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  • Passing the Test (How to Prevent Emissions Test Failure)

    Jun 13, 2021

    Vehicle emission testing has become ubiquitous in North America and for a good reason.  Clean air quality is important for the environment and all of us.  Since vehicle emissions are among the main causes of air pollution, emission testing can alert you to problems in your vehicle than can be fixed so it won't needlessly pollute.

    Emissions tests are looking for certain toxic gases internal combustion engines produce, such as nitrogen oxide, particulate matter, non-methane organic gases and formaldehyde.  Emissions control systems reduce these gases if they are working properly. 

    The best way to minimize pollution is to keep those vehicle systems working properly, and periodic inspection and maintenance is the key.  So if you want to make sure your vehicle will pass an emissions test, it helps to know what might go wrong.

    Let's start on the easy one.  Your gas cap could be loose, allowing vapors to escape into the atmosphere.  The most common solution is to replace it.  Or your air filter may be dirty.  A dirty air filter may push your hydrocarbons pass the acceptable level.

    Now to the more complicated things.  The mixture of fuel and air in your engine may be tilted toward the "too much fuel" side.  That could cause problems for your vehicle's catalytic converter, a device that converts toxic gases from your exhaust into less toxic pollutants.

    Your vehicle has a closed system that prevents fuel tank vapors from escaping into the air; it's called the EVAP system.  A technician can track down problems.

    Vehicle engineers have gone to great lengths to minimize the amount of pollution your vehicle produces.  Your vehicle's manufacturer recommends how frequently those systems need servicing.  Keep those systems in good shape and you're likely to pass emissions tests with flying colors.  Neglect them and you might find your vehicle failing an emissions test.  When that happens, you'll have to get the problems repaired before you can get back on the road.

    Affordable Transmissions
    6301 WELCOME AVE N STE 28
    Brooklyn Park, MN 55429
    (763) 533-1169
    http://www.affordabletransmission-mn.com




    The Byte Stuff (Your Vehicle's Computers)

    Jun 6, 2021

    Nobody has to tell you that computers are a part of so many things in our lives.  Smartphones, kitchen appliances, vacuum cleaners, televisions.  You name it—it has a computer in it.  And your vehicle is no exception.

    The earliest cars relied on the technology of their time, and there was no such thing as a computer.  But now, it's not unusual for a vehicle to have as many as 150 computers in it.

    They perform a variety of functions. An important one is diagnosing your vehicle's problems.  There are various sensors throughout modern vehicles that measure thousands of data points.  When something is not working correctly, they send a signal to another computer that stores that information. The data can be read by someone who has a special computer that plugs into a port in your car.  It displays certain codes that help technicians track down the culprit. 

    But it's not just the diagnostics that are computerized.  Everything from your vehicle's fuel injection to anti-lock brakes is.  Convenience features such as power windows, rain-sensing windshield wipers, a wi-fi-hot spot, streaming video and navigation are all sophisticated computers.  Then there are the safety features; air bags, traction control, automatic emergency braking and a host of others are all dependent on computers.

    It is important that those computers work correctly because they interface with many of the other computers on board.  To properly diagnose problems with those computers requires training and special equipment. Your service facility has invested considerable resources into both, and they are equipped to properly evaluate and repair and/or replace malfunctioning components. 

    Some lament the days when backyard mechanics could pull out their tools and do their own repairs.  Those days are fast disappearing with the computerization of vehicles.  But look at the bright side.  Your vehicle does so much more, has so many more features and travels far more safely than those past generations drove.  And they're bound to get better and more sophisticated down the road.

    Affordable Transmissions
    6301 WELCOME AVE N STE 28
    Brooklyn Park, MN 55429
    (763) 533-1169
    http://www.affordabletransmission-mn.com




    Wash Me, Wash Me Right (How to Wash a Vehicle)

    May 30, 2021

    Most would agree they'd rather drive around in a clean, shiny vehicle than one coated with a layer of dirt.  When warmer weather comes around, some of us are bound and determined to wash our own vehicles.  And to protect the paint and its luster, there are a few things to keep in mind when you get out the bucket and soap.

