You’ve probably seen it before. A vehicle stopped on the side of the road with smoke coming out of the hood. This is the result of an engine that’s overheated, which points to a problem with the cooling system. The best thing you can do to keep your cooling system healthy is a regular coolant flush. In this article, we’ll talk about why it’s so important and when you need to get this maintenance done.
How does the cooling system work?
Your engine’s spark plugs ignite fuel to give your vehicle power. This ignition creates lots of heat. If this heat isn’t regulated, it has the potential to damage the entire engine system. The job of the cooling system is to manage this heat.
To do so, liquid coolant is circulated throughout the engine. The cooling system also consists of the following:
- Radiator cooling fans
- Heater core
- Bypass system
- Freeze plugs
- Head gaskets
- Intake manifold gaskets
- Pressure cap and reserve tank
- Water pump
- Temperature sensor
These parts work together to make sure your engine doesn’t overheat.
What is a coolant flush?
Over time, your coolant gets contaminated with rust or other debris trapped in your engine. A coolant flush drains the polluted coolant and replaces it with brand new fluids. During this process, a cleaner is poured in to help remove excess rust and debris.
A coolant flush is different from topping off the coolant. Topping off your coolant is the process of adding coolant to your engine to ensure there’s enough to function. A coolant flush is done to remove polluted coolant and replace it with clean fluids.
Why is it important to get my coolant flushed?
Routine maintenance is important because it helps extend the lifespan of your vehicle. A coolant flush helps maintain the quality of your engine’s coolant. The coolant helps keep your engine from overheating. Therefore, a coolant flush can help prevent an engine malfunction.
As your engine ages, rust and scale deposits build up inside of it. This results in debris in the coolant. Your antifreeze has chemicals in it to help prevent this from happening, but over time it loses its anti-corrosive properties. Eventually, the thin tubes in your radiator and heater core can get blocked by particles in the coolant. Flushing the system cleans these particles, meaning effective performance for your engine.
How often does it need to be done?
Your owner’s manual or dealership can provide specific information on service guidelines for your vehicle. Long-lasting antifreeze is good for up to 150,000 miles or 5 years, whichever comes first. Other types require replacement every 30,000 miles, or 2 years. When in doubt, our licensed mechanics at Bonfe’s can help you figure out a plan for your vehicle.
We advise a cooling system check-up at least every two years. This should include the following:
- System power flush and coolant refill
- Visual inspection of all cooling system parts
- System pressure level check
- Pressure test
- Thermostat check
- Engine fan test
- Internal leak check
Keeping up with your auto maintenance will help ensure a long life for your engine. Do you need more information on getting a coolant flush? Bonfe’s is here for you. Give us a call today at (651) 222-4458.
What Is Brake Fluid and Why Is it So Important?
Of all the engine fluids, perhaps the most important one is the brake fluid. Unfortunately, it’s
often neglected more than it should be. In this article, we’ll review what brake fluid is and why
it’s so important. We’ll also talk about what steps you should take for routine maintenance of
your brake fluid. Keep reading to learn more.
What is brake fluid?
Your vehicle’s brake fluid provides the necessary hydraulic force to apply the brakes. This
hydraulic, non-compressible fluid travels throughout the braking system. Its role is to bring the
force of your foot on the brake pedal to the calipers on your brakes. With this force, the calipers
clamp down onto the rotors, bringing your vehicle to a stop. Without the correct amount of
brake fluid in the system, your brakes malfunction.
Since the engine produces a tremendous amount of heat, brake fluid is designed with this in
mind. It needs to have a high boiling point to prevent it from vaporizing. Brake fluid can also
maintain a constant viscosity, no matter what temperature it’s in. This is especially true in
vehicles with an anti-lock braking system because it helps ensure that the brake fluid can flow
throughout the intricate parts.
Brake fluids have additives that help prevent engine corrosion. Over time, the engine’s metal
components will corrode. If they’re not taken care of, this will happen at a much faster rate.
Brake fluid helps increase the longevity of these engine parts.
