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- Air Conditioning
- Check Engine Light
- Disc Brakes
- Drum Brakes
- Shocks & Struts
- Water Pump
- Wheel Bearings
Let’s talk about air conditioning service and repair issues. Most of us we don’t give our air conditioning a second thought as long as it’s making cold air. But it’s a complex and expensive system that we should think about before it starts blowing hot air.
The refrigerant in the air conditioner contains a special oil that lubricates and cools the A/C parts. When enough refrigerant leaks out, your air conditioner still makes cold air, but the parts don’t have enough oil to protect them and they wear out faster than they should so it’s important to service the air conditioner as recommended.
Replacing old refrigerant has another benefit: refrigerant tends to gather moisture and become corrosive. That causes leaks in the system which can be expensive to repair. Fresh refrigerant protects the air conditioning components and keeps the system operating at peak efficiency so it doesn’t have to work as hard to keep you cool.
Even with regular service A/C parts can just wear out. Normal wear and tear eventually gets to all moving parts. Addressing early problems can save on more extensive repairs down the road. For instance, a common failure is the clutch that turns the compressor on and off. If you can take care of a bad A/C clutch when it first starts having problems, you may be able to save the compressor. Wait too long and you’ll have to replace both.
Check your owner’s manual or ask your service advisor for service recommendations. And if you’re hearing strange sounds when your air conditioning turns on, or if it just isn’t as cold as it used to be, have us give it the once over see what it’ll take to keep you cool.
You’ve probably noticed a bunch of warning lights on your dash when you start your engine. They flash on to test the circuits and then go off if everything’s OK. One of the warning lights looks like a car battery. Its job is to tell you if your battery’s not charging properly.
You know that your battery stores electricity – enough to start your engine and get you moving. But that’s about it – you can only get a few miles on battery power alone. You need an alternator to generate enough electricity to run your engine and power your electrical accessories like the stereo, power seats, heater fan, on-board computers, and so on. On top of that, the alternator needs to recharge your battery. So when your alternator isn’t working properly, there isn’t enough electricity for all of those things. When your alternator fails, you aren’t going very far.
So why would your alternator not work? Usually they’ve simply worn out. Alternators are driven by your serpentine belt and spin 2 to 3 times faster than the engine – that’s a lot of work. The bearings wear out, as do the cooper wire coils and magnets that generate the electricity.
There’s no sense in hobbling along with an alternator that’s not working properly. It will fail at some point and leave you stranded. Get a bad alternator replaced as soon as you can. Your service technician will install an alternator that meets your manufacturer’s specifications. Some folks use a lot of additional electrical gizmos in the vehicle, like computers, DVD players, power inverters and such or may regularly tow a camp trailer that’s battery recharges as you drive. If that sounds like you, talk with your service advisor about upgrading to a more heavy duty alternator to meet your needs.
Your axles are the last link in transferring power from the engine to your wheels. They’re strong parts that last a long time – but they can run into trouble.
Axles just wear out over time and need to be replaced. And sometimes axle seals leak, causing the axle to wear out prematurely. Lubricant leaks out, and water and dirt can get in and contaminate the gears. When this happens you might hear strange noises coming from your axle.
If you have a rear-wheel drive vehicle, the sound would be at the rear end. If you have a front-wheel drive vehicle, the sound would be up front. Of course, with an all-wheel drive, the sound could come from either front or back. It might be a groaning sound or clunking when turning.
There are different kinds of axles, each with their own potential problems. Your service technician knows this and checks for things like leaking seals, torn CV boots, worn axle joints. An inspection will reveal if there are any problems or if a part is nearing failure.
When there is a concern with the axle shaft, it will be removed and inspected. If it’s damaged, the shaft will have to be replaced. If the shaft is in good shape, it’ll be cleaned, lubed and reinstalled. Damaged CV boots are replaced as well.
It’s important to take care of this work as soon as you become aware of a problem. Waiting only makes the damage worse and more expensive to repair later. If the axle fails completely, it could lock up. This could severely damage other things like your transmission – very expensive. It could also contribute to an accident, which nobody wants.
