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Tag: maintenance

How to Tell Whether Your Car Alternator is Failing

So after brewing a nice cup of coffee in the morning, you grab your bag and hop into your car that’s been sitting in the garage overnight. As you turn the key in the ignition and your engine roars to life, you suddenly hear a loud whirring sound that is pretty unsettling.

That’s weird – the car was running just fine as you drove home the night prior, so why is this happening? It may be your vehicle’s alternator.

The Purpose of the Alternator

You see, your alternator is located on the engine, and it provides power to the battery, the car’s electrical systems, and the various computers. Basically, it’s the hardest working part of a vehicle – the battery starts the car, and the alternator keeps it running.

An alternator typically lasts around 7-8 years or 100,000-150,000 miles. Of course, there are several factors that affect the lifespan of an alternator such as the quality of the part itself, the conditions that the vehicle is driven in, and the kind of electronics found within the vehicle. This may shorten the lifespan of the component.

Other reasons your alternator may fail include a jump start gone wrong, incorrect installation of an aftermarket electronic that overloads the battery, and more. This is why in some cases, the battery may be dying because your alternator is going bad, so don’t rush out to buy a new battery without fully understanding the position you’re in.

The Location of the Noise

You may first assume your engine is failing since it’s so easy to point to that as the perpetrator. A lot of the time, you can tell whether this is the case if the Check Engine light appears on your car’s dashboard. As we talked about, your battery may fail due to it being overloaded, so the battery light could come on.  Check your car owner’s manual to understand what we are referring to.

At this point, you should take a moment to listen to where the sound is coming from. If the noise is focused more towards the center of your car than the front of it (or the back of your car depending on where the engine is located), that may indicate an issue with the alternator. Make sure you visit a reputable auto repair shop that will be able to diagnose what the situation really is.

The Cost to Replace an Alternator

Now, here is where we come to the big question – how much are you going to end up paying to have your alternator replaced? Other than the fact that a lot of it comes down to where you have this service performed and the kind of vehicle you operate, the average price to replace an alternator with a remanufactured one can range from anywhere between $300 to $500 (including parts and labor).

While this can often be a difficult pill to swallow on the cost alone, many alternators come with at least a one-year warranty so you don’t have to worry about driving off the lot with a less-than-satisfactory repla\cement. Be sure to check with your mechanic to find out how long the warranty lasts and what type of scenarios it covers.

Signs You Need Your Car’s Air Conditioner Repaired

We are finally into the fall season, but in many parts of the country including our own, we still have to put in with hot temperatures and humid conditions well past that, making it seem like the summer goes on forever.

During these periods, we tend to crank the air conditioning units in our cars to finally get some relief. But what happens when you turn the knob, flip the switch, or do whatever is needed to turn your car’s AC on, and the cool air never comes?

This is certainly one of those features in a vehicle we take for granted until it no longer works (aside from, you know, the brakes). With that in mind, we’re going to look at a few of the telltale signs that your air conditioner no longer works, including the obvious ones!

No Air Conditioning

Hey, we said we were even going to address even the obvious ones, and this is prime candidate number 1! When you sit down inside your vehicle and turn the air conditioner on but don’t feel any air coming out of the vents, there’s most likely a problem with your HVAC.

There are a few different reasons for this being the case, including not having any refrigerant left in the system, damaged cooling fans, or maybe you like to leave the windows down and a bunch of leaves clogged everything up. Whatever the case may be, this is an issue that tends to be quite easily diagnosable by a mechanic!

You Are Only Getting Hot Air

Another quite obvious symptom of a busted air conditioning unit is when you’re no longer getting a nice breeze of cold air from the vents, only warm or hot air! Much like when there isn’t any air blowing in your face, it could be down with needing new refrigerant to get the system running like it used to.

Sometimes you can tell what the problem is just by looking at it, but we still recommend having an expert take a look just to make sure you’re not dealing with an underlying issue.

Water Leaking From the Unit

Perhaps you’re getting a cool, crisp breeze coming out of the vents, but after driving for a little while, you start to notice water draining out from the bottom of your vehicle. While this can be considered perfectly normal (the reason for which we’ll get to in a second), if it starts to stain the inside of your ride, that’s when the red flag should start waving.

After all, your air conditioner does more than simply blow air – it is also designed to dehumidify the inside of your car by pulling out any moisture from the cabin and draining it outside, just like we talked about.

However, water stains inside the cabin indicate the drain or hose connected with the system has become clogged for some reason causing all that water to back up. This is yet another warning sign that you need to have your system checked by a professional!

Strange Smells

Now we get to the last example of a malfunctioning air conditioner, but also one that is potentially the most dangerous. When you turn on your AC, you should never have to deal with unpleasant smells. Be that as it may, if you notice a foul odor blowing from your vents (and not from passenger), this could be coming from mold growing inside your air conditioning unit. This is a type of situation you need to deal with immediately since the existence of mold can cause some serious health concerns including respiratory problems.

