I Lost My Car Keys: What Next?

We’ve all been there before. You’re in a rush to get to your destination, trying to get out the door while you still have a shot to make it. And then it hits you… “where are my keys?”

Now in many cases, they’ll turn up within minutes to hours in the most obvious spot possible like always. But what if they don’t? Not having your keys isn’t just an annoyance, it directly interrupts many of your important daily tasks and sidelines you from conveniently getting to most places. What’s the next step?

Type of Keys

The path to getting a replacement depends on the type of key it is. Modern vehicles often use key fobs, which allow you to control certain functions, like locks, windows, trunk/hatch, or even starting the car. Compare this to traditional mechanically cut car keys used in older vehicles, and you can see how the difference in keys and technology may affect the difficulty of replacing them. 

Traditional/Mechanically Cut Keys

Mechanically cut keys are the simplest to replace, as they lack the technology and security measures used in fobs. Since these don’t require any programming or proprietary transponders or sensors, they can be easily replicated by a locksmith or dealer. 

Transponder Keys

Transponder keys look nearly the same as mechanically cut keys and operate similarly too. The only difference, albeit a major one, between the two, is the transponder security chip in the key. This is called the immobilizer chip and prevents the vehicle from being started without it being present. 

Basic transponder key

Now in most cases, this is a great feature as it requires the key to have been programmed to start the vehicle. This is huge for the security of your vehicle, as it’s much harder for someone to get their hands on a programmed transponder key rather than replicating a mechanically cut key. 

For our purposes though, this transponder only makes replacing your key that much more difficult. Fortunately, most automotive-specific locksmiths can both replicate the key and program a new transponder for the majority of vehicles with a basic transponder system. Other transponder keys may need proprietary programming at a dealership, particularly on higher-end vehicles. 

Key + Fob

If your car key includes a fob with an attached key (such as a switchblade key), having it replaced may be more difficult and expensive than replacing a transponder or mechanically cut key. 

An automotive locksmith may have the ability to recut and program your new key and fob in more basic systems. Depending on the transponder and functionality of the fob, a dealership replacement may be your only option. The added complexity of both the transponder and fob functionality makes some keys impossible to replicate outside of a dealership.

Switchblade key fob

 

Keyless Fob

It’s not uncommon to see cars nowadays ditch a physical key completely and rely on wireless fobs. Since there’s no mechanical key to replicate, locksmiths won’t be of any help in this situation.

For most smart keys, you’ll need to have a replacement made at the dealership. They also might require proof of ownership to provide you with one. 

This process could take 1-2 days, in which you might need to leave the vehicle at the dealership for programming. 

Cost of Replacement Key

The cost of having your key replaced depends considerably on the type of key and the make and model of the vehicle. Simple mechanically cut keys for older vehicles without transponders can cost as little as $15-$50 for a copy. Compare this to a transponder key that requires chip programming, as these services can range anywhere between $100 to $250.

Fobs are where it can become complicated, as different fobs require different procedures for programming. For a switchblade key replacement, the extra programming required from a locksmith or dealership could cost around $150-$200. 

In general, keyless ignition fobs or smart fobs will be the most expensive of these to replace. Certain vehicles might require dealership programming, whereas others may be able to be replaced by an automotive locksmith. The cost of a new smart fob can run you anywhere from $200-$600.

Electrical Diagnostics in Riverton, Utah

If you’re experiencing issues with your car’s ignition system or wireless key, trust the experts at Matson Point S to diagnose the source of your issue and bring your car back to life! Give us a call or schedule online today.

Engine Configurations Explained (I4 vs. V6 vs. V8)

For many vehicle owners, the various numbers and terms used when referring to different vehicles and the engines in them can become overwhelming. To mechanics and enthusiasts, these terms tell you loads of important information on the mechanical makeup of a vehicle. 

One of the most telling descriptors of a car is the engine configuration, which you have most likely heard or seen before. Configurations like the I4, V6, and V8 dominate the consumer automotive market, each with its unique characteristics and strengths. 

