Spark Plug Replacement – Why It’s Important

An essential part of regular vehicle maintenance is spark plug replacement. These small components may not be something you think about often, but they play a key role in the proper functioning of your vehicle. Spark plug replacement is one of the services your auto technician will perform during a tune up. Tune up service is necessary for keeping your vehicle running reliably and performing its best.

Spark Plugs

What Does a Spark Plug Do?

As far as we’re concerned, turning a key or pushing a button to start the ignition is what gets our cars moving. A closer look reveals that the small and humble spark plug emits the spark of electricity that is needed to start your combustion engine vehicle. The power and combustion provided by the spark plug drives clean gas and air to the vehicle’s cylinders. This sets the pistons in motion so that your car moves safely and smoothly.

Spark Plug Replacement and Tune Ups

Knowing the role of the spark plug in your vehicle’s performance, it is easy to see why a poor or failed spark plug can mean big trouble on the road. That’s why regular vehicle maintenance, or tune up service is so important. In addition to providing necessary spark plug replacement, during tune up service, your auto tech will inspect your fuel injectors and fuel pump, replace worn wires, dirty filters, and check for other compromised parts. In the case of older vehicles, adjustment of the ignition timing may also be done during a tune up.

How Often Are Spark Plugs Replaced?

Spark plugs operate in a very harsh and punishing environment. Over time they wear out and are vulnerable to corrosion. While spark plugs cannot last forever, they are pretty tough and do not require frequent replacement. Typically they will need to be replaced every 30,000 miles or every two years.

How Do I Know If I Need a Spark Plug Change?

As with all auto maintenance, the best way to plan service is to follow the guidelines listed in your vehicle owner’s manual. Additionally, you can watch for signs that your car needs spark plug replacement or a general tune up. These include:

  • Difficulty starting or frequent stalling
  • Strange sounds, such as knocking
  • Rough acceleration or idling
  • Poor gas mileage

Stay safe and fuel efficient with regular tune ups and spark plug replacement!

When You Should Get An Oil Change & Why Is It Important?

When you should get an oil change depends mostly on what type of vehicle you have. The old rule of thumb used to be 3,000 miles or 3 months, whichever comes first. Thanks to new, more sophisticated technology, many of today’s cars are equipped with oil-life monitoring systems that let drivers know when an oil change is needed. While some systems are based on mileage and time, more advanced systems detect and analyze the condition of the vehicle’s oil. As with most car maintenance, you should check your owner’s manual to know when you should get an oil change. 

Oil Change

Why are oil changes important? 

As miles accumulate on your car, oil decreases in effectiveness and becomes saturated with dust, water, and combustion residues that cause engine corrosion. The high operating temperatures of your car also cause the thermal breakdown of oil. This makes it less effective as a lubricant. Lubricant is essential in the prevention of engine part wear due to excessive friction. Acid neutralizing additives in oil also decrease in effectiveness over time. 

Even though your car’s oil filter traps much of the dirt, eventually the filter will clog and the contaminated oil will bypass the filter through a relief valve. When oil becomes dirty and thick it also becomes abrasive and causes more wear. 

Consistent oil changes will improve engine performance because clean oil performs much more efficiently than dirty oil. Regular oil changes are essential to a vehicle’s performance and safety and will also help prevent costly repairs throughout the life of your vehicle.

When you get an oil change, your service technician will replace your car’s oil with a full synthetic oil, synthetic blend, or high mileage motor oil, depending on what’s recommended for your particular vehicle. The old oil and oil filter will be removed, replaced, and recycled. Many shops also perform courtesy services such as:

  • Topping off fluids
  • Checking vehicle lights
  • Lubricating chassis as necessary
  • Inspecting belts, hoses, steering, suspension, skid plates and undercarriage
  • Checking windshield wipers
  • Checking car battery

Regarding oil changes, AAA cautions

“Less frequent oil changes on newer engines make it essential that you check the oil level monthly and top it up as needed. While many engines will use less than a quart of oil between changes, others can consume as much as a quart every 600 to 700 miles. Maintaining proper oil levels can help you avoid costly car repairs; engine wear or damage resulting from low oil levels will not be covered by your new-car warranty.”

 

Why It’s Important to Choose a Certified Technician

Choose a Certified TechnicianHaving auto work done can be a bit of a stressful experience, since most of us do not know a lot about the inner workings of a vehicle. That is why it is very important for you to have the utmost confidence in the experience, capability, and professionalism of your auto service provider. What is the best way to have that confidence? Choose a Certified Technician to do your auto service and repair.

What Makes a Certified Technician Different? 

An independent non-profit organization called the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), has established standards to improve the quality of vehicle repair and service by testing and certifying automotive professionals. In addition to passing an ASE Certification test, certified technicians must have completed two years of on the job training or one year of on the job training and a two-year degree in automotive repair to qualify for certification.

