Your Check Engine Light

You’re driving your car, or maybe you just turned it on, when suddenly you notice a yellow light illuminating on your car’s dashboard. Like most car owners, chances are you haven’t a clue what could be wrong. The check engine light is the most mysterious of all of the dashboard lights, as well as the most menacing. It’s one thing when your TPMS light comes on, but it’s a whole different ball game when there could be something wrong with your engine.

The check engine light can mean many different things, from a loose gas cap to a seriously misfiring engine. It doesn’t necessarily mean you need to abandon ship and immediately pull your car over to the side of the road, but to be safe, it’s best to make an appointment at your local service center to see what may be wrong. If you’re less prone to panicking, and instead, you’re asking yourself, “How long can I drive with the check engine light on?”, then chances are you may need to read on from here.

A blinking or flashing dashboard light usually indicates a more severe problem. When this occurs, check your vehicle service manual and schedule an appointment to have the problem looked at by a professional technician as soon as possible. Ignore the warning, and you could end up damaging expensive components.

Capture.JPG

City Ford Sales
14750 Mark Messier Trail,
Edmonton, AB T6V 1H5, Canada
780-454-2000
City Ford Sales

Advertisements

Why Is the ABS Light On?

img-89897861-1514493468710

ABS stands for antilock braking system, and if the ABS warning light is illuminated in your car’s gauge cluster, that means the antilock system has been deactivated because of a malfunction.

Your car’s regular brakes should work fine, but the antilock feature that prevents wheels from locking up during braking will not work. In addition, if your vehicle has stability control and traction control, those will be disabled as well because those systems rely on the same wheel-speed sensors as the antilock system.

All 2012 and newer vehicles are required to have stability control, so they also have ABS and traction control. Many older cars also have some or all of those features.

The ABS light (usually yellow, amber or orange) should come on briefly every time you start your car as part of a system check. If the light stays on, that means something isn’t working and the system has been shut down.

With ABS, sensors mounted at each wheel monitor the speed at which the wheels are turning. If one is turning slower than the others during braking, that indicates it is locking up, which could cause skidding and loss of steering control. ABS is supposed to intervene by rapidly “pumping” the brakes at the wheel that is locking up, allowing it to spin so that the driver retains braking and steering control.

Here’s what causes this:

  • A blown fuse for the system
  • A wheel-speed sensor that is damaged or covered by road grime
  • A broken wire between the sensors and the ABS controller
  • An ABS controller that has stopped working

A pump and valve that apply the right amount of brake fluid pressure to each wheel to prevent locking can also trigger an ABS sensor warning light when those items go bad.

If the red warning light for the regular brakes comes on, that typically means your vehicle is losing brake fluid or the brakes are so worn that you don’t have normal stopping power. Either of those situations warrants immediate attention and possible repair work.

City Ford Sales
14750 Mark Messier Trail,
Edmonton, AB T6V 1H5, Canada
780-454-2000
City Ford Sales

How Can I Tell If My Radiator Is Leaking?

How can you tell when your car’s radiator is leaking? When the temperature gauge on your dashboard reads high or a temperature warning light comes on, you have a cooling system problem that may be caused by leakage — be it in the radiator itself or some other component.

First, make sure it’s coolant that’s leaking, not another fluid. (Coolant is often referred to as antifreeze, but technically coolant is a 50/50 mix of antifreeze and water.) You can easily check the coolant level in your see-through overflow tank. If it’s empty or low, the next step should be to check the coolant level in the radiator, but that should be done only when the engine is cool. Having too little coolant in the car’s cooling system can cause engine overheating and/or make your cabin heater blow cold air.

Once you know you’re losing coolant, the radiator is a good place to start. Some radiator leaks will be easy to spot — such as a puddle underneath the radiator — but others not so much. It’s best to check the radiator from every angle, not just from above, and pay particular attention to seams and the bottom. Rust inside the radiator or holes from road debris also can cause coolant leaks. Your vehicle may have an aluminum radiator that technically can’t rust, but aluminum can corrode or develop pinhole leaks too.

Antifreeze comes in different colors — green, yellow and pinkish-red, for example — feels like slimy water and usually has a sweet smell. If you can’t see coolant dripping or seeping, look for rust, tracks or discoloration on the radiator. Those are telltale signs of where it has leaked.

If the radiator appears to be OK, the cooling system offers several possibilities for leaks, including the hoses from the radiator to the engine, the radiator cap, water pump, engine block, thermostat, reservoir tank, heater core (a small radiator that circulates hot coolant into the dashboard for passenger-compartment heating) and others. A blown gasket between the cylinder head and engine block is another possibility, allowing coolant inside the combustion chambers — a problem that must be addressed immediately by a mechanic. (Thick white smoke coming from the tailpipe is actually steam, a telltale symptom.)

