Getting to Know Your Car’s Battery

Hey there and welcome back to our series on automotive repair how to guides and tips for the new automotive mechanic in your family. Now if that happens to be you, I want you to understand that these articles aren’t being written for the professional but are instead being written for the average guy such as yourself that’s maybe looking to get his hands a little dirty on his own car one day. In today’s article I’m going to discuss some basic points about your car’s battery. The battery is extremely important to your car’s function, but once started, most cars that use alternators and not generators can actually be run without the battery connected and that’s a t estimate to just how far the modern electrical system in your car has come.
A car battery is little more than a big box filled with battery acid, which serves simply as an electrolyte, distilled water, and plates. It does help stabilize voltages, and can provide current when your car’s charging system is running below peak efficiency. You will typically find two large terminals on your battery, either on the side or on the top. You will have a positive and a negative terminal, just like most other major batteries out there. You can tell the difference because the positive will have a “+” sign by it while the negative terminal will have a “-” sign by it. There is often a red cap over the positive terminal, but that is not always the case. Typically most batteries are sealed units and don’t require service. However all batteries can be prone to developing corrosion on the terminals.
The battery is a very simple part in the overall complexity of your car. Now that you understand it’s purpose you can begin to effectively diagnose it for problems if you are dealing with a starting or charging situation that you are have trouble figuring out.

Car Repair – Identifying the General Location of Abnormal Vibration

When it comes to car repair, it’s important to identify a problem early on, and determine it’s general location or origins. Many failures are precipitated by vibration, and this can provide useful clues. Have you ever felt your car shaking or vibrating? Sure you have. We’ve all felt something like it at one time or another. The two things we need to identify is where the vibration is coming from and the cause. We may need to leave the identification of cause to a mechanic, but we can certainly help locate its origin with a little detective work.
Here’s a simple way of determining the general location of vibration. If you feel it in the:

steering wheel, then it’s coming from the front end of the vehicle;

seat of your pants, then it’s coming from the rear end of the vehicle.

Your mechanic will be better able to find the exact cause of the vibration, but here are likely culprits:

thrown wheel weight

tread separation

snow or mud adhering to the inside of the wheels

loose steering linkage

worn or loose bearings

loose or missing lug nuts

No matter the cause, common sense would dictate that you try to identify the cause soon after recognizing the symptoms of vibration that indicate an abnormality. And, if you’re not experienced at car repair, then get some help to identify where the symptoms are coming from before they exhibit themselves in the form of a failure that leaves you alongside of the road.

How To Know When To Replace Your Car’s Tires

In most states, you’re legally required to replace your tires when the depth of their treads reaches 2/32″. At that point, the grooves have become so worn that your tires provide very little traction. They become a safety concern to you, your passengers, and other drivers.
On dry road surfaces, shallow grooves rarely pose a problem. There’s sufficient traction between the road and rubber to give drivers plenty of control over their vehicles. This is the reason race cars use slicks. On wet roads, however, shallow grooves are dangerous. The moisture has less room within the treads; with nowhere to go, it causes your vehicle to hydroplane.
In this article, we’ll take a contrarian look at your car’s tires. You’ll first learn how to use a penny to determine whether your treads are legal (i.e. deeper than 2/32″). We’ll then explain why letting them reach that point may be unsafe.
Using A Penny To Measure Tread Depth
You can purchase a tread depth gauge at nearly any auto supply store for under $10. It is worth the expense (you’ll understand the reason in a moment). Most people forgo the gauge, however, and instead use a penny to test their treads.
The process is simple. Insert a penny into the grooves of your tire with Lincoln’s head positioned upside-down. If the coin submerges to the point that any part of Lincoln’s head is covered, it means the tread depth is at least 2/32″. The tire is legal. But it may still be unsafe, which means the penny test can be unreliable.
The Problem With The “Lincoln’s Head” Test
Your tires are equipped with wear indicators. These are bars molded into the rubber by the manufacturer in order to let you know when your treads have reached 2/32″. Nearly all tires have them. The problem is, that tread depth may be unsafe, depending on where you live.
As mentioned earlier, when the roads are dry, there’s plenty of traction. Even tires that are bald are relatively safe. So, if you live in a region that receives very little rain or snow, allowing your treads to reach 2/32″ should be fine. On the other hand, if you live in an area that receives a lot of rainfall and snow, you should replace your tires earlier. On wet roads, you’ll lose traction long before the grooves reach 2/32″.
If you frequently drive on wet roads, consider replacing your set when the tread depth reaches 4/32″. If you drive in snow on a regular basis, replace them at 6/32″.
As a side note, you can perform the penny test with a quarter to identify when the grooves of your tires reach 4/32″. The top of Washington’s head is the marker.
A Closer Look At Your Treads
To understand the reason moisture causes a loss in traction, it important to recognize what occurs between moisture and the treads. The pattern of the grooves is designed to direct water, and bite into snow. Unlike air, water cannot be compressed. When your tires make contact, the moisture enters the grooves, and is moved through them. As long as there is plenty of room, you’ll retain traction.
At any given time, only a small area of your tires will make contact with the road’s surface. The shallower your treads, the less water required to fill them. This causes the area of your tires that touches the road to shrink. As it becomes smaller, you’ll begin to hydroplane. This problem is even more pronounced with slush (from snow) since it quickly fills in the treads, and often remains there. It robs your tires of traction.
To recap, determining the right time to replace your vehicle’s tires depends largely on whether you drive on wet or slushy roads. While 2/32″ may be the legal tread depth in most states, replacing your set when they reach 4/32″ or 6/32″ may be more appropriate.

