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Car Culture

Car Smells That Might Indicate Trouble

July 30, 2017
We’ve all encountered a funky smell in our vehicle at least once. Sometimes it’s because you left your gym bag in the trunk overnight, or maybe you dropped a fry between the seats and forgot about it. In other cases, if you can’t find the source of the smell, your olfactory system might be hinting at you that your car is having issues. Below are some smells you could experience that might be an indication of car trouble: Rotten Eggs
  • Could indicate an overloaded catalytic converter. This smell is from the compound hydrogen sulfide that comes from the small amount of sulfur present in fuel. If your catalytic converter breaks or is experiencing issues, the sulfur is not filtered normally which results in producing a rotten egg smell. This smell could also be an indication that your engine is running too hot or you have a broken fuel pressure regulator. Regardless of the cause, you should get this issue checked out immediately.
Burning Carpet
  • This smell could indicate that you have brake issues. If your brake pads get overheated, which can happen even in normal driving conditions, you might experience this smell as a result.
  • If you’re experiencing this smell, and you didn’t just leave the pump, this could indicate several issues: missing gas cap, fuel tank leak, fuel line leak, fuel injector leak, faulty charcoal canister, or issues with your fuel pressure regulator. Basically, if you’re smelling fuel, something is wrong.
  • If you smell hot or burning oil, your car could be telling you multiple things. There could be leaking oil onto the exhaust manifold, a faulty vacuum modulator, broken temperature gauge, overheated engine, or you might just need an oil change. Regardless, if you notice this smell, get it checked out.
Maple Syrup
  • If you notice a sweet, syrup-like smell, this could indicate a coolant leak. The source of this leak could be coming from the heater hose, radiator, cylinder head, and more. Coolant is toxic, especially to animals, so get this inspected ASAP.
The list of funky car smells can go on and on. Basically, if you smell something out of the ordinary and there is no obvious outside source, the smell is a good indication of something gone wrong. If you’ve experienced any of these smells, you should schedule a service appointment soon.
Car Culture

Common Reasons for Spark Plug Failure

July 19, 2017
Spark plugs are a critical component to your vehicle’s internal combustion engine. Without a spark, your fuel couldn’t ignite in the combustion chamber. When running smoothly, spark plugs will burn fuel efficiently. However, faulty, bad, failing, or misfiring spark plugs can be the result of many different causes. Let’s unpack a few of these potential damaging causes and symptoms to look for: Slow Acceleration Similar to your vehicle’s air filters and oil, your spark plugs require routine maintenance. Every vehicle requires a specific type of spark plug made up of unique materials. Sometimes these materials can simply wear out, reducing the effectiveness of your spark plugs, leading to symptoms such as slow acceleration. If you start to notice your car running sluggishly, and it’s not accelerating as quickly as it used to, don’t just brush these observations off. This is a symptom that can indicate failing spark plugs (or other potential issues). Poor Fuel Economy Another common symptom that can allude to failing spark plugs is a decrease in your car’s fuel economy. What causes this decrease? Often, this is because the gap between the spark plug electrodes is either too far apart or too close, or your spark plug might just be worn out. If you notice your car’s fuel economy decreasing, or you are experiencing higher fuel consumption, have a mechanic examine your spark plugs and adjust the gap before possibly having to replace them entirely. Engine Misfires If your engine misfires, it’s typically because of an issue with the ignition system. However, sometimes this issue can be traced back to the spark plugs. If the wire or tip of the spark plug has been damaged, this can lead to ultimate spark plug failure. If you notice your vehicle making sputtering sounds or intermittent stumbling from the engine, have this checked as soon as possible. Regardless of the cause, it is inevitable that your spark plugs will eventually wear out. That’s why regular maintenance on your spark plugs is necessary. Stay observant of how your car is acting and reacting to things, and remember to look for the common symptoms associated with spark plug failure!
Car Culture

