Auto repair FAQs answered by local mechanics near you
You may be wondering if there are any auto repair shops near you, in the Nampa or Caldwell areas of Canyon County, who would be willing to answer questions about auto repair. You may not be looking for help with a do it yourself (DIY) vehicle repair project, but maybe you’ve had your car to a repair shop and received a recommendation for a repair or service that wasn’t accompanied by an explanation. Maybe you got an explanation of why the work was needed but not in a way you could understand. Now you aren’t sure you feel like you can trust them.
At Powertune explaining maintenance or repair services to our customer is something we’re known for in our community. You can check our customer reviews to see what our customers say. No matter how busy we are, our goal is to make time to answer your auto repair questions over the phone or in person. But when that’s not possible, because of time constraints on your end or ours, we have a special page on our website with answers to many of the common questions we’ve been asked over time by customers just like you. And because we want to provide answers to the auto repair questions you have, we’re committed to adding new FAQs with answers as they come up.
Frequently, folks have the same or similar questions. These FAQs or frequently asked questions might be about engine repair, check engine lights, brake repair problems, transmission issues, air conditioning problems, and clutch complaints on cars with manual transmissions. Other questions might be about the automotive repair industry and how, or why, repair shops do things a certain way, like using a system that charges the customer a flat rate by the job instead of charging for the actual time needed to complete the job. Our FAQ updates are ongoing so it’s a good idea to visit the page frequently to find new information.
Free auto repair question answering sites and forums
Perhaps you have been searching online for answers to auto related questions. You may have seen many national websites and forums that specialize in answering auto repair questions. These sites are primarily for “do-it-yourself” people looking for help with fixing their car themselves. Searching for terms like free mechanic advice, auto repair questions, free mechanic help line, and similar phrases will land you at all kinds of websites that answer questions.
Though these websites call themselves FREE, their objective is the benefit they derive from the people who visit. You will notice that many of these FREE sites have ads running. While displaying ads isn’t entirely bad, it certainly highlights the reason for providing answers.
Another way these DIY sites benefit is when you sign up. Some require you to join the site to get the answers. You may even notice that when you get to the Join page you can use Google Or Facebook passwords to join this site. While appearing to be for your convenience, in some cases you may be granting access to some of your data such as music, apps, address books, etc. A word of caution – be careful how you sign up with any automotive website or forum.
At Powertune Auto Repair, we provide help with your automotive needs in any way possible. We are a service business and, like many independent auto repair shops, we take pride in helping our Nampa and Canyon County community. Our mission is to help you maintain your vehicle in the most cost effective and convenient way possible.
Our goal is to do a great job serving you, whether taking care of your vehicles or taking care to provide answers to your questions. Our answers are truly free for you with no sign-up requirements to access. We hope that when you’re happy with the service we’ve provided, you’ll be happy to share your satisfaction with your family and friends.
Below, you will find our list of frequently asked questions. By clicking on the question, it will open up to present the answer. You’ll also notice the index of questions at the top of the page that allows you to click a specific question to advance down the page to the location of that question.
Brake Service FAQs
Brake repair and brake service are often lumped into one category. There may be some situations where servicing includes cleaning and lubricating brake parts. This practice is primarily for older model vehicles where drum brakes need to have excess brake dust removed. Brake system flushing on newer model cars and trucks is the only fluid service procedure done. Brake repair can include replacement of rotors and pads, brake calipers, brake hoses, wheel cylinders, and master cylinders.
What causes the pulsating sensation I feel when applying my vehicle’s brakes?
Warped disc brake rotors normally cause pulsation. Heat and friction from brake pads on the rotors over time or in overheating situations results in disc warpage. The uneven disc surface causes a fluctuation in the brake pad pressure when braking which is felt as a pulsing sensation when applying the brake. It’s like someone is pumping on the brake pedal.
Can warped rotors be repaired?
Yes, they can be fixed by having the warped rotors “turned” on a lathe. The process involves the rotor disc being spun at a very high speed so uneven spots are shaved away making the surface flat again. Removing this metal makes the disc thinner and more susceptible to warpage from the heat of friction. The result may be that the rotors warp sooner reducing the time interval between repairs.
Is replacing warped rotors better than having them turned?
