Most Recent Articles

When Metal Meets Metal (Wheel Bearings)

What part of your vehicle has little metal balls inside that are lubricated and allow you to cruise on down the road?  They are wheel bearings, and automotive designers might argue they are human beings' second greatest invention of all time (the first is, of course, the wheel!).

You have a wheel bearing at each wheel.  They allow your wheels to turn freely, minimizing friction that would ordinarily slow you down when metal meets metal.  When one of your wheel bearings starts to go bad, it lets you know. A wheel bearing does its work quietly when it's in good health but starts getting noisy when it isn't.  People describe the noise differently.  Sometimes it sounds like road noise, a pulsating, rhythmic, sound.  That pulse speeds up when your vehicle speeds up. 

Here's what's happening when you hear that sound.  As mentioned, the bearing has these little metal balls inside a ring.  They have a lubricant inside to reduce friction between the balls; modern wheel bearings are sealed and they're intended to do their job without any maintenance. 

Wheel bearings take a beating; you hit some rough potholes or go over some uneven railroad tracks. Sometimes water can get into a bearing and reduce the ability of the lubricant to do its job.  Time starts to take its toll, too. When the lubricant isn't reducing friction like it should, the bearing can heat up. One of those little balls can start shedding pieces of metal and soon those shards start grinding up the other balls.  Friction takes over and soon your wheel isn't turning smoothly. That's what's causing the sound.  If a wheel bearing is not fixed, it could eventually seize up completely, and you can be stranded.

It's a lot easier if you heed the early warning signals, that pulsating noise.  Now, sometimes a similar noise can be caused by a bad tire, but in either case, it's important to have it checked out. Our PDR technicians will be able to tell you fairly quickly what the problem is and offer a solution.

Wheel bearings generally don't fail often and usually last from 85,000-100,000 miles/140,000km to 160,000km. But consider them a long-term maintenance item that, once fixed, will keep you heading smoothly to the next destination.

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

No Yolk! Rotten Egg Smell (Sulfur Smell Causes)

The pungent smell of rotten eggs can send people running for the hills.  So when that odor is inside your vehicle, yikes!  Yolks!  The good news is that a trained service technician can search the source of that smell and stanch the stench… that comes from another words that begins with S.  Sulfur.

Fuel contains small amounts of hydrogen sulfide, but they're enough to stink up a vehicle when it's not properly burned.  You may know that the smell of rotten eggs can often be a sign of a catalytic converter that isn't working the way it should.  That could be due to age, damage or an abundance of oil that's clogging it up. 

If a sensor in charge of managing the fuel has failed, the engine can run with too rich of a fuel mixture.  That can overload the catalytic converter and allow some of the byproducts to escape without interruption from the chemical reaction that is supposed to prevent them from going out the tailpipe.

There's another possibility, but it's usually only in stick shift vehicles.  That's leaking, old transmission fluid.

Catalytic converter repairs are best left to a professional. Technicians at your vehicle service facility have equipment and training that can help them pinpoint the cause of this funky fragrance.  Once the cause is found, repairs made and/or parts replaced, the smell should go away fairly rapidly.

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

An Oil for All Seasons (Engine Oil Selection)

You swap your winter boots for flip-flops in the summer.  Why not change your winter engine oil for summer, hot-weather oil?  While it may seem like it makes sense, there's some good news.  Most drivers don't have to, and here's why.

Engine oil can be made in different thicknesses.  That thickness is called viscosity, how easily it flows.  Now, it makes sense that the hotter it gets, oil gets a little thinner and doesn't lubricate as well.  So if you used a thicker oil in the summer, it's logical that it would protect better in the hotter weather. 

While there was a time when oils could be only made in one viscosity, times have changed.  Using an ingenious formula, oil can now be created that changes its viscosity (called "multi-viscosity") as the temperature rises and falls.  It self-adjusts to match the conditions.  Now that's what I call a great invention.

In most temperate climates, you don't have to swap out the type of oil you use in your vehicle each season. There are exceptions in extreme climates, but your service advisor can advise you on that.  Your vehicle's owner's manual recommends the proper viscosity oil to use.

Remember that even though you may not have to switch to a different type of oil, you DO have to CHANGE the oil at certain intervals.  That's because oil eventually breaks down and picks up contaminants, and if you have old, dirty oil in your engine, it can cause damaging friction and heat. Regular maintenance at your vehicle service facility will ensure that your vehicle is running like a well-oiled machine. 

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

New Life for Your Older Car in Urbana

Isn't it amazing how much of our stuff is disposable these days? Clothes, electronics, housewares, furniture.

Remember the days when Urbana families mended their clothes, polished their shoes and neatly put away their toys every night? If something was lost or ruined through neglect, your parents just told you to do without, that you should have taken better care of it. They considered the loss a “life lesson.”