We’ll cover what these terms mean, the benefits of each, and why some of these configurations are more common than others. 

How to Read An Engine Configuration

The Letter

The system in which we refer to engine layouts is fairly simple, most often consisting of a single letter and a single number.

The letters are used to indicate how the pistons are laid out within the engine. For instance, the “V” that comes before V6, V8, etc. actually signifies that the pistons are arranged in two rows angeled away from each other creating a V-like shape.  

On the other hand, “I” refers to an inline engine, where the pistons are instead arranged in a single straight line and facing directly upwards. These inline engines are also commonly referred to as “straight” engines, so you may hear “straight-six” rather than inline-six or I6 for example.

The exception to this naming convention would be “flat” engines, which are essentially V-shaped engines except the pistons lie flat horizontally rather than at the 60-degree angle of a V. These are less common, but still widely available in vehicles from brands like Subaru and Porsche. This layout is occasionally referred to as “H” engines. 

Piston layout diagram (V, Inline, Flat)

Other piston layouts exist, such as “W” engines which resemble two V-shaped engines side-by-side (similar to the letters themselves). However, these unorthodox engine layouts are rarely used due to manufacturing and maintenance costs as well as their large size and low efficiency. 

The Number

While the letter gives you information on the shape in which the pistons are laid out, the number instead tells you the number of pistons in the engine.

So in an I4 engine, one of the most common out there, there are a total of four cylinders sitting in an inline formation. Compare this to a V8 engine, where a total of eight cylinders are split into two rows (or banks) of four and angled away from each other; creating the V-shape that it derives its name from. 

Common engine configurations diagram (I4, V8, I6)

Most Common Engine Configurations

While manufacturers have experimented since the early 1900s with various unique engine configurations, there are a select few that have stuck around over the years for good reason. 

Due to the size of engines and limited space in engine bays, some piston layout and cylinder count combinations are simply impractical for consumer vehicles.

For example, an extremely long engine configuration such as an inline-eight (I8) would be nearly impossible to fit in most vehicle engine bays. Instead, a V8 configuration has a more compact footprint with the same amount of cylinders.

Due to the unique size constraints and use-case of each vehicle, manufacturers must choose the engine configuration that best fits the specific needs of that model. For this reason, the vast majority of modern cars come equipped with one of the following engine layouts.

Inline-four

The inline-four (I4, straight-four, four-banger) engine is the most common configuration among modern consumer vehicles. As of 2021, over 59% of new light-duty vehicles sold are equipped with a four-cylinder configuration. The compact design and low number of engine components make it one of the most practical for commuter cars and compacts.

Inline-fours are well known for their reliability, as the inline configuration only requires a single cylinder head; reducing complexity and repair costs. 

Their small size also contributes to the other major benefit of an I4, fuel economy. The smaller displacement of a four-cylinder, which typically falls between 1.3-2.5 liters in modern cars, allows the engine to use a relatively low amount of fuel compared to larger-displacement motors. 

Four-cylinders are perfect for most general applications but fall short in more specialized and performance-focused vehicles. While the small displacement means less fuel usage, it usually means less power and torque. Vehicles that require power outputs or towing capability will often opt for a beefier engine, such as a V6 or V8. 

Four-cylinders also suffer from pulsations in power delivery, as having only four cylinders means the next combustion stroke cannot begin until the previous cylinder has completed its combustion cycle. These pulsations cause noticeable vibrations through the chassis. This is a non-issue in an engine with five or more cylinders since there will always be another cylinder’s combustion overlapping as one cylinder completes its power stroke. 

Even with these drawbacks, the I4 configuration has cemented its spot as the perfect choice for the majority of cars on the road. Modern developments in engines have also mitigated some of the power concerns, as the advent of turbocharging in commuter vehicles allows for both increased horsepower and efficiency. 

As larger engines continue to be phased out due to environmental concerns, expect the four-cylinder to stick around and find its way into more performance vehicles as manufacturers squeeze even more power from these small motors.

