What Customers Should Know

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

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

Getting from E to F (Fuel Gauge Problems)

Who thinks about their fuel gauge?  You probably don't… until it doesn't work any more.  Then you have to guess how much fuel is in your tank, and that's no way to live life on the road. 

Fuel gauges, like every other part in your vehicle, can fail.  And when yours stops working, you will probably want to head over to your service facility soon, because no one relishes running out of fuel.

The fuel gauge system is much more than just the gauge you can see on your instrument panel. Most systems have a float inside the fuel tank that goes up and down depending on the fuel level.  It's called the fuel sending unit, and it sends an electrical signal to the gauge (on the dash) telling it to display how much fuel is left in the tank. 

So, what could go wrong?  Well, a few things.  For one thing, corrosion from bad fuel can cause it to stick and it won't move up and down any more.  So you could fill up your tank and the gauge would still read Empty.  If a sending unit needs to be replaced, often the parts can be costly. The good news is that fuel sending units rarely fail and most drivers will never have one go bad.

Other things that can go wrong? An electrical problem could cause a fuse to blow and you won't get a reading at all.  A technician can figure out where that electrical problem is and how to repair it.  Finally, it's possible for the gauge itself (on the instrument panel) to fail.

One thing to keep in mind is if your fuel gauge isn't working, you might be tempted to carry around an extra container of fuel.  That's ok if it's outside the cabin, such as in the bed of a pickup.  But if you carry it inside the cabin or trunk, fuel fumes can be very dangerous for your health, even fatal.

A working fuel gauge gives you peace of mind… so you'll never have that "empty" feeling.

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

Objects in the Mirror (Rearview Mirror Safety and Maintenance)

You may remember a song that went, "Objects in the rearview mirror may appear closer than they are." While that was a song about life's lessons, there are a few things we should all know about how important rearview mirrors are to safe driving.

While new electronic devices are helping drivers be aware of surrounding traffic in high-tech ways, the good old rearview mirror is still a dependable way of letting you know what's around you.  There are usually 3 on each vehicle, 1 attached to the windshield inside and 2 attached outside on each of the front doors.

It's important that they be adjusted properly before you start driving (not while you're driving). Experts say the windshield rearview mirror should cover the area behind the vehicle while the outside mirrors should not simply duplicate that view but extend it to the sides, where blind spots normally are.

Your rearview mirrors must be able to hold the positions they're adjusted in; it there's play in them or they move around, you'll never be sure they're pointed in the direction that will let you see where traffic is.  The one on the windshield must be firmly attached.  If it won't stay where you want it, head to your service facility where they can tighten it or replace any parts necessary to let the mirror maintain its aim. If it has fallen off the windshield completely, a technician can reattach it with the proper adhesives or fasteners.  There may be electronics that need to be properly connected as well.

The outside mirrors cover your blind spots and they must be able to hold their adjustments, too.  Many adjust electronically; switches and motors can fail, electrical connections can detach or become corroded and the reflective glass can crack, discolor or develop a hazy fog.  A technician can diagnose and repair those problems and recommend any replacement parts you might need.  Mirrors that are adjusted manually also should be restored to proper working order in order for you to maintain this important rear visibility.

Drivers don't think about their rearview mirrors all that much.  On reflection, don't they deserve respect and care for the important job they do?

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

A "Mounting" Problem (Motor Mounts)

You know how heavy your engine and transmission are, so you can imagine how tough the parts that hold them onto your vehicle's sub-frame must be.  Not only must they support the weight, they also have to isolate vibrations and noise from the passenger cabin.  Pretty tall order, wouldn't you say?

The parts that face that task daily are called the motor mounts, or engine mounts.  They are usually made of rubber with steel brackets.  Others contain a liquid for vibration and sound isolation. 

Most vehicles have three or four motor mounts, and while rubber or hydraulic liquids do a good job of damping the vibrations from the engine, they also have their limitations.  The problem with rubber is that it gets old and brittle.  Plus, if there's an oil leak anywhere in your engine and oil gets on the rubber motor mounts, rubber will deteriorate even more quickly.  As for the liquid motor mounts, they can develop leaks and stop working. 

Here are signs a motor mount is going bad.  You may hear a loud clunking or banging sound under the hood.  That means the weight of the engine is shifting around enough to bang against other metal parts.  You may feel bad vibrations, and the engine may feel like it's moving around in a strange way.

When things get to that point, your vehicle can be damaged from that heavy engine knocking against things, and its time to replace one or more motor mounts.  Schedule a visit to your vehicle service facility. There, a technician will assess your motor mounts; if one bad one is found, it's not unusual that others are likely to fail soon and should be replaced before they do.

Because all vehicles are configured differently, some motor mounts are easily replaced.  But others can be much trickier, take a lot longer and therefore are more expensive to replace. 

It's important for your engine's health to make sure motor mounts are sound and solid.  You will maintain that quiet, vibration-free ride and could save your engine and transmission from major wear and tear.

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

Visibility Disaster! (Windshield Washer Pump Replacement)

Let's say you live in a cold climate where the snowy, icy weather challenges you to clear the salt and debris tossed up on your windshield.  You push your windshield washer switch expecting a good stream of fluid so the blades can wipe the glass clean. Yet nothing comes out.  Nada, zip.  What's going on? You know you filled up the windshield washer reservoir within the last week or so. 

Well, there could be a few things causing your windshield washing system to fail.  One culprit? The hoses that are supposed to carry that fluid from the washer pump to the spray nozzles may be frozen, or maybe they're cracked and leaking. It could be the nozzles themselves are stopped up, either iced up or jammed full of debris.  Your windshield wiper/washer switch could be worn out or the electrical system may not be conducting power to the washer pump. 

It's important that this system work properly, especially on days when the sun may be in front of you and your windshield is covered with a cloudy, icy mess.  Seeing what's going on in front of you may be like trying to peer through frosted glass, and that's not a safe situation for you or the drivers around you. You need to have this checked out by a technician as soon as you can.

Let's say the technician discovers it's not any of those components.  Turns out it's the electric windshield washer pump itself that's failed. After replacing it, everything is working fine, and you can see again.  As so often is the case with today's complex vehicles, figuring out the root cause of a problem can be tricky.  Rely on your vehicle service facility since they have the know how and diagnostic equipment to make sure your view of the road will always be crystal clear.

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

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

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