But today many Urbana drivers tend to neglect one of the more expensive and important purchases we make: our vehicles. Vehicles are a lot more reliable today than back when we polished our shoes, and that reliability can sometimes make us take them for granted. Drivers in Urbana neglect good vehicle care practices and procrastinate when it comes to preventive maintenance. What we're really doing is heading straight for one of those dreaded “life lessons.” Eventually we'll pay for our neglect in repair bills and a shorter life for our vehicle.

Is procrastinating on routine maintenance really so terrible? Consider what happens when you procrastinate on brushing your teeth, washing your clothes or getting the dishes done. Gunk builds up, makes the job harder and ultimately damages your teeth, clothing or dishes. It's the same with your vehicle. Some of the best auto advice out there for Urbana drivers is to stay on top of routine oil changes by bringing their car into PDR. Even a little extra interval between oil changes can result in oil sludge, which can clog passages in your engine. This means oil can't get to some of the engine components, and they'll wear out faster without lubrication. Every time you put off an oil change, the problem gets worse, eventually cutting years off the life of your engine.

The same is true if you skip cooling system service. Corrosion inhibitors in the fluid become depleted over time, opening the system up to damage. Consistent neglect will lead to holes in your radiator. Talk to your friendly service advisor at PDR for suggestions and feedback.

Neglect of other fluids can also result in engine damage. Brake fluid, transmission fluid, differential fluid—all of these need to be serviced on a regular basis. In addition, your fuel system needs periodic cleaning or it can start to break down and cause permanent damage to your engine.

The good news is that it's never too late to get on track and start getting good, regular preventive maintenance for your vehicle at PDR. You may not be able to reverse damage that's already been done, but you can prevent further damage.

It really does all start with an oil change. With a full-service oil change at PDR, your fluids will be checked and your car inspected for wear and tear. Our pros at PDR can also advise you of other inspections and maintenance items that are coming due. If you're on top of oil changes, your service advisor will keep track of your maintenance schedule and remind you what needs to be done.

Older vehicles are going to need repairs. But with good maintenance, those repairs will involve fairly routine stuff like alternators, water pumps, belts and batteries. The cost of these replacement parts at PDR is much cheaper than the repair bills that come with serious engine damage, and they're certainly less than the cost of a new car.

We may not need to polish our shoes anymore, and tossing out that outdated cell phone may not be such a loss. But when it comes to our vehicles, they're just too valuable to be treated as disposable. Let's take a step back, listen to our parents and take care of our stuff. If we don't, we could be on our way to a “life lesson” involving our bank account and a bus pass.

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

STRAIGHT TALK ABOUT STEERING (Loose Steering)

Perhaps you've heard someone use the term "loose steering." And it's pretty much what it sounds like.  You turn the steering wheel and the vehicle's wheels don't seem to go exactly where you thought you were pointing them.  You have to constantly make steering adjustments. 

Loose steering is sloppy steering, and it can be a safety hazard.  You need to be able to control your vehicle with pretty much the same precision as the way it was when it came off the assembly line.  

If the steering in your vehicle is starting to feel loose and sloppy, there may be some significant suspension issues that need examining by a trained technician.

How do you know if your vehicle needs to be looked at? Try turning the steering wheel and see how much play is in it.  One rule of thumb: if you can turn it the distance of a quarter and a dime placed side by side without seeing the outside wheels move, it's time to have it inspected by one of our technicians.

Our PDR technician will examine those components that are supposed to work together to make sure your steering is tight and precise.  They are linked together by things called (of course) linkages.

When these linkage components were new, they all fit together tightly and moved together to make sure your wheels responded quickly and precisely to your movements of the steering wheel.   

But hit a few potholes, travel over a couple of rough railroad tracks and those metal components can be damaged or bent.  Given enough time, they will simply wear out. Our trained PDR technician can inspect all of those parts and determine what needs to be repaired and/or replaced.  

Keep your steering tight.  Loose or sloppy steering can be dangerous.  Thank goodness it usually warns you in plenty of time before it fails completely. Just straight talk… about steering.

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

PDR Advice: Don't Overlook These 10 Automotive Services

Organization is the key to managing a busy life in Illinois. So setting up an annual calendar for vehicle care can keep Urbana residents on top of preventive maintenance. But you can't just write “oil change” every few months on the calendar. Modern vehicles have many systems that are vital to the safe operation of a vehicle, and they all need to be inspected. Urbana residents can't afford to overlook any of them.

The following is a list of preventive maintenance services that are often overlooked by vehicle owners in the Urbana area. They are not presented in any particular order.

1. PDR Power Steering Service. Moisture gradually builds up in your power steering fluid, which can lead to corrosion in your steering system. The fluid also gets dirty, which can gum up your steering system. The fluid needs to be replaced periodically.

