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How to Fix a Blown Car Fuse

Tuesday, June 15th, 2021

If an electrically powered component in your vehicle suddenly stops working, it’s possible that some troubleshooting and a major repair may be in your future. But before you become too concerned, always remember to check the fuse.

The car fuse is the easiest part of the circuit to check, and many times when something on an electrical circuit stops working out of nowhere, the fuse is the culprit. Here we’ll talk about what a car fuse does and how to check whether one is still intact in your vehicle.

Fuses and CircuitsHow to Fix a Blown Car Fuse

Fuses protect circuits by sacrificing themselves in the event that an electrical system becomes overloaded. Each electrical circuit in your vehicle is designed to handle a precise amount of current to support the components and functions it powers. This current may fluctuate a bit, but in the event of a short or something that causes a large or prolonged current draw, a dangerous situation can develop where the wires become so hot that they can melt and catch on fire.

Fuses are designed to burn out at a certain amperage, opening the circuit so the current is immediately stopped. Unfortunately, this also means that once the fuse is popped, it has to be replaced for the circuit and components to work properly again.

Testing a Fuse

Testing a fuse is straightforward, but you have to know where to look. Make sure your vehicle is completely off. Consult your owner’s manual to find the fuse box location(s). The underside of the fuse box lid or the area around it will likely have a map identifying each fuse/circuit by name.

Use a fuse puller to remove the fuse, or work it out very carefully with a pair of needle-nose pliers. Stay away from simple test lights that connect to ground only and require power from the circuit to check current — these can damage sensitive circuits and even set off airbags. Instead, grab a digital multimeter, plug the black wire into the “comm” port and the red wire into the port with the omega symbol, and set the dial to the omega symbol, checking for ohms, or resistance.

Check that the meter works by touching the leads of the multimeter together. The reading should be “0” in theory, but different devices and wires may give a couple of ohms of resistance, depending on several different factors. Be sure to read the device’s manual to ensure you’re within spec. Once you’ve confirmed that your multimeter is working, hold one lead on each prong of the suspect fuse (or the metal end caps on a glass barrel fuse). The lead order doesn’t matter, so you can touch either lead to either side. If the reading is “OL,” the circuit is open, which means the fuse is blown and it must be replaced. If you get 0 or a number, your fuse is good.

Don’t Blow It

Always replace a bad fuse with another one of the same size and amperage rating. If you select a fuse with too low of an amp rating, it will burn out again during normal operation. Go too high and the circuit won’t be protected — if the system becomes overloaded, the fuse won’t blow and open it up to cut off the flow of electricity. In this case, you risk frying bigger components or starting fires.

Never bypass a fuse with a metal conductor if your new properly rated fuses continue to blow. If this happens, you have a bigger problem that needs to be diagnosed.

Troubleshooting a bad fuse may sound complicated, but if you know what to look for and how to proceed, it’s really quite easy. It’s also an important skill to learn — after all, checking the fuses before tearing the engine apart could mean the difference between a few dollars and hundreds.

Check out all the ignition, electrical and lighting products available on NAPA Online, or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on automotive fuses, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photos courtesy of Blair Lampe.

The post How to Fix a Blown Car Fuse appeared first on NAPA Know How Blog.

How Often Should Brake Pads Be Replaced?

Monday, June 14th, 2021

Your vehicle’s brake pads play an important role in the braking system, but unfortunately, they also wear down over time and must eventually be changed. How often should brake pads be replaced? The answer can vary, but being able to identify the warning signs that your pads might be getting low is an important part of brake maintenance and keeping your vehicle safe for the road.

“Braking” It DownHow Often Should Brake Pads be Replaced?

Brake pads are an integral part of a disc brake system. They’re positioned to face the rotor, and when the driver steps on the pedal, brake fluid transfers pressure directly to the pads, squeezing them against the rotor, and stopping it from turning. Since the rotor is attached to the wheel, when it stops turning, the car slows and stops as well.

Brake pads are made of different materials depending on the manufacturer, but they’re always going to be made of a softer material than the rotor. That means when there’s repeated friction between the two surfaces, the brake pads will wear down faster. This friction causes an enormous amount of heat to be generated, and eventually the rotors will have to be resurfaced or replaced as well, but the brake pads will be the first to go.

How Long Do Brake Pads Last?

Not all brake pads are created equal, and their lifespan may be extended or shortened based on several factors, such as what material they’re made of, your driving habits, your typical driving conditions and your maintenance routines.

The general guidance on how often to change brake pads covers a considerable range: 20,000 to 70,000 miles. For a better idea of when exactly to replace your pads, always look to your owner’s manual. From there, keep an eye out for signs of wear. The sound of squealing or the feeling of vibrating when the vehicle comes to a stop are both telltale signs that your pads are low. Many pads have a built in “alarm” that creates a squealing when they get below a certain level, and it shouldn’t be ignored.

