Addressing Auto Problems: How to Replace Your Auto Battery

July 26, 2008

In my previous posts on battery problems, I’ve discussed the many ways you can recharge your auto battery. But like all the rest of your vehicle components, your auto battery becomes prone to damages after long years of use. When you do decide to replace your auto battery, you’ll need to consider some things first.

Remember, different vehicle makes and models will require different batteries. Some of the basic variations you’ll find on the battery types available on the auto market include: their capacity to provide your various accessory items with power (accessory items like power windows, door locks, doors, different heating and cooling options, seat warmers and electronically adjusted seats), the amount of maintenance you’ll have to do to keep them working properly for a long time, and how they are mounted inside your vehicle.

To find out which battery types would work for your vehicle, don’t neglect to check your owner’s manual for its battery replacement recommendations. A reputable auto parts store or garage should also be able to give you a suitable replacement battery for your auto, even if you decide to go for another model than what’s listed in your owner’s manual.

Why You Shouldn’t Go for a Less or More Powerful Battery:

While it may seem tempting to either go for a more economical but less powerful battery, or to take a chance on a more powerful battery to liven up your ride, it’s best to stick with a replacement auto battery that has a similar capacity as your OE (original equipment) component.

If you go for a less powerful battery, then the power received by your auto will be considerably less than what it’s used to. Even if the underpowered battery provides sufficient power, its life span will be significantly shorter than your old battery’s.

While a more powerful battery on the other hand, will do little to improve your vehicle’s performance, not to mention how it’s probably a lot more expensive than the right replacement battery for you.

Steps on How to Install an Auto Battery:

Now that you have the right replacement battery for your vehicle, check out these easy steps on how you can install a new auto battery yourself.

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Addressing Auto Problems: How to Check for a Stuck Thermostat and Avoid Overheating

July 25, 2008

Having an auto that constantly overheats is not only a nuisance, it also causes severe damage on your engine, radiator and the numerous other components surrounding them. While most drivers automatically come to the conclusion that it’s a radiator problem that’s causing the overheating (and yes, the radiator is the usual culprit behind this auto problem), other vehicle problems like a stuck thermostat can be the reason behind your dangerously hot and smoking auto.

What is a Thermostat and Why Do You Need It?

The thermostat installed in your car has a crucial task to fulfill—it is the auto part responsible for controlling the amount of water-coolant mixture that is released into your engine system, all depending on whether your engine is running warm, cold or extremely hot. When you start your car first thing in the morning, the engine is still cold. The thermostat signals your engine cooling system that no coolant is needed. But as you drive, the thermostat gives the go signal for the increased coolant flow, reducing and increasing the amount of mixture used depending on the situation.

So, Why Should You Worry When You Have a Stuck Thermostat?

A stuck thermostat means that your engine will not receive the right amount of antifreeze and water each time it’s needed. When this happens, the engine starts to heat up almost immediately, and overheating happens as a result of this.

What Could Cause a Stuck Thermostat?

There a number of reasons why your car’s thermostat could get stuck in a closed position. If you’re driving an auto that’s several years old, then expect your thermostat to fail eventually. If you don’t exercise regular maintenance under your vehicle’s hood, then an accumulation of debris and dirt could force your thermostat to remain closed even as you drive.

Should You Replace Your Thermostat?

If your auto is several years old and you think your thermostat is irreparably stuck closed, then by all means, replace your vehicle’s thermostat immediately. It shouldn’t hurt your wallet too much. Most thermostats are priced at around $20 or less, although there are some brands that sell more expensive variants if you’re willing to splurge, or if you don’t want to risk the quality of this auto part.

How Would You Know if it’s Time to Replace Your Thermostat?

The simplest way to find out if you have a thermostat that needs replacing is to have a constantly overheating ride where the radiator is still in mint condition. However, if you want to make sure you have a stuck thermostat, check out the following low-tech tests to find out if your auto’s thermostat is operating properly.

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Addressing Auto Problems: Ignition Key Refuses to Turn

July 19, 2008

Although this problem is pretty rare, if you do encounter this situation, then it’s best that you know how to address this auto issue as soon as possible. If your ignition key refuses to turn, don’t panic just yet and stop yourself from calling a tow truck right away. It’s highly probable that the problem is pretty minor.