Yes, replacement is the best fix, along with installing new brake pads. Using the old pads works sometimes, but frequently it can result in brake squeal or other brake noise. New rotors and pads, properly installed and burnished by your repair shop mechanic, is always the best fix.
What causes a brake pedal to gradually fade to the floor after stopping at a stoplight?
With your foot on the brake pedal, the brake master cylinder is pressurizing the brake fluid to all four wheels. An external fluid leak in a brake hose, line, or cylinder can cause the pedal to drop as fluid escapes and pressure drops.
In the absence of a visible fluid leak, an internal leak can be the cause of this problem. An internal leak happens when brake fluid leaks past seals inside the brake master cylinder or wheel cylinders. This leakage also drops the pressure and allows the pedal to fall. Master cylinder leakage is the most common. Usually replacing the master cylinder corrects this cause of brake pedal fade.
What is brake pad or shoe lining?
The brake lining is the material on the brake pad or brake shoe that rubs against the rotor or drum. The lining provides the friction material that slows or stops an automobile.
One vehicle can have different types of brake lining available from different manufactures. For example, a parts store may list 3 to 5 different brake pad sets that fit a car. They can vary in price according to the type of lining material and it’s manufacturer.
Why do disc brake repair pricing quotes vary so much from shop to shop?
The price of brake repair quotes varies for a number of reasons. Here are a few:
- There are different brake part manufacturers who vary their pricing
- Parts are built for different markets – DIY (Do It Yourself), OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer), budget, and professional grade
- Parts can be new as well as rebuilt
- Brake lining materials vary in composition, which affects the cost to produce
- Many shops, like franchise repair shops, deeply discount brake pricing to get customers in the door, usually intending to sell them more than brakes
- Repair shops sell parts with different profit margins and labor rates
- Pricing from some shops includes “turning” the existing rotors while others quote the repair using new rotors
Does the quality of brake pad or shoe lining used on my car really matter?
Yes, the quality of material used to make brake pads and shoes is important in a number of ways. Composition will determine:
- How well the brakes stop your vehicle - stopping distance
- The sounds they make when stopping like - no sound, squeaking or grinding
- How long the brake pads or shoe linings last – softer materials don’t last as long but operate with less noise
- Hard brake lining materials may last longer but can be noisy and cause excessive rotor wear
- Soft linings can fade under heavy loads and cause a vehicle to stop poorly, or not at all, until they cool down
Is it important to “break in” new brake pads?
Yes. To secure the best performance from new brake pads, there is a recommended procedure to be followed so the rotor and pad surface materials will properly “mate”.
This “break-in” procedure is known as “burnishing” and provides new brakes with optimum function and longevity. When done correctly, pads and rotors experience three things:
- Rough spots or irregularities on mating surfaces are smoothed out
- The composition of the pad and rotor surfaces are changed
- Regulating initial brake heat-cool cycles will properly seat pads and rotors
Normal car or light truck burnishing involves 8 to 10 moderate braking applications from 35 to10 mph followed by brake cool-down of at least 15 minutes while parked or with minimal brake application during slower in town driving speeds
What causes disc brakes to be squeaky?
Brake squeaking is actually cause by high-speed vibration of disc brake pads. It can be caused by:
- Installing incorrect pads for the vehicle
- Brakes that have been overheated
- New pads that were not correctly broken in (see burnishing above)
Another cause of disc brake squeak is failing to replace the hardware that comes in the box with new brake pads. Failure to use brake lube when called for during installation can also result in excessive braking noise.
How does overheating cause disc brakes to be noisy?
Excessive heat from prolonged friction during braking will warp rotors and result in movement of brake pads within the caliper, which can cause them to squeak. Overheating can alter the composition of brake pad lining, hardening it, which leads to brake squeal.
How do you fix overheated disc brakes?
The fix is to replace the brake pads and turn (re-surface) or replace the brake rotors. Following this with proper burnishing procedure will insure efficient and quiet brake function.
If the brakes have experienced minor overheating without rotor warpage, you may be able to avoid replacing pads or rotors. Sanding the pads (with sand paper on a flat surface) and roughing up the rotor surface (with a rotary buffer wheel and a moderate grit sand paper) initiates a situation where the pad and rotor surfaces can be re-burnished. This is sometimes effective at stopping brake noise.
What causes brakes to grind?
