From Headlights To Taillights: Springing Ahead With Vehicle Maintenance

By Mark Kozemko, Johnson College’s Automotive Technology Program Director. Originally published in the February 26, 2021 edition of the Valley Advantage. https://bit.ly/30cbvdk

It’s been a snowy February, but per Punxsutawney Phil, spring is on its way. It’s just going to take a little while longer to get here. As we’re preparing to say goodbye to snow and hello to warmer weather, we’re receiving questions about car maintenance that may be required after the long, cold winter. Let’s get to them so you can plan ahead.

Our first question is, “Should my car battery be replaced after the long winter we’re experiencing this year?”

Before you go and replace your battery, I recommend having it inspected and tested first. As I said in a previous column, your vehicle battery is one of — if not the most — important component to get your vehicle through a rough winter. If you had your battery inspected and tested in the fall, you should have it re-tested. Even though it had enough life to get you through the winter, that doesn’t mean its power is stable enough to keep you going throughout the spring and into summer. Extended periods of below-freezing temperatures, which we’ve experienced this year, weaken and take a lot out of a battery. Take the time now to get a new inspection and test to determine if your battery requires replacement.

“Does my engine oil need to be changed after the cold winter months?” is our second question.

When we discussed oil change intervals in a previous column, I recommended that you keep your maintenance schedule on track throughout the year and I’m sticking with that recommendation. Oil changes are the most economical maintenance you can do to drastically extend the life of your vehicle’s engine. Don’t go beyond the recommended time or mileage between oil changes, but you can change your vehicle’s oil sooner or more often than recommended. As the vehicle owner, it’s your call on whether you think the mileage or time is close enough to put fresh oil in your engine.

“Is there such a thing as summer and winter air that I should put in my tires?” is our third question.

There is no such thing as summer or winter air. It’s just compressed air.

You can, however, have your tires inflated with nitrogen, which helps eliminate oxidation and corrosion. Nitrogen pressure in a tire will bleed off or dissipate much slower than compressed air and you’ll see slightly higher fuel mileage with it. If you’re thinking about using nitrogen, it is considered a green alternative, which means it’s better for the environment. One thing to keep in mind, with compressed air, you can check and adjust your own tire pressure. If you use nitrogen, you’ll have to find a repair shop equipped with it to adjust your pressure. It will cost you to have your tires inflated with nitrogen more than you pay for compressed air.

Our final question is actually two questions, “How do I clean the buildup of salt and chemicals that accumulated under my car over the winter?” and “Can I do it myself?”

The best way to clean the underbody of your vehicle is by using a pressure washer. Most repair shops have pressure washers that are used for a variety of jobs, including cleaning customer vehicle undercarriages. These pressure washers come in many different pressures and gallons per minute. They also have several different spray tips, from wide-angle to a pencil spray, and include attachments that connect to the hose and slide under the vehicle, making it easier for technicians to get the undercarriage clean. Prices range for this service at repair shops or body shops.

Can you do it yourself? Yes, but you’ll have to purchase a pressure washer and attachments. The consumer versions come in a variety of pressures and usually two power options, gasoline or electric. The good news is, you have choices for your individual needs and situations. Keep in mind, to make any of these pressure washers work as designed, you will need a water supply. Lastly, you have to be ready to get wet!

With these steps and, of course, guidance from your automotive technician, your vehicle will be back in shape after enduring a cold and snowy northeastern Pennsylvania winter. I’m not sure about you, but I’m hoping next year Punxsutawney Phil doesn’t see his shadow and we’ll get an early spring.

Now Enrolling Students in OBDII Emissions Training Class

Johnson College’s Continuing Education Program is currently enrolling students into its OBDII Emissions Training class. The class will be held in Weaver Hall on the Johnson College campus on Monday, Feb. 22 and Tuesday, Feb. 23 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., and conclude with testing on Thursday, Feb. 25 at 6 p.m. Space is very limited to allow for social distancing. Face masks must be worn at all times while on campus. To learn more or enroll call 570-702-8979 or email continuinged@johnson.edu.