Most brake fluids are glycol-ether-based. Glycol-ether fluids are hygroscopic, which means they
can absorb moisture in the atmosphere. Eventually, the amount of water in the brake fluid
reduces its boiling point. If this happens, your brakes will have decreased stopping ability. Too
much water in the brake fluid is also bad for metallic engine components and can cause them to
corrode at a faster rate. This is why it’s imperative to test your brake fluid regularly and get it
replaced as needed.
How often should it be changed?
Not all brake fluids are the same. Different brake fluids have different change intervals. As is
true with a lot of vehicle maintenance, it’s a good idea to consult your manual for
manufacturer-specific recommendations. Of course, our licensed technicians at Bonfe’s can help
you out with this as well.
We recommend getting your brake fluid replaced or flushed at least every year or two. Over
time, the appearance of your brake fluid will indicate it needs replacement. Most brake fluid is
clear or amber-colored. As it ages, it turns into a dark, murky shade of brown. If your brake
fluid looks like this, then it’s time to get it replaced.
We also suggest having your brake fluid’s moisture content tested periodically, especially if you
live in an area with lots of humidity. Most places will conduct a brake fluid test if you request
one when getting your oil changed. This will provide more information on the quality of your
vehicle’s brake fluid. It’s also a good idea to inspect your brake fluid whenever you’re topping
off your other fluids. A small decrease in brake fluid over time is normal, but if this happens
often, it could point to a bigger issue with your braking system.
Do you need your brake fluid tested or replaced? Our certified technicians are here to help.
Give Bonfe’s a call today at ( 651) 222-4458 . We look forward to hearing from you.
Transmission Fluid: How to Take Care of It, and Why It’s So Important
Did you know that maintaining your transmission fluid is just as important as getting your oil changed? Unfortunately, lots of people tend to neglect their transmission fluid. Today, we’ll discuss the role transmission fluid plays in your vehicle. We’ll also talk about some steps you can take for proper maintenance.
What is transmission fluid, and why is it important?
The job of the transmission is to shift the vehicle into different gears. This is what allows you to park, reverse, and drive. Shifting gears is hard work for the engine. Transmission fluid helps with this process by lubricating metal transmission parts. This helps prevent wear and damage. Transmission fluid also serves as a coolant, preventing the transmission from overheating.
Types of transmission fluid
There are several different kinds of transmission fluids. Most of them can be categorized as either manual or automatic transmission fluid. In addition to these are specialty fluids and synthetic formulas.
Automatic transmission fluid is used in vehicles with automatic transmissions. These days, many vehicles with manual transmissions also need automatic transmission fluid. It helps with many engine functions, including the following:
● Coolant for the transmission
● Gear lubrication
● Valve body operation
● Clutch operation
● Friction for brake band
● Torque converter operation
Manual transmission fluid is less common than automatic transmission fluid. It’s usually only needed in older vehicles with manual transmissions. Modern manual cars typically need automatic transmission fluid. Synthetic transmission fluid is formulated to withstand high engine temperatures. That means it’s less likely to break down. The type of transmission fluid you need depends on the specifics of your vehicle. If you’re not sure, it’s a good idea to consult your owner’s manual or a transmission expert.
How to check your transmission fluid
An easy way to check the status of your transmission is to look at the condition and level of the transmission fluid. Some newer vehicle models have sealed transmissions. In this case, consult your owner’s manual for specific information on how to maintain your transmission.
Assuming your transmission is not sealed, you’ll need to find the transmission dipstick to check your fluid level. This is typically found beneath the hood in the engine compartment. First, take the dipstick out and wipe it clean. Next, slowly replace it and then remove it again. This will show your current fluid level, which can be read using the marks on the dipstick. Low fluid means there’s probably a leak somewhere in your vehicle. If this is the case, it’s a good idea to bring your car in for diagnostics to identify the root of the problem.
Once you’ve checked your fluid levels, take note of the fluid’s color. This is best done by placing the dipstick against a white paper towel. Normal transmission fluid is usually pinkish-red. If it’s a slightly darker hue of brownish-red, then you should get it replaced soon. If your transmission fluid happens to be dark, then you have a bigger problem on your hands. A brownish-black color fluid often points to an issue with the transmission that needs to be handled right away.
