Video Blog

When "Oh, no!" Turns Into, "All right!"

Jan 29, 2018

Things we don't expect happen to our vehicles. And let's face, no one really wants to spend money on an unexpected repair. But if you are putting off going to your vehicle repair facility because you're dreading bad news, you might just be putting off some good news.

There was one minivan driver who'd had the same van for years and never had a problem with the power sliding doors.  Then one day, the electrical switches in the door pillars stopped working.  The key fob would still open them, but the door switches wouldn't do a thing.

Of course, the van driver feared the worst: an electrical problem, a major computer failure, mice chewing up the wires.  So, he put off going into the repair facility for a couple of months.  One day, it was time for his regular oil change and the service advisor asked him if there was anything else going on with the van.  The owner mentioned the door problem but said he didn't want to spend a fortune on it.

He waited for his van, and it wasn't long before the service advisor came out with good news. The doors weren't working because a switch on the overhead console had been turned off.  (It was a safety feature to allow parents to disable them.) The owner had accidentally switched it when he was unloading the van.  It was the first thing the technician had checked. Flip the switch back and all was working as usual.

Another example? A mother was driving a minivan with her two kids inside on a hot day when she felt the front end shaking violently as she drove down the road. Fearing something major had broken in the van (and fearing for the safety of her kids), she pulled into a fast-food restaurant parking lot and started to look underneath to see if it was anything obvious she could see.

She couldn't see any broken parts, but she also didn't feel safe getting back in the van with her kids.  So, she called her local service facility and asked if they could send someone to look at it.  When the technician arrived, he took it for a test drive on the same road on which she'd described having the trouble.  Then he put her van up on the lift.  His conclusion?  Nothing was wrong with her van.  It was the street she was driving on.  Crews repairing it had left the surface full of potholes, and that was causing her rough ride.

Ultimately, what these two drivers feared would be an expensive trip to the shop resulted in each driver getting different news than they had expected.  One learned something new about his vehicle.  The other?  Well, the technician saw that her tires were badly worn and convinced her to get them replaced, perhaps preventing an accident and giving peace of mind for a mom with two kids.

The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley
226 West Avenue I
Lancaster, California 93534

Things Aren't Always What They Seem

Jan 23, 2018

If you drive, you know at some point, something's going to go wrong with your vehicle.  And sometimes, it's pretty easy to figure out what's wrong, like a flat tire.  But sometimes your vehicle's symptoms can be really puzzling.

One driver in California was heading to work on a hot July day and noticed when he pressed the accelerator, sometimes it wouldn't do anything. He also noticed his cruise control wouldn't work and his traction control light was constantly on, very unusual.

He was trying to figure it out, but none of it made any sense.  His cruise control had always worked perfectly, his traction light never had gone on before and there was never any issue pressing on the accelerator.

It was time to take his car in for a professional diagnosis, and boy, was he surprised that it was a freak accident he'd had the previous WINTER that was the root of his problems.  You see, in January, his car had slipped on ice when he was in reverse and had gently tapped a tree.  That caused a tiny crack in his rear stoplight. 

That crack had gone unnoticed until that July day.  Turns out a summer rain allowed water to seep into the taillight casing, so this time when he drove to work, there was enough moisture inside it to cause his stop light to stick on.

When the stop light is on, the car's computer is programmed to act as if the driver is pressing the brakes. It also disables the cruise, accelerator and cruise control when the brakes are on, producing all of the symptoms.  Replacing the stop lamp switch fixed everything.

So, while some things that go wrong with your vehicle are pretty obvious, many seemingly defy all logic. That's when a trained technician can scope things out, replace the right part and get you going again.

The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley
226 West Avenue I
Lancaster, California 93534

Cruisin' on Down Main Street

Jan 14, 2018

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.

The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley
226 West Avenue I
Lancaster, California 93534


When "Shady" is a Good Thing

Jan 08, 2018

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.   

The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley
226 West Avenue I
Lancaster, California 93534

Tacky or Techie? The Tachometer.

Jan 05, 2018

There's a gauge that many vehicles have that says RPM on it.  And there are a lot of people who either don't pay any attention to it or don't even know what it is. Here's why it's a good gauge to know about.

It's called a tachometer, and that "RPM" label means it is measuring how many revolutions per minute (RPM) the engine is turning.  Automotive experts know that a vehicle's engine can be damaged if it turns too fast (revving too high) or too slowly ("lugging" the engine).

A tachometer (sometimes called a tach) is almost a "must-have" gauge for vehicles with a manual transmission; the driver has to manually change gears; the tach helps the driver know when revolutions are in the optimal range.

Some say you don't need a tachometer if you drive a vehicle with an automatic transmission. It's true that most drivers of automatics don't even look at it.  But there are times when paying attention to the tach can help you prevent an expensive repair.

Here's a good example.  Manufacturers now build many of their automatic transmission vehicles with shift paddles.  They let you shift gears without a clutch. That's manual shifting, and drivers need to know they're not revving the engine too high. That's where the tachometer comes in, since it shows you visually when you are in the red zone (RPM too high).

Here's another way the tach can help you: fuel economy. Generally speaking, the lower the RPM, the better the fuel economy. It's not good to go too low, of course, and the tachometer will help you find that spot of maximum efficiency.

You can also spot problems by paying attention to the tach.  When your vehicle stays in first gear longer than usual (higher reading on the tach), then the RPM dip lower than usual after shifting, it may be that your vehicle's transmission is skipping a gear.  Plus, if your vehicle's RPM go up but your speed doesn't, it could mean your transmission is slipping.  Either situation should be checked by a trained technician.

If your commute takes you down some long grades, you might like to put your vehicle in a lower gear to help slow down the car (and not burn up the brakes). Having a tachometer keeps tabs on when your engine is revving too high.

So, consider the tachometer a "bonus" gauge.  It's one more helpful assistant that can help you spot and prevent problems in your vehicle.

The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley
226 West Avenue I
Lancaster, California 93534


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