While a bumpy road may be a minor nuisance to car drivers, a road littered with potholes can cause expensive car care auto repair / service costs to your car and even result in a car accident. Potholes are bowl-shaped openings in the road that can be up to 10 inches deep and are caused by wear-and-tear and weathering of the roads. They occur when the top layer of the road, the asphalt, has worn away and exposed the concrete base. Once a pothole forms, it can grow to several feet, with rain water accelerating the process.
We experience too many of these conditions just by driving our cars. Now, imagine that it is late at night, and there are no warning signs or overhead lighting. The speed limit is 40 miles-per-hour and, just before two cars meet, one car goes over a pothole, loses control and spins out directly in front of the other car driver and causes an auto accident.
Top-10 Worst U.S. Urban-Area Roadways For Potholes
New York City
With five major cities in the top seven, California residents will need to know about the dangers of potholes.
Potholes put a huge strain on your car’s suspension and shocks (which absorb most of the impact of bumps and potholes). It can cause expensive damage to your car and cause you to make an unexpected appointment with the auto mechanic. They can also cause an impact similar to that of a 35-mph car accident, if deep enough.
Sometimes, when a pothole is so severe, or your car is not equipped to handle the blow, it will cause you to lose control of your car. This leads to car accidents that, many times, have caused wrongful deaths. Motorcycle drivers are at special risk of injury if they ride over a pothole. Having just two wheels on the ground and a lower weight than cars, motorcycles are ill-equipped to handle potholes. Coupled with fewer safety features, motorcycle accidents caused by potholes are very deadly. Cars and truck are also at risk, as well, to get into an auto accident after running over a pothole.
Some Helpful Hints For Reporting Potholes To State Highway Authority
Give the exact location of the pothole.
Be prepared to describe it (length, width, depth).
Try to remember if you saw or heard rain water in the hole.
Ask if the hole in a bus route or on trolley or railway tracks.
It is always important to remember that, when dealing with potholes, you will have to expect the unexpected. Since a dangerous situation can arise out of nowhere, it is important to make sure that you are not speeding and are making safe decisions; otherwise, hitting a pothole could cause a car accident. Careful drivers have the best chances of avoiding car accidents. A careful driver will also be more likely to avoid an auto accident after hitting a pothole.
How Auto Car Repair / Service / Care Insurance Works in Houston
Similar to car auto insurance, an auto repair / service / care insurance in Houston policy is a contract between a vehicle owner and the car insurance company, which binds the company to pay for all repairs done on the vehicle for a fixed length of time.
Coverage varies widely from company to company and few states in the U.S. regulate auto insurance coverage. So it’s important to become familiar with auto repair insurance terms and industry requirements, while also understanding how auto repair insurance is regulated in your state.
What It Covers
A standard auto repair insurance policy typically covers the breakdown and the wear and tear of your car, although the two are not always mutually inclusive. Some companies may only offer breakdown coverage, which means they are only liable to pay for repairs necessitated by breakable parts. If you want a wear and tear policy as well, which covers parts that wear out over time, you may need to purchase that from a separate company or shop around for a car insurance company that offers both.
There are also auto repair insurance policies that cover the engine, transmission, and other parts of a vehicle through which oil flows. However, this would be least preferable in terms of coverage, since it does not include a majority of a vehicle’s components.
Bumper-to-bumper policies are also available from some car insurance companies, which cover nearly all the mechanical systems of a vehicle (from bumper to bumper). If there are any exclusions, the policy will list the parts that are not covered. For instance, policies do not cover parts like brake pads and windshield wipers. Likewise, most policies do not cover overheating resulting from a faulty radiator.
Before you buy your auto repair insurance, make sure you know exactly what is covered, as well as how much you will be paying by way of deductibles. Even if the manufacturer’s warranty has lapsed, you can still receive coverage on vehicles that have done less than 100,000 miles. But keep in mind that as your vehicle clocks up the miles, the cost of a policy will increase, as will repair costs.
A perk you’ll want to know about: if you buy a transferable policy, you can actually leverage it to increase your car’s resale value.
While most people are very aware of the benefits of having auto insurance, few understand how auto repair insurance can protect you from unexpected repair bills. Now you have a better understanding of how it works so you can make an informed decision on whether this type of insurance is right for you.
