Can You Fix a Catalytic Converter Without Replacing It?

Catalytic converter attached to a car in a garage

Understand the Function of Your Catalytic Converter

The catalytic converter. It’s almost like the water heater in your home. Where the water heater is the one appliance in your home you don’t give a second thought, the catalytic converter is the one part that almost no driver thinks about. Until you need catalytic converter repair or replacement service. 

What is a catalytic converter? 

If you were around in the 1970s, you may remember gas shortages and the realization that cars were a major contributor to air pollution. Well, in an effort to minimize that pollution, the catalytic converter was ‘born’. 

A catalytic converter is part of the exhaust system in cars, it isn’t something that you can see unless you crawl under your car. It converts the harmful engine-exhaust pollution into something that isn’t as environmentally dangerous. It does this by a chemical reaction of converting carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides found in car exhaust into a more environmentally safer carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and water vapor. 

Can a car run without a catalytic converter?

Yes, if your car’s catalytic converter is stolen, you can keep driving it illegally. Yes, every vehicle manufactured since the 1970s is required to have a working catalytic converter. And without the catalytic converter or one that isn’t functioning properly, may not run as well. 

Will a car still run if the catalytic converter isn’t working? 

With a bad catalytic converter, the engine’s performance will drastically diminish, meaning it won’t run as well because the power is cut back. Until you have gotten your catalytic converter repaired or replaced, you’ll experience weak acceleration at the signal lights and the engine will stall at random times and places. 

And, that annoying CEL (check engine light) will illuminate and stay illuminated until catalytic converter repairs or replacement has been completed. For many of us, CEL is enough to get anything done, right? 

Why are catalytic converters a popular theft item?

Precious metals like palladium, platinum, and rhodium are essential in how a catalytic converter works. These metals react with nitrogen oxide and filter any harmful gas out of the exhaust system of the car. And because they are precious metals, they provide a resale value, thus, the theft of catalytic converters has become a problem. 

In fact, theft of catalytic converters got so bad, there are specific laws in place now and a serial number is assigned to each one that matches the car it is installed in at the factory. Yes, it is a serious crime if caught stealing, buying, or selling a stolen catalytic converter. 

What are catalytic converters worth?

Well, we can’t quote you any exact price that can be had by selling a catalytic converter. But we can tell you that it will cost you a lot more to have a catalytic converter repaired or replaced than a thief will get! 

How do you know if your catalytic converter has been stolen?

If you don’t notice the performance of your car is different as we mentioned above, then the following things would tell you that you either need catalytic converter repair service or replacement: 

  • Exhaust sound loud: Without a catalytic converter, the exhaust will get loud. You’ll notice it! 
  • Exhaust odor: Without a catalytic converter, a car will emit a strong odor, that can become deadly if not addressed. 
  • Fuel economy worsens: A missing or malfunctioning catalytic converter will affect the ECU (electronic control unit) of your car, changing the exhaust fumes of the exhaust fumes from the oxygen sensor, and causing an imbalance in the fuel levels and exhaust flow from the engine. In simple terms, your gas mileage will get worse.
  • Failed Emission Testing: If none of these things get your attention that your catalytic converter is missing, or you need to get the catalytic converter repaired, you’ll find out when you get your car inspected. Without a catalytic converter working properly, your car won’t pass the required emission testing. 

Are catalytic converters repairable and worth it?

If you notice a problem with your car’s catalytic converter early enough, catalytic converter repair is possible and much cheaper than having to replace the unit. But you need to seek that catalytic converter repair sooner rather than later. 

What happens if you don’t get catalytic converter repairs done?

Well, by delaying catalytic converter repairs, you’ll be contributing to the air pollution problem, causing more damage to the environment for starters. And for you personally, you’ll notice you’re making more trips to the gas pump, your car won’t be running as quietly and smoothly as it was, and it will even drive differently in acceleration. 

Starting Line to Finish Line

If you’re driving a car manufactured in the 1970s and newer, it has a catalytic converter. It is not only for the good of the environment but for you personally too. If your car isn’t running as well as it should, have a mechanic inspect the problem, and if they tell you you need either catalytic converter repair or replacement, follow through with their recommendation. 

If you need a repair or catalytic converter replacement in Lombard and Wheaton, IL please get in touch! We can be reached at 630-932-4427 during normal office hours.

Is It Better To Repair or Replace a Transmission?

hand moving a stick shift

Learn More About Car Transmissions

Without a transmission, your vehicle isn’t going to go anywhere. So, if there is a problem with the transmission, you’ll need to have it inspected by a transmission repair specialist. How do you know if your transmission is having problems? 

Signs of Issues With Vehicles

If you’re noticing any of the following issues with your vehicle, schedule that appointment with your mechanic:

1. It Won’t Switch Gears

This can be caused by low transmission fluid, or maybe the wrong transmission fluid was put in. Either way, you should have it checked for the possibility of transmission repair or replacement. 

2. A Burning Smell

If you notice a burning smell coming from your car, or any part of the car, get your car to a transmission repair shop immediately! That smell is often an indication that either the transmission fluid is old or the transmission is overheating. 

3. Weird Sounds in Neutral

Weird sounds coming from a vehicle are never a good thing, especially when it is coming from the transmission while it is neutral. It is possible that simply changing the transmission fluid will fix the problem, but it may need more complex transmission repairs.

4. Gears Slippage

When you take off from a stop sign and traffic is approaching you, it can be scary and alarming if the transmission starts to slip. Or if they slip impulsively while you’re going down the road, that is scary and both scenarios are dangerous. When this happens, take your vehicle to a mechanic for inspection of transmission repair or possible replacement. 

5. Clutch Drags 

When the clutch drags or won’t disengage, this can keep the vehicle from going forward and should be inspected by a mechanic. The transmission may be low on fluid, but in most cases, a dragging clutch leads to more detailed transmission repair. 