First, are you sure you’re using the right key? If you own more than one automobile, then chances are you have a single key chain that houses all your car keys. A few years ago, my cousin called me up to tell me that her ignition won’t turn. I hurried over to her house only to find out, to my embarrassment and hers, that she was using her Chevy’s key for her Camry. While this mistake is pretty rare, it’s very much understandable, especially when you’re running late for something important.

If you have the right key but it won’t insert completely then inspect your key for signs of breakage. If you try turning your key when it’s not seated firmly, then it’s not going to turn. If you can’t insert the key fully, then chances are there is something inside your ignition switch that is obstructing your key’s movement. If you broke your key elsewhere then a missing tooth should stop it from turning as well. Locate a spare key and try using that instead.

Check if you have the right gear setting. As I mentioned in my previous post, most vehicles require your auto to be in Neutral or Park for it to start.

If your steering wheel is locked, then try to move the key into the On position and move your steering wheel to unlock it before starting your vehicle. Some ignitions and steering wheel columns lock in a precise manner that requires you to first “unlock” the wheel before you can start your car. If you can’t figure out how to unlock your steering wheel, consult your owner’s manual first.

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Addressing Auto Problems: Troubleshooting a Vehicle That Refuses to Start

July 18, 2008

We all have our “off” days. These are the days when you wake up on the wrong side of bed and you find yourself über-late for an important meeting, breakfast tastes like cinders and your shower’s broken. Thinking that your day can’t be any worse, you slip into your car, insert the key into the ignition and turn it, just wanting to get to work as soon as possible. To your absolute horror, all you hear is a “rrr-rrr-ing” sound. You try again and again only to have the same results.

When trying to re-start your vehicle, do avoid holding your ignition key in the Start position for more than ten seconds. This could damage your ignition mechanism or ignition starter, which could mean very costly repair bills.

Before you start panicking and thinking your car is a worthless piece of junk, keep in mind that there are some steps by which you can determine the cause of your auto problem. Before calling a tow truck, you can try out these troubleshooting steps first. (Although if you are in a hurry, you may want to hail a cab and inspect your vehicle when you get home.)

Troubleshooting your stubborn auto:

The following are some of the behaviors that your car might display when you turn your key to the Start position, and the reasons why your auto refuses to start.

When all you hear is clicking or silence when you try to start your car: This could indicate battery problems. Check if you left any of your doors partially open or if you accidentally forgot to turn off some of your auto lights. A drained battery or more specifically, a dead battery could be the main reason why your vehicle won’t start. Turn your key to the On position and check if your other auto accessories work. If they work, then a dead battery isn’t the culprit.

When your auto attempts to start but the engine won’t fire: When this happens, the auto problems usually have to do with damaged points or plugs. Dirty spark plugs could affect your engine’s performance, preventing it from starting effectively. Clean out your spark plugs and try starting your car again. If you left your car out in the rain overnight, or if your vehicle suddenly stopped moving while you were driving through flooded streets (or even just a large puddle), then it’s possible that water has seeped in and your auto’s points are now too damp to operate. If your points and plugs are wet, then you can dry them using WD-40 or starter spray.

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Addressing Auto Problems: A Simple and Low-Tech Heating Solution for your Cabin

July 12, 2008

Winter is the time when you need your auto’s heating system the most. Even if it’s still summer, it doesn’t hurt to have a few tricks up your sleeve even before the coldest season settles in. If you live in the colder regions where it feels like winter all year long, then you might need your heater to work overtime. While traveling, you don’t really have the time or the luxury of thawing numbed fingers from the intense cold seeping in through your heating system or through the small cracks and crevices on your window and door’s weatherstripping.

If your current heater is bringing more cold than heat, or if it’s no longer warming up your auto’s passenger cabin the way it used to, then you need to inspect some auto components that could be damaged or are in need of replacing. Check for leaking or defective hoses and a dirty or damaged thermostat to see if you need to replace any of these auto units.

Once you’re done checking these components, try this simple trick to retain more heat in your vehicle’s cabin. This is a trick I learned from one of my car maintenance books. I’ve tried doing this to my sister’s old Chevy, and it’s been pretty effective.

Step #1: Take a piece of thick cardboard and cut it down roughly the size of your front grille.

Step #2: Insert the cardboard into your auto’s grille. While you don’t need to cover your auto’s entire grille, it could reduce the amount of frigid air that seeps into your auto while at the same time lessening the amount of heat that escapes your passenger compartment.