Car Care Houston
Car Service Houston
Automobile Car Care Houston
Automobile Car Service Houston
By Laura T. Coffey
1. Get the right kind of oil change. Are you approaching the time for a 30,000-mile full service for your vehicle? If so, don’t procrastinate! Among other things, the service should include an oil change, and the oil used should have the right viscosity, or thickness, for your vehicle at this time of year. Oil tends to thicken as it gets colder, and if it’s too thick it won’t do the best job of keeping your engine lubricated. Check your owner’s manual for guidance about which oil to use in different climates and temperatures.
2. Make sure you can see. When’s the last time you replaced your windshield wiper blades? They usually work effectively for about one year, so be sure to invest in some new ones if you’re due. Here’s another important step to take before you find yourself struggling to see in a blinding storm: Fill up your windshield washer reservoir with windshield washer fluid. (Plain water won’t do the trick at this time of year because it freezes.) Also check to see that your heater and defroster are working properly so you can keep the windshield nice and clear.
3. Give your battery a little TLC. This is an ideal time of year to make sure your battery’s posts and connections are corrosion-free and that your battery has all the water it needs. If your battery is more than three years old, have a certified repair shop test its ability to hold a charge. Granted, you might be able to find a Good Samaritan to help you jump-start your vehicle in the middle of a blizzard — but wouldn’t you rather avoid such a scenario altogether?
4. Examine your belts and hoses. When you have that full service done on your vehicle, make sure the belts and hoses get checked for wear and tear — even if you’re driving a modern car. Cold weather can do a number on belts and hoses, so they deserve attention.
5. Check your tire pressure. Your tires must be properly inflated to ensure you’ll have the best possible traction as you drive along — and traction is often severely jeopardized in wet, snowy or icy conditions. The air pressure in your tires has likely dropped as the weather has gotten colder, so it’s important to see where things stand now. (You can generally expect that you’ll lose 1 pound per square inch whenever the temperature drops by 10 degrees Fahrenheit.) Again, your trusty owner’s manual will tell you what your target tire pressure should be.
6. Think about switching to snow tires. Do you live in a hilly place that gets its fair share of snow? Then you might want to improve traction even more by investing in winter tires and using them over the next few months instead of your usual all-season tires. When shopping around for snow tires, ask about all the fees that might come into play, such as fees for mounting and balancing. You can accomplish this easily and make accurate cost comparisons by asking each store for the “out the door charge.”
7. Do you have four-wheel drive? If so, it’s important to check the status of your four-wheel-drive system and be sure it’s working correctly — especially because most drivers don’t use their 4WD systems in the pleasant summer months. Be sure that the system engages and disengages easily, and that all drivers in your household know how and when to activate the system.
8. Get the antifreeze mixture just right. Aim for having a 50-50 mix of antifreeze (coolant) and water inside your radiator. This will prevent the mixture from freezing even at ridiculously cold temperatures. It’s easy to check the status of the mixture with an inexpensive antifreeze tester, which you can pick up at any auto parts store. If the mixture is off, your cooling system should be drained and refilled or flushed. Be sure you’re equipped to dispose of your old antifreeze properly if you do this job yourself. It can’t just be poured down the drain.
9. Prepare an emergency kit. Store this stuff in your trunk during the winter months, especially if a road trip is in your future:
extra boots and gloves
an extra set of warm clothes
extra water and food, including hard candies
an ice scraper
a small shovel
windshield washer fluid
a tool kit
a tire gauge
a spare tire with air in it
a first-aid kit
a bag of abrasive material such as sand, salt or non-clumping kitty litter, which can provide additional traction if a tire gets stuck in snow.
Also, keep the gas tank as full as you can to prevent the gas lines from freezing.
10. Know what to do if you get stranded. Don’t wander away from your car unless you’re completely sure about where you are and how far away help is. Light two flares and situate them at each end of your vehicle to call attention to your plight. Put on the extra clothes and use the blanket to stay warm. If you have enough gas in the tank, run the engine and heater for about 10 minutes for each hour you’re waiting for help. Leave at least one window open a little bit so that snow and ice don’t seal the car shut. Suck on a hard candy to prevent your mouth from getting too dry.
