Why is my Check Engine Light On?

I’m sure you’ve been a victim of the daunting Check Engine Light– also known as the Service Engine Light. Its that antagonizing light that just glares at you from the dashboard. So what do you do now? Do you just stare it with avoidance? Do you cover it with electrical tape? As absurd as that sounds, this is how most people deal with the Check Engine Light. However, what you should be doing is asking why. There are several things that could be triggering this alert to your vehicle. We are giving you the top 5 most common reasons your check engine light may be on.

  1. Oxygen (02) Sensors

    Your Oxygen sensors measure the amount of unburned Oxygen from your vehicle’s exhaust system. These sensors monitor how much fuel is burned and sends that data to the car’s computer. Sensors can become contaminated with oil ash over time causing them to not function efficiently. With faulty sensors, you’ll notice a decrease in gas mileage and increased emissions, because your vehicle is burning more fuel than necessary.

  2. Loose or Cracked Gas Cap

    While the gas cap doesn’t seem to serve much purpose other than sealing your tank, it does have a more important task. Your gas cap helps maintain pressure in the fuel system and prevents fuel evaporation. If the cap is cracked or not on correctly, fuel vapors could be leaking from your car. As a result, your vehicle will have a reduction in gas mileage and increased emissions as well.

  3. Catalytic Converter

    The Catalytic Converter works to convert carbon monoxide to carbon dioxide. This helps to reduce the amount of harmful compounds being released into the environment. If your Catalytic Converter is failing, it could be from a lack of regular maintenance on one of the other listed items. This is not usually the most inexpensive to fix, but if you bring it to us for repair immediately, we can help keep your expenses from piling up.

  4. Mass Airflow Sensor

    You may have never considered this one, but is still a possible culprit. The Mass Airflow Sensor tells your vehicle’s computer how much fuel to release to make the car run efficiently. It is solely dependent on the amount of air coming through the engine. If this is the cause of that glowing Check Engine Light, you will notice your vehicle get worse gas mileage and it may even begin to stall.

  5. Spark Plugs

    Spark Plugs seal the combustion chamber and ignite the air/fuel mixture. If it isn’t working properly or needs replacement, you’ll notice the car having issues with acceleration. Most manufacturers recommend that Spark Plugs be changed every 25,000-30,000 miles in older vehicles, or 100,000 for newer vehicles. Some sources suggest this is an easy fix, but that depends on the year, make and model of your vehicle. We suggest bringing it in and letting us have a look just in case this isn’t the true source of the problem.

If you’re seeing the Check Engine Light on your dashboard, just call us at Courthouse Automotive and we’ll get you in and back on the road in no time.

Most Common Electrical Issues

Newer cars utilize computers and electricity to perform various operations. From the radio to the engine, electricity runs throughout most components of your vehicle. If electrical issues arise it could cause unsafe driving conditions or a non-functioning vehicle. There are usually several common electrical issues that are considered in a diagnosis.

Dead Battery

The battery is the most common cause of electrical failure. This is typically the easiest of issues to diagnose, because the vehicle completely shuts down and all electrical devices stop working. No lights, no radio, and no engine turn-over. Often times, it only takes a jump start to get the vehicle running again, but in some cases you may be due for a full battery replacement.

Battery Cables

If your vehicle won’t start, the first thing you should investigate is the battery. If you notice corrosion, try cleaning the cables and terminals. This could be a simple fix.

Bad or Failing Alternator

If your vehicle’s battery will not hold a charge after a jump start, then this is an indication that the alternator is faulty. The alternator acts as a generator for your battery. If it breaks, then there is no charge powering the battery, and the vehicle will not start.

Overworked Starter

It’s all about that “click.” If you’ve ever tried to start your vehicle and all you hear is a clicking noise, then your starter or solenoid has gone bad.

 

Blown Fuses

If a particular electrical system fails, but not another, you can attribute that to a blown electrical fuse. Your vehicle houses a fuse box and it is a simple task to replace fuses.

Spark Plugs

If your vehicle is running but the idling is rough or the car feels sluggish, then more than likely your experiencing the symptoms of failing spark plugs. A tune-up and plug change can be done easily and get your car running like new again.