2. PDR Wheel Alignment. Wheels that are out of alignment will cause a vehicle to pull to one side. This is dangerous for Urbana residents and can lead to accidents. Also, it causes uneven and rapid tire wear, which means tires must be replaced more often.

3. PDR Differential Service. They are part of the drive train system that transfers power from the engine to the wheels. Damage or wear in this system can make a vehicle undriveable.

4. PDR Cabin Air Filter. Your vehicle may or may not be equipped with a cabin air filter. Its job is to remove dust and pollen from the air that enters the passenger compartment of the vehicle. If this filter clogs, it can stink. So check your owner's manual to find out if your vehicle has a cabin air filter. If so, come visit us at PDR and get it changed according to the recommended schedule.

5. PDR Timing Belt Replacement. Most passenger cars and some vans and trucks have timing belts. Urbana residents can check their owner's manual to find out if their vehicle has one. If so, you can't drive without it. And if it breaks while on the road, you may be looking at thousands of dollars of repairs. So it is important to inspect it occasionally. If your vehicle has close to 60,000 miles/100,000 kilometers or more on it and you haven't had your timing belt replaced, then you need to find out the recommended replacement interval NOW.

6. PDR Transmission Service. Transmission fluid gets dirty and has to be replaced. If not, you risk repairs.

7. PDR Air Conditioning Service. The refrigerant in your air conditioner needs to be replaced periodically. This fluid doesn't just refrigerate air; it provides lubrication to the air conditioning system and conditions seals. Lack of fluid can damage components.

8. PDR Brake Service. Even if your brakes are quiet and working well, the brake fluid still might need to be changed. Over time, moisture builds up in brake fluid. Water has a different viscosity than brake fluid, so the brakes can't compress properly when there's too much moisture in the fluid — and you shouldn't need to be told how it is to drive with brakes that are compromised. Moisture in your brake fluid can also corrode parts in your brake system, causing it to fail altogether.

9. PDR Coolant System Service. Antifreeze is another fluid that needs to be changed regularly. If not, it actually becomes corrosive and begins to damage your cooling system. Eventually it can eat holes in your radiator.

10. PDR Fuel System Cleaning. Over time, your fuel system just gets gummed up, which can interfere with the flow of fuel in a number of ways.

Of course, your next question should be: How often do I need to get all of this done? Well, the answer varies depending on which service we're talking about, the make and model of your vehicle, the climate where you live in Illinois, your usual driving conditions and your driving habits.

But don't lose heart. Your owner's manual will give you a recommended service schedule for most of the service items listed. And you can get quality auto advice from your friendly and knowledgeable PDR service advisors to help you meet the service intervals that suit your vehicle.

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


A Fluid Situation (Check Fluid Levels)

There's one fluid in your car you are always careful to keep at a certain level: the fuel. If you don't have fuel, you're not going anywhere.  Your vehicle has other fluids which are vitally important to proper and safe operation, too.  So, here's a "level" headed approach to those "other" fluids.

Engine oil.  This one's probably the most important fluid to maintain at the proper level. Without enough oil, you'll wear out your engine prematurely.  Sometimes vehicles have warning lights on the dash that will tell you to get your oil checked.  Don't ignore that one; get it checked immediately.  Certainly don't go on a long trip at high speeds with your oil level low. Oh, and it's not good to have too much oil in, either. Our pros at PDR can advise you on oil levels and tell if you if you should be concerned about abnormal fluctuations.

Windshield washer fluid.  OK, this is one you probably know about.  You certainly miss it when it runs out.  You find yourself trying to clean your windshield with the wipers but you need a little liquid help.  Unless you live in an area that requires you to use an awful lot of windshield washer fluid, one fill-up can often last between oil changes.  Modern vehicles have large enough windshield washer fluid reservoirs to keep you going for quite a while.    

Engine Coolant. Here's another fluid you need to keep your engine running properly.  You need it to keep the engine running at the proper temperature.  Plus, you'll need it for heat when the temperature gets chilly outside. 

Power Steering Fluid. If you have a vehicle that uses power steering fluid, it's important to keep the correct amount in your system. Without enough of it, you might find steering difficult.  Plus, if you’re losing power steering fluid, our experts at PDR can find out why and perhaps prevent a more expensive repair later.

Brake Fluid.  You may have heard of hydraulic brakes.  Hydraulic refers to the fluid and is one of the key reasons your brakes work.  Levels should be checked regularly and, like power steering fluid, if you're losing brake fluid, a technician needs to find out why so you can get the issue repaired and maintain your stopping ability.

If you have regular preventative maintenance performed at PDR, we’ll keep an eye on all of these fluids when you bring your vehicle in for service.

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