Maintaining your transmission and fluid helps keep your vehicle in top condition. This saves you money in the long run. Do you have questions about your transmission or fluids? Our experts at Bonfe’s are here to help. Give us a call today at (651) 222-4458.
Comparing early cars to today’s vehicles is like comparing apples to oranges. This is especially true when it comes to comfort and convenience. Nowadays, we can control most of our car’s features with the click of a button or the tap of a screen. In this article, we’ll explore the evolution of automotive comfort throughout the years. Read on to learn more.
The early 1900s
The earliest cars were open-air vehicles, exposing passengers to the elements. This meant that unless you had perfect weather, you were dealing with lots of inconveniences. All that changed in 1910, when Cadillac invented the first closed body car. As soon as this happened, manufacturers started paying closer attention to car interiors. They wanted to make them as comfortable as possible for the driver and passengers.
In the 1910s, several developments improved automotive interiors. In 1912, Cadillac brought an electronic self-starter, ignition, and lighting to their Model Thirty vehicles. In 1914, Scripps-Booth invented power door locks. In 1929, Ford offered the first interior auto heater. These improvements paved the way for future comfort measures, transforming auto interiors altogether.
Auto manufacturers first installed radios in the late 1920s. By the 1930s, AM radios were considered standard features. But, it wasn’t until 1950 that the first AM/FM car radio appeared. In 1966, Ford introduced an 8-track player in its Mustangs, but these were eventually phased out and replaced by cassette players. By the 1980s, CD players were the next big thing. These remained popular throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. In the 2000s, USB ports and other forms of compact digital storage media began popping up. Fast-forward to today, a time when everyone is streaming music. Early automakers couldn’t have fathomed such a thing!
The ability to control a car’s interior temperature was one of the biggest innovations in automotive comfort. Packard Motor Car Company had two huge inventions back in 1940: in-car air conditioners and power windows. Both gave drivers and passengers control over the car’s interior temperature. In 1960, Cadillac took things a step further with the creation of the first automatic climate control system. This allowed drivers to select and set a preferred temperature. By 1980, they refined their system and made it all electronic. This is the same as the modern systems we see in cars today.
Heated seats are the absolute best. Our frigid Minnesota winters are a tad bit easier to deal with, thanks to Cadillac’s introduction of the heated seat in 1966. Since then, manufacturers have created all sorts of heated features, from steering wheels to side paneling. Ventilated seats, which cool instead of heat, were developed by Saab in 1998. In the 2000s, Mercedes brought ultimate luxury with their massaging seats. Why go to the spa when you can have a seat in your car? Automotive seating has truly seen an evolution in comfort.
Modern technology and human machine interfaces
Modern cars have smart interfaces that allow you to integrate your personal devices. HMI (human machine interface) technology offers luxury convenience in many ways. This includes the following:
Seat comfort and interior temperature
Internet and cloud connectivity
Advanced sound and lighting systems
With HMI technology, you can customize and control your car’s interior with the tap of a screen. Conclusion
It’s hard to believe how far automotive comfort has come. Do you have questions about the interior features in your vehicle? Our experienced technicians at Bonfe’s have answers. Give us a call today at (651) 222-4458. We look forward to hearing from you.
Thanksgiving is right around the corner, so you’ve probably started thinking about travel plans for yourself or your family. With COVID-19 concerns, lots of folks are opting to steer clear of airports. Since we anticipate a rise in car travel this year, we’ve put together a list of things you can do to prepare your car for a long road trip.
1. Check the battery
One of the most important parts to check before you leave is the battery. It should be connected securely and show no signs of corrosion. Batteries usually last for around 3 to 5 years. If your battery is more than 2 years old, then you should be getting it inspected once a year.
2. Inspect your tires
Don’t forget to inspect your tires before taking off on a long car trip. Air pressure is especially important to check. Overinflated tires can affect your ride quality, and underinflated tires will make you waste gas. Check your air pressure before leaving and again for every 1,000 miles you travel. Having the wrong air pressure will end up reducing the life span of your tires, so it’s best to keep an eye on this.
In addition to checking the air pressure, your tires need to be rotated. Getting them rotated every 5,000 to 8,000 miles helps extend their lifespan. Tires usually last anywhere between 25,000 to 50,000 miles. If you think your tires are somewhere in this range, you might think about replacing them before leaving for a long trip.