Taking care of your axles when they need it saves money in the long run, and helps keep you safely on the road.
Batteries are a huge part of modern life. I mean, how many battery chargers do you have?
Of course, our purpose here is to talk about your car battery. When people come into our service center and need a new battery, they’re really not that happy about having to spend the money. But the fact is that 70% of batteries don’t make it for 4 years.
There are some things that you can do to extend the life of your battery. First, keep it clean. If you see it getting dirty or greasy, let us know and we can clean it off. A dirty battery runs hotter and that shortens its life. If your battery terminals are corroded, let us take a look at that too. We can clean them, and if the corrosion has gotten into the battery cables, we can replace them.
Also running your battery way down is bad for it: Things like running the headlights or watching a DVD player with the car turned off can deeply deplete your battery. The typical battery can only take about 10 of those deep cycle depletions before it gives up the ghost.
Because we often take short trips around town with lots of stops for errands, our batteries can end up not getting fully recharged just by driving around. That also shortens battery life. You can hook up a good quality automatic battery charger at home from time to time. We recommend charging once a month during hot months and every three months during cold months.
Now when it’s finally time to get a new battery, we can help you find the right replacement. We’ll always make sure to meet your manufacturer’s recommendations. Now if you have special needs – like live in a very cold climate or run a lot of electrical accessories, we can look at an upgrade that’ll give you the power you need.
When your check engine lights comes on, you may be torn between utter panic and just wanting to ignore it and hope it goes away. That’s perfectly understandable. That same check engine light could come on for anything from a serious engine or transmission problem all the way down to a loose gas cap.
There’s a very common misconception that the trouble codes stored in your engine computer when your check engine light comes on will specifically identify a problem. It’s really more like pointing to the symptoms of a problem.
Think of taking your temperature. Say it’s 101. Your heat sensor – the thermometer – tells you that your temperature is out of the normal range. But it doesn’t tell you why you have a fever. Is it the flu or a sinus infection? You need more information; more tests.
For any given trouble code, there could be a number of causes. So your trained technician takes the trouble code as a starting point and begins a diagnostic process to determine the cause of the problem. And some problems take longer to solve than others.
When your engine management system logs a problem and illuminates the check engine light, your service technician will plug in a scanner, download the trouble codes and go to work tracing the cause of the problem.
That’s just the first step. That’s when your technician’s training, equipment, databases and skill get put to work diagnosing the problem and fixing it.
If your check engine light is flashing it means that the problem could lead to serious damage. You should get to the service center as soon as possible to get the problem solved. If it’s on but not flashing, you have some time to get in at your convenience.
Your brakes are extremely important. Having good brakes just keeps you out of trouble. You’ll want to carefully maintain your brakes. With disc brakes, brake pads rub on a disc – or rotor – to slow the wheels. The pads are attached to a caliper that squeezes the pads against the rotor. It’s kind of like how squeezing the handbrake on a bicycle pushes the brake pads against the wheel of the bike.
Now pads just wear away with use – kind of like a pencil eraser wears out. The good news is that replacing brake pads is a straight-forward repair.
If you hear squealing or grinding when you use the brakes, have your service advisor check them out. He’ll have a technician perform a thorough brake inspection to see what needs to be done. He’ll check for signs of brake problems and go over other brake components to see that they’re working properly.
He can tell you if it’s time to replace the pads or if there are other issues with your brakes that should be addressed. Some people ignore the warning signs and keep driving long after the pads are completely worn out. When that happens, metal brake components will grind on the rotor, damaging it enough that it needs to be resurfaced or replaced.
Rotors can also warp or crack, in which case they’ll need to be replaced. Brake calipers also wear out over time. They can develop leaks or the caliper pistons can freeze open or closed – either way it’s not good. When this happens it’s time to replace the calipers. A thorough brake inspection will reveal worn bearings or seals as well.
