What Customers Should Know
Do you have a Clue (Get the Most Out of a Service Visit)
When you head to the doctor, you probably have it in your mind what you're going to say about why you don't feel good. That way your doctor can use that information to diagnose your problem. You might want to think of that same approach when you take your vehicle in for a repair.
Experts say what will help the service advisor most is for you to bring in some well-organized descriptions about your vehicle's issues. You might even want to write them down so you don't forget. Is there an unusual smell? What does it smell like? Does the problem happen first thing after starting out? If there's an odd sound you hear, is it dependent on speed? Does it change when you turn a corner?
Keep your expectations realistic. Some conditions may take a long time to diagnose and repair. If you go thinking you'll be in and out in no time, you might be disappointed when you're told there are other customers ahead of you and you may have to come back tomorrow. If you can make alternate plans to have someone pick you up and take you back when the vehicle is finished, that way you won't feel like you've wasted your time.
Most importantly, be available for any communication from the service advisor. If they have your cell phone and they have a question or need an approval for a repair, the sooner they reach you, the sooner things can move forward.
The service facility wants your experience with them to be good just as you do. With a little help from you, they'll get your vehicle back on the road and you'll have a smile on your face.
The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley
Such a Little Part (Climate Control Resistor)
You expect your heater/air conditioner to work like it should. You have a control for temperature and one for fan speed. You even have a control for what vents the air comes out of.
Don't be surprised one day if your blower fan develops a mind of its own and starts going crazy. Most of the time, you may find that it starts blowing at full speed, and nothing you do to try to control it does any good. This is what may be happening.
Your blower motor has an electronic component called a resistor. It does what its name says; it offers resistance. When you want the fan to run more slowly, you turn the fan speed down. That resistor accomplishes that by turning its resistance up. When the resistor fails, the power has nothing to slow it and the fan speeds up.
It's a small part and can fail due to age or corrosion. It's usually not an expensive part, either, but it's often found in a location that's not that easy for the technician to get to. That means labor costs will vary depending on the design of your vehicle.
Occasionally, a faulty resistor can cause the blower motor not to work at all or only partially come on. But other things can cause that as well, such as a faulty fan switch or vent control.
This is where a technician's training comes in. Special equipment can track down precisely where the issue is so you can be assured the correct part is being replaced.
It's just not pleasant when the blower motor isn't following orders. Have your service facility check it out so you can be the blower's boss, like it should be.
The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley
The Neglected Windshield (Windshield Care)
You look at it every day, yet you don't really see it. We're talking about your vehicle's windshield, and if you're not seeing it at all, that's probably a good sign. The fact is that unless our windshields get fogged up, hazy or cracked, we don't pay all that much attention to them. Considering how vital front visibility is in a vehicle, paying a little more attention to your windshield will pay off in the long run.
Keep it clean! In ancient times when gas stations had attendants who filled your tank for you, they used to clean the outside of your windshield while the fuel was being dispensed. In these days of self-serve gas, we don't have that luxury any more. But it's a good idea to clean your windshield regularly, even when it's not filthy. If you let dirt build up on the outside, it acts like fine sandpaper when you turn on your wipers when the glass is dry. Really, try to avoid turning on your wipers unless your windshield is wet. If you must use your wipers to clear off something like bird droppings, use your washers liberally to help avoid scratches.
It's also important to wash the inside of the windshield, too. Even if you're not a smoker, you might notice the inside glass sometimes get a greasy film on it. That's the plastic inside your vehicle off-gassing petroleum products that they're made of. A hazy windshield when you are driving directly into low sun can blind you. Use soaps that are made for automotive glass since they won't streak or harm vehicle interiors. Your service advisor can recommend some.
Keep an eye on your windshield wiper blades. Let them go too long without replacing them and you might wind up with the metal wiper frame actually touching the glass, a recipe for major scratches when you turn your wipers on.
Finally, do a quick inspection every once in a while for chips in your windshield glass. Catch them quickly and they can be repaired while they're still small. Often they will spread into a major crack, and at that point you'll have to have the whole thing replaced.
So there you have it. Give your windshield a little love and it will reward you back with a beautifully clear view of the road up ahead.
The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley
The Red Menace (How to Deal with Rust)
Rust. It's worse if you drive in places that use salt on the roads in winter, or if you spend time driving near a body of salt water. But any vehicle has to deal with rust after years on the road. And it's not just that rust can eat away your vehicle's body and fenders. It can be a real problem around your suspension, drivetrain or any place where there's metal.
Rust takes its time. You don't see it until it's already done its dirty work. It can wreak havoc with your electrical system. Sure, vehicle manufacturers do their best to keep it to a minimum, but especially with road treatments like brine around, their task is a difficult one.
