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Is a Pinion Seal Leak Serious?

A Mechanic Looks Under a Car's Hood.

Pinion Seal a Crucial Part

A pinion seal leak might not sound like a major issue, but it can lead to significant problems if left unaddressed. The pinion seal is crucial to your vehicle’s differential, preventing gear oil from leaking out. When this seal fails, it allows gear oil to escape, resulting in the differential running dry and potentially causing severe damage to the gears and bearings. If you notice a pinion seal leak, it’s essential to have it inspected and repaired promptly to avoid costly repairs and ensure the safety and performance of your vehicle.

What Would Cause a Pinion Seal to Leak?

Several factors can contribute to a pinion seal leak. Here are some common causes:

  1. Wear and Tear: Over time, the pinion seal can wear out due to constant exposure to heat, friction, and contaminants. As the seal ages, it becomes less effective at containing the gear oil, leading to leaks.
  2. Improper Installation: If the pinion seal was not installed correctly during previous maintenance or repairs, it might not create a proper seal. This improper installation can cause oil to leak from the differential.
  3. Damage from Debris: Driving on rough or unpaved roads can kick up debris that might damage the pinion seal. Even small nicks or scratches on the seal’s surface can lead to leaks.
  4. Excessive Heat: High temperatures can cause the seal to harden and lose its flexibility, making it more prone to leaks. This is especially true if the vehicle is subjected to heavy towing or driving in extremely hot conditions.
  5. Differential Fluid Contamination: Contaminants such as dirt, water, or metal particles in the differential fluid can accelerate the wear of the pinion seal, causing it to leak over time.

Is It Safe to Drive with a Leaking Pinion Seal?

Driving with a leaking pinion seal is not recommended. While it might not pose an immediate threat, it can lead to severe issues if ignored. Here’s why:

  1. Loss of Lubrication: The pinion seal is designed to keep gear oil inside the differential. A leak means that the differential might run low on oil, reducing lubrication for the gears and bearings. This can cause them to overheat and wear out prematurely.
  2. Increased Wear and Tear: Without adequate lubrication, the differential components are subjected to increased friction and heat. This can lead to significant damage, requiring expensive repairs or even complete differential replacement.
  3. Potential for Catastrophic Failure: If the differential runs dry due to a severe leak, it can lead to catastrophic failure while driving. This could cause the vehicle to become inoperable and result in a dangerous situation on the road.

To avoid these risks, it’s crucial to address a pinion seal leak as soon as it’s detected. Driving with a leaking seal is not safe, and prompt repair can save you from costly repairs and ensure your vehicle remains reliable.

What Are the Signs of a Bad Pinion Seal?

Recognizing the signs of a bad pinion seal can help you catch the problem early and prevent further damage. Here are some common indicators:

  1. Visible Oil Leaks: One of the most obvious signs is oil leaking from the differential. You might notice oil spots under your vehicle, especially near the rear differential area.
  2. Low Differential Fluid: If you frequently need to top up the differential fluid, it could be a sign of a leak. Regularly checking the fluid level and noticing a drop can indicate a problem with the pinion seal.
  3. Unusual Noises: A leaking pinion seal can cause the differential to run low on oil, leading to increased friction and heat. This can result in whining, grinding, or clunking noises coming from the rear of the vehicle.
  4. Vibration or Shuddering: Insufficient lubrication can cause the differential components to wear unevenly, leading to vibrations or shuddering while driving.
  5. Differential Overheating: If the differential becomes excessively hot, it could be due to a lack of lubrication caused by a leaking pinion seal. Overheating can cause further damage and should be addressed immediately.

Call Us Today

If you suspect a pinion seal leak or notice any of the signs mentioned above, don’t wait until it leads to more severe issuesJ1 Auto Repair specializes in pinion seal leak replacement in Lombard and Wheaton, IL and can help you keep your vehicle running smoothly. Our experienced technicians will inspect your differential, identify the problem, and perform the necessary repairs to ensure your safety on the road. Contact us today at 630-932-4427 to schedule an appointment and let us take care of your pinion seal leak replacement needs. Don’t let a small leak turn into a major problem—trust us to get you back on the road safely and efficiently.

