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What Customers Should Know

A Honking Big Jam (Stuck Horn)

Jan 10, 2021

At one time or another, most drivers honk their horn at someone who might be texting at a stoplight or not paying attention when they're driving.  But what happens when you tap on your horn and all of a sudden it won't quit? Everyone's looking at you like you're an angry jerk and all you want to do is turn it off!

It helps to know the basics of what's happening when you honk your horn.  There's a switch in the steering wheel, of course, and when you press on it, it sends power to a relay which then energizes the horn.  Bingo.  Sound.  When the horn sticks on, one of these parts or the wiring has developed a problem. 

With the ear-splitting noise inside your cabin, it may be hard to keep your cool, but do your best to stay calm.  Try pushing the horn several times; it may un-stick the switch if you're lucky.  If not, there are a couple of things you can try.

First, if you can, pull your vehicle off the road and into a spot where you're not disrupting traffic.  If you feel comfortable rummaging around in your vehicle's fuse box, you might be able to pull the fuse that manages the circuit for your horn system.  A hint: the fuse boxes sometimes have a label inside showing which fuse goes to which part of the vehicle. Find the fuse that goes to the horn and pull it out (sometimes there's a fuse-pulling tool inside the fuse box).

But many people don't feel like tackling that.  Yes, you can drive over to a service facility with the horn blaring (not the best idea).  Or call your service facility and see if they might be able to send someone over to where you are so they can shut off the horn.

At the shop, a technician can check wiring, switches, relays and other components to find out what's wrong.  This is something that should be left to a professional for a couple of reasons.  First, repairs around the steering wheel can involve airbags.  Second, some horn components may be part of a vehicle's alarm system. 

The bad news is that your horn may not give you any warning before it starts blaring uncontrollably.  But the good news is that a horn doesn't malfunction all that often, and now you have a plan if it does.    

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



Don't Do It Yourself (Perils of DIY Vehicle Repair)

Jan 03, 2021

Your vehicle is a complicated machine, and yes, it would be nice if you could take care of all of its problems yourself.  There was a time when vehicles were simpler and it wasn't too hard for a weekend mechanic to replace brakes, adjust a carburetor or perform a tune-up.  But vehicles are far more complicated these days, with traction and stability control, anti-lock brakes, air bags and fuel injection just a small sample of the new technologies. 

Like a lot of things these days, technology changes in leaps and bounds.  Anyone who repairs vehicles has to stay up on the latest computers, sensors, suspensions, steering, electronics, hydraulics and more.  Many power steering, braking and heating and air conditioning systems that used to be mechanical are now being replaced by electronic systems.  Computers are an integral part of  much of the latest automotive technology, something you didn't see a lot of until as recently as the 1990s.

Today's most highly-trained technicians are able to keep up with how to perform the latest repairs and service by continuing education about their craft.  When once an auto repairman could do fine with a lift and a good set of tools, now specialized electronic analysis equipment and tools are must-haves when it comes to vehicle repair.

Because of how fast technology changes, access to the latest repair databases and manuals is also important.  Manufacturers require certain service procedures to be performed precisely, and any other way can leave a vehicle compromised when it comes to performance and safety. 

Your vehicle is capable of traveling at high speeds on challenging surfaces with ever-increasing traffic issues and unpredictable obstacles.  You need your vehicle to be working up to its engineered potential.  That's why you should leave repairs and service to professionals.  They work on vehicles every day, and years of experience with hundreds of repairs equip them to deal with the unexpected as well as the routine. 

When you develop a trusting relationship with a reputable service facility, you can have confidence that the maintenance, service and repairs are being done by people who know what they're doing.  Your safety and your vehicle's performance and reliability are well worth it.

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



Objects in the Mirror (Rearview Mirror Safety and Maintenance)

Dec 06, 2020

You may remember a song that went, "Objects in the rearview mirror may appear closer than they are." While that was a song about life's lessons, there are a few things we should all know about how important rearview mirrors are to safe driving.

