Category Archives: What Customers Should Know

A Bright Spark (Ignition Coil Replacement)

Ever wonder how your vehicle’s engine is able to take the 12-volts from its battery and ramp that up to as high as the tens of thousands of volts it takes to fire its spark plugs? The secret is something called an ignition coil.  Most newer vehicles have an ignition coil at each cylinder, but older ones have a coil that serves all of the spark plugs. 

There are telltale signs that you have an ignition coil problem.  As you might expect, one symptom is it’s hard to start your engine or it won’t start at all.  If your engine is misfiring or not running smoothly or you see the Check Engine light come on, those all could point to an ignition coil failure.

Several things can contribute to ignition coil trouble in addition to normal wear and tear. Moisture and dirt may have gotten inside the coil, plus the heat and vibration of your engine over time can contribute to them going bad.  Bad spark plugs or plug wires can also be a cause.  

While ignition coils can last 100,000 miles/160,000 km, depending on how you drive and in what conditions.  If you start noticing some of the signs and symptoms just described, it’s a good idea to schedule a visit to see us so a technician can diagnose what’s wrong. Driving too long with an engine misfiring can damage your catalytic converter, and that can be expensive to replace.

A technician will thoroughly check your ignition system and determine where the failure is.  If it’s only one coil that’s bad, it may be the only thing that will need replacing.  If your vehicle has a distributor, it may also need to be replaced.  Properly-working ignition coils will help your vehicle operate at its best and help prevent future engine damage.

West Service Center
904 Cavalier Blvd
Chesapeake, Virginia 23323
757-487-4420
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Alleviate the Creaks and Squeaks (Chassis Lubrication)

If your vehicle creaks and squeaks when you drive down the road, it may mean that some of the metal parts are rubbing against each other and need to be lubricated.  Those could be parts of the suspension, steering system and the drivetrain. 

Years ago, most vehicles had to have their chassis (what you think of as the frame) regularly lubricated.  Newer vehicles are made with what some call "lifetime lubrication," but there are still parts of the chassis that need to be maintained with lubricants.  Your service advisor can help you know when that needs to be done.

In your owner's manual, the vehicle's manufacturer lists components that need regular maintenance. Things like u-joints, steering joints, sway bars, bushings and joints in the suspension. Some of them may have that "lifetime lubrication," while others may not. When you bring your vehicle in for service, a technician will look for any parts that have grease fittings.  They will inspect these components, clean the fittings so dirt and other contaminants won't be forced into the part and then lubricate them with a lubricant that meets the manufacturer's specifications. 

Sometimes a chassis lubrication is done at the same time as an oil change.  That's also an ideal time for the technician to check other parts of your vehicle that may need attention.  That could include greasing other parts such as the fuel door, trunk and door hinges, suspension springs and door latches.

Times have changed since the days when a "lube" job was synonymous with an oil change. Depend on your owner's manual and advice from your service advisor to know when "grease" is the word—and appropriate for your vehicle.

West Service Center
904 Cavalier Blvd
Chesapeake, Virginia 23323
757-487-4420
http://westservicecenter.com

Steering You Right (Tie Rod End Replacement)

For drivers, S stands for safety.  And there are three other words that start with S that are all equally important: starting, stopping and steering. For your vehicle to be at its safest, all three functions must be in top shape. 

Steering is one of those things we take for granted.  After all, you turn the wheel and your vehicle changes direction. But sometimes you might notice your steering is a little off.  Maybe you've noticed you turn your wheel slightly and your vehicle doesn't turn. You may feel a little vibration in the wheel that increases when you go faster.  You may hear a little squeak from the wheels when you steer and you may notice your tires aren't wearing evenly.

These are signs that your tie rod ends may be failing. Tie rod ends help connect your vehicle's steering mechanism to the wheels.  They can wear out after you've hit one too many potholes or just from constant use.  They can cause sloppy steering and loose handling, and they should be replaced when they've reached the end of their life span.

If you notice any of these things happening on your vehicle, bring it in to us so a technician can check it out.  There are a couple of different types of steering, recirculating ball steering and the one most of the latest vehicles have, rack and pinion. When we replace your tie rod ends, we will remove and replace the old ones and adjust them to meet your vehicle manufacturer's specifications.