Addressing a pinion seal leak promptly can prevent costly repairs and ensure your vehicle’s longevity. With proper maintenance and timely repairs, you can avoid the risks associated with driving with a leaking pinion seal. Stay vigilant, and if you notice any signs of a leak, seek professional help immediately. Your safety and the health of your vehicle depend on it.

Car Maintenance Schedule: Ensuring Longevity and Performance

person pouring oil into car engine

Regular Car Maintenance Schedule 

A car maintenance schedule is crucial for ensuring the longevity, reliability, and performance of your vehicle. Things like tire maintenance, regular oil changes, and brake system maintenance can help ensure that your car stays fully functional for years to come. Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you create and follow a maintenance schedule. And if you need to schedule a vehicle service in Lombard and Wheaton, IL, reach out to the professionals at J1 Auto Repair. We work on a variety of makes and models, have years of experience, and stand behind all our work. Give us a call to schedule any of the services below.

Regular Oil Changes

Oil changes should be scheduled every 5,000 to 7,500 miles or as recommended by the manufacturer. This is important because regular oil changes prevent engine wear and prolong engine life by providing proper lubrication and removing contaminants.

Fluid Checks and Replacements

Check engine coolant levels and condition every 12 months or as recommended by the manufacturer. Replace coolant as needed to prevent overheating and corrosion. You should also check brake fluid levels and condition every 12 months. Replace brake fluid every two to three years or as recommended. Transmission fluid levels should be checked periodically and replaced as recommended by the manufacturer. Power steering fluid levels and condition should be assessed periodically. Replace power steering fluid as recommended.

Tire Maintenance

Rotate your tires every 6,000 to 8,000 miles to ensure even wear and prolong tire life. Tire pressure should be checked monthly and adjusted as needed according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Finally, drivers should check wheel alignment annually or if you notice uneven tire wear or vehicle pulling to one side.

Brake System Maintenance

Inspect brake pads, rotors, and brake lines regularly for wear and damage. Replace brake pads as needed and resurface or replace rotors if worn. Flush brake fluid every two to three years or as recommended to maintain brake performance and prevent corrosion.

Keep Your Car in Good Condition with Regular Maintenance

Air Filter Replacement

Replace the engine air filter every 12 months or as recommended by the manufacturer to ensure proper airflow and engine performance. A clean air filter prevents contaminants from entering the engine, improving fuel efficiency and prolonging engine life.

Battery Maintenance

Regularly check battery terminals and cables for corrosion and secure connections. Test battery voltage and condition annually or if you experience starting or charging issues. Replace the battery as needed, typically every three to five years depending on usage and climate conditions.

Scheduled Inspections and Tune-Ups

Follow the manufacturer’s recommended schedule for routine inspections, tune-ups, and scheduled maintenance services. These services may include checking and adjusting ignition timing, replacing spark plugs, inspecting belts and hoses, and performing general vehicle diagnostics.

Check Engine Light and Diagnostic Scans

Address any illuminated warning lights promptly, especially the check engine light. Use diagnostic scans to identify and address potential issues before they worsen.

Seasonal Maintenance

Prepare your vehicle for seasonal changes by checking and servicing components such as the cooling system, heating system, windshield wipers, and battery.

By following a comprehensive car maintenance schedule and addressing issues promptly, you can ensure the longevity, reliability, and performance of your vehicle, ultimately saving you time and money on repairs and replacements in the long run. If you need car maintenance in Lombard and Wheaton, IL, reach out to our professionals at 630-932-4427. We look forward to serving you.

Is It Worth Replacing Water Pump?

Engine water pump

Learn the Importance of Engine Water Pumps

Under the hood of your car is the engine along with other components and parts, one of which is the water pump. Replacement of any of those components and part are often something you can’t delay, especially the water pump. 

What does the water pump do? 

The water pump is a crucial component of the cooling system of a car engine. It pushes the coolant from the radiator through the cooling system, into the engine, then back to the radiator. The coolant absorbs heat from the engine and transfers it into air at the radiator. 

What happens if you don’t have a water pump replacement done?

When the water pump isn’t working, the coolant sits inside the cooling system, and the engine overheats. This can seriously damage the engine and can damage other components and parts connected to the engine. When the water pump isn’t working water pump replacement is absolutely necessary. 

How do you know if the water pump is going bad?