Common Reasons For Transmission Failure

July 14, 2017
Your vehicle’s transmission is one of the most important components of your car. If transmission problems arise, they can boast a hefty price tag to repair. Here are some common reasons that lead to transmission failure, and steps you can take to prevent these issues from occurring! Low Fluid Levels or Leaks. This is one of the most common transmission problems that I’ve seen. If you have low fluid levels, that is usually caused by leaks in the transmission system. Leaks can be caused by multiple different things, such as the seals in the transmission becoming faulty. Keep an eye out for low fluid levels or leaks in your transmission by looking for these symptoms: gear slippage or slow shifting. In the event that you find a transmission fluid related issue, you may need the fluid changed or transmission completely flushed and refilled. Torque Converter Problems Your vehicle’s torque converter pressurizes automatic transmission fluid. One of the most common problems that I’ve seen associated with the torque converter are worn or damaged needle bearings. Symptoms to look for here: when your vehicle is in a driving gear, you hear grinding sounds. This can affect your vehicle’s ability to properly operate, and ultimately lead to transmission failure. Overheating Overheating can be caused by multiple different factors, common ones being low fluid or a heavy tow load. If your car becomes overheated, this can cause your transmission to seize and often leads to the need for a total replacement. This is something you want to avoid at all costs. Stay aware of your vehicle’s fluid levels, and don’t over-work your vehicle. Solenoid Problems The solenoid in your vehicle controls the flow of fluid throughout your transmission. The solenoid can become damaged due to low fluid levels or various electronic related issues. Problems with the solenoid are often mistaken for low fluid levels or leaks, so if you are noticing gear slippage or slow shifting, and there are no leaks, the solenoid should be the next component you check. Driving Habits Your driving style has a direct correlation to how well your car performs. Improper shifting, aggressive driving, and general neglect of your vehicle can lead to transmission failure. For example, never shift a car into reverse while it’s moving forward! These are just a few of the many common factors that can lead to transmission failure! Take note of the symptoms you should look out for, and simply drive smart! If you are noticing any of these issues, schedule a service appointment now.
Behind the Wheel

FAQ: Steering System

February 11, 2017
Do you ever wonder how your car magically turns left or right upon your steering command? Well, there is an entire system in place that enables you to do so. The steering system converts your steering wheel rotation into a movement of your vehicle’s wheels correctly. There are three steering systems, but today we are going to focus on the two most common systems.  
  • The Rack-and-Pinion System The rack-and-pinion system is compiled of a steering column with a small pinion inside of it. When the pinion is turned it makes the rack move from side to side. The rack is attached to the vehicle’s wheels allowing for precise movement and turning. The rack-and-pinion system is a simple system and has a few parts that become worn and need to be replaced, but it’s an easy fix nonetheless.
  • Power-Assisted Steering System The power-assisted steering system is the most common system nowadays with newer vehicles. In this system, power-assisted steering overcomes heavy gearing. Oil is applied to the rack or the steering box via the vehicle’s engine. There are valves located in the steering rack or box that will open up whenever the steering wheel is turned. Once open, the oil enters into the cylinder and helps to push the steering in the right direction. When the driver stops turning the wheel then the valve shuts. The benefits of power-assisted steering is its ability to alleviate heavy steering. When the power stops working the driver can still steer, but it would just be heavier.
  The steering system is highly important because if you are unable to control where your vehicle is moving, well things could definitely end up poorly. Sometimes the steering wheel can feel loose or lock up when something in the system is wrong. If you are having one of these issues, please feel free to schedule an appointment at one of McCarthy Auto Group’s service centers today!
Car Culture

FAQ: Engine System

February 3, 2017
Many people know that the engine exists, but some aren’t exactly sure what it does or why it is important. The engine is the heart of the vehicle. Without the engine, a car or truck would not work because it is what keeps the vehicle alive and running. An engine is made up of many parts and is built to convert heat from burning gas into the force that gets your wheels turning. Though there are many parts of an engine to discuss, here are the main components of the engine and their functions:   Cylinder Block (sometimes referred to as the Engine Block) The cylinder block is made up of a group of metal tubes called cylinders that burn fuel. There are anywhere from two to twelve of them and the more cylinders there are the more powerful the engine will be. Cylinders are sealed at one end while the other opens and closes. They also have pistons that slide up and down inside of them. The pistons transfer force from gas in the cylinder into the crankshaft.   Valves The engine has two valves that enable things, such as air and gas,  to come and go quickly. The inlet valve lets in fuel and air into the the cylinder while the outlet valve lets out the exhaust gases.   Spark Plug The spark plug is an electronic device located above each cylinder that is responsible for setting a fire to the fuel.   Crankshaft The crankshaft plays a very important role in the engine. The crankshaft converts the up and down movement of the pistons (located in the cylinder, remember?) into a rotational movement that makes the vehicle move.   Screen Shot 2017-02-14 at 9.37.32 AM   The engine is a super-complex machine that needs to be maintained and checked. You’ll usually know it’s time when your check engine light comes on. If you need an engine check or have any question regarding your engine, make sure to schedule an appointment at one of McCarthy Auto Group’s service centers today!
Behind the Wheel, Car Culture

