Modern Jump Starting F.A.Q.
Q. My battery is dead. How can I safely Jump start or Charge it?
A. Be Aware that batteries by nature may vent explosive gas. Never lean over a battery while connecting, jump starting, or servicing. That said, most manufacturers do not recommend charging that battery while installed in the car. The best practice would be to remove it before charging. When removing/installing the battery turn off all electrical consumers, make sure the key is not in the ignition (even safer if key is not near the ignition if it is a "smart" key), and disconnect the negative terminal, then the positive. Reconnect by starting with the positive terminal then the negative. To jump start: Most manufacturers recommend only using another 12 volt battery, e.g. another car. Make sure that vehicles do not touch (the body of the car is part of the "ground" circuit) and that vehicles are in park. Remove key from ignition! 1) Connect to positive of good/charged battery, 2) Connect to positive of discharged battery, 3) Connect to negative of discharged battery, 4) Connect to negative of good/charged battery. Start car and run at idle. Disconnect in reverse order. If car dies upon cables being removed there is the possibility of other issues in charging system that may need diagnosis. Caution: Modern Vehicles have lots of electrical components that are sensitive to spikes in voltage and damage to electrical components can occur if procedures are not followed. BE CAREFUL! Don't let anything that can supply more than 12 volts be connected to the vehicle, and limit any kind of spike in voltage. Smooth transitions are best After the system is working normally, clocks will need to be reset. On some vehicles throttles may need to be re-adapted and windows and sunroofs may need to be resynched. Legalese: this list is not 100% inclusive of all possible scenarios, makes and/or models. If there is any question call a professional.
Check Engine Light F.A.Q.
Q. Why is the check engine light on?
A. The check engine light comes on when the computers that are responsible for running your engine and transmission with the lowest possible emissions and highest possible efficiency detect that something has gone wrong and the car is no longer as clean and efficient as it should be. Sometimes the fault is serious and if ignored, will lead to the car not running at all. Though, sometimes it can occur when something as benign as a loose gas cap is venting fuel vapors into the air. The warning light is there by government regulation to let you (and smog inspectors) know that the car is not running as cleanly as it should. It is not, strangely enough, there to help you know if the car is safe or reliable to drive. It's handy for all of us that most of the things that make the car run with clean emissions are what make it run at all. When a problem develops in the systems designed to keep emissions clean, we are frequently able to find and fix them before they lead to a tow truck.
Q. Is there a major problem with my car if the light is on? It seems to run completely normally.
A. If the light has come on, a fault has definitely occurred. It never comes on by accident or when nothing is wrong. In the event, that the computer itself is going bad (by turning on random check engine lights, say), then it is still considered a problem (according to government regulation). Even if the vehicle is still running with the light illuminated, it is unreliable to tell whether other systems are okay or not. Where it gets really tricky is in the area of electrical circuits. Since the vehicle's computers work off of sensor signals and electrical circuits, situations arise where there are intermittent failures. Intermittent failures are those that come and go and are frequently the result of weak solder joints in component circuit boards or wiring harnesses. When a solder joint has contracted or expanded due to temperature changes (or has been jostled by bumps in the road), the flow of electricity can be changed. What results is the component not functioning correctly. Then when the temperature changes or the tow truck bounces the car, the component is jostled back to the "working" state. Frustration abounds for all involved!
Q. Can I drive my car with the light on?
A. There is no way to know how severe the problem that turned on the light is until basic triage has occurred. Our rule of thumb is this: If the car is running completely normally and all the fluids are full and gauges are reading normally, then the problem is likely to be less severe–which means the car may be reliable for the short term. If you have noticed a difference in the running condition, then all bets are off and it should be looked at as soon as possible. If there is any doubt about the reliability or functionality of a vehicle, we recommend towing over driving. Safe really is better than sorry.
Note: Even a car that feels like it is running completely normally may be having issues with how efficiently the engine is burning its fuel. When this occurs, unburned fuel is being pushed out of the engine and through the catalytic converter. This shortens the life of the converter–sometimes dramatically. Catalytic converters are very expensive and the only way to get as much life from them as possible is to make sure the engine is in the correct state of tune and the check engine light is not illuminated with faults by the engine management system.
Q. How the check engine light is diagnosed?
A. Generally, step one is to access the vehicle's computer systems for fault codes. The fault codes are stored information about the kind of failure that has been detected. Sometimes the computer will indicate a fault in a particular component or sometimes in the functioning of a particular system. Once we have accessed fault codes, and then specific tests are run to verify the problem or problems.
Q. Why do you need to run tests? Doesn't the computer just tell you what's wrong?
A. Sometimes the computer indicates that a specific part or component has failed. Since the computer can only read electrical signals, we still need to verify that the wiring to the components has not been damaged, that the computer itself has not developed a problem, and that a problem "upstream" in the system is not throwing off the entire system. (For example: Vacuum leaks in the intake system can cause the computer to register faults in the oxygen sensors that are bolted in the exhaust system.) The computer and the fault codes allow us a starting point in our testing that is much closer to the problem than would otherwise be possible. This minimizes the amount of testing needed, although testing is still needed to verify the real failure.
Q. How much does it cost to diagnose a check engine light?
A. Accessing the computer and reading the fault codes can be done for no charge at Specialized Auto. Once we know what the fault code or codes are and we have some case history about the car, we can get an idea of what tests will be needed to diagnose the problem. We can then give an estimate of diagnostic costs.
Q. Why do we need this.... stuff?
A. We need this because our society has collectively decided that our cars must pollute as little as possible and use fuel as efficiently as possible. This is a good thing. Our air in California has 85% less smog than in 1975 even though the number of cars and miles driven has grown by more than double. This is the price to pay for clean air, and we agree it's worth it. Did someone say, "Bring me a bicycle?"