Category Archives: What Customers Should Know

Poor Reflections (Door Mirror Problems)

Mirror, mirror on the door, why is my vision there so poor? Well, you could have a broken outside rearview mirror that's disabled your blind spot vision there and endangering your ability to see some of the traffic around you.  Outside rearview (or door) mirrors are important safety devices that are thoughtfully designed to help drivers see.  And there are a variety of ways those door mirrors can develop problems. One is when the glass is broken in them.  Sometimes it's caused by an accident or vandalism.  But without your ability to see in that mirror, you could be driving blind, unable to see drivers approaching from the rear in adjacent lanes.  Sometimes it's as simple as having the glass replaced.  You'll greatly enhance your safety if you do. Then there's the door mirror that you can't adjust.  First, let's look at a common scenario in later models, the power mirror.  They're great when they're working, awful when they're not.  Sometime ... read more

A Real "Pane" (Window Maintenance and Repair)

It's pretty frustrating when your driver's window won't work.  You can't get your food at the drive-thru without opening the door, have a tough time using the ATM from your vehicle, can't have that fresh breeze blowing through your hair as you listen to your favorite road tunes. Plus, there's a safety factor.  Your windows provide an escape route in case you need to get out and the doors won't work.  Let's take a look at what's going on when your window won't operate. Most vehicles these days have power windows.  They have an electric motor in each power window and sometimes those fail.  They often give you a warning that they're on their last legs by making a noise or hesitating, so if you get a sign like that, have a technician check it out. Loss of power can also be due to a blown fuse, a bad switch or faulty wiring. All windows have something called a regulator that moves the glass up and down.  They have a lot of moving parts in them which can break ... read more

Beware of Potholes! (Avoiding Pothole Damage)

You may live in a region where roads become pockmarked with craters known better as potholes.  They're caused by moisture seeping through a compromised road surface that can freeze, expand and literally punch holes in the road.  And when your vehicle hits one of those holes that's big enough, the impact can flatten a tire, bend a wheel or tear apart a suspension component.  To minimize pothole damage, leave enough room between you and the vehicle in front of you so you can see the road surface and any upcoming potholes.  That way you'll have time to slow down and steer around them.  Also, if you see what looks like a puddle of water, it may be hiding a pothole underneath, so treat it as if was a pothole. If you keep your tires inflated to the manufacturer's specifications, they're more likely to withstand hard impacts.  And the slower you're going when you hit a pothole, the less likely you are to break something.   But if you do find you've hit ... read more

Start Me Up (Ignition Systems)

When you start up your gasoline engine car, you may not know that it's using the same ignition principles as it has for decades.  You have spark plugs that require enough power so a spark can jump across a gap at its tip.  Years ago, a vehicle's 12-volt system had to produce 15,000-25,000 volts to do that, so engineers came up with something called an ignition coil that bumps up the voltage. It also has to be done at just the right interval called timing. The first systems had a distributor, a mechanical device with a rotating disc that switched the power to the ignition coil on and off.  That higher voltage then was sent to the spark plugs at the correct time interval. But the mechanical "points" had to be replaced and adjusted every 12,000 miles/20,000 kilometers.  Engineers later replaced the switching mechanism with solid state ones, but they still needed replacement after 120,000 miles/200,000 kilometers. The next evolution came in the 80's when the distributor ... read more

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 are ... read more

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.  ... read more

Before You Buy that Used Vehicle (Having a Used Car Inspected Before Buying)

Let's face it.  New vehicles are expensive, so finding a good used one can save drivers a lot of money.  It's tempting to look through ads, find a private seller who has what you're looking for and pay a price you think is a great deal.  But when you go over to look at a used car, do you really know what to look for to uncover potential problems with it? The answer is probably no.  Used cars can look great on the outside, maybe even have lustrous paint and a super clean interior. But is it possible that vehicle's been in an accident? Does it have electrical problems you can't detect easily? Is any fluid leaking that you don't know about? Think about it.  You are about to spend thousands of dollars for a complex machine and you're considering judging its condition without much expertise.  That's why it makes sense to have a qualified technician inspect any used vehicle you're considering buying. Many vehicle repair facilities will do it for around ... read more

The Best Book that's Not a Best-Seller

Sometimes the movie is better than the book, sometimes it's the other way around.  But when it comes to your vehicle, the best book of all is the owner's manual. The plot is simple: Owner wants long life and dependable performance from the vehicle, manual has the way to achieve that long life and dependable performance. And yet, it's amazing that some people will own a vehicle for years and never even crack this book.  They'll only read it when they absolutely have to, for things like finding out how to change the clock.  Ok, so you're probably not going to rush right over to your glove box and start reading the owner's manual cover to cover.  We know that.  But just think of what you can get out of it. Consider this.  Those who wrote or helped write this book include the engineers who designed it and the people who tested and refined it.  They know more about your vehicle than anyone, period.  They know how long a part is likely to last and what ... read more

Passing the Test (How to Prevent Emissions Test Failure)

Vehicle emission testing has become ubiquitous in North America and for a good reason.  Clean air quality is important for the environment and all of us.  Since vehicle emissions are among the main causes of air pollution, emission testing can alert you to problems in your vehicle than can be fixed so it won't needlessly pollute. Emissions tests are looking for certain toxic gases internal combustion engines produce, such as nitrogen oxide, particulate matter, non-methane organic gases and formaldehyde.  Emissions control systems reduce these gases if they are working properly.  The best way to minimize pollution is to keep those vehicle systems working properly, and periodic inspection and maintenance is the key.  So if you want to make sure your vehicle will pass an emissions test, it helps to know what might go wrong. Let's start on the easy one.  Your gas cap could be loose, allowing vapors to escape into the atmosphere.  The most common solution ... read more

Drivers that "T" Us Off (Bad Driving Practices)

We've all seen drivers who do things that—let's be frank—really irritate us.  They're inconsiderate, can put people in danger and make the road a much less friendly place.  They really "T" us off.  These are the bad drivers who fit their description to a "T."  The Tailgater.  You've seen this terrible driver who follows a few inches off the bumper of the vehicle ahead.  We all know what's going to happen if the driver ahead of the tailgater has to slam on the brakes.  And we've all been that driver followed by the tailgater, whose vehicle fills up your entire rearview mirror.  The tailgater is likely not in a great frame of mind and, thanks to his or her stupid driving practices, the "tailgatee" is getting pretty ticked off as well.  That's a formula for a big problem. Know anybody who respects or likes a tailgater? Didn't think so The Texter. All sorts of people think they are perfectly capable of texting while driving.  I ... read more