6. Fluid Leaks

Fluid leaking from a transmission tells you right away you’re your vehicle probably needs transmission repair. If you don’t see red fluid under the vehicle, you’ll smell a sweet-smelling odor coming from the vehicle. 

7. Illuminated Check Engine Light

If the check engine light is illuminated on the dashboard, this can indicate several different things are wrong with your vehicle. If this happens in a combination of the other things we’ve listed, you need your mechanic to inspect the transmission for possible transmission repairs. 

8. Transmission Grinds or Shakes

A problem more common with automatic transmissions that need transmission repairs is one that grinds and shakes as the gears shift into place. If your vehicle is doing this, schedule an appointment with your mechanic for possible transmission repairs. 

Can transmissions be repaired or rebuilt? 

When we say ‘transmission repairs’, the process that takes place in many cases, your mechanic will install a rebuilt transmission. There are some transmission repairs a mechanic can do, but actually performing complete transmission repairs is a very complex and detailed task.

car transmission

What is inside a transmission?

Okay, so your mechanic tells you that a transmission repair for your vehicle is impossible, so they recommend installing a rebuilt transmission instead. Why is repairing it impossible? Because of the many components and parts, among them are: 

  • Torque converter
  • Hydraulic pump
  • Planetary gears
  • Clutches
  • Brakes

How does an automatic transmission know when to shift? 

Here, we provide a very brief description of how an automatic transmission works. There is a lot more that goes on in addition to this description, but there isn’t enough space in this area to share those details. 

The transmission control module (TCM) uses the powertrain to get sensor data that tells the transmission to shift gear as the transmission accelerates. The TCM disengages from the first gear and engages into the second gear seamlessly by engaging and disengaging using various brakes and clutches. 

When a transmission isn’t making these movements of disengaging and engaging as described here, that is when you need to take your vehicle in for transmission repairs.  

Why is transmission fluid so important?

Just like the motor oil in the engine, the transmission fluid lubricates all the mechanical parts, keeps the transmission cool, and keeps it from oxidizing. The transmission fluid also conditions the gasket and keeps rust from forming. When a vehicle is low on or out of transmission fluid, it can keep all these things from happening, resulting in needing transmission repairs.

What are the different types of transmission fluid? 

There is more than one type of transmission and they require different types of transmission fluid. The wrong fluid in the transmission will have you taking your vehicle in for transmission repairs. The 2 types of transmission fluids are: 

  • Automatic transmission fluid
  • Manual transmission fluid

Some cars have a CVT type of transmission or a dual-clutch model. These types of transmission require specialty or synthetic transmission fluid. Just like other types of transmission, having the proper type of fluid is a must at the appropriate level.

J1 Auto Repair is here to help you with your transmission repair in Lombard and Wheaton, IL. Contact us at 630-932-4427 to get started.

What Happens After Airbags Deploy?

Deployed airbags

Learn More About Airbag Deployment

What are airbags? There are many required safety features on cars today. One of the first safety devices was introduced in the 1970s and today is required on all vehicles manufactured in 1998 and forward. Yes, we’re talking about airbags. It took about 20 years for them to prove their worthiness, but you can’t buy a car, or most motor vehicles, without them installed. And your car won’t pass inspection without them today! 

What is the purpose of airbags in vehicles? 

The intended purpose of airbags being installed in motor vehicles is to provide protection from serious injuries to the driver and passengers when the vehicle is involved in a crash. Airbags protect the chest, head, and neck from slamming into the dashboard, steering wheel, and/or windshield when the vehicle is involved in a crash. 

However, they do not provide any protection when the vehicle is involved in a rear-end collision or a rollover crash. The earlier version of airbags didn’t provide protection when involved in a side collision, but today, car manufacturers have designed a way to install airbags in the door panels. 

How do airbags work? 

Airbags are designed to inflate when the sensors discover an impact has occurred quickly. They are installed in the steering wheel, dashboard, and today, as we mentioned above, they are now installed in the door panels to provide protection from the side. When seat belts are used, the combination of airbags can protect the driver and passengers by being restrained with the seatbelts and cushioned by the airbags from slamming into surfaces of the vehicles.

Are airbags required in all vehicles? 

Since 1998, front airbags have been required in all vehicles by the United States government. They must be installed during the manufacturing of all vehicles. The newer airbags include a safety belt sensor and deploy when an algorithm signals the sensors an impact. This determination of those algorithms is based on the seat belt in use. 

Typically, for occupants that are not wearing their seat belts, the front airbags will deploy with an impact when the vehicle is going between 10 and 12 mph. A higher threshold for the deployment of most airbags at 16 mph for occupants wearing a seat belt.

Are airbags safe? 

Yes, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has completed several studies of real-world crashes and found that when a combination of airbags and seat belts are used by the driver, it has prevented chest injuries in more than 65% of the accidents and up to 75% of serious head injuries in front end crashes. 

Can airbags injure the driver or passengers?

The force of deployed airbags has been to cause the following injuries: 

  • Damaged or broken jaw
  • Broken or cracked noses
  • Black eyes
  • Other facial bones broken
  • Rare eye damage causing blindness, temporary or permanent

Can airbags be turned off or disconnected?

The seat belt has proven to be a safety feature that cannot be eliminated. In addition to that, airbags are another important safety feature that shouldn’t be discounted. However, some vehicles come with the option of disabling the passenger airbags for the following reasons:

  • Traveling with a rear-facing child seat in the front on the passenger side. If the passenger side seat is protected by airbags, a rear-facing child car seat cannot be used. 
  • If there are unusual medical conditions of a front seat passenger, the airbags may be deactivated.

The steps to deactivate airbags are different for every manufacturer. The instructions are provided in the manufacturer’s manual to complete the process. In most cases, the PACOS can be found on the dashboard of the passenger side or in the glovebox compartment. There is an on/off switch that requires a special key to be inserted. 