Although belts and hoses are still classified as expendable parts, their durability has increased to the point that many import shop owners and technicians are now neglecting to perform routine belt and hose inspections. From a historical perspective, belts and hoses have moved from a recommended replacement interval to an inspection interval. This means that, unless otherwise required, there is generally no recommended replacement interval for belts and hoses. The consequence of moving from replacements to inspections is that many shops are missing potential profits in belt and hose replacements.
TODAY’S BELT AND HOSE MARKETS
Just recently, I had a 2001 Asian import come in for a check engine light issue that illustrates what is happening in the belt and hose markets. Because the import wasn’t a popular brand in my area, many shops had turned down the diagnostics. So, after working with a vacuum schematic, I found the cause for the diagnostic trouble code to be a clogged vacuum line.
Of even more concern was that the owner was ready to leave on a long trip with a badly cracked alternator belt. The vehicle had just been “serviced” and, in the owner’s mind, was ready for his long trip. That wasn’t the case, however, because the belt was ready to shred its way off the pulleys within a few hundred miles of high-speed driving.
Unfortunately, in their haste to sell wiper blades and fluid flushes, many quick-lube mechanics overlook expendable items like belts and hoses. Although replacing the belt wasn’t difficult for a well-tooled tech, it would have been difficult for any repair facility that didn’t have the metric wrenches needed to fit under a tight-fitting intake manifold and power steering bracket.
The A/C compressor and power steering belt also had to be removed before the alternator drive belt could be accessed. Years of corrosion made removing the A/C compressor belt more challenging than it should have been, and an even greater array of tools was required to budge the tensioning pulley from its corroded mounting. Perhaps this example explains why many quick-service facilities give hose and belt inspection a relatively low priority on their service menus.
Belt inspections aren’t difficult. The first clue to a bad belt, for example, is a belt squeal heard during engine start-up. The second clue might be a belt squeal heard during parking maneuvers or during an alternator load test. The last clue is the fraying and cracking associated with a worn-out belt (See Photo 1). A frayed belt might indicate a pulley alignment problem, so it’s important to include some diagnostic time for inspecting and possibly correcting pulley alignment.
Many import manufacturers promote standards that might include the number of cracks per inch present on the inside of the belt. In addition to whatever standard might be published, I inspect the outside of the belt for signs of glazing or pulley slippage. If the original part numbers and markings are still visible, all is well with the belt and pulleys. On the other hand, if the belt is glazed or frayed, an idler or drive pulley bearing might be seizing up (See Photo 2).In most cases, any belt running past 100,000 miles might be running on borrowed time. Of course, many belts do last longer because of the variables that affect belt life, including the amount of torque transmitted by the belt, underhood heat, and exposure to oil and atmospheric ozone.
If, for example, the engine has separate accessory belts, the alternator belt will tend to crack and harden first because the alternator is continuously laboring to operate accessories and keep the battery charged. The air conditioning compressor drive belt might be the next to fail in warm climates. Here again, if the compressor is overcharged or is seizing up, belt life will suffer accordingly. Hydraulic power steering pump belts usually last the longest simply because they transmit maximum torque only under demand. Last, separate water pump belts transmit very little torque and are the most likely to incur the least wear.
Many years ago, the average water-cooled import had only four or five hoses including the upper and lower radiator, heater inlet and return, and a water pump bypass hose. In most cases, the lower radiator hose had a wire reinforcement to keep the hold from collapsing at high engine speeds. Imports built during the past several decades may have a dozen or more small coolant hoses that perform diverse duties, like heating the throttle plate assembly or warming up thermostatic idle speed controls.
In general, the upper radiator hose on a conventional cooling system is the first to fail because it endures the hottest coolant temperatures. The lower radiator hose, on the other hand, may operate at lower temperatures and, thus, may last much longer. The same can be said of the auxiliary hoses, including the heater outlet and smaller-diameter intake manifold hoses that have minimal exposure to underhood heat.
Hose inspections are relatively simple if, when the engine is fully warmed up, we begin by looking for any unusual swelling or seepage around the connection point of the hose. If the sides of a hose feel mushy or spongy at full operating pressure and temperature, the hose should be replaced (See Photo 3).