It may start slowly or it may just quit working altogether. There are four common symptoms that your car may need a water pump replacement: 

1. Coolant Leaking

There can be a number of reasons why a coolant is leaking from your car, but the most common reason is the water pump is failing or completely quit working. When you notice water leaking from the backside of the engine, schedule an appointment with your mechanic to inspect the engine. 

2. Engine Overheats

An overheating engine often happens when the water pump isn’t circulating the coolant throughout the engine. As we stated earlier, a failing water pump can cause serious engine damage if you don’t get a water pump replacement soon. 

3. Coolant In The oil

Oil and water don’t mix! So, if you discover there is coolant in the oil, it is time for a water pump replacement. 

4. Odd Engine Sounds

When a water pump begins to go out, it will make a squealing noise. This happens because there is a damaged or loose pulley inside the water pump, and it isn’t circulating the coolant. A water pump replacement is necessary sooner than later, or you could find yourself broken down on the side of the road. 

Can a car be driven with a bad water pump?

You can, but mechanics advise not to! As we have mentioned already, the water pump is what keeps the coolant circulating through the engine to keep it from overheating. If you notice any of the issues we listed above, take your car to a mechanic and have them inspect the possibility of a water pump replacement. 

How much does a water pump replacement cost?

There are a few factors that influence the cost of a water pump replacement. Factors like the type of engine, water pump location, the replacement water pump, and of course the labor cost, which is more than the other factors. 

The average cost of a water pump replacement can start around $500 and could cost over $1,000 with a breakdown estimation as follows: 

Approximate water pump costs are between $200 and up to $500. Labor costs can vary between auto garages and auto shops. Some will charge by the hour and others have a flat rate for basic jobs like water pump replacements. 

How long does it take to install a water pump replacement?

Water pumps are buried under other components, requiring a mechanic to use special tools based on the year, make, and model of the car. In most cases, water pump replacement can be done within three hours or less. Often, mechanics recommend replacing the timing belt at the same time they do the water pump replacement because they typically wear out at the same time. 

Is a water pump replacement worthwhile?

Absolutely!  As we have mentioned throughout this piece, the water pump is essential to the engine operating at a cool temperature to keep it from overheating. If you notice any of the issues we’ve listed, take your car immediately to a mechanic to have it assessed. If the mechanic recommends a water pump replacement, follow that advice to eliminate the possibility of your engine overheating and leaving you stranded. 

What is the lifespan of a water pump? 

Having your oil changed, tires rotated, and the radiator coolant level checked should be among your routine car maintenance and upkeep. The lifespan of a water pump averages between 60,000 miles and 90,000 miles. By 100,000 miles, a water pump replacement is going to be necessary sooner rather than later.

In Summary

Some of the indications we have mentioned about a water pump failing can also be indicative of other components failing, including the engine. This is why it is important to have your mechanic inspect the problem you’re having to determine which component is the problem. For expert water pump replacement in Lombard and Wheaton, IL, call us now at 630-932-4427!

How to Tell if Your Car Radiator Needs Replacing

A Car Engine

Whether it is on the roadways of Lombard, Illinois, or anywhere else, an overheating radiator isn’t anything to ignore. While most times, the radiator will outlast the time you own your car, when your mechanic recommends a radiator replacement, you shouldn’t take that advice in passing. 

What purpose does the radiator serve?

Your vehicle’s radiator is a key component to the cooling system for the engine, and the engine is a key component of you getting from point A to Points B, C, D, etc. The radiator is like your body’s hypothalamus gland. When your body gets hot, the hypothalamus gland cools you down and the radiator does the same for your vehicle’s engine. 

Simply put, the main function of the radiator is to disperse a mixture of coolant (antifreeze) and water throughout the fins. This releases the excess heat the engine has built up. It also takes in cooled air and passes it throughout the entire engine.

So, when the hypothalamus gland equivalent of your vehicle, the radiator, isn’t working properly,  a radiator replacement is needed if it can’t be repaired. 

Can a car radiator be repaired? 

Just like the hypothalamus gland can be reset with certain foods and therapy, the vehicle’s radiator can sometimes be repaired. A radiator that is leaking may be repairable, depending on where the leak is located. In most cases, however, a mechanic will recommend a radiator replacement due to the high temperatures and pressure a radiator is exposed to while driving.