Inline-six 

The inline-six (straight-six, I6) has long been a preferred choice of manufacturers looking for a powerful and balanced engine. Straight-sixes have lost some of their market share over time with the improvements of V6 and I4 designs, however, the simple single-head design and superior balancing have allowed it to stay a common choice in some commuter vehicles as well as performance and luxury options. 

The largest benefit of a straight-six is its perfect engine balance. Other engine configurations like the I4 and V6 lack this feature and have significant imbalances, leading to vibrations through the chassis.

The straight-six’s smooth feel and balance is a result of its configuration and firing order, as with six cylinders the front and rear trios of pistons will move in pairs. Since each side is experiencing a cylinder combusting, the rocking effects of both are canceled out. 

Compare this to a less common configuration like an inline-three, which is not able to cancel out its rocking motion due to the uneven firing order. This issue holds in V6 motors as well, since they essentially act as two inline-threes connected. 

While they have become a less common choice over the last few decades, some brands still value the refined feel and sound of an I6. BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Stellantis (GM, Alfa Romeo), and Jaguar/Land Rover all have new vehicles equipped with inline-six engines. 

V6

The other common configuration for six-cylinder engines is the V6, which consists of two banks of three cylinders. V6 engines bring a few improvements over their inline counterparts, such as the double bank design that shortens the length and allows it to fit in vehicles that otherwise could not fit an I6. 

While their lower size footprint is a large benefit over the inline layout, the double-banked design also comes with a major tradeoff; balance. As stated earlier, the V6 configuration is essentially two I3 engines conjoined, meaning they suffer from the same balance issue as the three-cylinder due to an odd number of cylinders in each bank. 

This imbalance issue stunted the adoption of V6 engines in the early days, but with the development of harmonic balancers and changes to the firing order, the balance of V6 motors has drastically improved and made them a practical choice in many types of vehicles. 

Due to their size and fuel consumption, six-cylinders (both inline and V) have begun to lose market share to the improved four-cylinder options of modern cars. However, these engines still fill an important role in the automotive market and remain commonly used by various brands with the addition of forced induction. 

V8

The V8 has long been one of the most recognizable types of engines, largely due to its constant presence in the American muscle scene. Since the introduction of the original “pony car”, the 1964½ series Ford Mustang, the V8 has been a defining feature of American performance vehicles. 

That isn’t to say the V8 isn’t used elsewhere, as European brands like Audi, BMW, Mercedes, and Porsche have all produced or still actively offer V8 options in their vehicles. 

V8 motors are renowned for their power, as the larger displacement of the extra cylinders allows for increased combustion and increased horsepower and torque outputs. This makes the V8 a prime choice for larger luxury or performance vehicles that need a little more punch to their motors. 

Despite it being one of the V8’s primary benefits, the larger displacement and extra cylinders are also the cause of one of its largest shortfalls. V8 motors are notoriously bad on fuel, as they sacrifice efficiency for power. Improvements have been made over time, aided by the use of efficient forced induction and hybrid systems, however, the industry trends point towards the V8 falling out of favor with manufacturers due to increased environmental regulations. 

Even American vehicles whose identity was largely related to their V8 power and grunty sound have begun to transition to more fuel-friendly options. Dodge, known for their large and powerful V8s, has announced the end of their V8 muscle car production and will instead use straight-sixes and electrified powertrains for future performance vehicles. 

Flat Engines (Flat-four, Boxer-four, Flat-six)

A less common, yet still very notable engine configuration is the flat design. Flat engines are essentially V engines that sit horizontally rather than at an angle. 

The most common type of flat engine is the four-cylinder boxer, which derives its name from the two pairs of pistons mounted at 180 degrees that create an outward “punching” motion. Subaru is famous for its boxer-four, which has found its way into nearly every Subaru platform at some point. The WRX, WRX STi, Legacy, Forester, Outback, and BRZ have all shipped with a boxer option at one point or another. Subaru isn’t alone in the boxer world though, as Porsche’s 718 platform comes standard with a flat-four rather than their traditional flat-six. 