6 Basic Car Maintenance Tips You Should Know

Each one of us dreams of having our own car – may it be a simple one or a cool sports car. Owning a car sound great because it gives us convenience, comfort and joy but then owning one means additional responsibilities. Each car owner must know how to take good care of their unit from basic maintenance to simple troubleshooting. Car owners should treat their vehicles like their own child or partner. They should know how to maintain their car so it is always in good running condition and would last for a long time. Here are some basic car maintenance tips that car owners should follow and practice.
1.) Check engine oil – Checking the level of your engine oil is the most important thing you should consider before riding your car or traveling to far places. The car’s engine consists of many moving parts which definitely need a good level of lubrication to protect them from untimely wear. There are two kinds of engine oil: a monograde which is the ordinary one and a multigrade which is a special formulated one with additives that protect your engine providing you more mileage before undergoing change oil.
2.) Check engine level coolant – Before leaving your place, it would be best to check your coolant level to prevent any high temperature problem that might lead to engine overheating. When your car starts, the process of engine combustion takes place and it reaches a thousand degrees, especially in the combustion chamber and that’s when the engine coolant works. From the radiator, it passes through the coolant chamber inside the engine taking some of the heat off. As it passes through the different coolant or water chamber, it returns from the radiator completing the automotive cooling process. Some units use ordinary tap water but it would be best to use coolant to protect your engine. It’s a mixture of ordinary tap water with a special formulated coolant that protect your radiator from what they usually call “scale” that may damages or clog your radiator.
3.) Make sure electrical system and tires are in great condition – Make it a habit to check your electrical system and see to it that all important lights like head light, signal light, and park light are functioning well. This should be done to avoid car accidents and to avoid additional damage to your car. Checking your tires is also important before you go on a trip. Check for any flat tire and make sure to bring along a spare tire especially when going for a long trip.
4.) Check car gauges – Start your engine and check if the voltage gauge, fuel gauge, oil pressure gauge, air pressure and temperature gauge is in normal condition. For voltage gauge, after turning on your key you will notice that it reaches 24V but once you start your engine, it would increase from 24 to 28 Voltage, if not, there might be something wrong with your battery or your alternator. The fuel gauge gives you an idea whether you already need to refuel or if the fuel is still enough for the whole trip. It’s hard to get stuck in the middle of the road just because you haven’t noticed that your fuel gauge is almost empty. As you start your engine your oil pressure automatically moves out but as soon as the engine heats, it would automatically would go down to its normal level and thus indicate that your car is in good condition. The temperature gauge shows the temperature of your engine. The normal temperature of an engine is one half of the gauge in flat lying area, but once you reach an inclined plane, your normal temperature reaches 3/4 of your gauge.
5.) Check battery and brake system – A car battery’s life usually depends on how often the owner uses the vehicle and on the road he usually travels. Make sure to change your battery as soon as it’s necessary to avoid further damage to the engine. You should also check your brake system and make sure that your brake fluid is still enough and that your brakes are really functioning so as to avoid accidents.
6.) Go to a car repair shop – Once you noticed that there’s something wrong in your car and that even when you thoroughly checked your unit you can’t seem to find the trouble, you should send your unit to a repair shop immediately. This should be done to avoid further damage to your car and to make sure that every part of your car is functioning well. Not only that, you should visit a repair shop once in a while for tire alignment, change oil and other basic maintenance services that are necessary for your unit.
These simple tips should be done to ensure that your car will last a long time and that road accidents can be avoided. Follow these tips and for sure you’ll enjoy the benefits you get for having a well-maintained car.

