Ball Joints and Your Car’s Suspension System

An important part of your car’s suspension system is its ball joints. Made of extra tough steel, ball joints act as the pivot point between two parts: the suspension and your car’s tires. This part help support your car’s weight and, as is the case with some vehicles, they may be used to help set the alignment. Let’s take a closer look at this key component of your car’s suspension system.

Enclosed in a steel housing, joints are used on the front end of almost every car, truck, SUV, and minivan. As might be expected, this important component is subject to a lot of wear and tear, so to properly protect them they are housed in an enclosed boot to keep dirt away from the joint assembly.

There are two types of suspension systems that use ball joints. The first is a conventional system that uses an upper and lower joint. The second is called a MacPherson strut system that uses a single lower joint and an upper strut bearing. No upper joint is needed as the upper strut bearing does the job instead.

Maintenance for this component has changed over the years for most cars. Many vehicles come equipped with joints that are permanently lubed, so lubrication is not necessary nor is it even possible as the pack that holds the lubrication is permanently sealed. When they wear out or are damaged, you can find replacement parts that come with lubrication fittings; in this case you would need to lubricate your new units on a regular basis as in when you change your vehicle’s oil.

When performing an inspection of your car’s suspension, your ball joints should be looked at too. Have a complete wheel alignment performed and make certain that they are not worn. If they wear out and are not changed, you will soon experience uneven tire wear or unreliable steering, such as wandering. Clearly, worn out parts are a safety issue that must be tended to and fixed immediately.

These parts are developed for the specific make/model of your vehicle. Many models share the same suspension system as other models within the brand, but to be sure check your vehicle’s repair manual for the right replacement parts. Certain manufacturers, such as Moog, develop parts for many makes/models and can be used by mechanics that prefer this particular product. Check online to find out more information about Moog parts and whether they are right for your car.

Remember: ball joints are an important part of your vehicle’s suspension system. Annual check ups of the suspension can head off costly problems which can also impact your safety.

Sick Cars – Millions May Be on the Road

What is a sick car? I am referring to cars that are lacking normal maintenance and/or may need some type of mechanical work. Routine maintenance of a car consists of things like regular oil change, keeping your brakes in good condition, and enough tread on the tires to be considered safe on the road. Some more serious items of repair would be radiator, belts, or even transmission problems. The longer routine and more serious repairs are delayed, the more likely your sick car will either run poorly or just stop running at all.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in June, the number of unemployed persons was 14.6 million; the unemployment rate was 9.5 percent. We also have thousands of people that have given up looking for work, as well as families working in minimum-wage jobs. That being said, we have a lot of folks with a limited amount of money trying to maintain their vehicles.

It should be especially noted that this is a catch 22 situation for the unemployed. Without transportation, it’s difficult to find and keep a job-but without a job it’s difficult to pay for maintenance and repair of a car. If you have a sick car or finances are tight, here are some suggestions that may help:

1. Baby Your Car–This is very important. Run your car either at the speed limit or just below. Don’t slam the brakes on at stops; ease into braking. These two things will slow down the wear on your tires and car. It will buy you time until you can get the needed repairs and maintenance done. Jack rabbit starts burn more gas and use more tread on the tires.

2. Phone Calls–Make phone calls instead of driving whenever you can. An example would be calling beforehand for store hours instead of driving to the store only to find out they are closed. If you conserve mileage, you preserve the life of your car. This actually makes sense even for healthy cars.

3. Car Pool–When going to gatherings or church, you can car pool. Nobody needs to know you are eliminating some of the trips your car makes. Take turns now and then with your friends to drive. If you do have a job, this is still a great idea to cut down on the usage of your car and high gas prices.

4. Do- It-Yourself–Of course, this is not for everyone. If you can do mechanical work, change your own oil and filter. Many specs and repair manuals can be found online for those wanting the challenge. This will save labor costs. Also look for discounted parts, including parts found at junkyards. Don’t forget eBay also has cheap pricing on many auto parts.

5. Ask a Friend–Local mechanics may do small jobs for a minimal amount of money either out of their home garage or tucked away in an unadvertised locale. Sometimes, even retirees enjoy doing this type of work at a very reasonable rate. So, ask your friends for personal recommendations. This worked for me when I moved to a different state.

6. Barter or Exchange Services–If you have some type of talent or services you can trade off for car repair, try it. Perhaps you are good at cleaning. Offer to clean in exchange for car repair. You would be surprised these days what works!

7. Walk or Bike–Yes, don’t always hop in the car when you can easily walk to wherever you are going. Biking to your local store is also an option; attach a small basket to your bike for the groceries. This is a real winner since you also benefit greatly from the increased physical exercise.

8. Public Transportation–Taking the bus is another great way to cut down on the usage of your car. If you live in a big city with a great transportation system, this may be the answer. This is another favorite of mine. I met some of the most memorable and lovable people riding public transportation. I saved a lot of money too.

If you have a sick car and a limited budget, you may be able to implement some of these tips depending on your circumstances or where you live. Whatever you do though, make sure levels are full-such as oil, water, and transmission oil. Levels too low can result in engine shutdown. I know; it happened to me.

