Blog Posts

Tech Tip: Summer Driving and Safety

Tech Tip: Summer Driving and Safety

As summer in the Sonoran desert approaches, keep these summer driving and safety tips in mind:

  1. Remember to keep your AC on fresh mode most of the time to keep your air conditioning condenser fresh and, generally, free of mildew smell.
  2. Most of us notice a mileage drop when the summer heat turns up. We have a tendency to forget that we are working our engine much harder and using that AC every time we enter our cars. Our gas mileage does drop in the summer and it seems that we are still using winter oxygenated fuel. Some pinging under even a light load may be heard.
  3. You don’t want to get stalled in this heat if you can help it. It is miserable to be caught by a dead battery. Have that battery checked, ensure the battery has a full charge, and make sure your terminal connections are clean/without corrosion and making good connections. Batteries have a real tough time in the heat, dying like light bulbs.
  4. Be sure to ground yourself to the body of the car by putting your hand on the body of vehicle, prior to pumping of fuel. This helps avoid static electricity, which can spark and ignite fuel fires. Similarly, don’t get in the car and then get back out while fueling—that is another source of static electricity.
Tech Tip: Increasing Your Gas Mileage

Tech Tip: Increasing Your Gas Mileage

You may not be able to make your engine more fuel-efficient, but good driving habits and overall vehicle maintenance can increase your gas mileage. Here’s how:

  1. Keep tires inflated to proper level at all times.
  2. Fill your gas tank at the coolest part of the day to reduce expansion of the tank and get a true fill-up.
  3. Keep your oil changed on time. Clean oil is related to emissions—dirty oil can cause a failure at the emissions station. Poor emissions and poor air-fuel mixture result in reduced gas mileage and increased pollution.
  4. Make sure your engine air filter is clean and replace when needed.
  5. Vehicle interior cabin air filters are for your personal environment. We are surprised at how soon these filters become restricted. The restriction of these filters can contribute to the reduced flow of cool air, making your condenser work harder, and using more gas. Change these filters for the air that you breathe. Please note not all vehicles are equipped with cabin air filters.
Tech Tip: Just What is a Fuel Injector and What Does It Do?

Tech Tip: Just What is a Fuel Injector and What Does It Do?

The ECM (engine control module) adjusts the amount of fuel injected into the engine cylinder to meet a variety of operating conditions. Simply, the fuel injector’s purpose is to deliver and inject the proper amount of fuel at the proper time.

The injector atomizes and directs fuel into the intake manifold. Each injector (there is one per cylinder) is installed with an insulator and seal at the manifold end to insulate the injector from heat and to prevent atmospheric pressure from leaking into the manifold. An o-ring between the delivery pipe and the injector prevents external fuel leakage.

Different engines require different injectors. Injectors are designed to pass a specified amount of fuel when opened. The number of orifice holes at the delivery tip of the injector varies; therefore, it is critical that the proper injector is replaced when the time to replace one is necessary.

Fuel injector diagram
Diagram of fuel injector courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Internally, the injector features a solenoid and needle valve. The fuel injector circuit is a ground switched circuit. In order to activate (turn on) the injector to deliver fuel, the ECM turns on a transistor that completes a path to ground. The magnetic field pulls the needle valve up, overcoming spring pressure.

This allows pressurized fuel to flow from the injector tip. When the ECM turns the circuit off, internal spring pressure will force the needle valve onto its seat, shutting off fuel flow.

Technically there is more to the story of fuel injection. Should you have more questions we can get them answered for you.

If contaminates have entered the injector, the valve may not seal completely, resulting in a leaking injector that will dribble fuel into the cylinder. When an injector leaks a repair needs to be made. Fuel cannot leak.

Injectors also can get clogged. Remember the holes at the tip of the injector? These holes can get restricted from fuel contaminates, etc., that get into the fuel system. When this happens the right amount of fuel is not getting delivered to operated the engine correctly.

The fuel injectors need to be cleaned. Give us a call and we will review the fuel injection system cleaning procedure with you.

Tech Tip: Is It Time to Get Transmission and Differential Fluids Tested?

Tech Tip: Is It Time to Get Transmission and Differential Fluids Tested?

We are witnessing heat stress on transmissions, which means it is time to get transmission and differential fluids tested and possibly changed.

When transmission fluid is dark and cloudy, vehicles have been operated repeatedly in high–demand conditions such as extended idling, stop-and-go driving, or towing.

The transmission requires regular maintenance if it is to continue to operate without failure. The maintenance schedule found in your vehicle maintenance guide indicates the appropriate fluid replacement schedule.

For example, if the vehicle is used to tow, operates on dusty, rough, muddy or salty roads, experiences extensive idling, or is used for low-speed driving and short trips, transmission and differential fluids may need to be checked and replaced more often. Most manufacturer’ schedule recommends transmission fluid be changed each 20,000 miles or 24 months. For heavier duty, however, manufacturers suggest inspection each 15,000 miles.

At Nippon, we inspect your transmission and differential fluid levels and condition every time you we change your oil.

Keep in mind that the maintenance schedules published by manufactures are generalized for every state. Our state of Arizona is very hot. It is harder on transmissions. Just think of the road heat. We strongly recommend that most vehicles have the transmission fluid changed each 15,000 miles. should inspection show dark and cloudy conditions.

At higher mileage (80,000 and up) we encourage you to think about transmission fluid exchange as opposed to transmission drain and refill. By exchanging the transmission fluid, it also provides the opportunity to have the torque converter drained and filled with clean fluid. This service extends the life of your transmission considerably. Give us a call and we will explain this very valuable service.