3. Check the electrical
Inspect all electrical, including the blinkers, headlights, and taillights. If you have a truck or motorhome, make sure everything is functioning properly here, too.
4. Listen to the brakes
You should always get your brakes inspected if you hear them making strange noises. Oftentimes, a squealing noise means your brake pads need replacing. Brake pads provide the friction that’s needed to stop your vehicle. These eventually need to be replaced because they wear out. They usually last anywhere from 25,000 to 70,000 miles. Since brakes are the most important safety feature of your car, you want to make sure they’re in top condition before any long-distance travel.
5. Fluids and filters
If you’re not keeping up with your oil changes, you should probably get this done before your trip. In addition, top off any fluids that are running low. You’ll want to take a look at the following: transmission fluid, windshield fluid, brake fluid, power steering fluid, and antifreeze.
The air filters in your car’s engine and cabin need to be switched out annually. These filters affect air quality, engine performance, and fuel economy. If your filters haven’t been replaced within the year, then it’s not a bad idea to get this done before leaving.
6. Inspect the belts and hoses
Open the hood of your car to examine your hoses and belts. The belts should be taut, without much give to them. If they seem loose, then you have a problem. Take a look at your hoses and check for any cracks or fraying. Also, keep your eyes open for fluid leaks. Any of these issues need maintenance before you leave for the holiday.
The day before Thanksgiving is known as one of the most hectic days to travel. Making sure your car is in top condition before you leave can help prevent the unexpected.
Does your car need an inspection before your holiday travel plans? It’s not too late. Our experienced technicians at Bonfe’s are here to help. Give us a call at (651) 222-4458 to schedule your appointment today.
The History of Brakes
As the automobile has evolved, so have its braking systems. Over the years, cars have used many different types of brakes. Today we’re going to take a look at the origin story of brakes and how they’ve changed over the years.
Wooden block brakes
The earliest form of brakes were wooden block brakes. These brakes were made up of a lever and wooden blocks. The lever sent a block of wood against steel-rimmed wheels, which caused the wheels to stop moving. Wooden block brakes were most commonly used in horse-drawn carriages and steam-driven automobiles. As long as a vehicle was traveling at a speed of 10 to 20 miles per hour, these brakes were effective. With the introduction of rubber tires in the late 1890s, wooden block brakes became obsolete.
Mechanical drum brakes
Because of the use of rubber tires, automakers needed to develop a new braking system. In 1899, an engineer named Gottlieb Daimler came up with an idea. He thought that if a drum wrapped in cable was anchored to the chassis, it could stop the force of a moving vehicle. In 1902, Louis Renault built on this idea by creating the first mechanical drum brake. Renault’s drum brake is the foundation for modern automotive brakes.
Expanding internal shoe brakes
Since Renault’s brakes were external, they got exposed to elements such as water and dust. Because of this, they often malfunctioned. This led to the development of an internal braking system. Expanding internal shoe brakes were built inside a metal drum that was connected to the wheel. When the brake shoes were expanded by pistons, they brushed against the inside of the drum. This friction caused the car wheels to eventually come to a stop.
Early brake systems required a lot of force to bring the vehicle to a complete stop. Malcolm Loughead addressed this issue with his 1918 invention of hydraulic brakes. Loughead invented a four-wheel hydraulic system that used fluid to transport force. When the driver stepped on the brake pedal, that force was transferred through brake fluid to reach the brake shoe. Hydraulic brakes required a lot less force than other braking systems. By the late 1920s, many automakers were building vehicles with hydraulic braking systems.
As vehicle speed capabilities and weights increased, hydraulic brakes grew less effective. As a result, in the mid-20th century, automakers began using disc brakes with hydraulic functions. Disc brakes date back to 1902, when they were patented by William Lanchester.
Anti-lock brakes are a safety precaution. They stop brakes from locking up while in use. When speed sensors detect a brake lock, hydraulic valves reduce some of the pressure of the brake on one wheel. This keeps the car from spinning out. The first anti-lock brakes were used in airplanes in the 1920s and ‘30s. They were developed for automobiles in the 1950s and ‘60s, and became commonplace by the 1970s. In today’s vehicles, anti-lock brakes are a standard feature.