The OBDII computer monitors a vehicle’s emission control systems in real-time and is capable of informing a motorist or technician of a systemic issue the moment it occurs. The system operates through a series of indicator lights, drive cycles, trouble codes and readiness monitors. During an inspection, an emission analyzer scan tool plugs into the diagnostic connector that is attached to the OBDII computer and communicates with the vehicle. The OBDII computer relays to the scan tool whether it has discovered errors in the emission control systems. The emission analyzer then determines whether the vehicle is being operated in compliance with emission standards. For more information visit https://johnson.edu/continuing-education/odbii-emissions-licensing/.

The class fee of $180 is paid to Johnson College and a study material and testing fee of $39.99 is paid directly to the PA Training Portal.

From Headlights to Taillights: Skidding in a Winter Wonderland

By Mark Kozemko, Johnson College’s Automotive Technology Program Director

Original published in the December 25, 2020 edition of the Valley Advantage.

https://www.thevalleyadvantage.com/community-columns/from-headlights-to-taillights-skidding-in-a-winter-wonderland/article_cc41b629-9416-5d1a-8818-4bdcbe3ec407.html

So far we’ve been lucky in terms of snow fall and accumulation this year, but as we know, that can change in a heartbeat here in NEPA. The topics of snow and cold caused some to reach out about questions regarding their vehicle’s anti-lock brake and Traction Control systems.

What are anti-lock brakes?

The anti-lock brakes system — or ABS, as it’s referred to in the automotive industry — is a system that keeps your brakes on each wheel from locking up and causing a skidding condition. When wheels lock up and skid on the road surface, you have no control and cannot steer the vehicle away from possible obstacles.

How do anti-lock brakes work?

In our previous columns we mentioned how smart our vehicles are becoming. ABS makes them even smarter. Sensors in each wheel send a signal to an ABS control unit. These sensors tell the controller when a wheel is locking. The control unit then sends a signal to a solenoid that controls the hydraulic pressure to that wheel. The pressure is decreased and the wheel is allowed to keep spinning. This keeps traction on the road surface so you can safely steer the vehicle.

If your vehicle is equipped with ABS and you are driving in the snow, you don’t need to pump the brakes, but you will feel the brake pedal vibrate and you may hear some unfamiliar noises. Don’t let these vibrations or noises make you take your foot off the brake pedal. The vibrations and noises are letting you know the system is operating properly and doing its best to keep you in control of your vehicle. Taking your foot off the pedal will just deactivate the ABS system and decrease your ability to safely steer your vehicle.

What is traction control?

If your vehicle is equipped with ABS, chances are it’s also equipped with traction control. Traction control works just the opposite of ABS — it stops wheels from spinning and slipping. For instance, traction control senses that a wheel is spinning and the control unit increases hydraulic pressure to that specific wheel to stop it from spinning.

How does traction control work?

I’m sure you’ve seen videos of vehicles stuck in the snow and wheels spinning out of control and the vehicle not going anywhere. With traction control, the spinning wheel has a sensor that tells a control unit, “I’m spinning and can’t seem to stop!” The control unit sends a signal to that same solenoid I mentioned above, but this time, instead of reducing the hydraulic pressure, it increases the pressure to slow down the wheel. When this happens, the other wheels gain more traction and in most cases, will pull the vehicle out of a stuck situation.

Traction control also helps vehicles take corners better and make it around bends in the roadway without crossing the center line or having the rear of the vehicle trying to slide around the bend before the rest of the vehicle. In other words, it helps correct under-steer and over-steer.

What is correct under-steer and over-steer?

Let’s say, you’re traveling a bit too fast around a bend, and you go to turn the steering wheel but the vehicle continues to go straight. This is called under-steer. What’s happening is the front end does not follow your intended course. Sensors in the vehicle identify this problem and attempt to make corrections by braking certain wheels that will change the direction and help the vehicle make the bend. This specific under-steer situation usually occurs on front wheel drive vehicles.

