Vehicle Computers

Technology has permeated every aspect of our lives, including our vehicles! All modern cars have at least one computer built-in. But unlike the internet-browsing laptops and desktop computers that come to mind, the computers in your vehicle serve a more limited but vital function – keeping your vehicle safe on the road. The primary computer in your vehicle controls many aspects of its operation, including: Fuel injection Spark plugs Idle speed Engine emissions Various sensors in your car (oxygen, engine temperature, throttle position…) send information straight to the car’s computer, and it automatically adjusts the engine operations to accommodate for the best performance and keep emissions as low as possible. Just as important, the on-board computer can alert you to potential problems with your vehicle. When one of the sensors indicate a problem, the computer can trigger a warning light or the “Check Engine” light to let you know something has gone wrong. When you bring your vehicle into our independent auto repair shop, our certified technicians use sophisticated technology and up-to-date software to pull the codes stored within your vehicle’s computer. The computer automatically saves the information it receives from the sensors, and our expert technicians are able to take that data to accurately identify problems and quickly find the best solution. But it doesn’t stop there… many modern vehicles have multiple computers, each with a specific function and role to play in delivering the best experience in your vehicle. Some vehicles have separate computers to control individual systems, including: Transmission Anti-lock brakes Air bags Climate control Radio Cruise Control Navigation And each of these computers have similar...

Tow it in or Drive it in? –Ask Jon Chartier

In this month’s ask Jon, I’ll be talking about whether you should drive your car or have it towed when it is in need of repairs. The two major contributing factors to this decision are safety concerns and or causing damage to the vehicle by driving it. From time to time, we see cars driven to our facility that should have been towed. Sometimes what could have been a simple issue is compounded just by driving the car to the shop! Running the engine when it is overheating or low on critical fluids causes engine and mechanical component damage that can run in the hundreds or thousands to repair. The dashboard indicators play a crucial role in the decision to drive the car in or tow it. Most vehicles now have indicators for critical fluid levels. If the engine coolant or oil is low, you will be warned by these indicators. Also, if the temperature gauge is high or a warning light is on, you should not drive. You should, however, be aware that not all vehicles have these warning lights. For the most part, everyone is in tune with how their car should sound. If it is making an unusual noise like a grind, scrape or knocking sound, you should be concerned. The other critical factor is safety. If the car doesn’t stop properly, if the steering is binding, there is inadequate power, or you have loose suspension or components, these are all reasons to call a tow truck. Your safety and the safety of other people on the road is a major concern. We always tell people...

Overview of your car’s systems

BELTS AND HOSES What is it? You car’s belts and hoses are essential to the cooling, air conditioning and charging systems, and the engine. Don’t take these routine replacement intervals for granted because they can break down and leave you stranded. What does it do? The timing belt keeps the crankshaft and camshaft mechanically synchronized to maintain engine timing. Whether serpentine, V-belt or fan belt (the belts on the outside of the engine), they all transmit power from the front of the engine to accessories that need to be driven, such as the air conditioning, the charging system and fans. Radiator and heater hoses carry coolant to and from the engine, radiator and heater core. Typical Wear and Tear Key items that affect the replacement interval for belts and hoses: Vehicle age Electrolytic corrosion Mileage Oil contamination Belt tension Failed hose clamps Symptoms Squeaking noise from under the hood during start-up or operation Coolant leaks Dashboard light will illuminate A/C System may fail Engine overheating Smell of burnt rubber BRAKE SYSTEM What is it? Your car’s brake system is its most critical safety system and you should check it immediately if you suspect any problems. A properly operating brake system helps ensure safe vehicle control and operation under a wide variety of conditions. What does it do? When you push the brake pedal, the force generates hydraulic pressure in the master cylinder. This pressure flows through the hydraulic lines and hoses to the wheel cylinders and calipers, forcing the shoes against the drums (drum brakes) and the pads against the rotors (disc brakes). The resulting friction slows the vehicle...