We must state that for the safety of yourself and your passengers, it is not recommended to have the airbags deactivated with the rare exceptions as stated above. If you have a passenger with unique medical conditions, having written proof on hand signed by their medical professional is recommended. 

In Closing 

A vehicle is still drivable with the airbags disconnected and if they have been deployed. However, each state has its own laws when it comes to seat belts and airbags.  In Illinois, any vehicle over 8,000 pounds or can transport 10 or more passengers must have working airbags. 

What proof does the government have to support the requirement of airbags on all vehicles? The NHTSA states that over 50,000 lives have been saved by front airbags as of 2017. In front-end crashes, front airbags reduce fatalities of drivers by almost 30% and over 30% of front-seat passengers. When you consider those numbers, that is a significant number of lives saved by this invisible safety device we call airbags. If you have experienced airbag deployment in Lombard and Wheaton, IL, please give us a call at 630-932-4427 today!

What Is the Grinding Noise When I Brake?

A Mechanic Puts on a Brake

What is the grinding noise when I brake?

As you drive to work every day, or out running errands and picking up the kids, you notice an awful sound coming from your brakes. Even a person with the least amount of mechanical knowledge knows that isn’t normal, or good! Yes, it is time for a brake repair or replacement job on your vehicle. 

Just like that tank of gas the dealership gave you when you purchased the car, the brakes won’t last forever. Fortunately, the brakes will last longer than the tank of gas, but you’ll need brake repair at some point. So, you’re probably asking yourself, “How do I know if I need new brakes?”, and that is what we are going to discuss in this article today. 

Listen and Look

The two best ways to find out if your car needs brake repair or replacement is to listen and look, starting with the brake pads. What are the signs that your brake pads are worn? You won’t have to jack your car up or crawl underneath it, simply peak through the slots and spaces of the wheel spokes. 

There is an outer pad pressed against the metal rotor. This pad should be one-fourth of an inch thick. If the pads look thinner than that, you should take your vehicle to an authorized mechanic to inspect your brakes for possible brake repair or replacement.

If your brakes have a high-pitched screech or squeal sound when you apply pressure, that is the metal shim, an indicator that manufacturers install now as a warning you need brake repair or replacement. 

  • Lacking Responsiveness

If your brakes are lacking responsiveness as you apply pressure, you’re almost having to ‘stand’ on the pedal to get your vehicle to stop, you need immediate brake repair. This is typically due to insufficient brake fluid or there could be air in the brake lines. 

  • Brakes Pulling

If your vehicle is pulling to one side as you apply the brakes, the brake lining has worn out or there could be debris in the fluid, making it ineffective. A brake repair adjusting the brakes may be all you need. 

  • Grinding, Growling

The brakes on your car should not make any noise. If you’re hearing a loud metallic grinding or growling sound, this indicates the brake pads are worn down and your brakes are metal to metal. Can I drive if my brakes are grinding? You can, but it isn’t advisable. 

If the grinding or growling has just started, schedule an appointment with your mechanic for a brake repair as soon as possible. Two concerns you should have at this point, start with the lack of safety of bad brakes and the longer you drive it like this, the more damage your car will have. 

  • Vibration
  • Why do my brakes vibrate when I’m stopping? If your vehicle’s brakes are vibrating as you apply pressure, this is going to require a brake repair of replacing warped rotors.  The rotors get warped when you keep driving the vehicle with thin brake pads or brakes that are growing and grinding. 

How do you check for brake problems?

You don’t have to be a trained mechanic or even get dirty to check for possible brake repair needs. If you notice any of the following, schedule an appointment with your mechanic soon:

  1. The brake light comes on and stays on.
  2. You’re hearing squealing, squeaking sounds.
  3. You’re hearing grinding, growling sounds. 
  4. There is a vibration or wobbling in the front end as you brake.
  5. You notice brake fluid under the front of your vehicle.
  6. The brakes feel soft or spongy as you apply pressure. 
  7. Your vehicle pulls to one side as you apply the brakes.
  8. You smell a burning odor as you apply the brakes.

How often should I change my brake pads?

The owner’s manual of your vehicle will have a suggested time frame, but typically, between 10,000 and 20,000 miles, you should have your brake pads checked for replacement. And the brake rotors will typically need replacing every 50,000 and 70,000 miles.

What causes brake failure?

There are 7 things are common with brake failures:

  • Neglect: You haven’t had the brake fluid or brake pads checked.
  • Brake pads have overheated.
  • The brake rotors are worn.
  • Brake lines are leaking fluid.
  • The brakes have gotten wet.
  • The vehicle is pulling too much weight. 

Can brakes work without brake fluid?

Not as well as with the proper amount of brake fluid, and not for long! Brake fluid is essential in the proper functioning of your vehicle’s brake system. The brake fluid is what transfers the pressure from you pushing on the pedal to the brake system actually working. 

A Mechanic Working on Brakes.

Coming To A Braking End! 

What happens when you have no brakes? Well, the first thing that will happen, is your vehicle won’t stop!  But here are things you can do to help bring your vehicle to a safe stop: 

  • Continuously pump the brake pedal to build up residual pressure that will slow the car.
  • Gradually and slowly press or pull on the parking brake. 
  • If the parking brake doesn’t work, shift your vehicle into low gears to slow it down. 
  • Drive the vehicle into a minimal hazardous area, away from pedestrians, vehicles, or structures. 
  • Don’t turn the engine off before your vehicle comes to a complete stop so you can steer it. 

If you are hearing noises from your brakes, call 630-932-4427 for brake repair in Lombard and Wheaton, IL.

Is a Head Gasket Worth Fixing?

A Mechanic Works on an Image.

Is a Head Gasket Worth Fixing?