When the brake pad lining is completely worn away, the metal backing of the brake pad rubs on the metal surface of the rotor grinding metal against metal. Grinding also happens when brake pads have a harder lining type or a softer pad lining has been altered by an overheat episode. In either case, an overly hard lining will frequently grind against the rotor.
One final scenario that results in grinding brakes occurs when vehicle is unused for an extended period of time and the rotor surfaces get rusty. Rust can pit rotor surfaces, if left for too long, but generally a moderate amount of rust will wear off quickly and grinding will cease.
What can shorten the life of my car’s disc brake pad or drum brake lining?
- Inferior brake lining material quality
- Vehicle type – the design of some vehicle types wear brakes out sooner
- Driving conditions – dusty, sandy, or salty roads
- Driver habits – driving with one foot touching the brake pedal (even the slightest amount of pressure can apply brakes) accelerating wear
- Making quick, hard-braking stops
How can I best describe braking symptoms I experience to my auto repair professional?
Common brake symptom descriptions fall into 4 general categories:
- Brake noise – squealing, squeaking, grinding
- Feel of the brake pedal – soft, mushy, spongy
- Vehicle sensation - pulsation, shudder, shake, vibration with application of brake pedal
- Vehicle steering - pulls to one direction during stops
Why does my brake master cylinder lose brake fluid?
A brake master cylinder that loses fluid indicates a leak somewhere in the brake system. You should use extreme caution with this type of problem. Towing your vehicle to a repair shop may be the best and safest solution.
If you choose to add fluid be sure to add the correct type of fluid for your vehicle and fill it to the proper level.
The cause or location of this leaking could be from a number of components:
- Master cylinder
- Wheel cylinders or calipers
- Steel lines
- Anti-lock brake components
Auto Electrical FAQs
Auto electrical diagnosis and repair is a broad category that applies to the electronic and electrical systems on automobiles. All autos built in the last 10 years have extensive electronic components. These electronics are supported with basic electrical connectors and wires. Diagnosis of these systems requires technicians with advance skill and knowledge of the system with manufacturer information and diagnostic procedures. Air conditioning controls, instrument clusters, seat controllers, lighting, audio, visual accessories, and many more automotive systems require wiring and electronics to operate.
How long should my car battery last?
Batteries normally last between 3 and 4 years. For that reason, it’s best to get your battery tested by a mechanic at your auto repair shop around that age. The test will show if the battery is functioning as designed or starting to weaken when under a load from the starter and other accessories.
Why do battery life estimates seem to vary from one mechanic to another?
The short answer is because battery life depends on the quality and structure of a battery along with how it is used. See the next FAQ about things that influence battery life.
What can shorten the life of a car battery?
There are several things that shorten the life of a car battery. The most common is repeatedly leaving headlights on when the car is not running. When a battery is drained low enough to need jump-starting, it is subjected to deep cycling, which shortens its life. A faulty starter or alternator will also shorten your battery’s life cycle. Installing a small, less expensive battery to save money can also shorten its life. Heavy usage demands, especially when placed on a battery of inferior quality or improper size rating, will reduce the life span. A battery that is under constant demand to work harder than it’s design is rated for cannot last as long as a battery of appropriate size and quality.
What causes the dash oil pressure gauge to drop intermittently?
The two most common causes of this condition are a failed oil pressure sending unit or an internal problem within the dash instrument cluster. Both of these problems are frequently intermittent. If the problem can be duplicated, your repair shop can determine which component is failing.
An oil pressure sending unit, also called a sensor, screws into the engine oil passage to sense pressure and send an electrical signal to the instrument cluster or other computer. Replacing a failed sensor corrects the condition.
If the instrument cluster is the source of the problem, the fix may require removing the cluster and replacing the oil pressure gauge. Not all clusters can be repaired, but there are companies that specialize in electronic cluster repair requiring the unit be sent to them and then reinstalled. This avoids the cost of replacing the entire cluster.
Check Engine Light FAQs
Check engine light diagnosis and repair is a common complaint repair shops get from vehicle owners. Engine fuel system controls are subjected to excesses of heat and vibration as compared to other automotive systems. It’s important for owners to understand some basics about how their vehicle’s computer does its job and how they should respond when the engine warning light comes on.
Why does my check engine light come on intermittently?