According to ASE.com

“The tests are challenging. Only two out of every three test-takers pass on their first attempt. To remain ASE certified, professionals must retest every five years to keep up with ever-advancing automotive technology.”

How Do You Benefit From Choosing a Certified Technician?

You will have confidence knowing that your technician knows how to service or repair your specific vehicle make and model. ASE technicians receive comprehensive training on parts used in a diverse range of makes and models. Some technicians also earn original equipment manufacturer (OEM) certifications to perform repairs on globally recognized vehicle brands. These OEM certifications assure that an auto body technician has not only been trained to repair specific makes and models, but they are also tested and evaluated.

Along with up-to-date training, certified technicians understand and use the latest technologies when servicing your vehicle. Shops that use the most advanced technologies will complete your services and repairs with speed and precision.

Another advantage of using certified technicians is their commitment to best practices. Since certification standards must be met, certified auto body technicians develop and implement car repair best practices to keep their shops accountable. 

Perhaps the most important way that you benefit from choosing a certified technician is that your work will be done by a professional who cares about you and your vehicle. Technicians work hard to achieve and maintain their credentials, and they do so to provide you with confidence in their abilities and satisfaction with their work.

Don’t stress about car repair or put off essential vehicle service because you are not sure where to go! Choose an ASE Certified Technician with confidence.

Don’t Get Stuck In a Scary Situation – Take Care of Your Car!

Don’t Get Stuck In a Scary Situation - Take Care of Your CarMost of us associate October with Halloween and Trick or Treat, but did you know that October is also Fall Car Care Month? The Car Care Council recommends that you take care of your car with a seasonal maintenance visit so you can avoid the potentially scary situation of a breakdown leaving you stranded. 

Regular vehicle maintenance is  essential for assuring the safety and dependability of your vehicle. Fall Car Care Month is the perfect time to take care of your car with some much needed attention before the punishing winter weather sets in. 

The AAA Exchange offers this checklist as a guide to what items you should have inspected to take care of your car fall maintenance needs: 

Battery, Terminals, Cables, & Charging System – Have your technician test the battery and charging system. Confirm that the battery terminals and cable ends are free from corrosion and the connections are tight.

Drive Belts & Engine Hoses – Have the underside of accessory drive belts checked for cracks or fraying. The cooling system hoses should also be inspected for leaks, cracks, brittleness, or loose clamps. 

Brakes – If your car has been showing signs of a brake problem, have the system inspected by your technician to ensure all components are in proper working order.

Tires – Have your tires inspected and replace any tire that has less than 3/32-inches of tread. Uneven tire wear may be a sign of improper alignment or wheel balance, or even an indication of suspension problems. Have all of these things checked if your tread is wearing too fast.

Tire inflation pressure should be checked, as well. Did you know that tire pressure drops as temperatures drop? Pressure should be checked more frequently in fall and winter.

If you plan to get winter tires, now is the time.

Fluid Levels – This is another thing you can check yourself. If your coolant is low, add a 50/50 mixture of coolant and water. If you don’t need to add fresh coolant, you should test the effectiveness of the coolant in your tank. You can buy a tester or ask your technician to test it for you.

Fill the windshield washer fluid tank with a winter cleaning solution that contains antifreeze elements to prevent it from freezing.

Check the transmission, brake and power steering fluids to ensure they are at or above the minimum required levels.

Air Filter – You can check your air filter by holding it up to the light. If there is no visibility through it, it should be replaced. If you are not sure, have your technician check it when your other services are being done.

Lights & Wiper Blades – Verify that all headlights, taillights, brake lights, turn signals, emergency flashers and back-up lights are functioning properly. Replace any wiper blades that leave streaks or miss spots. If you see a lot of snow in your area, you can install winter wiper blades that wrap the blade frame in a rubber boot to reduce ice and snow buildup.

 

What Does a Transmission Flush Do for Your Vehicle?

 

transmission gear shiftTransmission fluid is an essential lubricant that cools and protects the moving components in an automotive transmission. This lubricant also enables the gears to shift properly. Vehicle fluids tend to degrade over time – transmission fluid is no exception. The deterioration of transmission fluid can be accelerated in the case of a car that does a lot of city driving, or a truck that does regular hauling. Flushing the transmission clears out degraded transmission fluid so it can be replaced with new transmission fluid.

In addition to clearing out old fluid, a transmission flush washes away tiny particles, such as clutch material and metal shavings, which accumulate in the fluid over time. When transmission flush service is neglected, those particles clog passages and wedge between moving parts, causing wear within the transmission. Regular transmission service allows your transmission to function properly significantly longer, which means you’re less likely to breakdown and be faced with a major transmission repair.

