Articles:

That Vexing Vapor Venting (Vapor Coming out of Vents)

You may have noticed sometimes on a hot and humid day, vapor will come out of your vehicle's vents when you have the air conditioning on.  Is that something to be concerned about? Well, it depends. Sometimes that steam or vapor can be caused by water accumulating in the vent system after it has condensed.  And sometimes water can pool at the bottom of a vent.  When you turn on the blower mower, the air hits the water and may create steam or vapor that you can see in the cabin. One thing to check is if that vapor smells like anything.  If it doesn't, that's a good sign. You may be able to run the fan for a while and the issue may just go away when things dry out.  But moisture collecting in the ventilation hoses in a hot vehicle may be a breeding ground for mold, and that can have health consequences. There's another possibility. Ventilation systems often have drains to get rid of any accumulated water, and debris can sometimes clog them.  A technician can ... read more

Cool Running (Water Pump)

Your vehicle is like you in a way.  When it gets hot, it needs to be cooled down.  And one of the key parts to keeping it cool is the water pump. Now, that's a bit of a misnomer.  It IS a pump, but it's pumping coolant, not pure water.  Cooling off your engine is vital since it builds up heat when it creates power by burning fuel.  Your water pump acts as a way to recirculate that coolant.  It goes through a series of tubes and hoses through the engine where it picks up heat, then is sent off to the radiator to get rid of that heat.  Cooled off, the coolant is recycled through the water pump to start the journey again. The water pump works by taking mechanical power from the engine, usually from a belt.  Obviously, that belt has to be in good condition and adjusted properly or else the water pump won't be able to do its job. Here are some things to look for that will signal problems with your water pump.  If your heat gauge is erratic or sho ... read more

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Water Pump

'Tis the Season (Tires)

We all know about winter tires.  But did you know there is such a thing as summer tires? Most people have all-season tires on their vehicles.  They work pretty well in a variety of weather conditions.  But if you want better handling and performance, you might consider switching to summer tires.  Here are a few things you should know about them. Summer tires are good for high-performance vehicles like sports cars and luxury SUVs, but they don't have to be limited to those. They have a different tread pattern than all-season tires, with generally shallower grooves and more rubber that contacts the road.  The rubber is made of a stickier compound good for taking corners at higher speeds.  Plus it is engineered so it stays firmer the hotter the temperature gets.  Here's a bonus.  That design also works well in warm, wet weather.  It makes sense, since more the more rubber that's touching the concrete or asphalt when it's slippery out, the bette ... read more

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Tires

A Honking Big Jam (Stuck Horn)

At one time or another, most drivers honk their horn at someone who might be texting at a stoplight or not paying attention when they're driving.  But what happens when you tap on your horn and all of a sudden it won't quit? Everyone's looking at you like you're an angry jerk and all you want to do is turn it off! It helps to know the basics of what's happening when you honk your horn.  There's a switch in the steering wheel, of course, and when you press on it, it sends power to a relay which then energizes the horn.  Bingo.  Sound.  When the horn sticks on, one of these parts or the wiring has developed a problem.  With the ear-splitting noise inside your cabin, it may be hard to keep your cool, but do your best to stay calm.  Try pushing the horn several times; it may un-stick the switch if you're lucky.  If not, there are a couple of things you can try. First, if you can, pull your vehicle off the road and into a spot where you're not disrupt ... read more

Mercury Rising (Hot Weather Vehicle Concerns)

The heat is on, and your vehicle takes a beating when it is.  Several of your vehicle's systems are under extra stress in hot weather, so here are a few to make sure are getting the care and maintenance they need. It makes sense that the cooling system is one to make sure is in top shape.  Vehicle breakdowns in summer are often due to a problem with one of the cooling system's components.  Coolant levels have to be up to specs, the ratio of coolant to water must be correct and the hoses, pumps, belts and radiator must all be working properly in order to prevent vehicle overheating. Summer is also hard on your air conditioning system.  You might find that no air is blowing out of the vents or maybe only hot air is coming out.  Air conditioning equipment is best diagnosed and repaired by a trained and experienced technician.  The problem could be in any number of components, including the condenser, compressor or blower motor. You may think the battery gets ... read more