The flat-six is a mainstay in Porsche’s lineup, coming as the only engine choice for their flagship 911 since its introduction in 1964. As of this article being written, the Porsche flat-six is the only engine of its kind available in a new vehicle. 

Flat engines provide some considerable improvements over V-shaped engines, as the 180-degree angle mitigates the balance issue of other options that use two banks of cylinders. Flat engines also sit slightly lower and contribute a lower center of gravity, improving the handling of the vehicle. 

Having two cylinder heads means that flat engines experience the same increase in production and maintenance costs as a regular V-shaped engine. The lack of angeled pistons also means that these cylinder banks take up more width, and may not fit well in some smaller engine bays. 

Engine Diagnostics & Repair in Riverton

No matter what type of engine you have, trust the experienced technicians at Matson Point S in Riverton, Utah for any engine diagnostics or repairs! Our team has extensive training and the proper equipment to service any make and model. Give us a call today to speak with our friendly service advisors or schedule online!

Why Are My Battery Terminals Corroded?

It’s not uncommon to open your hood to the unsightly scene of corroded battery cables/terminals, with whitish-blue crystals seemingly growing from parts of your battery. This is a frequent occurrence in cars despite the worrying appearance, but still doesn’t mean it should be ignored.

What’s Leaking From My Battery?

The bright crystals developing on the battery terminals result from a chemical reaction. Automotive batteries take chemical energy and convert it to electrical energy to be used by your vehicle, however, this process causes the sulfuric acid inside to release hydrogen gas. This hydrogen mixes with the outside air, moisture, and salt causing a corrosive reaction. 

Corrosion will be easy to spot with its powdery texture and bright blue/green color and will typically build up on the battery’s posts, terminals, or cables.

Why is Battery Corrosion an Issue?

While this corrosion buildup isn’t necessarily harmful immediately on its own, allowing it to continue to grow and corrode the crucial battery connections can lead to frustrating issues if left unaddressed. 

As the chalky crystals continue to accumulate, it can cause incomplete connections in the battery and charging system leading to unpredictable electrical issues. Not only can it create blockages between electrical connections, it can corrode the cables or terminals so badly as to permanently damage them beyond repair. 

What Causes Battery Corrosion?

Leaking Casing

Maybe the most obvious cause of corrosive battery acid leaking from its casing and corroding is, well… a leak. These can occur for a multitude of reasons, but any physical damage to your battery may lead to leaks developing and subsequently corrosive compounds building up on the terminals. 

There’s no one specific reason your battery casing may crack, as this can occur due to impact, weather, or age. Unfortunately, a battery with physical damage will need to be replaced and cannot be repaired. 

Overcharging/Undercharging

The battery and charging system in your vehicle is a delicate balance, as either overcharging or undercharging the battery cells can cause adverse effects. Whether this be due to a fault alternator, voltage regulator, or other component, improper charging will lead to corrosion in the future. 

Close up of alternator

When overcharging the battery, the sulfuric acid and water mix in the battery will begin to boil. This gas can build up in the casing and cause unsafe pressure as well as corrosion buildup on the terminals. 

Corrosion from overcharging will often accumulate on the positive terminal, while undercharging does the opposite and usually appears on the negative terminal. If you suspect a charging problem in your vehicle, an automotive professional can test the outputs of the charging system and give you a comprehensive answer on the next step. 

Overheating

One of the largest contributors to corrosion in car batteries everywhere is overheating. When these batteries reach high temperatures, they begin to boil and evaporate internally in a similar way to overcharging. This also leads to the same issues, with corrosion building up on the terminals and cables. 

High heat in combination with overcharging is the ultimate battery killer and should be avoided entirely. It’s always a good idea to keep an eye on your electrical system over the summer.

How Do I Clean My Battery Terminals and Cables?

Cleaning your battery connections is a relatively simple process and will prevent any disruptions from corrosion buildup. 

Step 1: Gear Up 

If you haven’t already gathered that, battery acid and its corrosive byproducts are not something you’d want on you. Gearing up with protective eyeglasses and thick rubber or latex gloves is the best way to avoid getting these chemicals where they shouldn’t be. It’s important to remember to wash any corrosive material that gets on your clothes or skin immediately.