Tie rod ends should often be replaced in pairs, and your vehicle should be aligned afterwards.  Keep your steering working the way it's supposed to, and your vehicle will be sure to steer you right.

West Service Center
904 Cavalier Blvd
Chesapeake, Virginia 23323
757-487-4420
http://westservicecenter.com

Giving CV Joints the Boot! (CV Joint and Boot Replacement)

Ever wonder how your vehicle’s transmission is connected to your wheels? After all, when you hit a pothole or some other uneven part of a road’s surface, there has to be something that can maintain the connection between the transmission and the wheel yet keep everything moving at the same speed. 

That very cool device is called a CV joint, a kind of driveshaft running to each wheel.  The CV stands for constant velocity because it keeps the drive wheels moving at a constant speed (velocity).  They’re used mostly on front-wheel drive vehicles but also in rear-wheel and all-wheel drive vehicles.

The joints move up and down and adjust to bumpy surfaces.  Plus, they are covered in a rubber boot which protects them from road debris and also holds lubrication in.  There’s a CV joint and boot on the transmission side and one on the wheel side.  Unfortunately, the spot that usually fails first is that rubber protective cover (the boot).  After a lot of wear, tear, bumps, road hazards, heat, and you name it, the rubber rips and the lubrication leaks out.  At that point, it must be replaced. 

Here are signs to tell if your CV joint is bad.

  • Your vehicle is pulling to one side as a wheel loses power or you feel a vibration while driving.
  • You see grease on the inside or edge of your tires.  
  • Your front tires won’t point in the same direction.
  • You hear grinding or clicking when you turn.

Sometimes if a broken boot early is caught early, a technician can pack in new grease and replace just the boot.  But if the lubrication has leaked out and the joint is already wearing badly, the CV and boot both have to be replaced.  Give your vehicle the boot (as in a new boot) and CV joint, and you’ll be back on the road to your next destination.

West Service Center
904 Cavalier Blvd
Chesapeake, Virginia 23323
757-487-4420
http://westservicecenter.com

Go With the Flow (MAF Sensor Replacement)

A driver brought her vehicle into the shop the other day and told us how she was getting lousy fuel economy and that the engine was running rough.  Plus, the Check Engine light was on.  Our technician checked the code the engine had generated (why the Check Engine light was on) and found the problem.  It was a faulty Mass Air Flow sensor, MAF sensor for short.

This MAF sensor is an important part of your vehicle.  What it does is calculate the amount of air going into your engine.  As you may know, air is taken into your engine where it's mixed with fuel.  Then, the spark plugs fire, that explosive fuel/air mixture detonates, and all these sequential explosions together provide the power to get your vehicle moving down the road. 

It makes sense that if the MAF sensor isn't sending the engine's computers the correct information on the amount of air going in the engine, the fuel/air mixture isn't going to be right. It will either too rich (too much gasoline for the amount of air) or too lean (not enough gasoline for the amount of air).

In this driver's case, the MAF sensor was damaged and needed to be replaced.  Another thing that may cause the MAF to give an incorrect reading is if its wires are dirty or faulty.  So, replacing or cleaning the wires important as well.

Other symptoms that your MAF sensor is bad? If your engine hesitates when you step on the gas, it stalls, or your vehicle is jerky when you accelerate. 

A malfunctioning MAF sensor is not just bad for performance.  Driving with your vehicle in that condition can cause more damage to your engine.  When you bring your vehicle in for us to check, a technician will thoroughly examine your engine to make sure all issues are taken care of.

West Service Center
904 Cavalier Blvd
Chesapeake, Virginia 23323
757-487-4420
http://westservicecenter.com

Don't Blow a Gasket! (Valve Cover Gasket Replacement)

When you head out to your vehicle after it's been parked and notice oil leaking underneath it, that's something to have looked at right away.  Oil leaks mean your oil level is probably low and running a vehicle in that condition can lead to expensive repairs.

While there are many reasons oil leaks develop, one possibility is a bad valve cover gasket.  Vehicle engines have a cover bolted over the spot where the engine valves are, and that cover keeps the oil inside the engine. In between the cover and the engine is a gasket that keeps that seal tight.  But after many years of high engine temperatures and vibrations, that gasket or the bolts that hold on the valve cover can fail or loosen, and oil can leak.

