Recently, a customer came in complaining of vibrations from the wheels while driving. They previously took their vehicle to a chain shop. The shop rotated and balanced the tires, but the customer was ultimately left unsatisfied as the issue promptly returned. After a quick test drive at JAMHS Auto, the problem was obvious. The tires were not properly balanced. The cause of the tire imbalance was probably not due to any fault of the previous shop's technicians. The particular vehicle in question had cladded wheels.
Cladded wheels are wheels that have aluminum rims that are coated with plastic, often chrome-colored. The plastic is relatively fragile and is easy to chip when balancing or changing tires.
Clad wheels require special tools to balance. Generally, a tire balancer will use a cone-shaped mount along with a tapered collet. While these tools work for steel and non-cladded wheels, cladded wheels require a precision flange plate that only contacts the lug holes of the rim. Without the special tools, the tire balancer may show zero, indicating the tire is fully balanced. The pressure from cone mounts can also crack the plastic, leading to the replacement of the entire wheel. If a shop doesn't have the correct precision collets and flange plates, the wheel cannot be secured tightly enough on the balancer leading to inaccurate measurements.
"Big Box" shops and dealerships will not pay as much attention to detail when it comes to your car due to their high volume. Their technicians can do the right job, but it won't be always be done right. Independent shops like JAMHS Auto will make sure to do the right job right the first time.
The timing and serpentine belts are the two belts of concern when dealing with vehicle maintenance. The serpentine belt transmits power from the engine to various accessory components, from the power steering pump and alternator to the air conditioning and water pump. The timing belt performs a vital role in ensuring all the engine components are working together. It connects the crankshaft to the camshaft to synchronize all of the movements and prevent collisions in the engine.
Signs of a bad belt
In older vehicles, it's easy to see the cracks and overall wear of the belts to assess their health. Newer belts, however, are made with more durable materials that generally will not crack. Common signs of a bad belt:
The front purpose of the differential is to manage the rotation of your vehicle's wheels. In front-wheel drive (FWD) vehicles, the transmission connects directly to the differential. In contrast, the differential in rear-wheel drive (RWD) sits between the two rear wheels of the vehicle. All-wheel drive (AWD) and similar vehicles will contain both a front differential and a rear differential. The differential is important in making turns and driving on uneven terrain. It allows your wheels to turn at different speeds to prevent skidding of the tires. It also works to prevent loss of traction in soft or uneven terrain (such as dirt roads).
The Importance of Differential Fluid
The differential fluid is usually referred to as differential oil or gear oil. The oil in your differential works to dissipate heat and lubricate the gears. Much like the engine oil, it will lose its ability to lubricate over time and requires regular service. Without healthy differential oil, the differential will rapidly overheat and wear down the gears.
Is it time to change?
If you've driven over 40,000 miles, it might be a good time to check the fluid. If you hear strange sounds from the differential, such as grinding or howling, it might be too late. At that point, the lack of lubrication has already damaged your gears. Another sign of bad differential oil is a burning smell. The oil will burn when it is no longer able to dissipate heat as it should. Check your vehicle's manual for a specific time interval. JAMHS Auto recommends a differential flush every 30,000 miles as part of your driveline service.