How Cold Affects Your Car

This month in ask Jon, I will be talking about the sharp influx of vehicles in for service due to the January cold snap.  My hope with this column is to help people understand what causes reliability issues in their vehicles. More specifically in the winter. The cold has a grand effect on many vehicles. Our lot on some of the worst days is a parade of tow trucks. Obviously the most common issue is batter- ies. As a battery gets older it loses its ability to hold a charge and have a strong cold cranking capability. For the most part my observa- tion is the average reliable battery life span is around five years. If a battery sits in extreme cold with a low charge chance are it will freeze. If a battery is dead in the cold, it will positively freeze. A frozen battery has no chance of starting an engine or even being jump started. This leads to a battery replacement on the spot or a ride on a tow truck. In some cases, the battery can be slowly warmed to thaw and recharged. Keeping in mind it has to be thawed before attempting to recharge. But still in this case the cause of the issue would need to be properly diagnosed to be sure it doesn’t reoccur. As a side note, I don’t know of any service center that would charge a customer just to test a battery. Issue number two is your common “no start”. The popular cause of this is a lack of maintenance. When the engine is started in the cold the...

To idle, Or not to idle…

For years now, the practice of letting your car “warm up” before winter driving has been commonplace.  In the past, it was believed a warm-up was good for the vehicle and had good side benefits, including a nice warm interior and clear windows.  In this day and age of eco-conscious citizens, the practice has become frowned upon.  In years past, warming the engine was done for several reasons, some with merit, some without.  Previously, the conventional oils and fluids in your engine benefitted from a cold weather warm-up to help them thin out before the engine was put to work.  Another major reason for the warm-up was to allow the carburetor to stabilize, come off full choke, and achieve the proper air/fuel mixture.  This helped to reduce the risk of a safety issue associated with carbureted engines and their inconsistent application of power while in choke/warm-up mode.  In some instances, the engine would bog.  Imagine this scenario occurring while pulling out in traffic or getting out of the way of a truck!  This leads us to the modern engine.  As we all know, carburetors have been replaced with fuel injection.  These systems are computer controlled to manage their own warm-up cycle.  This is monitored by sensors to ensure the most possible efficiency and least emissions. Modern fluids in your car are for the most part synthetic or semi-synthetic.  This means they last longer and are unaffected by cold temperatures.   Needless to say, many studies have been done on this subject.  The study term for this topic is “non-traffic idling”.  Without getting all scientific, it has been established that vehicles...

Rodents in your vehicle…a real trauma

Our very own Jon Chartier has begun a monthly series of automotive-related articles…enjoy, more to come!   This month in ask Jon, I’ll be talking about an issue we’re seeing more and more; rodents in your vehicle. This time of year, they’re doing their best to find a warm home for the winter. Traces of mice and chipmunks under the hoods of cars and trucks has been common forever. The critters make nests using a multitude of materials from in and around your car. Some of these items are insulation, wiring, loom materials, paper items such as air filter media, cloth items, newspaper, and natural items such as grass and leaves. They chew away at just about anything. I’ve seen wiring and hoses chewed. I’ve even seen air intakes so clogged with mice debris the engine will not start. Another part of this issue is when these little beasts get into the interior of the car. Many people leave their windows open when they park in their garages. This is an open invitation for the little creatures. Also, more commonly, they are entering through the air ventilation or HVAC system, whose intake is located near your windscreen wipers. On newer vehicles, the air is filtered by a cabin air filter. It is easy for them to chew a hole through this filter and make their way into the car through the heater box and vent tubes. In the worst cases, I have installed a piece of metal screen over the cabin filter to stop them. This screen can easily be reused each time the cabin filter is renewed. It...

THE IMPORTANCE OF WINDSHIELD WIPERS AND WASHERS

The majority of drivers probably don’t give much thought to windshield wipers and washer systems. However, if you get caught in a rainstorm, a snowstorm, get splashed with mud or slush, or run into a swarm of bugs, your windshield wipers and washer system will be the first thought you have. The first windshield wipers were invented in 1903, but they’ve come a long way since then. By 1916, wipers had become standard equipment on most vehicle makes. In 1917, the first windshield wiper powered by an electric motor became available. During the mid-thirties, the first windshield washer system, the system that sprays window washer fluid at your windshield, was introduced. By the late-forties, the first combination windshield wiper and washer systems were being used. These important inventions provided additional vehicle safety and made it possible to drive during inclement weather. Today, modern windshield wiper and washer systems have many advanced features and options. Modern systems are designed to be easy to use, extremely effective, and help maintain clear vision while driving. Many of us have experienced turning on our wipers only to discover that part of the rubber portion of the blade is peeling away or missing, followed by a horrible screeching sound as the damaged parts drag across your windshield. That sound means you may be permanently scratching your windshield. Regular maintenance and inspection of your wiper blades is essential to the life of your windshield, and most importantly to ensuring your safety on the road. Wiper blades can easily be cleaned by running a wet towel along the edge of the rubber blade. This will remove...

