Video Blog

 


Taking the Heat (Batteries in Hot Weather)

May 03, 2020

Quick question.  Which is tougher on a vehicle's battery, the heat or the cold? Believe it or not, it's the heat.  Think about it.  The battery often sits in the engine compartment next to that motor generating lots of heat.  That can accelerate corrosion in the battery and may even cause water in it to evaporate.  That will weaken the cranking power of your battery and shorten its life span.

To take care of your battery, here are a few suggestions.  It's a good idea to have it checked out to see what shape it's in.  At your vehicle service facility, they have diagnostic equipment that can evaluate its condition.  That can help you know how long you can expect it to last before having to replace it.  At the same time, you should have your charging system evaluated.  If your battery is not getting charged properly, it can be in great shape but not very useful when it comes to starting your vehicle.  A technician will also check the cable connections that should be free of corrosion and tight.

Keep in mind that under certain conditions, a vehicle battery can cause an explosion if close to an electrical spark.  This is why the safe way to go is to have a qualified, trained technician do the work. 

Your battery is important both in hot and cold weather.  When it comes to starting your vehicle, make sure it's always up to the job.

The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley
226 West Avenue I
Lancaster, California 93534
661-949-8484
http://cardoctorsav.autovideotipsblog.com



Not So Cool (Air Conditioning Systems)

May 01, 2020

There's nothing quite like getting in your vehicle on a hot day, switching on the air conditioning and having warm air blow out of the vents.  You may have had no problem for months and then, one day, you are driving around in a sauna. You're hot stuff, but not in a good way!

So what goes wrong when the AC isn't working? It could be a lot of things because the system has many different components.  One thing that's a common cause is the vehicle is low on refrigerant (it used to be called Freon).  If that's the case, it's not as simple as simply adding more.  Sure, it may fix it quickly for a short time, but it's more likely than not that the refrigerant will just leak out again.

The original Freon used in air conditioners was destroying the Earth's ozone layer, so that's not used much any more.  But the one that's currently used also contributes to global warming, so it's important that as little of that escapes as possible.  So a technician will determine if there's a leak in your system, where it is and fix that before adding new refrigerant. 

Your vehicle also has an evaporator or two, and those can fail.  Leaks are often the problem with them as well.  The big component that can go bad is the compressor, often a victim of age, wear or neglect. 

A technician will also check to see that the blower is working correctly.  That's what blows that cool air into the cabin.  Sometimes the motor will fail, a relay will go bad or a fuse will blow.  As you can see, there are lots of different parts involved here! 

The good news is that your vehicle's service facility has the special equipment to recover the refrigerant and check the system's pressure, both vital to properly servicing the air conditioning system.

As with many vehicle components, regular maintenance can go a long way to minimizing problems in the air conditioning system. It can reduce the chance of the compressor having to be replaced, too.  Pretty cool, huh?

The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley
226 West Avenue I
Lancaster, California 93534
661-949-8484
http://cardoctorsav.autovideotipsblog.com



Low Power Mystery (Ignition Coil Service)

Apr 05, 2020

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 Check Engine light coming on.   When that light comes on and you have some of those other signs, you need to have your repair facility check things out fairly soon because you may be damaging your engine and wind up with a far more expensive repair.

A technician will check for a computer code to pinpoint which cylinder is having the problem.  Using other diagnostics, the technician can rule out other components that might be causing the engine to misfire.  Ignition coils usually last 100,000 miles/160,000 km, but other engine conditions can cause them to fail before then. 

Your service advisor may suggest getting all your coils replaced even though only one is malfunctioning. That's probably a good idea in a higher mileage vehicle since the other coils may be close to failure, too. It's also wise to do that if your vehicle's coils are located in a hard-to-reach spot so you likely won't have to spend the money for that labor again when another one fails.

The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley
226 West Avenue I
Lancaster, California 93534
661-949-8484
http://cardoctorsav.autovideotipsblog.com



Light's Out! Trouble Ahead (Exterior Light Bulb Service)

Mar 29, 2020

Whether or not your exterior light bulbs are all working probably is not at the top of your list when you think about your vehicle.  But those exterior lights are more important than you think, and they're vital to your safety and that of other drivers near you.

