What Customers Should Know
You may be driving along and find that suddenly your radio stops working. There are no numbers on the display. Then when you get home, you notice the garage door opener doesn't do a thing when you press the button. Hmm, this was working just fine this morning. Are the two problems somehow related?
No, your vehicle doesn't need an exorcism. This has all the signs of an electrical issue, and when you experience symptoms like those, you've probably blown a fuse. Most vehicles have fuses just like most houses have circuit breakers (some houses still have fuses). They cut the power when it reaches a pre-determined threshold that could cause major damage if it was allowed to continue. You might say fuses take one for the team.
Most modern automotive fuses are plastic with a thin strip of metal in them designed to melt when a calibrated amount of power passes through. The philosophy is it's better for an inexpensive fuse to be destroyed than your sound system or your engine's main computer.
It can be tricky to figure out what fuse has blown and why. Modern vehicles have many computerized electronic components; they can easily be damaged if too much electricity gets to the wrong spot. At PDR in Urbana, we have technicians trained to trace which fuse has blown and why.
While sometimes a simple fuse replacement will fix the problem, other times there may be some other electrical component that has failed, causing the circuit overload. Our technicians have special equipment to track down where the power problems are, get to the root of the problem and fix it at the source.
Keep in mind, fuses are there to protect your vehicle. And when they shut down your radio, garage door opener, vanity mirror or anything else, just be thankful they're doing their job. They may have saved you from a much more expensive repair. They've sent an important signal to you about your electrical system. That's why it's good to keep up with "current" affairs.
1008 N. Cunningham Avenue
Urbana, Illinois 61802
A technician was telling us the other day that he was servicing an engine and spotted something he'd never seen before: A collection of dry dog food siting on a horizontal metal ledge near the base of the engine. It was neatly stashed and was in a spot where the food pellets couldn't have simply fallen down in there.
Even though it's the first time he'd seen dog food in an engine, he immediately knew what was going on. Critters like mice or chipmunks had found the dog food somewhere nearby and had used the engine as a nice storage unit.
Mice, squirrels, chipmunks—you name it—like the heat of the engine. And they'll use that to store up supplies of food for use in cold weather when outside food supplies are scarce. The problem is they'll also chew on engine components while they're there. And they can do a lot of damage if they start gnawing on the wires. Depending on how much of your electrical system needs to be replaced, repairs can mount up to the thousands of dollars.
Those electrical problems can be tricky to track down, too, because the rodents can get to spots technicians don't have easy access to. Oh, the signs are there; they'll find mouse droppings, acorns… even full mouse nests in your engine. Yikes.
OK, but even if you get your vehicle fixed, how do you keep the critters from simply setting up their personal pantry again? Here are some things to try:
- Don't leave any food in your vehicle
- Get rid of that sweet-smelling air freshener. The rodents can mistake the scent for food and head right for your vehicle.
- If you have a garage, block all access points for rodents. This can be very hard since they can squeeze through the tiniest spaces you can imagine.
- Some people keep mothballs under the hood; rodents don't love 'em.
- Pop the hood every couple of weeks and look for signs of mice: nests, droppings or stored nuts, acorn shells and pet food.
The next time you bring your vehicle into PDR for maintenance or service, your technician will be on the lookout, too. Hey, the dog food belongs in the dog's dish, not supplying fast food for little critters with razor-sharp teeth that can create electrical system mayhem.
1008 N. Cunningham Avenue
Urbana, Illinois 61802
We've all been through it. The vehicle ahead of us kicks up mud, slush, snow or salt on our windshield and we can't see a thing. And not being able to see a thing when we're driving? Not a good thing.
Debris on a vehicle's glass can be blinding when driving directly into the sun. And other things can ruin visibility: scratches on the glass, fogged windows, mineral deposits.
So lets make one thing clear: Your windows. Here are some tips.
- Number one rule, don't use abrasives on glass. That means no gritty cleaners that are made for metal. Avoid at all costs those dark green abrasive pads on some kitchen sponges that are made to clean metal pots and pans UNLESS the manufacturer specifically says they can be used on glass.
