Back to (Driving) School

Some good habits are slowly disappearing from our streets. Can you still pass a simple driver's test?

School is in! Now that the summer is winding down, it’s time to give Regina drivers a POP QUIZ! Take a quick quiz to see if you can still pass your Driver’s Test. Rules change and have been changing frequently over the past decade with new changes to the Graduated Licence Program for new drivers and introducing roundabouts. See how well you would do on a driver’s test today! (PS. These questions should be super easy.)

10 Maintenance Tips

Maintenance Tips

10 Maintenance Tips

Car maintenance is not about waiting for your dashboard to light up, your brakes to squeal, and your power steering pump to fail. Conscientious car maintenance is about being proactive and preventing those things from happening. But that requires you to practice a number of good habits. Here are some great car maintenance tips that you should try to keep in mind all the time!

Four Auto Maintenance Myths

Maintenance Myths

Maintenance Myths

To an amateur (like me), auto maintenance sometimes seems like a dark art. If you ask ten different people a question about a cabin air filter, you’ll get eight different answers and two confused stares. A lot of the car-care information bouncing around in the public discourse is outdated and even plain wrong. I would tell you to read your owner’s manual from cover to cover and refer to it faithfully, as it contains the best information for keeping your car in great shape. But you probably won’t do that. So, here are a few common maintenance myths.

Change your oil every 5,000 kilometres

If you asked most people 10, or even five years ago, they would probably tell you to change your oil every 5,000 kilometres. But that’s not really the case anymore. But our engines, and the oil they use, are constantly improving. Most cars use partially synthetic oil and many use full synthetic oil. These products last far longer than conventional oil. The engines using them are more efficient, too. Considering all of these factors, how often should you change your oil?

Well, as with most aspects of vehicle maintenance, it’s best to trust your owner’s manual. It will give you a good recommendation – often around 7,500 kilometres. If you’re using full synthetic oil, it will be closer to 10,000. Although, you must remember that driving habits affect those estimates. If you have a lot of cold starts, accelerate aggressively, drive quickly, or drive through dust and smog, you will need to change your oil more frequently.

You should Idle your car to warm it up

Look outside your front window on a weekday morning in winter and you’re bound to see a few ice-encrusted vehicles idling in a cloud of exhaust. Some of those vehicles will idle for longer than it takes to commute. Old wisdom used to support this kind of behaviour. That’s because old engines needed to warm up before reaching peak efficiency – especially in colder conditions. Modern engines, however, don’t require prolonged idling.

In extreme cold conditions, you should only idle your engine for roughly a minute. Beyond that, idling provides no benefit. Moreover, its detrimental to the environment. As long as your windows and mirrors are clear, you’re fine to begin driving. It’s the best way to warm up your engine. Just don’t accelerate hard or drive too quickly right off the start.

Idling will recharge your battery after it dies

We’ve all suffered from a dead battery once or twice. And, after receiving a boost, we’ve all been told to let the car idle for around 30 minutes to let the alternator recharge the battery. Your engine idles at low RPM. The power generated is insufficient to recharge a dead battery. If you want to recharge your battery, your engine should be running at 2000 RPM. That’s most easily achieved by driving at highway speeds.

However, no amount of driving will restore a dead battery as effectively as a multi-stage battery charger. These inexpensive devices are designed to restore your battery to maximum capacity, they monitor the health of your battery and actively adjust the current to guarantee the best charge. An alternator cannot do this, and will never properly recharge your battery. So, if you’re worried about the health of your battery, invest in a proper charger.

You should fill your tires up to the number on the sidewall

Some people fill their tires to the air pressure listed on the sidewall of their tires. This is wrong. That number is the maximum pressure under which the tire can support your vehicle’s load. Instead, you should heed the tire pressure number listed in your vehicle’s door jamb, your tire manufacturers pamphlet, and (unless you’re not using recommended tires) your owner’s manual. This air pressure has been tested to deliver the best braking, handling, fuel economy, and safety.

Deciphering the Dashboard Light: What Your Car Is Telling You

Dashboard lights allow your car to speak to you. Some symbols are intuitive, and others are… less intuitive. Responsible drivers pay attention to the lights on their dash and act immediately when their car warns them about potential faults. However, many drivers ignore each dashboard light as if it was a McAfee software update reminder. Here are a few of the most common (and serious) dashboard symbols and what they signify.

As a disclaimer, this is a general guide that applies to most vehicles. However, your vehicle may use a slightly different design, or have a unique way of calling service items to your attention. Always consult your owner’s manual. It details all the symbols that appear on your dashboard and how to interpret them.

Dashboard Light Colour

It may seem obvious, but many people don’t realise that colour is an important part of interpreting dash warning signs. In general, green 

and blue lights are used to indicate that a system is active or working. Yellow symbols indicate that something requires your attention and likely needs to be serviced soon. Finally, red symbols indicate that there is a serious problem and your vehicle is in need of immediate attention.

Oil: Oil pressure dashboard light or 

If you see the oil can symbol on its own, it means your oil pressure is low. You may have an adequate amount of oil, but there could be a problemwith 

your bearings or oil pump. But if you see a wavy line beneath the symbol, it simply means the oil level is low. Wait, why is your oil level low? When is the last time you got an oil change? Or is there an ignored oil slick in the middle of your garage? I’m not mad, but I am disappointed.

Coolant:  or 

This symbol, which looks like a thermometer in water, refers to your engine’s temperature. If the symbol is red, it means your engine is too hot. Obviously, you should pull over and turn off the engine immediately to prevent serious damage. If the same dashboard light is blue it means that the coolant temperature is too low. This is probably less serious than the alternative, but you should still bring your vehicle in for service.

