HOURS MAP

Affordable Transmission & Performance - About Us

  • Move it or Lose It (Dormant Vehicles)

    Dec 24, 2023

    When it comes to your vehicle, driving it too much can cause some issues.  But what about not driving a vehicle enough? That has consequences as well.

    Here are a few things that can happen if a vehicle isn't driven enough.  When the engine doesn't operate, the oil isn't lubricating. That means some mechanisms that need periodic lubrication aren't getting it.  And oil that sits around breaks down over time.  In fact, some experts say you should change oil more often if your vehicle sits in the driveway than if you drive it regularly. 

    You've heard that expression, "Take it on the highway and blow out the engine.” Well, carbon buildup used to be a problem in older vehicles.  But the real culprit these days is moisture that builds up from combustion if your vehicle never gets hot enough to burn it off. That water vapor can mix with oil and cause sludge to form. There are many vehicle systems (battery, exhaust system, engine seals, etc.) that benefit from driving your vehicle at its optimal operating temperature for a while.

    Spark plugs can deteriorate unless they are fired up.  The gas tank can rust from the inside if the metal is exposed from not having fuel in it.  Rodents and insects may see a sitting vehicle as a luxury hotel.  Brakes can rust after sitting around without being used.  Seals and gaskets can dry out.

    One wise thing to do is check the operating manual. Some will spell out a maintenance schedule for vehicles that aren't driven regularly. 

    One suggestion? Discuss your vehicle's maintenance with your service advisor. Let him or her know how often you drive the vehicle and what you use it for.  Then, you can come up with a maintenance schedule tailored for you, one that might not be covered in the owner's manual. 

    If you do have a vehicle that's been sitting around for a long time, it may be wise to have it towed to your service facility rather than trying to drive it with brakes that may not work, spark plugs that may not fire reliably and other systems that may compromise your safety and those of others on the road. 

    You may think it's great to have a low-mileage vehicle that you've barely driven, but a complicated, sophisticated machine such as a car, SUV or truck needs regular attention to keep it running safely… and reliably.

    Affordable Transmissions
    31533 125 1/2 Street
    PRINCETON, MN 55371
    (763) 533-1169
    http://www.affordabletransmission-mn.com




    Don't Start with That (Bad Starter Motor)

    Nov 26, 2023

    We've all heard that expression, "That's a non starter." When it comes to your vehicle, that's not music to a driver's ears. That sickening sound when you start the ignition and instead of hearing the engine crank, you hear it slowly turn over and your dash lights go dim. 

    There can be many reasons a vehicle won't start, so here's a little history of how the starter came to be an important component of modern vehicles.

    You have to move the engine's components to start it. The first cars had a crank that the driver would insert into the front, then start turning things over by hand.  When the engine started, you had to release that crank immediately or risk a broken arm.  Yes, it happened many times.  So, they came up with a better idea: an electric starter, which was a big advance in automotive technology.

    With this system, an electric motor rotated a series of gears that turned the gasoline engine's crankshaft so its pistons and parts moved and the engine drew in air.  While this happened, electricity went to the spark plugs and fuel headed to the cylinders.  When the gasoline engine caught, the starter quickly disengaged. Hey, no more broken arms!

    Modern systems use the same principle, so when your vehicle won't start, here are a few things to look out for that might point to the starter. 

    If the engine turns over s-l-o-w-l-y, it may mean the electric starter motor may just be wearing out and doesn't have enough cranking power.  Bushings, brushes, wire windings and a special switch called a commutator may be going bad.

    If when you engage the ignition you hear a faint click, that could be a symptom one or more of the starter's components have failed. If you hear a loud click, it could mean that an electrical switch called a solenoid may not be switching the motor on.

    If you hear your engine start to turn over but then it stops and is followed by a grinding sound, some gears may not be meshing the way they should.

    There may be many more causes (bad alternator, relay, battery, engine, key fob), so this is when it's time to turn it over to your service facility.  Sometimes they can send out their own tow truck or recommend a reputable towing company.

    But it's best not to let it get to this point.  Starter problems often give you advance warning that there is a problem with "almost" not starting or "almost" not turning over.  So when you see that very first sign, "start" on over to talk this one over with your service advisor.  The opposite of a "non-starter" is a starter, and that is music to anyone's ears.