Keep your transmission fluid filled to the proper level at all times:

  • If the fluid level is too low, the transmission oil pump will draw air, causing the fluid level to mix with air and become aerated. Aerated fluid lowers the hydraulic pressure in the hydraulic control system, causing slippage and resulting in damage to clutches and bands inside the transmission.
  • If the fluid level is excessive (too full), planetary gears and other rotating parts will agitate and whip the fluid, causing symptoms similar to those found with too low fluid level. In addition, aerated fluid will rise within the transmission case and may leak out of the breather plug at the top of the transmission or through the dipstick tube.
  • In addition, always be sure to check the differential fluid in a transaxle. This fluid is sealed off and separate from the transmission cavity in some applications.

A reminder: All transmissions do not use the same kind of fluids. If you can’t visit Nippon, please ask your service provider to verify the type of fluid needed in your vehicle.

Tech Tip: The Right Time to Turn On -- and Off -- Your Air Conditioner

Tech Tip: The Right Time to Turn On — and Off — Your Air Conditioner

Summer has returned to Tucson. All of us are turning up the A/C in our vehicles and well… it just doesn’t feel as cool as it did last year.

Every summer when we first begin to use our air conditioning we seem to never cool off. We have not yet made our adjustment to the heat in a lot of cases. A valuable hint that is good for your engine is turn off the A/C blower switch in your vehicle before turning off your ignition. By doing this your engine can restart without the load and constraints of high heat. Once your engine has started and stabilized (about the length of time it takes to secure your seatbelt), turn on the A/C blower switch. Doing this is also easier on your battery.

When you call with an apparent A/C problem, we will ask some questions to further define the problem:

  • Is the air blowing hot?
  • Is the air blowing at all?
  • Did the condition happen all of a sudden or did you notice a gradual failure?
  • Did you hear any noises?
  • Did you smell anything?
  • Has any other facility put anything into your air conditioning system?

We may ask you to stop in and we will test the vent temperature—at no charge—to see if we need to investigate further. All may be just fine. Southern Arizona is hot! Some vehicles have a large amount of window glass resulting in a much hotter interior that takes longer to cool. Window tinting may be an option for you.

Often, we schedule an appointment for you to have an A/C service inspection performed. This service is much more than looking under your hood at the sight glass and pulling on a belt.

At Nippon, the first thing we do is to identify if there is an obvious visual failure. If none is identified, we then test the air-conditioning system for purity. An air conditioning system can only have one kind of refrigerant in it. We then install R12 or 134 refrigerant, add A/C dye into the system and circulate. We inspect all the components related to the A/C system. We record cycling temperature ranges. Inspected also are high-pressure lines and hoses. We record cabin vent temperatures. Providing there are no obvious leaks in the A/C system, we ask you to return in about a week or so. We then test for leaks from the dye we have installed and hopefully there are no further failures.

Should there be a component failure, we inform you with an accurate estimate to repair your air conditioning system. We do not proceed with a repair without an owner’s consent.

Please note that Nippon is environmentally responsible, and complies with all state and federal laws. Nothing is released into our atmosphere.

Tech Tip: The Battery Must Be Good Because the Lights Come On!

Tech Tip: The Battery Must Be Good Because the Lights Come On!

This is a common misconception. The truth is: Sometimes the battery is good.

Most the the time, however, if you hear a clicking sound when you turn your ignition key, the battery is failing or has failed, even though the lights continue to turn on.

Today’s batteries are like light bulbs—gone quickly. Additionally, our summer heat is very hard on batteries.

If you experience this condition, your vehicle will need to have a complete charging system inspection to be certain of what has failed. Nippon does not diagnose repairs needed on vehicles without a full onsite inspection—your vehicle is too important. Whether an estimate from a tow truck driver or the occasional hungry pack rat eating wires, it is critical to discover all the facts using proven inspection technologies and techniques.

To ensure the longest battery and alternator life, follow this routine before turning off your vehicle:

  1. Turn off all air conditioner/fan controls.
  2. Turn off the stereo and related components.
  3. Turn off the headlights.

Additionally, take a look under your hood once in a while and make sure that you do not have corrosion growing over your battery terminals. If there is corrosion, it needs to be removed. Even a small amount of battery terminal corrosion can keep you vehicle from starting.

Following these simple steps will give the charging components in your vehicle a longer life—they won’t have to work as hard to start the vehicle.

Nippon is pleased to sell and install AC DELCO batteries. With a nationwide warranty, these batteries are reasonably priced, long lasting, sealed, and don’t corrode. This is extremely important in all modern vehicles. The damage that a leaking, dripping battery can cause is considerable, and often very costly.

Tech Tip: The Importance of Fresh Antifreeze and a Working Thermostat

Tech Tip: The Importance of Fresh Antifreeze and a Working Thermostat

Our car’s engine cooling system is not usually something we think about until overheating in the middle of one of our impressive Southern Arizona summers.

Antifreeze keeps our engines from overheating in the summer and freezing up in the winter. Incorrect mixture does not allow for maximum performance, and can cause problems.

This maintenance should be performed every 30,000 miles or two years. When this service is performed at Nippon, we drain the entire engine block and radiator. It is important to replace as much clean antifreeze in a vehicle’s system as possible, since this is the fluid that is circulating throughout the entire engine, including all water jackets, hoses, and the water pump. And at Nippon, we do not use recycled antifreeze.

Replacing a thermostat periodically is also good preventative maintenance. The function of a thermostat is to regulate correct operating temperature for your vehicle. If you have not changed yours in a long time, you may wish to consider a new one.