If you think you’re experiencing any of these issues, contact Courthouse Automotive at 757-453-6399

Top 10 Most Fuel-Efficient Cars 2016

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10 of the Most Fuel-Efficient Cars You Can Buy Under $25,000

Looking for the most fuel-efficient cars? It can be really important these days to save a few bucks a year and get you further. We can also help you save some dough by recommending these top 10 fuel-efficient cars that are under $25,000. Not bad, right?

1. 2016 Ford C-Max Hybrid
This vehicle can get you 42/37 MPG city/highway. It’s a practical and efficient hatchback that’ll give you more oomph than a Prius.

2. 2016 Toyota Camry Hybrid
This roomy, mid-size sedan will get you 43/39 MPG city/highway.

3. 2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid
This stylish Hyundai will get you 40/44 MPG city/highway.

4. 2016 Toyota Prius V
With excellent cargo space, this vehicle also boasts 44/40 MPG or 42 combined MPG.

5. 2016 Ford Fusion Hybrid
The most efficient in its class, this Hybrid boasts 44/41 MPG.

6. 2016 Toyota Prius C
The Prius C is the smallest of it’s Prius family, but it is also the most affordable car on this list. It also gets 53/46 MPG.

7. 2016 Toyota Prius
This all new Prius is more fuel-efficient than ever. It can get you 52 MG combined or 54/50 MPG.

8. 2016 Smart Fortwo Electric Drive
This little smartcar might not be the roomiest but if efficiency is more important, this is your top choice. It gets 122/93 MPG.

9. 2016 Mitsubishi i-MiEV
The is the most affordable fully electric car in the country. It boasts an impressive 126/99 MPG.

10. 2016 Chevrolet Spark EV
Drumroll please… this electric car from Chevy gets 128/109 MPG or 119 combined for the most efficient car you can buy under $25,000.

With varying horsepower, cargo space and efficiency, any one of these vehicles could be the perfect fuel-efficient car for you.

10 Best Used Cars Under $8,000 for 2016

best used cars

10 Best Used Cars Under $8,000

According to Kelley Blue Book, these are the top 10 best used cars for reliable transportation under $8,000. They won’t provide you with the latest tech or the best looking paint job, but if a monthly car payment is still intimidating for you, check out these cars first.

1. 2010 Kia Soul
Surprising, right? This used car is a great alternative if you can’t afford a full on SUV. It does come with some issues though, such as a failing blower motor and purge control valve. However, these repairs won’t break the bank.

2. 2006 Mazda MX-5 Miata
If you can make do with a 2 seater, you will love this car. It has go-kart like handling and is incredibly fun and easy to navigate through traffic with. This used car comes with some overheating issues, so just check your coolant system and hoses fairly often.

3. 2007 Subaru Impreza
Subaru has continued to impress in recent years. It’s reliable transportation with the added bonus of all-wheel drive. Potential issues include a worn out catalytic converter and AC evaporator.

4. 2007 Nissan Maxima
This mid-size sedan offers a certain amount of luxury and a nice ride quality. With poor maintenance however, you could be looking at a failed transmission after 100,000 miles.

5. 2006 Subaru Outback
The Outback has similar issues as the Impreza, but it is one of our top choices for a safe and reliable family car with excellent cargo space.

6. 2008 Ford Crown Victoria
This vehicle has proved year after year that it is built for extended mileage. Potential repairs include the windshield wiper motor burning out and problems with the throttle actuator causing poor acceleration.

7. 2008 Toyota Corolla
There’s a reason there are so many of these on the road. With routine maintenance, this sedan has the least amount of repair issues out of any vehicle in its class.

8. 2010 Honda Civic
The most common issue with this Civic is a air compressor relay that stays on with the car is shut off causing a dead battery when parked. It’s an easy fix and inexpensive. Plus, the tire pressure monitoring system sometimes gives false readings.

9. 2007 Honda Accord
Well-cared for, this sedan will give you another 100,000 miles even used. Some issues include oil consumption problems and needing to replace the catalytic converter.

