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.

Resolve to Take Better Care of Your Vehicle and Tires

auto_care_resolutionsLet’s face it, we tend to take our ride for granted. For the most part it is always there, ready to take us wherever and whenever we need to go. We only think about taking care of it when there is an obvious problem, like a flat tire or a dead battery. The problem with this approach is that it is not good for your car, and it can be very risky for the safety of you and your passengers. Why not make 2018 the year you resolve to make vehicle maintenance a priority? Regular auto and tire maintenance not only make sense for protecting and prolonging the life of your vehicle and tires, it also means you’ll be safer on the road.

Check Tire Pressure & Tread Depth

Make it a point to check your tire pressure at least once a month. You can find the proper pressure for your vehicle’s tires listed in your owner’s manual. Keep in mind that the maximum pressure is not the same as the recommended pressure.  Don’t forget to also check the pressure of your spare tire.

You also should check the tread depth on your tires two or three times a year. The penny test is a simple way to gauge your tread depth. Hold a penny so you can read “In God We Trust” across the top. Insert it into five different sections of the tire and look at Lincoln’s head.  If you can see the top of Lincoln’s head, your treads are excessively worn, and it is time for a new set of tires. If Abe’s head is covered to about the forehead hairline, the tread is in good shape and you probably do not need new tires.

Tire Balancing & Rotation

Tire balancing and rotation should be part of your regular service. Tire balancing provides a smooth ride and assures even tire wear by properly adjusting the wheel weight distribution around the vehicle. Tire rotation is an important maintenance step that will greatly extend the life of your tires. Manufacturers have specific recommendations, so it is advisable to refer to your owner’s manual tire rotation guidelines to ensure proper tread wear.

Stick to a Regular Maintenance Schedule

To keep your car running properly and performing at peak levels, it is essential to stay up-to-date with recommended regular maintenance services. Like us, our vehicles need regular check-ups to maintain good health and catch potential problems before they become serious issues. The following is a list of typical services – consult your owner’s manual for your vehicle’s recommended services and frequency.

  • Coolant Flush and Replacement
  • Oil Change
  • Fluid Checks – Power Steering and Brake
  • Brake Inspection
  • Check Belts & Hoses
  • Filters – Air and Fuel
  • Battery & Cables
  • Lights
  • Exhaust System
  • Windshield Washer Fluid & Wiper Blades

Establishing a regular care routine allows you to drive with confidence knowing that you are traveling safely where ever the road takes you. You will also get to enjoy your vehicle and tire investment much longer.

Three Automotive Services You Should Leave to the Pros

Automotive Services You Should Leave to the ProsThere is nothing I love to hear about more than someone who is enthusiastic about taking care of their car. I am a big proponent of drivers investing time in learning about their vehicles so they can do their own service and repair work. Having said that, I will add the following caveat, some automotive services should always be left to the professionals. No matter how much of a car enthusiast you are or how much you need to save money, some auto services simply should not be done at home for the sake of vehicle safety.

What does the auto professional offer that you cannot? Unless you are a trained and certified mechanic, you more than likely do not have the education and experience needed to do the job right. Also, people do not have in their home garages the costly and complex equipment that is required to properly diagnose and repair today’s vehicles. Your local auto service professional is equipped to perform all automotive services in an affordable and timely manner.

For this post, I will be focusing on three examples of automotive services you should leave to the professionals: Engine Diagnostics, Tire Rotation, and Suspension Repairs.

Engine Diagnostics – Today’s advanced on-board automotive technology has greatly simplified the diagnosis of engine problems to a large degree, however the technology is not perfect, and it does not eliminate the need for human interpretation. Engine codes can be very general and require more sophisticated equipment to reveal the true source of the problem.

Tire Rotation – While it may seem simple to jack up your vehicle and change the tires around, not doing the job correctly could mean costly damage to your tires, or worse yet, it could result in losing a wheel at highway speeds and a life threatening auto accident. It is better to have a tire professional do the job. They have the training to not only do the job properly, but also to spot signs of uneven tread wear and tire damage.

Suspension Repairs – The suspension system of your vehicle provides stability to your vehicle’s steering system therefore it is critical to the safety of your vehicle. Any work you do or new components you install during a suspension repair could have a serious impact on suspension system performance and reliability.