FAQ: Support System

January 31, 2017
The support system in a vehicle serves many purposes and can be known by a couple different names. You might be familiar with the “suspension system” in a car, which can be interchangeable for the overarching “support system” terminology. The main functions of this system contribute to the road handling, safety, and comfort of any vehicle. To understand the purpose of these functions, let’s delve into a better understanding of some different parts that make up the suspension system that contribute overall to support your car. The frame. This is the structural, load-carrying component that supports a vehicle’s engine and body which the support (suspension) system then reinforces. Springs. Nowadays, spring systems pretty much have four basic designs that contribute to the car’s balance and passenger comfort. The most common type of springs found in the support system are either coil springs, leaf springs, torsion bars, or air springs. You can find most springs located between the wheels and the frame of a car. Overall, they serve to compress and expand to absorb the motion of the wheels, thus contributing to the road handling and comfort results.   Dampers (i.e. shock absorbers). You just learned about springs, which allow the wheels to move up to absorb bumps in the road and improve the handling of the vehicle. Now we’re talking about dampers, which are commonly called shock absorbers and/or “shocks” or “struts”. They go hand-in-hand with springs to prevent your car from bouncing up and down. While the springs are necessary to deflect the bounce, your car would continue to bounce up and down if the reaction from these springs was not dissipated by dampers being in place. The “shock absorber” is a device that helps control this spring motion through an overall process known as “dampening.” Thus the term, dampers. Stabilizers. These are found in most cars, however, not all. You can hear many different terms when it comes to stabilizers, such as anti-sway bars, sway bars, stabilizer bars, and anti-roll bars. These are all essentially the same thing. Stabilizers serve as a bar between the front wheels and rear wheels that provide another dampening function and overall structural car support. Stabilizers serve to prevent leaning/swaying of your vehicle during turns and resist the swaying movement to keep your car’s wheels at the same height. Depending on the make and model of your car, these bars will vary from a thick/stiff bar to less rigid bars (which are better for off-roading). Tires and wheels. These obviously are an essential component that support your car. They help provide the traction, grip and friction that make movement of your vehicle possible.
Car Culture

FAQ: Coolant System

January 28, 2017
The vehicle’s coolant (or sometimes referred to as cooling) system is put in place to prevent  the engine from overheating. It also helps to regulate the temperature inside the passenger compartment. Here are a few main components of the coolant system and their specific functions: Radiator The radiator is the main component in the coolant system and is responsible for preventing the car engine from overheating. The radiator is filled with coolant fluid (also referred to as cooling) that runs through the radiator’s inner core and transfers its heat to to a metal cooling fan. The radiator fan provides air that dissolves that heat from the coolant. When refilling your radiator with this fluid, make sure you are using the proper fluid for your vehicle. Radiator Hoses and Water Pump Radiator hoses link to the radiator and the engine. The coolant fluid flows through the radiator hoses to and from the engine. The water pump circulates the coolant fluid around the system and directly into the engine block. Thermostat The thermostat is located in the engine and is there to keep the coolant and engine at a proper operating temperature at all times. Temperature Gauge The temperature gauge keeps an eye on the variable levels of electrical resistance from a sensor located on the engine block as the engine heats up. Radiator Cap The radiator cap is very important in the coolant system. The radiator cap closes the filling hole that the coolant is dispensed into and ultimately is designed to seal the coolant system to a specific pressure. If the radiator cap is not sealed then the coolant system cannot function properly. Screen Shot 2017-02-10 at 5.03.02 PM This system is made up of a lot of intricate parts and functions that combine to make sure that your vehicle and engine is getting the proper heat exposure. If you are needing to get your coolant checked make sure to schedule an appointment at one of McCarthy Auto Group’s service centers today!
Car Culture