If you can’t find a leak, have it checked by a mechanic. Coolant has a way of escaping only under pressure when the car is running — possibly in the form of steam, which may not leave a trace. If the culprit continues to evade detection, you might consider a radiator stop-leak additive, available at auto parts stores, which seals small leaks — but it’s always better to find and repair the problem’s source, especially in the case of faulty head gaskets, which can lead your power supply to overheat and cause catastrophic engine damage.

img2069826377-1466619955458

 

City Ford Sales
14750 Mark Messier Trail,
Edmonton, AB T6V 1H5, Canada
780-454-2000
City Ford Sales

How Often Should I Change Engine Coolant?

When is the right time to change your engine coolant? For some vehicles, you’re advised to change the coolant every 30,000 miles. For others, changing it isn’t even on the maintenance schedule.

For example, Hyundai says the coolant in the engine (what many refer to as “antifreeze”) in most of its models should be replaced after the first 60,000 miles, then every 30,000 miles after that. The interval is every 30,000 miles on some Mercedes-Benz models with some engines, but on others it’s 120,000 miles or 12 years. On still other Mercedes, it’s 150,000 miles or 15 years.

Some manufacturers recommend you drain and flush the engine’s cooling system and change the coolant more often on vehicles subjected to “severe service,” such as frequent towing, which can generate more heat. The schedule for many Chevrolets, though, is a change at 150,000 miles regardless of how the vehicle is driven.

Many service shops, though — including some at dealerships that sell cars with “lifetime” coolant  say you should do a coolant change more often than the maintenance schedule recommends, such as every 30,000 or 50,000 miles.

Here’s why: Most vehicles use long-life engine coolant (usually a 50/50 mixture of antifreeze and water) in the radiator that for several years will provide protection against boiling in hot weather and freezing in cold temperatures, with little or no maintenance. Modern vehicles also have longer intervals between fluid changes of all types partly because environmental regulators have pressured automakers to reduce the amount of old coolant, as well as other waste fluids, that must be disposed of or recycled.

Coolant can deteriorate over time and should be tested to see if it’s still good, as it can be hard to tell just by appearances. Even if the coolant reservoir shows sufficient coolant level and testing shows the cooling and antifreeze protection are still adequate, a coolant drain and antifreeze flush may be needed.

The coolant can become more acidic over time and lose its rust-inhibiting properties, causing corrosion. Corrosion can damage the radiator, water pump, thermostat, radiator cap, hoses and other parts of the cooling system, as well as to the vehicle heater system. And that can cause a car engine to overheat.

Thus, the coolant in any vehicle with more than about 50,000 miles should be tested periodically. That’s to look for signs of rust, leaks and to make sure it has sufficient cooling and overheating protection, even if the cooling system seems to be working properly and the reservoir is full. The cooling system can be checked with test strips that measure acidity, and with a hydrometer that measures freezing and boiling protection.

If the corrosion inhibitors have deteriorated, the antifreeze coolant should be changed. The cooling system might also need flushing to remove contaminants no matter what the maintenance schedule calls for or how many miles are on the odometer. On the other hand, if testing shows the coolant is still doing its job protecting from overheating and not allowing corrosion, changing it more often than what the manufacturer recommends could be a waste of money.
830201076-1436907842118

City Ford Sales
14750 Mark Messier Trail,
Edmonton, AB T6V 1H5, Canada
780-454-2000
City Ford Sales

How Do I Know When to Change My Brake Pads and Rotors?

Squeaks, squeals and metal-to-metal grinding noises are typical signs you’re past due for new brake pads or rotors. Other signs include longer stopping distances and more pedal travel before you feel significant braking force. If it’s been more than two years since your brake parts were replaced, it’s a good idea to have the brakes checked at every oil change or every six months. Brakes wear gradually, so it can be hard to tell by feel or sound when it’s time for new pads or rotors.

img2055379734-1456089585306

City Ford Sales
14750 Mark Messier Trail,
Edmonton, AB T6V 1H5, Canada
780-454-2000
City Ford Sales

Signs You May Need a Tune-Up

If your vehicle’s engine misfires, hesitates, stalls, gets poor mileage, is hard to start or has failed an emissions test, it clearly needs something, though a tune-up in the traditional sense might not be the cure.

If you tell a repair shop your vehicle needs a tune-up, the mechanic should ask what you feel the signs are that you need maintenance before recommending any service. Just like a doctor should ask what symptoms you’re experiencing, a mechanic should seek to diagnose the problem. And just as a doctor may recommend some tests, a mechanic may do the same.

You can speed the tune-up process by being ready to describe what happens and when (such as whether your car hesitates when the engine is cold or when passing at highway speeds), any sounds you hear and what you feel when your car’s “illness” shows up.

One caution about lower fuel economy: You should expect it to go down at least a little during the cold months, and maybe a lot. Colder temperatures make your engine and charging system work harder. In addition, winter gasoline blends have slightly less energy content than summer blends, so they don’t deliver as many miles per gallon. A tune-up won’t make Old Man Winter, or his effects, go away.