Does your vehicle need brake maintenance? Our experienced technicians at Bonfe’s are here to help. Give us a call at (651) 222-4458 to schedule your appointment today.
What is the master cylinder?
The master cylinder is one of the most unappreciated car parts. What you may not know is that it’s so essential that many people refer to it as the heart of the automobile. Today we’re going to learn all about how the master cylinder works, and how it became such an integral part of your brake system.
Let’s start by understanding the mechanics. In your car’s brake system, there’s a tube that facilitates the movement of hydraulic force. That tube is the master cylinder. Your foot exerts force when you push down on your brake. That force pushes in a rod, called a pushrod, into the sealed master cylinder. Inside the master cylinder, there are two pistons, springs, and brake fluid. The pushrod causes the pistons to start pushing the brake fluid through the two chambers of the cylinder and out to the brake lines. The brake lines carry this force to your calipers, which clamp down on the rotors. This is how your vehicle comes to a stop.
Here’s why people refer to the master cylinder as the heart of your car. In the same way that your heart pumps blood out through your arteries, the master cylinder also pumps. Instead of blood, it pumps brake fluid. Instead of arteries, the master cylinder has brake lines. Similar to how your heart moves blood to where it’s needed in your body, the master cylinder moves hydraulic pressure from your brake pedal to your wheels.
For the hydraulic system to operate, it needs to be completely sealed off from air. If air gets into the system, it won’t work properly. To make sure this doesn’t happen, your car has a reservoir of brake fluid above it. When you take your foot off the brake, two things happen. The spring in the master cylinder pushes it back in place, and brake fluid is pushed back into the reservoir.
The invention of the master cylinder
Malcolm Lougheed was the first person to develop a brake system that used liquid pressure with cylinders and tubes. His invention dates back all the way to 1918. Back then, cars had mechanical brakes, which required a lot of force to bring your car to a halt. Lougheed’s system was a huge improvement because it required a lot less force. The problem with his brakes was that they often malfunctioned due to leaking.
Chrysler took Lougheed’s original system and made some improvements. They renamed them Chrysler-Lockheed hydraulic brakes, and were used in Chrysler vehicles from 1924 to 1962. By the 1940s, other auto manufacturers had converted to hydraulic systems as well.
Lougheed was on the right track, but his design was flawed. Since it was a single master cylinder system, all of the brake lines were connected. If there was a leak or a faulty part with the system, all of the brakes would stop working.
Luckily, Wagner Electric invented a dual-cylinder brake system in 1960. This system had a dual master cylinder separating front and rear hydraulic lines. In other words, if one line developed a leak, the other line could still work, and your brakes wouldn’t completely die. This safety measure was mandated by the federal government in 1967. It’s estimated that doing so prevents as many as 40,000 accidents every year.
Now you know a little bit about your car’s master cylinder. It really is the heart of your vehicle, so appreciate it. Take good care of it. Do you need maintenance on your master cylinder? Our experts at Bonfe’s are here for you. Give us a call today at (651) 222-4458.
7 Signs Your Brakes Need Maintenance
Putting off car maintenance is never a good idea, especially when it comes to your brakes. Fortunately, our cars are usually pretty good at letting us know when there’s an issue. Below are 7 common signs your brakes need maintenance.
1. Squealing noise when braking
Brake pad wear indicators tell you when the brake shoes or calipers are worn out. They alert you by making an awful squealing noise. This is because they’re made of metal. When they come in contact with the rotor, they’ll make an unmistakable, high-pitched sound. When you hear it, you’ll know to schedule maintenance right away.
2. Burning smell while driving
A burning smell is always a bad sign when you’re driving. If you smell a chemical or burning odor, it could indicate overheated brakes. This means your brake fluid may have reached a boiling point. If this happens, your braking system will fail. If you experience this warning sign, pull over immediately to let your brakes cool down.
3. Pulling to one side while braking
When a car veers to one side while braking, it’s a sign of trouble. Typically, this points to an issue with your front two brakes. It could be anything from a caliper issue, to a misaligned rotor, or a worn out brake hose. These problems result in one side of the braking system to compensate for the other side, which is why your car pulls to one side.
