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COLONY TIRE’S FREQUENTLY ASKED AUTOMOTIVE QUESTIONS

1. BRAKES

Question: How do brake rotors work?

Answer: The brake rotor is an iron disc connected to the tire’s hub that is used in a disc brake assembly. Disc brakes are mostly used on the front wheels of vehicles, but they have increasingly been used on rear wheels as well. Rotors work hand-in-hand with brake pads to stop your vehicle. When you step on your brake pedal, your vehicle’s brake pads are compressed against the rotor creating friction. This friction enables your vehicle to stop while also creating a tremendous amount of heat. Rotors consist of two iron discs connected by ribs. When the brakes are applied, the brake pads are pressed to both iron discs. There are many different rib designs for rotors, but they all do the same thing. They aid in dissipating the large amounts of heat created by the friction between the rotor and brake pads. These ribs allow the hot air to vent from the rotor and also direct air in to cool the rotor. It is very important for rotors to be able to dissipate the large amount of heat so they can work properly. There are also two different types of high-performance rotors: drilled and slotted rotors. Drilled rotors consist of holes drilled in specific patterns on the surface of the rotor. Even though these holes provide less of a surface area for brake pads to squeeze, they allow heat, gas, and water to pass quickly from the rotor surface. A slotted rotor has directional slots or ridges carved into the rotor surface. Again, these slots move heat, gas, and water away from the rotor surface. These two designs are beneficial for high-performance vehicles, but they have their issues. Drilled rotors are not very durable and can crack around the holes; slotted rotors can cause excessive wear to brake pads.

When brake pads are compressed against the rotor, the friction created stops the vehicle. This friction eventually wears not only the brake pads, but also the rotor. Rotors develop wear patterns from the brake pads over time. When a worn brake pad is replaced, rotors need to be machined smooth to remove the wear patterns. A rotor can be machined smooth only so many times before it is worn too much. Each rotor must have a certain width, which is inscribed on the rotor, and if the rotor is too worn, it must be replaced. Over time, rotors can also develop heat cracks and other damage.

2. OIL CHANGE

Question: Why do you need an oil change?

Answer: Engine oil is responsible for keeping the engine running smoothly. Regular changing of your vehicle’s oil will allow your engine to last much longer. Engine oil reduces the friction among all of the engine’s moving parts. As oil gets old, it doesn’t lubricate the engine’s parts as well and can lead to increased wear and damage. Fresh oil also absorbs and disperses heat much better than old oil does. Oil is also responsible for removing the harmful microscopic wear particles and transferring them to the oil filter. These particles have a tendency to accumulate in old engine oil and won’t allow the oil to absorb any more debris. Dirt and debris will continue to accumulate and can cause more wear to the engine. Dirty oil also moves much slower and makes the engine work much harder to circulate the oil. Eventually, the old oil will stop lubricating the engine and can lead to significant engine damage and possible engine failure.

Generally, you should change your vehicle’s oil every 3,000 miles or every 3 months. However, many newer vehicles require oil changes every 5,000 miles. In order to keep your engine running smoothly, you should consult your vehicle’s manufacturer recommendations on oil changes.

3. WHEEL ALIGNMENT

Question: What is a wheel alignment?

Answer: A wheel alignment makes sure that your vehicle’s tires are pointing straight ahead. A wheel alignment deals with changing the angles of your tires so they are perpendicular to the ground and parallel to each other, which allows your vehicle to drive in a straight line. Having your tires aligned properly will maximize tire life and make handling your vehicle easier. Tires can be knocked out of alignment by hitting large potholes or other objects such as curbs. Once your tire is knocked out of alignment, it can cause difficult handling and excessive wearing of the tires. There are three things that affect your vehicle’s wheel alignment: camber, caster, and toe. Camber is the angle of the wheel when viewed from the front of the vehicle. Your tire’s camber measurement should be 0°. This means that the tire should be flat, or perpendicular on the ground; this causes the tire to ride perfectly on the “footprint” or middle of your tire. If your tire’s camber is off, meaning it is tilting inward or outward, it will cause excessive wear on the inside or the outside of the tire depending on which way it is tilting. If the tire’s camber is off, it can also lead to excessive pulling of your vehicle. Caster is the angle of your vehicle’s steering pivot when looked at from the side. The steering pivot is what allows your tires to turn when you turn your wheel. Your vehicle’s caster should be positive. This means that the top of the steering pivot should be farther toward the back of your vehicle than the bottom steering pivot. Positive caster basically means that your vehicle’s tires steer on an axis that is out in front of the tire’s contact patch (where your tire touches the ground). Having positive caster makes your tire more stable when driving in a straight line. Your tire’s caster should be the same on both sides of the vehicle; if it’s not the same, then the vehicle will tend to pull to the side that is less positive. Toe is a measurement of how parallel your tires are to each other. Toe measures the distance between the fronts of your two front tires and the rears of the two front tires. The distances should be the same. If the fronts of your tires are closer to each other than the rears, your tire is said to be in a toe-in position. If the rears of the tires are closer than the fronts, then your tire is in a toe-out position. Just think of your feet when you walk. Your foot should be pointing straight ahead when you step. If your foot points inward, it would be in a toe-in position. If your foot points outward, it would be in a toe-out position. If you tire’s toe measurement is not equal, it can lead to excessive tire wear and difficult handling.