Headlights are important.  Not only do they help you see safely down the road at night, they also help oncoming drivers know that the vehicle they're approaching is not a motorcycle.  Both headlights should be working properly and aimed so that they don't blind other drivers.

Taillights are also important for a few reasons.  They tell drivers what your intentions are (changing lanes, turning, stopping).  So, the bulbs back there must be all in working order for maximum safety. Ditto for the front turn signal lights.  They alert oncoming drivers to your lane changes or turns (if you use your turn signals!).  Some side mirrors also have turn signal bulbs in them.

There are a few other important bulbs.  You may not care about the ones that illuminate your rear license plate, for example. But they are there to help public safety forces identify your vehicle. In fact, in many municipalities you can be pulled over and ticketed if ANY of the standard lights are burned out.  So not only does having all your exterior lights working improve your vehicle's safety, it may keep you from getting a ticket.

Many newer vehicles have a light on the instrument panel that will go on if on-board computers detect voltage problems in any of your vehicle's bulb circuits.  Sometimes it can be hard to figure out which light may be not be working since there are so many. Sometimes it's simply a matter of replacing a bulb, but it may be an electrical problem causing the problem.  Stay legal and safe by having your service repair facility diagnose and fix a non-working light, a really bright idea, don't you think?

The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley
226 West Avenue I
Lancaster, California 93534
661-949-8484
http://cardoctorsav.autovideotipsblog.com



Thoughtful Gifts for the Winter Driver

Mar 22, 2020

You may be one of those romantics who don't like giving (or getting) practical gifts for special occasions.  Just wait until one of those gifts helps you out of a big predicament in cold weather, and you realize that practical gifts can be life savers.

Here are a few things you may give the cold-weather driver in your life—or suggest to someone else to give you!

  • A portable air compressor.  If you've ever had a flat and you can't imagine trying to change a tire on a snowy, winter day, this may just get your tire pumped up enough to drive over to the repair facility.  Some are fancy and pricey, some are only a few bucks.  They plug into the cigarette lighter/12v outlet and will take a few minutes to pump up your tire. But it could save you a tow.
  • Portable jump starter. These are relatively small power units (they easily fit in a car trunk) that can jump start your vehicle that has a dead battery.  Some even have an air compressor built in.  If you've ever tried to use conventional jumper cables in freezing weather, they can be stiff and hard to manage.  Really handy when there are no other people or vehicles around and you need a jump.
  • Flares.  When bad winter weather reduces visibility to dangerously short distances, flares can make the difference between someone seeing you broken down at the side of the road and them ramming into you. Flares put out far more light than nearly every other warning device; just ask law enforcement officers who carry flares in their patrol vehicles. 
  • A good tire gauge.  Winter is when temperatures plunge.  When the temperature drops, so does your tire pressure, so it's important to check your air pressure properly and accurately so you don't wind up with one or more deflated (and flat) tires.  The proper time to check pressure is in the morning, before you hit the road and your tires heat up.  Properly inflated tires are important for safe traction, especially during winter.
  • Kitty litter.  The lowest-tech gift of all.  Keep a bag in your vehicle and it can provide much needed traction if you get stuck in the snow.

The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley
226 West Avenue I
Lancaster, California 93534
661-949-8484
http://cardoctorsav.autovideotipsblog.com



Clean Slate (Protecting Vehicle's Finish)

Mar 15, 2020

Winter is one of the hardest times to keep your vehicle clean. But did you know neglecting to wash your vehicle in winter could cost you a significant amount of money in the long run? Here's why.

Many areas deal with snow and ice in the winter, and the salt and sand that are used to keep the road surfaces from being slick are also super corrosive to a vehicle's metal body and undercarriage.  That includes all the parts underneath that can be splashed with brine, saltwater and other road debris.  Winter is also tough on vehicles where there isn’t snow, sometimes from ocean salt or winter's extra humidity and rain. 

