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Archive for January 2021

Going (Lug) Nuts (Lug Nut Replacement)

Posted January 31, 2021 9:45 AM

Here's a part of your vehicle you probably don't think about much: lug nuts.  They're what fasten your wheels onto your axles.  Pretty important, right? In order to take the wheels off your vehicle to service the brakes, rotate the tires, etc., the lug nuts have to be in good shape so a wrench will grip them tightly. 

Because lug nuts are on your wheels, they are exposed to all the elements of the road (salt, water, grime) and really take a beating. Unfortunately, some manufacturers have made them out of two different metals.  Underneath is the working part of the lug nut, made of steel.  On top is the decorative (the "good looking") part, made out of chrome, stainless steel or aluminum.  After a while, the steel part begins to corrode and expands.  That changes the shape of the outer cap, sometimes rounding off the hexagonal edges and making it hard (if not impossible) to either loosen or tighten the lug nuts since the wrench won't fit any more. 

The reason that's so important is those lug nuts must be functional, especially if you find you have a flat tire somewhere on the road.  If the wheel can't come off to be swapped with a spare, it leaves few options, one of which is your vehicle may have to be towed.  All that for corroded lug nuts!

When you take your vehicle in for service, the technician who works on it keeps an eye on many things, especially if he or she is removing wheels.  It's not unusual for your service advisor to recommend you replace several lug nuts at once since some corrode at a different rate than others. Your repair facility is trying to help you avoid driving a vehicle that has wheels that can't easily be taken off when they need to be.

The good news is there are one-piece lug nuts that don't have the problem the two-piece lug nuts have, so replacing them could eliminate that from happening again any time soon.  And that's not "nuts" at all.

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



Why You Have an O2 Sensor (Oxygen Sensor)

Posted January 24, 2021 12:09 PM

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 contamination from bad fuel.  The sensors can simply wear out, though they usually last a long time.  It's not unusual for an oxygen sensor to last 100,000 miles/160,000 km. One more thing that can cause an oxygen sensor to fail is residue from an engine that's burning oil.  Plus contaminants from the road like salt can also cause problems. 

Here are some signs that your oxygen sensors might be failing.

  • The Check Engine light goes on.  In this case, your service facility can plug in a device that will read the code in your engine's computer to see if that's the problem.
  • The engine is running roughly.
  • Black, sooty smoke is coming out of your tailpipe.
  • Your fuel economy is noticeably lower than it used to be.

Head to your service facility and tell your advisor what symptoms your vehicle is experiencing.  They have the equipment and training to track down the issue.  Note that simply replacing the oxygen sensor is often not enough since it doesn't get to the root of the problem; other repairs may be needed. 

So make sure your oxygen sensors are working the way they should be.  Oh, and back to the question of what gas makes up most of the Earth's air?  It's nitrogen, which comprises 78 percent of the air we—and our engines—breathe.

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



Taking the Heat (Heater Hose Maintenance/Repair)

Posted January 17, 2021 10:52 AM

If you have an internal combustion vehicle, you know it has a lot of hoses that carry various fluids.  And if you have a heater in your vehicle, you'll have heater hoses.

A heater hose connects to and from the engine so some coolant can be circulated through a little radiator called a heater core.  In cold weather, that heater core acts as a heat exchanger to heat up your cabin.

Even in the hot weather, the heater hoses can prove problematic.  That's because they may remain pressurized even though you're not running your heater.  Heater hoses are made out of tough materials since they must handle heat and pressure.  But even the durable rubber, plastic and metal they are made out of can crack or leak from years of use.  That means coolant can be sprayed out into the engine compartment or leak onto a driveway or garage floor. 

You may be able to see a puddle of coolant under your vehicle or perhaps smell the odor of the coolant under the hood.  Some say it has a sweet smell.  Another sign coolant may be leaking out of the heater hoses is your engine may be running hotter.   You'll be able to tell by watching the heat gauge on your dash.  Let's say your heat gauge usually points just slightly below halfway between the C and H (Cold and Hot) of the heat gauge.  But now it is just slightly above.  That's enough to tell you that the coolant temperature has gone up a little, a possible sign of trouble.

This is a good time to swing by your service facility and have them take a look. If they catch the leak when it's small, it's a relatively simple matter of draining the coolant, replacing the hoses and replacing the coolant.  Sometimes, though, a heater hose can suddenly burst and a lot of coolant can leak out quickly.  That can, in turn, cause your engine to start to overheat.  In that case, you may see your vehicle's temperature gauge shoot up pretty quickly.  Then it's best to pull over and have your car towed to a repair facility since driving with no coolant can cause severe engine damage.

Preventative maintenance is your best insurance against heater hose problems.  A technician will periodically check for any signs of cracks or leaks.  You should expect to replace a heater hose at least once during the time you own your vehicle.

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



Weather Station on Wheels (Vehicle Sensor Maintenance)

Posted January 10, 2021 9:12 AM

You probably never thought about it, but your vehicle is like a rolling weather station.  It can check the outside temperature, let you know when the roads are slippery and help you deal with rain. And how it does all those things is pretty cool.