3 Things to Look For When Searching for a Shop for Diesel Repair

If you have a diesel vehicle, you must be careful as to where you take your vehicle to be fixed. You want to know that you are going to an automotive repair shop that can handle your vehicle and fix it as it should be fixed. If you are looking for diesel repair, there are a few things you will want to focus on.
These three main things to look for when searching for a shop for diesel repair will help you to find the perfect shop for your vehicle. When seeking out a shop, you will want to look for certifications, the cost of the repair, and the time needed for the repair.
The single most important thing to look for when looking for a shop that can handle your diesel repair is a long list of certifications. You want to know that the shop is well versed in all of the different repairs that your diesel may need.
You will also want to look for certifications that explicitly list the shop’s ability to handle diesel vehicles. This should give you the piece of mind that you need to know that they will be able to handle your vehicle safely.
Cost is going to be an important part of your decision for two reasons: you want to know that you are getting a fair price for repairs, and you want to know that you are getting a steal. You should never have your repairs completed by a company who has high prices for the sake of ripping off their clients. Look at multiple shops, compare their quotes, and choose the one that has a price that seems to manage their certifications and popularity.
It is important for a shop to complete your diesel repair as quickly as possible, simply because you want to get back on the road with your vehicle as quickly as possible. Look for a shop that has a quick turnaround time and stress the importance of speed as you look for your quotes. Some shops may be able to bump you up or give you quicker turnaround times because your need for a fast repair.
Certifications are important, as they show that the shop that you have chose is knowledgeable about the diesel repairs they must perform. Cost is important, as you want to know that you are getting the best price for the repair. Time is important in the sense that you need to get back on the road. If you find a shop that has high certifications, at a low cost, and with a solid repair time-line, you have found the right shop for your diesel repair.