Is radiator replacement a big job?

Well, it isn’t the easiest part of vehicle mechanics, with the average radiator replacement job taking between 2 hours and up to 5 hours. The time to disconnect and remove the existing radiator can be complicated, and installing the radiator replacement can be complicated as well. 

What does a radiator replacement cost? 

The make, model, and year of the vehicle will have an impact on the cost of a radiator replacement, but on average, you can expect to pay anywhere between $400 and as much as $900 or more. This includes the radiator replacement and the labor to remove the existing one, install the new radiator, add new coolant, and test the radiator for leaks. The radiator replacement itself is the least expensive part of this. The expense is in the labor and the intensity of the job.

Can you do your radiator replacement?

A mechanically inclined person can do their radiator replacement and save the labor cost of a mechanic doing the work. Having it done by a professional can prove the labor costs are worthwhile for many people though, keep reading to find out why. 

What does a radiator replacement job entail? 

As with any car repair, safety should be the first concern for you and your vehicle. With a radiator replacement, there are electrical connections that need to be disconnected which can be done by disconnecting the battery. If the battery isn’t connected, none of the electrical features of a vehicle can work. (Follow this blog for a car battery replacement!)

If you put the vehicle on jacks or ramps, make sure you chock the wheels and put the emergency brake on. Allow the engine time to cool before starting a radiator replacement job. There are sharp edges in and on the car engine compartment, and the radiator itself. Wearing protective eyewear and gloves is recommended when doing a radiator replacement. The steps for this project include: 


Before you assume you need a radiator replacement, inspect the entire coolant system for the problem. This includes inspecting the overflow cap and the radiator. Inspect the belts and hoses to see if any are broken, cracked, or otherwise damaged. Inspect the fan clutch that is located between the radiator and the water pump motor to make sure there isn’t any play within the bearings. And check the thermostat! Before you go to all the work for radiator replacement, the overheating problem could be as simple as replacing the thermostat. 


If you determine a radiator replacement is needed, you’ll to drain the fluid. Start by placing a plastic container under the radiator then remove the radiator cap. Next, either remove the bottom hose or open the petcock valve. This will allow the coolant to drain. 


After the coolant has completely drained, this shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes, and remove all clamps, hoses, and bolts. This includes the upper and lower hoses, the fan and fan shroud, cooler lines coming from the transmission, the mounting bolts to the A/C condenser, and all radiator mounting bolts. Keep these parts organized, making tags on each component and where it came from can be helpful. 


Now it is time to remove the radiator, usually done by lifting it up and out. Now will be the time you discover you didn’t disconnect something! 


You are now ready to install your radiator replacement. This will be reconnecting and installing all the things you removed earlier. (You’ll wish you tagged these parts now if you didn’t!). 


Make sure to close the petcock, caps, and valves on the new unit and that it is bolted in correctly along with the fan and fan shroud. Use distilled water, read the label on the jug of coolant, and add the appropriate amounts to create a 50/50 mixture unless the owner’s manual suggests differently. 


During a radiator replacement air can get trapped within the cooling system. This needs to be bled out to prevent the engine from overheating.  To do this start the vehicle and let it run for approximately 20 minutes. Watch the heat gauge to make sure the engine isn’t overheating and watch under the hood for leaks.

Keep Things From Heating Up! 

Some indications will tell you that either radiator repair or radiator replacement is necessary, such as: 

  • Coolant Leaking: You may notice puddles under the front of your vehicle on the ground. Smelling it will tell you if it is coolant. 
  • Overheating Engine: If you notice the heat gauge is reaching the high side and staying, your vehicle may need a radiator replacement or repair. 
  • Sludge Forming: When you have your oil changed, the technician will typically check all fluids. If they notice the cooling system has a build-up of sludge, they will recommend having the radiator inspected by a mechanic. 
  • Sweet Smelling: If you notice a sweet sick-like smell coming from your car, have a mechanic check the radiator. 

Can I replace the airbags myself?

A Deployed Air Bag

Airbags for vehicles were introduced in the 1970s and were only found in high-end vehicles. It would be 1998 before it became required by federal law for all cars to have them installed at the factory on the driver and passenger sides. And today, if you’re driving a car made after 1998 and the airbags deploy for any reason, you are responsible for airbag replacement

Why are airbags considered to be an important safety feature?