When you don’t take care of a car, like keeping the oil and water in it, and you drive it abusively, it can damage the car. From blowing tires to blowing the head gasket. Repairing it isn’t a quick job, and often requires getting a new engine

What is a Head Gasket?

A head gasket is a basic, but crucial component of your car’s engine.  A car engine is split between the cylinder head and engine block, and the head gasket fits in that split, sealing situated between the cylinder head and the engine block. 

The head gasket seals the two parts together, keeping the process of the internal combustion inside the engine and keeping the different fluids inside the engine from mixing together or leaking out. 

The important role it plays in an engine working properly is why when it is blown, head gasket repair or replacement must be immediate. Otherwise, more damage to the engine can happen. 

Can you drive with a blown head gasket?

It depends on the car engine and how much damage was done when the head gasket blew. Some engines stop functioning as soon as that happens, others may run for another hour to another month. But when the engine needs head gasket repair or replacement, when it stops, it stops. Until you’ve had the head gasket repaired or replaced, you won’t be driving anywhere in that car. 

What causes a head gasket to break?

As you drive a car, if the engine and head consume and spend at different rates, this causes the head gasket to blow because it can’t keep the two parts sealed as we describe above.  Because most engines have an aluminum head on an iron cylinder block, it can make that situation worse.  

Some indications that your car needs the head gasket repaired or replaced are: 


A head gasket repair is necessary when the engine has overheated multiple times. The overheating can be caused by low coolant, clogged radiator, the fan not operating, etc. Once the head gasket is blown, the engine will overheat, and hot exhaust gases leaks, filling the cooling system. The coolant leaks into the engine cylinders, and the mixing of oil and water is disastrous for a car engine. 


When a head gasket fails in this manner, the compressed air, and fuel escape, reducing the compression in the cylinder. You’ll notice the car engine is running rough and has lost power, sounding like you have an exhaust leak. 


This is the most common indicator that your car needs head gasket repair. The oil that is typically brown turns a milky color, something like a chocolate milkshake. This happens when the coolant gets into the oil or vice versa. This doesn’t always indicate a blown head gasket, but it is a common indication. 


A bad head gasket or leaking head gasket will send large clouds of white smoke through the exhaust. This white smoke has a sweet smell which is the antifreeze as it leaks past the head gasket and on the cylinders. The white smoke is the steam from the combustion. 


When a head gasket fails at sealing the oil and water apart from each other, both will begin to leak outside of the engine. This can also be simple leaking pertaining to either the oil or the water, or it can be that head gasket repair is needed. 

Does a blown head gasket mean you need a new engine, or can head gaskets be repaired?

It will depend on how much more you drove the car once the head gasket blew. If you noticed any of the things we listed above and take the car right to a mechanic, it is possible that a head gasket repair job will be all that is needed. A head gasket repair is replacing the gasket. 

Is it better to repair a head gasket or replace the engine?

If you have continued driving the car with a blown head gasket, the head itself could be warped and too much oil and water have mixed. In this case, a head gasket repair or head gasket replacement isn’t going to be sufficient. The entire engine will need to be replaced. 

How Much does it cost to repair a head gasket?

The make and model of the car will have an impact on the cost of a head gasket repair. The range is typically between $1,700 and $2,000 to replace the head gasket, including labor. 

A Head Gasket

At The Starting Line 

Because of the damage that a head gasket can cause to an engine, it is important to be aware of the things we’ve listed. Once you notice any of these things happening, getting to a mechanic immediately is an absolute must!

If you need head gasket repair in Lombard and Wheaton, IL, give J1 Auto Repair a call at 630-932-4427.

Do You Know What To Do If Your Car’s AC Goes Out?

turning the knob of a car air conditioner

Dealing With AC Issues

Science has shown us that the weather patterns are shifting to the east. But when it comes to summer heat and humidity in Illinois, hot is still hot and air conditioning rules, especially when you’re in a hot car!

It has been a long day at work, you make your way to your car in the parking lot, where it has been baking in the hot sun all day. Turn on the air conditioning and nothing! You say to yourself, or maybe scream it out loud, “Why is my car’s air conditioner not working?!”

There could be any of a number of reasons why your car’s AC isn’t working. However, the six most common reasons are: 

#1: Refrigerant Leaked: Refrigerant can leak anywhere within the air conditioning system, making it difficult to determine the exact area, but typically it is leaking from a hose or hose connection. You can tell this by an oily substance coming from a hose or around the connections. This is often repairable adding an air condition sealant to the system. 

#2: Blocked Condenser: Why is the air conditioning in my car not cold? The condenser re-cools hot refrigerant after it is compressed using the air that flows in as you drive down the road. When the condenser is blocked, typically by road debris, this can’t happen, the refrigerant overheats, and the air conditioning blows hot air. Where the condenser is in the front of the car, check for anything that could be blocking it. This could even be debris sucked up the grill. Remove the debris and this should fix your air conditioning. If not, have a technician inspect the system.

#3: Broken Condenser: If the condenser doesn’t appear to be blocked, it may be broken, usually from road debris that has punctured the unit. This will need to be replaced by a technician. 

#4: Electrical Issues: When it comes to car air conditioning, electrical issues can be difficult to diagnose as a problem. A visual check of the wiring will tell you if any wires are damaged or disconnected. If all looks well, then you’ll need a professional diagnosis. 

#5: Cooling Fans Faulty: When the cooling fans aren’t functioning correctly, the condenser isn’t getting cooled, and in time, the air conditioning will begin blowing only hot air.  Again, do a visual inspection for any problems with the fan, like debris sucked up into it, or if there is a cracked blade. It could be a blown fuse, but this is something you’ll need a professional technician to ascertain. 