Step 2: Remove Cables From Terminals

Begin removing the cables from the battery, starting with the negative terminal. After releasing the clamp, move the cable far away from the battery to prevent it from slipping back onto the terminal. Repeat the same process for the positive terminal. If you’re using a battery memory saver, make sure that’s plugged in and active before disconnecting.

Step 3: Begin Cleaning

This can be done with the battery still bolted down, but for maximum safety remove the battery from the vehicle and place it in a shallow tray to catch debris. Using a wire brush (or an old toothbrush), begin scrubbing the powdery substance from the terminals and cable ends. Because this kicks up significant dust, it’s best to do this in a well-ventilated area and use a fan to circulate air. 

Step 4: Finish and Neutralize

Now that we’ve removed the big stuff, it’s time to get our battery terminals looking like new and neutralize the corrosive gunk. For this, you can use either a battery terminal-specific cleaning solution or a DIY mixture of baking soda and water. Dip a rag in the chosen cleaning solution and start wiping the terminals and surrounding areas to get the remaining residue removed. When clean, repeat this on the cables or dip the tips into the neutralizing solution to ensure all corrosive buildup is gone. 

Step 5: Dry and Reconnect

When finished with your cleanup, follow up with a dry rag to polish and remove any lingering dust. Begin reconnecting the battery from the positive terminal first this time and tighten it securely, then repeat on the negative side. 

Congratulations, you now have a corrosion-free battery ready to fire right up in the morning!

How Can I Avoid Battery Corrosion?

Luckily, there are a few steps you can take proactively to protect yourself from harmful battery corrosion.

Have Your Charging System Tested Occasionally

As mentioned earlier, taking your vehicle to a trusted professional and having them test your charging system while taking care of your other general maintenance services is the best way to ensure your battery is not being over or undercharged. 

Protect Your Terminals

Using petroleum jelly, or an automotive-specific solution from any parts store, to cover your battery terminals provides great protection from corrosive compounds while giving you the strongest electrical connection possible. 

Battery & Electrical Services in Riverton, Utah

If you suspect an issue with your battery or charging system, bring it to the trusted experts at Matson Point S in Riverton. Our ASE Certified technicians will check each output and ensure the systems of your car are receiving the proper amount of power. 

Give us a call or schedule an appointment online with us today to talk with our friendly team and knowledgeable service advisors!

Why is My Exhaust Popping?

You’ve probably heard it before; a loud popping or banging sound comes from a vehicle passing by, ranging from a light pop to what could be mistaken for a gunshot depending on the severity of the issue or type of exhaust setup.

One of the main responsibilities of your exhaust is to help make your vehicle as quiet as possible. If you hear loud backfire and popping from your tailpipe and don’t have it set up to do that intentionally, it can be concerning.

While some automotive enthusiasts will tune their vehicles to produce this popping sound in a (more) healthy and sustainable way for the motor and emissions equipment, the vast majority of the time it’s something that should be avoided and addressed promptly when it happens. 

So what’s making this noise occur, and will it cause any damage to your vehicle? In this article, we’ll go over these questions and what to do if you’re experiencing a similar issue!

What Makes Exhausts Pop?

Internal combustions rely on, well… internal combustion within the cylinder. When something goes wrong and one of these explosions happens externally instead, you get the loud banging sound we’re discussing.

This often happens when unburned fuel is able to escape through the exhaust valve. The fuel will make contact with the hot exhaust pipes, and eventually combust, creating a mini explosion within your exhaust. 

A similar issue occurs when combustion happens during the exhaust stroke as the exhaust valve is open. With the valve to the exhaust system being open, the combustion will be heard as a loud pop from the tailpipe. 

So, how does this happen in the first place? 

Causes of Exhaust Backfire

Rich Condition

When a vehicle is running “rich”, it means there is a surplus of fuel being added to the cylinders for combustion compared to the ratio of air. If running with an improper ratio, combustion will be slowed and there will be unburned fuel left in the cylinder.