Having your wheels aligned properly will maximize your tire life and will allow your vehicle to ride in a straight line. Having proper wheel alignment also gives you better gas mileage, improves your handling, and improves your steering. Overall, it makes driving safer.

There are several things that can signal a need for a wheel alignment. First, when you are driving on a straight road, your vehicle should be able to stay in a straight line. If it steers off to one side, your vehicle may be out of alignment. Second, watch for things like uneven tire wear, excessive pulling, and difficult handling. All of these may be signs that your vehicle is out of alignment and should be checked.

4. STATE VEHICLE SAFETY INSPECTION

Question: What is a North Carolina and Virginia State Vehicle Safety Inspection?

Answer: North Carolina and Virginia requires this yearly safety inspection to make sure that all vehicles used on public roads are in good condition and safe to drive. The goal is to catch any damage or issues with vehicles before they cause an accident. The North Carolina and Virginia state safety inspection can be performed by any official North Carolina and Virginia Department of Transportation service station. Any such station will have a sign to let you know they are an official DOT service station. The following are checked during the safety inspection: brake system, body and chassis, defrost, electrical system, exhaust system, fuel system, glass and mirrors, horn, lighting system, odometer, steering, suspension, tires, and windshield wipers/washing system. Your vehicle will also be checked for any signs of tampering with your emissions system.

Your vehicle is required to be inspected on or before your annual (once a year) inspection date.

5. AIR FILTERS

Question: Air Filters – How do they work?

Answer: Air filters play a vital role in allowing your engine to run efficiently while keeping it clean. Engines require a free flow of clean air to operate. Outside air goes through the air filter, into the intake manifold, and mixes with your vehicle’s gas to power your engine. Engines require exact ratios of air and gas for engines to run as efficiently as possible; so, it is important to have a clean air filter. There are many contaminants that can get into your engine, such as dust, dirt, salt, tiny rocks, bugs, etc. Air filters have to stop these contaminants before they damage your engine by clogging passageways or damaging pistons and other internal engine parts.

Dirt and debris build up over time and clog the pores on your engine’s air filter. Generally, you should have your air filter replaced every other time you have your oil changed (about every 6,000 miles). At the very least, you should have your air filter changed once a year. However, depending on where you live and the conditions of roads on which you drive (dirt or dusty roads), you should check your air filter every time you change your oil. This regular maintenance can lead to better engine performance and gas mileage.

6. BATTERY REPLACEMENT

Question: When should you replace a battery?

Answer: If you turn your key in the ignition and nothing happens (your engine won’t start), you have a problem with your battery or your starting system. It will be necessary to have your vehicle jumped and taken to a repair shop to have the battery checked. If the battery is weak, you will need to have it replaced. Another way to ensure your battery is good is to have it checked every 3 months or 3,000 miles, basically whenever you have your oil changed. We will check your battery free of charge at every visit.

7. COOLING SYSTEM FLUSH AND FILL

Question: What is a cooling system flush and fill?

Answer: Most of the energy created from your vehicle’s gasoline is converted to heat energy. Your engine produces large amounts of heat that must be controlled by your engine’s cooling system. A cooling system keeps your vehicle’s engine from overheating, but it also allows the engine to become hot very quickly and stay at a constant temperature. Engines are less efficient and more prone to pollution when they are cold. Cooling systems use fluid called antifreeze to control the engine’s temperature. Engine coolants must be able to withstand temperatures below 0 degrees without freezing and above 250 degrees without boiling. Water is very capable of withstanding heat, but it also freezes at temperatures too high to be suited for your engine. Therefore, your vehicle uses a substance called ethylene glycol, which improves boiling and freezing points; ethylene glycol is mixed with water to control your engine’s temperature. This substance is also called antifreeze. Antifreeze is typically 50% water and 50% ethylene glycol. It travels through the engine’s pipes and passageways to absorb heat and cool the engine. It also contains rust and corrosion inhibitors as well as lubricants. A cooling system flush and fill is very simple. Your vehicle’s old engine coolant/antifreeze is drained from the radiator, your cooling system is flushed, and new antifreeze is added to the radiator.