Transmission service is typically recommended every 50,000 miles. As with all auto services, it is important to refer to your owner’s manual to see the recommendations for your specific vehicle.

Why are Potholes So Bad Every Spring?

potholeIt never fails. Every year, as winter gives way to spring, potholes seem to pop up all over the place, like dandelions in the front yard. If you have ever driven over a sizable pothole, you’ve experienced the jarring impact, followed by several moments of anxiety as you wonder if a part of your car has fallen off. You quickly check your mirrors to see if anything is lying in the road behind you, but all you see is that gaping pothole, mocking you.

So, why are potholes so plentiful this time of year? The pothole problem actually begins in the winter, when freezing and thawing cycles cause cracks in road surfaces to get larger and further degrade. The application of road salt can accelerate the damage because it creates more freezing and thawing stress as the salt melts ice on the roadway. In the spring, heavy rains infiltrate the cracks and cause more deterioration.

Not only do these road menaces make driving less comfortable, potholes can do significant damage to your vehicle. While we do our best to avoid them, sometimes it’s just not possible, so it is important to be aware of any problems your vehicle might have as a result.

Hitting a pothole can cause vehicle component damage, particularly with the shocks and struts. Shocks and struts control ride and handling, and serve as a cushion to dampen the bouncing action of the vehicle’s springs. They also regulate spring and suspension movement, keeping the car’s tires in contact with the road to facilitate proper steering, stability, and braking. Damaged shocks and struts can create a dangerous situation, so it is important to be aware of the signs that your shocks or struts may need to be replaced:

  • Swaying or rolling on turns
  • Bottoming out or thumping on bumps
  • Bouncing or sliding sideways on rough or winding roads
  • Front-end dives when braking or rear end dips when accelerating
  • Loss of directional control during abrupt stops
  • Puddles under the car or leaking fluids

An encounter with a pothole can also lead to tire and wheel damage, engine and  exhaust system issues, or suspension problems. It’s important to have your vehicle inspected if you experience any of the issues mentioned above. Dealing with pothole damage early can prevent more extensive problems down the road.

STOP! Pay Attention to Signs of Brake Problems

Stop for Brake ProblemsYour car’s brake system is highly complex, involving multiple integrated components, all of which are prone to wear and eventual failure. Brake problems can have serious and deadly consequences, so drivers need to pay attention to any indications of brake trouble. People often ignore the signs, thinking they do not have the time or money to deal with it. But when you think of all that is at stake if your brakes fail, you cannot afford to ignore any warning signs.

Today’s vehicles have many ways of letting you know that brake problems may be starting. Pay attention to brake problem warning signs and you can have brake problems fixed before they put the safety of you and your passengers in jeopardy.

Common Warning Signs of Brake Problems:

Strange Noises

If you hear a high, screeching sound when you apply your brakes, it might mean that your brake pads are excessively worn and need to be replaced.

When Braking Causes the Vehicle to Pull to One Side

When your car pulls to one side as you are braking, it could be an indication that the brake lining is wearing unevenly or that the brake fluid is contaminated.

Brake Pedal Feels Odd or Spongy

When you hit the brake pedal, it might feel spongy or sink to the floor. This could mean a leak in the braking system, such as an air leak in the brake hose or a brake fluid leak. A brake pedal that feels stiff or is difficult to press may indicate a blockage in the brake line or an issue in the vacuum system.

Excessive Vibration When Braking

You might notice excessive vibration in your brake pedal during breaking, similar to the vibration you feel when the anti-lock brakes feature engages. This vibration or pulsating can be an indication of warped rotors.

Jerking Sensation As Brakes are Applied

If you experience a grabbing or jerking feeling when applying the brakes, it could mean the rotor is unevenly worn or that the brake fluid is contaminated.

Along with these warning signs, the brake system service light on your car’s dashboard will illuminate if your on-board diagnostic system senses any problems. It can happen that service lights come on even when there is not a problem, if you see the brake service light up, you definitely should take your vehicle in for a brake system inspection.

Signs That Your Fuel Injection System Needs Attention

Fuel Injection SystemMost vehicles on the road today are equipped with fuel injection engines. Since the early 80’s, fuel injection systems have gained popularity as an alternative to carburetors.

In order for your vehicle to run smoothly and efficiently, the engine needs to be fed the right mixture of fuel and air. For a long time, auto design always relied on a carburetor to supply fuel to the engine. Most newer vehicles are now equipped with fuel injection systems.

Fuel injection systems deliver fuel in precise bursts, and are typically more powerful and efficient than carburetor systems. Fuel injection is also more economical and produces less emission pollution.

While fuel injector systems offer many advantages, they do experience issues such as a clogged or dirty fuel injector.  Periodic maintenance should include proper cleaning of fuel injectors to address issues before they become serious and costly.

