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Category Archives: What Customers Should Know

The Key Won't Turn! (Ignition Problems)

You've just arrived at the store shopping and you're ready to head home.  You put your key in the ignition and… oh, no! The ignition won't turn! What do you do now? Don't panic.  There are some things you can do to get going again.  The first thing to do is see if you have a locking steering wheel, an anti-theft feature that was introduced around 1970.  Sometimes it sticks.  Move the steering wheel side to side while you try to turn the key and you might be able to get it to release.  Another thing to check is to see if your vehicle is in gear.  Most vehicles will only allow you to start the ignition if it's in park or neutral.  If you have an automatic transmission vehicle and it is in park, try jiggling the shift lever and try the key again.  Sometimes the safety mechanism doesn't properly make contact or gets a little sloppy.  If both of these don't work, it could be your vehicle's battery is dead.  Some newer electronic ... read more

What is a TPS? (Throttle Position Sensor)

You know you have an accelerator pedal; step on it and your vehicle is supposed to go.  But did you know there is a part in your vehicle that keeps track of where the throttle is? It's called the Throttle Position Sensor, or TPS. The TPS is a sensor that helps your vehicle figure out the right mix of air and fuel is reaching your engine.  It does that by keeping track of the throttle and sending that information to your vehicle's computer.  Other factors play a role in how well your engine is performing, including air temperature, how fast the engine is turning over and air flow.  When the TPS isn't working right, you may find your vehicle won't accelerate or doesn't have the power you're expecting when you press on the accelerator.  In some cases, it may accelerate on its own.  Sometimes your vehicle won't go over a certain speed.  Your Check Engine light may go on. Any of these symptoms should be checked out soon.  If your TPS stops working rig ... read more

Why You Have an O2 Sensor (Oxygen Sensor)

If someone asked you what gas made up the largest portion of the atmosphere, what would you guess? Well, it's not oxygen; it only makes up 20.9 percent.  But since we're talking about oxygen, you should know that your vehicle uses oxygen sensors to make sure your engine is running the way it should. The oxygen sensors measure how much oxygen is in your exhaust.  If there's too much, it means there's a problem with the mixture of fuel and air.  The sensor sends signals to computers in your engine and adjusts the mixture so it maximizes performance and efficiency.  It does this constantly.  Many vehicles have multiple oxygen sensors.  Some have one close to the engine, another close to the muffler.  Two measurements are better than one since they allow readings to be more accurate.  You may have a vehicle with a dual exhaust, so you'd have twice as many oxygen sensors. Your oxygen sensors can fail.  One thing that can damage them is contaminat ... read more

Start Me Up (Ignition Systems)

When you start up your gasoline engine car, you may not know that it's using the same ignition principles as it has for decades.  You have spark plugs that require enough power so a spark can jump across a gap at its tip.  Years ago, a vehicle's 12-volt system had to produce 15,000-25,000 volts to do that, so engineers came up with something called an ignition coil that bumps up the voltage. It also has to be done at just the right interval called timing. The first systems had a distributor, a mechanical device with a rotating disc that switched the power to the ignition coil on and off.  That higher voltage then was sent to the spark plugs at the correct time interval. But the mechanical "points" had to be replaced and adjusted every 12,000 miles/20,000 kilometers.  Engineers later replaced the switching mechanism with solid state ones, but they still needed replacement after 120,000 miles/200,000 kilometers. The next evolution came in the 80's when the distributor ... read more

A "Mounting" Problem (Motor Mounts)

You know how heavy your engine and transmission are, so you can imagine how tough the parts that hold them onto your vehicle's sub-frame must be.  Not only must they support the weight, they also have to isolate vibrations and noise from the passenger cabin.  Pretty tall order, wouldn't you say? The parts that face that task daily are called the motor mounts, or engine mounts.  They are usually made of rubber with steel brackets.  Others contain a liquid for vibration and sound isolation.  Most vehicles have three or four motor mounts, and while rubber or hydraulic liquids do a good job of damping the vibrations from the engine, they also have their limitations.  The problem with rubber is that it gets old and brittle.  Plus, if there's an oil leak anywhere in your engine and oil gets on the rubber motor mounts, rubber will deteriorate even more quickly.  As for the liquid motor mounts, they can develop leaks and stop working.  Here are sign ... read more