FAQ: Exhaust System

January 25, 2017
Let’s start from the beginning here and learn about the exhaust system step by step. Overall, a car’s exhaust system is meant to exhaust gases away from your engine. The entire system functions together to achieve this. Depending on your system’s design, the gases will flow through aspects of the system in different ways. Generally, a vehicle’s exhaust system is made up of a variety of parts including: exhaust manifold, cylinder head, muffler, tail pipe, exhaust pipe, oxygen sensor, and catalytic converter. However, depending on the make and model of your car; the exhaust gas may flow through less/more. Exhaust manifold This encompasses the cylinder head and pipe. Basically, the exhaust manifold takes the burned exhaust gases from your engine’s cylinders and combines them into one pipe leading to the ejection of the gas out through the car’s tail pipe. Overtime, the manifold can experience cracks or leaks due to the constant expanding and contracting of the heating and cooling components in the engine, so it’s best to not let your manifold go unnoticed. Cylinder Head This is the end cover of the cylinder in an internal combustion engine. It has several different functions: housing the exhaust, intake valves, fuel injector, and helps link passage for the fuel/air mixture. Muffler Simply, the muffler serves as a device to quiet the exhaust down. It helps to decrease the amount of noise emitted from the exhaust process in an internal combustion engine. Tail Pipe This is simply just the rear section of the exhaust system that helps to carry the gases (fumes) from the muffler to the rear of the car. car-exhaust-1902909_960_720 Exhaust Pipe Throughout the exhaust system, the exhaust pipe helps to carry the gas through its journey to the tail pipe. Oxygen Sensor Most modern fuel injected cars use/include an oxygen sensor to measure the amount of oxygen that is present in the exhaust. This is located in the exhaust manifold (or near it) to ensure the correct mixture of air/fuel is combining for maximum fuel economy. Catalytic Converter This part helps to convert harmful fumes like carbon monoxide into water vapor and carbon dioxide. It is found between the exhaust manifold and the muffler. Now you more thoroughly know about the parts that work together to make up your exhaust system. It is essential to keep your exhaust system in good condition to help your fuel mileage, environment, and overall, your safety. A good rule of thumb to remember is that rust is your exhaust system’s biggest enemy. You want to avoid cracks and leaks at all costs, so get your exhaust system checked often to make sure you stay in good condition! Schedule service today to get this easily checked now that you know!
Behind the Wheel

FAQ: Electrical System

January 14, 2017
Just like a human, a car is made up of different systems that coordinate to keep the car functioning. The electrical system is an important part of any vehicle. It consists of the battery, starter, and alternator. If any one of these parts stops working your car won’t start or run properly. The battery is responsible for providing the electricity needed to power all of the electrical components of your car. This small part converts chemical energy into electrical energy think of it as the heart of a vehicle. When the battery isn’t pumping electricity out, then the car will not start. Screen Shot 2017-01-27 at 4.52.45 PM The electric power from the battery is transported to the starter which is what really gets the engine up and running. The starter rotates the flywheel to get the engine’s pistons moving. Think of the starter as an artery transporting blood to an important part in your body. Without the heart (battery) pumping blood to the artery (starter) the important body part (engine) cannot run. An alternator keeps the battery charged while your car is running, and supplies additional electric power throughout the electrical system. Think of an alternator as the blood that is flowing through the artery (starter) and heart (battery) to keep it going and able to perform its duties. Now you have it! The electrical system is essentially what powers the vehicle. It’s important to make sure these parts are always checked. When they begin to wear out, your car battery will weaken and/or die, causing problems to other electrical system parts. Some signs that indicate attention needed to your battery include the check engine light, a slow engine crank, and low battery fluid level. If you are experiencing any of these issues, schedule your next service appointment now!  
Car Culture

Busting Car Myths!

January 8, 2017
Facts and figures about cars float around all the time–but do you know which ones are fact and which are fiction? Taking care of your car is essential in benefiting your car’s longevity and your own safety. I’m here to bust some common myths you probably thought were harmless! – Myth: Louder exhaust indicates a more powerful engine.
  • Truth: This is not necessarily true. Smaller engines can definitely still produce a loud sound, but in reality are not more powerful. Your car’s exhaust system has two main functions: to quiet the noise of combustion and to ensure your car’s fuel efficiency. So, the noise it omits is not the perfect indicator of the type of engine behind it or its power.
– Myth: Jump starting your car recharges the battery.
  • Truth: This is one of the most common myths I hear floating around! And, this is sometimes true. In some cases, your battery might have died for many other reasons and you’ll need a replacement all together. However, jump starting your car is usually an easy fix for your battery, but it is never instant. Once your jump works, don’t shut off your engine! Drive around for at least 15 minutes to let your battery recharge. Sometimes hours of driving may be necessary to recharge–if it can hold a charge at all.
– Myth: Topping off brake fluid (if it’s low), fixes the problem.
  • Truth: There are many reasons why you could have low brake fluid, so topping it off is not always a magical fix. Low brake fluid could mean your brakes are worn out or you might have a leak. So it is best to get this checked instead of taking matters into your own hands!
– Myth: Coolant rarely needs to be changed.
  • Truth: This depends on your definition of rarely. A good rule of thumb is to replace your coolant about every five years. The purpose of coolant is to control fluids and various engine parts’ temperatures in all weather conditions, so this is definitely an aspect of your car you don’t want to just brush off.
– Myth: Oil should be changed every 3,000 miles.
  • Truth: I see so many different numbers floating around about this ALL the time. Intervals in which you should change your oil vary from car to car. Check your owner’s manual for the manufacturer’s recommendation. That is the number you should listen to. Regardless of the number, you want to make sure you’re changing your oil at regular, reasonable intervals.