Articles:

What's in a Number? (What Tire Numbers Mean)

You've probably never paid much attention to the writing on the sides of your tires, but they contain a wealth of information.  There's a long combination of letters and numbers that can tell you a whole lot about what tires your vehicle was designed to be riding on.  Let's check out this example found on an SUV: P245/70R17 108T. The first letter, P, means it's intended for passenger vehicles.  If there's no letter, it means it's a metric tire.  If there's an LT at the beginning or end that means a tire designed for light trucks. Moving on to our example, the 245 shows how wide the tire is in millimeters from sidewall to sidewall.  The number that follows in our example, 70, means the height of the tire is 70% of its width.  The letter after that in our example, R, describes the type of tire (on this vehicle, radial).  Following that is the diameter in inches, in our SUV example, 17 inches.  How much load the tires' sidewalls are designed to take ... read more

Categories:

Tires

Alternator Facts (Failing Alternator)

If you notice that your headlights are flickering at night, that's something to pay attention to. While there could be many different things that could cause that problem, one possibility is your vehicle's alternator. The alternator takes mechanical energy from the engine and turns it into electricity, in essence a generator.  The current it makes charges the battery and supplies power to the vehicle's electrical systems.  An alternator is made up of several different parts: a pulley, magnets, coil wires, brushes and a voltage regulator.  While your vehicle is running, these parts get a good workout and, after time, they begin to wear out. Other symptoms of a failing alternator include your vehicle's lights dimming, the power windows going up and down more slowly than they used to, your power seats not moving quite as fast as before.  Another sign of a worn out alternator is engine stalling.  Vehicles with fuel injection require a certain amount of power, and w ... read more

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Alternator

Have a Ball! Know your Ball Joints (Ball Joints)

We all have joints in our own skeletal system, but did you know your vehicle has some joints of its own? One of the most important is called a ball joint. One of the interesting things is that it's somewhat similar to the ball and socket joints we have in our hips and shoulders.  A ball joint allows two parts it joins together to move in more than one direction at the same time. Think about your wheels.  They have to move up and down when there are bumps in the road but in sideways directions when you are making a turn. As you can see, the ball joints are important for your steering and handling to work correctly. Since ball joints do so much, they can wear out and become loose.  When the ball wears down or the socket gets worn, there can be too much play in them.  It can get so bad that the ball can come out of the socket and your wheel can fall off, a dangerous situation.  Ball joints can also seize up.  Some of them are sealed and never require maintena ... read more

Categories:

Steering

No Fountain of Youth (Aging Tires)

Can you think of anyone who enjoys aging?  Wrinkles where you don't want them, gray hair, eyes that won't focus any more, no stamina.  Believe it or not, your tires age, too, and they don't get better the older they get.  And here's the important thing to know, even if they can still pass a tread depth test, they may simply be too old to be safe  Here's the best way to understand this.  Have you ever found an old deck of playing cards with a rubber band wrapped around them?  Try stretching the rubber band.  SNAP! It's all cracked and brittle.  And you haven't stressed that rubber one bit since the time you put them in that drawer. Now you know what's happening to your tires.  Rubber ages.  Just like us, the day we come into the world, we start to go downhill (no pun intended).  Oh, engineers are able to make a tire last longer than ever before.  But that gas that keeps us alive—oxygen—seems to love to chemically mi ... read more

Categories:

Tires

Got it Covered! (Timing Cover Maintenance)

You may have heard at one time or another about something called a timing belt or timing chain in your engine.  And you may know that if they fail… well, let's just way that there can be some major engine damage.  So obviously, we want our timing belts and chains to be in tip-top shape. One part that helps keep them running the way they should is the timing cover.  As you can probably guess, it's something that covers the belt or chain.  The timing cover protects both belts and chains from dirt and road debris.  Timing belts also need to be lubricated so their covers allow them to be lubricated as well.  They have a gasket that insures a good seal for the engine.  If that gasket breaks or develops a leak, then engine oil can escape, and loss of lubrication is never good for an engine component. Other symptoms of a failed timing cover are leaking coolant, a metallic sound coming from the front of your engine or your Check Engine light coming on ... read more

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

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 ... read more

Categories:

Fuel System

Beware of Potholes! (Avoiding Pothole Damage)

You may live in a region where roads become pockmarked with craters known better as potholes.  They're caused by moisture seeping through a compromised road surface that can freeze, expand and literally punch holes in the road.  And when your vehicle hits one of those holes that's big enough, the impact can flatten a tire, bend a wheel or tear apart a suspension component.  To minimize pothole damage, leave enough room between you and the vehicle in front of you so you can see the road surface and any upcoming potholes.  That way you'll have time to slow down and steer around them.  Also, if you see what looks like a puddle of water, it may be hiding a pothole underneath, so treat it as if was a pothole. If you keep your tires inflated to the manufacturer's specifications, they're more likely to withstand hard impacts.  And the slower you're going when you hit a pothole, the less likely you are to break something.   But if you do find you've hit ... read more

Out with the Old (Vehicle Parts that Wear Out)

Some drivers don't pay any attention to their vehicles until something breaks.  Others take them into their service repair facility for maintenance even before a problem develops.  Still, even if you fit into the second group, there are some parts on a vehicle that will simply wear out over time. Your vehicle has gaskets in several places.  They use a flexible material to seal the gaps between metal parts that fit together. After time, that material shrinks or gets brittle and fails.  Eventually, after time, you will have to get gaskets replaced. Same goes for belts.  Your engine has belts that help take the mechanical energy of the engine to drive other parts such as the generator and air conditioner.  Heat and age will eventually cause these belts to wear out or break, so you'll need new ones at some point. You'll also find yourself buying brake pads.  As much as you may try to go easy on them, brake pads work by wearing off a little bit of them eac ... read more

The Truth about Tire Pressure (Tire Inflation)

Most light vehicles (under 10,000 pounds/4,500 kg) in North America sold from 2008 model year on have a feature that many people are confused about.  It's the tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS).  You may have some experience with it yourself if you own a newer vehicle.  Vehicles with TPMS have sensors in each tire that are supposed to warn the driver when tire pressure gets dangerously low.  That's important because tires that are significantly under-inflated can cause very serious accidents. Unfortunately, many drivers think the TPMS does all the work keeping track of tire pressure. To them, as long as the warning light or gauge isn’t giving a warning, the tires must have the proper amount of air pressure in them.  That's not the case. Tire pressure monitoring systems aren't all created equal.   Some give you a digital readout of the pressures in each individual tire.  But many simply have a warning light that looks like the cross sect ... read more

Categories:

TPMS

Wired! (Battery Cable Service)

Colder weather brings out the worst in a vehicle's battery.  On a very cold day, you may have experienced that your engine cranks slowly when starting.  But while it may be the battery itself, it may also be the parts that transfer the power to other the other electrical components, the battery cables.  After all, you have to have some way to get the current out of the battery and out to where it needs to go. Battery cables have a couple of enemies: corrosion and age.  You may have looked under the hood and noticed a light-colored powder or crust around the terminals.  That's what happens when acids corrode the ends of the battery terminals.  Corrosion inhibits the connection and may reduce the amount of power getting to the electrical accessories to the point where they are not working correctly, if at all. Here are some symptoms of problems with your battery cables. You might notice a clicking sound when you turn the key, some of your vehicle's electrica ... read more

Categories:

Battery
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