Articles:

When Your Air Bag Light Comes On (Illuminated Air Bag Light)

There are some dashboard lights you should pay more attention to than others.  One is the air bag light.  If it's on and your vehicle is in an accident, your air bags probably won't do their job. Automakers began installing air bags in the late 1990's since they were mandatory in the United States, and manufacturers have included them in Canadian vehicles as well.  Safety experts say using a seat belt in combination with an air bag gives passengers the best chance of surviving a crash and minimizing serious injury. The air bag warning light takes a few different forms.  Some look like a picture of a belted passenger with an inflated air bag from a side view.  Or there may be a warning light that says something like "Air Bag," "SRS" (for supplemental restraint system), "Airbag Deactivated" or "Air Bag Off." Different things cause the air bag light to come on.  Your vehicle may have been in an accident during which, while the air bags didn't inflate, crash s ... read more

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 possi ... read more

It's Brake Time (Brake Calipers)

Race car drivers have demonstrated the advantages of disc brakes, so most modern vehicles use them.  Sometimes just the front wheels have disc brakes, but many vehicles now have them all the way around.  A major component of the disc brake is called a caliper.  It works by squeezing brake pads against the disc or rotor, kind of like a bicycle hand brake.  The brake pads themselves are what contact the rotor, causing friction to build and the wheel to slow down, but it's the calipers that apply the pressure to the pads. Caliper design has evolved over the years, and there are two common types.  One is called a floating caliper.  It has one or two pistons on one side of the disc. When you push down the brake pedal, the piston or pistons in your caliper put pressure on that one side.  A mechanism connected on the other side of the disc applies pressure as well, squeezing your disc so the vehicle stops.  Floating calipers are less expensive since the ... read more

Categories:

Brakes

Such a Little Part (Climate Control Resistor)

You expect your heater/air conditioner to work like it should.  You have a control for temperature and one for fan speed.  You even have a control for what vents the air comes out of.  Don't be surprised one day if your blower fan develops a mind of its own and starts going crazy.  Most of the time, you may find that it starts blowing at full speed, and nothing you do to try to control it does any good.  This is what may be happening. Your blower motor has an electronic component called a resistor.  It does what its name says; it offers resistance.  When you want the fan to run more slowly, you turn the fan speed down.  That resistor accomplishes that by turning its resistance up.  When the resistor fails, the power has nothing to slow it and the fan speeds up.  It's a small part and can fail due to age or corrosion.  It's usually not an expensive part, either, but it's often found in a location that's not that easy for the technic ... read more

Don't be Fuelish (Signs Fuel Pump is Failing)

A driver of a large SUV loaded with equipment was heading on a 7-hour work trip when he stopped at a gas station to refuel.  When he went to restart his SUV, it turned over but wouldn't catch.  Try as he might, he was never able to get it started again.  Of course there are many things that can cause those symptoms, but the next day he had his SUV towed to a service repair facility.  Using their test equipment, they were able to pinpoint the problem.  His fuel pump had failed.  The pump, which was located in the fuel tank, had to be replaced, and after awhile he was back on the road, delayed, but happy to be up and running again.  What had happened is that the pump was not strong enough to deliver adequate  fuel to his engine, vital to being able to start it.  It had delivered just enough pressure in the morning to get it started the first time, but it was on its last legs.  He had been having trouble starting his SUV in the days leadin ... read more

Categories:

Fuel System

A Sticky Brake Situation (Parking Brake Service and Maintenance)

We've all been there.  You park your vehicle on a steeper than usual hill and worry about it rolling down while you're running your errands.  So you decide you'll use the parking brake.  When you get back, you release the parking brake, hit the ignition, put it in gear and—uh, oh—you can feel the parking brake is still on.  It's stuck.  What do you do now? Welcome to the world of infrequently-used parking brakes.  Yes, they do stick for several reasons. It's common for components to corrode and get locked up.  Sometimes if you have applied it extra hard, it can jam.  Could be a rusty cable, could be a spring that doesn't return the brake to its disengaged position.  Some pieces just break when they're stressed for the first time in a while. A caliper or the pivot arm it's on can also stick. There are a few things you can try to unstick it.  Carefully rock your vehicle by putting it first in drive and then reverse.  You ... read more

Categories:

Brakes

That Vexing Vapor Venting (Vapor Coming out of Vents)

You may have noticed sometimes on a hot and humid day, vapor will come out of your vehicle's vents when you have the air conditioning on.  Is that something to be concerned about? Well, it depends. Sometimes that steam or vapor can be caused by water accumulating in the vent system after it has condensed.  And sometimes water can pool at the bottom of a vent.  When you turn on the blower mower, the air hits the water and may create steam or vapor that you can see in the cabin. One thing to check is if that vapor smells like anything.  If it doesn't, that's a good sign. You may be able to run the fan for a while and the issue may just go away when things dry out.  But moisture collecting in the ventilation hoses in a hot vehicle may be a breeding ground for mold, and that can have health consequences. There's another possibility. Ventilation systems often have drains to get rid of any accumulated water, and debris can sometimes clog them.  A technician can ... read more

Move it or Lose It (Dormant Vehicles)

When it comes to your vehicle, driving it too much can cause some issues.  But what about not driving a vehicle enough? That has consequences as well. Here are a few things that can happen if a vehicle isn't driven enough.  When the engine doesn't operate, the oil isn't lubricating. That means some mechanisms that need periodic lubrication aren't getting it.  And oil that sits around breaks down over time.  In fact, some experts say you should change oil more often if your vehicle sits in the driveway than if you drive it regularly.  You've heard that expression, "Take it on the highway and blow out the engine.” Well, carbon buildup used to be a problem in older vehicles.  But the real culprit these days is moisture that builds up from combustion if your vehicle never gets hot enough to burn it off. That water vapor can mix with oil and cause sludge to form. There are many vehicle systems (battery, exhaust system, engine seals, etc.) that benefit fro ... read more

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 Che ... read more

Tire or Re-Tire? (Getting Tires Ready for Hot Weather)

Heat isn't easy on vehicle tires, and as the seasons change, make sure yours are ready to take the heat.  Let's talk first about inflation.  Heat causes air to expand, so heat alone can raise the pressure in your tires.  If you are driving on overinflated tires, they won't have as much contact with the road surface.  In that case, it will take you a longer distance to stop. On the other hand, you don't want your tires to be underinflated during hot weather, either.  That can cause your sidewalls to flex.  Friction will then hike up the temperature and your tire can be in danger of blowing from the added heat. Other things can cause problems, such as uneven wearing.  Your service advisor knows the signs to look for and can diagnose where the wear is and what is likely causing it.  Another thing a technician will look for on tires is tread depth and the condition of the sidewalls.  Any cuts, cracks or bulges could be indications that your tire ... read more

Categories:

Tires