    Affordable Transmissions
    31533 125 1/2 Street
    PRINCETON, MN 55371
    (763) 533-1169
    http://www.affordabletransmission-mn.com




    Poor Reflections (Door Mirror Problems)

    Sep 17, 2023

    Mirror, mirror on the door, why is my vision there so poor? Well, you could have a broken outside rearview mirror that's disabled your blind spot vision there and endangering your ability to see some of the traffic around you. 

    Outside rearview (or door) mirrors are important safety devices that are thoughtfully designed to help drivers see.  And there are a variety of ways those door mirrors can develop problems.

    One is when the glass is broken in them.  Sometimes it's caused by an accident or vandalism.  But without your ability to see in that mirror, you could be driving blind, unable to see drivers approaching from the rear in adjacent lanes.  Sometimes it's as simple as having the glass replaced.  You'll greatly enhance your safety if you do.

    Then there's the door mirror that you can't adjust.  First, let's look at a common scenario in later models, the power mirror.  They're great when they're working, awful when they're not.  Sometimes the motor fails, the switch goes bad or the wiring fails to deliver power.

    Or how about the manually-adjusted door mirror that has either frozen up or just flops around? In this case, the mechanism has corroded, jammed up or a part has broken.  In both power- and manually-adjusted door mirrors, it sometimes can be hard to keep them in the right position.  Plus, every time there's a driver change, it may be hard to adjust those broken mechanisms by hand.

    Finally, heated door mirrors can be extraordinarily useful in eliminating fogging or icing up in certain weather conditions.  But those heating elements can fail, switches can break or wiring can go bad.  Suddenly your fogged over, frozen mirrors aren't doing you any good at all. 

    Good drivers use those outside rearview mirrors all the time.  They should be working the way designers intended, to provide the driver with vital traffic position information.  That's the kind of safety device you should get fixed or replaced sooner rather than later.  It's well worth it if you prevent even one little accident. 

    Affordable Transmissions
    31533 125 1/2 Street
    PRINCETON, MN 55371
    (763) 533-1169
    http://www.affordabletransmission-mn.com




    A Honking Big Jam (Stuck Horn)

    Jun 4, 2023

    At one time or another, most drivers honk their horn at someone who might be texting at a stoplight or not paying attention when they're driving.  But what happens when you tap on your horn and all of a sudden it won't quit? Everyone's looking at you like you're an angry jerk and all you want to do is turn it off!

    It helps to know the basics of what's happening when you honk your horn.  There's a switch in the steering wheel, of course, and when you press on it, it sends power to a relay which then energizes the horn.  Bingo.  Sound.  When the horn sticks on, one of these parts or the wiring has developed a problem. 

    With the ear-splitting noise inside your cabin, it may be hard to keep your cool, but do your best to stay calm.  Try pushing the horn several times; it may un-stick the switch if you're lucky.  If not, there are a couple of things you can try.

    First, if you can, pull your vehicle off the road and into a spot where you're not disrupting traffic.  If you feel comfortable rummaging around in your vehicle's fuse box, you might be able to pull the fuse that manages the circuit for your horn system.  A hint: the fuse boxes sometimes have a label inside showing which fuse goes to which part of the vehicle. Find the fuse that goes to the horn and pull it out (sometimes there's a fuse-pulling tool inside the fuse box).

    But many people don't feel like tackling that.  Yes, you can drive over to a service facility with the horn blaring (not the best idea).  Or call your service facility and see if they might be able to send someone over to where you are so they can shut off the horn.

    At the shop, a technician can check wiring, switches, relays and other components to find out what's wrong.  This is something that should be left to a professional for a couple of reasons.  First, repairs around the steering wheel can involve airbags.  Second, some horn components may be part of a vehicle's alarm system. 

    The bad news is that your horn may not give you any warning before it starts blaring uncontrollably.  But the good news is that a horn doesn't malfunction all that often, and now you have a plan if it does.    

    Affordable Transmissions
    31533 125 1/2 Street
    PRINCETON, MN 55371
    (763) 533-1169
    http://www.affordabletransmission-mn.com




    Slippery When Wet (Driving on Wet Leaves)

    May 28, 2023

    When the leaves fall, you might take a sightseeing trip to see them at peak color.  Or you may simply live in a spot where there are a lot of trees.  When those leaves get wet, you'd be surprised to learn just how slippery they can be. 