#6: Bad Compressor: The compressor is what keeps the air conditioning moving. Without the compressor, the refrigerant can’t circulate throughout the system and cool the air. Compressors will freeze up if they aren’t used for a long period of time, like through the winter. It is a recommendation to turn the air conditioning on for short period during the winter to keep the air compressor moving. 

What should I do if my car’s AC blows out hot air?

Do a visual check yourself and make sure nothing has been sucked up to the grill of your car or under the hood around the condenser.  Remove any foreign stuff and try the air conditioning again. 

If there isn’t anything there, check for any oily substance coming from any hoses or connectors. If you see anything, or if the air conditioning still isn’t cooling after removing any debris, take your car into the shop. Do not try to use the air conditioner until you’ve had it inspected.

Can you repair the air conditioning in a car?

If you’ve tried the suggestions we have made and the air conditioning still isn’t working, that doesn’t mean it is gone for good. An experienced technician will have the training and skills to inspect the system and it is possible what they find can be repaired or replaced by the component, not the entire system. 

The cost for car air conditioning repairs will depend on the make, model, and year of the car and the issue the technician determines to be the problem. You can expect a repair to be as little as $100 and as much as $1000, depending on what parts are needed. The condenser and compressor are the most expensive parts to replace. 

How do you know if your car’s air conditioner needs repair?

Well, if the air conditioning isn’t blowing cold, it needs attention. Other indications that your car air conditioning system needs repairs are when there is a funny sound with car’s AC or any funny smell with car’s AC. These aren’t necessarily indications of something expensive to repair, but they are indications that you should have a technician examine the system.

holding a hand up to a car AC vent

Keep Your Cool 

Okay, so, when should you replace your car’s AC? When air conditioning repairs get to be too expensive!  So, what is expensive in air conditioning replacement?  How much does air conditioning replacement cost?  

Replacing the air conditioning system in your car can cost up to $5,000, depending on the make, model, and year of the car. At this point, you need to ask yourself if the car is worth that expense, or is it time to replace the car?

Do I need an oil change for my car?

mechanic providing oil change service

An Important Maintenance Task

To keep your car’s engine functioning properly, it needs basic maintenance. Like the tires need air added from time to time, the engine needs oil added, and sometimes, it needs an oil change service. You may wonder, how long can you go without an oil change?

Every car manufacturer will have a different time frame recommended for their products. The common recommendation is between 5,000 and 7,500 miles for oil change service. Newer cars that use synthetic oil can go 10,000 miles; Some vehicles can even go 15,000 miles between oil change services.

How often do I really need an oil change?

Okay, so that is what car manufacturers are recommending, but what is the truth about the frequency of oil change services? Experts in the car industry used to tell us every 3,000 miles or every 3 months, whichever comes first. However, cars today can travel farther and longer before needing an oil change service. You can do them more frequently if you want, but it isn’t necessary on newer engines. 

However, if you don’t drive your car enough to hit that recommended 5,000 miles, you still need to get an oil change service twice a year. A car needs to be driving so that the engine can burn off any condensation that has accumulated within the engine. Condensation is normal, but it can break the oil down quicker, wearing the engine out faster. 

What happens if you don’t change your oil?

An ounce of prevention, or rather 5 to 6 quarts of oil as prevention, is a must if you value your car! Oil to your car is like blood to our bodies. It keeps the engine lubricated and protects the moving parts in the engine. Regular routine of oil change services may be a few dollars out of your pocket, but the ROI is having your car ready to go when you are. Here is what could happen if you don’t stay with a routine oil change service: 

  • VEHICLE WARRANTY VOIDED: You bought that new car for peace-of-mind, and maybe a bit of ego and vanity. But if you don’t maintain a routine with oil change service and tire rotations, you risk voiding that awesome warranty that came with that new car. 
  • ENGINE PERFORMANCE LACKS: That routine oil change service is how the engine’s internal parts are cleaned. Would you go six to eight months without a bath? No, and your car’s engine shouldn’t either! That oil change is cleaning that dirty sludge that builds up as you drive the car. The more sludge, the harder the engine must work, and the sooner you’re going to have to replace the car. 
  • ENGINE FAILURE: Long periods between oil change service will start causing the engine to overheat, and that can lead to a blown gasket, or worse. 

Will an oil change help my gas mileage?

Absolutely! When the oil change service is postponed, that sludge we mentioned is making the engine work harder. The harder the engine works, the more fuel it takes. With your oil change service, they will usually offer to replace the air filter too, at a cost, and that recommendation should be something you have done too. No, that isn’t just an upsell for the garage, it helps the engine breathe easier and that helps the gas mileage too. 

What are the steps in an oil change?

Changing your own oil isn’t that complicated or difficult; it’s just easier and less messy to let the lube center do it. However, many of us are on tighter budgets these days, so if you can save a few dollars, and not have a professional oil change service, then why not? Follow these steps on how an oil change works and you’ll have mastered one of the necessities of car ownership: 

  • Purchase the oil and oil filter. The local parts store can guide you on the right stuff if you aren’t sure.
  • Pull your car up on ramps so that you can get underneath the car. We recommend having help with the ramp so that you don’t run off the edge or end. 
  • Pull the oil plug and let the oil drain into an old bucket. 
  • Using the oil filter wrench, remove the oil filter. 
  • Insert the new filter, tight but not too tight.
  • Replace the oil plug. 
  • Add the new oil.

What type of oil change do I need?

If your car is 10 years old or less, the manufacturer will have recommendations of what type you should use in your car, and how much. Most cars today are using a synthetic oil, while older cars use a standard oil type. 

What are the three types of oil for cars?