The one spot everyone notices is in the paint. You see a little bubbling under the once-smooth surface. By the time it bubbles, it's well involved in rotting away that spot of your vehicle. You wouldn't believe how just a little thing can start the process on its way. A stone chips the paint down to the metal, moisture and salt reach the steel and rust is off and running. It could be a scratch in the paint, a little dent, acid from a parking garage, tree sap, you name it. If you spot it, show it to your service advisor because rust can be more than a cosmetic problem. It can be a safety issue.
While you can see the rust destroy your vehicle's body, you can't see it destroying your engine. But it can. It can eat away at such areas as air intakes or the exhaust system. Not only can it reduce performance, but also it can disable electrical connections. In this day and age where just about everything in your vehicle has a computer component to it, just a small electrical problem can strand you at the roadside.
Corrosion can attack your vehicle's chassis or frame, and they are what provide the structural strength and stability for everything attached. Think powertrain, suspension, axles, window frames. The list goes on and on. Structural integrity is vital to safety, so the stakes are high.
Now you can see why rust damages more than just the good looks of your vehicle. There's one thing to remember about corrosion - much of it is only visible from underneath the vehicle. When you bring your vehicle in to The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley for service, our technician can look for any problems from that important vantage point. It's always a good idea to point out any spots that you think might spell trouble. That way you can stay ahead of it and beat rust at its own game.
Weather Station on Wheels (Vehicle Sensor Maintenance)
You probably never thought about it, but your vehicle is like a rolling weather station. It can check the outside temperature, let you know when the roads are slippery and help you deal with rain. And how it does all those things is pretty cool.
First, just like any weather station, a vehicle has sensors that measure the driving and weather conditions you find yourself in. Some of those sensors can control computerized systems in your vehicle to react to the weather. It depends on whether you have a 2-wheel, 4-wheel or all-wheel drive vehicle how those sensors will respond.
Let's start with temperature. Most vehicles now have a thermometer that measures the temperature outside. It's usually in the front, and likely will tell you on the instrument panel what the outside temperature measures. But a temperature sensor will also tell your vehicle's computers to turn on or off certain systems like the heating or air conditioning. If your ambient temperature sensor isn't working right, some symptoms are a malfunctioning automatic A/C or a temperature display that is way different than the app on your phone says it should be.
Your vehicle will also have sensors that measure your speed at each wheel. They work with an onboard computer to measure slippage in any of the wheels so traction control and antilock brakes work correctly in case of slick roads.
Your vehicle can measure something called longitudinal and latitudinal acceleration, and it uses a yaw sensor to do it. That helps it determine if you might be in an oversteering or understeering situation. It's important because it works with your vehicle's brakes to apply stopping power to keep you in control.
A steering wheel sensor tells the vehicle's computers what the driver is doing with the wheel. It also can work with those wheel sensors to measure how slippery the roads are, whether it be due to a wet (rain) or granular (gravel or sand) surface. By sending different torque or braking to each wheel, it helps the driver maintain control.
More and more vehicles now have a rain sensor that can turn on the wipers automatically when they measure precipitation on the windshield.
So, you're driving your own weather station, and making sure all this data is coming in properly depends on how each component is working. Regular service and maintenance on these systems is important to make sure they can do their job. Your rolling weather station can't predict the weather, but it can sure help you deal with it, so help it do its job right.
A Turn for the Worse (Using Turn Signals)
Distracted driving is bad, you know that. Daydreaming, talking on the cell phone, putting your makeup on in the rear view mirror. All bad. But there's something else that causes more than twice as many accidents, according to a recent study. And that's people who don't use their turn signals.
Maybe you're one of them. One survey said nearly a quarter of drivers were just too lazy to use their turn signals. Others said they didn't use them because they weren't really necessary. Traffic laws may dictate otherwise, but statistics show police don't write that many tickets for turn signal violations.
You may have encountered the driver who cuts into your lane without signaling a change. Often, that person does it deliberately to catch you off guard so you won't invade his or her space. And when it comes to young drivers using turn signals, one insurance company survey showed more than two-thirds of those they talked to admitted it wasn't their regular practice.
Knowing that, you may wonder why you should use your turn signal. The reason is simple. It lets other drivers know what you plan to do. Driving it tricky enough with all the moving parts on the road. The more you know what other people are doing, the more you can prepare for that with the way you drive.
How many times have you seen someone turn left without putting their turn signal on? That's a leading cause of rear-end accidents. Not only does using your turn signal promote safety, it also shows courtesy to other drivers.
There are some drivers who don't use turn signals because their turn signals don't work. What a lousy excuse! All of the safety equipment in your vehicle should be working; if it isn't, head over to your repair facility. Often it's as simple as a burned out bulb or a broken wire.
Finally, the number one reported reason for not using a turn signal is that drivers just forget to do it. (And the ones who DO use their turn signals and forget they're on? We won't even go there.)
Engineers put turn signals on vehicles for a reason. They help drivers communicate with other drivers. Using them could save accidents… and lives.
