Crystal Lake Auto Repair & Tire (815) 356-0440 123 E Virginia Rd
Crystal Lake, IL 60014
Barrington Auto Repair & Tire (847) 381-0454 417 W. Main Street
Barrington, IL 60010
Fox River Grove Auto Repair & Tire (847) 639-4552 416 Northwest Highway
Fox River Grove, IL 60021


  • Tire pressure systems

    Posted on 20, February, 2017

    Q. I worked for an automotive center and I'm wondering if TPMS (tire pressure monitoring system) is really necessary as opposed to traditional valve stems for automobile tires. Considering the fragility of TPMS units and the product cost and expense associated with replacing them, are motorists paying unnecessarily high replacement costs for an item that has little or marginal value for a car?


    A. There is no doubt about the fact that the TPMS can become a considerable additional expense when dealing with tires on today's cars. Let's spend a minute and talk about the negatives of TPMS and then we'll talk about the positives.

    We'll start with the fact that it is a government mandate. The push for TPMS started when we had the Firestone tire recall in the late 1990s. The Clinton administration enacted the Tread Act that required TPMS technology to be phased in starting in 2005. By 2008 the whole U.S. fleet weighing less than 10,000 pounds was outfitted with TPMS technology. Some of the original systems used what we call Indirect TPMS, which used the wheel speed sensors to calculate a low tire. The assumption was that a low tire has a smaller circumference, therefore it would spin at a different rate than the other tires.

    The positives of this type of system are that it uses sensors already installed on the car and no other equipment other than software is needed. The negatives are that if you reset the system with low tire pressure, it would not know the difference as long as they are all even.

    Most of the current systems are called Direct TPMS and this is the type I believe you are referring to. This type has a sensor in the wheel that is connected right to what looks like a valve stem. They are sensitive and can be damaged when repairing or replacing a tire if extra care is not taken. These sensors can also go bad if corrosion gets into the valve core and it cannot be removed. Most of them also have a battery in them, although they are expected to last for about eight years. Some of the sensors can have the valve portion replaced without having to replace the whole sensor, which is helpful.

    As time goes on, the sensors have come down in price and quality aftermarket sensors are available. But on some cars there is a programming process that has to take place and as with everything else on today's vehicles, a handheld programming device is needed to perform the procedure.

    There are a couple of positives to this system that may change your thinking on its value.

    According to Wikipedia, the Department of Transportation estimates that underinflated tires waste 2 billion gallons of gasoline in the U.S. alone

    I got in my own vehicle the other morning to go to work and the TPMS light came on with a message telling me that my right rear tire was low. I got out of the truck to visually inspect the tire and it looked OK to the eye. I pressed the information button on the dash and it told me that the right rear tire was down to 27 pounds while all the others were at 32 pounds. I would not have known had I not had TPMS. I would have driven around on a low tire for who knows how long. I would have used more gas and I would have put extra wear and stress on a fairly expensive tire. Some vehicles are equipped with sensors in the spare tire, which is a nice feature because the spare tire can be forgotten until needed.

    We had a client come in the other day for a TPMS light on. Guess what? It was his spare tire that was low. Had he not been alerted by the light he would have been driving around with a flat spare tire. For the most part, the TPMS devices have been pretty reliable and fairly maintenance free, so for now I think the pros outweigh the cons; however, as time goes on and they begin to age, we may start seeing more failures.

    Tagged: Tires
  • Stalls can be related to coolant loss

    Posted on 13, February, 2017

    Q. My wife and I live in Alexandria, Minn. and were passing through Chicago on May 29. I bought the Daily Herald and saw your auto article about a 1996 Lincoln Town Car that would die when temperatures rose above 70 degrees. My daughter, who lives in Atlanta, has a 1998 Buick Regal that seems to be doing the same thing. It has the 3800 engine with 217,000 miles on the odometer. Sometimes it kills or abruptly hesitates upon acceleration or sometimes seems to sputter under load while going uphill. During the winter in Atlanta it hardly ever happened. However when it gets more warm and humid the frequency increases. Sometimes it kills on her when making a turn.

    We have suspected the MAF sensor, which to my knowledge has been an issue with that car but have not tried changing it. The fuel filter has about 16,000 miles on it. When the car gets to cruising speed it seems to run absolutely fine so I don't suspect a fuel filter issue. There is no check engine light that indicates a code so her mechanic said he can't determine what it is. I am unable to help her except for over the phone since we live in Minnesota. After reading some of your previous posts online, something else that might be related is that she is slowly loosing antifreeze somewhere; no puddles under the car and a look around the intake gaskets does show wetness, but no puddles of antifreeze. Could that cause the hesitation of the engine and the kills on turns or at stop lights?


