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

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 kp ... read more

That Squeal is Telling You Something (What Causes Squealing While Steering)

If you hear a squealing noise when you turn your vehicle, it's trying to tell you something is wrong.  After all, it never made that noise before, right?  The sound  you hear may becoming from a few sources.  Let's take a look (or a listen) to some of the possibilities. First, you almost certainly have power steering in your vehicle. Without power steering, you practically have to have arms like Arnold Schwarzenegger to turn, so automakers have technology to assist your steering, either mechanically or electrically.  For a long time, the most common power steering has been hydraulic, using a belt to supply power from the engine that turns a power steering pump full of a fluid that helps you steer.  Sometimes that fluid gets low because of a leak or some other problem.  The belt could wear out and start squeaking, and you might feel the steering start to become harder.  Your service repair facility can figure out the problem and offer some solutio ... read more

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Steering

When Your Air Bag Light Comes On (Illuminated Air Bag Light)

There are some dashboard lights you should pay more attention to than others.  One is the air bag light.  If it's on and your vehicle is in an accident, your air bags probably won't do their job. Automakers began installing air bags in the late 1990's since they were mandatory in the United States, and manufacturers have included them in Canadian vehicles as well.  Safety experts say using a seat belt in combination with an air bag gives passengers the best chance of surviving a crash and minimizing serious injury. The air bag warning light takes a few different forms.  Some look like a picture of a belted passenger with an inflated air bag from a side view.  Or there may be a warning light that says something like "Air Bag," "SRS" (for supplemental restraint system), "Airbag Deactivated" or "Air Bag Off." Different things cause the air bag light to come on.  Your vehicle may have been in an accident during which, while the air bags didn't inflate, crash s ... read more

Passing the Test (How to Prevent Emissions Test Failure)

Vehicle emission testing has become ubiquitous in North America and for a good reason.  Clean air quality is important for the environment and all of us.  Since vehicle emissions are among the main causes of air pollution, emission testing can alert you to problems in your vehicle than can be fixed so it won't needlessly pollute. Emissions tests are looking for certain toxic gases internal combustion engines produce, such as nitrogen oxide, particulate matter, non-methane organic gases and formaldehyde.  Emissions control systems reduce these gases if they are working properly.  The best way to minimize pollution is to keep those vehicle systems working properly, and periodic inspection and maintenance is the key.  So if you want to make sure your vehicle will pass an emissions test, it helps to know what might go wrong. Let's start on the easy one.  Your gas cap could be loose, allowing vapors to escape into the atmosphere.  The most common solution ... read more

Don't Start with That (Bad Starter Motor)

We've all heard that expression, "That's a non starter." When it comes to your vehicle, that's not music to a driver's ears. That sickening sound when you start the ignition and instead of hearing the engine crank, you hear it slowly turn over and your dash lights go dim.  There can be many reasons a vehicle won't start, so here's a little history of how the starter came to be an important component of modern vehicles. You have to move the engine's components to start it. The first cars had a crank that the driver would insert into the front, then start turning things over by hand.  When the engine started, you had to release that crank immediately or risk a broken arm.  Yes, it happened many times.  So, they came up with a better idea: an electric starter, which was a big advance in automotive technology. With this system, an electric motor rotated a series of gears that turned the gasoline engine's crankshaft so its pistons and parts moved and the engine drew in a ... read more

A Real "Pane" (Window Maintenance and Repair)

It's pretty frustrating when your driver's window won't work.  You can't get your food at the drive-thru without opening the door, have a tough time using the ATM from your vehicle, can't have that fresh breeze blowing through your hair as you listen to your favorite road tunes. Plus, there's a safety factor.  Your windows provide an escape route in case you need to get out and the doors won't work.  Let's take a look at what's going on when your window won't operate. Most vehicles these days have power windows.  They have an electric motor in each power window and sometimes those fail.  They often give you a warning that they're on their last legs by making a noise or hesitating, so if you get a sign like that, have a technician check it out. Loss of power can also be due to a blown fuse, a bad switch or faulty wiring. All windows have something called a regulator that moves the glass up and down.  They have a lot of moving parts in them which can break ... read more

Positive and Negative (Battery Care)

You notice when your smartphone's battery starts to go weak on you.  It runs out of juice faster than it did when it was new.  Bet you pay attention to that pretty closely. Unfortunately, many of us don't pay the same attention to the battery in our vehicles. If your battery got you through the cold-weather months, you might be thinking you're all set until next winter. But you might be surprised to learn this: Hot weather is harder on a battery than cold weather.  (Note: we're talking about a conventional vehicle here, not an all-electric, plug-in one.) The way your vehicle's battery holds a charge is that it has chemicals inside it, and they react with each other to produce electricity.  A vehicle battery discharges electricity and then needs to be recharged.  Unlike your smartphone that you plug in each night to charge, the way a vehicle's battery gets recharged is by using the mechanical energy of the engine.  It's a pretty cool system that's been arou ... read more

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Battery

It's Brake Time (Brake Calipers)

Race car drivers have demonstrated the advantages of disc brakes, so most modern vehicles use them.  Sometimes just the front wheels have disc brakes, but many vehicles now have them all the way around.  A major component of the disc brake is called a caliper.  It works by squeezing brake pads against the disc or rotor, kind of like a bicycle hand brake.  The brake pads themselves are what contact the rotor, causing friction to build and the wheel to slow down, but it's the calipers that apply the pressure to the pads. Caliper design has evolved over the years, and there are two common types.  One is called a floating caliper.  It has one or two pistons on one side of the disc. When you push down the brake pedal, the piston or pistons in your caliper put pressure on that one side.  A mechanism connected on the other side of the disc applies pressure as well, squeezing your disc so the vehicle stops.  Floating calipers are less expensive since the ... read more

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Brakes

Busted! Air Conditioning (Air Conditioning Maintenance)

Your vehicle's air conditioning is something you count on when the weather heats up.  But there's bound to be a day when you turn it on and one of these things happens: Only warm air blows out Cold air starts blowing out but then it turns warm on its own It's not blowing air at all It blows smelly air out Some people are tempted to try to make the diagnosis—and the repair—on their own.  They think it's just run out of refrigerant and they can pick up a can at a local auto parts store and re-charge it.   If only it was that easy. A vehicle's air conditioning system is complex and made up of many parts.  A compressor, evaporator, condenser, tubing, hoses, sensors, valves… the list goes on and on. Each of these components could be the reason for the problem.  It could be a leak that's letting the refrigerant escape, but simply re-charging the system hasn't fixed the problem. You have to find the source of the leak and fix it. Service faci ... read more

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Air Conditioning

Slippery When Wet (Driving on Wet Leaves)

When the leaves fall, you might take a sightseeing trip to see them at peak color.  Or you may simply live in a spot where there are a lot of trees.  When those leaves get wet, you'd be surprised to learn just how slippery they can be.  We all know ice is slippery to drive on.  What causes tires to slip on ice is a thin layer of water that comes between the road and your tires.  Wet leaves can have the same effect.  The surfaces of leaves are super slick when they're dry, even worse when you add a little moisture.  There's one other thing about leaves.  They are smaller than each tire's footprint, so your tread grips the pavement with uneven traction. One study showed that your stopping distance can more than double on a surface covered with wet leaves when compared to that same road when it's dry.  Double! That can spell trouble.  So if you find yourself heading into an area with wet leaves on the road, slow down before you get into a ... read more

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