How Much Does It Cost? (Variations in Vehicle Repair Costs)
Ever wonder why it costs so much more to fix a similar problem in two different vehicles? Let's say you now own an SUV and before that, you owned a car. Your SUV's air conditioning system needs a new evaporator, but the cost for the new one is way more than you remember it was for your car. How can there be that big of a difference?
There are many reasons. For one thing, vehicles aren't all the same. Yes, they have engines and steering wheels and suspensions, but engineering and design can vary widely among different styles and brands.
In the case of replacing the evaporator, the one in your former car may have been located in a spot where the technician could get to it easily. Plus, the part may have been less complicated and, therefore, cheaper. Your SUV may require the entire dashboard to be removed with special tools to detach the a/c lines from the evaporator. Plus, since it is supplying cool air to a bigger cabin, it may be more complicated; the part itself may cost quite a bit more.
But you're not an expert, so how do you know the price is fair? This is where it helps to establish a good, long-lasting relationship with a reputable service repair facility. They know you, they know your vehicle and they value keeping you as a customer. A facility that doesn't care about repeat business may try to suggest more repairs than are needed or inflate their prices. But those shops are unlikely to stay in business very long since their reputation gets around.
If you've been taking your vehicles to the same shop for several years, you've had experience with them and know their policy on labor costs and parts prices. At some point you may wonder if it's worth it to keep putting money into your vehicle, and if you know your service advisor, you have developed a trust for his or her advice.
Keep this in mind, too. Vehicle designers and engineers have made significant progress in things like powertrain technology and rust prevention. That means today's vehicles are meant to last longer. One study in a major consumer magazine shows that if you can keep your vehicle on the road for 200,000 miles/320,000 km, an average of 15 years, some vehicles can save you up to $30,000 or more. Investing in repairs can make a lot of sense.
When Your Air Bag Light Comes On (Illuminated Air Bag Light)
There are some dashboard lights you should pay more attention to than others. One is the air bag light. If it's on and your vehicle is in an accident, your air bags probably won't do their job.
Automakers began installing air bags in the late 1990's since they were mandatory in the United States, and manufacturers have included them in Canadian vehicles as well. Safety experts say using a seat belt in combination with an air bag gives passengers the best chance of surviving a crash and minimizing serious injury.
The air bag warning light takes a few different forms. Some look like a picture of a belted passenger with an inflated air bag from a side view. Or there may be a warning light that says something like "Air Bag," "SRS" (for supplemental restraint system), "Airbag Deactivated" or "Air Bag Off."
Different things cause the air bag light to come on. Your vehicle may have been in an accident during which, while the air bags didn't inflate, crash sensors were activated. Some of them may be connected with your vehicle's seat belts. A technician can reset the air bag if this has happened.
Fuses can also blow which will cause the air bag light to come on. Another possible cause? A sensor that tells the vehicle's computer whether or not there is someone riding in the passenger front seat may be malfunctioning.
Air bags are not for the do-it-yourselfer. They are sophisticated systems that require specialized training and equipment to diagnose and repair. If an air bag light is on, take it to a qualified service repair facility. One more thing: remember that safety experts have designed air bags to work in conjunction with seat belts for maximum protection in accidents. So always wear your seat belt.
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 a pothole pretty hard, here are some signs to watch out that could signal damage.
These are all symptoms you should have checked at your vehicle repair facility as soon as you can. The longer you wait, the more damage you may be doing.
You also may find after hitting a pothole hard that the tire on that wheel is flat. Try not to drive any more on that tire since you could do a lot more damage to the tire and/or wheel. A call to roadside assistance may save you money in the long run by limiting the damage to what's already done.
The Key Won't Turn! (Ignition Problems)
You've just arrived at the store shopping and you're ready to head home. You put your key in the ignition and… oh, no! The ignition won't turn! What do you do now?
Don't panic. There are some things you can do to get going again. The first thing to do is see if you have a locking steering wheel, an anti-theft feature that was introduced around 1970. Sometimes it sticks. Move the steering wheel side to side while you try to turn the key and you might be able to get it to release.
Another thing to check is to see if your vehicle is in gear. Most vehicles will only allow you to start the ignition if it's in park or neutral. If you have an automatic transmission vehicle and it is in park, try jiggling the shift lever and try the key again. Sometimes the safety mechanism doesn't properly make contact or gets a little sloppy.
If both of these don't work, it could be your vehicle's battery is dead. Some newer electronic systems require power so the key can turn. Others have alarm systems that detect if doors are open.
Other issues that can cause key problems include something jammed in the lock cylinder. Or some of the springs or pins inside may be stuck. Consider that it may be the key itself. Sometimes they get bent or simply wear out from the number of times they've been put in and taken out of the cylinder.
No matter what the cause, the first time this happens you should have your repair service facility check it out. That’s because if it happens once, it can happen again. Even if you were able to get going again on your own, your ignition/key has warned you that something's wrong. Have it checked out by a pro so you’re not locked into a bad situation.
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