It has been determined after studies by the NHTSA, (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), and the insurance industry that when combined with seat belts, airbags are a lifesaving measure. Between the years 1987 and 2017, over 50,000 lives were saved by front airbags deployed during moderate to severe wrecks. For wrecks at this level, air bag replacement isn’t possible, which results in the vehicle being totaled. 

How do airbags help the driver and passengers? 

Airbags minimize the possibility of the upper body or head being struck inside the vehicle during a wreck. When using the seatbelt, as is the law in Lombard, Illinois, and in all other states except New Hampshire, the chances of airbag-related injuries are minimized. 

How much does airbag replacement cost?

On average, airbag replacement costs can start around $1,000 and go ward to $5,000. The factors that have an impact on the cost of airbag replacement include: 

  • The make, model, and year of the vehicle
  • The location of the airbag replacement 
  • The extent of damage to the airbag and surrounding area

Airbag replacements are done by a certified mechanic, which charges in the area of $100/per hour and upward, in addition to the base air bag replacement charge. 

Can airbag replacement be a DIY project? 

The high cost of airbag replacement is a sticker shock for sure, but no, this is not a DIY project. Airbag replacement must be done by a certified mechanic or technician. Why can’t you do your airbag replacement? There are specialized tools and procedures for this, beginning with removing the deployed airbag without damaging other parts of the vehicle. 

Take the time to review your vehicle insurance policy now before you need to file a claim and confirm that the cost of airbag replacement is covered. It is rarely unlikely that it wouldn’t be the cost of airbag replacement is often a deciding factor for an insurance company to declare a vehicle is totaled.

So, is it not worthwhile having a deployed airbag replacement done? 

It will depend on how severe the damage around the airbag and the airbag sensors are, along with the amount of other damage to the vehicle. But airbag replacement isn’t always required after an accident. Sometimes the mechanic or technician can reset the airbags and airbag sensors. 

Can you drive a vehicle with the airbags deployed?

In most cases, a vehicle is still drivable with deployed airbags and there isn’t any law prohibiting driving a vehicle without airbags. However, as safety technology improves, car manufacturers have designed vehicles involved in an accident for the engine to shut off and not start. 

One reason for this is to prevent a fire starting from any possible fuel leaks. However, a vehicle without airbags will not pass a state safety inspection, making the vehicle illegal to operate until air bag replacement has been completed by a certified mechanic or technician.

At what speed do airbags deploy?

Today, vehicles are manufactured so that the airbag protection of the drivers and passengers is improved when seatbelts are used. The front airbag will deploy for unbelted occupants upon impact at speeds between 10 and 12 miles per hour. For occupants using seatbelts, an impact at a higher speed, around 16 miles per hour, the airbags will deploy.  

What is the impact of airbags deploying? 

It takes between 20 and 30 milliseconds for an airbag to deploy inside a vehicle cabin that measures 2.5 cubic feet. So, an unbelted driver will inflate on an average of 23 milliseconds when the rate of driving speed is at 30 mph. 

The technology of airbags has advanced over the years. Today there are airbags with multistage development that adjust the inflation speed and pressure to match the occupant’s size. Sensors are installed that read the seat’s position and the weight of the occupant, and if the seatbelt or child safety seats are in place. This technology, unfortunately, has increased the cost of airbag replacements.

Are all airbags the same size in a vehicle? 

No, the driver’s airbag is smaller than the passenger airbag.  because there is less space before the driver is hurled into the steering wheel versus the front passenger being hurled into the dashboard. However, after any accident, both sides should be inspected for needing airbag replacement. 

What is inside airbags? 

When you’re involved in an accident, the impact will tighten the seatbelt, and the airbag will deploy that is filled with nitrogen gas. This is an expensive and hazardous compound that vehicle manufacturers have been working to replace since the introduction of airbags and airbag replacement.

Over the years, the chemistry has evolved that inflates deployed airbags. Vehicle manufacturers are constantly looking for a more efficient yet less expensive and less hazardous compound. 

Keeping You Safe

While airbags and seatbelts can be aggravating for many drivers, the results of over 50,000 lives being saved between 1987 and 2017 should be convinced of the importance of airbag replacement.  