How to Remove and Inspect Your Car’s Spark Plugs

Years ago, spark plugs became fouled much more quickly than they do today. It was common to need replacements after driving little more than 10,000 to 15,000 miles. Part of the problem back then was that automotive fuel contained lead. Today, with lead all but removed from fuel, spark plugs can last 40,000 miles or more. Some are even advertised to last 100,000 miles (though this is optimistic).
Because the plugs represent a critical part of your engine’s operation (without spark, there can be no combustion), it’s important to change them when they show signs of wear. Neglecting to do so will result in declining performance. Below, we’ll take you through the process of removing and inspecting them.
Gathering Your Tools And Locating The Plugs
In addition to a set of replacement spark plugs, you’ll need access to a socket wrench, spark plug socket, and a few socket extensions. You should also plan to wear safety goggles to protect your eyes from debris.
Lift the hood of your vehicle, and look for wires along the top of your engine. They are made of rubber, and each is connected to a cylinder. If your vehicle’s engine has four cylinders, you’ll be able to see four wires. A 6-cylinder engine will have six wires, and so on. Once you have located them, you’re ready to remove the plugs.
Removing The Plug Wires
A lot of people doing this for the first time are tempted to removed all of the wires simultaneously. It seems simpler to do so. The problem is, the plugs in your engine’s cylinders fire in a particular order. If, while replacing them, you inadvertently mix the wires and cylinders in the wrong order, your engine’s performance may suffer. To avoid that problem, replace them one at a time.
Grasp the first plug wire snugly, twist it, and pull. It should come off easily, leaving the plug sticking out of the engine block. You’ll see the plug’s terminal (the topmost part) and part of the insulator exposed. The next step is to remove the plug.
Removing The Spark Plugs
You’ll need your socket to remove the spark plug from its housing in the block. Slip the socket over the plug (using an appropriate extension), and make sure the fit is snug. Then, attach the ratchet. Gain some leverage and turn it gently counter-clockwise. Apply a little pressure if the plug seems stuck.
Once you have removed the first spark plug, inspect its condition closely. It will provide clues regarding your engine’s operation.
Checking The Condition Of The Plugs
There are several indicators that suggest possible problems. For example, look at the side and center electrodes (located on the opposite end of the terminal). Has black soot accumulated on the tips? If so, you’re observing carbon deposits, which suggest the air-fuel mixture in the cylinder is running rich.
Do you see deposits on the electrodes that appear black and wet? If so, you’re seeing oil. This can mean a few things, but the most common is that oil is leaking past one or both of the valves (intake or exhaust) into the cylinder.
Sometimes, the center electrode will melt. This is more serious than oil leaks or a too-rich air-fuel mixture. A melted electrode might imply your engine is running too hot. It can also mean other things, but it is important to identify the cause to prevent expensive damage from occurring to the assembly.
Another item to note is the gap between the side and center electrodes. The spark that ignites the air-fuel mixture in the cylinder must be able to jump the gap. Over tens of thousands of miles and millions of sparks, the center electrode erodes. As it does, the gap widens. If you notice significant erosion, it’s time to change the plugs.
Fouled, melted, or eroded spark plugs will eventually lead to engine performance problems. If your engine is behaving strangely, check the plugs and replace them, if necessary.

3 Automotive Repairs That You Can Perform at Home

Each year, automobiles become more technologically complex. Engines become more streamlined and efficient; computer chips become more advanced; new systems, such as smart cruise control and lane change warning devices, are integrated. With every improvement, motorists become more wary of performing repairs on their own. There’s a pervasive fear that a single wrong tweak will impact other components. The problem is that mechanics charge up to $80 an hour. Simple repairs can end up costing far more than they would if you were to do them yourself.
Below, I’ll describe three automotive repairs that you can perform in your own garage. With a little time, patience, and elbow grease, you can potentially save a bundle.
#1 – Replace A Bad Fuse
Many of the electrical systems in your vehicle are managed by fuses. Over time, those fuses will go bad and need to be replaced. A lot of drivers will experience an electrical problem and take their cars to a mechanic to have it resolved. The mechanic will end up doing a test which usually costs between $40 and $50. Then, they’ll simply replace the blown fuse that caused the issue. If you have a pair of tweezers (and your owner’s manual), you can replace it yourself. The cost? About $3.
#2 – Replace Bad Spark Plugs
Despite the increasing complexity of automobiles over the last few decades, the gas engine’s 4-stroke internal combustion process has remained virtually the same. Spark plugs are a vital piece of that process. When they go bad, it can cause your engine to misfire, dramatically reducing its performance and efficiency.
A mechanic will usually charge an hour’s worth of labor to replace your spark plugs. The plugs themselves cost less than $30. If you have a gapping tool, socket, and ratchet, you can do the job at home and save yourself up to $80 (for the labor).
#3 – Replace A Worn Fuel Filter
Of the three, this repair job is the most labor-intensive. Don’t let that discourage you. With a couple of wrenches, rags, jacks, and a pan to catch the fuel, you can finish the job in an hour. The filter itself should cost less than $20, which means you’ll be saving up to $80 in labor charges by doing it yourself.
It’s important to take a few precautionary steps to ensure your safety. Because you’ll be working with gasoline, wear gloves. Also, disconnect your car’s battery to prevent a fire. Lastly, make sure the jacks that you use to lift your vehicle are sturdy.
There are several other minor repair jobs that you can perform without the help of a mechanic (I’ll cover them in a future article). The key is to realize that you can do them yourself. As long as you purchase high-quality parts, you can potentially save hundreds of dollars over the long run.