If you have any breaks in your vehicle's paint, whether it be from a little fender bender or a stone chip, that corrosive winter moisture can get through those cracks and start eating away at the metal underneath. 

If you can, you should get any dents or damage fixed as soon as possible so your vehicle has a protective layer of paint between road chemicals and the metal.  You may want to wait until the warmer weather, but while you're waiting, the damage is getting worse.  If you're not sure of a reputable body repair shop, check with the service advisor where you have mechanical work done.  They're usually knowledgeable about who is good and not so good. 

You also may be tempted to skip the car wash during the winter since your vehicle is just going to get dirty fast anyway.  You may want to reconsider.  Many winter road treatments now use brine that gets in every nook and cranny of your vehicle.  It's wise to clean that off regularly during the winter, and many washing facilities include a spray underneath that gets rid of that salt.  Your vehicle repair facility may even have its own car wash, a nice bonus when you take your vehicle in for repair or regular maintenance. 

The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley
226 West Avenue I
Lancaster, California 93534
661-949-8484
http://cardoctorsav.autovideotipsblog.com



Why Alignment Matters (Vehicle Alignment Maintenance)

Mar 08, 2020

It's one of those things that can happen on a multi-day road adventure or a quick trip to the grocery store.  You hit a pothole, go too fast over a speed bump, nail a curb.  When it happens, you think, "I wonder if that was hard enough to do any damage?"  But things seem ok and you continue on your way. 

Keep in mind that any blow to your vehicle's suspension can throw it out of alignment.  It can be a hard knock from the road or from another vehicle, such as being involved in a minor accident.  When your suspension is out of alignment, it means that the wheels aren't all pointing where they should.  And after a while, it can make your tires wear unevenly and cause problems with steering and handling.

Let's go back to that pothole or curb you hit hard.  Even though you think there was no damage done, if you wait until you see tire wear, you may need to replace all four tires, not an inexpensive proposition.

That's why it's a good idea to make sure your alignment is regularly checked by a qualified technician. If you get regular oil changes (a MUST!), consider having an alignment check while your vehicle is in.  That's especially important if you drive roads that resemble the lunar surface.  If you buy new tires, it's also strongly recommended that you have your alignment checked. 

You can have your front wheels aligned or all four, and if your vehicle is newer, it's not a bad idea to spend a little extra for the four-wheel alignment check.  Good alignment pays off with better steering and handling, less tire wear and—BONUS—better fuel economy since aligned wheels offer less resistance when they roll on the road.

The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley
226 West Avenue I
Lancaster, California 93534
661-949-8484
http://cardoctorsav.autovideotipsblog.com



Time for a Brake (Brake Pad Replacement)

Mar 01, 2020

Stop! It's one of those things your vehicle has to do consistently and reliably.  That's why brake maintenance is vitally important, worthwhile for you to make sure stays up to date.

A brake system has many components. If your vehicle has disc brakes, they have pads that make contact with the rotors (the metal discs).  Those pads usually have a metal back, and the part that presses against the discs is made of a material which provides friction to stop the vehicle. Because of that friction, the pads are expected to wear down and eventually the rotors will, too.  But the pads usually are the part that will need to be replaced more often. But how do you know when it's time?

There are several signs, one of which is when your brakes squeak or make a high-pitched sound when you step on the brake pedal.  Many newer vehicles also have sensors on the brake pads.  When the pads get worn down to a certain point, the sensor will tell the vehicle's computer to turn on a light on the instrument panel.  When that light comes on, it's time to have your service facility check out what's going on.  If you don't know what that light looks like, ask your service advisor or look it up in the owner's manual.

Some vehicles also give you a reminder based on the distance you've traveled. It may be a message that displays on the dash or a light that illuminates. 

Your best bet is to have your vehicle regularly serviced at one shop you trust.  They will keep a record of your brake maintenance Then, when you take your vehicle in for oil changes or other routine things, they'll check your brakes for wear.  Sometimes you'll only need pads, but you may also need rotors or other parts replaced.  Oh, and you need pads replaced in pairs. That way stopping power will be equal on both sides and your vehicle won't pull in one direction. 

