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Articles:

Sounds Like a Hot Rod (Noisy Exhaust System)

Driving along, your exhaust system's rumbling so loud that people turn and stare at you pass by.  You're wondering when the police are going to pull you over for illegal noise. Your mind immediately thinks, aha! A broken muffler.  Well, your exhaust system is composed of many more parts than just a muffler.  Your engine makes power because of thousands of tiny explosions from detonating fuel.  Those explosions make a racket, so engineers came up with a system that acoustically dampens that sound in addition to getting rid of harmful exhaust. In the engine is the exhaust manifold that looks like several pipes that join up into one pipe.  It directs exhaust to the catalytic converter. The catalytic converter converts harmful gases into less harmful gases using certain chemical reactions.  Then comes the muffler that has baffles inside to quiet the sounds of your engine noise.  Finally: the tailpipe. All of those pipes and parts are joined together by cl ... read more

Categories:

Exhaust

Cool Running (Water Pump)

Your vehicle is like you in a way.  When it gets hot, it needs to be cooled down.  And one of the key parts to keeping it cool is the water pump. Now, that's a bit of a misnomer.  It IS a pump, but it's pumping coolant, not pure water.  Cooling off your engine is vital since it builds up heat when it creates power by burning fuel.  Your water pump acts as a way to recirculate that coolant.  It goes through a series of tubes and hoses through the engine where it picks up heat, then is sent off to the radiator to get rid of that heat.  Cooled off, the coolant is recycled through the water pump to start the journey again. The water pump works by taking mechanical power from the engine, usually from a belt.  Obviously, that belt has to be in good condition and adjusted properly or else the water pump won't be able to do its job. Here are some things to look for that will signal problems with your water pump.  If your heat gauge is erratic or sho ... read more

Categories:

Water Pump

Passing the Test (How to Prevent Emissions Test Failure)

Vehicle emission testing has become ubiquitous in North America and for a good reason.  Clean air quality is important for the environment and all of us.  Since vehicle emissions are among the main causes of air pollution, emission testing can alert you to problems in your vehicle than can be fixed so it won't needlessly pollute. Emissions tests are looking for certain toxic gases internal combustion engines produce, such as nitrogen oxide, particulate matter, non-methane organic gases and formaldehyde.  Emissions control systems reduce these gases if they are working properly.  The best way to minimize pollution is to keep those vehicle systems working properly, and periodic inspection and maintenance is the key.  So if you want to make sure your vehicle will pass an emissions test, it helps to know what might go wrong. Let's start on the easy one.  Your gas cap could be loose, allowing vapors to escape into the atmosphere.  The most common solution ... read more

The Vivacious Vernal Vehicle (Preparing Vehicle for Spring)

Most of us look forward to spring because the days are longer, the weather's warmer and we can finally get our vehicles into warm weather mode.  Here are a few things that will breathe fresh energy into anyone's car, SUV, truck or van. First thing is a good cleaning, especially underneath. If you live where salt and brine are used on the roads, it's important to get that off.  One thing to note… if you hose off your undercarriage, be careful not to get your spark plugs/wires wet.  You could notice your vehicle running rough plus the Check Engine light may come on. It usually dries out quickly, but if the engine light stays on for more than a couple of days, have your service facility check it out. Next, replace your windshield wipers.  They've taken a beating through the winter. New ones will have fresh rubber and you'll see clearly (and safely) out your windshield again. Have your brakes inspected.  That salt doesn't do your brake's metal components any ... read more

Categories:

Inspection

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

Why You Have an O2 Sensor (Oxygen Sensor)

If someone asked you what gas made up the largest portion of the atmosphere, what would you guess? Well, it's not oxygen; it only makes up 20.9 percent.  But since we're talking about oxygen, you should know that your vehicle uses oxygen sensors to make sure your engine is running the way it should. The oxygen sensors measure how much oxygen is in your exhaust.  If there's too much, it means there's a problem with the mixture of fuel and air.  The sensor sends signals to computers in your engine and adjusts the mixture so it maximizes performance and efficiency.  It does this constantly.  Many vehicles have multiple oxygen sensors.  Some have one close to the engine, another close to the muffler.  Two measurements are better than one since they allow readings to be more accurate.  You may have a vehicle with a dual exhaust, so you'd have twice as many oxygen sensors. Your oxygen sensors can fail.  One thing that can damage them is contaminat ... read more

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

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 u ... read more

Don't Be Shocked (Shock Absorbers)

If you've ever ridden down a rough road on your bicycle, you know how hard a ride it can be.  Yet drive down the same road in your car, truck or SUV and it miraculously will smooth out the ride.  That's because it is equipped with shock absorbers.  They are built to dampen impacts from road irregularities.  But after taking hundreds of hits from potholes, railroad tracks and curbs, your shock absorbers can wear out.  Besides the rough ride that can cause, there are other ways your vehicle's performance can be affected. When it comes to braking for example, you may take a longer distance to stop.  That's because shocks help keep your tires in contact with the surface of the road.  If the shocks aren't working properly, the tires won't make contact like they should.  So when you slam on the brakes, your vehicle will take longer to stop. Consider what worn out shocks are doing to your tires.  Since the bumps aren't being dampened as much, your ... read more

Categories:

Shocks & Struts

What Is an EGR Valve? (EGR Valve Service)

If you've ever felt your vehicle hesitate, go, then hesitate again, you might think there's something wrong with the transmission.  After all, it's not moving smoothly  down the road.  But there are plenty of malfunctions that can cause those symptoms, one of them being something you may have never heard of: the EGR valve. EGR stands for Exhaust Gas Recirculation. It's a system that channels small amounts of exhaust back into the engine to cool down the cylinders and reduce polluting gases.  Those include nitrogen oxides that can cause smog. The EGR valve regulates how much of the vehicle's exhaust gas is recirculated. After years and long distances traveled, that valve can get clogged or fail. Sometimes the EGR valve can stick open.  When the EGR valve isn't working properly, your vehicle can start releasing those nitrogen oxides and pollute the air. The symptoms of a malfunctioning EGR valve include: Engine losing power Engine idling roughly Pinging and knoc ... read more

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