What are the signs and symptoms that might make you think your vehicle needs a tune-up?

  • A misfiring engine (when spark plugs ignite at the wrong time) could be caused by worn or fouled spark plugs. Bad spark plugs can also cause low fuel economy, hard starting and sluggish acceleration. Most plugs, though, should last 100,000 miles or more, and engine computers do a remarkable job of compensating for worn plugs, so that might not be the main or only culprit.
  • A dirty or clogged engine air filter is more likely to reduce acceleration than fuel economy, according to tests conducted by the EPA. Because filters get dirty gradually over time, you might not notice a small but steady loss of performance until your car is accelerating like a turtle. But if you haven’t changed the filter in a couple of years (or sooner in areas that have a lot of soot in the air), that could be part of the problem.
  • Engine deposits caused by low-quality or contaminated gasoline create drivability problems, and the cure for that might be a fuel system cleaning, either by a repair shop or with a gas-tank additive.
  • An illuminated check engine light signals when something is amiss in the emissions control system, but depending on what the issue is it could also affect fuel economy or engine performance, so don’t ignore it. A faulty oxygen sensor, for example, leaves the engine computer in the dark about how to set the air-fuel mixture, and that can result in poor fuel economy.
  • An old oxygen sensor (say, 90,000 miles or more) may still work well enough that it doesn’t trigger the check engine light but could still hurt fuel economy. Engine performance can also be reduced by more serious internal problems, such as valves that don’t seat properly or worn piston rings, or by restrictions in the exhaust system.

Because the same symptoms can suggest different problems, and there are often several possible causes and cures, it’s better to consult a professional mechanic than to try to be one if you have neither the experience nor the right equipment to diagnose drivability problems. In short, rather than ask for a tune-up, tell a mechanic what you’re experiencing and ask him or her to find the cause.

City Ford Sales
14750 Mark Messier Trail,
Edmonton, AB T6V 1H5, Canada
780-454-2000
City Ford Sales/

What’s Causing That Smell in My Car?

img1675231553-1469630642910

If your vehicle is giving off an unusual or sickening odor instead of that new-car smell, follow your nose and find the source of the aroma. Bad smells can lead to expensive repairs or health hazards and shouldn’t be ignored. Here are some common odors and their possible causes:

Musty: If turning on the air conditioner generates a musty smell, mold and/or mildew have probably formed in the air-conditioning system. Moisture naturally collects on the cold air-conditioning evaporator (a small radiator that carries refrigerant into the car’s dashboard) and it may be harboring mold. Running only the fan at high speed (with the air conditioning off) can dry the evaporator.

However, that doesn’t guarantee the problem won’t reoccur — especially if it’s being caused by a clog in the drain tube that allows water to drip out under the car. A musty smell also can be caused by carpets that get wet when water leaks into the interior.

Sweet: Antifreeze has a sweet, syrupy odor, and smelling it inside a car usually means there’s a leak somewhere in the cooling system. The source may not be easy to see. For example, the leak could be from a corroded heat exchanger (aka heater core), which is usually behind the dashboard. The leak could be in the form of steam that enters the cabin, producing the smell and potentially fogging the windows. Have this problem addressed, because breathing antifreeze isn’t good for you.

Burning: Oil could be oozing onto a hot part of the engine or exhaust system. It also could come from overheated brake pads and/or rotors — due either to aggressive braking, pads that don’t retract when you release the brake pedal or the emergency brake being left on while driving. On a vehicle with a manual transmission, the clutch plate could be worn or overheating from riding the clutch pedal. Leaves or other material in the engine compartment — sometimes imported by nesting rodents — also can burn on hot surfaces.

Rotten eggs: If you can smell rotten eggs or sulfur, your catalytic converter may have gone bad. The root cause could be an engine or emissions-system problem that made the converter overheat.

Rubber: The smell of burning rubber could be an accessory drive belt that’s slipping or getting chewed up by a broken pulley or hose rubbing against a moving part. An overheated clutch plate also can smell like burning rubber.

Electrical: Smell burnt toast? That could be a short circuit in an electrical component or overheated insulation. Take electrical odors seriously, because short circuits and overheated components are common sources of fire.

Gas: It’s normal to smell a little gas when a cold engine is first started because of incomplete combustion. If you smell gas after the engine is warm, though, the gas cap could be loose or the evaporative emissions control system — which is supposed to contain fuel vapors and recycle them through the engine — could be leaking or clogged. Even worse, gas could be leaking from the tank or another part of the fuel system. Always investigate gas smells you discover when your car is parked before starting the car and potentially igniting the fuel.

Rotting fruit: It’s probably what it smells like. Look under the seats for a decomposed apple or banana.

City Ford Sales
14750 Mark Messier Trail,
Edmonton, AB T6V 1H5, Canada
780-454-2000
City Ford Sales