With all the oils you’ll see in the auto parts store, it comes down to these three types: 

  • Synthetic: Chemically engineered to be more consistent and high performing in reducing friction and withstand the sweltering temperatures. It’s recommended for cars that require peak-level performance and allows you to go up to 20,000 miles between oil change services. 
  • Semi-Synthetic: As it sounds, this oil is a combination of the above mentioned synthetic and the conventional oil we’ll discuss next. It has all the attributes the synthetic oil offers for less money. 
  • Conventional: This is the oil your dad and granddad used. It is the least expensive and should only be used in older cars that have simpler engine designs. This type of oil will require oil change services no further apart than 5,000 miles.
oil being added to a car engine

In Closing 

Is there any difference between an oil change vs adding oil? Yes, there are people that ask that, and yes, there is a difference. Adding oil is simply just that – adding oil to what is already in the engine. There is a dipstick that will tell you how much oil is in the engine and at one part of the dipstick, it says “Add Oil”. However, adding a bit of oil now and then still isn’t enough, and you will still need those regular oil changes.

Why is my heater blowing cold air in my car?

man's hand on a car heater vent

Dealing With Cold Air

Ready or not, winter is blowing in from the north and the temperatures are getting cooler. In Illinois, the winters can get brutally cold, so a non-working car heater can make the drive to work miserable. If your heater isn’t working right, now is the time to get that heater repair done. 

Understanding how a car heater works can help to understand what happens to make them quit working. A car heater has some basic components: 

  • The heater core
  • The blower motor/fan
  • Heater hoses
  • A heater control valve
  • The HVAC control panel inside the car

Each of those components interacts with the coolant, the thermostat, the radiator, the heater core, and the water pump. As the engine warms up, it creates heat. Most of the heat will exit through the exhaust system. 

Any remaining build-up that remains inside the engine casting is transferred to the coolant. Once the thermostat opens, the coolant is allowed to cool the system by circulating throughout the engine. This removes the excess heat that did not exit through the exhaust and sends it to the radiator as it circulates through the heater core.

From there, it is distributed into the cabin of the car where it warms the interior as you have the heater controls set, with the fan blowing it through the vents. Car heater repairs can be needed with any of the components that malfunction or totally quit. 

So, what would cause the heater to stop working in a car?

There can be a number of reasons why your car heater is not blowing air. Some of the normal reasons car heaters repairs are needed: 

  • Thermostat is Faulty: One of the most common car heater problems is a faulty thermostat. They become stuck closed or open, making it unable to let the built up heat from the engine flow through as described above. 
  • Low Antifreeze: This is the second-most common issue mechanics find when working on car heater repairs. When the antifreeze level drops too low, the heated fluid can’t get to the heater core, and the cabin of the car won’t warm up. 
  • Faulty Heater Fan: If the blower motor on the fan isn’t working the heated air from the antifreeze isn’t going to be distributed throughout the cabin. 
  • Faulty Blower Motor Resistor: A broken blower motor will not allow the fan speed to work properly, maybe keep it from working at all.
  • Clogged Heater Core: This isn’t as common a heater repair need as the aforementioned items, but debris and particulates that get into the coolant system can clog the heater core. This debris and particles can come from a rusted radiator. The only heater repair for this is to try flushing the radiator or replacing the component. 
  • Leaking Radiator: If the radiator has a leak, it will keep the antifreeze from reaching the heater core and cool the engine. This can cause the engine to overheat and damage it to the point of needing a new engine. 
  • HVAC Controls: Over time the buttons, knobs, or touchscreen can malfunction or quit working. This can keep the heating system from working properly. 
  • Blow Fuses or Faulty Wiring: As with the HVAC controls, the car heater isn’t going to work properly (or not at all) if the wiring is broken or has a short. 

What is a car heater core?

A key part of your car heater working is the heater core. This component looks like the radiator but is smaller. The antifreeze coolant that is in the actual radiator is circulated through the small tubes and radiates heat from the engine throughout the cabin. Heater repairs are often getting the heater core unclogged or replaced. 

Why does my car heater not work when idling?

In most cases, when a car heater isn’t working and is taken to a mechanic, they find the heater repair was nothing more than adding antifreeze coolant to the radiator. As we described earlier, it is the heat from the engine that is needed to make the car heater work.  It needs the antifreeze coolant to move the heat that doesn’t go through the exhaust to the heater core and into the car cabin. 

How much does it cost to fix a heater in a car?

It can vary from make and model of the car and the problem found by the mechanic that performs the heater repair.  For example, the heater core or the radiator may need replacement, or the wiring may need replacement, or you could be dealing with any of the issues we’ve discussed. Most car heater repairs will start around $300 and reach up to $1000. 

temperature control knob in a car

Ending This Article With A Last Question

When your car heater isn’t working, do a Google search for “where to find car heater repair near me” and find an authorized mechanic that knows how to fix the heat in cars of your make and model. If you have a foreign-made car, you will need to take it to a mechanic that specializes in that make. American-made cars are all about the same when it comes to heater repairs. Meanwhile, if you’re in the area and find yourself in need of heater repair, you can always come to us!

My Car’s Heater Isn’t Working – Help!

heating vent and control panel in a car

Getting Your Car Heater Checkup

Boy, it has been a hot summer, hasn’t it? Can you believe fall and winter are around the corner already! What that means is it’s time to make sure your car heater is working NOW, before those temps hit 32 degrees. Just like the heating system in your home, your car heater needs a preliminary winter checkup too. 

With that in mind, we’re going to answer some common questions about car heaters. Some of the questions are basic and some are for those of us that didn’t get that preliminary winter checkup on our car heater. Because if your car heater isn’t working, the ride is going to be miserable and your teeth are going to be chattering, not to mention, it’s hard to drive if you’re shivering! 

Did you know that when the car heater isn’t working correctly, your car can overheat just like it does when the air conditioner isn’t working correctly?  Interesting, huh? So, how does a car heater work? Let’s take a look.