While new electronic devices are helping drivers be aware of surrounding traffic in high-tech ways, the good old rearview mirror is still a dependable way of letting you know what's around you.  There are usually 3 on each vehicle, 1 attached to the windshield inside and 2 attached outside on each of the front doors.

It's important that they be adjusted properly before you start driving (not while you're driving). Experts say the windshield rearview mirror should cover the area behind the vehicle while the outside mirrors should not simply duplicate that view but extend it to the sides, where blind spots normally are.

Your rearview mirrors must be able to hold the positions they're adjusted in; it there's play in them or they move around, you'll never be sure they're pointed in the direction that will let you see where traffic is.  The one on the windshield must be firmly attached.  If it won't stay where you want it, head to your service facility where they can tighten it or replace any parts necessary to let the mirror maintain its aim. If it has fallen off the windshield completely, a technician can reattach it with the proper adhesives or fasteners.  There may be electronics that need to be properly connected as well.

The outside mirrors cover your blind spots and they must be able to hold their adjustments, too.  Many adjust electronically; switches and motors can fail, electrical connections can detach or become corroded and the reflective glass can crack, discolor or develop a hazy fog.  A technician can diagnose and repair those problems and recommend any replacement parts you might need.  Mirrors that are adjusted manually also should be restored to proper working order in order for you to maintain this important rear visibility.

Drivers don't think about their rearview mirrors all that much.  On reflection, don't they deserve respect and care for the important job they do?

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



What Is an EGR Valve? (EGR Valve Service)

Nov 22, 2020

If you've ever felt your vehicle hesitate, go, then hesitate again, you might think there's something wrong with the transmission.  After all, it's not moving smoothly  down the road.  But there are plenty of malfunctions that can cause those symptoms, one of them being something you may have never heard of: the EGR valve.

EGR stands for Exhaust Gas Recirculation. It's a system that channels small amounts of exhaust back into the engine to cool down the cylinders and reduce polluting gases.  Those include nitrogen oxides that can cause smog. The EGR valve regulates how much of the vehicle's exhaust gas is recirculated. After years and long distances traveled, that valve can get clogged or fail. Sometimes the EGR valve can stick open.  When the EGR valve isn't working properly, your vehicle can start releasing those nitrogen oxides and pollute the air.

The symptoms of a malfunctioning EGR valve include:

  • Engine losing power
  • Engine idling roughly
  • Pinging and knocking sounds in the engine
  • Stalling and hesitation
  • Fuel economy decreasing
  • Check Engine light illuminated

 

Depending on its condition, the EGR valve can be cleaned or it may need to be replaced.  Consult with your service advisor to see what options are recommended to you.

The EGR system is part of your vehicle's pollution and emissions control equipment. If you care about keeping our planet's atmosphere clean, you'll want to make sure it's doing its job—for everyone's benefit.

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



The Right Stuff (Choosing Replacement Parts)

Nov 08, 2020

Let's face it.  Vehicles are complicated machines, each having thousands of parts.  And since they're subjected to heat, cold, vibrations, bumps and much more, these parts wear out and need to be replaced. 

When your service advisor says you need a new part, you may have many options.  Let's say you need a new muffler.  One choice would be to get exactly the same part that was installed when the vehicle was manufactured.  The advantages are that it will perform the same way as the one it's replacing and will likely last about the same amount of time as the original.

Some mufflers are made by the same companies that supplied the automaker when your vehicle was new (they call that an OEM part—Original Equipment Manufacturer).  And often those are the same as the part you'd buy from a dealer. A reputable vehicle service facility will know which ones these are because they replace mufflers all the time and do their homework.

The good news is there are many different mufflers available from several manufacturers.  These are called aftermarket parts. Some of them may use different metals or a different construction technique. Some may sound a little sportier while some may make your engine perform better.  Your service advisor will discuss what your driving habits are and help choose the part that's best for you.