The new pads we put on your vehicle will restore your brakes to manufacturers’ specifications. Or, we can install upgraded parts to increase your stopping power and reduce brake noise and brake dust. We have several options to meet your braking requirements and your budget.
Taking care of your brakes keeps them working safely – and you could prevent premature brake repairs down the road.
Brakes that work properly are essential to your safety. You want to carefully maintain your brakes. In vehicles equipped with drum brakes, the brake components are housed inside a drum that rotates with the wheel. When you step on the brake pedal, brake shoes push out against the inside of the drum, slowing the wheel.
Now brake shoes just wear away with use from rubbing on the drum as you brake. When it’s time to replace brake shoes, it’s a straight-forward repair.
If you hear squealing or grinding when braking, have your service advisor check them out. He’ll have a technician perform a thorough brake inspection to see what needs to be done. He’ll check for signs of brake problems and go over other brake components to see that they’re working properly.
He can tell you if it’s time to replace the shoes or if there are other issues with your brakes that should be addressed. Some people ignore the warning signs and keep driving long after the shoes are completely worn out. When that happens, metal brake components will grind against the drum, damaging it enough that it has to be resurfaced or replaced.
When you push on your brake pedal, the wheel cylinder is activated and it pushes the shoes against the drum to slow the vehicle. This cylinder, and various springs within the brake, can wear out affecting your ability to stop. The worn components can be easily replaced.
The new shoes we put on your vehicle will restore your brakes to manufacturers’ specifications. Or, we can install upgraded parts to increase your stopping power and reduce brake noise and brake dust. We have several options to meet your braking requirements and your budget.
Taking care of your brakes keeps them working safely – and you could prevent premature brake repairs down the road.
We’ve all heard a car or truck that needs a new muffler. But there’s more to the exhaust system than just the muffler.
The exhaust system has three main functions:
1) To safely get hot exhaust gas from the engine out the tailpipe.
2) Treats the exhaust to remove harmful pollutants.
3) Muffle the engine noise.
Exhaust gas is poisonous. You don’t want it getting into the passenger compartment. For example, carbon monoxide can be deadly. That’s why you should never run your engine in a closed garage. If you have a leak somewhere in the exhaust system, exhaust could get into the passenger cabin and make you sick or even kill you.
If you smell exhaust in the vehicle, roll down your windows and get it inspected. You may smell or see exhaust coming from the engine compartment or under the vehicle if you have a leak. Sometimes the sound from an exhaust leak is loud and obvious. Sometimes it’s a ticking sound when you start the engine that goes away as you drive. That could be a small crack or a bad fitting that leaks when it’s cold but seals up when the metal heats and expands.
Now, let’s address the environmental issues. Exhaust gas contains a number of pollutants and particulates. The catalytic converter scrubs some of those harmful substances. And diesel vehicles have systems to deal with soot. Catalytic converters eventually wear out and need to be replaced. They’re expensive so you want to help them last as long as possible by keeping the fuel system clean and replacing your air filter. These components need to be tested for function with an emissions test from time to time.
And that leaves the muffler. The beauty of getting a new muffler is that you can suit your taste: Some want whisper quiet and others like a little rumble. And some like a roar.
You may be surprised to learn that 40% of traffic fatalities take place at night even though there’s 60% less traffic. It goes to show how important proper visibility is to nighttime driving.
Obviously, a clean windshield is important – so are good wiper blades. Your headlights play a big role as well. There are two main concerns. One is with the headlamp, or bulb. The other is with the lens.
The fact of the matter is that headlamps go dim over time. You just need to replace them. Some vehicles come with a standard blub which you can replace or you can upgrade to a halogen bulb that’s much brighter. Halogen costs a little more but you’d be amazed at the difference.
It’s a good idea to replace your headlamps once a year. The idea is that your lamps never dim to the point that they become a safety issue. Just take care of it at a fall oil change so that your lights will be bright for the coming long winter nights.