    A. Thanks for the shout-out from Minnesota.

    A broken Mass Air Flow sensor could very well be the problem with the Regal but you would surely want to have a technician monitor the scan data before making that decision because, as you know, a good one is not cheap. I agree that the fuel filter is probably not the culprit but you should have the fuel pressure and volume tested.

    There is a lot of information a good diagnostic tech can learn by driving the car with his scanner hooked up. One of the bits of data he will want to look at is the long- and short-term fuel trims.

    As far as the loss of coolant goes, it could be an intake; those were prone to leaking coolant and oil. Make sure the oil is not milky, indicating an internal leak into the engine; antifreeze in the oil is death to the bearings.

    Another possibility could be a leaking head gasket that would allow the coolant to leak into the combustion chamber where the coolant would burn and not be noticed as a leak.

    Lastly a leaking heater core would likely leak inside the car causing the carpet on the passenger front to get wet if it's bad enough. She might also notice a film on the windshield or the sweet smell of antifreeze inside the car. Some of these problems can be a little more difficult to track down when there is no code but the data should tell the story.

    Find a shop with an ASE Master Tech with the L1 designation. These techs are generally more knowledgeable on difficult drivability issues. It would be worth paying a shop to perform the appropriate diagnostic fee to get the answer to both of these problems. Once armed with the facts you will be able to decide how to move forward.

    Tagged: Coolant
  • New tires are better served on the back of your car

    Posted on 06, February, 2017

    Q. Why would the tire store have put two new tires on the back of my car when it is a front wheel drive vehicle? It seems to me you would want the better traction in the front of the car going into winter.

    A. It does seem counter intuitive but they did the right thing. Whether it is front-wheel drive or not and you are only replacing two tires, you always put them on the back of the car. The reason they go on the back is for safety while stopping. If you have your best traction on the front and you go into a panic stop or a hard stop on slippery pavement, there is a possibility the front of the car could stop faster than the back causing a bad skid. So for safety and liability purposes, the tire manufacturers require new tires be put on the rear of the car.

    Tagged: tires
  • Winter tires best on performance cars

    Posted on 30, January, 2017

    Q. I have a BMW rear-wheel drive car and last year I really struggled to drive the car when the roads got snowy. It was actually scary to drive because it did not want to stop -- and the acceleration was really bad, as well.

    The car seems fine on dry roads. Do I just need new tires?


    A. This is a great question and I actually had this same experience with a BMW I owned at one time. The tires still had some tread on them but the car was undrivable in the snow.

    I chose to buy a set of winter tires on all four wheels and it was amazing how well the car handled in the snow. You will probably get some traction with a new set of regular tires but I highly recommend a set of winter tires for your car to get maximum performance.

    This advice holds for any performance car with a low-profile tire.

    I recommend buying winter tires already mounted on another set of wheels so you don't have to mount and balance tires twice a year. It is much better for the tires not to take them on and off the wheels twice a year. This also allows you to respond to the changing weather much faster.

    You don't want to leave the winter tires on the car in the warmer weather because the tires will wear out on dry pavement way too fast.

    You will be very happy with this solution and you can decide next spring whether or not you need to replace your summer tires.

    Tagged: Tires
  • Injector cleaners do help in the long run

    Posted on 23, January, 2017

    Q. I try not to miss your column in the Daily Herald. It is very informative. You have helped me with questions about my 2000 Jaguar in the past and I thank you for that.

    The new question I have is a general one. Where do you stand, or do you wish to comment, on the many additives sold by auto supply stores (i.e. STP, injector cleaners, etc.)?

    The only one I have tried is an injector cleaner and I can't really tell if it did anything. I am ready to winterize my car using the information in your last column.


    A. Thank you for being a loyal reader. I really appreciate it and I am glad you have found the information I have shared helpful.

    As you have indicated, there are many additives on the market and they all claim to be the best, so it can be a bit confusing. When it comes to fuel injector cleaners, here is my advice. First, use a good quality Top Tier Fuel. You can find a list of these gasoline brands on the internet under If you have do not have a gas direct-injection engine, you should be able to get by with putting an additive in the tank at every oil change.

    We use the Valvoline products and this should help keep the injectors clean. However, you will most likely still get some carbon buildup in the intake manifold and around the valves that will have to be cleaned professionally every 30,000 miles or so.

    If you have a GDI engine, you are going to need to clean the valves and injectors more often with a more involved process. These engines are really prone to hard carbon buildup that is not easily removed. Again, we have a great product and system by Valvoline to take care of this problem.

    Some of the symptoms of carbon buildup may be a rough start up, poor drivability and/or a check engine light alert. We have seen several engines completely crash as a result of runaway buildup around the valves. I hope you find this helpful.