Antifreeze should be replaced every 2 years or 30,000 miles. Antifreeze contains certain rust and corrosion inhibitors that lose their effectiveness, which can lead to build up and overheating in your engine. A flush is required to clean the cooling system, and new engine coolant fluid/antifreeze is added to ensure your cooling system is working properly.

8. DIFFERENTIAL FLUID SERVICE

Question: How does differential fluid service work?

Answer: To understand what differential fluid does, one must understand a vehicle’s differential. Depending on what type of vehicle you have, front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, or all-wheel drive, your differential will be located at the front of your vehicle; rear of your vehicle; or in the front, center and the rear of your vehicle respectively. The differential is the last stop for your engine’s power before it is transferred to your wheels. The differential is required to allow your wheels to turn at different speeds. When your vehicle is negotiating a turn, each of your wheels travels a different route and distance. The two inside wheels of a turn travel a shorter distance than the outside wheels. Your front and rear wheels also travel a different distance. Now, remember that equation back in science class: Speed is equal to Distance divided by Time? Well, using that equation, plus knowing that your vehicle’s inside wheels travel a shorter distance than your vehicle’s outside wheels travel during a turn, we know that your vehicle’s inside wheels travel at a lower speed than your outside wheels during the turn. It is your vehicle’s differential that controls the different paths and speeds of the inside and outside wheels during turns. The differential fluid is used to lubricate and cool the gears and shafts in your vehicle’s differential. The fluid is required to keep the parts lubricated, therefore, running smoothly, and also, to reduce the heat produced by the friction of the moving parts. Differential fluid service involves draining all of the old fluid and replacing it with new differential fluid.

You should have your differential fluid replaced according to your owner’s manual and manufacturer’s recommendation. Typically, your differential fluid should be replaced from 15,000 to 30,000 miles. Many vehicles are different, and you should consult your owner’s manual for the recommended mileage. When you have your fluid changed, you should also check all of the gears, shafts, and other parts in your differential for excessive wear in order to keep your differential working properly.

9. RADIATOR

Question: How does a radiator function?

Answer: Most of your vehicle’s energy is converted to heat. Just think, all of the moving parts in your engine create much friction and give off much heat energy. The oil in your engine and your vehicle’s exhaust system take care of some of the heat, but the cooling system has to take care of the rest. Your cooling system is in charge of, for lack of a better word, cooling your engine. The cooling system has to make sure that your engine doesn’t overheat and breakdown. Your engine’s radiator is one of the most important parts of your cooling system. Your engine’s temperature is constantly watched by a special thermostat. When the engine gets too hot, the thermostat releases engine coolant, or antifreeze, from your radiator into your engine. The antifreeze travels through the engine’s pipes and passageways to absorb heat and cool the engine. Then, the antifreeze returns to the radiator to be cooled. The antifreeze is cooled three different ways. First, your radiator contains many small chambers through which the antifreeze travels to cool. All of the excess heat then escapes through the radiator’s walls. Second, your engine uses a fan located between the engine and the radiator, and third, the radiator uses the air that blows into the engine through your vehicle’s grill to aid in the cooling process. Once the antifreeze is cooled, it is ready to be re-released into the engine to keep your engine cool and running smoothly.

The most common problem with your engine’s radiator is a leak. A leak is obvious enough to detect and can usually be fixed quite easily. If you find any engine coolant/antifreeze leaking from your engine, have your vehicle inspected for any leaks or damaged radiator hoses. When you have your engine flushed or your antifreeze changed, you should have your radiator inspected. Your antifreeze should be changed every two years or 30,000 miles. Remember, your radiator is a very important component of your vehicle. Without it, your engine will overheat and fail.

Radiator hoses can last for several years; sometimes they can last for over ten years. However, it is important to check the condition of your radiator hoses periodically. Wait until your engine cools completely, and then feel your radiator hoses. They shouldn’t feel too hard and brittle or too soft and mushy. Inspect the hoses for any cracks as well. You should also check the clamps that hold the radiator hoses in place. If there appears to be any excessive wear or any cracks in your radiator hoses, have them replaced immediately.

