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.
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.
We are a Texas Approved AAA Auto Repair Facility in Houston. Also, we are an Independent Auto Care/Repair Factory Dealer Service Center for AC Delco inHouston, with ASE Certified Technicians. Recognized by the state of Texas, Midtown Auto Service & Repair is licenced to issue auto inspections on all types of vehicles.
Being a State Recognized Emmission Repair Facility we offer low income waivers, low milage waivers, individual vehicle waivers, to everyone who failed their state / emmission inspections. Also, some of our services include, auto engine diagnostics, auto engine repair, auto engine misfires, auto check engine light on, auto overheating problems, auto emissions failures, auto drivability issues, brakes,alignments,complete exhaust repairs,tire balancing & rotations, timing belts, waterpumps, auto electrical troubleshooting, doors & windows, oil changes,shocks/struts,A/C work,state inspections and much much more.
We have been featured in magazines such as Undercar Digest, Tech Shop and Automotive Report. These magazines were contacted by other auto repair shop owners and customers who reported us worthy as a featured story. Midtown Auto Service is honored by these recognitions of these auto technical trade magazines. Which is considered a great achievement from our peers.
Also, Citysearch has awarded Midtown Auto Service as Best Auto Repair Shop 2006-2007. Citysearch awarded us with a plaque, “Best Auto Repair 2006 -Audience Winner.” In 2007, Citysearch again awarded us with two rewards, “Best Auto Repair 2007 – Audience Winner & Editorial Winner.” Thus, making Midtown Auto Service the only auto service care facility in Houston, Texas to win two years in a row by Citysearch.
In addition, Midtown Auto Service have won other coveted national recognitions, such as, “Yahoo 2005 Best & Trusted Auto Care Facility” and by “TheLocal Newspaper – The Best Auto Service 2006.” We are also listed in a national radio broadcast, “Car Talk” as listed as a good repair shop to visit in Houston in their “mechanics file.”
Come and try us out and see the difference, we are conveniently located between the downtown & medical center, also known as Midtown.
In conclusion, we service all foreign, domestic and most european cars. In addition, we take checks and all 4 major credit cards,( checks, MasterCard, Visa, Discover, & American Express)
My Automotive /Car engine has a steady miss and gets terrible fuel milage. What's wrong? Houston, Tx
A steady miss indicates one of three things: a cylinder that isn’t firing because of an ignition problem, a cylinder that isn’t firing because it isn’t receiving fuel (multipoint fuel injected engines only), or a cylinder that has lost compression. The first step in diagnosing this kind of problem is to identify the dead cylinder. A professional mechanic can do this quickly by hooking the engine up to an ignition oscilloscope and displaying an ignition raster pattern. The dead cylinder will show a firing voltage that is significantly higher or lower than its companions depending on the nature of the problem. He might also do a "power balance" test and/or a compression test to find the dead cylinder. One way you can find a weak or dead cylinder is to momentarily disconnect each of your engine’s spark plug wires one at a time while the engine is running. When the plug wire is removed from the spark plug, there should be a big drop in idle speed and idle smoothness. When you pull a wire and there’s little or no change in idle speed or quality, you’ve found the bad cylinder. It makes no difference whether you remove each plug wire from the spark plug or the distributor (or coil pack on distributorless ignition systems). The idea is to simply disconnect each cylinder for a moment to see if it makes any difference in the way the engine runs. The one that makes no difference is the problem cylinder. CAUTION: Disconnecting spark plug wires while the engine is dangerous because you risk getting shocked. You can minimize this danger one of several ways. One is to wear rubber gloves and use insulated spark plug wire pliers to momentarily disconnect each plug wire. Another is to make sure no part of your body is touching or leaning against any metal surface on the vehicle (the fender, hood, grille, etc.). Or, you could turn the engine off, remove a plug wire, restart the engine, note any change in idle, then repeat for each of the remaining spark plugs. Ignition Diagnosis If you disconnect the plug wire from the spark plug and hold the end of the wire close to the plug terminal or other metal surface, you should see a spark and/or hear a crisp snapping noise if voltage is getting through the wire. No spark would tell you the plug wire is bad, voltage is arcing inside the distributor cap (remove and inspect the cap for cracks and carbon tracks -- replace if any are found) or a dead coil on a distributorless ignition system (Note: on most distributorless ignition systems, each coil fires two cylinders. So if both cylinders are dead, you know for sure the coil is not working. If only one cylinder is dead, however, it’s not the coil). If all of the plug wires seem to be sparking okay, the next step would be to remove the spark plug in the problem cylinder. Fouling is a common cause of ignition misfire. Examine the end of the plug. If the electrode is covered with deposits, clean or replace the spark plug. Also, note the type of deposits on the plug. Thick, black, wet or oily-looking deposits would tell you the cylinder is burning oil (probably due to worn valve guides, rings and/or cylinder wall). If the deposits are a powdery black, the cylinder is running too rich (probably due to a leaky injector on a multipoint fuel injected engine). If the deposits are brown or gray, it indicates a normal buildup. However, the plug may be fouled because it hasn’t been changed for a long time, because it is the wrong "heat range" for your engine application (you need a hotter plug), or because of frequent short trip stop-and-go driving. In any event, if the plug is fouled you should probably remove, inspect and clean or replace all of the spark plugs. Fuel Diagnosis If the dead cylinder is receiving spark through the plug wire and the spark plug itself appears to be okay (not wet or fouled), and your engine has multipoint fuel injection you may have a dead fuel injector. To check for this kind of problem, start the engine and place your finger on the injector. You should feel a buzzing vibration if the injector is working. No buzz means the injector is either defective or it is not receiving a voltage signal through its wiring harness. You can check for the presence of voltage with a 12 volt test light or voltmeter. Disconnect the injector wiring connector and attach the test light or voltmeter between the injector and connector. If the light doesn’t flash or you don’t see a voltage reading when the engine is running, it indicates a wiring or computer problem that will require further diagnosis. If voltage is getting through but the injector isn’t working, then the injector is defective and needs to be replaced. Sometimes the injector will appear to be working but really isn’t. It will be receiving voltage and buzzing as normal, but because it is clogged up with varnish deposits little or no fuel is actually being squirted into the cylinder. If ignition and compression are both okay in the bad cylinder, therefore, it would tell you the injector is clogged. On-car cleaning may reopen the clogged injector is the varnish isn’t built up too thick. But a completely clogged injector usually doesn’t respond well to this type of cleaning. It either has to be removed for off-car cleaning (which may or may not succeed id reopening it) or be replaced. Compression Diagnosis If the dead cylinder is getting spark and fuel, the only thing that’s left is a compression problem. The most likely causes here would be a leaky valve (probably an exhaust valve since they run much hotter than intake valves and usually fail or "burn" first), a blown head gasket (this usually involves two adjacent cylinders, however), or a rounded or badly worn cam lobe. A compression check will verify if the cylinder is developing its normal compression. Little or no compression would verify any of the above problems. A leakage test could also be used to further diagnose and identify the nature of the problem (valves, head gasket or cam). Air leakage through the exhaust port would indicate a bad exhaust valve. Air leakage back through the intake manifold would indicate a bad intake valve. Air leaking into an adjacent cylinder would indicate a blown head gasket. Minimal leakage would indicate a rounded cam lobe. Leaky valves would require removing the cylinder head and having a valve job performed. A leaky head gasket would require removing the head and replacing the gasket (and probably resurfacing the head to restore flatness). A cam problem would require removing and replacing the camshaft and lifters (old lifters should never be reused with a new cam).
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