    We all know ice is slippery to drive on.  What causes tires to slip on ice is a thin layer of water that comes between the road and your tires.  Wet leaves can have the same effect.  The surfaces of leaves are super slick when they're dry, even worse when you add a little moisture.  There's one other thing about leaves.  They are smaller than each tire's footprint, so your tread grips the pavement with uneven traction.

    One study showed that your stopping distance can more than double on a surface covered with wet leaves when compared to that same road when it's dry.  Double! That can spell trouble.  So if you find yourself heading into an area with wet leaves on the road, slow down before you get into a jam.  If you do start skidding, use the same driving techniques as you would on ice.  Let off the accelerator, resist jamming on the brakes and steer into the skid.  Again, speed can get you into trouble fast on a slippery surface.

    One thing that can help is having tires that are appropriate for the way you drive and the places you travel.  Your service advisor can offer suggestions for tires that are right for you.  Have a technician examine your tread depth and the condition of your tires' rubber.  Sun can break down rubber over time, and age can cause tires to fail, even if their tread seems to be deep enough. 

    Your tire is the point of traction between your vehicle and the road.  Uncontrolled skids spell trouble and danger.  Slow down when you see wet leaves on the road.  They can make traction disappear before you know it.


    Affordable Transmissions
    31533 125 1/2 Street
    PRINCETON, MN 55371
    (763) 533-1169
    http://www.affordabletransmission-mn.com




    The Right Stuff (Choosing Replacement Parts)

    May 14, 2023

    Let's face it.  Vehicles are complicated machines, each having thousands of parts.  And since they're subjected to heat, cold, vibrations, bumps and much more, these parts wear out and need to be replaced. 

    When your service advisor says you need a new part, you may have many options.  Let's say you need a new muffler.  One choice would be to get exactly the same part that was installed when the vehicle was manufactured.  The advantages are that it will perform the same way as the one it's replacing and will likely last about the same amount of time as the original.

    Some mufflers are made by the same companies that supplied the automaker when your vehicle was new (they call that an OEM part—Original Equipment Manufacturer).  And often those are the same as the part you'd buy from a dealer. A reputable vehicle service facility will know which ones these are because they replace mufflers all the time and do their homework.

    The good news is there are many different mufflers available from several manufacturers.  These are called aftermarket parts. Some of them may use different metals or a different construction technique. Some may sound a little sportier while some may make your engine perform better.  Your service advisor will discuss what your driving habits are and help choose the part that's best for you.

    You may be able to get a part that's better than the one originally installed.  Here's an example.  A repair shop discovered one owner's vehicle had developed cracks and leaks in the hoses that attach to the heater core.  They were made of plastic, and heat and pressure had caused the originals to crack.  The service advisor recommended they replace it with an aftermarket part that was made of aluminum instead, one that was more durable than the original part.

    Some aftermarket parts cost more, some cost about the same or less.  Depending on how and where you drive and what you want out of your vehicle, you can decide to buy more economical parts which might be the best fit for your needs.  Or you may decide to upgrade to a better, more expensive part.

    Affordable Transmissions
    31533 125 1/2 Street
    PRINCETON, MN 55371
    (763) 533-1169
    http://www.affordabletransmission-mn.com




    Something to Latch On To (Hood Latch Safety)

    Apr 30, 2023

    The other day, a driver was trying to open his vehicle's hood so he could add some windshield washer fluid.  But when he pulled the hood release inside the car, nothing happened. 

    Usually, opening any hood is a 2-step process.  You pull the hood release (which is usually a handle under the dashboard to the left of the steering column) and listen for the hood to pop up slightly. (It doesn't open all the way because it has a safety latch to prevent you from accidentally opening it up while you're driving.) Then, you get out and find the latch, usually through the grille near the hood.  There's a little handle on it which you push, slide or pull (there are a few different types) at which point the hood can be opened up all the way. 

    But in this driver's case, the hood would not release at all when he pulled the handle inside.  Not knowing what to do, he called his service advisor, who told him to bring it over.  The reason? A hood with a broken latch could be a safety hazard since it is possible it's not securely closed. And in this condition, it's possible for the hood to suddenly release while you are driving, obscuring your view of the road. 

    Latch issues can be caused by many things, perhaps a broken cable between the hood release and the latch.  It's possible that cable just detached or frayed after being opened so many times.  If a hood release cable isn't kept lubricated, it can corrode and just lock up.