While some auto services should be left to the professionals, there are many simple car maintenance services you can perform yourself. Just keep in mind this rule of thumb – when in doubt, see an automotive services professional.

Transmission Flush & Fluid Replacement

Transmission Flush and Fluid Replacement – Getting in Gear with Car Maintenance

Transmission FlushTransmission service is the topic of this post in our Getting in Gear with Car Maintenance series. Part of your recommended regular vehicle maintenance, transmission service includes a transmission flush and transmission fluid change. Regular transmission services will keep your car performing at its best, and keep it running dependably.

What a transmission flush does for your vehicle

Transmission fluid is an essential lubricant that cools and protects the moving components in your vehicle’s transmission, and facilitates gear shifts. Like other automotive fluids, transmission fluid degrades over time. Transmission fluid deterioration can be accelerated by certain types of driving, such as city driving or heavy hauling. A transmission flush service gets rid of the old transmission fluid so it can be replaced with new fluid.

What happens during a transmission flush and fluid replacement?

Your auto service professional will:

  • Remove and inspect the pan
  • Replace or clean the screen or filter
  • Clean and reinstall the pan with a new pan gasket
  • Remove the old transmission fluid and replace it with fresh fluid

Why are transmission flushes important to your vehicle?

A transmission flush gets rid of old fluid and washes away tiny particles, such as clutch material and metal shavings, which accumulate as the fluid ages. Without a flush, those particles eventually clog passages and wedge between moving parts, causing wear within the transmission. Flushing the fluid gets rid of those particles and prevents the wear they cause. Regular transmission service allows your transmission to function better for years longer, which means you’re less likely to breakdown and be faced with a major transmission repair.

How often is a transmission flush needed?

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.

 

Cooling System Flush

Cooling System Flush & Coolant Replacement – Getting in Gear with Car Maintenance

coolant system flushesIn this post in our series on Getting in Gear with Car Maintenance, we are going to take a look at the one of the best ways to help your car keep its cool – the cooling system flush. The best way to understand the importance of a cooling system flush is to start by looking at the role of coolant.

The main job of coolant, or antifreeze, is to transfer excess heat from the vehicle engine to the radiator. The coolant absorbs the heat and redirects it to the radiator where it is evacuated into the air. It may also be directed through the heat exchanger to heat the passenger area. Coolant is comprised of a 50/50 ratio mixture of ethylene or propylene glycol and water. Though water alone could do the job of transferring heat, it is not used alone because it would be too corrosive to the engine.

What a cooling system flush does for your vehicle

The beneficial elements found in coolant breakdown over time, which leaves the engine and radiator vulnerable to corrosion.  Eventually rust deposits can accumulate and clog the cooling system and radiator. The clogs lead to overheating, which is the most common cause of engine damage and breakdowns. A coolant flush and fill will prevent these deposits and overheating.  Ultimately, getting a coolant flush and keeping the coolant fresh is much less trouble and expensive than repairing a heater core or radiator, or head gasket.

What happens during cooling system flush service?

Your auto service professional will:

  • Thoroughly inspect the coolant/antifreeze system
  • Repair and/or replace any components as necessary
  • Replace old coolant/antifreeze with new fluid 

Why are coolant flushes important to your vehicle?

Because it functions in a hot and hostile environment, coolant is subject to rapid break down. Once the coolant’s rust inhibitors become depleted, corrosion may occur in the confined passages in the engine and radiator. Ultimately some corrosion will take place, even with rust inhibitors. The engine block is the main source of rust in a car’s cooling system. Particles of rust will clog radiator and heater passages, causing your engine to overheat. If coolant is not regularly monitored, the rust inhibitors stop working, and the cooling system rusts from the inside out. 

How often are coolant flushes necessary?

The typical time frame for having a coolant flush is two years or 30,000 miles. See your owner’s manual for your vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations.

Tire Rotation & Tread Inspection

Tire Rotation and Tread Inspection – Getting in Gear with Car Maintenance

Tire Rotation and Tread Wear InspectionTires are the focus of this post in our series on Getting in Gear with Car Maintenance. As one of the most important safety and performance features on your vehicle, tires need the same attention to maintenance that essential mechanical components require. Tire rotation and tread inspection are two recommended maintenance items that need to be done regularly.

