Saturday, February 27, 2016

3 Repairs Never To Do On Your Own

It's easy to want to save money when it comes to car repairs. Oil changes and fluid replacements are simple tasks that many people do in the comfort of their own garage. Major repairs, however, are not something that should be done at home. Simple mistakes can lead to bigger issues and costlier repairs in the long run. Here are three car repairs you should never try at home.

1. Transmission Maintenance or Repair

Your transmission is one of the most intricate parts under your hood. Transmissions consist of thousands of small parts, and narrow passageways for hydraulic fluid. With so many parts and pieces, all essential to the performance and functionality of your transmission, there is a lot that can go wrong, and none of the scenarios are kind to your pocket.

Transmission repairs and maintenance should be left to professionals well versed in the intricate workings of this particular part.

2. Timing Belt Replacement

For your engine to run properly, it is essential that the necessary valves open and close at the appropriate times your engine intakes and exhausts. The synchronization of these valves are controlled by the crankshaft or camshaft(s), which are controlled by... you guessed it, the timing belt.

Most manufacturers recommend replacing your timing belt every 60,000 miles or five years, whichever comes first. Trying to do this replacement at home can be much more expensive than taking it to a certified mechanic. If the top half of your engine (the cylinder head and valves), cannot sync with the bottom half of your engine (the crankcase and pistons), your vehicle will not run properly, if at all.

3. Replacing Suspension Mechanisms

At first glance, it may look relatively easy to replace parts like struts, arms, and bushings at home, but looks can be deceiving. Not only does replacing suspension mechanisms at home pose the risk of damaging important components, but it also comes with the risk of physical harm (like when dealing with compressed coil springs).

Even if a home mechanic is able to successfully replace suspension components, odds are that they do not have the equipment needed to properly align their wheels and get the job done right. Your best bet is to have your suspension issues repaired or replaced by a certified auto shop where the necessary equipment is available. Bad suspension can do more than make your ride bumpy, it can lead to more issues than you had when you began.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Consumer Reports 2016 Top Car Picks | Consumer Reports

What does it take to be the best? We calculate which cars have the best Overall Score in categories from subcompact to luxury SUV to find Consumer Reports 2016 Top Picks.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

How to Tell When Your Car Needs a Tune-Up

Normal daily driving subjects cars to a lot of wear and tear. Even a small malfunction of one part makes a huge difference in performance and safety. Recommended tune up intervals vary depending on the age and model of the vehicle. Check the owner's manual for specific recommendations.

Most newer vehicles need a tune-up every 30,000 miles. Check older vehicles every 10,000 to 20,000 miles. Tune-up the car more often if it pulls heavy load or if it is used for a lot of stop-and-go driving.

A typical tune up involves flushing and filling vehicle fluids, checking all belts and hoses, checking the battery, installing a new air filter, adjusting or replacing spark plugs, and checking fuel injectors and other components. Mechanics also use modern automobile diagnostics that reveal other maintenance issues.

• The "Check Engine" or "Service Engine Soon" lights come on and stay on after starting the vehicle.

• The car stalls frequently, indicating a spark plug or electronic sensor issue.

• The engine idles roughly, or it runs unevenly during acceleration. Sputtering while accelerating or going uphill indicates the car needs a tune up. Often a dirty emissions system causes cars to sputter or stall.

• The car becomes harder to start. This may indicate problems with the starting system, battery, fuel system, ignition system, or electronic equipment.

• The vehicle suddenly gets lower gas mileage than usual. Dirty fuel filters, bad fuel injectors, and spark plug problems commonly cause unexpectedly low gas mileage.

• The car makes a loud squealing noise when the steering wheel is turned, or the steering feels very stiff. Low fluids affect how the steering mechanism operates.

• The vehicle makes a sudden jerk when shifted from park to drive gears. This indicates the car needs the transmission fluid and filter changed immediately. Failure to fix these minor items leads to very costly repairs in the future, including transmission replacement.

• The brakes feel soft or spongy, or squeaking or squelching noises occur when pushing down the brake pedal. This indicates low brake fluid. Consistently low brake fluid indicates worn out brake pads.