    • Cool body.  It's not a good idea to wash a vehicle when the body is hot.  If it's been sitting out in the sun or you've been riding around on a sunny day, make sure you cool your vehicle off by either moving it to the shade or wetting it down with cool water. The problem with washing a hot vehicle is that it's going to dry so fast, minerals in the water can form hard-to-remove spots on the paint.  And some of those can be really difficult to get out.  Best to avoid it.
    • Slippery when wet.  Make sure you wet your vehicle down thoroughly before you get the washing mitt out.  Experts keep a couple of buckets of soapy water on hand, and they use soap especially engineered to remove dirt from a vehicle without stripping off the wax that might be on it. 
    • The washing mitt.  Experts say to use a mitt with hundreds of moisture-absorbing strands on it.  Start washing at the top and move down.  If you keep dipping the mitt in the buckets frequently, a minimal amount of dirt will stick to it and that will prevent scratching the paint. 
    • Wheels last.  Wait until you've finished washing the body before washing the wheels.  Some detailers prefer special wheel-washing tools or brushes. 
    • Rinse it well.  Hose the vehicle off thoroughly to get all the soap off, then dry immediately.  Some people swear by a chamois, others like cloth better.  Cotton or microfiber towels will do.  

    The next time you have your vehicle in for maintenance, you might ask your service advisor for recommendations on vehicle washing accessories.  They are usually up on the brands that produce the best results.  You may not be a detailing pro, but there's no reason your vehicle can't look like you are.

    Affordable Transmissions
    6301 WELCOME AVE N STE 28
    Brooklyn Park, MN 55429
    (763) 533-1169
    http://www.affordabletransmission-mn.com




    Beware of Potholes! (Avoiding Pothole Damage)

    Apr 25, 2021

    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 a pothole pretty hard, here are some signs to watch out that could signal damage.

    • Your vehicle pulls to one side
    • The steering wheel shakes
    • You hear noises or clunks coming from your suspension
    • Your steering wheel is not centered when you are going straight

     

    These are all symptoms you should have checked at your vehicle repair facility as soon as you can. The longer you wait, the more damage you may be doing.

    You also may find after hitting a pothole hard that the tire on that wheel is flat. Try not to drive any more on that tire since you could do a lot more damage to the tire and/or wheel. A call to roadside assistance may save you money in the long run by limiting the damage to what's already done.

    Affordable Transmissions
    6301 WELCOME AVE N STE 28
    Brooklyn Park, MN 55429
    (763) 533-1169
    http://www.affordabletransmission-mn.com




    Cold Weather Vehicle No-Nos (Items to Avoid Storing in a Freezing Vehicle)

    Mar 28, 2021

    It's always easier to leave a few things in your vehicle so you'll have them on hand.  But in cold weather, while it's a good idea to carry items such as a phone charger, blanket and shovel, there are some things you shouldn't store in your vehicle.

    • Medicines and drugs.  Cold temperatures can affect the chemical makeup of some drugs.  Avoid leaving them in a vehicle, especially those in a liquid form like insulin, eye drops and cough syrup.
    • Latex paint.  They are water based, and when they freeze, they get lumpy and lousy.  Your paint job will not be what you had in mind.
    • Cellphones and computers.  Most of these have lithium ion batteries.  If they get colder than freezing (0 degrees C, 32 degrees F), if you try to charge them, you'll more than likely ruin the batteries. 
    • Bottled water, soda, wine or beer.  OK, here's the scoop.  All of these can freeze and split the container they're in.  Yes, soda, wine and beer will take a lower temperature to freeze than water, but all of these can easily freeze if the mercury plunges low enough.  The problem isn't when they're frozen; it's when they unfreeze, drip out of their containers and leave you with a colossal mess. 
    • Musical instruments.  Guitars are made of wood.  When a guitar freezes and you bring it quickly into a warm room, you may hear cracking sounds that tell you that guitar will be not-so-gently weeping from the damage that can occur.  The same goes for wind instruments and others.  Don't ever subject musical instruments to quick temperature extremes.