The following are some signs that your fuel injection system needs service attention:

Check Engine Light Turns On

Perhaps the most obvious sign of trouble is seeing the “Check Engine” light glow on your dashboard. This light can signal several problems including a bad fuel injector. Any time an injector delivers too much or too little fuel, the engines efficiency is lowered, which can trigger service light illumination.

Stalling and Rough Idling

If your car is not getting adequate fuel or an inconsistent supply of fuel, the idling RPM drops below the optimal level causing the idle to feel aggressive or rough. If the RPM falls too low, the car will eventually stall.

Engine Vibration

A compromised fuel injector will cause the corresponding cylinder to not be able to fire. This in turn will cause the engine to vibrate as it tries to finish each cycle without adequate fuel.

Engine Misfires

When the engine does not get sufficient fuel due to a clogged injector, the engine can misfire as you drive. This can be felt as a struggle to accelerate or a hesitation after you step on the gas pedal. This problem should be address right away or the engine will be susceptible to overheating or other problems.

Fuel Leak

It is possible for a fuel injector to become broken or cracked from damage or old age. This will result in fuel leaks and inability of fuel to reach the nozzle. Inspection of the fuel injector may reveal gasoline on the exterior or on the nearby fuel rail. In many cases the leak comes from the fuel injector seal, which deteriorates over time.

For optimal vehicle performance, be sure to have your fuel injection system cleaned and inspected as part of your regular maintenance routine.

April is National Car Care Month

April is National Car Care MonthDid you know that April is National Car Care Month? That means it’s time to get your car ready for spring driving and summer road trips. Supported by the Car Care Council, National Car Care Month reminds you to take care of any auto-related issues that may have put off over the winter months.

If you are like most people, your vehicle is your second largest investment next to your home. Caring for your vehicle will ensure it delivers the dependable performance, lasting value, and enjoyment you’ve come to rely on. Properly maintained vehicles offer the greatest return on investment in that they will operate safely for you and your loved ones. Regular maintenance also helps you avoid costly repairs down the road, which should provide you with the right motivation to consistently take care of your vehicle.

According to the Car Care Council, 7 out of 10 vehicles fail at least one component of a vehicle inspection. These results show that a majority of vehicle owners could save money, time, and trouble by being more proactive when it comes to maintaining their vehicles. Whether you’re doing it yourself, or relying on your auto service pro to take care of your ride, it’s time to get ready for the spring and summer travel season.

The following services are typically recommended for regularly scheduled car care:

  • Check the oil filter and fluids
  • Inspect hoses at each oil change; replace any that are cracked or brittle
  • Check the brakes and engine brake system
  • Make sure the battery connection is tight, clean, and free of corrosion
  • Inspect the exhaust system for leaks, damage, or broken supports
  • Schedule a tune-up to make sure your fuel economy is performing at its best
  • Check the car’s heating and air conditioning system to ensure interior comfort and safety
  • Inspect the steering and suspension systems annually
  • Check the pressure of all tires, including the spare
  • Test interior and exterior lights and replace any non-working bulbs

 

October is Fall Car Care Month

October is Car Care MonthBasic auto service and repairs can go a long way in improving the safety and dependability of a vehicle. The non-profit Car Care Council recommends 10 Fall Car Care maintenance procedures that will help your vehicle operate at its best before the winter season arrives.

Fall Car Care Month is the perfect time to give your car the much needed attention before cooler and harsher weather sets in. Just like the Car Care Council, we suggest that now is the time to take care of your vehicle to avoid potential headaches in the future.

Check all fluids – Window washer solvent, anti-freeze/coolant as well as engine oil, power steering, brake & transmission.

Check the battery – Replace if necessary. Ensure the connection is tight, clean, and free of corrosion.

Check hoses & belts – Make sure they are not loose, cracked, brittle, or even showing signs of excessive wear.

Check your brakes – Annual brake checks are suggested. As well as taking a look at the rotors, drums & brake linings.

Inspect the exhaust system – Leaks, damage & broken elements can occur. Inspect for unusual behaviors or loud noises.

Check your engine – Your vehicle craves the best balance of power & fuel economy while producing the lowest level of emissions.

Check your wipers – It’s important to see and be seen during winter driving. Check all the interior and exterior lighting.

Check heating/HVAC system – Proper heating & cooling performance is crucial for your safety.

Inspect steering & suspension – Annual checking is recommended. We would also encourage a review of other components like shock absorbers, struts, ball joints & tie rod ends.

Check your tires – Uneven wear and tears can greatly affect your safety. As can poorly inflated tires.

Vehicle manufacturers have specific recommendations, so be sure to refer to your owner’s manual tire rotation guidelines if you have specific questions.