What tire rotation and tread inspection do for vehicle performance

Tire rotation and tread inspection are about extending the usable life of your tires and making sure they are safe. By rotating the tires, you can balance out the wear to get the most even wear on all four tires. Since tires in different positions do not wear the same, this will also help to assure there is a safe and sufficient amount of tread on every tire.

What happens during tire rotation and tread inspection service?

Rotation service consists of rotating or repositioning tires by moving them from one side of the vehicle to the other. Depending on the vehicle manufacturer recommendation, this may include moving them from front to back. Tires tend to wear differently depending on their position, the condition of your suspension, and the way you drive. When your auto service professional rotates your vehicle’s tires, the front tires are usually swapped with the rear tires. Typically the driver side tires stay on the driver side and the passenger side tires stay on the passenger side. This can vary with different types of vehicles or tires.

Why tire rotation and tread inspection are necessary

Regular rotation and tread inspection are important because tires are subjected to a tremendous amount of wear. Without proper rotation, your tires will wear prematurely, preventing you from getting the most from your tire investment. Tire rotation protects your investment by extending the quality and service life of your tires. Tire rotation is also important because it promotes safe and even tread wear. Front and rear tires wear differently. Front tires are subjected to much more pressure than rear tires, so the tread wears more rapidly on the front tires. Regular rotation also improves driving performance and gas mileage.

Quality tires are expensive! It only makes sense to get the most for your money. Tire rotation and tread inspection service will keep your vehicle safe and to keep your tires properly maintained to get the most from them.

How often tire rotation and tread inspection are needed

Generally speaking tire rotation is recommended every 5,000 to 10,000 miles. Your service manual will provide you with the best maintenance schedule for your particular make and model vehicle.

Oil Changes

Oil Changes – Getting in Gear with Car Maintenance

Oil ChangeThe more you know about car maintenance, the better prepared you’ll be to keep your vehicle safe and performing at peak levels. The goal of our Getting in Gear with Car Maintenance series is not to make you an expert, but to help you understand some key services and why they are important. Today we will take a look at oil changes.

What does an oil change do for my vehicle’s performance? 

Over time oil decreases in effectiveness and becomes saturated with dust, water, and combustion residues that cause engine corrosion.  Regular oil changes will improve engine performance because clean oil performs much more efficiently than dirty oil. Regular oil changes are essential to vehicle’s performance and safety and will also help prevent costly repairs throughout the life of your vehicle.

What happens during an oil change?

Your auto service provider will change your vehicle’s motor oil using full synthetic oil, synthetic blend, or high mileage motor oil, depending on the recommendation of your vehicle’s manufacturer. The old oil and oil filter will be removed, replaced, and recycled.

In most cases, the technician will also perform a courtesy inspection, which may include:

  • 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

Why are oil changes necessary?

As the miles on your vehicle accumulate, high operating temperatures will 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. Accumulation of dirt in the oil is a problem, too. Although the 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. Regular oil changes are essential to vehicle’s performance and safety.

When will your vehicle need an oil change?

The rule of thumb has always been to change oil every 3,000 miles or three months, whichever comes first. Vehicle manufacturer recommendations vary, though so you should always consult your owner’s manual.

Getting in Gear with Car Maintenance

Get in Gear with Car MaintenanceA few weeks ago we talked about National Car Care Month, and the importance of making good car maintenance a habit. So, how are you doing with that? Just in case you haven’t quite gotten in gear, we have a five-part series ahead to inspire you.

First, let’s take a look at some eye-opening stats from AAA :

Among U.S. adults who drive, one third (35 percent) have skipped or delayed maintenance or a repair that was recommended by their mechanic or specified in the factory maintenance schedule

And a survey of AAA approved auto repair facilities revealed:

Six in ten (62%) repair shops say more than half of the vehicles they service are behind schedule for routine maintenance services.

Three‐quarters (77%) of repair shops estimate customers who forget or ignore manufacturers’ recommended maintenance could save, on average, $100 or more per visit if they properly maintained their vehicles.