You may see dirty oil on the valve cover in the engine compartment, near the spark plugs, or around the bolts that hold the valve cover on.  All those are signs of leakage and time to bring your vehicle in for our technicians to check out.

In some vehicles, taking off the valve cover and replacing the gasket is a relatively easy job. In some models, though, other engine parts are located near that part of the engine and must be removed to get at the gasket, so repair costs can vary widely.

The technician will measure to make sure the valve cover isn't warped so it can be reused. If it is warped, they'll recommend replacing it with the gasket.  

While the technician has that area of your engine accessible, they will also check to see if other components need replacing at the same time, which could save you money.  And because valve cover gaskets usually fail in older vehicles, the technician will check for other oil leaks then, too. 

One of the best ways to be sure your valve cover is doing its job is to have your vehicle regularly maintained.  The technician will periodically look over your engine compartment and make sure you know when things are showing signs of age and wear BEFORE they fail and leave you stranded.

West Service Center
904 Cavalier Blvd
Chesapeake, Virginia 23323
757-487-4420
http://westservicecenter.com

Give it the Boot (Ball Joint Boot Replacement)

Your vehicle may be wearing boots right now and you might not even know it.  They're called ball joint boots.  They're actually protective, flexible things that protect parts of your suspension (called ball joints) from all the hazards the road can fling at them.  If one of those ball joint boots fails and you don't get it replaced, the ball joints themselves could wind up failing, a repair that can be even more expensive. 

Ball joint boots not only keep things like rocks, salt, water and dirt out of your ball joints, they also help the ball joints keep their lubrication inside and working properly.  To do that, the boots have to be made of a flexible material, sometimes rubber, sometimes a synthetic.  They do take a beating, exposed to temperature extremes and debris, and eventually they can tear or crack just because of their age.  Unless someone is keeping an eye on your ball joint boots, you may never know there's a problem.  That's why when you regularly take your vehicle in to a repair facility for other things like oil changes and routine maintenance, a technician will inspect the ball joint boots to make sure they're still in top shape.

If they're not, your service advisor will let you know. Take care of that soon and you may avoid having to replace the ball joints themselves or other suspension parts which may be much more expensive.  Often it's best to replace boots on both sides of the vehicle since they frequently wear at about the same rate. 

If you want to make a fashion statement, some ball joint boots come in various colors other than run-of-the-mill black.  And some aftermarket boots are made of a more durable material than the original equipment that came on your vehicle.  Some drivers get a real "kick" out of flashy ball joint boots!

West Service Center
904 Cavalier Blvd
Chesapeake, Virginia 23323
757-487-4420
http://westservicecenter.com

Do you have a Clue (Get the Most Out of a Service Visit)

When you head to the doctor, you probably have it in your mind what you're going to say about why you don't feel good.  That way your doctor can use that information to diagnose your problem. You might want to think of that same approach when you take your vehicle in for a repair.

Experts say what will help the service advisor most is for you to bring in some well-organized descriptions about your vehicle's issues.  You might even want to write them down so you don't forget.  Is there an unusual smell?  What does it smell like?  Does the problem happen first thing after starting out? If there's an odd sound you hear, is it dependent on speed?  Does it change when you turn a corner?  

Keep your expectations realistic.  Some conditions may take a long time to diagnose and repair.  If you go thinking you'll be in and out in no time, you might be disappointed when you're told there are other customers ahead of you and you may have to come back tomorrow.  If you can make alternate plans to have someone pick you up and take you back when the vehicle is finished, that way you won't feel like you've wasted your time. 

Most importantly, be available for any communication from the service advisor.  If they have your cell phone and they have a question or need an approval for a repair, the sooner they reach you, the sooner things can move forward. 

The service facility wants your experience with them to be good just as you do.  With a little help from you, they'll get your vehicle back on the road and you'll have a smile on your face.

West Service Center
904 Cavalier Blvd
Chesapeake, Virginia 23323
757-487-4420
http://westservicecenter.com

Your Vehicle is Talking to YOU (Service Warning Signs)

Your vehicle may be like that famous battery bunny, the one that just keeps going and going.  But while it may seem sometimes like you never need to take your vehicle in to be worked on, there are some things you should keep your eyes, ears and nose out for. They are warning you about something that needs attention at your vehicle service facility.