What is a Hybrid Car Battery?

Engine car battery

Hybrid Battery Basics

In and around Lombard, Illinois, and all around the world, cars have come a long way. And while they may not be flying, they can be powered by a hybrid car battery today. So, just what is a hybrid car battery? In simple terms, it is a battery pack that contains multiple cells that initiate a massive charge that is necessary to power a hybrid car.

For the longer explanation, hybrid car batteries have two electrodes that sit in an electrolyte solution. A polymer film keeps those electrodes separated to prevent them from short-circuiting. Then, when the hybrid vehicle they are installed in is turned on, it bridges the electrodes.

What is a hybrid car? 

A hybrid car combines an electric motor and a gasoline engine. This system allows the car to recapture its energy with regenerative braking. The electric motor does all the work at times, and other times, the gasoline engine does all the work. And other times, they work together, with help from a hybrid car battery.

This hybrid operation burns less gasoline, resulting in better fuel economy. The electric part of the car gives it an added performance boost in certain situations. 

How long do batteries last in a hybrid car?

The average lifespan of a Hybrid car battery is between 100,000 and 200,000 miles. The majority of hybrid car manufacturers warranty the battery for up to 100,000 miles or eight years. Some factors can impact the lifespan of a hybrid car battery such as:

  • Pushing the limits of the vehicle will put a strain on a hybrid car battery. By practicing gentle acceleration and braking, you can extend the lifespan.
  • Extreme temperature changes will minimize the performance and shorten the lifespan of a hybrid car battery. During the summer, it is recommended to park in the shade and during the winter, keeping the car garaged will extend the lifespan of a hybrid car battery. 
  • Maintaining the manufacturer’s recommended check-up schedule will ensure a longer lifespan of a hybrid car battery. 

Can a hybrid car battery run out of power?

Yes, a hybrid car battery can run out of charge. At this point, the gasoline motor takes over and provides the power needed for the car to move. Fortunately, the computer system in hybrid cars does not allow the hybrid car battery to completely drain, preventing it from being damaged. 

Can a hybrid car run on gas only?

Hybrid cars have a gas-powered combustion engine and an electric-powered engine. The driving conditions and speed determine the power, so when the car is going at a lower speed, the car operates on a hybrid car battery. The internal computer system sends signals when to give the car gas for acceleration power. There are three types of hybrid cars: 

  • Full hybrid: This car runs on either one of the power sources or both at the same time. Either way, it recharges the hybrid car battery. 
  • Mild hybrid: There is an electric motor and hybrid car battery that assists the gas-powered engine, but the hybrid car battery is required, even when powered by gas. 
  • Plug-in hybrid: This hybrid car has both a gas-powered engine and an electric-powered motor. The onboard hybrid car battery can be recharged at a charging station.

How much does it cost to replace a hybrid car battery?

While a hybrid car can help your fuel economy and the environment with less emission, the cost of a hybrid car battery. This average cost can start around $2,000 and go up to $10,000. The upside to this is most hybrid car owners are ready to trade the car in before the hybrid car battery needs replacing. 

Is the cost of a hybrid car battery worthwhile?

When you consider the fact that you’re likely going to trade a hybrid car in on a newer model before the hybrid car battery needs replacing.  But, if you aren’t the type to trace a car in, keeping it till ‘wheels fall off’, then yes, replacing a hybrid car battery system is worthwhile.  

In Closing 

The majority of American car owners are still not 100% convinced about going with electric cars. This is the country of muscle cars and that is most likely never going to disappear. But we should keep in mind the benefits of driving a car with a hybrid car battery: 

  • Less trips to the gas station
  • Less maintenance cost 
  • Less emissions and air pollution

But there are disadvantages to having a vehicle that depends on a hybrid car battery, such as: 

  • Long-distance driving can be problematic because a hybrid car battery functions better at speeds under 50 mph. If you’re planning on hitting the highways, you’ll lose some fuel mileage. 
  • The upfront investment of purchasing a hybrid car battery, which we addressed earlier in this article. However, the fuel efficiency re-coups some of that expense over time, making this a long-term ROI. 

Call us now at 630-932-4427 for a new hybrid car battery in Lombard and Wheaton, IL!

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.