4. Wobbling or vibration
If you experience a vibrating steering wheel or wobbling on the brake pedal, there’s a good chance you have a problem. The most common reason for this is an uneven rotor. Over time, all rotors develop variations. The smallest difference in the thickness of the disc can result in wobbling when you step on the brakes.
Vibrating or wobbling can also indicate an issue with the caliper. If the caliper’s piston has excess debris or rust surrounding it, the caliper won’t properly release. That means it won’t completely retract when you remove your foot from the brake pedal. Regardless of the reason behind it, wobbling or vibration is a clear sign your brakes need maintenance.
5. Grinding sound from the brake pedal
Grinding that’s coming from the brake pedal could indicate something minor, like a loose rock lodged in the caliper. It could also mean you have a major problem, like worn down brake pads. The grinding could be the metal brake pad wear indicator scraping against the rotor. The grinding sound could also be coming from a rusty brake shoe.
6. Soft or spongy brake feel or leaking fluid
If there’s moisture in your brake system, it’ll make itself known through a soft or sponge-like brake pedal. Your brake system operates on pressurized, hydraulic brake fluid. If a leak develops, your brakes will malfunction. The lack of hydraulic force means your brake pads won’t have enough power to clamp onto the rotors.
7. Brake light illuminated on the dashboard
The most obvious sign of a brake problem is the brake light appearing on your dashboard. Your car’s diagnostics system triggers this light for a number of reasons. It could be telling you it’s time for an inspection, or it could be warning you of a system malfunction. To figure out exactly what’s going on, you’ll need to get your brakes inspected.
Your brakes are the most important safety system in your vehicle. Don’t neglect them. If you experience any of these signs, come see us. Bonfe’s expert technicians install only the best brake components. Give us a call at (651) 222-4458 to schedule your appointment today.
Everything You Need to Know About Replacing Your Braking System
Replacing the brakes in your car isn’t an easy job. Today we’re talking about everything you need to know when it comes to replacing your braking system. Knowing about this process can help you make an informed decision about your vehicle needs.
Steps to replacing the brake system
Even though brake systems are complex, most experts follow a similar process when it comes to replacement. These steps are as follows:
- Loosen the lugs: After making sure the emergency brakes are activated, loosen the lugs. To do this, use a lug wrench to turn the lugs counter-clockwise. Make sure to loosen without removing them.
- Raise the vehicle: Move the car jack underneath the vehicle’s frame rail. Make sure the jack stands are beneath the car. Once you’ve ensured everything is stable, you can detach the wheels.
- Slide out the caliper: Once you remove the bolts from the caliper, you should be able to slide it out. If it’s stuck, you can pry it out using a flat head screwdriver. Rest the removed caliper on the suspension so you don’t strain the brake line.
- Remove the caliper carrier: Remove the bolts from the caliper carrier.
- Remove the rotor: When removing the rotor, first check and see if you have a locating screw. If you do, remove this first. If your rotor is older or rusty, it may be more difficult to remove.
- Install new rotor: Using a wire brush, remove rust from the hub and install the new rotor. Use a degreaser to clear any excess oils from the new rotor.
- Assemble caliper carrier: Replace the caliper carrier and fasten new bolts.
- Compress the caliper: Check to make sure you don’t have the cap on the reservoir. Then, using a c-clamp and an old brake pad, press the caliper’s piston so that it’s the same height as the housing of the caliper.
- Install caliper and brake pads: Once the brake pads are installed in the caliper carrier, connect the caliper bolts. Make sure the caliper can move without binding, and then secure the bolts.
- Re-attach the wheels: Manually attach the lugs and use a torque wrench when the vehicle is back on the ground.
- Repeat, pump, and break in: Follow the above steps on all of your wheels. Then, pump the brake pedal until you feel pressure. Last, break your system in. You can do this by speeding up and gradually slowing down a few times. Although you may hear squealing initially, the noises should die down after several miles.
Should I replace my own brakes?
Braking systems are intricate, and replacing them can get complicated. Unless you’re experienced in troubleshooting and repairing brake issues, this job is best left to a trusted professional. That way, you can rest easy knowing your brakes received the proper care.
