What Customers Should Know

H20 No! (Driving Through Standing Water)

In a year marked by unusually heavy flooding in North America, drivers are very aware of the possibility they may find themselves driving where water has come over the road.  It can be a daunting and frightening situation.  Flooding waters can move quickly and unpredictably, so you have to keep your wits about you when you encounter that situation.

Here a sample of one vehicle manufacturer's guidelines on what to do.  First, the vehicle is designed to go through some water, but you must be careful.  Never attempt to drive through water deeper than the bottom of your tires.

You can get out of your vehicle to check the depth of the water, but you can never be sure that you aren't going to drive into a spot where the road has washed away.  You can't see below the surface of the water, and suddenly you could find yourself in a place where the road drops off unexpectedly.  In swift moving storm runoff, your vehicle could literally be floating away with the current, putting your life and those of your passengers in mortal danger. 

Never go more than 5mph/8 km/hr when you drive through standing water.  That minimizes the waves you create.  If you DO find yourself in water that is touching your drivetrain components, that water can damage them.  And if you get water in your engine, it can lock up in seconds and stall.  The potential damage can be catastrophic.

You may have found yourself driving in water deep enough to reach your drivetrain components, and it's essential that you have a technician check the fluids to make sure they haven't been contaminated.  That includes engine oil, transmission and axle.  Driving with fluids contaminated with water can severely damage those components. 

The bottom line is to avoid driving through water at all if you possibly can.  Check your vehicle's owner's manual to see if there are specific guidelines for driving YOUR vehicle in standing water.  It's information that could save your life.

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

Not-So-Common Sense (Sensor Failures)

So your vehicle won't start.  What's the first thing that comes to mind?  Battery dead? Starter motor worn out? Out of gas?  Well, those are all reasons that make sense.  But your vehicle may be refusing to start because one of its computers is being warned that to do so might damage it.  Here's how that works.

You have lots of computers in your vehicle.  They need to know the status of things so there are several sensors monitoring various things going on.  These sensors send information to the computers that adjust the fuel and air mixture so you don't waste fuel.  They know when things aren't quite right and prevent you from starting your engine if that's going to damage it. 

Other sensors make sure the coolant is the right temperature, check to see you are not polluting the air and make sure other electronic components are performing their tasks correctly.

Here's an example of a sensor doing its job.  Your engine needs oil to lubricate metal components so the friction doesn't damage them.  Your engine has an oil pressure sensor that tells a computer called the Electronic Control Unit (ECU) if things are good to go or if there's something wrong, maybe the oil pressure is too low to keep things lubricated.  If it is, it gives a signal for the vehicle not to start, protecting the engine. 

Of course, the sensors can go bad, too, with some of the same results.  And so someone has to figure out if it's the sensor that's failed or if it really has detected a problem.  That is the challenge for technicians with specialized equipment to decipher the signs.  If a bad sensor is found, it may need to be replaced.  Sometimes a thorough cleaning can do the trick.  In either case, your service facility can track down the problem and get you back on the road.  Makes sense, doesn't it?

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

The Byte Stuff (Your Vehicle's Computers)

Nobody has to tell you that computers are a part of so many things in our lives.  Smartphones, kitchen appliances, vacuum cleaners, televisions.  You name it—it has a computer in it.  And your vehicle is no exception.

The earliest cars relied on the technology of their time, and there was no such thing as a computer.  But now, it's not unusual for a vehicle to have as many as 150 computers in it.

They perform a variety of functions. An important one is diagnosing your vehicle's problems.  There are various sensors throughout modern vehicles that measure thousands of data points.  When something is not working correctly, they send a signal to another computer that stores that information. The data can be read by someone who has a special computer that plugs into a port in your car.  It displays certain codes that help technicians track down the culprit. 

But it's not just the diagnostics that are computerized.  Everything from your vehicle's fuel injection to anti-lock brakes is.  Convenience features such as power windows, rain-sensing windshield wipers, a wi-fi-hot spot, streaming video and navigation are all sophisticated computers.  Then there are the safety features; air bags, traction control, automatic emergency braking and a host of others are all dependent on computers.

It is important that those computers work correctly because they interface with many of the other computers on board.  To properly diagnose problems with those computers requires training and special equipment. Your service facility has invested considerable resources into both, and they are equipped to properly evaluate and repair and/or replace malfunctioning components. 

Some lament the days when backyard mechanics could pull out their tools and do their own repairs.  Those days are fast disappearing with the computerization of vehicles.  But look at the bright side.  Your vehicle does so much more, has so many more features and travels far more safely than those past generations drove.  And they're bound to get better and more sophisticated down the road.

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

"Current" Affairs (Blown Fuses)

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.

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

DOG FOOD IN YOUR ENGINE (Keeping Rodents out of your Engine)

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.

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

THE IMPORTANCE OF VISIBILITY (Cleaning Vehicle Glass)

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?

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

NOT JUST ANOTHER CUSTOMER (Finding the Right Service Facility)

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.

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

Make your Service Visit at PDR a Good One

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?

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

The Edible Engine

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. 

PDR
1008 N. Cunningham Avenue
Urbana, Illinois 61802
217-367-9481