The other big issue is the headlamp lens. For the last couple of decades, most lenses are made of plastic which can get cloudy or yellow. That blocks a lot of light. You can replace the lens, but each lens assembly can cost as much as $350 to $400. It’s much less expensive to restore the lens if it isn’t broken.
We use a process of special cleaners and polishes to remove the yellowed and hazy layer of the lens. We then apply a hard protective finish. When we’re done, your lenses really are as good as new.
The price depends on the size of the lens and how yellowed or cloudy it is. You can even restore taillights and turn signals.
So combining a headlamp restoration with new bulbs will light up the road like a new car. Can you clearly see the advantage?
Let’s talk shocks and struts. Shock absorbers and struts last a long time and wear out pretty slowly. They’re easy to take for granted, but your shocks and struts do a very important job so you need to pay attention to them. They keep your tires on the road; and your tires are what connect your vehicle to the road and allow you to safely handle your car through turns, over bumps and even stop in time.
When your shocks and struts are worn, your tires bounce excessively over bumps. Your vehicle will wallow through corners; your front-end will dive when you stop; and your rear-end will squat when you accelerate. All this hurts your ability to control your vehicle. And your ride just isn’t as comfortable.
Worn shocks or struts cause excessive tire wear so you’ll have to replace your tires sooner than you should. Worn shocks and struts also stresses other suspension and steering parts causing them to wear prematurely. Struts are actually a major structural component of the suspension system – there’s a lot riding on them.
Replacing worn shocks and struts saves money in the long run – and of course you can’t really put a price on your safety and that of your passengers. We generally recommend replacing shocks and struts at 50,000 miles.
When it’s time for new shocks or struts, we’ve got you covered. We can give you back the ride and handling of a new vehicle. And if you have special needs we can help you there too. We have premium shocks and struts that’ll improve your performance. We can even help you with upgraded, heavy-duty shocks that’ll give you the confidence you need to handle those big towing or hauling jobs.
Experts recommend replacing all four shocks at the same time so that handling is even at each wheel.
If you need new shocks or struts, let us help you take care of this important safety service. You’ll feel better, and you’ll save money on tires and other suspension repairs down the road.
Let’s talk about your suspension – you know, the system that connects your wheels to your vehicle, controls your handling and delivers a good ride. Your suspension is critical for proper steering, stopping and stability.
Hey, it’s a rough world out there – every time you hit a pothole, a bump or an object in the road, your suspension system has to absorb the impact and maintain control.
As you can imagine, your suspension has a lot of joints and pivot points that allow your wheels to move up and down over bumps and to turn as you steer. These parts include ball joints, tie rod ends, the pitman, idler arms and the control arm bushing. They simply wear out over time. When a joint or other part is worn the suspension parts don’t fit together as tightly as they should. Handling and steering has a loose feel and you may hear strange noises. Your tires will wear unevenly because they’re bouncing down the road a little off kilter.
A loose joint has the effect of stressing other suspension components so they wear out faster than they should. Sometimes a suspension part can be bent from hitting a rock or curb or by slamming into a big pothole.
When your service advisor inspects your vehicle, he’ll look for signs of suspension problems: things like uneven tire wear, excessive play in suspension components and other visible damage. He can replace the worn or damaged parts and restore safe handling.
It’s a great idea to take care of these problems right away before they become more expensive to repair. And nobody likes to see a tire that should last for several years get worn out in a matter of months because of a bad suspension part.
Let us help you keep your vehicle operating safely. And saving some money on repairs and tire replacement is a good thing too.
Let’s talk water pumps. The engine is cooled by coolant/antifreeze mixed with water. This mixture circulates around that engine, absorbing some of the heat. The coolant then flows through the radiator where air cools it down for the return trip back through the engine. The water pump is what drives this process.
Cooling system problems are the number 1 mechanical failure. So the water pump plays a pretty important role. You can’t get very far without a water pump.
After all those miles and years of pumping coolant, water pumps just wear out. You might notice a whining or grinding sound coming from the water pump. Or maybe see coolant leaking from the pump itself.