And there you have it: a simple and quick solution to your auto heating problems.

Addressing Auto Problems: What to Do When Your Auto Stalls and Refuses to Restart

July 11, 2008

Once in a while, even the sturdiest and the most well-maintained vehicle can experience stalling. Contrary to popular belief, new drivers aren’t the only ones who are prone to experiencing auto stalling. If, however your vehicle is starting to stall a lot more than it used to, then you know that it’s time to restore your auto’s original condition by exercising excellent vehicle maintenance. Basic vehicle maintenance includes inspecting the components under your vehicle’s hood, looking for loose or broken belts, checking your oil levels and performing an auto tune-up.

While most stalling problems can be solved with correct and regular maintenance, this auto problem becomes serious when your vehicle stalls and refuses to restart after several tries. If you find yourself in this situation, then here are some tricks you can do and items you can check to determine the reason behind your auto’s stalling.

#1 Start by turning off all of your vehicle’s accessories including your auto lights, radio and air conditioning system. If, however, you happen to be parked in the emergency lane, then keep your hazard lights on. You need to turn off all the unnecessary vehicle accessories to reduce the likelihood of draining your battery while you’re trying to restart your auto.

#2 Be wary of how many times you attempt to turn over your engine. Turning your engine too much will cause your vehicle’s battery to drain quickly. When this happens you’ll end up worrying further on how you can jump-start your vehicle.

#3 Check your gas gauge. If it says empty then your auto didn’t just stall, it flat-out ran out of gas. You know the solution to this one already. Get some fuel into your vehicle to start traveling again.

#4 If your auto stalls and the temperature gauge indicates that your vehicle was operating beyond the normal range, then let your car cool down before attempting to restart it. It might be a classic case of auto overheating. If large white clouds of smoke start coming out of your vehicle from under the hood, then you know your engine just overheated. Fill the (usually) empty radiator with water and try to get your vehicle’s operating temperature as close to normal as possible before restarting.

#5 Another possible reason behind your auto stalling is a flooded engine. Let the excess fuel abate and wait for minutes before trying to restart your vehicle.

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How to Cope with Poor Fuel or Oil Consumption

July 4, 2008

Based on statistics, poor vehicle maintenance is one of the leading causes of bad fuel and/or oil consumption. A poorly maintained automobile is inclined to consume up to twice the amount of oil and/or fuel compared to a well-maintained car. This is one of the primary reasons why in my posts I keep on stressing the importance of keeping your auto in tiptop shape at all times.

While we’re all inclined to make excuses as to having little or no time or money to regularly conduct tune-ups and vehicle (exterior, interior and under-the-hood) checks, let me remind you that spending the time and yes, the money, to check on your vehicle once in a while should spare you the costlier expenses of needing to have your auto repaired constantly mainly because you failed to maintain it properly.

I actually had to learn the importance of vehicle maintenance the hard way. My first car exhibited signs of poor fuel consumption which I failed to check on for weeks. I found out later that the main cause was fuel tank leakage, which eventually caused bigger problems, denting my bank account quite well. If I had checked and addressed the problem sooner, then I could have spared myself from the hassle of having to spend a hundred dollars more than I should have. A simple fuel tank replacement should have saved me more gas, which is why I advise you to start checking your auto the moment you notice its gas-guzzling or oil-draining habits.

If your vehicle has been using up more gas or oil than it normally does, it’s time for you to ask yourself the following questions:

When was your last auto tune-up? In my previous posts, I’ve stressed the importance of auto tune-ups to the point of redundancy. But as I said, a tune-up could let you determine auto problems from the onset of its early symptoms, preventing the problem from getting bigger. While it may not solve all your auto problems, it does give you an idea on what you should focus on when it comes to home auto-repairs.

How much load is your vehicle carrying? If you’ve been hauling around extra baggage, even if it’s just around 100 to 200 pounds more than you usually do, then this could be the cause of your auto’s poor fuel economy. Remember, the heavier your auto, the more gas your vehicle consumes. This is the reason why trucks, SUVs, vans and APVs use up more gas compared to compact car models.

When was the last time you had an oil change? If you haven’t changed your car’s oil for a long time, then this could be the root of your auto’s oil and fuel issues.

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