- Use the appropriate cleaner for the substance that's being cleaned off. Special automotive glass cleaners are available, and your PDR service advisor can make recommendations.
- Vinegar can work wonders. Sometimes you'll see hard, grayish water spots on your windows that nothing seems to take off. Distilled white vinegar (available in the grocery store) gets rid of them safely, quickly and easily.
- Use a microfiber cloth designed for cleaning glass; that's what professional detailers choose.
- Clean the insides of windows, too. That film that develops on the inside of vehicle windows can be the result of plastic interior surfaces decaying in the heat of sunlight (plastic contains oil). The film can also be caused by cigarette smoke. Clean that oily layer off thoroughly.
Now that you have clean windows, here's how to keep 'em clean.
- Replace your wipers at least once a year. Rubber deteriorates the older it gets, even if you rarely use your wipers.
- You might consider a newer type called a "beam" blade. Most have an aerodynamic design that cleans your windshield better, especially at higher speeds.
Your service advisor at PDR will be able to recommend good wiper blades for your vehicle and install them properly.
Visibility. See what we mean?
1008 N. Cunningham Avenue
Urbana, Illinois 61802
You might remember a hit TV sitcom that was set in a bar, a place where "everybody knows your name." The idea, of course, is people feel more comfortable where they aren't just another customer among many; they're special because their relationship goes back a few years.
That comfortable relationship can extend to professionals you deal with, too. Think of your accountant, your dentist, your doctor. Most people try to stick with the same person or firm in those businesses. They have grown to know their work over the years and they've learned to trust their professionalism, the quality of their work and their track record.
Ideally, you should have that same relationship with your automotive service facility, like your friends here at PDR. You may have tried several facilities over the years until you found one that did good work at a reasonable price. The longer your relationship with your service facility, the better the people there understand your wants and needs.
And you trust them to only perform repairs you really need and not try to sell you parts and services you don't.
For most of us, it's a great feeling when you walk in the door and you're greeted with a smile. That goes for us at PDR as well. That history you've established by regularly going to one facility for service and maintenance helps you feel more confident about the work they do. And, at PDR, we appreciate your loyalty as a customer. Maybe it won't be exactly like that TV sitcom place, and maybe not "everybody knows your name." But your service advisor will, and you won't feel like you're just another customer.
1008 N. Cunningham Avenue
Urbana, Illinois 61802
Most people don't love going to get their vehicle serviced, but it's one of those things you just have to do. So you might as well get the most of out of it. There are some steps you can take that will likely help you get the best results possible.
For one thing, it's important to describe your problem (or problems) to the service advisor accurately and clearly. If your vehicle is making a noise, for example, take time to really listen to it and think of the best way to describe it. Does it increase in speed when you go faster? If you feel a vibration somewhere, where in the vehicle does it seem to originate? Some service advisors recommend writing things down. That way the driver won't forget any important clues that could lead to a successful resolution of the problem.
Another thing is to make sure your vehicle is cleaned out and free of junk. That way the technician can access those nooks and crannies where some vital components may be. If your vehicle is full of strollers, boxes or your collection of fast food containers, it won't be easy for the technician to reach some of those parts. Oh, and if your vehicle is neat, it does send a signal that you really care about it.
Finally, stay out of the way of the technician. A recent survey of technicians reveals they work more efficiently and do a better job when they don't have someone hanging on their every move. Can you imagine how you'd feel if someone hovered over you all day while you were trying to get your work done?
1008 N. Cunningham Avenue
Urbana, Illinois 61802
You may have had a friend whose vehicle was the victim of hungry rodents. After all, mice, rats and squirrels—even rabbits—have been known to gnaw on wires in engine compartments, causing vehicle electrical systems to go haywire. They can disable a vehicle completely and be very expensive to fix.
