Monthly Archives: May 2014

How do car recalls benefit buyers?

recallsSo far, for this decade there have been less than half the number of car recalls from the previous decade. Yet, from all of the hype, one would think that there is nothing but safety problems on the road and that any car that is recalled is a potential death trap. But that just isn’t true. There are a couple of developments that are causing this phenomenon and it is actually good news.

Car recalls are a common part of car-ownership and it is a sign that the safety system is working the way it should. True, there are more recalls than there used to be, but safety and the quality of cars have both improved in recent years. In general a recall notice provides peace of mind, it means the manufacturer or the government agency involved have decided that the defect in the vehicle is of concern and they want to make sure it never causes an issue.

Cars are more complex, so there are more components that can fail and Consumers have more ways to complain. We have access, electronically and instantly, to a global network that wasn’t available in the early ’90s.”
           Sean Kane, President
Safety Research & Strategies Inc.

Most car recalls, aren’t a big deal. For instance, in 2013, automakers recalled almost 22 million vehicles — that’s about 40% more than all the new cars sold last year. However, almost none of those recalls made the news, since most required a quick trip to the dealer for a routine fix at the manufacturer’s expense. Interestingly one major manufacturer led the list with about 5.3 million vehicles recalled in 2013. That same manufacturer also faired well in Consumer Reports and J.D. Power surveys, so you could make the case that there is little to no connection between recalls and poor quality. If anything, a higher number of recalls might indicate the opposite.

In 2013 the total number of vehicles recalled by major automakers was the highest it’s been since 2004. In the ‘90’s recalls were relatively uncommon, but in the mid part of that decade they hit an elevated level and stayed there ever since. Some people feel that this reflects a greater attention by regulators, however, other trends may have more to do with it: an increase of new technology in cars and an increased availability of information to consumers on the Internet.

Recall HistoryThe digital revolution transformed automobiles improved performance, efficiency and safety, but also made cars a lot more complicated. Cars have become mobile computers that use millions of lines of code. That code affects the throttle, braking, steering, transmission and any other systems that have gone from mechanical (analog) linkages to electronic controls. This has improved performance, efficiency and safety, but it’s also made cars much more complicated.

Case in point a recent analysis shows that about 20% of the recalls in 2013 were for air bags — which barely existed 20 years ago and are large complex systems.  Also, up to one-third of the 2013 recalls were related to electrical systems, things like seat heaters, automatic tailgates, sliding doors, and video systems. Some of the recalls were for things owners might notice — interior lights, blurred digital readouts, or weak A/C systems — these are not things that can cause harm.

Automakers are also more eager to fix issues due to social media and quality rankings. With the advent of third party rating sites like Edmunds or KBB it’s very easy for a buyer to get up-to-date info on how other owners regard their vehicles.  These new “dis-interested third party” rating sites have become a greater factor in the purchase process.  The availability of ratings and in-depth vehicle info has giving automakers more reasons to fix issues.

So, yes, there have been a few attention getting car recalls along with news grabbing manufacturer oversights and they’re obscuring the fact that driving is getting statistically safer. For the record the total number of traffic deaths in the U.S. peaked in 2006 at over 43,000, but since then it has fallen to less 33,000. Due in large part, to life-saving new technologies and perhaps even more aggressive recalls.  So as consumers we should all be happy when our manufacturer recalls our vehicle, it means the system is working and we are more safe than ever. 

 

 

The 5 most common causes of a check engine light!

check engine light dashboard

The other day I had an interesting run-in with my car, I was driving home when out of the blue my “Check Engine” light came on. So, first after getting my heart rate down I thought “wait my car is 4 years old it has nothing wrong with it, there has to be a simple reason for this” and there was. My gas cap wasn’t tightened all the way… “D’oh!”