TPMS:  or 

This symbol is part of your tire pressure monitoring system. If you see the symbol, one of your tires is at least 25% below its ideal air pressure. If you see that symbol while you’re driving, pull over and check your air pressure. Your tire may be actively leaking. If not, you’re still at risk of a blowout, and having four tires is kind of important

Although, you should keep in mind that temperature fluctuations change air pressure. So, if you’re moving from the cold outdoors to a heated garage, the system may detect the change in pressure. In this situation it’s a good idea to check your tires, anyway. Their ideal pressure can be found on the sidewall of your tire or in the owner’s manual.

Battery:  or 

If you see the battery warning symbol you either have a depleted battery or a faulty alternator. Either problem will cause your vehicle to stop running in the near future. Fortunately, both are straightforward fixes. If you don’t know how to diagnose the difference between battery and alternator problems on your own, bring your vehicle in for service immediately.

Powertrain: 

Despite looking like a daisy with an exclamation point, this dashboard light is a pretty serious indicator. If you see this symbol, your vehicle’s computer has detected a problem with your powertrain. Of course, the powertrain is a complicated system that contains a number of parts, so it’s difficult to pin down exactly what the symbol is referring to. But, considering the system that moves your vehicle forward is pretty important, any issue should be taken seriously. Bring your vehicle in for service immediately.

Brake Pads:  Brake Fluid: 

These symbols refer to two of the most common brake problems. The first dashboard light, a circle surrounded by some curved dashes, refers to your brake pads. When the system detects that your brake pads have limited remaining life, it will trigger this warning symbol. Your brake pads are the friction material that presses against the brake rotor to bring your vehicle to a stop. Letting your brake pads wear completely will severely affect stopping distance. And, you’ll have metal on metal contact that will destroy your rotors and cost you more money.

The second symbol, a brake with some wavy liquid at the bottom, indicates that you have low brake fluid. Brake fluid transmits your foot pressure to the to the calipers in order to stop your car. If you didn’t have brake fluid your lines, you simply wouldn’t stop. Your system may be using a greater volume of brake fluid if your pads are worn out. Or you may have a leak somewhere in the brake system. Either warrants immediate service.

These are only a few of the many symbols that inevitably will pop up on your vehicle’s dash. It’s not necessary to memorise them all, but it is important to take them all seriously. Timely and preventative maintenance always saves you money down the road.

What’s That Sound? Common Car Noises and Their Causes

Common car noises

These days, affordable, mass-market cars are coming equipped with hi-fi stereos. Bang & Olufsen, Bose, and B&O Play systems are all available straight from the factory. Combined with advanced noise cancellation technology, you can hear some pretty sweet sounds in your vehicle. But today we’re not talking about listening to The Beatles’ white album while cruising the highway. We’re talking about the sounds you don’t want to hear in your car – screeching, squealing, groaning, and hissing. Here are some common mechanical sounds and what they might mean. 

Screeching

Let’s start with one of the most obvious car noises. When you press the brake pedal, the friction material on your brake pad is pushed down against the brake rotor. The friction slows your wheels and brings your vehicle to a stop. But over time, the friction material on your brakes wears away.

Fortunately, most brake pads have a wear indicator (a spring and metal pad) that creates a squeal or screeching sound when you need to replace them. If you only hear the screech for the first few stops on a cold morning, that’s probably just the rust (it’s normal and can accumulate overnight when damp or cold) being worn away and you shouldn’t worry. But if you hear the screech every time you brake in all conditions, you probably need to replace your pads.

Grinding

If, instead of a screech, you hear a harsh grinding sound when you apply the brakes, chances are you’ve already allowed the brake pads to wear completely. Now, there’s nothing to separate the metal caliper from the the steel rotors. Metal on metal contact is obviously bad for your rotors. If you drive that way for a while, your rotors may require replacement which is far more costly than a simple set of pads. You may also hear brake grinding if your brakes were installed improperly.

Engine Knocking

If you hear a knocking or pinging sound coming from your engine, usually at acceleration, there is one primary culprit. Knocking usually occurs when the fuel/air mixture in your combustion chamber is burning unevenly. This can damage the cylinder wall and the piston. If you hear this sound make sure you’re using fuel with the amount of octane recommended in your owner’s manual. If that doesn’t solve the problem, visit Capital GMC Service to check for:

  • Faulty ignition timing
  • Defective or incorrect spark plugs
  • Carbon deposits

Squealing

Have you noticed a squealing sound coming from your engine bay? Is it more common on cold mornings, and does it subside as your engine warms? Rubber belts are used to connect a number of components in your car. The serpentine or drive belt is connected to a number of systems like the alternator and power steering pump. The timing belt is more important. It synchronizes the rotation of the crankshaft and camshaft. In the simplest terms, if the timing belt breaks, your car won’t run.

If any of the belts in your car are poorly connected or simply get old and crack, they may start to squeal. The sound is pretty hard to misconstrue. Bring your vehicle to Capital GMC Service for inspection immediately, and we’ll assess them problem. Belt replacement is relatively inexpensive, and having it done before a belt breaks or slips off can save you from being stranded.

Diagnosis

These are just a few diagnoses to common car noises. However, even the most experienced ear has its limits. Sometimes the subtle difference between a squeal and a squeak can separate very different problems with your car. My point is, if your car is making an unusual or unpleasant sound, you should have it inspected immediately. Just book an appointment at Capital GMC Service, and we’ll get to the bottom of the mechanical issue so you can get back to enjoying your Bose audio system.