Car Issues That Can Get You Stopped By The Police

Many drivers may feel that they don’t have the time or money to address vehicle repairs immediately, but beware that ignoring some repairs can get you pulled over and even ticketed, says the Car Care Council. “Ignoring certain vehicle repairs may seem to save money in the short term but can lead to extra costs, such as fines or ‘fix-it’ tickets, if these problems are not taken care of when they arise,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council. “In some jurisdictions, car owners may even lose their license for certain violations. A few dollars spent on simple vehicle repairs can help avoid trouble with the law.” While a vehicle is in operation, traffic laws require that certain equipment is properly installed and functioning correctly, including brakes, headlights, turn signals, mirrors, windshields and safety belts, to name a few. The Car Care Council recommends that drivers address these repairs right away as they present public safety concerns that can earn drivers a traffic ticket on top of a repair bill. • Non-functioning turn signals and headlights or taillights that are cracked or broken. Most states require vehicles to have functioning turn signals as well as two functioning headlights and taillights. Taillights must illuminate red; if a taillight is cracked, it can give off a white light, which is also typically a traffic violation. • Cracked windshield. If a windshield is cracked, discolored or tinted in a way that obstructs vision, drivers may get ticketed and fined. In some states, vehicle modifications, such as tinted windows, are prohibited. • License plates are unreadable. If the license plate light is...

The Dreaded Check Engine Light…what it means.

When the check engine light appears on your dashboard, your first question is probably “How serious is this?” And then, “How do I fix it — and how much will it cost?” The check engine light is “your car’s way of trying to talk to you,” says Kristin Brocoff, spokesperson for CarMD, which provides information and products to diagnose car issues. But the problem could be as minor as a loose gas cap, or more serious, such as a faulty oxygen sensor, explains Michael Calkins, manager of technical services for AAA. Here’s what you should know about the check engine light and the possible problems it might indicate.   What the check engine light means Sensors in your engine monitor the operation of its various systems and connect to what’s called the On-Board Diagnostic II (OBD-II) system. (Note that pre-1996 cars have an older version of the diagnostic system.) When something isn’t functioning properly, the check engine light appears to alert you. A blinking or flashing check engine light indicates a more serious problem. Engine lights may differ from one carmaker to the next. The light is either orange, yellow or red and is the outline of a car’s engine, sometimes along with the words “check engine.” There are two types of warnings. Check engine light on: If the symbol appears and stays on steadily, it could be a wide range of problems. It should be taken to a repair garage soon, Calkins says. Check engine light flashing: If the symbol is blinking or flashing, this is a more serious problem. In these cases, Calkins says, you should pull over at a safe location, shut...

NHTSA’s Message Regarding the Takata Airbag Recall

Overview Tens of millions of vehicles with Takata air bags are under recall. Long-term exposure to high heat and humidity can cause these air bags to explode when deployed. Such explosions have caused injuries and deaths. NHTSA urges vehicle owners to take a few simple steps to protect themselves and others from this very serious threat to safety.   CONTACT YOUR CAR’S MANUFACTURER   TAKATA CONTACT INFORMATION Roughly 37 million vehicles equipped with 50 million defective Takata air bags are under recall because these air bags can explode when deployed, causing serious injury or even death. All vehicle owners should: Check for Recalls using your vehicle identification number (VIN). Get the Fix by calling your local dealer; it will be repaired for free. Sign Up for Recall Alerts about any future recall affecting your vehicle. Consumers should also be aware of two critically important details about this recall: The Danger of “Alpha” Air Bags: Certain 2001-2003 Honda and Acura vehicles, 2006 Ford Ranger, and Mazda B-Series trucks are at a far higher risk for an air bag explosion that could injure or kill vehicle occupants. These are referred to as “Alpha” air bags. These vehicles can and should be repaired immediately. Additional details are available here. Additional Vehicles Will Be Recalled: Additional air bags are scheduled to be recalled by December 2019, bringing the total number of affected air bags to around 65-70 million. These vehicles do not currently appear affected by this recall using a VIN search. Sign up for Recall Alerts and make sure the address on your registration is current to be sure you’re notified of this or any other future recall....

Car Care Basics

  Car Maintenance Tip #1: Watch the Oil Did you know that many vehicles today don’t really need an oil change every 3,000 miles? Many of the newer ones can go 7,500 miles before they really need a new filter. However, how many of us regularly check our oil? If I asked you how many quarts of oil were left in your car at this very moment, how many of you would have any idea? In fact, some of you might not even know how many quarts of oil your car can hold. Oil is the lifeblood of your motor. If you unknowingly let the oil drain out of your car, your engine will soon be destroyed, leaving you on the side of the road with a very large repair bill coming at you in your near future. Car Maintenance Tip #2: Check Your Transmission Fluid Another important part of our car is the transmission. If the transmission begins to break down, we may lose the ability to shift our car into reverse. Soon, all of the gears begin to go out, which means that we won’t be able to get anywhere without getting out of our car and walking. It’s incredibly important to check your transmission fluid, both to make sure that you have enough, and to be certain it’s clean. If you see metal shavings in your fluid, or if it’s a dark cloudy color, you should take it into your mechanic immediately for a flush. If you do not, you’ll likely lose your gears and need to pay for a new transmission. This can cost you anywhere from...

Your car’s AC system

So here we are, in the heart of the summer! Everything is green, birds are singing! It’s the time of the year you find out if your AC works or not in your car. There’s nothing worse on the first hot day than pushing that button or set- ting the temp to low, and all you get is warm air… Ugh! Your AC isn’t working. You have a few options. First, it needs to be diagnosed. It could be an electrical issue. It could also be you’re low or out of refrigerant. It could also be operator error (yes it happens). Your car’s AC system is designed to prevent the AC compressor from coming on if the AC charge is low. This protects the components of the system. If the air coming out isn’t cold enough to cool your car down, you may just be low on refrigerant. In my experience, most cars need AC service every four to five years. So here are some solutions. Many of us have seen the little cylinders of refrigerant at the local auto parts store. You can shoot a can of that in your system and it may work! My suggestion is not to take this route. Your AC system is designed for a specific quantity of gas. When it is properly recharged, the system is pulled into a deep vacuum. This removes all the remaining gas, oxygen, and any moisture that may have settled in the system. Also, when the system is in a deep vacuum the technician holds it there for a duration to check for leaks. It may be...

Which Tire To Choose?

Tires,tires,tires. Here we are at the end of the winter season and Summer will be here before we know it! As many people dismount their snow tires and put on the Summer tires, I’d like to take this opportunity to put some questions to rest. So much has changed in the tire industry over the past decade. Tire technology has improved, there are a larger number of manufacturers with more choices of tires in various price ranges. I find picking out tires to be a challenging task. Number one, I’m fussy, and number two, I want something that is going to last. Very rarely do people stick to the same tires their cars came with when it’s time for replacements. Most repair facilities will make suggestions for your vehicle. Most often, these suggestions are based on value, the least amount of come-backs due to a defective tire, the feedback from dissatisfied customers, and lastly, what tires are most readily available. No repair shop wants to sell you something you won’t be happy with. This is a good motivator for the shop to give you sound advice. All that aside, this is how I pick my tires:  I prefer to go with a well known brand as I find the larger companies easier to deal with when you have a defective tire and need to replace it. This also includes a good tire distributor.  I have brands that I’m partial to, generally based on my experiences with each of them. Next, I look at the tread pattern. A regular street tire that you’re going to commute with every day should...

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...