    In this driver's case, the cable had corroded and broken, so it had to be replaced.  Unfortunately, many times you won't know you have a problem with your hood latch until one time you pull it and it breaks without warning.  When your vehicle is in for routine maintenance like an oil change, a technician will often keep an eye out for signs that your hood latch needs attention so you don't get "locked" out of your engine compartment.

    Affordable Transmissions
    31533 125 1/2 Street
    PRINCETON, MN 55371
    (763) 533-1169
    http://www.affordabletransmission-mn.com




    Go With the Flow (MAF Sensor Replacement)

    Apr 2, 2023

    A driver brought her vehicle into the shop the other day and told us how she was getting lousy fuel economy and that the engine was running rough.  Plus, the Check Engine light was on.  Our technician checked the code the engine had generated (why the Check Engine light was on) and found the problem.  It was a faulty Mass Air Flow sensor, MAF sensor for short.

    This MAF sensor is an important part of your vehicle.  What it does is calculate the amount of air going into your engine.  As you may know, air is taken into your engine where it's mixed with fuel.  Then, the spark plugs fire, that explosive fuel/air mixture detonates, and all these sequential explosions together provide the power to get your vehicle moving down the road. 

    It makes sense that if the MAF sensor isn't sending the engine's computers the correct information on the amount of air going in the engine, the fuel/air mixture isn't going to be right. It will either too rich (too much gasoline for the amount of air) or too lean (not enough gasoline for the amount of air).

    In this driver's case, the MAF sensor was damaged and needed to be replaced.  Another thing that may cause the MAF to give an incorrect reading is if its wires are dirty or faulty.  So, replacing or cleaning the wires important as well.

    Other symptoms that your MAF sensor is bad? If your engine hesitates when you step on the gas, it stalls, or your vehicle is jerky when you accelerate. 

    A malfunctioning MAF sensor is not just bad for performance.  Driving with your vehicle in that condition can cause more damage to your engine.  When you bring your vehicle in for us to check, a technician will thoroughly examine your engine to make sure all issues are taken care of.

    Affordable Transmissions
    31533 125 1/2 Street
    PRINCETON, MN 55371
    (763) 533-1169
    http://www.affordabletransmission-mn.com




    Not Too Hot and Not Too Cold (Temperature Gauge)

    Jan 22, 2023

    You know your body temperature is supposed to be 98.6 degrees F, 37 degrees C.  Your vehicle has a normal temperature, too, and if you pay attention to it, that can save you some big headaches down the road.

    Many vehicles have a temperature gauge on the dash that takes the temperature of the engine's coolant.  Some have a thermometer symbol, some read C-H (cold to hot). Many will have a red zone that shows when water temperature is getting into the danger zone.  Others are digital and have a red warning light that signals overheating.  And some vehicles have a light that goes on when the engine temperature is out of the normal range.

    If your vehicle has a gauge, pay attention to it.  If you need help locating it, ask one of our Affordable Transmissions experts to give you a quick explanation.  Chances are when the vehicle has been running for 15 minutes or more, the temperature gauge will settle into its own "normal" zone, often just below the midway point.  If you have a digital readout, remember what that "normal" temperature is.  Here's why.

    At any point when you're driving, the temperature gauge is the quickest way to get a sense that the engine is running the way it should, a quick health checkup, as it were. Say you're on a 3-hour trip, glance at that gauge every hour or so.  It should always be in the same spot.  If it starts to move one way or the other, you may be able to catch a problem before it gets serious.

    Pay special attention to it moving into the hot zone.  The needle on the gauge is the easiest and least distracting way to see an engine heating up, but on a digital gauge, start paying attention if the temperature reaches 240ºF/115ºC or more.

    Remember, though, that just because the gauge reads "hot" doesn't mean your engine is on the verge of burning up.  It could be a bad sensor and the engine will be at a normal temperature.  But it also could be a failing water pump, coolant leak or thermostat.  By pulling off the road and observing your engine, it will give you a pretty good idea if it's running hot or not.

    If the gauge is too "cold," it could be a broken gauge or thermostat sticking open.  Usually being in the cold range isn't as worrisome, but you should have it checked out since other systems may be affected.

    Heat is one of a vehicle's worst enemies, especially when it comes from within.  Know your vehicle's normal temperature and keep an eye on it.


    Affordable Transmissions
    31533 125 1/2 Street
    PRINCETON, MN 55371
    (763) 533-1169
    http://www.affordabletransmission-mn.com