Did you know that most of the cars driving around Lancaster, California, carry more computer power than the Apollo 121 Lunar Module that landed on the moon in 1969?
New cars sold in the Lancaster area have as many as 12 networked computers and over five miles (eight kilometers) of wiring. In fact, for the last decade or so, auto computers have been controlling about 85 percent of your vehicle's functions.
Cars have sensors for manifold air temperature, coolant temperature, manifold air pressure, airflow, throttle position, vehicle speed and oxygen content. All of this electronic wizardry is pretty complicated. So how do Lancaster drivers know when there is a problem?
It's simple; the Check Engine light comes on. The computer monitors all the sensors and uses that information to decide what to adjust such as the fuel mix, spark timing and idle speed. In addition, the computer monitors its own circuits. When it finds a fault, it turns on the Check Engine light and stores a trouble code in the computer.
It can be pretty disturbing for Lancaster drivers when the Check Engine light comes on. We wonder just how urgent it is. Generally speaking, it is not critical like a temperature or oil pressure light. When you get one of those it means STOP NOW! When the Check Engine light shows up, you should come in to The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley in Lancaster to find out what the matter is as soon as possible.
Since 1996, there has been a strong emissions control component to the Check Engine diagnostic. But if your Check Engine light flashes on and off, you know that it is more urgent and you need to get it checked immediately to prevent damage. You should slow down and avoid towing or heavy loads until you can get it checked out.
Your friendly and knowledgeable technicians at The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley have special diagnostic equipment that will retrieve the trouble code from the computer and help him determine what is wrong. From there, we can fix it and get you back on the road.
Good brakes are obviously very important. If you've ever had your brakes go out while you're driving around the Lancaster area, you'll know how terrifying it can be. Today we'll focus on how to tell when you have a brake problem and how to make good repair choices.
Often, the first indication that something's wrong with the brakes is an unusual sound. It could be a squeal, chatter or grinding sound.
Some brake pads have a little piece of metal embedded in them that will make a squeal or chirping sound when the brake pads have been worn down to the point that they need to be replaced. It's an early warning indicator.
When you hear that sound, schedule an appointment at The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley soon.
Now a chattering sound is more urgent. That usually indicates that something is loose. It could be a brake pad or even the brake calipers. If one of those parts falls off, you could have some serious trouble stopping the vehicle. It would be a good idea to park it until you can get into the shop.
A grinding noise usually means that the brake pad is completely worn away and the metal parts of the brake are rubbing directly on the metal brake rotor. That means the rotor is being damaged and will need some work. More on that later.
Another warning sign is that your brake pedal may feel soft and spongy – or it may even feel very hard to push in. Both could mean trouble. And of course, you may get a dashboard brake warning light.
Now when it comes time to replace your brake pads, you have a choice to make. You can get the same pads that came standard on your vehicle. You can expect the same performance and durability as with the pads that came on the car from the factory.
Now you can also get a budget brake pad. Sometimes Lancaster drivers insist on lower cost pads. That's OK if the budget demands it, but you need to be aware of the tradeoffs. Lower grade pads are usually noisier, so you'll have to live with more noise when you apply the brakes. They also tend to generate a lot more brake dust, you know, that black dust that accumulates on your wheels. And they probably won't last as long either. In our opinion, that's a lot of compromise for just a few dollars in savings.
You can also choose to buy premium brakes pads at The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley. These perform at higher specifications than the factory pads. You can expect quieter operation, less brake dust and better stopping power.
Now, getting back to the rotors. The rotors are the discs that the brake pads clamp down on to stop the vehicle. If you've been driving with completely worn brake pads, you've scratched grooves into the rotors. If the grooves aren't too deep, the rotor can be resurfaced. A thin layer of metal is cut off the surface of the rotor to make it smooth again.
Now, if the grooves are too deep or if the rotor has already be resurfaced before, there may not be enough material to resurface and still have a rotor that's thick enough to safely stop the vehicle. In that case, the rotor will have to be replaced.
Something that's often overlooked is the brake fluid. Your manufacturer has a recommended schedule for evacuating the old brake fluid, cleaning the system and refilling it with fresh brake fluid. This is really important to brake performance.
So here's the bottom line: if you suspect, inspect. If you notice any of these warning signs, have your brakes inspected at The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley in Lancaster. Your service advisor can help you make the repair decision that's right for you.
If you are a driver in Lancaster and you aren't currently using synthetic motor oil in your vehicle, maybe now's the time to consider it. Need more information? Well, synthetic motor oil is a substitute for petroleum based oil.
Synthetic oil doesn't gel or gum-up like petroleum based oil and it doesn't vaporize as easily. It protects better in severe driving conditions like stop and go driving around Lancaster, as well as in very hot or very cold conditions. More and more new vehicles are being delivered with full synthetic motor oil, with the recommendation to use synthetic for the life of the vehicle.
Why is this? Synthetic motor oil maximizes engine power and fuel economy. To see why, we'd need a microscope, so we'll have to settle for using our imaginations.
The molecules of conventional motor oil are long hydrocarbon chains. Synthetic motor oil, on the other hand, has uniform, round molecules. Which is more slippery, a pile of pencils or a pile of marbles?
Synthetic motor oil lubricates better because there's less friction. That means better wear protection, cooler operating temperatures, more power and better fuel economy. And synthetic oil doesn't sludge up like conventional oil, so it prevents those small oil passages from clogging up.
Some manufacturers are extending oil change intervals. The added protection of synthetic oil covers you for these longer intervals. Talk with your service advisor about how you drive and see if he thinks you can benefit from synthetic oil. Also ask about the appropriate oil change interval for synthetic, because it may very well be longer than for conventional oil.