The Facts on Car Heater Operation

A car heater is connected to functions beyond keeping the interior of your car warm. A car heater has two jobs: heating the interior of your car and keeping the engine cool. The key components of a car heater are: 

  • The Heater Core
  • The Blower Motor
  • Heater Hoses
  • The Heater Control Valve
  • The Control Panel

A car heater also interacts with the car’s cooling system, which includes: 

  • The coolant
  • A thermostat
  • The radiator
  • The water pump 

The engine generates heat, and to keep it from overheating, it has to go somewhere, yet keeping the interior of the car on an Illinois winter morning is important.  Most of that generated heat exits through the exhaust system and the remaining heat is transferred into the coolant inside the car’s HVAC system, much the same way it works on your home’s HVAC system. 

As that engine-generated heat leaves the radiator where the coolant is located, it moves to the heater core. The heater core is a heat exchanger and as the heated coolant flows through it, the heater control valve regulates the heat. It is at that point your car heater warms up to the level the HVAC control panel is set, and then it blows out through the vents. 

Why is my car heater not blowing air?

On that first cold Illinois winter morning when the heat doesn’t get warm after a couple of minutes, what is the problem?  Well, there are a few things that could be the problem that is keeping your car heater from heating up: 


It takes an almost exact mixture of antifreeze and water to create an ideal coolant for your car engine. This keeps the engine from freezing up and cracking or overheating in the summer. It ensures the cooling system is absorbing and dissipating the heat from the engine effectively.

During the winter, with the HVAC controls set on heat, some of that excessive engine heat blows into the cabin of your car and through the windshield defroster. Over time, that coolant can get contaminated and not as effective in keeping the engine cool and the heater blowing warm.


The heater core looks like a smaller radiator with fins and narrow tubes. It dissipates that generated heat into the surrounding air as it heats, and the blow fan blows it into the car cabin.

Like the car radiator, the narrow tubes can become clogged or start leaking. This will reduce the coolant flowing through the cooling system. The longer it stays clogged, the better the chance it will contaminate the coolant, and then you have two problems with your car heater. 

You can often tell when the heater core is clogged or not working by a sweet smell inside your car. Other indicators are that the windows won’t defrost and there is moisture, even puddles, on the front floorboard. 


A car’s thermostat is a valve that regulates the coolant flow by opening and closing. While this may sound simple, if the thermostat isn’t functioning right, it can overheat the engine or keep the car heater from heating up. A damaged or malfunctioning thermostat is one that is stuck in one position or the other.


When you turn the car heater up, the heater core grabs heat from the coolant, and then transfers it inside the cabin, giving you that warm air you want. The blower fan is how that air is moved into the cabin and if it isn’t working, then the warm air isn’t getting inside the cabin. This could be because of a blown fuse, loose electrical wiring, or because the blower motor has simply quit working, and your car heater isn’t heating up the inside of your car. 

What do you do when your car heater is blowing cold air?

There are several things that can keep a car heater from blowing warm air as we just discussed. So now you may be asking, “How do I fix the heat in my car?” The following is a list of the most common causes found and suggestions on how to fix them.

The Engine’s Thermostat

My Car’s Heater Won’t Turn Off! You don’t hear that much during the winter, but it can be an uncomfortable problem. This is a valve that controls how the coolant flows to the radiator. When a car is first started, the thermostat stays closed until the engine reaches a certain temperature. Then it opens up and allows the coolant to flow through the radiator to keep the engine from heating up too much. 

When the thermostat goes bad, it will often get stuck either opened or closed. A thermostat stuck open will allow the coolant to keep flowing through, never having time to heat up. If the thermostat is stuck closed, the coolant won’t flow and the engine can overheat, causing a lot of damage fast. Changing the thermostat will fix this problem either way. 

Low Coolant Level

The coolant fluid supports the heating system and when there isn’t enough coolant, the car heating system can’t get what it needs to blow warm air inside your car.  When a car’s coolant level is low, it is usually because there is a coolant leak at one of the connections, hoses, at the radiator, or any of the many other components. Adding coolant to the radiator will usually fix this, maybe only temporary if there is a leak.

Cooling System Has Air Bubbles

If your car heater is blowing cold air, there may be air bubbles in the coolant, keeping the engine-generated heat from transferring to the coolant.  The air bubbles need to be released for the car heater to start working correctly again. This can be done with the following steps: 

  • Set the heating control system to maximum 
  • Remove the radiator cap
  • Add coolant to the radiator’s maximum level
  • Start the car and allow to idle with the radiator cap off
  • Add more coolant if needed after the thermostat opens
  • The air bubble should start leaving the coolant at this point
  • After the car engine is warmed up, replace the radiator cap, and start try the car heater again

Heater Core Issues

Your car heater may be blowing cold because the heater core is stopped up. Remember, the heater core is like a small radiator and if the narrow tubes get a clog, the coolant can’t flow through and warm the car heater. To unclog the heater core, do a manual flush to remove whatever debris is clogging the narrow tubes. If flushing doesn’t fix it, you’ll need to have a new heater core installed. 

Heater Control Issues

Sometimes the problem with a car heater system isn’t internal, but with the heating controls. Over time, the buttons become clogged and stick, or simply break after a lot of use. The best fix for this is to have the buttons replaced. 

Blender Door Jammed

Part of your car heater is the air blowing through the vents. These are controlled by a blender door and if it becomes jammed or stuck, it can’t open to allow the warm air out. Or it becomes stuck open, and the warm air won’t quit coming inside the cabin. The only fix for this car heater issue is to replace the blender door. 

Will a car heater work without an AC compressor?

The air conditioning compressor in your car isn’t just for cool air in the summer. It has other jobs year-round, like keeping the windows defrosted. It also keeps the heat setting controlled. 

How can you tell if you have a bad heater core?