10. SERPENTINE BELTS

Question: How do serpentine belts work?

Answer: A Serpentine Belt is a multi-ribbed belt that powers almost everything in the front of your engine. The Serpentine Belt’s name comes from its resemblance to a snake, or serpent, in the way it wraps itself around so many different pulleys. It powers the crankshaft, which controls your engine’s pistons; power steering; alternator, which generates the electrical currents to power everything electrical in the car; air conditioner; and the water pump, just to name a few. The water pump may be the most important part powered by the Serpentine Belt. The water pump is an integral part of your engine’s cooling system. If your engine’s water pump failed, the engine could overheat and cease to operate. Older vehicles used to use several belts to drive all of your engine’s parts. Now, a single Serpentine Belt can handle all of these jobs.

Serpentine Belts don’t last forever. They will eventually wear with extended use and should occasionally be inspected. To inspect your Serpentine Belt, wait for your engine to cool completely, pop your hood and look for any damage, such as fraying or cracking, on your belt. Also, check that the belt is securely on all of its pulleys. If the belt appears to be damaged or loose, have it replaced as soon as possible to prevent any further damage. If you are experiencing difficulty turning at low speeds, your power steering may be failing due to a loose or damaged Serpentine Belt. If this happens, check your belt or have your vehicle’s belt inspected by a professional. It is recommended that your Serpentine Belt be replaced every 60,000 miles. To be on the safe side, whenever you change your engine’s oil, give your Serpentine Belt a check to make sure it is in good condition. It is much easier to catch a damaged belt early and have it replaced, than it is to have your engine fail while you are driving.

11. SHOCK ABSORBERS

Question: How do shock absorbers function?

Answer: Shock absorbers are an integral part of a vehicle’s suspension. A shock absorber is designed to absorb or dampen the compression and rebound of the springs and suspension. They control the unwanted and excess spring motion. Shock absorbers keep your tires in contact with the road at all times. Before going any further, let’s discuss some key terms that will help us understand how shock absorbers work. Back in elementary school we learned about energy, more specifically, we learned about potential and kinetic energy. We also learned about the Law of Conservation of Energy. The Law of Conservation of Energy states that energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only change forms. Potential energy is stored energy and kinetic energy is energy in motion. Now, let’s get back to shock absorbers. When you hit any bump or dip in a road, your vehicle’s suspension and springs move so the tire can stay in contact with the road and absorb the energy. The shock absorbers dampen the movement of the springs by converting the spring’s kinetic energy into thermal (heat) energy. This thermal energy is then degenerated in hydraulic fluid. Shock absorbers are an oil-filled cylinder. When your vehicle’s suspension moves, a piston moves up and down through the oil-filled cylinder. The up-and-down movement of the piston forces small amounts of fluid through orifices (tiny holes) in the piston head. Since only a small amount of fluid is forced out, this slows down the suspension’s movement and dampens the compression and rebound of the springs. Shock absorbers are also velocity-sensitive. This means that the faster the springs are moving, the more resistance the shock absorber provides.

Leaking shocks are an obvious sign of worn shock absorbers. However, detecting a worn shock absorber may not be this easy. If your vehicle is bouncing or swaying excessively, you should have your vehicle’s suspension inspected by a professional. The best way to check if your vehicle is bouncing excessively is to drive over familiar roads and see if there is more bouncing than usual. You can also perform the bounce test. What you do is bounce each corner of your vehicle a few times, and after you let go, the vehicle should bounce only once and then settle. If your vehicle settles after one bounce your shocks are good. If the vehicle continues to bounce, your shock absorbers may be worn and should be checked. Experts recommend that you should have your shock absorbers checked once a year or every 12,000 miles.

12. STARTING AND CHARGING SYSTEMS

Question: What is a starter?

Answer: Car starters are electrical motors in charge of starting your vehicle’s engine. In order to work, the starter receives a tremendous amount of electricity from the battery. When you turn your key in the ignition, the battery sends an electrical current to the starter solenoid, which is located on the starter motor, and then the starter solenoid actually powers the starter. When the starter receives the electrical current from the battery, a small gear extends out of the starter and engages the vehicle’s flywheel. The small gear will begin to turn the flywheel, and then the flywheel turns the crankshaft, which powers the engine. Once the engine starts, the small gear from the starter will disengage from the flywheel and will retract back into the starter.