In 2017, some drivers noticed their vehicle's wiring was being chewed and found out the automaker was using a relatively new material for covering their wires: soy. Many of the repairs to their new vehicles weren't covered under warranty by the manufacturer when it was discovered rodents were eating the wiring. So the owners filed a class action suit, saying the soy covering was essentially baiting the critters.
The automakers tell a different story, saying mice, rats and squirrels have been chewing through wire insulation long before it was made out of soy.
Regardless of what the insulation is made of, vehicle owners should make sure rodents aren't chowing down and creating a problem in the engine compartment. They can have their repair facility check for these signs: Little bits of acorns, leaves, chewed up plastic and animal droppings in the engine's nooks and crannies. Using a black light, your technician can detect animal urine, a sure sign that they've been using your engine compartment as a warm apartment, a nest and a dining room.
You can take steps to prevent rodents from chomping your vehicle's parts. Honda—one of the vehicle manufacturers that uses soy-based wiring covering—makes a rodent tape. It contains a spice called capsaicin that rodents find too hot to handle. Other preventative measures include installing metal mesh around wiring harnesses or spraying the engine compartment with special rodent-repellants.
Rodent damage can cost one vehicle owner thousands of dollars to fix, not the kind of bite anyone wants taken out of their bank account.
If you're like most people and drive a gasoline-powered vehicle, you need to be up to speed on its fuel-related components. They're pretty basic: the fuel, the fuel filter and the fuel pump.
The fuel's the easy part. You probably gas up your vehicle yourself and, if you're like most drivers, price is a big factor in what you put in your vehicle. Maybe you think it doesn't matter what kind of gasoline you buy, but one major automobile association has found it does make a big difference.
Their study showed that the additives that are put in different brands can affect your vehicle's performance. Certain gasoline retailers sell gasoline that meets performance standards called Top Tier. The detergents used in Top Tier gasoline help protect newer engines from carbon buildup and deposits on intake valves, all things that can affect how smoothly your engine runs, how it accelerates and what kind of fuel economy you get. You can check online or ask your service advisor where to buy Top Tier gasoline.
Another fairly simple component is the fuel filter. Depending on the age of your vehicle, you either have a separate fuel filter or one that's part of the fuel pump. The fuel filter keeps the crud out of your engine's fuel injectors. You'll get a hint that your fuel filter might be clogged if you notice your vehicle won't start, your power isn't what it used to be, your fuel economy is suffering or your Check Engine light is on.
Check with your service advisor to see what your vehicle manufacturer's recommendations are on how often to service your fuel filter. Regular maintenance can prevent expensive repairs in the future.
Finally, the most complicated part: the fuel pump. As you may have guessed, it is the part that gets the gasoline out of the tank and into the engine. If the fuel pump starts to fail, it can make a clicking or whining noise when your vehicle is running. Your engine may misfire, lose power while driving or might be hard to start in the morning. And that Check Engine light might go on. One thing that helps prolong the life of a fuel pump is keeping your gas tank at least a quarter-tank full at all times. It helps lubricate and cool the pump. If you've detected some of the symptoms of fuel pump failure, tell your service advisor.
Knowing a little about your fuel system really can be a gas!
No matter what vehicle you drive, when certain things break, you have to make a decision. Should I get it fixed now, later or never? Air conditioning is one of those things. You can certainly live without air conditioning, but it sure is nice to have on a sweltering day.
Let's say your air conditioning breaks in the fall and you live in a climate where it gets quite cold in the winter. Should you get it fixed now, wait until spring since it won't get warm until then or maybe not get it fixed at all?
That can be a tough decision. There are several reasons air conditioning in vehicles break. One is fairly simple: It could be an electrical problem, perhaps a relay or solenoid is not turning on the system. It's also a fairly inexpensive repair and doesn't require hours of labor.
Or, the problem is that the coolant has leaked out. Your service facility can find the leak and replace the parts that are leaking. With a refrigerant recharge, you're back in business. The repair costs vary, depending on the reason for the leak.