Similarly, if traces of coolant leakage are found around a hose connection, the hose has hardened and will likely leak if it’s reinstalled. If the cooling system is depressurized and the hose isn’t wire-reinforced, the radiator hoses can be evaluated by squeezing the sides together. Again, the rubber should feel firm to the touch. If the rubber feels soft or spongy, the hose is a candidate for recommended replacement. If the hose is so hard that it has lost its elasticity, it also becomes a candidate for replacement (See Photo 4).
WHEN TO SELL HOSES
Let’s face it: Because of the complexity of modern cooling systems, hose access issues and today’s relatively higher labor rates, it’s tough to sell a complete cooling system hose replacement. In many cases, a complete replacement isn’t absolutely necessary because most of the hoses might be in good condition. On the other hand, if a component like a heater core, water pump, radiator or engine is being removed or replaced, the only significant cost to the consumer is the cost of the hoses themselves.Keep in mind that re-clamping an old, hardened hose brings with it a potential liability issue. If you’re the shop that reinstalled that old hose, perhaps you’re not pursuing what is called “due diligence” in performing a reliable repair. If an engine is ruined because the old hose fails, you may not be following due diligence principle, at least not in the eyes of some legal experts.
BELT AND HOSE ESTIMATES
Economic times are tough, and it’s a demanding process to write an estimate for hose replacement that’s both profitable and competitive. Unlike other components, labor charges aren’t really an issue in many belt and hose replacements because belts and hoses must be removed to gain access to other components like a water pump, timing belt or the engine itself. Because the labor for belt and hose replacement is included in the replacement of another part in most labor guides, it simply doesn’t make economic sense to reinstall old, worn-out belts and hoses.It’s also important to emphasize to the customer how much more expensive it will be to replace the hoses at a later date when the issue of hose accessibility must be fully addressed. On some imports, accessibility issues might account for hours of additional labor time, not to mention the difficulty of performing a reliable installation within the confines of a tight engine compartment.
THE SECURITY ISSUE
Last, remember that having good belts and hoses is a security issue for most drivers. While having good belts and hoses on the family’s “beater” car isn’t a primary issue for most, having those new belts and hoses under the hood of their primary transportation becomes not only a security issue, but also a dollars-and-cents issue if the vehicle is stranded on a long trip due to a belt or hose failure.
Tech Tip: Make Sure You Have the Tools and Equipment Needed to Service Today’s Electrical Systems
By Mike DuBois
One day we are fat, dumb and happy using a piece of wire with a 12-volt bulb on the end of it to test things with. Now we are faced with deciding between using the 10 meg-ohm computer safe test light, the power injector or a logic probe complete with polarity protection, audible alarm, light and 20-foot memory cord. Geeesh! How did things get so confusing so fast? Progress my boy! That is the root of our problem here! As the cars and systems have gotten more and more complicated, so have the tools and equipment needed to work on those cars ….
Today’s professional technician is expected to be able to understand electrical theory, electronics, physics, as well as understand and interpret readings from complex electrical test equipment. Add to that volts and amps and ohms…OH MY!The good news is that there are some general classifications of electrical test equipment that can at least narrow down the choices to a more manageable number of tools to consider. There are generic system testers, there are specialty testers and there are diagnostic testers. These main three groups are a good starting place to think about the tools and equipment needed to test today’s modern automotive electrical systems.
Generic or general testers normally are designed to perform a range of tests or work on a variety of vehicles and systems. These testers might include such things as multimeters, battery load testers and voltage test lights. Again, the main thing about these tools is that they can work on different vehicles, and perform general tests on different systems.
This is the largest category of electrical testing tools and equipment. These tools provide the foundation for all the more complex testing that may be necessary later on. A technician will do well to start building his or her collection of tools here. The basics are still necessary even on the most complicated vehicles. The basics should include a 12-volt test light, a multimeter that is capable of performing a host of tests including the basics such as volts, amps AC and DC current measurement, diode testing, rpm, temperature and starter draw testing.