  • If a warning light is on, don't ignore it; do something about it.  There are warning lights for battery, oil, engine heat, tire pressure… you name it.  And the manufacturer put them there for a reason.  They're telling you something isn't normal. So when one goes on, have it checked out soon, especially the blinking Check Engine light.  The earlier you have any warning light issue diagnosed, the more likely you are to avoid a more serious problem.
  • If your vehicle is vibrating or shaking, it's not only annoying, it could signal trouble.  You can bet your vehicle didn't do that when it came out of the factory! If you can feel a vibration in the seat of your pants or shaking in the steering wheel, head on over to your service facility and have them diagnose what is causing it.
  • Smoke coming out of anywhere in your vehicle is a signal (smoke signal, get it?) that there may be a troubling issue.  Likewise if you can smell something burning (like oil), the nose knows there's something amiss.  Time to find out what.
  • If you aren't getting the distance you used to out of a tank of gas, it may not simply be your lead foot. A lot of vehicles will give you a digital readout of your latest mileage.  If your fuel economy takes a dip, take a trip over to your service facility.  You might have a sticky brake caliper… or it might be something as simple as your tires need more air.
  • Yes, you know the dreaded puddle of something under your vehicle can be a bad sign.  It could smell sweet, it could feel oily.  But it means something is leaking.  Go get it checked.  Sooner is better when it comes to locating the source of a leak.
  • If your brake pedal travels further than it used to while stopping, that could be compromising your ability to stop safely.  Also, if the brakes are making odd sounds, pulsating, grinding or squealing, they're screaming at you for attention.  Proper braking is a must for your safety and those drivers around you.

An old 80s TV show called "Knight Rider" featured a talking car.  You already have a vehicle that's telling you things all the time.  Give it a listen and it will keep you going safely down the road for many years to come.

West Service Center
904 Cavalier Blvd
Chesapeake, Virginia 23323
757-487-4420
http://westservicecenter.com

Don't Start with That (Bad Starter Motor)

We've all heard that expression, "That's a non starter." When it comes to your vehicle, that's not music to a driver's ears. That sickening sound when you start the ignition and instead of hearing the engine crank, you hear it slowly turn over and your dash lights go dim. 

There can be many reasons a vehicle won't start, so here's a little history of how the starter came to be an important component of modern vehicles.

You have to move the engine's components to start it. The first cars had a crank that the driver would insert into the front, then start turning things over by hand.  When the engine started, you had to release that crank immediately or risk a broken arm.  Yes, it happened many times.  So, they came up with a better idea: an electric starter, which was a big advance in automotive technology.

With this system, an electric motor rotated a series of gears that turned the gasoline engine's crankshaft so its pistons and parts moved and the engine drew in air.  While this happened, electricity went to the spark plugs and fuel headed to the cylinders.  When the gasoline engine caught, the starter quickly disengaged. Hey, no more broken arms!

Modern systems use the same principle, so when your vehicle won't start, here are a few things to look out for that might point to the starter. 

If the engine turns over s-l-o-w-l-y, it may mean the electric starter motor may just be wearing out and doesn't have enough cranking power.  Bushings, brushes, wire windings and a special switch called a commutator may be going bad.

If when you engage the ignition you hear a faint click, that could be a symptom one or more of the starter's components have failed. If you hear a loud click, it could mean that an electrical switch called a solenoid may not be switching the motor on.

If you hear your engine start to turn over but then it stops and is followed by a grinding sound, some gears may not be meshing the way they should.

There may be many more causes (bad alternator, relay, battery, engine, key fob), so this is when it's time to turn it over to your service facility.  Sometimes they can send out their own tow truck or recommend a reputable towing company.

But it's best not to let it get to this point.  Starter problems often give you advance warning that there is a problem with "almost" not starting or "almost" not turning over.  So when you see that very first sign, "start" on over to talk this one over with your service advisor.  The opposite of a "non-starter" is a starter, and that is music to anyone's ears.

West Service Center
904 Cavalier Blvd
Chesapeake, Virginia 23323
757-487-4420
http://westservicecenter.com

904 Cavalier Blvd Chesapeake, VA, 23323 (757) 487-4420
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