AUTONET TV


Archive for October 2019

The Byte Stuff (Your Vehicle's Computers)

Posted October 27, 2019 7:29 AM

Nobody has to tell you that computers are a part of so many things in our lives.  Smartphones, kitchen appliances, vacuum cleaners, televisions.  You name it—it has a computer in it.  And your vehicle is no exception.

The earliest cars relied on the technology of their time, and there was no such thing as a computer.  But now, it's not unusual for a vehicle to have as many as 150 computers in it.

They perform a variety of functions. An important one is diagnosing your vehicle's problems.  There are various sensors throughout modern vehicles that measure thousands of data points.  When something is not working correctly, they send a signal to another computer that stores that information. The data can be read by someone who has a special computer that plugs into a port in your car.  It displays certain codes that help technicians track down the culprit. 

But it's not just the diagnostics that are computerized.  Everything from your vehicle's fuel injection to anti-lock brakes is.  Convenience features such as power windows, rain-sensing windshield wipers, a wi-fi-hot spot, streaming video and navigation are all sophisticated computers.  Then there are the safety features; air bags, traction control, automatic emergency braking and a host of others are all dependent on computers.

It is important that those computers work correctly because they interface with many of the other computers on board.  To properly diagnose problems with those computers requires training and special equipment. Your service facility has invested considerable resources into both, and they are equipped to properly evaluate and repair and/or replace malfunctioning components. 

Some lament the days when backyard mechanics could pull out their tools and do their own repairs.  Those days are fast disappearing with the computerization of vehicles.  But look at the bright side.  Your vehicle does so much more, has so many more features and travels far more safely than those past generations drove.  And they're bound to get better and more sophisticated down the road.

AutoSurgeonInc
1820 E Kalamazoo St
Lansing, Michigan 48912
517-374-8940



Not-So-Common Sense (Sensor Failures)

Posted October 20, 2019 9:57 AM

So your vehicle won't start.  What's the first thing that comes to mind?  Battery dead? Starter motor worn out? Out of gas?  Well, those are all reasons that make sense.  But your vehicle may be refusing to start because one of its computers is being warned that to do so might damage it.  Here's how that works.

You have lots of computers in your vehicle.  They need to know the status of things so there are several sensors monitoring various things going on.  These sensors send information to the computers that adjust the fuel and air mixture so you don't waste fuel.  They know when things aren't quite right and prevent you from starting your engine if that's going to damage it. 

Other sensors make sure the coolant is the right temperature, check to see you are not polluting the air and make sure other electronic components are performing their tasks correctly.

Here's an example of a sensor doing its job.  Your engine needs oil to lubricate metal components so the friction doesn't damage them.  Your engine has an oil pressure sensor that tells a computer called the Electronic Control Unit (ECU) if things are good to go or if there's something wrong, maybe the oil pressure is too low to keep things lubricated.  If it is, it gives a signal for the vehicle not to start, protecting the engine. 

Of course, the sensors can go bad, too, with some of the same results.  And so someone has to figure out if it's the sensor that's failed or if it really has detected a problem.  That is the challenge for technicians with specialized equipment to decipher the signs.  If a bad sensor is found, it may need to be replaced.  Sometimes a thorough cleaning can do the trick.  In either case, your service facility can track down the problem and get you back on the road.  Makes sense, doesn't it?

AutoSurgeonInc
1820 E Kalamazoo St
Lansing, Michigan 48912
517-374-8940



Rear Window?Not the Movie! (Why Some Rear Windows Don't Go All the Way Down)

Posted October 13, 2019 10:56 AM

Alfred Hitchcock once made a mystery thriller film called "Rear Window." It had nothing to do with the rear window of today's cars, SUVs, CUVs and light trucks.  But there is one thing that some drivers DO find mysterious.  Why don't the rear windows in the second row of many of these vehicles go down all the way?

You've probably seen or owned one or two. That rear side window only goes down about a third, a half or three-quarters of the way. Yet there are some similar vehicles where the window goes down all the way.  What gives?

There was the rumor going around that the restriction on how far those windows could go down was a child safety feature.  The thought was that if those windows couldn't open up fully, a child (or pet) would be less likely to fall out.  But it turns out the real reason is that the way the rear doors were designed, there was just no room for the window to go down all the way into.