The ongoing self-driving car issue…

         Claybrook: “The American public will be the crash-test dummies for self-driving cars if automakers aren’t held to higher standards.”   WASHINGTON — Consumer and safety advocates are pressing Congress to scale back the number of safety exemptions for autonomous vehicles in legislation now under consideration, saying they would result in mass deployment of new technology without adequate safety protections, government oversight or industry accountability. The Senate Commerce Committee is scheduled to vote Wednesday on the AV START Act, which encourages autonomous vehicle development in part by granting each developer exemptions to annually operate up to 100,000 vehicles, phased in over three years, that don’t meet current federal motor vehicle safety standards. The SELF-DRIVE Act, passed by the House during the summer, also allows a similar number of exemptions. “Unfortunately, this bill takes a hands-off approach to hands-free driving,” Jackie Gillan, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, said on a conference call with reporters. Click here for letter from Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety to Senate committee leaders Automakers and technology companies argue large numbers of exemptions are necessary to validate the artificial intelligence controlling the vehicles and encourage investment. The Senate and House are attempting to set rules of the road for development and deployment of self-driving cars, which have the potential to revolutionize transportation, reduce highway deaths and injuries, improve congestion and air quality, and reorient land use. Public interest groups say the Senate bill has other flaws, such as not requiring manufacturers to clearly spell out to consumers the capabilities and limitations of automated vehicles they purchase, or the government to collect...

How to prep your car for Winter driving

Preparing your car for winter driving conditions is extremely important no matter where you live. Winter is a challenging time of year to be a motorist with treacherous road conditions, cold temperatures, and a higher likelihood of breakdowns or problems with your car. Being prepared for winter driving will make the cold season easier to bear. As important as it is to be prepare your car for winter, it is just as important to adjust your own behavior. Your awareness levels should be heightened, and your defensive driving skills should be honed and ready for anything that might come your way. You will need to take extra caution while turning and passing other vehicles, especially if road conditions are slippery and dangerous, which means paying extra attention to outside temperatures. The first line of defense against hazardous conditions during the winter is probably always going to be the quality and condition of your vehicle, and the ways you go about inspecting your car and adjusting things accordingly are most likely going to be determined by where you live. Follow the simple steps below to know how to prepare your vehicle for safe driving during the winter. Part 1 of 6: Stocking an emergency kit in your car You should never drive in extreme and dangerous conditions, like blizzards, storms, or extreme subzero temperatures, or any condition that might leave you stranded in a low traffic area. If you live in a rural area and/or in an area with extreme weather conditions and you absolutely must drive, however, before the winter temperatures arrive, assemble an emergency kit to keep in your car. This kit...

J.D. Power’s Most Dependable Small Cars

Annually, J.D. Power conducts the U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS). The study measures problems with design and defects with 3-year-old vehicles, as reported by original owners of the vehicles. Participants in the study detail what has gone right and what has gone wrong with their cars, trucks, SUVs, and vans, and J.D. Power analyzes the data and publishes its conclusions in the VDS. To express study findings in a simple, consumer-friendly way, J.D. Power generates Power Circle Ratings. These ratings are an easily understood visual representation of a model’s performance relative to its competitors and are designed to help consumers make smart decisions about the vehicles they buy.   This buyer’s guide highlights the top-rated 2014 small cars that receive a Power Circle Rating of 5 out of a possible 5 for vehicle dependability after 3 years of ownership. 2014 Buick Verano With the 2014 Verano, Buick aimed to provide entry-level luxury at a relatively affordable price. In 2014, the standard infotainment system added text-messaging support as well as Siri Eyes Free compatibility, while the optional Convenience Group expanded to provide key safety technologies, including forward-collision warning, blind-spot monitoring, and more. The 2014 Buick Verano receives a Vehicle Dependability Power Circle Rating of 5 out of 5. 2014 Chevrolet Sonic Available in sedan and hatchback body styles, the 2014 Chevy Sonic is a safe, technologically advanced and dependable small used car. In 2014, Chevrolet introduced forward-collision and lane-departure warning systems to the car, made a reversing camera standard for LTZ and RS trim levels, expanded the RS trim to the sedan body style, and added an upscale Dusk option package for the...