Most of us here in Lancaster have a busy life and might occasionally miss an oil change; go ahead, admit it. Since we're not perfect, doesn't it make sense to use a motor oil that's got your back?
Now synthetic oil costs more. But it lasts longer, protects better and increases fuel economy. You'll likely save money in the long run. If you're serious about making your car last longer, start using synthetic motor oil right away.
Give us a call to schedule an oil change, or visit us at our The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley website.
Screeching tires, crunching metal – it's an accident! If you've ever been in a car accident in Lancaster, even a minor one, you know how upsetting it can be. It's hard to think straight and know what to do.
Let's review what Lancaster drivers should do in case of an accident:
When an accident occurs, you should always stop. Leaving the scene of an accident in Lancaster is considered a crime - even if it's not your fault. And hit and run penalties are fairly severe, possibly resulting in steep fines, loss of your California driver's license or even jail time.
Your jurisdiction may require that you try to help someone who is injured by calling for help or performing first aid if you are able. Warn other motorists by putting out flares, using your flashers or lifting your hood. Call Lancaster emergency services as soon as possible. Tell the operator if medical or fire help is needed.
You should always file a police report. It's tempting to skip this if everything seems to be ok. But without a police report, the other guy can say whatever he wants about the accident later, and you won't have an objective report to help defend yourself. Discuss the accident only with the police. Emotions are strong after an accident and we naturally want to talk about it – don't. Never admit fault or guilt to anyone including the Lancaster police officer. Sometimes we may feel at fault, but in the eyes of the law, the other guy may be responsible.
Truthfully give the officer the facts: such as, "I was going 30 miles an hour," or, "I was going 55 kilometers per hour," not, "I wasn't speeding." Remember, anything you say to the officer or anyone else can be used against you. Also get the officer's name and ID number and ask where you can get a copy of the accident report.
Get the facts on the driver and owner of the other vehicle:
Date of birth
Driver's license number and expiration
Also take down a description of the other vehicle, license plate and vehicle identification number (VIN). Most California auto insurance companies don't record license plate numbers, so the VIN is the best way to track a vehicle in California.
Ask witnesses, including passengers, to wait for the police. If they can't wait, ask for contact information and request that they write a brief description of what they saw. If someone refuses to leave their name, write down their license plate number so the police can track them down later if necessary. Always call your insurance agent or your insurance company. Call or see a physician if you think you may have been injured. For vehicle repairs, call The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley at 661-949-8484.
Contact The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley to learn more about what to do in case of an auto accident. You can find us at:
Have you ever had an experience like this in Lancaster, California? You drive through the one of those automatic car washes. When you get to the end, where the dryer is blowing, your Check Engine light starts flashing!
You fear the worst, but within a block or two, the light stops flashing, but stays on. By the next day, the light is off.
You wonder; "What was going on?" Well, it's actually a good lesson in how the Check Engine light works.
Your air intake system has a sensor that measures how much air is coming through it. When you went under the high-speed dryer, all that air was blasting past the sensor. Your engine computer was saying, there shouldn't be that much air when the engine is just idling. Something's wrong. Whatever's wrong could cause some serious engine damage.
Warning, warning! It flashes the Check Engine light to alert you to take immediate action.
It stopped flashing because once you were out from under the dryer, the airflow returned to normal. Now the engine control computer says the danger is past, but I'm still concerned, I'll keep this light on for now.
Then the Check Engine light goes off in a day or two.
The condition never did recur, so the computer says whatever it was, it's gone now. The danger is past, I'll turn that light off.
Now a flashing Check Engine light is serious. You need to get it into The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley as soon as possible. But if it stops flashing you can wait a few days, so you have time to see if the problem will clear itself or if you need to get it checked. How does the computer know when to clear itself?
Think of it this way. The engine control computer is the brain that can make adjustments to manage the engine. Things like alter the air-to- fuel mix, spark advance and so on. The computer relies on a series of sensors to get the information it needs to make decisions on what to do.
The computer knows what readings are in a normal range for various conditions. Get out of range, and it logs a trouble code and lights up the Check Engine warning.
The computer will then try to make adjustments if it can. If the computer can't compensate for the problem, the Check Engine light stays on.
The computer logs a trouble code. Some people think the code will tell the technician exactly what's wrong.
Actually, the code will tell the technician what sensor reading is out of parameters. It can't really tell him why, because there could be any number of causes.
Let's say you're feeling hot. You get your heat sensor out – a thermometer – put it under our tongue and in a minute or two you learn that you have a fever of 104 degrees F (40 degrees C).
You know your symptom – a fever – but you don't know what's causing it. Is it the flu, a sinus infection or appendicitis?
You need more information than just that one sensor reading. But it does give you a place to start and narrows down the possible problems.
There are reports on the internet telling you that you can just go down to an auto parts store and get them to read your trouble code or buy a cheap scan tool to do it yourself.
There are two problems with that. First, the computer stores some trouble codes in short term memory and some in permanent memory. Each manufacturer's computer stores generic trouble codes, but they also store codes that are specific to their brand.
A cheap, generic scan tool, like you can buy online or that the auto parts store uses, doesn't have the ability to retrieve long-term storage or manufacturer specific codes. Your Lancaster, California, service center has spent a lot of money on high-end scan tools and software to do a deep retrieval of information from your engine control computer.
The second problem is that once you've got the information, do you know what to do with it? For example, a very common trouble code comes up when the reading on the oxygen sensor is out of whack.
So the common solution is for the auto parts store to sell you a new oxygen sensor — which is not cheap — and send you off on your way. Now your oxygen sensor may indeed have been bad and needed replacing. But the error code could have come from any of a dozen of other problems.
How do you know the right solution? Back to the fever analogy, do you need surgery or an aspirin? Leave it to the pros at The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley. Give us a call and let us help you resolve your check engine light issue.