Grand Rapids Car Troubleshooting Blog

Is your car cool? Here are some reasons your AC isn't working!

It's a sticky situation (literally!) when you hop into your car on a hot, humid Grand Rapids day and turn on the AC, only to have it blow more hot, humid air on you. That is, if it even works at all! So why might your ac break? Let's take a look at how it works in the first place.

Let's keep in mind a few basics of how physics work. It will help the rest of this make sense. If at any time you feel this is too much, don't worry, you can always request an appointment to have us take a look.

  • Heat will always flow to colder areas.
  • Heat spreads out to less-warm areas until everything is the same temperature.
  • Cold does not make warm things cooler—the heat moving from a warmer object to warm up the cooler object just makes it seem that way.
  • Pressurizing a gas makes it turn to liquid faster.
  • Depressurizing a liquid makes it turn to a gas faster.
  • Material with more surface area will change temperature faster than material with very little surface area.
  • Making parts of a material flatten out (like a condenser's fins) gives it more surface area.
  • Vapor will condense around something colder than the surrounding air, like with a cold can of soda.
  • Liquid will evaporate when it reaches a certain temperature, which causes whatever it is evaporating off of to cool off (like when you get out of the shower and you feel cold as all the water evaporates off of your skin).

So now let's set up our air conditioning unit. First, we have your coolant. Freon used to be the go-to coolant, but because of environmental concerns, it has been phased out and replaced with R-134a.

The coolant starts in a compressor. The compressor puts pressure on the coolant vapor, making it really hot, and it also pushes the coolant through the rest of the system.

Next, we have the condenser. The heat from the high pressure vapor moves into the air, trying to reach an equilibrium, which turns the vapor into a (still pretty hot, high pressure) liquid.
The coolant moves to the drier. It's a storage tank for the liquid coolant, and it also takes out any water that might have gotten into the system.

Water can freeze and block the rest of the system from working. 
We know this is interesting, but you can also just Request an appointment now to get that AC working!
The compressor keeps pushing liquid into the drier until some gets pushed up into the expansion valve. The cooled off coolant is pushed through the expansion valve, which causes it to lose pressure and turn into a gas.
Because the coolant is a lower temperature than the surrounding air, the moisture from the air condenses onto the evaporator and drips into a drain tube to the outside of your car.
As the cold gaseous coolant moves through the evaporator, heat moves from the air to warm up the coolant,trying to create that equilibrium, which makes the coolant warmer and the air cooler. The cool, dry (because of the evaporator) air is pushed into your car by a little fan behind the evaporator, and the warmed up coolant gas moves on to your compressor.

Is this a lot of info or what? Request an appointment now to get that AC working!

The compressor takes the warm coolant gas and puts it under pressure, which turns it into a liquid. The hot liquid is pushed into your condenser, which spreads out the surface area of the coolant, causing it to cool down quickly. The cooled liquid continues on to the expansion valve, which cools it and turns it to a gas again, and the cycle repeats.

So what can break? Well, it's a fairly simple system, so there are 2 main problems that might occur.
First, you could have a coolant problem. This could be a coolant leak, where you have a hole in one of the pipes or parts, or your coolant might need replacing, since it loses its effectiveness every 50,000 miles or so.
If that's not the problem, then one of the parts of the system broke. If the expansion valve or the compressor isn't working, then the coolant won't be the right pressure and temperature to change from a liquid to a gas, and thus heat up or cool off appropriately. If your condenser or evaporator is broken, you'll have a problem with the heat transfer between the coolant an the air.

If your drier is broken, you could have water in your coolant or your coolant might not be stored properly while your AC is off.

And if the fan by the evaporator isn't working, then the cold air won't be pushed into your car.

Air conditioning units vary slightly from car to car — especially with older cars that might have phased out parts. If you're having a problem with your car's air conditioning unit, be sure to take it in to Leo & Ed's auto repair shop.
We'll take a look and make sure that you won't have to drive around in a hot, sticky car all summer!
Request an appointment now to get that AC working!

Buying brand new tires can be an intimidating task, much less buying used tires.  Used tires have the possibility of being too used, risking damage to yourself, your car, or even others.  So what can you do to ensure that you are buying safe, dependable used tires?

Looking up reviews about a tire store is always a good start.  See what the general consumer consensus is about the shop.  Do they treat their customers well?  Do they go above and beyond the basic level of service?  Are they dependable and fair?  If so, then they're worth looking into buying used tires from.  If they seem like they take cheap shortcuts and cause more problems for their customers than they fix, you might want to keep looking.

Once you've determined a good place to shop, you'll want to take a look at the actual tires.

Fist, make sure you're looking at the correct size tires for your car.  The size of the tire is shown on the side of the tire and usually starts with P or LT.  It's always a good idea to check your car's manual instead of assuming that your current tires are the correct size.  If you don't have a car manual, you can also check for a metal tag in your driver's door jamb, your glove compartment door, or your fuel hatch.

Once you're looking at the right tire size, then check the physical condition of the tire for this possible wear and tear.