A visual inspection is also key. Pads should be replaced when they are below ¼ inch thick. Ignoring the signs and letting your pads wear to the backing not only compromises your safety, but it will also damage your rotors and result in much more costly repairs than simple pad changes.

Pad Habits

There are a few factors that cause pads to wear out faster, and some more in your control than others. Naturally, the more you use them the faster they’ll wear, so folks who drive more often in cities with a stop-and-go rhythm or in hilly regions that require frequent braking on downhill stretches will likely have to get their pads changed more often than people whose vehicles see mostly flat highway usage.

Your habits matter too. You can conserve your pads by avoiding hard braking, keeping junk out of the trunk to reduce the vehicle’s weight, downshifting downhill, and driving at or under the speed limit. Low pads can lead to warped rotors, which can quickly lead to pads becoming worn again — an annoying and potentially dangerous cycle — but keeping up with regular maintenance can help you stay on top of this.

Most often, your brakes will tell you when they’re getting low, so pay attention to them. Make checking your brakes part of your routine maintenance, and always investigate any unusual noises or feelings related to braking.

Check out all the brake parts available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations, for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on how often should brake pads be replaced, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photos courtesy of Blair Lampe.

The post How Often Should Brake Pads Be Replaced? appeared first on NAPA Know How Blog.

An Energy-Efficient Garage Is Key

Sunday, June 13th, 2021

The garage is a place most people don’t think about much longer than it takes to park the car. But a well-built and maintained energy-efficient garage can have a serious impact on your utility bill and energy consumption. There are a few ways to make sure your garage isn’t using up too much power — mix and match the upgrades that fit your needs.

What’s on the Inside Counts

Let’s start off talking about basic energy consumption. When you turn on lights or use fans and heaters, you use energy. One easy way to lessen this usage is to swap out all your lighting for LEDs. These bulbs are brighter, last longer and are far cheaper to run than halogens and fluorescent lights. The initial investment costs more, but over their lifespan LEDs more than make up for it.

The next consideration is where the energy to run lights and appliances is coming from. If you have a garage that is also used as a shop and therefore needs lots of power, it’s best to use the same electricity source as the rest of the house. However, if you’ve just got lighting or small appliances, like fans that don’t use too much power, you can convert your energy source to solar.

Climate ControlHow an Energy Efficient Garage is Key to Saving Big

Maybe you spend quality time in your garage during all seasons and have heavier needs for things like keeping cool or warm, depending. As a heating solution, once again solar comes to the rescue, with passive solar heating options on the market. Heck, you could even DIY.

When trying to stay cool, the key is keeping the space open and air circulating. A combination of open doors and a shop fan will use much less energy than an air conditioner. Ceiling fans aren’t just for the living room and they don’t take up precious floor space.

For those who live in an area with relatively low humidity, a good half-way step to keeping cool efficiently is an evaporative cooler. Sometimes called a “swamp cooler” these units use a process of evaporating water to cool the air. The trade-off is that humidity is added to the air in the process, so your local weather may guide your decision.

Keeping Your Cool

But, let’s say you do have an A/C or heater and are worried about maintaining a hospitable temperature in extreme weather. Garages are notoriously energy inefficient, mostly because their construction allows easy heat transfer and escape.

To solve this, you have to insulate. One option is installing a new garage door, but there are also insulation kits on the market that you can install on your existing door. And don’t forget about the walls, ceiling and floor, or that newly insulated door is all for nothing. Depending on when and how your house was built, garage walls might be very thin, a true enemy of energy efficiency. Insulation solutions range from small jobs like a layer of concrete sealant, weather stripping, draft sealers and proper caulking to bigger ones that involve getting insulation between layers of drywall. Don’t forget: A poorly insulated garage can easily affect the amount of energy needed to heat or cool your house if that garage is directly connected to it.

In the end, although there might be some extra expenses upfront, you’ll save a ton by not letting all that energy go to waste.

Check out all the tools & equipment available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on an energy-efficient garage, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy of Blair Lampe.

The post An Energy-Efficient Garage Is Key appeared first on NAPA Know How Blog.

How to Use Jumper Cables

Thursday, March 11th, 2021

Dead batteries happen to the best of us, often at the worst of times. In these cases, you’re lucky if you have jumper cables and a friend or neighbor who can give you a boost. Otherwise, you’re going to be left asking a stranger to help and hoping that whomever you flag down is more prepared than you were. But do you know how to use jumper cables when the time comes to hook them up? Do you know what pitfalls to avoid and safety precautions to follow to keep you and your vehicle safe?

The SetupHow to Use Jumper Cables

Park the two vehicles facing each other if you can. Keep in mind that the jumper cables will have to reach from one battery to the other, and you’ll need to be clear of any surrounding hazards, such as traffic. Make sure both cars are in park with their engines off and parking brakes on.

