To Fix or Not To Fix: That Is the Question.
Posted December 09, 2018 06:31 AM
No matter what vehicle you drive, when certain things break, you have to make a decision. Should I get it fixed now, later or never? Air conditioning is one of those things. You can certainly live without air conditioning, but it sure is nice to have on a sweltering day.
Let's say your air conditioning breaks in the fall and you live in a climate where it gets quite cold in the winter. Should you get it fixed now, wait until spring since it won't get warm until then or maybe not get it fixed at all?
That can be a tough decision. There are several reasons air conditioning in vehicles break. One is fairly simple: It could be an electrical problem, perhaps a relay or solenoid is not turning on the system. It's also a fairly inexpensive repair and doesn't require hours of labor.
Or, the problem is that the coolant has leaked out. Your service facility can find the leak and replace the parts that are leaking. With a refrigerant recharge, you're back in business. The repair costs vary, depending on the reason for the leak.
When air conditioning malfunctions involve a compressor, evaporator or condenser, the costs can be significant since parts and labor add up. Depending on the age and value of your vehicle, you may choose to simply roll down the windows and live with it.
Keep in mind that many vehicles in cold climates use air conditioning in winter. Many vehicles automatically turn on the A/C when you use the defroster. The A/C dries the heated air it blows on the windshield and side windows to eliminate fogging more quickly. Outside conditions such as snow and ice can severely hamper visibility. Add to that fogging on the inside and it can present very challenging conditions for the driver.
In order for all systems to be functioning optimally, a vehicle owner might feel it's worth it for safety reasons to get a broken air conditioner fixed, even if it is done right before the approach of cold weather. Discuss these options with your service advisor so you can make the best decision for your situation.
The Best Test
Posted December 02, 2018 12:32 PM
Would you buy a jacket without even trying it on? Probably not, but it might surprise you that one study shows about half the people buy a vehicle after a short test drive around the block or none at all. If you're in the market for another vehicle, make sure you check out the most important things so you'll know if that's the right vehicle for you.
Check out the gadgets. Love a good sound system? Then turn it up loud. Does it have enough bass for you? See how you like its navigation system if it has one. Try pairing your Bluetooth smartphone with the vehicle. Test out how to set the cruise control and how steady it keeps the speed. Back up and check out the rearview camera. If you buy this vehicle, you'll have to live with all of these things every time you drive.
Test the vehicle on roads you know. See how it handles bumps and potholes, how it takes that tight curve that you drive every day to and from work. Driving on familiar roads gives you a chance to compare what you know with what you're thinking about buying.
Check the fit. One suburban mom drove a full-sized SUV and loved it until she got it home and realized it was too high for her old garage. Remodeling the garage would be the only answer! Try installing your child seats. Size matters, especially in a vehicle.
Gauge the fuel economy. Many vehicles have a trip computer that will calculate fuel economy quickly. Here's a tip: you can reset it before your test drive and when you're finished, check it and see what fuel economy you got. It will be a smaller sampling than would be ideal, but it will give you an idea.
Take as much time as you can. A lot of sellers will pressure you to restrict your test drive to 10-15 minutes. Ideally, you'd like to have that vehicle for a week, but that's usually not possible. So, try for something in between. Remember, this could be your vehicle for years to come.
Keep in mind that every vehicle will feel strange to you at first. Buying a vehicle is a little like getting married. You want that marriage to be happy, and you want it to last, so take the time to get to know it as well as you can.
Cruisin' on Down Main Street
Posted September 16, 2018 08:27 AM
When automakers first came out with cruise control, it was a real luxury item. The older cruise controls used a mechanical vacuum system but it worked. Well, some of the time.
Now days, cruise control is all electronic, thanks to computers. It's reliable and a real convenience on long trips. Cruise control is offered on most vehicles and standard on a lot of them. Because it's electronic, when it breaks, it's usually some electronic component. Your vehicle's cruise can be the victim of a blown fuse. Or your vehicle's speed sensor, which—not surprisingly—measures your vehicle's speed, can also stop working. And that will cause your cruise to stop cruising.
Vehicles with cruise control also have a built-in feature that, when the brakes are applied, turns off the cruise. With electronic cruise control, that happens thanks to the brake pedal switch, and if a problem develops in that switch, the cruise might not work.