If the rear of the vehicle slides across the center line, it’s called over-steer. Again, sensors in the vehicle will sense this situation and attempt to correct by braking the wheels necessary to get the vehicle around the bend safely.

Remember, ABS and traction control work together to help keep your vehicle and occupants safe. These options are standard equipment on just about all new and late model vehicles. Make sure you let them do their job and don’t let noises and vibrations make you let up on the brakes, especially now that the cold is here and snow is soon to follow.

PA State Vehicle Safety Inspection Course – March 1

Johnson College’s Continuing Education Program will be holding a Pennsylvania State Vehicle Safety Inspection course on campus March 1, 3, 8 & 10, 2021 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Space is limited. The total cost of the course is $200 for cars and light trucks. There is additional $75 fee for other vehicle categories. To learn more or to enroll, visit johnson.edu/continuingeducation or contact the Continuing Education Department at 570-702-8979 or continuinged@johnson.edu.

The Pennsylvania State Vehicle Safety Inspection course requirements include 12 classroom hours, a written test and a two-hour tactile test scheduled independently with the instructor. All must be completed before receiving certification from PennDOT. Registration is on a first-come, first-served basis according to the date of payment. Class size is limited to 12 students so participants are encouraged to register early. Applicants must be at least 18 years of age and have a valid operator’s license for each class of vehicle they intend to inspect. Classes will be held in the Automotive Center of the Weaver Building on the Johnson College campus.

Johnson College’s Continuing Education Program distinguishes itself from the College’s 2-year degree programs and certificate courses by providing its adult students the opportunity to improve their skills to stay ahead of the competition, learn new technologies, and advance in their current career. The Continuing Education courses, many taught by industry professionals, are utilized and recognized by industry partners because they’re developed in partnership with industry. The program also includes pre-employment skills testing and exclusive online courses offering certification classes for essential industries. Johnson College also assists individual students and industry partners in obtaining funding or grants so their continuing education courses are cost effective. Johnson College trains the workforce of northeastern Pennsylvania by immersing continuing education, degree and certificate earning students into industry from day one. We Work, so our students succeed. For additional information on Johnson College’s Continuing Education Program, please call 570-702-8979, email continuinged@johnson.edu, or visit Johnson.edu/continuingeducation.

From Headlights to Taillights: The Dreaded Check Engine Light

By Mark Kozemko, Johnson College’s Automotive Technology Program Director

Original published in the November 27, 2020 edition of the Valley Advantage.

https://www.thevalleyadvantage.com/community-columns/from-headlights-to-taillights-the-dreaded-check-engine-light/article_edec944f-ae6a-5b97-8ea1-09f9de9997ad.html

We’ve all been there.

The check engine light illuminates on the dash and suddenly you panic a little and ask yourself, “What’s happened and how do I make it go out?” No one likes it when this warning light comes on.

Today, I’ll address some of the common questions concerning the dreaded check engine light. Hopefully, this will help you put your mind at ease and help decrease the amount of anxiety that may arise the next time it comes on.

Remember, your vehicle is very complicated — and smart. The engine and drivetrain management systems are constantly monitoring driver inputs and outputs from various sensors in the engine, transmission and drive line.

Our first question is, “What issues cause the check engine light to come on?”

The most common issue is a challenge with your fuel cap. The fuel systems on modern vehicles are sealed systems. This means the systems are not supposed to allow fuel vapors into the atmosphere. If the seal on the fuel cap is damaged or even just dirty, it may cause a leak in the fuel system pressure. A loose or missing cap will do the same.

A second issue can be a faulty or dirty Mass Air Flow sensor, or MAF. This sensor monitors the amount of air entering the intake system of the engine. All the other components react to this amount of air being sent to the Powertrain Control Module.

Your vehicle’s oxygen sensors that monitor the oxygen in the exhaust system can also cause the check engine light to pop on. If the sensors are not sending the correct information, or not sending any information at all, the control unit will attempt to compensate for the information received. Sometimes the control unit can make those compensations. Other times, it will turn on the check engine light.