If you turn your key in the ignition and nothing happens, your engine doesn’t start, you have a problem with your battery or your starting system. You will need to have your battery jumped and have your starting system checked. Another sign of a weak battery or starting and charging system is dim headlights. If your headlights are not bright, you should check the voltage of your battery. Every 3 months or 3,000 miles you should have your battery checked. Also, whenever you are having your battery checked or replaced, always check your starting and charging systems to ensure they are working properly.

13. STRUTS

Question: How do struts work?

Answer: Struts are a part of your vehicle’s suspension system and provide you with a comfortable ride. Struts contain several different key suspension parts. Struts contain the coil spring, spring seats, shock absorbers, strut bearing, and the steering knuckle. Struts have two main jobs: first, they support the vehicle’s weight and provide structural support, and second, they dampen the spring’s movements as they react to the road surface. Struts provide structural support by connecting the upper strut bearing to the lower ball joint. This allows the strut to move as the tire is turned. Your vehicle’s suspension is in charge of keeping your tires in contact with the road surface at all times. Struts are a dampening device for your vehicle. This means that they “dampen” or absorb the excess bouncing of your vehicle’s suspension as your vehicle passes over uneven road surfaces. Your vehicle’s springs will allow the tire to move up or down to stay in contact with the road; your vehicle’s shock absorbers dampen the excess movement of the shocks.

Leaking shocks are an obvious sign that your struts need to be replaced. If your vehicle is bouncing or swaying excessively, you should have your vehicle’s suspension checked. A good way to check if your vehicle is bouncing excessively is to drive over a familiar road and see if there is more bouncing than usual. You can also perform the bounce test. The bounce test requires you to bounce each corner of your vehicle a few times, and after you let go, the vehicle should bounce only once and then settle. If your vehicle settles after one bounce, then your shocks and struts are good. If your vehicle continues to bounce, your shocks and struts may be worn and should be checked. Bottoming out and nose-dives are also good signs of worn struts. Experts say you should have your struts checked once a year or every 12,000 miles.

14. TIMING BELTS

Question: What is the function of timing belts?

Answer: Timing belts allow your vehicle’s engine to operate. They connect your engine’s crankshaft to the camshaft and play a vital role in controlling the pistons and valves in your vehicle. Simply explained, the timing belt is a reinforced rubber band with teeth or notches on the inner side that precisely synchronize the opening and closing of the engine’s valves. As the crankshaft turns, it sets the timing belt in motion. The timing belt then turns the camshaft and opens or closes each valve and allows the pistons to move up and down. For instance, in a four-stroke engine there are four phases: the intake phase, compression phase, combustion phase, and exhaust phase. In the intake phase, air and fuel get pulled into the cylinders. In this phase the intake valves are open and the exhaust valves are closed. In the compression and combustion phases the air and fuel is mixed, compressed, and then ignited by the spark plugs. During these two phases all of the valves are closed. The final stage is the exhaust phase where the air and fuel that remains exits out of the exhaust valve. In this phase the exhaust valves are open and the intake valves are closed. The timing belt must control all of the opening and closing of the valves and the timing of the pistons throughout each phase. The timing belt allows each step to occur in the precise order.

If the timing belt fails, your entire engine will fail. If a timing belt is worn or stretched, it can throw off the timing of the valves and pistons. This can cause the pistons to hit a closed valve and damage or bend the valves and pistons. Again, if a timing belt is worn or stretched, it can disrupt the timing of your engine and cause serious damage to your engine’s valves and pistons, which will lead to a much more expensive repair.

A timing belt typically lasts from 60,000 to 100,000 miles. The owner’s manual for your vehicle should be followed regarding the replacement of your vehicle’s timing belt. Replacing a timing belt should be done by a car-care professional only. It is a difficult process that may require moving other parts in your engine, such as the water cooler. Then, after the new timing belt is installed, it must be synchronized with the crankshaft and camshaft in order to operate properly and precisely.

15. WINTERIZATION

Question: How does a winterization check-up work?