Regardless of whatever problem your air conditioner may be dealing with, it’s vital that you are able to enjoy a smooth, comfortable ride no matter the reason or the season. So when you need to have your system serviced or repaired, be sure to take it to an experienced professional who is equipped to handle any of the problems your car is facing immediately!

Check Your Engine!

Saying that your car’s engine is an important component of your vehicle is an understatement. Without your engine, you wouldn’t be able to go anywhere, it would just be a stationary pile of metal parts. A vehicle without an engine is like having a bike with no pedals – it is pretty useless. Unless you’re going downhill the entire time, you are going to need an engine to make it go forward.

What Does It Do?

You are probably thinking to yourself, what does a car engine actually do? To put it very simply, the engine converts all that gas you fill up on at the gas station into energy, which in turns makes your car move. Gas and air are sucked into the engine which produces tiny explosions, or combustions.

Hence the name “internal combustion engine”. The tiny explosions move the pistons, turning the axle which then proceeds to move your car. This, in layman’s terms, is how your car engine works, and why it is extremely important to keep it in proper working order.

Signs That You Need Engine Repairs

If your check engine light begins to shine, it is best not to ignore it. The check engine light is a sensor that is part of your vehicle’s onboard system. There are a number of issues that could set off the light, but this is the most obvious sign that your engine is in trouble and is going to be in need of maintenance. But that handy check engine light isn’t always going to turn on, so you must be vigilant in paying attention to what your car’s engine is telling you.

If you are at a stop, parked, or in neutral and feel your car sputter and jerk, then your engine could be in bad shape. Loud thumping or banging coming from your engine is also a telltale sign of some direly needed repairs. Make sure you keep a lookout for oil leaks because your engine needs to stay lubricated in order to function properly.

So if you didn’t know before, then hopefully this shows you the importance of keeping the engine of your vehicle well maintained. If the check engine light is on or is showing any one of the symptoms previously stated, make sure you take it to an auto shop as soon as you are able to. The longer you let the problem linger, you risk the issue becoming much worse. A minor fix could become a major one, and a major repair is much more expensive. So keep that engine in shape, and keep driving friends.

The Most Common Transmission Problems

A transmission is one of the most important parts of a vehicle. This complex mechanical system is designed to direct any power from your engine into the driveshaft which helps turn the wheels. As a result, any problems that are inflicting its performance, including excessive wear and tear, can cause some serious drivability issues up to the point of making it inoperable.

By following proper preventative maintenance protocols, you can ensure the longevity of your transmission while avoiding any costly repairs. However, whenever you transmission does have any problems, it’s a good idea to be able to recognize what you could be dealing with. In this article, we’ll run down two of the most common transmission problems that can happen if it isn’t well-maintained.

Low Transmission Fluid or Leaks

Low transmission fluid levels or leaks are easily the most common type of problems this component can experience. Automotive Transmission Fluid, or ATF, helps lubricate, clean, and conditions the hydraulics. If it gets too low or is completely empty, your engine will start to seize up and stop working in its entirety.

Leaks also happen to be one of the most recognizable symptoms. The fluid itself normally has a bright red color, so if you discover this liquid deposited in your driveway, you just need someone to patch up the holes. If it has a dark red color or has a burnt smell (usually through overheating fluid), you will need to have your transmission fluid changed or flushed with the strong possibility of further repairs.

The way to check your transmission fluid level is the same as oil. Take your car for a drive for a few minutes in order to warm it up and then take a look under the hood to read the dipstick (with the vehicle on even ground). For those with a manual transmission, there should be a transmission case through the fill plug.

Unlike oil, transmission fluid is not consumed by your car, so you should be able to tell quite clearly if there is a leak somewhere. If it will be a while before you can get it fixed, top off the fluid until you have your vehicle serviced so your engine can still do its job. Also, make sure you follow your owner’s manual so you don’t overfill, which can create even bigger issues.

Check Engine Light

This is clearly the best indicator that something is about to go wrong with your transmission or it has already happened. While this light could illustrate another problem, you should always take this light seriously. Your vehicle has a number of sensors located throughout the engine to alert the system if it starts to recognize any causes for concern. It can even pick up any jerkiness or vibrations you may not have felt yourself.

When that check engine light appears, take your vehicle in for an inspection as soon as possible. Through the shop’s diagnostic tools, they can find out what is going on to fix the problem immediately. Don’t delay as it could be warning you of a more serious problem.

Bottom line, if you start to hear a whining or grinding noise coming from your transmission, this could be the result of a mechanical issue. This is why it’s so important to have your transmission go through regularly-scheduled maintenance to ensure its operation while avoiding expensive repairs. That goes double if you start to hear any unusual noises or a slipping or dragging clutch.

You will be able to save money in the long run by bringing your vehicle in for repairs. In the meantime, by keeping yourself informed about the common transmission problems, you can also avoid being overcharged for a simple service.

Have any questions or concerns regarding your vehicle’s transmission? We would love to read your thoughts and inquiries in the comments below!

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