The last common issue is old and worn out spark plugs. When spark plugs wear, the gap that the spark has to jump across becomes larger and makes it more difficult for it to make its jump. This creates a misfire in the cylinder and reduces engine performance.

“What do I do when the check engine light comes on?” is our second question.

The first thing to do is check if your gas cap is there. I know, it sounds funny, but how many times have you seen vehicles traveling down the road with their fuel door open and the cap blowing in the wind? Or, maybe you’ve done it yourself!

If the cap is there, remove it to check the seal. When you put it back on, make sure it’s tight. If the seal is dirty, clean it and then tighten it correctly when you put it back on. If this was the issue, the check engine light will go out after a few cold starts or key cycles. If the light stays on, it’s time to visit a repair shop.

This leads us to our third question, “If the check engine light is on, is it safe to drive my vehicle to a repair shop?”

Usually, when the check engine light comes on, it will stay on steady, and you may not notice a difference in your vehicle’s performance. However, when you fill up at the pump, you may notice you’re taking on more fuel than usual. If this is the case, you should be able to drive the vehicle to your repair shop to be diagnosed.

If your vehicle experiences major misfire conditions, the check engine light will flash. This indicates the problem is current and you should not drive it to the shop. In extreme cases, most vehicle systems are designed to either shut down or go into a limp mode. This is when it’s time to call a tow truck.

Our fourth and final question is, “Is there a tool I can buy that tells me why the check engine light came on?”

If you’re a do-it-yourselfer, you can purchase an inexpensive code reader from your local parts store or online. These code readers will not repair your vehicle, but they can steer you in the right direction as to what caused the check engine light to come on. They can also ease your mind as to the seriousness of the problem.

When your check engine light comes on, please, don’t delay having it diagnosed and repaired as soon as possible. If you wait and continue to drive it, additional damage may cause repair costs to be a lot higher than if you had it diagnosed in a timely manner.

The check engine light is very helpful. Listen to it. Don’t fear it.

Tech Talk with Johnson College Podcast – Episode 6 Now Available

Tech Talk with Johnson College Podcast Episode 6, “Skilled Technicians are In-Demand” is now available. In this episode Dr. Katie Leonard talks with Darryl Jayne, General Manager at Gibbons Ford in Dickson City, PA. Dr. Leonard and Mr. Jayne share industry stories of the auto industry and in-demand skilled technicians who have come through Johnson College. You might not think about the importance of strong communication skills and the mastering of emotional soft skills. These traits are valued by all employers and surprisingly useful in the auto-industry.

To listen to all of the Tech Talk with Johnson College Podcast episodes and learn more visit https://johnsoncollegepodcast.com/. The podcasts are also available on iTunes and Spotify.

Darryl Jayne has been with Gibbons Ford for the last 8 years. He started in the industry 42 years ago selling automobiles. He was drawn to the business and knew right away that it would be a forever career. Jayne has been with the same company for the duration of his career, minus one month at the beginning and five years in the middle.

Jayne says the past eight plus years in the role of General Manager have been very rewarding and diversified. He was the primary contact on the building of Gibbons Ford’s new 5 million dollar facility and orchestrated the move of their team, product and processes. Over the recent years, he’s had been very fortunate to have collected and employed some of the finest team members in the automotive industry. This has propelled Gibbons Ford to becoming one of the largest Ford dealers in the state, on track to achieve 100 million in sales by the end of 2020.

Per Jayne, the reason for Gibbons Ford’s success has always been our employees and their efforts. Jayne is called to find the right people to do that and he truthfully believes that it’s his my biggest asset. Most of Gibbons Ford’s success is because their owner supported, encouraged and gave their employees the opportunity to grow.

Jayne is a Norte Dame fan who was born and raised in the valley and a proud graduate of Valley View High School in Archbald, PA. He enjoys golfing with his wife Suzy, who he’s been married to for 15 years. Jayne serves on the board at one of the local golf clubs, which despite many challenges has been very rewarding. He is also the primary care giver for his 95-year-old mother who still bakes and makes homemade jellies and jams.