10. 2006 Toyota Avalon
This sedan gets our winning slot on the top 10 list. It’s quiet, comfortable and reliable. It comes with minimal repair issues. KBB’s master mechanic sites only a minor rear suspension noise and the flat doors can easily attract door dings. Clearly, the best choice for a used car under $8,000.

If you’d like to read more about KBB’s ratings for these top 10 best used cars complete with MPG and horsepower stats, click this link.

Top Car Gadget Gifts for your Gear Head

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Top 10 Must Have Car Gadget Gifts

The holidays are just around the corner. Have you gotten all of your gift shopping done? Yeah, we haven’t either. For the gear head in your family, here is a list of must have car gadget gifts.

1. Scissor Lift (about $1,000)
For the serious car lover in your life, a scissor lift is amazing. It keeps you from needing to lie on your back on the cold concrete to check under the car or truck. It will lift a vehicle high enough to work on the brakes, suspension and body.

2. Swift Hitch Portable Back-Up Camera ($239)
Does your hubby have a trailer? This makes one-person trailer hookup easy, and even comes with night vision.

3. GearWrench Racheting Box Wrenches ($50)
This 7-piece rachet set only needs 5 degrees to move a fastener. Chrome-plated, it’s nearly impossible to strip a fastener with these tools.

4. Stanley Portable Battery Jump-Starter ($70)
This jump-starter comes with 500 amps of continuous power and 1,000 amps of peak power. That’s enough to get your car, truck, RV or boat charged. It also includes a 120-psi air compressor to fill up your tires and a powerful LED light.

5. Car MD ($70)
This gadget will read your check engine or any warning lights and capture the trouble code. It will even take you to a site that will explain the code and suggest solutions specific to your vehicle.

6. Accutire Digital Pressure Gauge ($15)
At $15, this digital gauge is a steal. It’s been reviewed to be as accurate as high-priced models.

7. GoLink iPod Cable ($99)
Like the Car MD, GoLink allows you to check trouble codes, diagnose problems and monitor various parameters but with your Apple device and a free app.

8. Craftsman Cordless Impact Driver ($100)
At just 4.5 lbs this impact wrench can develop 200lb-ft of torque and generate up to 3,000 impacts per minute.

9. Ram Drink Cup Mount ($37)
This cup mount is fully articulating, allowing you to place it virtually anywhere in your vehicle.

10. CG Lock ($50)
The CG Lock is an easily installed device that maintains seatbelt tension. It’s great for safety and can also improve your driving.

Top 5 DIY Auto Repair and Maintenance Tasks

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List of 5 Auto Repair Tasks You Should Do Yourself

Most auto repair scenarios you don’t want to tackle yourself. And sometimes it comes down to “do I have the time to do this myself?” Here are 5 auto repairs that you should absolutely do yourself. They’re worth the time and money-saving effort spent. Here is our top 5 “we won’t blame you if you do it yourself” maintenance and auto repairs.

1. Air filters

Generally speaking, your vehicle has 2 air filters. One behind the glove box in the cabin and one under the hood. If you think that either needs to be replaced, go ahead and do both. This is an incredibly easy task and air filters are not that expensive. And even though there are cheaper air filters out there, splurge on a quality one. They may be more expensive, but they will last longer and are more cost effective in the long run.

2. Tire pressure

Checking your tire pressure is an important maintenance task that you can perform yourself. Pressure gauges are inexpensive and you can easily keep one in your glove box. The recommended pressure for your tires is usually found on the inside of the driver’s side door. Furthermore, there are some gas stations that have free air pumps. There’s nothing holding you back from performing this maintenance task yourself.

3. Spark plugs

Depending on the make and model of your car, this auto repair task can be as easy as screwing in a light bulb. Check your vehicle’s manual for special instructions. And like with air filters, splurge on a quality set.

4. Windshield wipers

If you have unwanted streaks on your windshield or you can actually see the rubber separating, go ahead and replace your own blades. The instructions are right on the box. It takes five minutes and greatly increases your visibility and vehicle safety. However, if you don’t feel like doing it yourself, most auto supply stores will install it for you for free.