The newest cruise control is called "adaptive." What that means is that it will maintain your vehicle's speed as well as the distance between you and the vehicle ahead of you. That means if a car ahead of you slows down, your vehicle will slow down to the same speed and even stop if the car ahead stops. Pretty cool, right? As you can imagine, adaptive cruise control is more sophisticated and has many more components than standard cruise. The systems vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, but they use on-board radar units and cameras to calculate what your vehicle should do to maintain a safe distance and speed.
Finally, there are still some of the older style cruise controls out on the roads. They'll stop working when the vacuum actuator develops a problem, a vacuum hose starts leaking or breaks or the cable between the actuator and the throttle kinks, breaks, seizes up or becomes detached.
If your cruise control isn't working, your service repair facility will be able to determine what kind your vehicle has and what it will take to fix it. Good news for the cruise blues.
Tacky or Techie? The Tachometer.
Posted September 02, 2018 10:04 AM
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. Manufacturers now build many of their automatic transmission vehicles with shift paddles. They let you shift gears without a clutch. That's manual shifting, and drivers need to know they're not revving the engine too high. That's where the tachometer comes in, since it shows you visually when you are in the red zone (RPM too high).
Here's another way the tach can help you: fuel economy. Generally speaking, the lower the RPM, the better the fuel economy. It's not good to go too low, of course, and the tachometer will help you find that spot of maximum efficiency.
You can also spot problems by paying attention to the tach. When your vehicle stays in first gear longer than usual (higher reading on the tach), then the RPM dip lower than usual after shifting, it may be that your vehicle's transmission is skipping a gear. Plus, if your vehicle's RPM go up but your speed doesn't, it could mean your transmission is slipping. Either situation should be checked by a trained technician.
If your commute takes you down some long grades, you might like to put your vehicle in a lower gear to help slow down the car (and not burn up the brakes). Having a tachometer keeps tabs on when your engine is revving too high.
So, consider the tachometer a "bonus" gauge. It's one more helpful assistant that can help you spot and prevent problems in your vehicle.
When "Oh, no!" Turns Into, "All right!"
Posted May 13, 2018 06:51 AM
Things we don't expect happen to our vehicles. And let's face, no one really wants to spend money on an unexpected repair. But if you are putting off going to your vehicle repair facility because you're dreading bad news, you might just be putting off some good news.
There was one minivan driver who'd had the same van for years and never had a problem with the power sliding doors. Then one day, the electrical switches in the door pillars stopped working. The key fob would still open them, but the door switches wouldn't do a thing.
Of course, the van driver feared the worst: an electrical problem, a major computer failure, mice chewing up the wires. So, he put off going into the repair facility for a couple of months. One day, it was time for his regular oil change and the service advisor asked him if there was anything else going on with the van. The owner mentioned the door problem but said he didn't want to spend a fortune on it.
He waited for his van, and it wasn't long before the service advisor came out with good news. The doors weren't working because a switch on the overhead console had been turned off. (It was a safety feature to allow parents to disable them.) The owner had accidentally switched it when he was unloading the van. It was the first thing the technician had checked. Flip the switch back and all was working as usual.
Another example? A mother was driving a minivan with her two kids inside on a hot day when she felt the front end shaking violently as she drove down the road. Fearing something major had broken in the van (and fearing for the safety of her kids), she pulled into a fast-food restaurant parking lot and started to look underneath to see if it was anything obvious she could see.
She couldn't see any broken parts, but she also didn't feel safe getting back in the van with her kids. So, she called her local service facility and asked if they could send someone to look at it. When the technician arrived, he took it for a test drive on the same road on which she'd described having the trouble. Then he put her van up on the lift. His conclusion? Nothing was wrong with her van. It was the street she was driving on. Crews repairing it had left the surface full of potholes, and that was causing her rough ride.
Ultimately, what these two drivers feared would be an expensive trip to the shop resulted in each driver getting different news than they had expected. One learned something new about his vehicle. The other? Well, the technician saw that her tires were badly worn and convinced her to get them replaced, perhaps preventing an accident and giving peace of mind for a mom with two kids.