First, just like any weather station, a vehicle has sensors that measure the driving and weather conditions you find yourself in.  Some of those sensors can control computerized systems in your vehicle to react to the weather.  It depends on whether you have a 2-wheel, 4-wheel or all-wheel drive vehicle how those sensors will respond.

Let's start with temperature.  Most vehicles now have a thermometer that measures the temperature outside.  It's usually in the front, and likely will tell you on the instrument panel what the outside temperature measures.  But a temperature sensor will also tell your vehicle's computers to turn on or off certain systems like the heating or air conditioning.  If your ambient temperature sensor isn't working right, some symptoms are a malfunctioning automatic A/C or a temperature display that is way different than the app on your phone says it should be.

Your vehicle will also have sensors that measure your speed at each wheel.  They work with an onboard computer to measure slippage in any of the wheels so traction control and antilock brakes work correctly in case of slick roads.

Your vehicle can measure something called longitudinal and latitudinal acceleration, and it uses a yaw sensor to do it.  That helps it determine if you might be in an oversteering or understeering situation.  It's important because it works with your vehicle's brakes to apply stopping power to keep you in control.

A steering wheel sensor tells the vehicle's computers what the driver is doing with the wheel.  It also can work with those wheel sensors to measure how slippery the roads are, whether it be due to a wet (rain) or granular (gravel or sand) surface.  By sending different torque or braking to each wheel, it helps the driver maintain control.

More and more vehicles now have a rain sensor that can turn on the wipers automatically when they measure precipitation on the windshield.

So, you're driving your own weather station, and making sure all this data is coming in properly depends on how each component is working.  Regular service and maintenance on these systems is important to make sure they can do their job. Your rolling weather station can't predict the weather, but it can sure help you deal with it, so help it do its job right.


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



A Door No One Can Step Through (Fuel Door Repair and Maintenance)

Posted January 3, 2021 12:32 PM

Your vehicle has lots of doors including that one usually near the back on the vehicle's side.  That's the fuel door, something you use every time you gas up.  These endure hundreds of open-and-close cycles, usually without any problems.  But when they act up, it can be a major inconvenience for you.

When they stick in the "open" position, it can present real dilemma.  You can still pump your gas, but do you just drive around with that flap sticking out the side? What happens if someone steals the gas cap or it gets damaged? What happens if it rains? Yep, it's decision time.

A fuel door that sticks open can be due to a number of factors.  The hinge on the door may have broken, possibly from corrosion or it may have been hit sometime.  Some vehicles have a cable that operates the door and it could be loose.  The latch that holds the door shut could have broken or it, too, could be bent from something hitting it. 

You probably want to take care of this sometime soon since your gas cap is wide open and unprotected when the door doesn't shut.  Plus, it's possible that the door could be torn off completely.  Often a stuck open fuel door can be fixed fairly inexpensively and quickly depending on the type of mechanism your vehicle has. Looks like it's an open and shut case.

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



I Had No Idea! (Four Things You Didn't Know About Vehicles)

Posted January 1, 2021 7:54 AM

Bet you didn't know:

Some of the earliest rearview mirrors were marketed as "Cop Spotters" so drivers would know when police were following them. Who wants a ticket, anyway? According to eBay Motors, Elmer Berger first patented a rearview mirror that was mounted on the front fenders, on the spare tire secured to the side of the car of at the top of the driver's door frame. 

About 80 percent of your vehicle is recyclable. So says The Balance. That means four-fifths of most vehicles can be recycled.  Much of that recycling is done by automotive aftermarket recyclers.  Between the U.S and Canada, they reclaim enough steel to produce 13 million new vehicles.

The man who invented the first modern cruise control couldn't even drive a car because he was blind! His name, says Smithsonian.com, was Ralph Teetor.  Blinded at a young age by a knife accident, Teetor was inspired to create a speed control by a couple of things.  One, the U.S. imposed a mandatory 35 mph/55 kph during World War II to conserve fuel and tire rubber, and Teetor wanted drivers to go a safe and steady speed.  Plus, a chauffeur who drove him around used to randomly slow down and speed up which irritated Teetor.  So he invented a speed control to encourage drivers to drive at a more constant and safer speed.

The first grooved tires were invented in 1904 by Continental.  But that was a big improvement over the very first "tires" which were actually metal hoops that made riding in the first cars a pretty rough experience.  The first rubber tires were solid rubber, not inflatable like today's tires.  Things have come a long way.  Modern tires are made with sophisticated rubber compounds that can deal with heat and cold.  Plus their tread patterns help drivers get better traction on wet roads when it storms.  Still, it's important to make sure yours have enough tread and are properly inflated for maximum safety and performance.

Quite frankly, there's a lot we don't understand about the vehicles we drive.  They're much more complicated than the old horse and buggy that preceded  them.  Leave your vehicle's maintenance and service to highly trained technicians who DO understand how to maintain, diagnose and repair today's modern, sophisticated vehicles. 

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



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