5. Battery

Car batteries can be expensive, so go ahead and replace this part yourself and save yourself some dough. However, you might not even have to replace your battery. If you just have some corrosion around the terminals, this is a task you can perform yourself. Auto supply stores offer special sprays that prevent this from happening. Disconnect your battery, get the terminals a little wet and then clean them with baking soda and a toothbrush. Rinse off the excess baking soda and dry off the battery/terminals. Apply the special spray, reconnect the terminals and you’re done! WARNING: If you notice any cracks in your battery that are leaking acid, your battery will absolutely need to be replaced.

hazardous conditions

Drive Safely in Hazardous Conditions

Driving in hazardous conditions does not require Nascar-grade driving skills. There is no class to train you to drive better in the fog, snow, rain or sleet. The only requirement in to be aware of hazardous driving conditions and adjust yourself accordingly. Plus, be aware that other drivers will most likely not adjust properly to the poor conditions and continue as if everything were a beautiful sunny day. Slow down, don’t follow other vehicles closely and know that the vehicles around you are more than likely going to do something completely unsuitable for hazardous driving conditions.

Rainfall is very dangerous for driving. However, most drivers don’t take it as seriously as they should. It is incredibly easy to hydroplane. It doesn’t take much at all—even with good tires you can hydroplane. It occurs when you drive too fast on rain-covered roads. It can also occur when your tires are worn down, even just a little. If a puddle is deep enough to fill in the grooves of your tires you can hydroplane. If you notice that your car is now surfing on the road, slow down. Your tires will regain traction. With anti-lock brakes, braking lightly is safe to do.

Driving in sleet, snow or ice is highly precarious. Each storm presents differently, so it’s even more difficult to drive in than rain. Furthermore, as more cars drive over the snow-covered roads, the conditions change. Just be aware of a few things when driving in the sleet, snow or ice:

• Bridges will freeze
• Change lanes only when necessary
• Stay in the far right lane
• Drive through the tire tracks of the vehicle in front of you
• Test your brakes when you first begin driving to gauge necessary reaction times
• Black ice: It’s nearly impossible to see, and incredibly dangerous. All you can do is take your foot off the brake and hope your vehicle stays straight.

Fog is also a hazardous driving condition. If thick enough, you won’t be able to see even 10 feet in front of you. It’s best to just avoid driving in fog altogether. But if you absolutely have to, treat it like any other hazardous condition and drive slowly. Do yourself a favor and turn off the radio, too. You’re going to need your ears to indicate what’s going on around you. The only other precaution is to turn on your fog lights. High beams will further obscure your vision. The fog just refracts the bright light and reduces the distance that you can see clearly. If you’re preparing to brake, tap them first to alert the driver behind you. And as with snow, stay in the far right lane. The less lane changes you have to make the better. Plan out your turns ahead of time and give yourself and other vehicles plenty of notice.

In conclusion, the best practice is to drive slowly and increase your following distance. Some accidents are unavoidable especially in hazardous conditions. Recognize less than optimal driving conditions, and adjust accordingly.

fuel-efficient

Understanding How Octane Levels Affect your Fuel Economy

Fuel economy is an important topic in the automotive industry today. But, when you fuel up at the pump do you think about the octane level that is best for your vehicle? Does it really make a difference if you fill your tank with regular instead of premium?

The name premium definitely promotes the image of better fuel economy. More oomph per gallon. The truth is that premium provides no more energy than regular. The real difference lies in the blend of hydrocarbons used to make the fuel as well as the list of additives that are mixed in.

Additives are used to reduce carbon build-up in your engine, thus improving combustion and allowing for easier starting in colder climates. A key additive in your petrol is ethanol. It is added to boost the fuel’s octane rating. A higher rating equals a higher “compression ratio”, which increases the temperature in your combustion chamber. This is where your high-octane petrol is needed to produce more power and is designed for performance vehicles. If you have a high compression engine, you would be ill advised to use regular gas. However, if your vehicle’s manual says that premium is “recommended” and not “required” then the choice is yours. Your engine will adjust to run on the lower octane fuel. It will just produce less power and have slightly higher fuel consumption.