So, the light is on and I pull into my driveway, I stop the car, for all you safety-nicks out there I turned it off, and did the first thing we all do in situations like this, I did a Google search. “Common causes for the check engine light to go off” and I found my problem, apparently not tightening the gas cap all the way is more common than you would think. I tightened it and viola! No more check engine light. So that got me thinking what other reasons are there for this to happen, here is the top 5, in no particular order:

there is no reason to panic or think the worst just go through the list and if it still won’t go off bring it in to Koons and we’ll help you get back on the road

We do have one caveat, if your car starts smoking or stalls completely call for help and stay with your vehicle until it arrives. Once you’re safely off the road, bring your car to the closest Koons store (there are 22 of them) and have them run a diagnostic to find the cause. You can call ahead to make sure they can handle your make and model, since some cars have special computers. But once you’re at the store, you’ll be in good hands and your vehicle will be back up and running in no time.

One: Replace Oxygen Sensor

An oxygen sensor is a part that monitors the unburned oxygen from the exhaust. It helps monitor how much fuel is burned. A faulty sensor means it’s not providing the right data to the computer and causes a decrease in gas mileage. Most cars have between two and four oxygen sensors and the code you get from the scanner will tell you which one needs replacing.

Causes: Over time, the sensor gets covered in oil ash and it reduces the sensors ability to change the oxygen and fuel mixture. A faulty sensor not only reduces gas mileage, it also increase emissions.

What you should do: Not replacing a broken oxygen sensor can eventually lead to a faulty catalytic convertor, which can be expensive to replace. An oxygen sensor is easy to replace on many cars and is usually detailed in the owner’s manual. If you know where the sensor is, you only have to unclip the old sensor and replace it with a new one.

Two: Loose or Faulty Gas Cap

You wouldn’t think a gas cap would be that important, but it is. When it’s loose or cracked, fuel vapors leak out and can throw the whole fuel system off. This causes a reduction in gas mileage and increases emissions.

What causes it: If you get an error pointing to the gas cap it means fuel vapors are leaking out of your cap. This means the cap is either cracked or just wasn’t tightened well enough.

What you should do: If your car isn’t feeling jerky or strange when the check engine light comes on the first thing you should check is the gas cap. Pull over, open the access cover and remove it, take a look at the cap to see if it has any cracks or holes in it. If not replace it and tighten it down all the way and continue driving to see if the check engine light turns off.

Three: Replace Catalytic Convertor

The catalytic convertor works to reduce exhaust gases. It converts carbon monoxide and other harmful materials into harmless compounds. If your catalytic convertor is failing, you’ll notice a decrease in gas mileage or your car won’t go any faster when you push the gas.

What causes it: Catalytic convertors shouldn’t fail if you’re keeping up on regular maintenance. The main cause of failure is related to other items on this list, including a broken oxygen sensor or deteriorated spark plugs. When it fails, it stops converting carbon monoxide into less harmful emissions.

What you should do: If your catalytic convertor fails completely, you eventually won’t be able to keep the car running. Your gas mileage will be terrible, so you should try and fix it as soon as you can. This is not an easy fix so you will need to have a professional take care and in most areas it will be part of an emissions inspection so it’s just better to have it done at a garage.

Four: Replace Mass Airflow Sensor (MAF)

The mass airflow sensor tells the car’s computer to add the proper amount of fuel based on the air coming through to the engine. A faulty one can increase emissions, cause the car to stall, and decrease gas mileage.

What causes it: Most mass airflow sensors fail because of a improperly installed (or never replaced) air filter. You should replace the air filter at least once a year to help prevent the airflow sensor from failing.

What you should do: Theoretically you can drive for a few weeks or even months with a broken MAF sensor. You will notice a decrease in gas mileage and over time the car will eventually start stalling a lot. It’s not terribly difficult to do on your own, but the process is quick enough you may want to let a mechanic handle it when you have a tune-up.

Five: Replace Spark Plugs and Wires

The spark plug seals the combustion chamber and provides a gap for a spark to jump across and initiates combustion in your engine. When the plugs are failing, the spark plugs misfire. You’ll feel a little jolt in your car’s acceleration when this happens.