The more you know about car maintenance, the better equipped you’ll be to get in gear. Not only will you understand what needs to be done, you will have a clearer picture of why car maintenance services are so important. Some of the maintenance services we’ll be looking at that need to be done regularly include:

  • Oil Changes
  • Rotate Tires & Inspect for Proper Wear
  • Flush Cooling System & Replace Coolant
  • Drain & Refill Transmission
  • Tune-up & Spark Plug Replacement

The goal of this series is not to make you an expert, but to help you understand these services and why they are important, so you can get in gear car maintenance. Up first: Oil Changes

 

Brake Fluid – What It Does & Why It’s Important

stop-signBrake fluid plays an important role in the proper functioning of your vehicle’s brake system. Working under extremely high temperatures, the brake fluid facilitates the movement of the brake system’s various components. A non-compressible substance that is contained within the brake lines, brake fluid provides the force created when the brake pedal is pressed. This force is applied to each of the brake rotors on the four corners of the vehicle, effectively applying pressure to the wheels to slow or stop the movement of the vehicle.

Brake fluid is an element that needs to be periodically replaced. There are a variety of brake fluid types, so it is important to choose the right type for your vehicle. The primary types of brake fluid are glycol-based and silicon-based fluids. Glycol-based brake fluids are mostly used in vehicles with anti-lock brake systems (ABS) and vary by individual grade options. Silicone-based brake fluids are designed for use in vehicles without ABS technology. If a non-ABS vehicle has ever had a glycol-based brake fluid used in the brake system, that type of brake fluid must be continued since residual amounts of glycol will compromise the performance of a silicon-based fluid. To find out the best brake fluid option for your vehicle, refer to your owner’s manual, or ask your auto service technician.

It is necessary to drain and replace brake fluid periodically because it absorbs moisture from the air and degrades over time. Changing brake fluid at recommended intervals will assure proper brake system functioning. Brake fluid changes are typically done every one or two years, however different vehicles will have different recommendations for best performance.

Since your vehicle’s brake system and brake fluid are so crucial to its safe operation, it is really important to have this service done. It is also recommended that this service be done by a qualified professional automotive technician.

7 Signs Your Engine Performance Might Be Declining

engine performance lightPoor engine performance can mean serious and expensive problems for your vehicle. It is essential to catch and address engine issues early, before they result in devastating consequences. Fortunately, today’s vehicles are equipped with warning lights, including a check engine light, to let you know if there is a problem. When the check engine light illuminates, you should schedule diagnostic services to identify the problem. If the light flashes, this indicates a more serious issue that should get immediate attention.

Aside from your check engine light, here are some additional signs that your engine performance might be in trouble:

  1. Power loss

Internal combustion engines convert fuel into the power required to move a vehicle. The combustion engine operation involves a four stroke cycle – intake stroke, compression stroke, combustion stroke, and exhaust stroke. Failure during any one of these strokes could result in a lack of power to the engine and compromised engine performance.

  1. Unusual or excessive noise

Problems in the combustion flow can result in a wide variety of strange sounds such as knocking, hissing, popping or backfiring. Any time you hear weird noises when you start up your vehicle, consider it a warning sign and schedule a service call.

  1. Poor gas mileage

Having to fill your gas tank more often than usual, could mean more than a hit to your budget. It might mean there is a problem with the compression stroke of your engine. Fixing it may be as simple as having the fuel system cleaned or getting a tune-up.  Your best course of action is to have a diagnostic performed to make sure it is not a more serious issue.

  1. Engine Stalling

When it comes to automatic transmission vehicles, engine stalling is highly unusual, and probably means there is a problem with the engine. Most commonly the problem is that the intake stroke is not getting the spark or air/fuel mixture it needs. Here, too, the problem may be fixed by a tune up, but it could also be more serious, and should not go unchecked.

  1. Odd smells

Like sounds, anything persistent and unusual should not be ignored with odors. Problems with the exhaust stroke could lead to strange exhaust smells to be noticeable in the vehicle.

  1. Engine run-on

If your car continues to run after you turn it off, you should have it checked out. This sign of troubled engine performance is most common in high-performance vehicles. Causes of the problem might include incorrect octane gas for the vehicle, a failing solenoid, or carburetor issues.

  1. Engine runs rough

Clogs in the system or old spark plugs can cause a rough running engine, as can improper octane in the gasoline or a low battery. Like the other issues mentioned, a simple tune up could be all it takes to remedy a rough running engine.

As with any vehicle problems you may encounter, the important thing is to have engine performance problems or signs addressed as soon as possible to avoid more expense and complications.