You may be able to get a part that's better than the one originally installed.  Here's an example.  A repair shop discovered one owner's vehicle had developed cracks and leaks in the hoses that attach to the heater core.  They were made of plastic, and heat and pressure had caused the originals to crack.  The service advisor recommended they replace it with an aftermarket part that was made of aluminum instead, one that was more durable than the original part.

Some aftermarket parts cost more, some cost about the same or less.  Depending on how and where you drive and what you want out of your vehicle, you can decide to buy more economical parts which might be the best fit for your needs.  Or you may decide to upgrade to a better, more expensive part.

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



Singing a Different Tune (Up) (Tune Ups)

Oct 25, 2020

Engines required a lot more maintenance in earlier times.  You'd have to have your spark plugs, wires, rotors, caps, distributor points, fuel and air filters changed periodically.  There were mechanical adjustments of a vehicle's timing, dwell, spark gap and idle mixture, too. Unless you like to tinker with old cars, a lot of those terms won't mean much to you. 

That service was called a "tune up" back then, and you can see why.  But now, computers have reduced the number of maintenance items, and a tune up is a whole lot different than it used to be.  In fact, in some vehicle service facilities, that term is also a thing of the past. 

A tune up of today would more accurately be called simply periodic maintenance. Now, most vehicles still have spark plugs and wires, fuel filters, air filters and PCV valves, and they should be inspected tested and/or replaced at regular intervals.  Your vehicle's manufacturer has made recommendations on how often that should be. But it depends on your driving habits. Do you regularly tow a trailer? Do you drive on dusty roads often? Are you driving mostly stop and go in the city?  Depending on your answers, to those maintenance intervals might have to be more frequent.

Your service advisor will likely remind you about those "must check" items such as spark plugs and wires, air filter and oxygen sensor.  And now that the old-fashioned tune ups don't require you to take your vehicle in for maintenance as often, you can get the same benefit from scheduled oil changes or tire rotations.  When your vehicle is in for those, a technician can keep an eye on your other systems (fuel, emissions, ignition) to make sure they are operating correctly.

One thing to remember.  When you take your vehicle in for regular service or a specific issue, don't ever hesitate to ask you service advisor to explain what's being done and why.  Hey, "In Sync" may have been a boy band of an earlier era, but it's always good for you and your service advisor to be "in sync" when it comes to what maintenance is good for your vehicle.

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



Passing the Test (How to Prevent Emissions Test Failure)

Oct 04, 2020

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 is to replace it.  Or your air filter may be dirty.  A dirty air filter may push your hydrocarbons pass the acceptable level.

Now to the more complicated things.  The mixture of fuel and air in your engine may be tilted toward the "too much fuel" side.  That could cause problems for your vehicle's catalytic converter, a device that converts toxic gases from your exhaust into less toxic pollutants.

Your vehicle has a closed system that prevents fuel tank vapors from escaping into the air; it's called the EVAP system.  A technician can track down problems.

Vehicle engineers have gone to great lengths to minimize the amount of pollution your vehicle produces.  Your vehicle's manufacturer recommends how frequently those systems need servicing.  Keep those systems in good shape and you're likely to pass emissions tests with flying colors.  Neglect them and you might find your vehicle failing an emissions test.  When that happens, you'll have to get the problems repaired before you can get back on the road.

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



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

Sep 27, 2020

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.  It's not hard to spot them.  They're usually going more slowly than other drivers.  They may be weaving in and out of their lane.  They're looking down at their phone, not at the road.  At a stoplight, they're the ones who sit there for 30 seconds after the light has turned green.  Did you know a recent study found that a quarter of all accidents involve someone who is texting and driving?
  • The Trasher.  Their window goes down and the trash flies out.  They treat anything outside their vehicle as their personal garbage dump.  They finish up a cigarette and flick their butt out, leaving dozens a day for the rest of us to "admire." The Trasher has been around for a long time.  It's time for them to clean up their act.
  • The Turn-signal Troublemaker. They don't think they need to use turn signals because THEY know where THEY'RE going and no other driver needs that information.  They change lanes without any warning.  Or they made their move minutes earlier and have "forgotten" to turn off their signal.  Use those turn signals wisely and carefully.  And if you're not using your turn signals because they're not operating correctly? Get 'em fixed!