Many vehicles are configured so that the rear wheel arch continues into the rear door.  That arch restricts the space that would accommodate the window, so they had to stop the window somewhere higher than bottom of the door.

Seems buyers would prefer those back windows to go all the way down, so many manufacturers are changing designs to make that happen.  Longer vehicles can have their wheels pushed further back so the wheel arch isn't an issue.  Some have altered the position of the rear window track. 

If you have any questions about your rear side windows, you may want to consult your service advisor to check yours.  If they ARE supposed to go all the way down and they're not, it could be due to a few problems: corrosion, broken or bent window regulator components, electrical issues, etc. But if they're not supposed to go down all the way?  At least now you know for sure.

AutoSurgeonInc
1820 E Kalamazoo St
Lansing, Michigan 48912
517-374-8940



Your Biggest Fan (Radiator Fan Problems)

Posted October 6, 2019 12:38 PM

Your vehicle's engine makes a lot of heat when it's powering you down the road, so it needs a way to get rid of that energy.  That's why your vehicle has a cooling system, complete with a radiator and one or two radiator fans, also called cooling fans.  Those fans make sure air keeps moving across the radiator so that the heat stored in the coolant can be dissipated outside when the vehicle is stopped or not traveling fast.

Radiator fans can develop problems and can stop working properly or stop working altogether.  Some signs to look for? If you're driving slowly and idling and you see your temperature gauge moving toward the red or hot zone, that could spell trouble.  Another thing you may notice when a radiator fan is failing is that there may be a loud noise coming from the engine compartment.

There are two types of radiator fans.  One is mechanically connected to the engine and uses the engine's rotational energy to turn it.  The other is an electric fan and is the type used in most newer vehicles.  In the electrical type, one of the components, such as a relay or fuse, may fail, causing the fan to stop turning.  In the mechanical type, since it's driven by a pulley/belt mechanism, one of those components may break or stop working properly.  A clutch can wear out or a belt may slip or break. 

When your cooling fan isn't working properly, it may cause your engine to overheat which could lead to expensive damage. That's why it's important to make sure you visit your service facility if you notice any of these symptoms.  A technician is trained to diagnose the problem and make sure your radiator fan is doing its job.  When it comes to your vehicle, your radiator fan really is your biggest fan.

AutoSurgeonInc
1820 E Kalamazoo St
Lansing, Michigan 48912
517-374-8940



No Fueling! (Fuel Filler Location)

Posted October 3, 2019 3:26 AM

If you've ever gotten in an unfamiliar vehicle, maybe a rental car, you may have pulled up to the gas pump and wondered, "Which side is the fuel filler on?" Here's a tip for you.  There is usually a little arrow on the instrument panel near the fuel gauge that points to the side where the fuel filler is. 

But why are the fuel fillers not all on the same side, anyway? There are lots of reasons.  At one time, many manufacturers tried putting them in an easy-to-reach spot: in the center of the vehicle's rear end.  Some even hid them behind a hinged license plate door.  Cool place, but it turned out not to be a good idea.  When a vehicle with a fuel filler in the rear was hit by another vehicle from behind, it was much more prone to catch fire and explode.

Safety regulations now dictate that the fuel filler doors be placed within crumple zones and away from where they can drip fuel on hot exhaust pipes or near electrical connections.  But why do manufacturers put them on either side?

Some say it should be on the side away from the road.  That way if you run out of gas and have to add a little from a gas can as your standing at the side of the road, you'll be a little farther away from passing traffic.  So some companies from North America and many European firms with left-hand drive put their fillers on the right side.

Some manufacturers think convenience for the driver is paramount, so they put their fuel fillers on the driver's side.  If you have a vehicle with a cable release for the fuel door inside the cabin, it's usually on the same side as the steering wheel.  As you can see, there's no standardization.

Fuel doors need regular maintenance such as lubrication, and your gas cap (if your vehicle has one) should seal properly.  Have your service facility inspect those regularly. Wherever your fuel filler is, it's obviously important that you can get at it easily because you have to fuel up sometime. Otherwise, you're not going to go too far!

AutoSurgeonInc
1820 E Kalamazoo St
Lansing, Michigan 48912
517-374-8940



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