     

    Take a little time and effort not to leave these things out in a frigid vehicle.  You'll likely spend far more time and money tending to the resulting consequences than if you'd just brought them inside in the first place.

    Affordable Transmissions
    6301 WELCOME AVE N STE 28
    Brooklyn Park, MN 55429
    (763) 533-1169
    http://www.affordabletransmission-mn.com




    When Your Air Bag Light Comes On (Illuminated Air Bag Light)

    Mar 7, 2021

    There are some dashboard lights you should pay more attention to than others.  One is the air bag light.  If it's on and your vehicle is in an accident, your air bags probably won't do their job.

    Automakers began installing air bags in the late 1990's since they were mandatory in the United States, and manufacturers have included them in Canadian vehicles as well.  Safety experts say using a seat belt in combination with an air bag gives passengers the best chance of surviving a crash and minimizing serious injury.

    The air bag warning light takes a few different forms.  Some look like a picture of a belted passenger with an inflated air bag from a side view.  Or there may be a warning light that says something like "Air Bag," "SRS" (for supplemental restraint system), "Airbag Deactivated" or "Air Bag Off."

    Different things cause the air bag light to come on.  Your vehicle may have been in an accident during which, while the air bags didn't inflate, crash sensors were activated.  Some of them may be connected with your vehicle's seat belts.  A technician can reset the air bag if this has happened.

    Fuses can also blow which will cause the air bag light to come on.  Another possible cause? A sensor that tells the vehicle's computer whether or not there is someone riding in the passenger front seat may be malfunctioning. 

    Air bags are not for the do-it-yourselfer.  They are sophisticated systems that require specialized training and equipment to diagnose and repair.  If an air bag light is on, take it to a qualified service repair facility.  One more thing: remember that safety experts have designed air bags to work in conjunction with seat belts for maximum protection in accidents.  So always wear your seat belt.  

    Affordable Transmissions
    6301 WELCOME AVE N STE 28
    Brooklyn Park, MN 55429
    (763) 533-1169
    http://www.affordabletransmission-mn.com




    Getting from E to F (Fuel Gauge Problems)

    Feb 14, 2021

    Who thinks about their fuel gauge?  You probably don't… until it doesn't work any more.  Then you have to guess how much fuel is in your tank, and that's no way to live life on the road. 

    Fuel gauges, like every other part in your vehicle, can fail.  And when yours stops working, you will probably want to head over to your service facility soon, because no one relishes running out of fuel.

    The fuel gauge system is much more than just the gauge you can see on your instrument panel. Most systems have a float inside the fuel tank that goes up and down depending on the fuel level.  It's called the fuel sending unit, and it sends an electrical signal to the gauge (on the dash) telling it to display how much fuel is left in the tank. 

    So, what could go wrong?  Well, a few things.  For one thing, corrosion from bad fuel can cause it to stick and it won't move up and down any more.  So you could fill up your tank and the gauge would still read Empty.  If a sending unit needs to be replaced, often the parts can be costly. The good news is that fuel sending units rarely fail and most drivers will never have one go bad.

    Other things that can go wrong? An electrical problem could cause a fuse to blow and you won't get a reading at all.  A technician can figure out where that electrical problem is and how to repair it.  Finally, it's possible for the gauge itself (on the instrument panel) to fail.

    One thing to keep in mind is if your fuel gauge isn't working, you might be tempted to carry around an extra container of fuel.  That's ok if it's outside the cabin, such as in the bed of a pickup.  But if you carry it inside the cabin or trunk, fuel fumes can be very dangerous for your health, even fatal.

    A working fuel gauge gives you peace of mind… so you'll never have that "empty" feeling.