What causes it: Most spark plugs and their wires in cars from before 1996 should be replaced every 25,000-30,000 miles. Newer ones can last up to 100,000 miles. Still, plugs can fail over time and so can the wires and there’s not much you can do to stop it once it starts.

What you should do: Get them replaced right away. It’s easy and cheap and your car will run better for it. Since this is part of your vehicles regular maintenance, the Koons Tech will tell you when they should be replaced when you bring it in for regular maintenance. The plugs and their wires are usually easily accessible from the hood of the car. It’s simple fix but it is a dirty one so be prepared to get your hands dirty on this one if you decide to do it yourself.

There are plenty of other possibilities that a check engine light can come on, but the five listed here are the most common. So there is no reason to panic or think the worst just go through the list and if it still won’t go off bring it in to Koons and we’ll help you get back on the road with the piece of mind that your car should be issue free. 

Your car’s windshield is chipped, pitted, or broken and you can’t ignore it.

crackedwindshield

WHACK! Not only does that sound wake you up but it may also be the start of a bigger problem, a compromised windshield. A chipped or cracked windshield can be annoying and unsafe. Luckily, now under certain circumstances you can have it repaired rather than fully replaced.

Regardless of the size and location of a chip or crack, it’s always advisable to have it repaired quickly.

How do I know if I have to replace my windshield or have it repaired? Windshield repair or replacement depends on the size, location and severity of the damage. The majority of windshield repair shops can repair quarter-sized rock chips and cracks up to three inches long. Anything bigger and most places will recommend replacement. Although, some facilities use a special technique that allows them to repair cracks up to 12 inches long. So it pays to check around before committing to a new windshield.

Location of the damage also plays a role in determining your windshield’s fate. Cracks at the edge of the windshield tend to spread very quickly and can compromise the structural integrity of the glass. If they’re caught in time, they can be repaired. But in most cases, it’s usually advisable to replace the windshield. You should also be aware that some facilities might not repair a chip that appears directly in the driver’s line of vision. This is due to the repair process leaving minor distortions in the glass.

Windshield repairRegardless of the size and location of a chip or crack, it’s always advisable to have it repaired quickly. If you wait to long to repair it, dirt will work its way into the damaged area, altering the effectiveness and clarity of the repair. And, the damage done to your windshield just might be to big; it may simply be beyond saving. Major impacts or accident damage go beyond what a repair facility can fix. In these cases, replacement is a must.

So, how much will a repair or replacement cost?
The cost to repair a windshield is pretty standard across the country. Repairing a single chip costs roughly $40-$50 for the first chip and approximately $10 for each additional chip. The cost to repair a crack is also about $40-$50, if the crack is longer than 3” it may need special treatment. Long-crack specialists charge $70 to fix 6-12” cracks.

Replacing a windshield costs considerably more and varies greatly with the vehicle. You will also need to add in a molding kit and labor: Toyota Camry — $350 – $550, Ford Explorer — $400 – $1,300, Chevrolet Corvette — $650 – $920.

Is this covered by my insurance?
Nearly all-automotive insurance companies cover windshields, but because the cost to replace a windshield is so much higher than a repair, coverage is handled differently for each. If you’re replacing a windshield, your insurance company will ask you to pay your deductible and they’ll pay for the complete replacement.

No matter what you do have a qualified glass specialist carefully examine your windshield to determine whether a repair will suffice or if it should indeed be replaced. Also remember to check with your insurance agent to confirm the terms of your coverage before committing to any windshield work.

Windshield repair work is a temporary fix
Windshield repair is first aid for the glass that helps prevent the damage from getting worse. In some cases, the repair may look nearly perfect, while in others; it could still appear slightly blemished. But in both cases, a proper repair will help to prevent the damage from spreading. Since every chip is unique, some will respond more effectively to repair than others, but a repaired windshield will never look as perfectly clear as a brand new one.

Bring your car to any Koons collision center and we’ll help you with your determining if your vehicle needs a new windshield or if it can be repaired.  Koons partners with Geico and we have trained technicians that can help you and get you back on the road as soon as possible ♛