Do you need help replacing your brakes? Let our experienced technicians at Bonfe’s lend you a hand. Give us a call at (651) 222-4458 to schedule your appointment today. We look forward to serving you.
Have you ever wondered where the check engine light in your car came from? How did it come to exist as we know it today? It’s actually come quite a long way from its earliest stages, which dates back to the 1930s. Interested? Stick around to find out more.
How do check engine lights work these days?
Before we go back in time, let’s review how check engine lights work today. A check engine light is a computerized warning that indicates an engine malfunction. Usually found on the dashboard, it’s the red or orange light that tells you there’s an issue with your vehicle. It either looks like an image of an engine, or will sometimes show up as a phrase, such as “SERVICE ENGINE SOON”. When the check engine light is activated, the engine control unit saves a diagnostic trouble code (DTC). This code gets read by an auto technician using a scan tool.
Where did the idea of a check engine light come from?
The earliest form of the check engine light was known as an idiot light (no joke), or warning light. These were first used in vehicles manufactured in the 1930s by the Hudson Motor Car Company. Idiot lights only switched on when a major issue or breakdown was about to occur. The problem with these binary lights was that they gave no advance warning of a vehicle fault. Although they were a popular auto feature for several decades, they were eventually discontinued in the 1980s.
Manufacturer-specific check engine lights
Idiot lights were discontinued to avoid confusion with a new form of the check engine light. In the early 1980s, auto manufacturers built new vehicles with computerized engine controls. With this new technology came a basic diagnostic system that monitored automobile issues. Each vehicle’s diagnostic system was unique to its manufacturer. They activated the vehicle’s check engine light when an issue arose. However, since there was no organized use of DTCs, it was very difficult for a technician to get to the root of the problem. Since each automaker had its own diagnostics system, identifying the reason for a check engine light was a lot more complicated than it is today.
When was the check engine light standardized?
Starting in 1996, an on-board vehicle diagnostics system, known as OBD2, became a requirement for all vehicles sold in the United States. The reason for this was a federal mandate designed to lower vehicle emissions. Since all new cars had to have OBD2 technology, a standardized system of DTCs was established. Because of this system, our skilled technicians at Bonfe’s Auto in St. Paul can use scan tool technology to diagnose issues in any vehicle.
As you can see, we’ve come a long way since the early days of idiot lights. Today, auto technicians can diagnose any issue on any vehicle in no time flat. Since check engine lights are activated for a variety of reasons both large and small, they detect issues before they become a big problem. This can save time and money on repairs.
That wraps up our history lesson on the check engine light. The next time you see that your car’s check engine light is activated, just be grateful it’s not an idiot light. Think of it as your car’s way of telling you it needs some extra care, pick up the phone, and give us a call.
8 Reasons Your Car’s Check Engine Light is On and What You Need to Do About It
No one wants to see their check engine light turn on. Car problems are stressful, but having some understanding of what can go wrong helps you stay prepared. Below are 8 reasons why your vehicle’s check engine light (CEL) is on, and what you can do about it.
1. Spark plugs and spark plug wires
A malfunction with your spark plugs and spark plug wires can activate the CEL. Spark plugs ignite the fuel and air in your engine to produce power. If these parts are faulty, it could affect performance or even cause your engine to stop running altogether. Luckily, spark plugs are relatively inexpensive and easy to replace.
2. Catalytic converter
If your CEL is triggered by a problem with your catalytic converter, then you have a more serious problem on your hands. Since it doesn’t need routine maintenance, a faulty catalytic converter is usually due to an underlying issue with spark plugs or oxygen sensors. If these repairs are neglected, it can lead to bigger problems down the road.
3. EGR valve
The EGR (exhaust gas recirculation) valve controls gas flow as it travels from the exhaust manifold to the intake manifold. Your car’s CEL may turn on if the valve detects a gas flow that’s higher or lower than the average amount. This happens when the valves get clogged up by carbon build-up, causing them to stick. EGR valves don’t need routine maintenance, so a clogged valve generally happens when there’s another problem with your engine.
