will stick to it and that will prevent scratching the paint. 
  • Wheels last.  Wait until you've finished washing the body before washing the wheels.  Some detailers prefer special wheel-washing tools or brushes. 
  • Rinse it well.  Hose the vehicle off thoroughly to get all the soap off, then dry immediately.  Some people swear by a chamois, others like cloth better.  Cotton or microfiber towels will do.  

The next time you have your vehicle in for maintenance, you might ask your service advisor for recommendations on vehicle washing accessories.  They are usually up on the brands that produce the best results.  You may not be a detailing pro, but there's no reason your vehicle can't look like you are.

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

Idle Talk about Engines (Causes of Rough Engine Idling)

When you slow down at stoplight, your vehicle's idle should be smooth as silk.  But what happens when the engine is missing or idling roughly? That's your engine's way of telling you, "Hey, I've got something wrong with me and if you don't get someone to find out what it is, I may not start the next time you turn the key."

You can help your service facility if you can describe the problem in detail.  Here's a list of things to make a note of:

  • When is the problem happening, when the engine is cold or when it's been running for a while?
  • Does the rough idling occur when I'm accelerating or when I'm going at a steady speed?
  • Does it happen at high speeds?  Does it happen low speeds? Does it happen at both?

Make sure you describe the problem in as much detail because it will help a technician diagnose the problem.

One of the first things they'll check is how the spark plugs are firing.  Modern iridium plugs are supposed to last a long, long time.  But they CAN eventually wear out.  Inspecting the firing end can help the technician figure out the root of the problem.  Corroded or worn out spark plug wires, too, can contribute to an idling irregularity. 

There are other potential problem spots, too.  The technician may check the ignition coil, timing piston rings, valves and cylinder walls. 

If the mixture of air and fuel isn't correct, that may affect how smooth your vehicle is running.  Your service facility is equipped with diagnostic equipment that helps them pinpoint the problem.  Once that idle is smoothed out to the way it used to be, you'll be the smoothest operator on the road.

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

Ready, Set, COLD! (Getting Vehicle Ready for Winter)

When the temperatures plunge, your vehicle better be ready because it faces a whole new set of challenges.  Rubber stiffens, glass fogs, fluids freeze.  Just thinking about it can get your heart beating faster.  So here are some tips for getting ready for those inevitable colder temperatures.

Make sure your tires are in good shape and properly inflated.  Traction can be less than ideal on slippery streets, so your tires must have enough tread to grip the road.  They should also be inflated properly, and inflation will change as the temperatures go down. One last thing on tires. Do you know how old yours are? They actually have a birthdate printed on them.  Old rubber can compromise drivability and handling.  Some tires look great but their rubber doesn't handle stresses like it used to.  Have your vehicle service facility inspect all of these aspects of your tires so you are riding on tires that are fit to go.

Anyone who lives in an area where the temperatures get down to freezing knows frigid mornings can reveal an unhealthy battery at the most inopportune time.  Age also counts when it comes to batteries, so you should know how old and healthy yours is.  Special equipment at your service facility can let you know how much more life you can expect out of that battery.  It's obviously better to have it replaced before rather than after it fails.

You have to see out your windows and windshield in order to drive safely, so now's the time to have your heater and defroster checked out to make sure they can do their jobs.  A few tweaks here and there can make a big difference before you find yourself shivering and fogged up.

And finally, make sure you have some vital emergency supplies.  Yes, a blanket can save your life if you are stranded in cold weather.  A small shovel can help you dig out of a slippery spot.  And your survival may depend on having a little extra food and water on hand, so keep a little supply of bottled water and power bars stored away. Doesn't hurt to have an extra cell phone charger in your vehicle, either.

You may have heard all of this before.  Well, trouble happens when you least expect it. Taking a few minutes now can make a huge difference when it rears its ugly head later.

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

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