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



Your Vehicle is Talking to YOU (Service Warning Signs)

Sep 20, 2020

Your vehicle may be like that famous battery bunny, the one that just keeps going and going.  But while it may seem sometimes like you never need to take your vehicle in to be worked on, there are some things you should keep your eyes, ears and nose out for. They are warning you about something that needs attention at your vehicle service facility.

  • If a warning light is on, don't ignore it; do something about it.  There are warning lights for battery, oil, engine heat, tire pressure… you name it.  And the manufacturer put them there for a reason.  They're telling you something isn't normal. So when one goes on, have it checked out soon, especially the blinking Check Engine light.  The earlier you have any warning light issue diagnosed, the more likely you are to avoid a more serious problem.
  • If your vehicle is vibrating or shaking, it's not only annoying, it could signal trouble.  You can bet your vehicle didn't do that when it came out of the factory! If you can feel a vibration in the seat of your pants or shaking in the steering wheel, head on over to your service facility and have them diagnose what is causing it.
  • Smoke coming out of anywhere in your vehicle is a signal (smoke signal, get it?) that there may be a troubling issue.  Likewise if you can smell something burning (like oil), the nose knows there's something amiss.  Time to find out what.
  • If you aren't getting the distance you used to out of a tank of gas, it may not simply be your lead foot. A lot of vehicles will give you a digital readout of your latest mileage.  If your fuel economy takes a dip, take a trip over to your service facility.  You might have a sticky brake caliper… or it might be something as simple as your tires need more air.
  • Yes, you know the dreaded puddle of something under your vehicle can be a bad sign.  It could smell sweet, it could feel oily.  But it means something is leaking.  Go get it checked.  Sooner is better when it comes to locating the source of a leak.
  • If your brake pedal travels further than it used to while stopping, that could be compromising your ability to stop safely.  Also, if the brakes are making odd sounds, pulsating, grinding or squealing, they're screaming at you for attention.  Proper braking is a must for your safety and those drivers around you.

An old 80s TV show called "Knight Rider" featured a talking car.  You already have a vehicle that's telling you things all the time.  Give it a listen and it will keep you going safely down the road for many years to come.

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



The Third Brake Light (Third Brake Light Service)

Sep 13, 2020

So you thought you only had two brake lights.  Look again and you'll see one in the center at a higher level than the two on either side of the vehicle.  They're sometimes in the inside of the vehicle behind the back window, or they could be in the deck lid, on the roof or on the spare wheel carrier,

But why is that third brake on your vehicle? Experts say it helps prevent rear end collisions. Tests done by installing the third brake light in taxis and fleet vehicles showed fewer rear end crashes in the ones that had the extra light. The third brake light was mandated in new passenger cars in 1986 in the US and Canada.  The requirement was added to new light trucks and vans in 1994.

Sometimes it's difficult to know if your third brake light is even working.  Many vehicles have bulb warning systems that alert you to non-functional bulbs, but not all do. Your vehicle service facility will often check to see if all your turn signals, taillights and headlights are working during routine maintenance inspections, and they may notice that the third brake light is out. 

So, do you have to have it replaced? Not necessarily. Many areas only require one brake light to work in the rear of a vehicle. So even though new vehicles have to have the third brake light, you may not get a ticket if it eventually stops working.  But you may be missing an opportunity to drive a safer vehicle if you don't get it fixed.

In 1995, an insurance institute study found that 1986 model cars were involved in 5 percent fewer rear-end collisions from 1986-1991 than they would have expected without the extra light.

Ask your service advisor for advice.  Keep in mind that in these days of drivers distracted by everything from texting to putting on makeup while driving, you can reasonably conclude that anything that makes you more visible to the vehicle behind you adds one more—possibly life saving—safety margin. 


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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