4. Vacuum leak
A vacuum leak is another reason you may be seeing your CEL. This happens when the vacuum’s rubber linings stretch out or crack. The vacuum is connected to a lot of other systems in your car, including the exhaust, brake booster, heating and A/C vents, and cruise control. If you have a vacuum leak, you probably also have issues with one of these components.
5. Loose or missing fuel cap
Your gas cap prevents vapors from escaping the gas tank. If your gas cap is faulty or missing, your car will let you know by illuminating the CEL. Driving with a missing or faulty gas cap can seriously reduce fuel efficiency and increase emissions. Luckily, this is an easy, low-cost fix.
6. Oxygen sensor
Your car’s oxygen sensor tells how much oxygen is present in the exhaust. This lets your car know how much fuel it needs to operate. If the sensor isn’t working, your car will think it needs more fuel than necessary, and the CEL will be triggered. Delayed maintenance can cause bad gas mileage. There’s also potential for damage to other engine parts, which could lead to thousands of dollars in repairs.
A faulty battery will definitely activate the CEL. The battery is essential to starting and operating your vehicle, so it’s important to address this immediately. Our technicians at Bonfe’s Auto always test car batteries during vehicle inspections.
8. MAF failure
A mass air flow (MAF) sensor failure is another reason your CEL may be on. This sensor measures the amount of air entering the engine. If it’s not working, your car won’t know how much fuel it needs. A faulty MAF sensor could cause problems with your catalytic converter, spark plugs, or oxygen sensor.
As you can see, your check engine light alerts you to a wide array of vehicle issues, and they’re not always easy to diagnose. That’s where we come in. Our technicians at Bonfe’s Auto are ready to help. Give us a call at (651) 222-4458 to book your appointment today. We look forward to providing you with quality service.
What to Do When You See Your Check Engine Light
You hate to see it. The dreaded check engine light. As you know, it can indicate a lot of different issues, both large and small. Either way, don’t ignore it, or you could wind up with bigger problems down the road. Let’s talk about what steps to take to troubleshoot your car’s check engine light.
Should I pull over?
Chances are, you’ll be driving when you notice the check engine light. The first decision you need to make is whether or not to pull over. Here’s what you need to know. When you see the check engine light, it’ll either show up as illuminated or blinking. If it’s blinking, it indicates a major vehicle malfunction. If that’s the case, you definitely need to pull over right away. If the light is illuminated by not blinking, it usually means a less serious engine problem. It still needs to be handled as soon as possible, but chances are you don’t need to pull over to the side of the road.
Either way, blinking or not, you should always assess the situation. Look for any indications of a serious problem. For instance, if you see or smell engine smoke, experience loss of power, or hear odd noises, it’s probably something major. In this case, pull over and avoid driving if possible. Your best bet is to get your vehicle towed to a service provider for an inspection.
Troubleshooting the check engine light
If you don’t have a serious engine malfunction, there’s a few steps you can take to address the illuminated check engine light. One place to check is your oil dipstick. Take a look at it and make sure it’s seated properly. Make sure the oil fill cap, which is found on top of the engine valve cover, is tightly secured. Taking these steps may turn off your car’s check engine light. Another spot to check if your fuel cap. Believe it or not, a loose fuel cap can trigger your car’s check engine light. Look for any damage or cracks, and make sure it’s tightened all the way. This may deactivate your check engine light.
To get a better understanding of why your check engine light is on, you can invest in an OBD2 scanner. When connected, this gadget reads the diagnostic trouble code (DTC) associated with your check engine light. Hook up the OBD2 scan tool to the data link connector, which is located beneath the dashboard on the driver’s side.
A good OBD2 scanner costs somewhere around $50 to $100. This tool will point you in the direction, but it doesn’t give you a ton of specific information about what’s going on. It does give you a sense of how severe your problem is. This can help you decide how to move forward with repairs. Try not to panic when you see the check engine light. Take a deep breath and take stock of the situation. Develop a plan to solve the problem. Remember, if you have an urgent matter, pull over and seek help right away.
Here at Bonfe’s, our experienced technicians can handle anything that comes our way. We’ll do our best to get you back on the road in no time flat. Give us a call at (651) 222-4458 to schedule your appointment today.