Thread Water

Use the penny test to figure out if the tires have enough tread. Take a penny and put it in the middle of the tire's tread. You want to be able to see the heads side of the coin, with the top of Lincoln's head towards the tire. If the tread covers up Lincoln's hair, then the tire has plenty of tread left. If you can see the space between Lincoln's head and the edge of the penny, the tread is too worn out. Move on to the next pair of tires. If you can't see that space, but you can see some of Lincoln's hair, then there is still some life left in the tires, but proceed with caution.

Wear Distribution

So now that you have determined how much wear there is on the treads, check for how the wear is distributed.  It should be even across the face of the tire.  Be wary of wear that is only on one side of the tire, is only in the middle of the tire, is only on one place on the tire, or is in spots across the tire (cupping).  Also look for bubbles or pockets of air underneath the rubber of the tire.  Uneven wear diminishes the effectiveness of a tire and can be dangerous to use.

Matching Treads

Try to find treads that match, whether this is replacing one tire and matching it to your other tires, or finding four tires that all match each other.  Having tires with the different treads can reduce the effectiveness of the tires as a set, causing more wear or dangerous driving conditions.


Check the sides (and insides, if you can) of the tire for patches, plugs, etc.  If a tire has several repairs done to it, it's probably an indicator of a problem tire.

Leo and Ed's proudly offers only the top quality used tires.  We would be more than happy to help you find the perfect used tires for your car, keeping you, your family, and your friends safe, happy, and confident in the tires on your vehicle!

10 Reasons your car might not be starting 
>> We can help if you request an appointment <<

You're ten minutes late for work, fishing your keys out of your purse as you race out the door towards your car. You jump into the driver's seat and jam the key into the ignition, but your car doesn't start. Why not? Why on Earth does it have to pick right now, of all times, to not start?

Rhetorical question aside, it might help to understand how your car works before we delve into why it doesn't work.

Let's start at the beginning. You turn the key. Super simplified, this signals your battery to send a huge amount of energy to the starter motor, which turns the engine.
The engine has several pistons in it (long solid tubes of metal that fit snug inside of long hollow columns and are moved up and down by the rotation of a crankshaft). When the engine “turns”, that means the pistons are pulled and pushed. When they are pulled out, they suck in a mixture of fuel and air from your gas tank through a pair of valves.

The valves then close, and when the pistons push back in, they compress that fuel, making it very combustible. A timing belt then tells your battery to send electricity to your spark plugs. When the spark plugs create a spark, the fuel mixture ignites, pushing the pistons back out. The excess energy from this small explosion causes the crankshaft to turn again, and when the pistons push back in again, the burnt fuel mixture (you'll recognize it as exhaust) exists through another set of open valves that go to your exhaust pipe. The crankshaft continues turning, causing the pistons pull in fresh fuel from your gas tank and the process begins again!

Alright! So now that you have a very basic understanding of HOW your car starts, let's figure out the reasons WHY your car won't start.
1. Dead Battery/Ignition Switch: If your battery is dead, there is no power with which to send electricity to the starter motor. Your engine won't turn, and the cycle won't start. If your ignition switch (or wiring) is broken, then the battery won't get the signal at all!

2. Bad Fuel Mix: This can include having no fuel at all, your fuel line being clogged up by something, having the wrong mix of fuel, or having some impurities in the fuel mixture (like water in your gas tank). If you don't have the right mixture of fuel to air, it won't ignite properly and your car won't start.

3. Lack of Compression: You need a certain amount of compression to make that fuel mixture ignite. Lack of compression can be a result of worn out piston rings, intake/exhaust valves that aren't sealing properly, or a hole in one of your cylinders.
4. Lack of Spark: If your fuel isn't igniting, it can be due to a weak or completely missing spark. This can be caused by your spark plug or spark plug cables being bad, cut or missing cables, a faulty system that doesn't tell your spark plugs to spark, or the spark plug timing to be off.
5. Timing Belt Failure/Tensioner Failure: The timing belt opens and closes the valves that let in fuel and let out exhaust. If they aren't opening and closing at the right times, your engine will choke.

6. Distributor Failure: The distributor parses out voltage to the cylinders. They can wear out and/or get gunked up naturally over time, so general maintenance will prevent this.

7. ECM/PCM failure: The ECM (Engine Control Module) and PCM (Powertrain Control Module) are computers inside your car. The ECM reads information from various sensors and adjusts your fuel intake for the best efficiency. The PCM adjusts the idle speed of your engine (how much fuel your engine takes in without your foot on the gas pedal).

8. Out of Oil: If your engine doesn't have clean or any oil, your cylinders can't turn efficiently and your engine will lock up. You'll also do a lot of damage to your engine, so make sure to get regular oil changes!

9. Worn out Bearings: If the crankshaft has worn out bearings, it can't move the pistons smoothly and your engine won't be able to run.

10. Plugged Exhaust: If part of your exhaust system is plugged, like your catalytic converter needs replacing or an animal crawled into your exhaust pipe, that exhaust won't be able to clear out of the engine and there's no space for new fuel.

These are some basic reasons why your car might not be starting. If your engine won't turn over, the fellows here at Leo and Ed's Auto in Grand Rapids will be able to run diagnostics on your car and find out what's wrong with it. We will get your vehicle fixed so you can get back to your normal routine!

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