The precise location of the water pump varies depending on the vehicle. Some have the water pump attached to the outside of the engine where you can see it. With these, the water pump is driven by the serpentine belt.
Some have the water pump driven by the timing belt. The timing belt cover often hides the water pump with this setup, so you can’t see the pump without removing the cover.
When you have us replace the water pump on one of these, you really should replace the timing belt at the same time. We’ve already gotten things taken apart and besides, the belt’s likely been contaminated by coolant. And timing belts usually need to be replaced every 60 to 90,000 miles anyway so it just makes sense to do both jobs at once.
The opposite is true too – when you change the timing belt on this type of engine, replace the water pump while you’re at it. The water pump will eventually fail and getting to it is an expensive project. For not that much more you can take care of both the timing belt and the water pump at the same time.
Your wheel bearings may be something you’ve never given a thought. Wheel bearings are what enable your wheels to spin freely. Since they bear the entire weight of the vehicle, they have to be tough. Wheel bearings can last well over 100,000 miles. They do wear out though and must eventually be replaced.
You might hear a groaning sound from your wheels. The sound might disappear at some speeds and reappear at others. Your service technician can quickly tell if your bearings are bad by raising the vehicle and wiggling the wheel. When you grasp the top and bottom of the tire, it shouldn’t move along the vertical axis.
Many vehicles these days have wheel bearing assemblies that cannot be serviced. When the bearings go bad, we simply replace the entire assembly.
For those vehicles with wheel bearings that can be accessed, we can do some preventive maintenance. You may have heard the phrase “pack the bearings”. With this procedure we remove the bearings, carefully clean them and inspect for any imperfection or wear. If the bearings can be reused, we reinstall them and pack them with grease. If not, we put in new bearings. Check your owner’s manual or ask your service advisor if your bearings can be serviced, and if so, when should it be done.
Now, taking care of bad bearings is extremely important. When bearings go bad, they generate tremendous amounts of heat – enough to lock up the wheel. That’s not a good thing at any speed. In some cases the wheel can even fall off. Either of these could cause a serious accident. So have your wheel bearings inspected if you suspect a problem and replace them right away if there is one.
- Cabin Air Filter
- Cooling System
- Differential Service
- Engine Air Filter
- Fuel System
- Oil Change
- Serpentine Belt
- Spark Plugs
- Timing Belt
- Tire Rotation & Balancing
- Windshield Wipers
It’s no surprise that your vehicle will drive better if all the wheels are pointed in the same direction. That’s called wheel alignment. If your wheels are out of alignment you may notice that your vehicle pulls to one side or the other.
Something that you won’t notice right away, but you will if you keep driving when you’re out of alignment, is that your tires are wearing unevenly and fairly quickly.. That’s because when the vehicle is pulling to one side, you have to steer it back straight. The outside of the tire just wears out fast because you’re constantly turning, which can be very exhausting on a long road trip – fighting to keep the vehicle going straight down the road.
Some of the things that commonly throw a wheel out of alignment are slamming into a pothole, smacking a curb or something like a rock. And it doesn’t have to be a big shock, it can just be the regular bumps and bangs of daily driving that add up and eventually take your vehicle out of alignment. That’s why your owner’s manual or service advisor may suggest having your alignment checked periodically.
With an alignment service, we measure each wheel’s alignment and to see where they are relative to factory specifications. While we have the vehicle on the alignment rack, we inspect the tires for wear as well as the suspension and steering components for damage or wear – things that can contribute to alignment problems. With some vehicles you can adjust all four wheels so we bring all wheels into alignment. On those vehicles where you can only adjust the front wheels, we bring the front into alignment relative to the rear.
Cost varies by whether or not it’s two or four wheel adjustable. Four-wheel drive vehicles may have an additional charge because they’re more difficult to align. At any rate, it’s cheaper than having to replace tires every few months.
If it’s been a while since you’ve had your wheels aligned, bring your vehicle for an alignment check.
