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Archive for October 2021

Weather Station on Wheels (Vehicle Sensor Maintenance)

Posted October 31, 2021 12:39 PM

You probably never thought about it, but your vehicle is like a rolling weather station.  It can check the outside temperature, let you know when the roads are slippery and help you deal with rain. And how it does all those things is pretty cool.

First, just like any weather station, a vehicle has sensors that measure the driving and weather conditions you find yourself in.  Some of those sensors can control computerized systems in your vehicle to react to the weather.  It depends on whether you have a 2-wheel, 4-wheel or all-wheel drive vehicle how those sensors will respond.

Let's start with temperature.  Most vehicles now have a thermometer that measures the temperature outside.  It's usually in the front, and likely will tell you on the instrument panel what the outside temperature measures.  But a temperature sensor will also tell your vehicle's computers to turn on or off certain systems like the heating or air conditioning.  If your ambient temperature sensor isn't working right, some symptoms are a malfunctioning automatic A/C or a temperature display that is way different than the app on your phone says it should be.

Your vehicle will also have sensors that measure your speed at each wheel.  They work with an onboard computer to measure slippage in any of the wheels so traction control and antilock brakes work correctly in case of slick roads.

Your vehicle can measure something called longitudinal and latitudinal acceleration, and it uses a yaw sensor to do it.  That helps it determine if you might be in an oversteering or understeering situation.  It's important because it works with your vehicle's brakes to apply stopping power to keep you in control.

A steering wheel sensor tells the vehicle's computers what the driver is doing with the wheel.  It also can work with those wheel sensors to measure how slippery the roads are, whether it be due to a wet (rain) or granular (gravel or sand) surface.  By sending different torque or braking to each wheel, it helps the driver maintain control.

More and more vehicles now have a rain sensor that can turn on the wipers automatically when they measure precipitation on the windshield.

So, you're driving your own weather station, and making sure all this data is coming in properly depends on how each component is working.  Regular service and maintenance on these systems is important to make sure they can do their job. Your rolling weather station can't predict the weather, but it can sure help you deal with it, so help it do its job right.


Folsom Autotech
1126 A Sibley St
Folsom, California 95630
(916) 985-0274



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

Posted October 24, 2021 7:29 AM

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.  

Folsom Autotech
1126 A Sibley St
Folsom, California 95630
(916) 985-0274



Beware of Potholes! (Avoiding Pothole Damage)

Posted October 17, 2021 8:49 AM

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.

Folsom Autotech
1126 A Sibley St
Folsom, California 95630
(916) 985-0274



See the Light (Automatic High Beam Dimmers)

Posted October 10, 2021 9:17 AM

It's happened to all of us.  We're driving down a highway at night and over a crest appears a car with its high beams blazing.  You are momentarily blinded, hoping the other driver will switch them to their low beam setting and restore your vision.

Not only do we not appreciate being blinded, face it; we don’t want to be that other driver, either.  You know, the one who forgets to turn down their high beams.

Why do we want high beams in the first place? They can improve safety when used correctly, giving drivers more reaction time since they can see farther down the road.  But research has found many drivers either don't use them or, when they do, they frequently forget to switch to low beams.  Enter the automatic high-beam dimmer.

The quest for the perfect one began back in the 1950s, General Motors invented something it called the "Autronic Eye." It was a phototube which sat on the dashboard and turned down your beams when it saw other headlights.  While touted as being the biggest advance in night driving safety in 30 years, it didn't work all that well.  But as technology got more advanced, systems improved.

Today's automatic high beam dimmers usually have a camera in the rear view mirror (pointing forward).  When the camera sees lights, software in the system's computer attempts to determine the source of the light, whether it is an oncoming vehicle, taillights, ambient city lights, street lights or the reflection off of a street sign.  It then adjusts the headlights to operate high beams if appropriate or a less-blinding mode if they’re not.

Some automakers are striving to make their headlight systems smarter and safer by developing lamps that can avoid blinding oncoming drivers by means other than simply dimming them. One idea? Splitting the beams so they will block just the portion that shines into the eyes of oncoming drivers.

It's a long way from the Autronic Eye. 

Folsom Autotech
1126 A Sibley St
Folsom, California 95630
(916) 985-0274



How to Radiate Cool (Radiator Care)

Posted October 3, 2021 7:31 AM

There's nothing that radiates cool like a vehicle radiator that's helping to keep your engine running at the proper temperature.  You don't have to baby it, but you can't simply ignore it, either. 

Let's take a quick dive under the hood to let you know what the radiator is doing.  It takes the heat your engine produces and moves that heat outside.  It's not an easy job and heat is an engine's number one enemy.  Now that you're thinking how nice you want to be to your radiator, we have a couple of ideas how you can take care of it.

The easiest thing is to pay attention to your vehicle's temperature gauge. If it gets in the "too hot" or "not hot enough" range, have it checked out soon.  Make sure your coolant is kept at the correct level and if you see a trend that you have to add coolant more than a couple of times a year, you might have a leak.

Even if there are no obvious problems, every couple of years or so, consider taking your vehicle in for radiator maintenance.  A technician can run a pressure check for leaks and ensure that the thermostat and radiator cap are working correctly.  The technician will check that fans are running like they should so they can move air over the radiator and heat away from the coolant inside.

Ask your service advisor when you should have your radiator flushed and coolant replaced according to the manufacturer's recommended intervals.  In addition to cooling, coolant has corrosion inhibitors which stop working after a while.  Without those corrosion inhibitors, the inside of your radiator can literally start rotting away.  Keep in mind that the coolant level must be kept at manufacturer's specifications since if those corrosion-preventing chemicals aren't touching the metal, they're not preventing corrosion. 

Different vehicles use different coolants, so your service facility will make sure yours is getting the correct one.  Keep your coolant system happy and one day, maybe you can order up a custom license plate, "RAY-D-8."

Folsom Autotech
1126 A Sibley St
Folsom, California 95630
(916) 985-0274



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We have established longterm and stable partnerships with various clients thanks to our excellence in solving their automotive needs!

These mechanics fix your vehicle and stand behind their work. They bent over backwards to accommodate me and my schedule. They are located on an easily accessible corner with plenty of parking. The manager, Ron, and owner, Jim, were professional and courteous at all times with such great smiles and information as well as many years of experience and knowledge. A real find and I will continue to use them for my mechanical needs. quotes-image
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Folsom Autotech has been my go-to garage for over 15 years. I asked the guys I work with where they'd send their wife or daughter for car repairs and the resounding recommendations was Folsom Autotech. They were right, this is MY garage and I don't want or trust anyone else to work on our cars!quotes-image
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