For regular Joe’s without high-compression engines, 87 unleaded is fine. When gas prices are at a high, you’ll still save more at the pump fueling up with regular than fueling up with premium. To sum it up, there are no advantages in using premium gas in a car that doesn’t require it. Go ahead and save those 15-20 cents per gallon. You’re not doing anything to mistreat your vehicle. So, rest easy and get yourself a little snack at the pump while you’re at it.

Top 10 Tips for Good Auto Repair Service

auto repair service

How to Sniff Out a Good Auto Repair Service Provider

It can be difficult finding a good auto repair service. We know because we’re in the business of auto repair. We know how our competitors do things, and we like to do them a little differently. That’s why we have compiled this top 10 list of tips on finding good auto repair service. We know we fit the bill, and you deserve to know what to look for.

1. Keep your vehicle owner’s manual close
Your service manual is provided to you for a reason. It organizes all of the pertinent information specific to your vehicle’s make and model. It can sometimes lead to an answer to your car service questions.
2. Decide between an independent garage or your dealership’s service station
Dealership technicians are manufacturer-trained specialists that work exclusively on your make of vehicle. However, it is the most expensive route and it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are the best. In fact, most independent corner garages hire technicians that used to work directly for the dealerships.
3. Keep your service records in order
You may have a tendency to throw away that receipt once you get your car serviced, but keeping meticulous records on what’s been done on your vehicle can benefit you greatly in the future. It can help your current mechanic diagnose your vehicle’s needs.
4. Check if the technician is trained on your specific vehicle make
From brand to brand, each car and truck has unique characteristics especially nowadays. Updates on vehicle safety has brought with it special tools and procedures. It’s best to see if your technician is privy to them.
5. Ask about labor and pricing rates
Most shops bill according to repair times established by the manufacturer. Just take a look at your estimate and make sure to check the labor rates for discrepancies.
6. Ask questions
Don’t be afraid to ask questions about a repair. If you think something is fishy, it probably is. A good technician will take the time to explain the details of the repair to you in an educated manner.
7. Request OEM parts
OEM parts, or factory original parts, are specified for your vehicle for a reason. They are more expensive, but take the time to weigh the options of going with aftermarket.
8. Is the mechanic A.S.E. certified?
The National Institute for Automotive Excellence keeps up with vehicle standards, and provides rigorous tests to prove the mechanic’s personal excellence in the field. Your neighbor that works on his own cars frequently would not be able to pass these tests.
9. Ignore the 100,000 mile tune-up myth
Once again, check your owner’s manual! Each vehicle is different, and requires a tune-up at different intervals.
10. Look out for warning signs
If your mechanic can’t look you in the eye when providing you with an estimate, it’s a red flag. Look for warning signs of a greedy technician. They’re easy to spot.

Should You Warm Up Your Engine Before Driving It?

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Don’t Warm Up Your Engine by Idling in the Driveway

With winter comes the popular remote start for your vehicle. No one likes getting into a cold car freezing your buns off until the engine warms up. This is why remote starts have become such a popular feature. You can start your vehicle from the warmth of your home and wait until those vents blow that sweet warm air. However, is warming up your car by idling it good for your engine? Traditionally, the answer would be yes. But for fuel-injected engines, the answer is no.

That wise old tale about lubing up your car’s parts by warming up your engine gently is outdated. It comes from the days of carburetors. These vehicles needed several minutes of idling to get to a smooth operating temperature. On the contrary, fuel-injected engines adjust to idle perfectly even in sub-zero weather. Besides, idling an engine doesn’t build up heat like driving it does.

Letting your vehicle idle in the driveway for extended periods of time can actually cause damage via engine oil dilution. When idling, raw gasoline can seep into the oil and break down the lubrication properties. So, while you may have thought that idling your engine before driving it helps lubricate your cylinder walls, it can actually promote wear and increase oxidation of the oil.

If you have an old carbureted car, keep on keeping on. Waiting until your engine heats up won’t cause any wear. However, if you have a fuel-injected engine just take your time to scrape the ice and snow off of your vehicle and then drive it. Don’t wait for the engine to heat up. Even so, it is still recommended to go easy on the acceleration as the engine gets up to operating temperature. Going full-throttle right off the bat is still not recommended even with fuel-injected engines.