This extra gasoline can combust either during the exhaust stroke or after the excess fuel has escaped into the exhaust system, causing the startling bang sound. 

Rich conditions are caused by various mechanical issues, including a failed mass airflow sensor, faulty O2 sensor, leaking injectors, and many more. If you’re experiencing a rich fuel mixture, avoid driving your vehicle and have it inspected by a trusted automotive professional.

Bad Timing

The timing system in an engine is responsible for keeping the four processes that need to occur for proper combustion in perfect synchronization. This is most often accomplished through the use of a belt or chain, but these can be knocked out of proper timing due to problems with the chain/belt itself or the tensioner. 

Exposed timing chain

When any of these four strokes happen a tick early or late, it can cause problems with combustion. When full combustion has not occurred, there may be leftover fuel pushed into the exhaust system leading to backfire. 

Timing issues need to be taken very seriously, as they have the potential to cause catastrophic engine failure. 

Faulty Spark Plug(s)

Spark plugs play one of the most crucial roles in the combustion within an engine, creating ignition. These plugs rely on short electrical pulses to ignite the air/fuel mixture and push the piston. 

If the spark plugs or any accompanying electrical components such as fuses and wires encounter an issue it may leave unburned fuel within the combustion chamber. This fuel will either combust at the improper engine stroke or be pushed into the exhaust system and combust there. This issue may be accompanied by a misfire code from your check engine light. 

Exhaust Service & Repair at Matson Point S

If you’re looking for high-quality exhaust diagnostics, maintenance, and repair, the ASE Certified technicians at Matson Point S in Riverton, Utah have the expertise and equipment to properly take care of your vehicle! Give us a call or schedule online with us today.

What Are Glow Plugs in a Diesel?

Although gasoline and diesel engines both operate on similar principles, they have a variety of mechanical differences that make them unique from each other. One of these is the absence of spark plugs and the inclusion of glow plugs.

Why Don’t Diesel Engines Need Spark Plugs?

The answer comes down to how the combustion process happens in a diesel engine. Unlike gasoline, which needs an external spark to ignite in the combustion chamber, diesel engines rely on high compression to initiate combustion.  

Green diesel pump inserted into white vehicle

Spark Plugs vs. Glow Plugs

So if diesel doesn’t need an electrical spark for combustion, what are glow plugs needed for? Glow plugs are only used for initial startup, as they heat the inside of the combustion chamber to the minimum temperature to get the engine started. Once the cycle begins, the heat for combustion is naturally generated in the compression of the diesel fuel. 

How Does a Glow Plug Work?

Glow plugs are similar in shape to spark plugs, with one extending into each cylinder of the engine. Using a filament made of materials such as platinum or iridium, the glow plugs quickly turn red hot and heat the air within the combustion chamber. 

In older diesel vehicles, the glow plugs could require up to 20 seconds of manual activation to reach the proper temperature. This is less of an issue on newer diesels, where more advanced glow plugs can reach operating temperature in just a few seconds. 

Not all diesel engines need glow plugs, however. They’re primarily used on smaller diesel engines that cannot maintain the necessary heat for ignition. Many direct-injection diesel motors forgo glow plugs, as well as larger engines that have less trouble maintaining the right internal air temperature. 

Symptoms of Faulty Glow Plugs

  • Illuminated glow plug light
  • Trouble starting vehicle (especially in the cold)
  • Misfiring engine
  • White/black smoke from exhaust
  • Rough idle

How Often Should I Replace My Glow Plugs?

In general, modern glow plugs should be replaced anywhere between 80,000-100,000 miles. Their lifespan can depend on your vehicle, driving style, and various other factors. 

Glow plugs are also one of the cheaper engine components to replace, meaning you won’t have to break the bank to help ensure your diesel vehicle is running at its best. 

Glow Plug Replacement in the Salt Lake Valley

If you’re looking for quality diesel service and glow plug replacement, the ASE Certified technicians at Matson Point S in Riverton, Utah have the experience and equipment to properly take care of your vehicle! Call or schedule an appointment online with us today!

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