Answer: A winterization check up will keep your vehicle running smoothly through the cold winter months. It is important to have your vehicle inspected and have any services or adjustments completed before the temperature gets too cold. The first maintenance to be performed is changing your engine’s oil and coolant (or antifreeze). It is very important to have your engine coolant checked for the winter to ensure that water and other liquids do not freeze in your engine. Without antifreeze, your engine’s fluids will freeze and your engine won’t start. Your vehicle’s transmission, power steering, brakes, radiator, radiator fluid, battery, battery fluid, wipers, wiper fluid, belts, and hoses should all be checked, and replaced if necessary, to ensure proper operation during the winter. Your starting system, charging system, and battery are vital during the winter. Your battery requires a certain level of amps to start your vehicle, especially in cold weather. If your battery is old, your vehicle may not start on very cold days. Your alternator should also be checked to make sure your vehicle would have the necessary electrical currents needed to power everything electrical in the vehicle. Wipers and wiper fluid may get overlooked sometimes, but during the winter they are essential for safe driving. Good wiper blades and a full tank of wiper fluid are necessary to keep your windshield clean. During the winter, windshields get very dirty from wet roads and the salt used to keep roads from freezing. Another very important thing to check are your tires. You want to make sure your tires are in good condition and have enough tread depth. You should also consider using snow tires. Snow tires are specially designed to deliver better traction and control on snow and ice. You should consider using winter tires especially if your vehicle uses high-performance tires during the spring and summer months. High-performance tires do not have the grip and traction necessary to travel on slick, snowy roads. You should also check your tire pressure. It is important to have your tires inflated to the proper levels to ensure your tires will be in full contact with the road surface. It is important to remember that your tire’s air pressure will drop in cold weather, which makes checking your tire’s air pressure even more important. If your vehicle has four-wheel drive, it is necessary to check to make sure it is working properly since it isn’t used very much during the spring and summer months. It is also smart to keep a safety kit in your vehicle during the winter. You should have a flashlight, batteries, flares, jumper cables, tool kit, and a first-aid kit in case your vehicle breaks down. You should also have a blanket and warm clothes to keep you and your passengers warm in case your vehicle gets stuck. You should keep an ice scraper and extra wiper fluid in your vehicle. You should also have tire chains and sand or salt in case one of your tires gets stuck. The tire chains and sand or salt will provide extra traction to help get your vehicle moving again.

16. SPRING CHECK-UP

Question: How does a spring check-up work?

Answer: A spring check-up is a good way to keep your vehicle running efficiently. It is essential maintenance to get your vehicle ready for the hot summer months, especially after a long winter. Your engine’s battery should be one of the first things checked. Your battery has to work especially hard during the cold winter months. Test your battery’s power and replace it if it’s not up to specifications, especially if it’s more than three years old. You should also have your tires checked. If you use snow tires for the winter, now is the time to remove them and replace them with your summer tires. You should check the tread depth on your tires to make sure they aren’t too worn. Your tire pressure should also be checked. Under-inflated tires can reduce your gas mileage as well as make driving dangerous. Winter driving can affect your vehicle. Your braking system should be checked, including your brake lines, hoses, and fluid. Your engine’s belts and hoses should be checked, and if any of them are worn or damaged, they should be replaced. Harsh winters can also damage road surfaces. It is important to have your vehicle’s suspension checked. There may be more potholes and bumps in the road after a long winter; so, your shocks and struts must be in good condition. There are several other things that need to be inspected, including the following: the starting and charging system, on-board computer system, antifreeze and coolant levels, air conditioning system, engine oil, transmission fluid, power steering system/fluid, windshield wiper blades/wiper fluid, and air filter. This is also a good time to give your vehicle a good cleaning. The salt used to keep roads from freezing can do much damage to your vehicle; it can lead to early rusting.

17. SUSPENSION INSPECTION

Question: What is a vehicle suspension inspection?

Answer: Your vehicle’s suspension has many jobs, but its main task is to keep your vehicle’s tires in contact with the road. Since no road is perfectly flat, or straight for that matter, your vehicle’s suspension keeps your tires in contact with the road, whether you are going over bumps, hitting potholes, or steering around a large turn. A suspension system consists of three main parts: springs, dampers, and sway bars. Springs are used to absorb the movement and shock of your tires. There are four main types of springs: coil springs, leaf springs, torsion bars, and air springs. Coil springs are the most common type of springs. They work just like the spring in an ink pen; they compress and expand when a tire hits an uneven surface. Next are the dampers. There are two different dampening devices used in vehicles: shock absorbers and struts. A shock absorber is designed to absorb or dampen the compression and rebound of the springs and suspension. They control the unwanted and excess spring motion. Shock absorbers keep your tires in contact with the road at all times. Struts are a little bit different. They contain both a coil spring and a damper (shock absorber). They also contain spring seats, a strut bearing, and a steering knuckle. Struts have two main jobs: first, they support the vehicle’s weight and provide structural support, and second, they dampen the spring’s movement as it reacts to the road surface. Struts provide structural support by connecting the upper strut bearing to the lower ball joint. This allows the strut to move as the tire is turned. The last main part of your vehicle’s suspension is the sway bars (also called anti-sway bars or stabilizer bars). Sway bars are used to keep your vehicle from rolling over. It is a U-shaped steel bar that is connected to each of the vehicle’s front wheels. When your vehicle goes around a turn, your vehicle’s body rolls to one side, or its weight shifts to one side. When this happens, your vehicle is experiencing “body roll” or “sway.” The sway bar will control each wheel’s suspension to even out your vehicle’s body roll and keep your vehicle more level. During a suspension inspection, these main parts are examined to determine their condition and to make sure they are working properly and are safe for driving.