• A "rotten egg" exhaust odor indicates a dirty or clogged catalytic converter. A tune up checks and cleans the catalytic converter. A clogged catalytic converter also affects gas mileage and overall vehicle performance.

• Chugging or "dieseling" after the car is shut off indicates the vehicle needs a tune up. Other causes of dieseling include buildup of carbon in the combustion chambers. Poor quality gas cause chugging and dieseling in some engines.

• Knocks and pings from the engine compartment result from carbon build-up in the combustion chambers. These noises may indicate a need to replace the fuel injectors.

• The car emits black smoke or a burnt fuel smell from the tail pipes. This may be the result of a clogged O2 sensor.

Tune-ups let the car's ignition system, fuel system, emission system, and computer systems work together properly. This leads to optimum combustion chamber efficiency, better performance, and better gas mileage. The car runs its best and emits the minimum amount of pollutants when it has regular maintenance, including tune-ups.

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Thursday, February 18, 2016

Under the Hood: The Chemistry of Cars - Cynthia Chubbuck

There are over one billion cars in the world right now, getting people from point A to point B. But cars aren't just a mode of transportation; they also teach an excellent lesson in chemistry. Cynthia Chubbuck navigates the intricate chemistry performed in our car engines that keep them from getting too hot or too cold.

Lesson by Cynthia Chubbuck, animation by FOX Animation Domination High-Def.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Top 4 Car Repair Problems And How To Recognize The Symptoms

1. The Check Engine Light

It can be a little disturbing when you're driving and the check engine light keeps coming on and going off. It's supposed to give you an indication that something's wrong, but more often than not it's an indication of faulty wiring and no car repair is necessary. The only trouble with that is, if there is a serious problem, you'll ignore the light when it comes on. In general, if it seems to have a mind of its own, it's probably bad wiring. If it comes on and you notice something else wrong with the car, then it's time to get it looked at. In either case, get it looked at next time you've got your car at the mechanic's.

2. Leaky Water Pump

If your vehicle is leaking some kind of fluid, it can be pretty scary. The most common leak you find in cars is the water pump. Water pumps just can't take the strain we put on our cars these days. One way to tell if it's the water pump is to put paper under the car overnight, and check in the morning. If the leaky stuff is green, this means that it's coolant that's leaking from your water pump. Water pumps have to be replaced occasionally, usually around every 100,000 miles, so expect to get yours replaced at some point.

3. Your Engine Won't Start

You crank it and just get a little clicking sound - This means you've got something wrong with your fuel or ignition. Unfortunately, there could be lots of different reasons why your vehicle won't start, including low batter, clogged fuel filter, defective fuel pump or an ignition switch that doesn't work. This is when you'll need somebody who knows about car repair to have a look and make an assessment. None of these things means the death of your vehicle; they're all problems that can be pretty easily fixed.

4. White Smoke And Overheating

Overheating is a common problem for many types of vehicles. The most common cause is low coolant level; make sure you've got enough coolant in there. You might also have trouble with a dirty air filter or a broken fan which isn't keeping everything cooled down like it's supposed to. The problem may even be a broken thermostat which doesn't tell you you're in danger until it's already blown its top. Check the coolant first, and if that's not a problem, see if the coolant might be leaking. This is another issue that can be solved with some simple car repair.

Look out for these problems and call the car repair specialists if you need to. Remember that all of these are minor problems so don't panic. Get them taken care of as soon as possible.

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Friday, February 12, 2016

16 Best Family Cars of 2016 - Kelley Blue Book

Kelley Blue Book's editorial team recently assembled a large group of family cars to see which stood out as truly exceptional.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Importance Of Regular Brake Maintenance and Shocks and Struts Repair

Most drivers are surprised to learn just how quickly brakes wear down. They buy a new car, and before the warranty has even expired, their mechanic is telling them they need new brakes. More often than not, the problem is in the front brakes. Because most of a vehicle's weight shifts to the front when stopping, the front brakes absorb most of the impact. Friction does damage to the stopping system each and every time it is used. The good news is that this damage can be easily and affordably repaired if maintenance is done on a regular basis.

