Thursday, November 15, 2012

Why Doesn't My Vehicle Get Warm?

Now that winter is settling in, you may be finding that your heater is not working as well as you thought. Maybe you feel like your vehicle never gets warm, or it takes a long time to heat up. Let me see if I can explain to you how the system works and then you'll know just what to look for next time you have a problem.

First of all you need to know that the coolant has a lot to do with heating the vehicle. While the coolant's job is to help cool the engine, that heat is used to heat the interior of the vehicle as well. This is why it is important to do proper maintenance on the coolant system.

Coolant/Antifreeze, should always be a 50/50 mix of coolant and water. Make sure you check the bottle when you buy it. You can now buy coolant pre-mixed. If it's pre-mixed, all you have to do is pour it in. As always, check your owner's manual to make sure that you put the proper type of coolant in your vehicle. Many manufacturers sell their own
and you must use it to prevent problems in the system and keep within warranty specifications.

Always check the coolant level to make sure that it is full. Do this by checking the coolant reservoir bottle and always add to this bottle, not the radiator. It's usually a large plastic container under the hood somewhere near the radiator. If you look in your owner's manual it should show you the location  for your vehicle.

Coolant does break down over time and must be serviced. Most manufacturers recommend a coolant flush every 30,000 miles or every 2 years, again, consult your owner's manual for your maintenance schedule.

Inside the vehicle, usually on the passenger side, there is what is known as a heater core. This is a small radiator type component that fills with coolant when you turn the heat on inside the vehicle. Many times when they go bad they leak coolant on the passenger front floor and must be replaced. When you turn the fan on it blows on the heater core and sends heat into the passenger compartment.

Let's look at a couple of reasons why you may not have heat. First of all, until the vehicle warms up, the air will be cold...just like the cold engine. I usually don't even turn the heat on until I see the temperature gauge start to move off of the cold line. If you notice that the temperature gauge seems to hover down near the cold line even after you have been driving the vehicle for a while, then you probably have a thermostat problem.

In many cases the thermostat is stuck open. This means that the engine coolant takes a long time to warm up because it is constantly circulating through the engine and the radiator. The thermostat usually remains closed until the engine warms up and then it sends the hot coolant to the radiator to cool off. Consequently, if the thermostat is stuck closed, then you usually have an overheating problem.

Another thing to check is your blower motor. You should have varying speeds, and they should all work. This blows the warm air around the cabin of the vehicle. If you turn on the heat and the fan is not blowing, always check the fuse first. You can locate the fuse by using your owner's manual. A common problem is that the fan only works on high. This usually means that you have a bad resistor and you need to replace it.

If you turn the heat on and you hear the fan blowing, but only cold air is coming out, may have a problem with a blend door. This means that even though you have the vent on heat, the door is staying closed, blocking the heat from entering the vehicle. Many of these operate off of vehicle vacuum or are computer controlled. You may need to have a technician fix this problem.

The important thing is to try and figure out what's working and what isn't. This way if you have to take your vehicle in for service you can tell them exactly what is wrong. Nobody knows your vehicle better than you. Pay attention to what's going on and get things looked at before they become bigger problems.

The only place you should have to button up and wear a scarf is outside! I hope this helps you understand your heating system a little better so that you can know what they're talking about when you take your vehicle in for service. Stay warm!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Winter Is Upon Us, What's In Your Trunk?

I’m always saddened and humored when I see people on the side of the road with a flat tire. Saddened because it never happens at a convenient time, meaning that you always get a flat in the worst possible circumstances….and humored by all the “stuff” people keep in their trunks!

I’m sure you’ve seen it plenty of times, that vehicle on the side of the road with what looks like everything they own piled next to it. So, it’s time to take a look in your trunk and see just what you have in there and what needs to be cleaned out.

Remember that any “extra” weight adds to the fuel efficiency of your vehicle. Okay, so it may not amount to a lot, but any way we can cut back helps, and besides, hasn’t Fido been looking for his 50 lb. bag of dog food? I’m sure that Good Will would love it if you finally dropped off that bag of clothes you’ve been carrying around.

We’re all busy and it’s easy to forget about things you put in your truck, having every intention of bringing it into the house one day, but winter weather will soon be upon us and the ground won’t be a good place to have to put things when you need to change a flat. I would like to suggest some things that can be good to keep in your trunk.

If you have issues with your vehicle burning or leaking oil, then keeping a quart with you is probably a good idea. Look in your owner’s manual for the proper type of oil. Antifreeze may be another item. Remember, you don’t want to just add water to your vehicle if it overheats, it will freeze faster in the winter months, a 50/50 mix of coolant is the best. I always have a blanket or towel in my vehicle. It’s great to keep you warm if you had to sit and wait for help, to place on the ground so that you can kneel on it, or to keep the back seat or trunk from getting dirty when you need to put a dirty flat tire inside.

I always have a flashlight. I’ve been using an LED light lately; glass bulbs in regular lights tend to break easier when they bang around. I don’t keep water in the trunk because it freezes in winter and tastes disgusting in the summer after the heat causes the plastic to give off toxic chemicals.  I usually just bring water with me on every trip, even if it’s just to the store. After having a kidney stone, it’s best to stay hydrated than to go through that again…believe me.

My newest addition to trunk items, duck tape. Yep, you can use that for just about anything and it just may get you home. I had a women tell me that when she broke down, another woman stopped to help her. In a dress, she climbed under the vehicle and taped the broken muffler pipe up so that she could get home….awesome!

A battery jump box, one of my favorites, it allows you to jump yourself without the need of another vehicle. You can get them for around $60 and charge them through an accessory outlet in your vehicle while you drive. An old pair of sneakers, who knows when you may need to walk for help and ladies, it’s no fun to try and change a tire in pumps.

I also strongly suggest that you read in your owner’s manual how to change a tire and where the tools are well before you actually need to do it. It makes life so much easier.  

A small shovel is not a bad idea. You can get one that folds up and doesn’t take up too much space. Along with that, a bag of kitty litter can always help you get some traction on ice and snow. A first aid kit, if your vehicle didn’t come with one. It would be good to have reflectors to put on the road to make you more visible, a small piece of wood that you could place under your jack in case you have to change a tire on a soft surface and a charger for your phone. Of course gloves, hat and boots are always good to have too, if you’re not already wearing them.

So, before you say that you’re too busy to clean out your trunk, stop and think what it would be like if you got a flat and had to take everything out to get to the tire. If you drive an SUV remember, your tools may still be under the back cover so take a look at what’s in the back and get rid of the clutter. You’ll thank me one day I promise.

Watch my video for more tips.