There are many things to look for to determine if your vehicle’s suspension system needs to be inspected. The first and most obvious sign is leaking shocks. If your shocks are leaking, your shocks or struts (depending on what you have on your vehicle) must be replaced. Another easy way to find out if your suspension system should be inspected is to determine if it is bouncing or swaying excessively. To do this, you can drive down a familiar road and see if your vehicle bounces more than usual. You can also perform the bounce test. The bounce test requires you to bounce each corner of your vehicle a few times, and after you let go, the vehicle should bounce only once and then settle. If your vehicle settles after one bounce, then your shocks and shock absorbers are good. If your vehicle continues to bounce, your shocks and shock absorbers may be worn and should be inspected. Bottoming out and nose-dives are also good signs of worn shocks and shock absorbers. There are also several other signs that will let you know your suspension system should be inspected. These signs deal with mostly your sway bar. First, the easiest sign is when your vehicle sways too much when you are taking turns. Second, when you are passing an 18-wheeler or if one is passing you, your vehicle will sway from the 18-wheeler’s crosswinds. The third occurs when turning; when this occurs, your vehicle is difficult to steer, and you have to overcompensate for excessive swaying. Any of these signs can mean that your sway bar is loose or damaged and must be inspected. Your sway bar’s bolts that connect the sway bar to the vehicle should also be occasionally checked to determine their condition. Even if you do not encounter any of these common issues, experts say that you should have your vehicle’s suspension system checked every year or every 12,000 miles.

18. FUEL INJECTION SERVICE

Question: How does fuel injection service work?

Answer: Fuel injector service is a must to preserve the performance of your vehicle. Fuel injectors are located in the intake manifold and spray fuel through a tiny nozzle. The fuel injector uses a special nozzle to spray the fuel as mist, instead of a strong jet stream. Just think of the nozzle on the hose you use in your yard. You can change how the water flows out of your nozzle. There can be jet stream, shower, mist, and many more settings. A fuel injector must spray fuel as a mist because it’s easier for your engine to burn. When you step on your gas pedal, your vehicle’s throttle valve (which is a valve that opens and lets air into your engine) works in conjunction with your fuel injectors. When the throttle valve opens, your fuel injector sprays fuel to mix with the air and then enters the engine’s combustion cylinders. Fuel injectors can become dirty and clogged over time, which will lead to poor performance, bad gas mileage, and even dirty exhaust emissions. A fuel injector can become clogged around its valve and nozzle. The opening on a fuel injector’s nozzle is very minute; since a fuel injector’s nozzle must spray a fine mist, any tiny build-up of fuel can affect the fuel injector’s performance. Build-up can consist of wax, dirt, and other carbon deposits. Most build-up occurs from short trips, meaning a vehicle that normally travels for only fifteen minutes; low-quality gasoline that does not contain detergents also causes build-ups. Detergents can actually clean a fuel injector while you are driving, but many refineries are removing the detergents from their fuel to sell gas at a cheaper price. If a fuel injector is dirty or clogged, your engine won’t get the necessary flow of fuel to mix with the air, which will lead to poor acceleration, engine performance, and gas mileage. Fuel injection service can be done with leaving the fuel injector in the vehicle or taking it out. Almost all of the time, fuel injection service can be done with the fuel injector still in the car, unless it needs to be replaced. During a full fuel injection service, several things are done: your fuel pump’s pressure and volume is checked; your pressure regulator is checked; your fuel rail, which is the pipe that sends the fuel from your pump to your fuel injector, and fuel injector screen is flushed; your fuel injectors are flushed and cleaned; your throttle valve and air passages are flushed; and your engine’s computer is checked to make sure the air/fuel mixture is correct and all of the sensors are working.