Brakes make up a key part of your vehicle's safety systems.  Keep them in good shape and they'll be able to stop your vehicle when you press down that pedal.

The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley
226 West Avenue I
Lancaster, California 93534
661-949-8484
http://cardoctorsav.autovideotipsblog.com



Visibility Disaster! (Windshield Washer Pump Replacement)

Feb 23, 2020

Let's say you live in a cold climate where the snowy, icy weather challenges you to clear the salt and debris tossed up on your windshield.  You push your windshield washer switch expecting a good stream of fluid so the blades can wipe the glass clean. Yet nothing comes out.  Nada, zip.  What's going on? You know you filled up the windshield washer reservoir within the last week or so. 

Well, there could be a few things causing your windshield washing system to fail.  One culprit? The hoses that are supposed to carry that fluid from the washer pump to the spray nozzles may be frozen, or maybe they're cracked and leaking. It could be the nozzles themselves are stopped up, either iced up or jammed full of debris.  Your windshield wiper/washer switch could be worn out or the electrical system may not be conducting power to the washer pump. 

It's important that this system work properly, especially on days when the sun may be in front of you and your windshield is covered with a cloudy, icy mess.  Seeing what's going on in front of you may be like trying to peer through frosted glass, and that's not a safe situation for you or the drivers around you. You need to have this checked out by a technician as soon as you can.

Let's say the technician discovers it's not any of those components.  Turns out it's the electric windshield washer pump itself that's failed. After replacing it, everything is working fine, and you can see again.  As so often is the case with today's complex vehicles, figuring out the root cause of a problem can be tricky.  Rely on your vehicle service facility since they have the know how and diagnostic equipment to make sure your view of the road will always be crystal clear.

The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley
226 West Avenue I
Lancaster, California 93534
661-949-8484
http://cardoctorsav.autovideotipsblog.com



3 Winter Windshield Tips (Care of Windshield)

Feb 16, 2020

Cold weather can present some real challenges when it comes to your vehicle's windshield.  Think of it.  Your windshield is your window to the world when you're driving, and clear visibility is extraordinarily important for safe travels. So here are 3 tips to ensure that your windshield can do its job during the cold weather.

  1. Don't ever pour hot water on a frozen windshield.  Let's say you head outside and see your vehicle covered with ice. You think, hey, maybe I can heat up a pot of water on the stove and melt that off fast.  Don't do it!  You run the risk of shattering the glass the second that hot water hits the frigid glass.  Ditto for using a propane torch.  Glass does not do well with sudden temperature changes.  Instead, turn on your engine and start the defroster, which heats the windshield up gradually.  Use a plastic scraper designed for windshields (don't EVER use metal to scrape) and be patient.  Don't hammer on the ice to break it into pieces.  Sudden pressure and glass don't mix.
  2. Keep your wiper blades up off the glass.  If you park your vehicle outside and you think there's a chance of frozen precipitation falling, do what smart winter drivers do.  Lift the wiper arms off the glass and leave them extended with the blades not touching the glass at all.  That way when you go back to your vehicle, you won't have to try to pull the wipers off the icy glass (which can damage the rubber blades) or start the wipers with them frozen solid to the windshield.  Many drivers have burned out their wiper motor that way, and that can be a pricey repair.
  3. Keep your windshield washer fluid topped off and use it often.  So you've followed the steps above and you're on the road. Salt, brine and sand can muck up the windshield fast, causing your wiper blades to smear the glass, re-freeze the icy snow and blind you.  It's important to use wiper fluid made for low temperatures so it doesn't freeze on your glass.  Use it often so any road debris won't scratch the glass like sandpaper.  And make sure your defroster is working properly, keeping your windshield warm enough to prevent ice from forming.  

The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley
226 West Avenue I
Lancaster, California 93534
661-949-8484
http://cardoctorsav.autovideotipsblog.com




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