What is a solenoid?

Your vehicle’s starter motor has the important job of starting the engine. But something also has to start the starter. And that something is the solenoid. In most automotive applications today, the solenoid is attached to the starter, with the two of them getting removed as a unit when necessary.

How a solenoid works

When running properly, and as long as it has a supply of fuel, the internal combustion engine continues to run by itself in an ongoing process from the inertia of the engine’s moving parts. But starting the engine is a separate process to get that inertia moving in the first place. This is the job of the starting system, whose main components include the:

  • Battery
  • Starter motor
  • Solenoid
  • Starter switch

Starting an engine: The first action

The process involves not one, but two separate electric currents – a stronger one and a weaker one. When activated, usually by turning a key in the ignition switch, the weaker current passes through the switch and to the solenoid. At that point, the current forces two large contacts to come together in the solenoid, which allows the stronger electric current to pass through the solenoid’s contacts. These contacts carry a current that requires heavy wiring cables directly from the battery. This current is heavy enough that it would be unwise to send it through a hand-operated switching mechanism. Hence, the need for the weaker current through the ignition switch.

The stronger current passes to the starter motor where it initiates two separate actions. The starter motor is designed so that the electric current activates a lever, forcing a small gear outward on a spring shaft. When extended, this gear, called a pinion, comes in contact with a toothed gear on the outer rim of a large flywheel on the end of the engine’s drive shaft. This large gear is called the starter ring gear.

Starting an engine: The second action

The second action in a direct current electric motor is the rotation of its central shaft, caused by the larger current passing through the motor. A motor transforms electric energy into the mechanical energy of the central shaft’s rotation. It does this because the electric current interacts with the magnetic field in the starter motor and results in the rotor on the shaft beginning to turn. By the time this turning action reaches the motor’s designed top speed, the pinion at the end of this shaft has already engaged the ring gear on the flywheel. The engine then starts running on its own and the starter’s safety features automatically disengage the pinion from the ring gear. The spring brings the pinion safely back to its resting position and the job of the starting mechanism is done.

When starting, if you hold the ignition key in the “start” position a little too long, you will encounter a problem. Here, too, is a spring that brings the switch back to the “on” position from “start” as soon as you release the key. If you fail to do so, you will hear the evidence of your mistake pretty quickly. The good news is that your mistake is not as bad as it sounds. The safety mechanism in the starter has already released the pinion from the ring gear. The bad news is if you do this often or for any extended period, you may drastically shorten the life of the starter motor.

How Can I Tell If My Radiator Is Leaking?

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When the temperature gauge on your dashboard reads high or a temperature warning light comes on, you have a cooling system problem that may be caused by a leak — be it in the radiator itself or some other component.

First, make sure it’s coolant that’s leaking, not another fluid. (Coolant is often referred to as antifreeze, but technically coolant is a 50/50 mix of antifreeze and water.) You can easily check the coolant level in your see-through overflow tank. If it’s empty or low, the next step should be to check the coolant level in the radiator, but that should be done only when the engine is cool.

Once you know you’re losing coolant, the radiator is a good place to start. Some radiator leaks will be easy to spot — such as a puddle underneath the radiator — but others not so much. It’s best to check the radiator from every angle, not just from above, and pay particular attention to seams and the bottom. Corrosion inside the radiator or holes from road debris also can cause leaks.

Antifreeze comes in different colors — green, yellow and pinkish-red, for example — feels like slimy water and usually has a sweet smell. If you can’t see coolant dripping or seeping, look for rust, tracks or stains on the radiator. Those are telltale signs of where it has leaked.

If the radiator appears to be OK, the cooling system offers several possibilities for leaks, including the hoses from the radiator to the engine, the radiator cap, water pump, engine block, thermostat, overflow tank, heat exchanger (a small radiator that circulates hot coolant into the dashboard for cabin heating) and others. A blown gasket between the cylinder head and engine block is another possibility, allowing coolant inside the combustion chambers — a problem that must be addressed immediately by a mechanic.

If you can’t find a leak, have it checked by a professional. Coolant has a way of escaping only under pressure when the car is running — possibly in the form of steam, which may not leave a trace.

Roadside Emergency Kit a Perfect Gift for the College Bound

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School is almost back in session and students across the country will soon be packing up their cars and heading off to college. If you are searching for that perfect gift for the college-bound kid in your life, the Car Care Council suggests putting together a roadside emergency kit.