Technicians recommend that fuel injection service be performed every 30,000 miles to keep your fuel injectors working efficiently and your vehicle operating at peak-performance levels. There are also several symptoms to watch for to determine if you need fuel injection service, which include the following: lean misfire, which is a misfire caused by an air/fuel mixture that is too lean, meaning there is not enough fuel (a lean misfire will trigger your “check engine” light); rough idle; poor acceleration; and higher carbon monoxide or hydrocarbon emissions.

19. ENGINE

Question: How do engine diagnostics work?

Answer: Since 1996, every vehicle that is built to be sold in the United States must have the OBD-II System. The OBD (On-Board Diagnostics) System is a device that detects problems in your engine. The system was put in place to help control vehicle emissions. Basically, this system can detect and inform the driver of malfunctions in the engine. It will send a message to your engine’s ECM (Engine Control Module) computer system. The ECM is in charge of controlling many of your engine’s processes including air/fuel mixture and emissions. The ECM System keeps your engine running efficiently while keeping emissions low. The ECM uses sensors to monitor your engine, adjust emissions, and/or engine timing when necessary; it will inform the driver when something is wrong with the vehicle by triggering your “check engine” light on your dashboard. If your OBD-II System detects a problem, it will record and store the corresponding code for the problem, which can be accessed by a technician. A trained technician can hook up his/her computer to your ECM System to receive the error code and diagnose the problem. The OBD System makes it much easier for a technician to determine what is actually wrong with your engine.

As our engines have changed over time, so have our engine tune-ups. In the past, it was necessary to check and change many more parts. Today, engine tune-ups include checking, diagnosing, and replacing bad spark plugs, spark plug wires, distributor caps, fuel filters, air filters, and oil filters. Tune-ups can also include checking emission levels, fuel lines, wiring, coolant hoses, and serpentine belts. Checking items such as ignition contact points, ignition timing, carburetors, and condensers aren’t included anymore because today’s vehicles include electronic ignitions as well as computers that automatically adjust engine timing when necessary. These tune-ups keep your engine running as efficiently as possible and prevent early breakdown. Regular tune-ups will also extend the life of your vehicle.

Engine tune-ups should be performed every 15,000 to 20,000 miles, depending on driving conditions. Check your owner’s manual for the manufacturer’s suggested tune-up period. There are also several signs to look for that will tell you when you need a tune-up. First, if your vehicle is stalling; second, if you experience a decrease in gas mileage; or third, there is a noticeable loss in power or acceleration, you should have a tune-up performed. You should also have a tune-up performed if your “Check Engine” or “Service Engine” lights come on. Again, regular tune-ups will increase your engine’s performance and extend the life of your vehicle.

20. BALL JOINTS

Question: How do ball joints work?

Answer: A ball-and-socket joint is a joint where a spherical head of one part connects to a spherical cavity of another. These joints allow for freedom of movement in all directions. We have ball-and-socket joints in our shoulders and hips. They allow our arms and legs to move in all directions. Now imagine if your body didn’t have any ball-and-socket joints. Your arm and leg movement would be very limited. The same thing applies to ball joints in vehicles. Ball joints are a flexible ball-and-socket joint that connect a vehicle’s control arms to the steering knuckles and act as a pivot point. Ball joints allow a vehicle’s suspension to move up and down, while also allowing the wheels to steer left or right. They are found on a vehicle’s front suspension because the front suspension is what allows a vehicle to make turns. Most front suspensions have one or two ball joints, and some rear suspensions may have ball joints also. Ball joints allow vehicles to carry heavier loads and to travel over all kinds of surfaces such as: over potholes, uneven surfaces, and over rocks/bumps. They allow tires to stay in constant contact with the road surface by allowing wheels to move up or down depending on the surface. The ball joints allow a wheel to stay in constant contact with these uneven surfaces while continuing to steer.

Any joint that exceeds the vehicle manufacturer’s maximum allowable wear needs to be replaced. Ball joints typically last 70,000 to 150,000 miles depending on their usage and road conditions. Clunking noises, poor handling, pulling, and abnormal wearing of your tires are all signs of a worn ball joint. If you see uneven tread wear patterns on your tire, you should have your ball joints checked. This can save you much money in the long run. Ball joints should be checked whenever the vehicle’s lubrication is checked. If the rubber boot which holds the joint’s lubrication is damaged or missing, chances are water has gotten into the joint. This can lead to rust and wearing, and your ball joint should be replaced. You can also check on your own to see if your ball joints are bad. You can give your tire a strong tug and see if you feel any extra pull or play. You can also jack the tire up and give the top and bottom of the tire a pull. If you feel any extra pull or play, you should have your ball joints checked immediately by a professional.