When air conditioning malfunctions involve a compressor, evaporator or condenser, the costs can be significant since parts and labor add up. Depending on the age and value of your vehicle, you may choose to simply roll down the windows and live with it.
Keep in mind that many vehicles in cold climates use air conditioning in winter. Many vehicles automatically turn on the A/C when you use the defroster. The A/C dries the heated air it blows on the windshield and side windows to eliminate fogging more quickly. Outside conditions such as snow and ice can severely hamper visibility. Add to that fogging on the inside and it can present very challenging conditions for the driver.
In order for all systems to be functioning optimally, a vehicle owner might feel it's worth it for safety reasons to get a broken air conditioner fixed, even if it is done right before the approach of cold weather. Discuss these options with your service advisor so you can make the best decision for your situation.
Just like your skin can burn from too much sun, so can the paint on your vehicle. It can turn dull, oxidize and fade the more ultraviolet rays beat down on it. One solution is to park in a shady spot, or you can buy a cover for your vehicle and put it on when you know it's going to be sitting in the sun for awhile. Yes, it takes a couple of minutes to put on, but in the end, keeping the gloss on your paint will help it retain its beauty… and its value.
And it's not just the sun that can damage your vehicle's paint. Grit, bird droppings, sap, dust and dead bugs can all ruin the paint. So, keep your vehicle clean. Wash it with a soap made especially for vehicles. Dry it with special towels that won't scratch your paint. Remember: DON'T WASH YOUR VEHICLE IN THE SUN. Once your vehicle is washed, protect the paint even further with a coat of wax. DON'T WAX YOUR VEHICLE IN THE SUN, EITHER.
Don't forget the vehicle's interior. Plastic components inside can literally disintegrate when sunshine heats them up. That's what causes that oily film on the inside of the windows. So, pick up some of those reflective panels that unfold, placing them in the windshield and back window when you know the sun and heat are going to be intense. They'll keep out the ultraviolet light and help the interior stay cooler as well. That will help prevent upholstery from fading and plastic from cracking.
While you're at it, keep your interior's interior clean, too. That dust and dirt can literally bake into the dashboard, the seats, console and carpeting. There are cleaning products designed to clean your vehicle's interior that won't stain it or dry it out.
You invested a lot of money into that vehicle. The sun and dirt are just waiting to destroy it. Defend your valuable vehicle against the elements. Hey, it may not wind up on display in a museum, but it'll look great and last longer with just a little TLC.
When automakers first came out with cruise control, it was a real luxury item. The older cruise controls used a mechanical vacuum system but it worked. Well, some of the time.
Now days, cruise control is all electronic, thanks to computers. It's reliable and a real convenience on long trips. Cruise control is offered on most vehicles and standard on a lot of them. Because it's electronic, when it breaks, it's usually some electronic component. Your vehicle's cruise can be the victim of a blown fuse. Or your vehicle's speed sensor, which—not surprisingly—measures your vehicle's speed, can also stop working. And that will cause your cruise to stop cruising.
Vehicles with cruise control also have a built-in feature that, when the brakes are applied, turns off the cruise. With electronic cruise control, that happens thanks to the brake pedal switch, and if a problem develops in that switch, the cruise might not work.
The newest cruise control is called "adaptive." What that means is that it will maintain your vehicle's speed as well as the distance between you and the vehicle ahead of you. That means if a car ahead of you slows down, your vehicle will slow down to the same speed and even stop if the car ahead stops. Pretty cool, right? As you can imagine, adaptive cruise control is more sophisticated and has many more components than standard cruise. The systems vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, but they use on-board radar units and cameras to calculate what your vehicle should do to maintain a safe distance and speed.
Finally, there are still some of the older style cruise controls out on the roads. They'll stop working when the vacuum actuator develops a problem, a vacuum hose starts leaking or breaks or the cable between the actuator and the throttle kinks, breaks, seizes up or becomes detached.
If your cruise control isn't working, your service repair facility will be able to determine what kind your vehicle has and what it will take to fix it. Good news for the cruise blues.