Let’s talk about cabin air filters. There seems to be some confusion about them that we should be able to clear up. Much of the confusion starts because cabin air filters are relatively new. Not all vehicles have them, so some people confuse their cabin air filter with the engine air filter.
Every vehicle has an engine air filter that cleans the air going into the engine, but not all have a cabin air filter that cleans the air going into the passenger compartment. Easy to get mixed up.
The cabin air filter cleans out dust, pollen, spores and other pollutants. To give a point of comparison, a grain of sand is about 200 microns across. A cabin air filter can stop particles that are just 3 microns in size. It really does make the passenger cabin a much more pleasant environment.
When the cabin air filter gets dirty, you just need to replace it. Your owner’s manual may have a recommended interval for changing it. If not we can inspect it. You know, it’s ironic that many people who don’t realize they even have a cabin air filter first find out they do when it starts to get smelly.
Some cabin air filters are very easy to access when it’s time to replace them. Others, not so much. We may have to get behind the dashboard and it takes some time
A clean cabin air filter keeps out smog, allergens and other harmful pollutants. If it’s time, get it changed right away.
We’re often asked questions about the cooling system – the system that cools your engine and keeps it at the proper operating temperature. Let’s examine the topic in two areas: first the coolant itself and, second, the parts that make up the cooling system.
The coolant is the mix of water and antifreeze that circulates through the engine to draw off heat. First, you need to have the proper amount. If you don’t have enough coolant it can’t keep your engine cool.
You also need the right kind of coolant. Different makes of vehicles require different coolant formulation to protect against corrosion.
Finally, your coolant needs to be fresh. Over time and miles, the anti-corrosion additives in the coolant are depleted and the coolant can actually start to eat away at the cooling system parts. Your owner’s manual and your service adviser can help you with the recommended coolant replacement schedule and make sure you’re getting the right type of coolant.
Now let’s talk about the cooling system components. These will all eventually wear out and need to be replaced. Starting with the radiator, we see them coming into the shop with leaks or clogged with deposits. Depending on the damage, we will clean, repair or replace. We also see radiator pressure caps that can no longer hold the proper pressure. We recommend replacing pressure caps when you change your coolant to avoid this problem. We see leaky water pumps and hoses that need to be replaced. There’s also a part called the thermostat that opens and closes to regulate the flow of coolant. Sometimes they stick open or closed and the cooling system won’t work properly.
Engine damage from overheating can be very expensive to fix so it’s important to maintain your cooling system properly with scheduled coolant replacement and periodic inspections of the cooling system. Certainly come in if you suspect a leak and have us take a look.
When you take a corner in your car, the outside wheels have a slightly longer distance to go than the inside wheels. That means that the outside wheels have to turn a bit faster than the inside. The piece of mechanical wizardry that makes this possible is called the differential.
The differential allows the drive wheels to rotate at different speeds in turns without the wheel binding or hopping. If you have a rear-wheel drive vehicle, the differential is on the rear axle. You’ve seen that bulge in the middle of the axle when you’re behind a truck – that’s the differential.
If you have a front-wheel drive vehicle, the differential function is handled by your transaxle. Of course, all-wheel drive vehicles have differentials on both axles. They also have a center differential or a transfer case between the front and rear axles to compensate for speed differences between the front and rear.
Because all the power of the engine is transferred through the various differentials, you can imagine that they are very strong and are built last a long time. That’s why it’s important to keep your differential properly lubricated. Differential fluid cools and protects the gears.
Your service technician will check differential fluid level and top it off if necessary. With low fluid, the differential will run too hot and wear prematurely. Ask your service advisor for when it’s recommended to change your differential fluid. Fresh fluid will extend the life of your differential. Your technician will also inspect the u-joints which connect your drive shaft to the differential and may recommend service. Some u-joints can be lubricated as part of a routine lube, oil and filter change as well.