When a car or truck engine is running, the computer is always checking sensors to make sure they are displaying the correct values. If an incorrect value is detected, the computer can set a code and turn on the check engine light. If a few minutes later, during another check, the computer no longer detects the incorrect value, the warning light will turn off. In addition, when you turn off your car and then restart it, the computer will check all sensors. If the computer does not see the previous fault, the light will remain off.
What does it mean when the check engine light flashes quickly?
A flashing check engine light is how the computer tells the driver that a current problem may be sending too much fuel to the catalytic converter. Excess fuel can destroy the converter because it creates excess heat in the converter. It is always recommended to check your owner’s manual for recommended procedure for this situation. The following procedure will generally work in most situations when the light flashes:
- Find a safe place to pull off the road
- Stop the car and shut the engine off
- Wait for several minutes to let the system stabilize and restart the car
- If the light is not flashing, resume driving
- If the light begins flashing a second time after driving has resumed, the driver should safely pull of the road, shut the engine off and have the vehicle towed to a repair shop
- If while driving the check engine light comes on but is NOT flashing and the vehicle feels and drives normally, it is safe to continue driving
- Call your shop when you get to your destination and schedule an appointment for check engine light diagnosis
Will my car pass the emissions test with the check engine light on?
In most cases, it won’t. This is because the emissions test is to determine if the vehicles fuel control system is producing the minimum allowable amount of harmful fumes out the tail pipe.
If the fuel system computer recognized something is wrong and turns on the check engine light, it means there is, or was, a problem with the fuel system. Failures often cause increased emissions out the tail pipe.
Emission test stations can test your vehicle, but it will likely fail the test and have to be fixed by a repair shop. Once repaired, you can return to the test station to have it retested to pass.
Anti-lock Brake Service FAQs
Anti-lock brake service involves determining the cause of an amber ABS light or warning indicator displaying on the dash. It also includes diagnosing the cause of the red brake warning light being displayed. One or both lights could be on as a result of different failure conditions. Once the defective component is identified, it is repaired or replaced. The defect can be in wheel speed sensors, ABS modules, ABS solenoids, fuses, or somewhere in the vehicle’s wiring. As always, it is important to be familiar with your vehicle’s owner’s manual to learn more about its ABS system and warning lights.
What is an anti-skid braking system?
Anti-skid brakes are another name for anti-lock brakes (ABS). Their function is to reduce tire skidding and improve steering control on slippery surfaces, or during heavy braking.
How do anti-lock brake systems work?
Anti-lock brakes are designed to increase tire traction to the road during sustained or heavy brake pedal applications. They do this by controlling hydraulic brake pressure to individual wheel brakes. This prevents the wheels from locking up at the disc brake calipers. Wheels that lock during heavy braking have stopped rotating and result in tires skidding on the road surface. This seriously reduces tire traction with the road.
What happens when the anti-lock brake amber-colored warning light is on?
The anti-lock brakes are disabled because the ABS computer recognizes a failure or because they have lost electrical power. Your vehicle will have normal “non-ABS” braking during this time, commonly referred to as standard brakes.
What does it mean when both the amber and red-colored anti-lock brake warning lights are on?
When both lights display, it indicates a more extensive problem that affects not only the ABS electrical and electronic components, but the hydraulic standard brake system, too. When this situation presents, stop your vehicle in a safe location and check the owner manual for instructions about how to proceed. It may say don’t drive the vehicle and recommend towing, or may give some other recommendation based on the lights or messages that are illuminated.
Why did my traction control light come on when my ABS light came on?
Traction control uses some of the same safety components of the ABS system, such as wheel speed sensors. With an ABS failure, the Traction Control light is turned on, and the system is disabled. The light displays to notify you that traction control is not active.
Is there anything besides the brake hydraulic system or ABS system that can turn on the red brake warning light?
Yes. The park brake is also connected to the red light. This means the ABS and hydraulic systems can be fine, but the red warning light displays because of a park brake problem. Of course, another possibility is failure to release the park brake.
How do anti-lock brake systems improve steering on quick hard stops or on slippery surfaces?
By controlling or limiting hydraulic pressure to a locked front wheel, the tire is kept from slipping and traction is increased. This allows the wheel to be used for steering the vehicle. The ABS system monitors the speed of both front wheels and strives to keep both of them rolling for maximum traction and steer-ability.
What can happen if I don’t get my antilock brakes fixed?
Stopping and steering control on slick surfaces and during heavy braking will be compromised.