When "Shady" is a Good Thing

Just like your skin can burn from too much sun, so can the paint on your vehicle.  It can turn dull, oxidize and fade the more ultraviolet rays beat down on it. One solution is to park in a shady spot, or you can buy a cover for your vehicle and put it on when you know it's going to be sitting in the sun for awhile. Yes, it takes a couple of minutes to put on, but in the end, keeping the gloss on your paint will help it retain its beauty… and its value. And it's not just the sun that can damage your vehicle's paint.  Grit, bird droppings, sap, dust and dead bugs can all ruin the paint.  So, keep your vehicle clean.  Wash it with a soap made especially for vehicles. Dry it with special towels that won't scratch your paint.  Remember:  DON'T WASH YOUR VEHICLE IN THE SUN. Once your vehicle is washed, protect the paint even further with a coat of wax.  DON'T WAX YOUR VEHICLE IN THE SUN, EITHER. Don't forget the vehicle's interior.  Plastic com ... read more

No Fueling! (Fuel Filler Location)

If you've ever gotten in an unfamiliar vehicle, maybe a rental car, you may have pulled up to the gas pump and wondered, "Which side is the fuel filler on?" Here's a tip for you.  There is usually a little arrow on the instrument panel near the fuel gauge that points to the side where the fuel filler is.  But why are the fuel fillers not all on the same side, anyway? There are lots of reasons.  At one time, many manufacturers tried putting them in an easy-to-reach spot: in the center of the vehicle's rear end.  Some even hid them behind a hinged license plate door.  Cool place, but it turned out not to be a good idea.  When a vehicle with a fuel filler in the rear was hit by another vehicle from behind, it was much more prone to catch fire and explode. Safety regulations now dictate that the fuel filler doors be placed within crumple zones and away from where they can drip fuel on hot exhaust pipes or near electrical connections.  But why do manufactu ... read more

Chilly Warning (Diagnosing a Noise in Cold Vehicle)

When the weather gets colder, sometimes the noises your vehicle makes will change.  For example, you may notice a whining sound when you get going in the morning.  It may go away when the vehicle warms up, but it's best not to ignore that sound because it could be a warning of worse things to come. Colder temperatures cause different components to behave differently.  Let's take a look at a few of them.  First, the fluids in your vehicle.  Cold temperatures can make them behave a little differently, such as engine oil, transmission fluid and power steering fluid. Those characteristics could change if the fluids are older and full of contaminants. Belts also can create a whining noise when cold.  Since they turn pulleys that move other things, several factors can create issues.  Increased friction can change proper tensions on belts.  Plus, belts change as they age and may crack, get loose or develop a glazed surface. Belts and pulleys also must b ... read more

Wash Me, Wash Me Right (How to Wash a Vehicle)

Most would agree they'd rather drive around in a clean, shiny vehicle than one coated with a layer of dirt.  When warmer weather comes around, some of us are bound and determined to wash our own vehicles.  And to protect the paint and its luster, there are a few things to keep in mind when you get out the bucket and soap. Cool body.  It's not a good idea to wash a vehicle when the body is hot.  If it's been sitting out in the sun or you've been riding around on a sunny day, make sure you cool your vehicle off by either moving it to the shade or wetting it down with cool water. The problem with washing a hot vehicle is that it's going to dry so fast, minerals in the water can form hard-to-remove spots on the paint.  And some of those can be really difficult to get out.  Best to avoid it. Slippery when wet.  Make sure you wet your vehicle down thoroughly before you get the washing mitt out.  Experts keep a couple of buckets of soapy water on hand ... read more

THE IMPORTANCE OF VISIBILITY (Cleaning Vehicle Glass)

We've all been through it. The vehicle ahead of us kicks up mud, slush, snow or salt on our windshield and we can't see a thing.  And not being able to see a thing when we're driving?  Not a good thing. Debris on a vehicle's glass can be blinding when driving directly into the sun.  And other things can ruin visibility: scratches on the glass, fogged windows, mineral deposits.  So lets make one thing clear:  Your windows.  Here are some tips. Number one rule, don't use abrasives on glass. That means no gritty cleaners that are made for metal.  Avoid at all costs those dark green abrasive pads on some kitchen sponges that are made to clean metal pots and pans UNLESS the manufacturer specifically says they can be used on glass. Use the appropriate cleaner for the substance that's being cleaned off. Special automotive glass cleaners are available, and your Mackert Automotive LLC service advisor can make recommendations. Vinegar can work wonders. Sometim ... read more

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