“A roadside kit is easy to assemble, not too expensive and extremely useful, plus it could be a life saver in the event of an emergency,” said Rich White, executive director of the Car Care Council. “While it’s always a good idea to be prepared for the unexpected while on the road, the best option is to avoid breakdowns and car trouble wherever possible. Performing basic maintenance and observing a regular service schedule can help avoid unforeseen road emergencies.”

Roadside emergency items can fit into a small duffle bag or rubber storage tote and include the following:

  • Jumper cables
  • Emergency flares
  • Flashlight with batteries
  • Blankets and extra clothes
  • Non-perishable snacks and bottled water
  • First aid kit, including essential medications
  • Portable USB charger to keep the cell phone running even if the car is not
  • Ice scraper, snow brush and small shovel for winter driving
  • The Car Care Guide, available free of charge at carcare.org

Visit the Car Care Council’s website to access a number of tips and resources for vehicle maintenance, including a free custom service schedule.

The Car Care Council is the source of information for the “Be Car Care Aware” consumer education campaign promoting the benefits of regular vehicle care, maintenance and repair to consumers. For a copy of the council’s Car Care Guide or for more information, visit www.carcare.org.

How Much Does it Cost to Drive?

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AAA’s analysis covers vehicles equipped with standard features and optional equipment including automatic transmission, air conditioning, power steering, antilock brakes and cruise control, to name a few.

Fuel: Fuel costs were based on $2.139 per gallon, the late-2015 U.S. price from AAA’s Fuel Gauge Report, www.FuelGaugeReport.com. Fuel mileage is based on Environmental Protection Agency fuel-economy ratings weighted 60 percent city and 40 percent highway driving.

Maintenance: Costs include retail parts and labor for normal, routine maintenance as specified by the vehicle manufacturer. They also include the price of a comprehensive extended warranty with one warranty claim deductible of $100 and other wear-and-tear items that can be expected to require service during five years of operating the vehicle. Sales tax is included on a national average basis.

Tires: Costs are based on the price of one set of replacement tires of the same quality, size and rating as those that came with the vehicle. Mounting, balancing and sales tax also are included.

Insurance: AAA based its insurance costs on a full-coverage policy for a married 47-year-old male with a good driving record, living in a small city and commuting three to 10 miles daily to work. The policy includes $100,000/$300,000 coverage with a $500 deductible for collision and a $100 deductible for comprehensive coverage.

License, Registration and Taxes: Costs include all governmental taxes and fees payable at time of purchase, as well as fees due each year to keep the vehicle licensed and registered. Costs are computed on a national average basis.

Depreciation: Depreciation is based on the difference between new-vehicle purchase price and estimated trade-in value at the end of five years.

Finance: Costs are based on a five-year loan, with 10 percent down, at the national average interest rate for five credit rating categories weighted by market share. The loan amount includes taxes and the first year’s license fees, both computed on a national average basis.

Figuring Your Costs

To figure your fuel cost, begin with a full tank of fuel and write down the odometer reading. Each time you fill up, note the number of gallons, how much you pay and the odometer reading. These figures can then be used to calculate average miles per gallon and cost of fuel per mile. For example

Auto Body Repair for Classic Cars

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When you buy a classic car, you will almost certainly need to have some kind of auto body work done to restore the car to its former glory. Although it can be very satisfying to restore a classic car yourself, it can be hard work, and you may not be able to get the same quality as a professional repair.Many rare or classic cars appreciate in value depending on the condition or what has been done to the vehicle. Any alterations or repairs can affect a classic car’s value, so it’s best to leave the auto body repair to the professionals to protect your investment.

Read more here: https://goo.gl/o3QDmZ

Keep Your Car Breathing Well: Change the Air Filters

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You need clean air to breathe and so does your car, and a vehicle’s air filters make that possible. Car owners should have the engine and cabin air filters inspected and changed regularly to ensure vehicle longevity and interior comfort.

Air filters are your vehicle’s first line of defense against contaminants that reduce cabin air quality and negatively impact engine performance. Community car care events held throughout the country reveal that nearly one out of five vehicles is in need of air filter replacement, so it’s evident that motorists often overlook this simple, yet important service. Continue reading