    Affordable Transmissions
    6301 WELCOME AVE N STE 28
    Brooklyn Park, MN 55429
    (763) 533-1169
    http://www.affordabletransmission-mn.com




    Water Everywhere (Clogged Drains)

    Nov 29, 2020

    It's bad enough when you mistakenly leave a window open in your vehicle on a rainy day and you find your carpet soaked.  But what in the world is going on when your windows are closed tight, not leaking and you STILL wind up with wet carpet? The answer could be something you might not even know your vehicle has.

    And the answer is? Drains. And those drains can get clogged.  Yes, your vehicle has several drains with tubes or hoses attached to them that you really never see.  There are some in and around the hood that channel rainwater down to the ground.  There are some that take condensation from the air conditioner and allow it to flow outside.  And if your vehicle has a retractable sunroof or moon roof, there are small drains at each corner that connect to tubes that go through the vehicle body down to an exit near the ground. 

    Considering all the leaves, dirt, dust and other debris your vehicle encounters on a daily basis, it's not surprising that these drains can get blocked.  Then when it rains, that water winds up going to the place of least resistance.  Sometimes, that's inside the cabin where it shows up as wet carpeting.

    So, what's the solution?  You may be tempted to see if you can clean out those drains yourself.  But there are many people who have tried blowing condensed air in the drains only to find that they literally blow the tubes off of their connections inside the vehicle's body.  Reattaching those can be a time-consuming, labor-intensive, expensive proposition.

    A trained technician has the equipment and knowledge to clear out those drains properly. To prevent clogged drains, regular maintenance is the key, so when your vehicle is in for other periodic maintenance like oil changes and tire rotations, the technician can make sure all drains are clear and flowing like they should.

    Affordable Transmissions
    6301 WELCOME AVE N STE 28
    Brooklyn Park, MN 55429
    (763) 533-1169
    http://www.affordabletransmission-mn.com




    Drivers that "T" Us Off (Bad Driving Practices)

    Nov 15, 2020

    We've all seen drivers who do things that—let's be frank—really irritate us.  They're inconsiderate, can put people in danger and make the road a much less friendly place.  They really "T" us off.  These are the bad drivers who fit their description to a "T." 

    • The Tailgater.  You've seen this terrible driver who follows a few inches off the bumper of the vehicle ahead.  We all know what's going to happen if the driver ahead of the tailgater has to slam on the brakes.  And we've all been that driver followed by the tailgater, whose vehicle fills up your entire rearview mirror.  The tailgater is likely not in a great frame of mind and, thanks to his or her stupid driving practices, the "tailgatee" is getting pretty ticked off as well.  That's a formula for a big problem. Know anybody who respects or likes a tailgater? Didn't think so
    • The Texter. All sorts of people think they are perfectly capable of texting while driving.  It's not hard to spot them.  They're usually going more slowly than other drivers.  They may be weaving in and out of their lane.  They're looking down at their phone, not at the road.  At a stoplight, they're the ones who sit there for 30 seconds after the light has turned green.  Did you know a recent study found that a quarter of all accidents involve someone who is texting and driving?
    • The Trasher.  Their window goes down and the trash flies out.  They treat anything outside their vehicle as their personal garbage dump.  They finish up a cigarette and flick their butt out, leaving dozens a day for the rest of us to "admire." The Trasher has been around for a long time.  It's time for them to clean up their act.
    • The Turn-signal Troublemaker. They don't think they need to use turn signals because THEY know where THEY'RE going and no other driver needs that information.  They change lanes without any warning.  Or they made their move minutes earlier and have "forgotten" to turn off their signal.  Use those turn signals wisely and carefully.  And if you're not using your turn signals because they're not operating correctly? Get 'em fixed!

    Affordable Transmissions
    6301 WELCOME AVE N STE 28
    Brooklyn Park, MN 55429
    (763) 533-1169
    http://www.affordabletransmission-mn.com