Replace the Pads

The single most common maintenance task is replacing worn-out pads. These steel cushions are attached to the calipers that clamp down on the brake discs and bring the vehicle to a halt. As you might imagine, they experience an awful lot of wear and tear during normal operation. But because they are inexpensive, pads should be replaced as often as needed.

Failure to replace pads can and will damage other parts of your braking system. Most mechanics will recommend replacing them when they wear down to less than 1/8th of an inch. Depending on your driving habits, this can take anywhere from two to five years. Good pads will last about forty thousand miles. When they are replaced on a regular basis, steel pads will protect brake discs, which are far more expensive. Worn-out pads will not provide the protection needed to prevent calipers from cutting deep grooves in discs, grooves that may cause the pedal to pulsate or seize when applied.

Shocks And Struts Repair

It might surprise you to learn that components outside of your braking system can have a dramatic effect on stopping distance. In particular, your shocks and struts are responsible for maintaining an even, steady ride. If your vehicle requires shocks and struts repair, it simply will not be able to stop on a dime. The problem? The excessive swaying and bouncing that commonly occurs when these components go bad can rob your car of at least 10 feet of stopping distance, according to testing.

The good news is that the average shocks and struts repair is a relatively simple, affordable automotive procedure. Even if the parts need to be replaced, the job shouldn't cost you more than a few hundred dollars. That is a small price to pay for improved braking and driving performance. It is important to add that automotive professionals recommend getting these important components checked every 12,000 to 15,000 miles. On average, shocks and struts repair or replacement is needed every 50,000 miles.

In the end, taking proper care of your braking system and the components that affect it saves time and money. It also ensures that your vehicle will be safe to drive for years to come.

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Saturday, February 6, 2016

Signs You May Need Transmission Repair

In this day and age, a trustworthy car is incredibly important. With the hours we spend on the road going back and forth between work, home, and other errands, we get to know the feel and sound of our cars and when something doesn't sound right, we rush our mechanical companion to the shop right away! The transmission is one of the most important parts of each car, and there are several signs that can indicate that repair is needed.

Leaking fluid is one of the more serious, though early, signs that transmission repair is needed. It may be remedied by replacing external seals, or it may require more complicated work. Either way, the car should be in the shop as soon as possible. If the fluid continues to leak, the transmission will fail completely and require a costly replacement.

The low fluid level may cause your car to maintain a neutral position for a short period of time when you try to accelerate from a complete stop or you're making a turn. Unfortunately, once the transmission fluid becomes low, it indicates that a leak has formed. It's imperative to have your car examined as soon as possible.

At times the fluid may begin leaking over the exhaust, causing a burning smell. In addition to the danger of ruining your car, this situation can also cause the potential of a fire. The fluid leaking onto the exhaust is incredibly hot!

A second indication of trouble is the shaking or bucking the car begins to exhibit when driven at highway speeds. Another problem that may come up is transmission slipping. This happens when the engine is revving, but no power is making its way to the wheels. An expert can evaluate the work that needs to be done.

If you notice your car becomes sluggish when shifting between gears, it's time to see a mechanic as soon as possible. While the car may simply need to be adjusted, it's better to confirm that you do not require major transmission repair.

Sometimes your car will simply refuse to shift into certain gears. And some computer-controlled cars will automatically revert to a "failsafe" or "limp home" mode in order to protect the transmission from further damage. The car can then be brought to the shop safely to be repaired.

Nowadays cars are built with computer-controlled parts. A lighted check engine light may be an indication that something is wrong with the transmission. Repair specialists can read your car's computer printout and determine what part of the engine is causing the light to illuminate.

With so many different indications, you may be confused when it comes to trying to self-diagnose your car's problems. This is why it's so important to have an expert examine your car when you feel that something isn't right. It's always better to be safely driving to your destination after having a necessary, though costly transmission repair, rather than stranded on the side of the road with an even more serious replacement needed!

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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

6 Safety Sensors to Clean on Your Car This Winter | Consumer Reports

Winter driving can make your car filthy with dirt, salt, snow, and ice. These are the six sensors you need to keep clean to make sure your vehicle's safety features operate properly.