The meter should have overload protection via fuses, it should also be able to store min/max values on data, and meters that show a graphical representation are needed to perform many tests today. From here, a tech should consider a collection of ancillary items to support and complement the multimeter. These items might include an rpm inductive pickup, a K-style temperature probe and an amp clamp adapter (this allows for starter draw testing). Once these items are in place, make sure that the kit includes an assortment of test leads and extensions, back probes, clamps, etc. These items ensure that the technician can always hook his or her test equipment to whatever item is being tested.Another incredibly powerful tool is a power injector. These tools allow the technician to provide power to a component for testing. Most of these units have a ground wire available directly next to the power source. These tools are some of the best productivity tools in the current technician’s toolbox. These tools have features such as lights, audible alarms and polarity indication.
Specialty Test Equipment
Specialty testers such as oxygen sensor testers, ABS wheel speed sensor testers and fuel injection signal testers are designed to do one specific test. These tools are indispensable for verifying a diagnosis prior to replacing an expensive component. Many of these testers aren’t used every day, but on those occasions where you really need it, you will be glad you have it.
Diagnostic Test Equipment
This is some of the most expensive, complicated and powerful equipment and tools that a technician can purchase. The true value of this equipment is in the description. Diagnostic test equipment will actually provide the user with possible answers or diagnosis of what might be wrong with a vehicle. These tools are different from other test equipment in that they usually have the ability to receive, interpret and analyze multiple sources of data input.
One example of diagnostic test equipment is the latest generation of battery testing equipment. These tools are incredibly complex, they are using microprocessors and, in some cases, are performing multiple tests at one time to verify the condition of a battery. The early battery testers placed a load on a battery and then the user was left with making a decision based on the analog results of that test. Compare that with today’s testers, which are evaluating the battery on several levels including state of charge, voltage, amperage, percentage of life left, maximum potential power output and many other tests. This is just one example of a diagnostic tester used for electrical systems on today’s modern vehicles.Regardless of a technician’s knowledge level, picking test tools is not an easy task. Many times the testers that are available today are so complicated that even the professional sales and tool people can’t always know all the features and benefits of a specific tool or piece or equipment. The best course of action in those cases is for the technician to contact the supplier directly to learn more about the tool before making a buying decision. Another great way to learn about test tools is by attending seminars and continuing education programs. These are opportunities for the tech to see, touch and use the tool in a relaxed environment.
While irregular tire wear is a good indication that it might be time to have your tires replaced, did you know that it can also be a warning sign that your vehicle is experiencing steering, alignment or suspension problems? Becoming familiar with these early warning signs is a good preventative maintenance tip that will keep you on the road.
If your vehicle is pulling to one side, make sure you first check your tire pressure. If your tire pressure is balanced, your steering problems could be due to any of the following: an uneven tire rod length, incorrect toe, unequal camber or caster, or an incorrect center link/rack height. If you are experiencing excessive steering play or hard steering, have your technician check for loose or worn struts, strut mounts, shocks, springs and/or bushings.
There are many components within the suspension system of your vehicle. If you are experiencing suspension problems, have your technician check the tire alignment, bearings, bushings, strut rods, springs and/or control arms. Be sure to inspect all suspension components and repair all parts that are worn or damaged. Failure to do so may allow the problem to reoccur and cause premature failure of other suspension components.
Wheel alignment is needed for proper handling and tire wear. Proper wheel alignment keeps the wheels from scuffing, dragging or slipping. It also reduces fuel consumption and strain on steering and suspension parts, and improves steering ability. There are three alignment angles that affect your vehicle; camber, caster and toe.
Camber is the inward or outward tilt of the wheel at the top from a true vehicle line and is measured in degrees. The purpose of this adjustment is to distribute the vehicle load closer to the point of road contact. This makes steering easier and helps prevent excessive tire wear.
Caster is a directional control angle measured in degrees and is the amount that the steering axis tilted from true vertical backward or forward. Caster affects turning ease, straight-line stability and steering wheel returnability.
Toe is the difference between the front and rear of the corresponding tires at spindle height. This is easier to understand when you compare your car's wheels to your own feet. When the fronts of the tires face in toward the car, this is called toe-in. When they face out from the car, this is called toe-out. Incorrect toe will increase tire scrub and wear.
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