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Cooling System

I Want a New Vehicle. Or Do I? (Vehicle Maintenance Payoffs)

Spring is a peak season for vehicle sales; companies aggressively market new models and offer all sorts of incentives.  So you may be tempted to buy a shiny new beauty.  But should you? If you've regularly maintained the vehicle you're driving now, you probably don't NEED a new one.  Even if your current one needs some repairs, how do those costs compare to what you'd spend on a new vehicle? A brand new vehicle starts to depreciate the second you drive it off the lot. How much? Experts say you'll lose half of its value during the first 5 years of owning a new vehicle. So if you pay $30,000 for a new one, you'll lose $15,000 in 5 years.  That's a lot. If you have paid off your current vehicle, think of having to start making car payments again.  Let's say your new payment would be $350 a month.  Bet you can think of a lot of things you can buy with an extra $350 a month. Many considering a new vehicle don't factor how much their insurance and license tag fe ... read more

Categories:

Inspection

Stuck! (Vehicle Door Issues)

This may have happened to you.  You drive somewhere and get out of your vehicle only to try closing the door and it just won't stay closed!  What a helpless feeling.  You can't lock it; you can't leave it like it is. Or, let's say you head down to your vehicle to head out to work in the morning and you can't open the door.  What are you going to do now? Vehicle doors take a lot of abuse.  They are opened and closed hundreds of times and we expect them to just keep working perfectly all the time.  They do require a bit of tender loving care.  Let's take a look at two different scenarios of stuck doors. First: the door that won't close.  It's a security issue.  It's also a safety issue.  You can't really safely drive a vehicle with a door that won't close. What if you or a passenger is tossed out?  Sure, some people try to tie a stuck-open door closed or bungee it, but that's dangerous.  It's best to get that vehicle to the serv ... read more

The Best Book that's Not a Best-Seller

Sometimes the movie is better than the book, sometimes it's the other way around.  But when it comes to your vehicle, the best book of all is the owner's manual. The plot is simple: Owner wants long life and dependable performance from the vehicle, manual has the way to achieve that long life and dependable performance. And yet, it's amazing that some people will own a vehicle for years and never even crack this book.  They'll only read it when they absolutely have to, for things like finding out how to change the clock.  Ok, so you're probably not going to rush right over to your glove box and start reading the owner's manual cover to cover.  We know that.  But just think of what you can get out of it. Consider this.  Those who wrote or helped write this book include the engineers who designed it and the people who tested and refined it.  They know more about your vehicle than anyone, period.  They know how long a part is likely to last and what ... read more

Start Me Up (Ignition Systems)

When you start up your gasoline engine car, you may not know that it's using the same ignition principles as it has for decades.  You have spark plugs that require enough power so a spark can jump across a gap at its tip.  Years ago, a vehicle's 12-volt system had to produce 15,000-25,000 volts to do that, so engineers came up with something called an ignition coil that bumps up the voltage. It also has to be done at just the right interval called timing. The first systems had a distributor, a mechanical device with a rotating disc that switched the power to the ignition coil on and off.  That higher voltage then was sent to the spark plugs at the correct time interval. But the mechanical "points" had to be replaced and adjusted every 12,000 miles/20,000 kilometers.  Engineers later replaced the switching mechanism with solid state ones, but they still needed replacement after 120,000 miles/200,000 kilometers. The next evolution came in the 80's when the distributor ... read more

The Red Menace (How to Deal with Rust)

Rust.  It's worse if you drive in places that use salt on the roads in winter, or if you spend time driving near a body of salt water.  But any vehicle has to deal with rust after years on the road.  And it's not just that rust can eat away your vehicle's body and fenders.  It can be a real problem around your suspension, drivetrain or any place where there's metal. Rust takes its time.  You don't see it until it's already done its dirty work.  It can wreak havoc with your electrical system.  Sure, vehicle manufacturers do their best to keep it to a minimum, but especially with road treatments like brine around, their task is a difficult one. The one spot everyone notices is in the paint.  You see a little bubbling under the once-smooth surface.  By the time it bubbles, it's well involved in rotting away that spot of your vehicle.  You wouldn't believe how just a little thing can start the process on its way.  A stone chips the pai ... read more

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