The Hookup

Open the hood and locate the batteries or jumper connection points (check your owner’s manual). Each end of the cable has one black and one red clamp, generally corresponding to battery positive charges (red+) and battery negative charges (black-), but it’s always important to verify on the battery itself.

  1. Start by connecting the first red clamp to the positive terminal of the dead battery marked with a “+” or “pos” on the battery housing. Ensure good contact between the clamp and the terminal so it doesn’t pop off mid procedure and the electrons can get through to recharge.

  2. Next, connect the 2nd red clamp to the positive (+) terminal of the good battery. As before, ensure good contact, perhaps by giving it a wiggle to make sure it doesn’t immediately slip off.

  3. Connect the first black clamp to the negative (-) terminal of the good battery. Note that once you’ve got both sides of the jumper connected to a battery, it’s very important not to let the other two clamps come into contact with each other. If they do, they will short, creating potentially dangerous sparks.

  4. Lastly, connect the second black clamp to any unpainted metal surface of the vehicle with the dead battery that isn’t immediately next to the battery. Yes, the jump would work if it were connected to the negative terminal, but if the dead battery is emitting invisible flammable gasses, a spark arising from the connection could cause the battery to explode.

The Startup

Start the engine of the vehicle with the good battery and let it run for a few minutes at idle to get the dead battery charging. Then try to start the vehicle with the dead battery, but don’t force it for more than a few seconds or else you risk burning out the starter. You might have to be patient here. When the engine starts up, disconnect the clamps in the exact opposite order of how you hooked them up.

Once your vehicle is running, drive it for at least 20 minutes to give the alternator a chance to fully recharge the battery. And that’s it! Note, however, that unless you left a light on or the vehicle was sitting for a long time, your dead battery might be trying to tell you that you need a new battery or alternator, and it’s worth looking into that to avoid another incident.

Keeping an eye toward maintenance can help you prevent these surprises in the first place, but it’s best to be prepared with jumper cables of your own if you find yourself stranded.

Check out all the batteries, cables and related parts available on NAPA Online, or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on how to use jumper cables, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photos courtesy of Blair Lampe.

The post How to Use Jumper Cables appeared first on NAPA Know How Blog.

What Is Air Ride Suspension?

Friday, March 5th, 2021

If you drive a typical passenger vehicle, there’s a good chance that your suspension system uses springs and shock absorbers. However, there is growing interest in air ride suspension in passenger vehicles, and this type of suspension has been in wide usage for a while in heavier cargo-laden trucks, buses and similar vehicles. But what is air ride, when is it worth considering, and what is all the fuss about?

Airing on the Side of Caution

All suspension systems aim to keep a vehicle chassis level and off the axle. They support a smooth ride over uneven terrain, protect components from vibration, impact and wear, and work with other systems like steering to help the driver maintain control and safe handling. Lighter passenger vehicles use metal springs and shock absorbers to accomplish this, pitting the weight of the load against the mechanical constraint of the springs, and these are generally enough to get the job done. But heavier vehicles, vehicles that tow heavy loads and, increasingly, luxury vehicles looking to create as smooth a ride as possible are turning to air ride to maximize handling and control by increasing responsiveness and reducing jounce.

How Air Ride Suspension WorksAir Ride

Air ride suspension is called by many names depending on the manufacturer, but the main components are generally the same. An electric pump supplies air to the airbags or “bellows (the “springs” of the system) and a storage tank that keeps reserve air pressure at the ready.

The system is closely monitored by sensors that alert the computer to changes in ride height and other potential imbalances in the system. The amount of pressure in the bellows is then quickly adjusted as needed. This process occurs automatically, but it can also be called into effect on command. Components are connected and controlled by a series of pneumatic lines, valves and solenoids, and information is collected and transmitted by sensors and the Electronic Control Unit (ECU).

Potential Costs and Benefits

An air-based suspension system is great for heavy loads and smoother rides, and its ability to respond to changing conditions immediately makes it a safe and popular option for upgrades, but it does have potential drawbacks, primarily related to cost and maintenance. Components in any system will wear over time, but air ride components are costly to replace, and repairs and maintenance for these systems can add up over time. Keep that in mind if you’re considering an upgrade, and weigh these potential costs against the benefits — and the age of the system if you’re buying it used. For the most part, an air ride system can be converted into a conventional suspension system and vice versa, but that doesn’t mean the conversion process is going to be an easy one, especially if you’re going from conventional to pneumatic.

As suspension technology continues to evolve, the availability of air ride systems for passenger vehicles will likely become even more widespread. Make sure you’re informed about how an air ride system might benefit you and what you would be in for in the long term before you take the plunge.

Check out all the steering and suspension parts available on NAPA Online, or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on air ride suspensions, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy of Blair Lampe

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