Category Archives: What Customers Should Know

Start Me Up (Ignition Systems)

When you start up your gasoline engine car, you may not know that it's using the same ignition principles as it has for decades.  You have spark plugs that require enough power so a spark can jump across a gap at its tip.  Years ago, a vehicle's 12-volt system had to produce 15,000-25,000 volts to do that, so engineers came up with something called an ignition coil that bumps up the voltage. It also has to be done at just the right interval called timing. The first systems had a distributor, a mechanical device with a rotating disc that switched the power to the ignition coil on and off.  That higher voltage then was sent to the spark plugs at the correct time interval. But the mechanical "points" had to be replaced and adjusted every 12,000 miles/20,000 kilometers.  Engineers later replaced the switching mechanism with solid state ones, but they still needed replacement after 120,000 miles/200,000 kilometers. The next evolution came in the 80's when the distributor ... read more

Tacky or Techie? The Tachometer.

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.&nbs ... read more

Low Power Mystery (Ignition Coil Service)

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 Che ... read more

Your Vehicle is Talking to YOU (Service Warning Signs)

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 fact ... read more

Wash Me, Wash Me Right (How to Wash a Vehicle)

Most would agree they'd rather drive around in a clean, shiny vehicle than one coated with a layer of dirt.  When warmer weather comes around, some of us are bound and determined to wash our own vehicles.  And to protect the paint and its luster, there are a few things to keep in mind when you get out the bucket and soap. Cool body.  It's not a good idea to wash a vehicle when the body is hot.  If it's been sitting out in the sun or you've been riding around on a sunny day, make sure you cool your vehicle off by either moving it to the shade or wetting it down with cool water. The problem with washing a hot vehicle is that it's going to dry so fast, minerals in the water can form hard-to-remove spots on the paint.  And some of those can be really difficult to get out.  Best to avoid it. Slippery when wet.  Make sure you wet your vehicle down thoroughly before you get the washing mitt out.  Experts keep a couple of buckets of soapy water on hand ... read more

Greeted by a Screech (Loud Noise when Starting Vehicle)

No one likes to be greeted in the morning by having someone screech at you.  The same goes for a loud, high-pitched noise your vehicle greets you with every time you start the engine.  If you're wondering if that's normal, no, it isn't.  And it is worth getting checked out.  The good news is that it might be nothing serious.  Then again, it may be. The first things to suspect any time you hear a high-pitched sound coming from the engine are belts.  They have tension on them and they're trying to turn lots of different pulleys, pumps and other equipment the engine needs to work properly.  The noise could come from the belts starting to wear out and dry out. If one of those belts breaks at an inopportune time, not only can it strand you somewhere, the damage to the engine could be very expensive to fix. Other things that will cause a high-pitched sound are the pulleys and tensioners.  The tensioners keep the right amount of pressure on the belts an ... read more

Not-So-Common Sense (Sensor Failures)

So your vehicle won't start.  What's the first thing that comes to mind?  Battery dead? Starter motor worn out? Out of gas?  Well, those are all reasons that make sense.  But your vehicle may be refusing to start because one of its computers is being warned that to do so might damage it.  Here's how that works. You have lots of computers in your vehicle.  They need to know the status of things so there are several sensors monitoring various things going on.  These sensors send information to the computers that adjust the fuel and air mixture so you don't waste fuel.  They know when things aren't quite right and prevent you from starting your engine if that's going to damage it.  Other sensors make sure the coolant is the right temperature, check to see you are not polluting the air and make sure other electronic components are performing their tasks correctly. Here's an example of a sensor doing its job.  Your engine needs oil to lubric ... read more

Cold Weather Vehicle No-Nos (Items to Avoid Storing in a Freezing Vehicle)

It's always easier to leave a few things in your vehicle so you'll have them on hand.  But in cold weather, while it's a good idea to carry items such as a phone charger, blanket and shovel, there are some things you shouldn't store in your vehicle. Medicines and drugs.  Cold temperatures can affect the chemical makeup of some drugs.  Avoid leaving them in a vehicle, especially those in a liquid form like insulin, eye drops and cough syrup. Latex paint.  They are water based, and when they freeze, they get lumpy and lousy.  Your paint job will not be what you had in mind. Cellphones and computers.  Most of these have lithium ion batteries.  If they get colder than freezing (0 degrees C, 32 degrees F), if you try to charge them, you'll more than likely ruin the batteries.  Bottled water, soda, wine or beer.  OK, here's the scoop.  All of these can freeze and split the container they're in.  Yes, soda, wine and beer will take a lowe ... read more

NOT JUST ANOTHER CUSTOMER (Finding the Right Service Facility)

You might remember a hit TV sitcom that was set in a bar, a place where "everybody knows your name."  The idea, of course, is people feel more comfortable where they aren't just another customer among many; they're special because their relationship goes back a few years.   That comfortable relationship can extend to professionals you deal with, too.  Think of your accountant, your dentist, your doctor.  Most people try to stick with the same person or firm in those businesses.  They have grown to know their work over the years and they've learned to trust their professionalism, the quality of their work and their track record.    Ideally, you should have that same relationship with your automotive service facility, like your friends here at Happy Wallet Quality Auto Repair. You may have tried several facilities over the years until you found one that did good work at a reasonable price.  The longer your relationship with your service facility, t ... read more

No Fueling! (Fuel Filler Location)

If you've ever gotten in an unfamiliar vehicle, maybe a rental car, you may have pulled up to the gas pump and wondered, "Which side is the fuel filler on?" Here's a tip for you.  There is usually a little arrow on the instrument panel near the fuel gauge that points to the side where the fuel filler is.  But why are the fuel fillers not all on the same side, anyway? There are lots of reasons.  At one time, many manufacturers tried putting them in an easy-to-reach spot: in the center of the vehicle's rear end.  Some even hid them behind a hinged license plate door.  Cool place, but it turned out not to be a good idea.  When a vehicle with a fuel filler in the rear was hit by another vehicle from behind, it was much more prone to catch fire and explode. Safety regulations now dictate that the fuel filler doors be placed within crumple zones and away from where they can drip fuel on hot exhaust pipes or near electrical connections.  But why do manufactu ... read more

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