A heater core problem is unique, and not in a way you want to experience. It can actually leak inside your car instead of outside and under your car. A bad heater core can be a messy experience and you’ll know when it is bad or going bad by any of the following: 

1. There is little to no heat in the car 

2. The smell of coolant is inside your car 

3. The windows stay fogged up

4. The floorboard is wet with coolant 

5. The coolant level is low and keeps dropping

6. The engine is running hot

What happens if you don’t replace the heater core?

A faulty heater core will cause the engine to overheat. An overheated engine can do expensive and extensive damage fast. A clogged heater core can cause an engine to overheat because it isn’t getting the right coolant circulation.

close-up of car heater controls

In Closing 

So, maybe you try all the things we’ve suggested, and your car heater still isn’t working right. This means to have a comfortable warm car this winter, you need to take it to a mechanic. How expensive is it to fix a car heater? Well, it isn’t going to be cheap!  One thing we can tell you is that not every mechanic or repair shop will have the same pricing. They have their own labor and overhead expenses to cover. It will also depend on your car’s make, model, and year, as well as what the problem is with the car heater. A rough estimate would be somewhere between $500 and $1000.00. If you’re looking for a true estimate on this kind of job reach out to us today by calling at 630-932-4427.

What happens when you get a transmission rebuild?

Close-up of hands working on a car transmission.

Need-to-Know Transmission Basics

If your car engine is good and the tires are good, then you’re ready to roll on the open roads, right? Not so fast …. What about that transmission? Yes, that big hunk of metal that is kind of under the car and motor. Without it, you’re not going to go anywhere! So, when the transmission isn’t working, you’re left with one question – transmission rebuild or replacement, which is better? 

Is rebuilding a transmission worth it?

Like most things in life, it depends. Questions to be answered whether you should get a transmission rebuild or replacement would be: 

  • How quickly do you need your car ready to drive again? 
  • How old is your car? 
  • How much money do you want to spend? 

What does “transmission rebuild” mean?

Rebuilding a transmission is similar to rebuilding an engine, or anything really. It is an indepth process that requires a lot of hands-on labor. The transmission rebuild steps are tedious and if they aren’t done in the right order and done correctly, it doesn’t do any good. 

How long does a transmission rebuild take?

On average, it can take between three and four days for an automatic transmission rebuild. When you take your car to a transmission shop, they will give you an estimate of money and time to either do a simple transmission repair and send you on your way or a thorough transmission rebuild. The steps for a transmission rebuild include: 

  • Removing the transmission
  • Inspecting the transmission
  • Cleaning the transmission
  • Replacing the “hard” parts of the transmission
  • Reassembling the transmission 
  • Replacing parts along the way, including bands, clutches, gaskets, seals, and more
  • Replacing the transmission in the car
  • Test Drive

How long does a transmission rebuild last?

This is another question that is answered with “it depends”, based on your driving style primarily. An average lifespan for the life of a transmission rebuild is up to 40,000 miles if it was done properly. 

A transmission repair will give you maybe 10,000 miles with normal driving habits, depending on what was repaired. If just the transmission filter and fluid was changed, and you drive to work and back, you can expect another 10,000 miles. If you drive 100 miles a day, up hills, you’ll be lucky to get 5,000 miles. A transmission rebuild gives you a “like new” transmission where all the worn parts and pieces were replaced. 

You can give your transmission rebuild or repair unit a longer life with the following: 

  • Checking the fluid level regularly
  • Changing the filter and fluid regularly
  • No aggressive driving

What are the signs your transmission is going out?

Know the early warning signs when you need to take your car to a transmission shop: 

  1. Refuses to Switch Gears
    If your car is refusing or struggling to change gears, it could be low on fluid, have the wrong fluid, or needs a transmission repair or rebuild. 
  2. Burning Smell
    If you’re noticing a burning smell coming from under your car or under the hood, get to a mechanic ASAP. It could be the engine or transmission is overheated. An overheated transmission will cause the car to overheat the engine too.
  3. Neutral Sounds
    When there are weird sounds coming from the car while in neutral, you have transmission problems. It may be something as easy as adding transmission fluid or as complex and expensive as needed transmission build or repair. 
  4. Gears Slipping
    When a car impulsively slips in and out of a gear while driving, it can be scary –  and dangerous. If you’re experiencing slipping gears, have your mechanic check it out. A simple transmission repair may be all that is needed.
  5. Dragging Clutch
    The clutch is dragging and failing to disengage from the flywheel when pushing in the clutch pedal. A transmission rebuild or repair is needed. 
  6. Leaking Fluid
    A leaking transmission is never a good thing and often means you’ll need transmission repair. However, it could be nothing more than the cap not being put back on tightly. Have your mechanic check it out. 
  7. Check Engine Light
    The check engine light will tell you a lot of things about your car, including the transmission. Have your mechanic inspect the car and determine if it is the transmission and what transmission repair is needed, if any. 
  8. Grinding and Shaking
    This is a common issue with automatic transmission, and occurs when a car is changing gears. A transmission repair could be sufficient, but if bad enough, may need a transmission rebuild. 
  9. Humming Noises
    Clunking, humming, or whining coming from your car in any direction isn’t good, especially when it is the transmission. Have your mechanic inspect the car immediately. 
  10. Unresponsive
    When changing gears, if your car doesn’t respond automatically, it may need transmission repair. However, this may be nothing more than replacing the filter and new fluid. 
Cross section of an automatic transmission.

Wrapping It Up 

What if you can’t find somewhere to get a transmission rebuild done? Maybe you’re wondering, “Can I rebuild a transmission on my own?” If you are a mechanically-inclined person with the space to spread out and keep your parts in a collective manner, yes, you can do your own transmission repair or rebuild. 

However, keep in mind that it has to go back together in the right format, or all your work is for nothing. Additionally, a rebuild kit can cost up to $300 depending on the type of car you have. If you’re interested in having a professional perform your transmission rebuild in Lombard and Wheaton, IL, call J1 Auto Repair at 630-932-4427 today!