Now, of course differentials eventually wear out and need to be replaced. You might notice a strange noise from you axle area as one of the first warning signs. When the differential shows signs of failing, it’s important to repair it. If you leave it too long and it freezes up when you’re driving you could lose control of your vehicle and other parts like the axle, driveshaft and transmission could be damaged.
Today we want to talk about your engine air filter. That’s the filter that cleans the air before it’s burned in your engine. People wonder how often they should change their engine air filter. The simple answer is when it’s dirty. That’s a function of how much air has passed through the filter, so your manufacturer will recommend a mileage interval for replacing the air filter. But you can imagine that how dirty the air is would affect how quickly the filter gets filled.
If you drive where there’s lots of dust, pollution or pollen, your engine air filter will get dirty more quickly and need to be changed sooner. That’s why we check the air filter with every full-service oil change. We can visually tell if the filter needs to be changed.
Your filter can only hold so much dirt. Once the filter is full, dirt will pass through to the engine. This dirt gums up the combustion chamber and hurts fuel economy and may cause damage. It can also contaminate the Mass Air Flow Sensor which will affect drivability and can be fairly expensive to replace.
A dirty air filter would also restrict the amount of air that gets to the engine which hurts fuel economy. We can replace your engine air filter with one that matches the factory specifications or you can upgrade your filter for enhanced performance.
So when your service advisor shows you your dirty air filter, you know how important it is to get it replaced.
I’d like to give you a quick overview of the fuel system. It starts with the fuel tank. The fuel pump is located inside the tank and pumps fuel out to the engine. Somewhere along the way is a fuel filter whose job is to filter out dirt before it hits the engine. Then there’s the fuel intake system and the fuel injectors that deliver the fuel to be burned in the engine.
Our focus is to discuss how to make the various components of your fuel system work well and last as long as possible. Now the best thing you can do for your fuel pump is to use good quality fuel. Top tier gas typically has fewer contaminants and more detergents to keep things clean. Using good gas, or adding a fuel system cleaner to your tank, can prolong the life of your fuel pump. Because the fuel pump lives inside your tank, it’s pretty expensive to replace, so helping it last as long as possible is a worthwhile goal.
The fuel filter catches dirt and contaminants. When it’s clogged, your engine may not be able to get enough fuel and could sputter. Many fuel filters have a bypass valve that allows unfiltered fuel past when the filter’s clogged. That prevents your engine from dying while you’re driving, but it can’t protect your engine from dirty fuel. Check your owner’s manual or talk with your service advisor about when you should replace your fuel filter.
Now fuel will cause gum and varnish to build up in the fuel intake system. A professional fuel system cleaning will remove the gunk to keep fuel flowing freely and help prevent contamination from reaching your fuel injectors and your engine.
Fuel injectors squirt fuel into the engine. The fuel must be delivered in a precise amount, at a precise time, under precise pressure and in a precise pattern. Pressure can range from 45 pounds per square inch to 45,000 pounds per square inch depending on the engine. As you may guess, fuel injectors cost a lot. Allowing them to get gummed up will not only hurt your performance and fuel economy, it will cause the injectors to wear out much more quickly than they should.
A professional fuel system cleaning will keep injectors clean and working correctly. It’ll also clean deposits from the inside of the combustion chamber and off the intake valves giving you optimum performance and mileage. Check with your service advisor and see when he recommends you get a fuel system cleaning.
An oil change: Sounds simple, but there’s some pretty important things to know about preventing oil sludge.
Oil eventually starts to turn into jelly. Literally – petroleum jelly. Sludge clogs up oil passages and keeps oil from getting to some areas of the engine, causing parts to wear out prematurely. And that means expensive engine repairs.
That’s why you need to change the oil and oil filter on schedule – to get the old oil out before it turns to sludge. Your manufacturer will have a recommendation for how many miles you can go between oil changes. They also usually have a number of months between recommended oil changes. That’s because the detergents and other additives in the oil break down over time.
Your owner’s manual will have a recommendation for time and mileage, but you need to remember that it’s based on using the recommended weight of oil. And if your vehicle came from the factory with synthetic oil, the recommended intervals assume you continue to use synthetic.
