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Archive for August 2023

Have a Ball! Know your Ball Joints (Ball Joints)

Posted August 27, 2023 9:30 AM

We all have joints in our own skeletal system, but did you know your vehicle has some joints of its own? One of the most important is called a ball joint.

One of the interesting things is that it's somewhat similar to the ball and socket joints we have in our hips and shoulders.  A ball joint allows two parts it joins together to move in more than one direction at the same time.

Think about your wheels.  They have to move up and down when there are bumps in the road but in sideways directions when you are making a turn. As you can see, the ball joints are important for your steering and handling to work correctly.

Since ball joints do so much, they can wear out and become loose.  When the ball wears down or the socket gets worn, there can be too much play in them.  It can get so bad that the ball can come out of the socket and your wheel can fall off, a dangerous situation.  Ball joints can also seize up.  Some of them are sealed and never require maintenance; others require periodic lubrication.

Here are some signs that your ball joints are going bad:

  • Your vehicle pulls to one side
  • You can hear a clunking noise coming from a wheel area
  • Your tires are wearing unevenly, especially on the inside

The earlier a failing ball joint is discovered, the better. The best way is to have regular inspections by a technician.  Your service facility will periodically check ball joints at intervals recommended by the manufacturer. The cost to replace them can vary widely depending on whether you have a vehicle with a 2-ball or 4-ball configuration.  Also, sometimes just the joints can be replaced, but other times they are part of a larger control arm assembly that has to have all the parts replaced at the same time. 

Your vehicle's proper steering, handling and tire wear all contribute to a better, safer driving experience.  Make sure your ball joints are up to the job.

Darrell's Firestone
23534 Farmington Rd
Farmington, MI 48336
248-477-9090
http://www.darrellsfirestone.net



Let's Clear Some Things Up (Headlight Restoration)

Posted August 20, 2023 9:40 AM

You know how exposing your skin to sunlight can cause sunburn and other unhealthy things.  Sunlight can also create major problems for your headlights.  After they've been exposed to ultraviolet light, acrylic headlights can yellow and fog due to oxidation.  And when that happens, less light can pass through the plastic, reducing the effectiveness—and safety—of your headlights. 

It's not just the UV light that causes headlights to turn cloudy.  Road grime and debris gets kicked up and can scratch the plastic, diffusing the light that should pass through them when they're clear.  Plus, when your vehicle was new from the factory, the headlights had watertight seals all around to prevent moisture from getting into them and fogging them up with water vapor.  Just like clouds can hide the sun, tiny water molecules can diffuse the light from your headlight bulbs. 

Sure, you could buy replacement parts and start fresh.  But the good news is many vehicle repair facilities can restore your original headlights to perform like they did when you first bought your vehicle.  Here's how it works:

  • A technician will protect your vehicle's paint by either taking the headlights out or by taping off the paint near the headlights and leaving them in place.
  • Residue is removed from the headlight surfaces by wet sanding to remove the oxidized plastic.
  • Using special compounds, the technician will buff and polish the surface of the lens so it looks as smooth as glass. 
  • The newly-polished plastic is then sealed with wax or a special sealant designed to keep them operating like new. 
  • If the seals that keep the moisture out of the inside of your headlights have dried out or cracked, they will be restored or replaced to keep condensation from forming again.

Visibility at night is vital for safe driving, and if your headlights aren't performing up to their potential, the less you'll be able to see ahead of you.

There are many advantages of having your headlights restored rather than buying new or aftermarket replacements.  It's friendlier to the planet since plastics are made of oil, so it's reducing the amount of plastic that is manufactured.  And it's usually cheaper to have your headlights restored rather than replaced.

Consider headlight restoration a way to literally recycle those parts of your vehicle.  That seems to be perfectly clear!

Darrell's Firestone
23534 Farmington Rd
Farmington, MI 48336
248-477-9090
http://www.darrellsfirestone.net



Such a Little Part (Climate Control Resistor)

Posted August 13, 2023 10:19 AM

You expect your heater/air conditioner to work like it should.  You have a control for temperature and one for fan speed.  You even have a control for what vents the air comes out of. 

Don't be surprised one day if your blower fan develops a mind of its own and starts going crazy.  Most of the time, you may find that it starts blowing at full speed, and nothing you do to try to control it does any good.  This is what may be happening.

Your blower motor has an electronic component called a resistor.  It does what its name says; it offers resistance.  When you want the fan to run more slowly, you turn the fan speed down.  That resistor accomplishes that by turning its resistance up.  When the resistor fails, the power has nothing to slow it and the fan speeds up. 

It's a small part and can fail due to age or corrosion.  It's usually not an expensive part, either, but it's often found in a location that's not that easy for the technician to get to.  That means labor costs will vary depending on the design of your vehicle. 

Occasionally, a faulty resistor can cause the blower motor not to work at all or only partially come on.  But other things can cause that as well, such as a faulty fan switch or vent control. 

This is where a technician's training comes in.  Special equipment can track down precisely where the issue is so you can be assured the correct part is being replaced.

It's just not pleasant when the blower motor isn't following orders.  Have your service facility check it out so you can be the blower's boss, like it should be. 

Darrell's Firestone
23534 Farmington Rd
Farmington, MI 48336
248-477-9090
http://www.darrellsfirestone.net



Full of Hot Air (Air Conditioning)

Posted August 6, 2023 7:19 AM

In warm weather, you want to be in a cool vehicle. When we're talking cool, we don't mean stylish or trendy, but cool as in not sweltering inside.  And if your vehicle's air conditioner stops working correctly, it seems to always break at the worst time—during a heat wave. 

Automotive air conditioning problems fail for a number of reasons:

  • Blower motor not working.  No air comes through the vents, even though the rest of the system could be working fine.
  • Refrigerant leak. When the gas that cools the air off escapes from the air conditioning system, your air conditioner can no longer cool off the outside air
  • Condenser and compressor. These are parts of your AC system that compress and expand a refrigerant gas to cool off the outside air. They are fairly complex.

When you bring your vehicle into our service center, we'll run a series of diagnostic tests to figure out what isn't working correctly.  The air conditioning system has a lot of parts. There are electrical and mechanical components plus a series of hoses and tubes that all can wear out over time.  Any one of these can fail.

A lot of drivers think they have a "Freon leak" and believe that if they get their AC system recharged with the refrigerant, everything will be fine.  But AC systems are so complex, it usually takes a trained technician to accurately figure out where the problems are.

Sometimes the solution is simple.  If your blower motor wears out or there's a fuse that has blown, the technician can replace the bad parts and you'll quickly be back to enjoying your rolling refrigerator. But when compressors or condensers go bad, those are much more involved and expensive to fix.

For instance, electrical problems can sometimes lead to acid to build up and corrode other parts of your AC system.  Sometimes that causes so much damage, your whole air conditioning system has to be replaced. That's why it's always a good idea to have your AC regularly maintained.  Our technicians can find a problem early and prevent more expensive repairs down the road. That's really the cool way to go.

Darrell's Firestone
23534 Farmington Rd
Farmington, MI 48336
248-477-9090
http://www.darrellsfirestone.net



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