Also be aware that your car may become “unsafe” for the road if certain repairs are delayed. However, sometimes without charge, a good mechanic can tell you if your car has reached that stage. Chances are your car will not get to that point. With a little bit of ingenuity and some of these tips, you may be able to return your car back to good health.

Volkswagen and its Top-Down Approach in Launching Cars in India

Volkswagen, Europe’s largest automaker is employing a top-down approach in launching cars in India. And within the span of two years the automaker plans to bring its small car followed by what seems to be a mini car under the Maruti 800 category to India.

After recently announcing that it will start introducing the all new Passat as its entry vehicle in India, Volkswagen plans to launch next what it calls the A-Class, the Golf, and its derivatives. According to Pierre Bruedgam, a member of the board purchasing, Volkswagen India, “We will launch a new car every year. This year, it is the Passat sedan, a B class car, which will be launched in September. And for next year, the A Class, which comprises the Golf and its derivatives are going to be launch. It will then be followed by volume segment small car which will be offered as notchback and hatchback for 2009. In our terminology, the small car is A Zero Class. We are also looking at the A Zero Class, which is the equivalent of the Maruti 800.”

Mr. Bruedgam was in Pune for the inauguration of it’s off site office and at the same time was looking for some interested local sourcing for the e410 million, 110,000-capacity car plant at Chakan. Volkswagen India is expecting to reach the 110,000 capacity by 2009 as it launched its small car, the Golf and its derivatives.

And since India is considered to be more of a sedan market, Volkswagen India would first try to sell sedans like the Passat and then follow it up with the Golf and its derivatives. For a great part of its proposed lineup the automaker is expected to retain 55:45 ratios between diesel and petrol. Mr. Bruedgam further added, “We will begin our sourcing activities from April, first for the cars to be made here and then for the global market.”

Volkswagen officials after visiting India saw that a single purchase office may not be enough and said that they may need to open other offices in the other two auto hubs located in Delhi and Chennai. VW officials have also stated that logistics is an important consideration when sourcing for global operations if the company aims to remain competitive. They also added that Europe’s largest automaker may also get some of their metal products from India particularly for its needed volume products. And since a great number of VW cars are expected to be sold in India, the automaker would also make sure that aftersales services such as repairs are made available to the customers that is, aside from the Volkswagen Repair Manuals that goes with the vehicles.

Mr. Bruedgam also said that the localization program being employed by Volkswagen expects to obtain 50% local content hopefully at the start of production in 2009. In terms of its volumes car, the automaker is expecting an increase of 75% by the year 2011. Dr. John Chacko, a member of the board technical, VW India, said, “We will source from India for volume models like the Golf and its derivatives, where the same part can be used. VW is expanding its platform theme to a module strategy, which allows us to use the module anywhere in the world.” Other VW group companies like Audi and Skoda are also expected to source out from India.

How To Repair Your Car’s Power Windows

As you’re driving down the turnpike and approaching the tollbooth, you reach for the switch to lower your window and nothing happens. The switch moves but the window does not budge. Not even a noise from the window motor can be heard which strongly suggests to you that the device is not functioning. You must stop your car and open up the door to pay the attendant before continuing on your trip. Thoughts of an expensive car repair bill are dancing through your head, putting you in a foul mood and tempering the anticipated fun of your getaway weekend. Don’t despair: you can repair the power window yourself and save a bundle over expensive dealership charges. Let’s take a look at the steps you can take to fix the problem yourself and save a lot of cash in the process.

Before assuming that the window regulator must be replaced you should first rule out the possibility of dirty electrical contacts. On most cars the main power for all switches goes through the master switch located at the driver’s console. Sometimes the switch is dirty causing the window to malfunction. If this is the case, take the necessary steps to clean the contact and your problem should be resolved.

Should you determine that the contacts are clean and your switch is functioning, then it is likely that the motor has burned out and is in need of replacing. Whether you are installing a Honda window regulator or a Volkswagen window regulator, or a regulator for any other make the steps involved in replacing a window regulator are usually quite similar:

1. Remove the door panel for the affected window.

2. Locate and remove the bolts holding the regulator to the door; it is likely you will have to manually lower the window in order to access the bolts.

3. Remove the old regulator, disconnect all wiring, and replace the old regulator with a new one you have purchased from a parts supplier. Shop online to find the best value as you will pay a mint if you order one through a dealership.

4. Tighten the bolts holding the new regulator and reinstall the moisture barrier. Make sure all the wires are put back in the door before closing the door panel.

5. Engage the power window switch and the new regulator should work unimpeded.

Of course, follow your car’s repair manual for specific instructions.

I’ve given to you a general outline to convince you that this is a task that even a novice mechanic can handle – in other words: you can do it! By handling the problem yourself, you’ll save plenty of money by avoiding garages who will mark up the replacement part as well as tack on several hours of labor costs to your bill. Shop online to compare prices and to receive the best shipping and handling arrangements available.