Also how you drive can have a big effect. Most owner’s manuals will have a list of driving conditions that are harder on your vehicle. Things like stop and go driving, short trips, driving in very hot or very cold weather, heavy loads and towing. If some of your driving fits this, you may need to change your oil and do other maintenance on a shorter schedule.
This may sound complicated. Some vehicles have an oil life calculator that takes all of these factors into account and tells you when you should change your oil. Otherwise, talk with your service advisor about how you drive and get her recommendation for when to take care of your service.
Finally, if any of the steering or suspension parts can be lubed, your technician will take care of that with a lube, oil and filter service.
You know that long belt that snakes around the front of your engine? It’s called the serpentine belt. The belt’s driven by the engine as it turns. It powers your alternator, air conditioning compressor, and power steering pump. On some vehicles it also runs the water pump, radiator fan, and power brakes. Sounds like a lot of important stuff doesn’t it?
If your serpentine belt were to break, your battery would die in a few miles. If it runs your fan or water pump, your engine could overheat. And steering and braking could be more difficult. Obviously, the best thing is to replace your serpentine belt before it breaks.
Check your owner’s manual for when it’s recommended to replace your serpentine belt – or just ask your service advisor. He can inspect the belt as well to see if it’s in trouble. You may have been told to look for cracks in your belt to see if it needs to be replaced. Of course, cracks are still a concern, but modern belt material doesn’t crack as often as old belts did. What we look for these days is the thickness of the belt. We have a special little tool that measures the depth of the grooves in the belt to see if it needs replacing.
A worn belt can slip or be misaligned, putting undue stress on the accessories it runs.
Now you can imagine it’s important for the belt to be tight, so there’s a tensioner pulley on your engine that puts pressure on the belt to keep it at the right tension. The spring on the tensioner wears out over time so we recommend replacing the tensioner pulley at the same time as the serpentine belt.
Replacing your serpentine belt on schedule, or when an inspection warrants it, will keep you from an unexpected breakdown.
The days when you changed your spark plugs every couple of years has ended. Back in the day, spark plugs really did wear out that often. A couple of things are different now. First, spark plugs are made of better materials that last longer and they’re designed better. The second reason that plugs used to have to be changed was that they were fouled up with carbon deposits. The deposits built up when fuel wasn’t burned completely. With modern engine management controls that just doesn’t happen as often.
Engine control computers precisely time when fuel is injected into the engine and when spark plugs fire. Unless something’s wrong, spark plugs just don’t foul like they used to.
Electricity from the battery goes into a coil that allows power to build up to anywhere from 12,000 to 45,000 volts, depending on the vehicle. The engine management computer tells the coil when to release the power to the spark plug. The electricity travels through a wire from the coil to the spark plug. At the tip of the plug, a spark jumps between two electrodes and ignites the gas in the combustion chamber.
Some engines have more than one coil. Coils wear out and need to be replaced occasionally. Also, spark plug wires can wear out and need to be replaced.
Modern engines are delivering more power and better fuel economy all the time. That’s largely credited to fast engine control computers, advanced sensors, electronic ignition and improvements to the lowly spark plug.
It’ll be interesting to see where future developments take us. One last thought: it’s critically important to have the right kind of spark plug for your vehicle. Because engines are designed to run with different internal temperatures, spark plugs have different designs to work properly within those temperatures. Your service advisor will be able to get the right plugs for your vehicle. And he’ll be able to advise you on when you should replace your spark plugs as well.
Steering is one of the things we take for granted in our vehicles. Let’s break it down into two areas: first, the power assist and second the actual parts that steer the vehicle.
Most people under 40 have never driven a car or truck without power steering. Most vehicles today have a hydraulic power steering pump that provides boost to help you steer. The pump is usually driven by the serpentine belt, but some newer vehicles have an electric pump. Some vehicles even have an electric motor that directly powers the steering.
The important thing to keep in mind is that these pumps and motors will eventually wear out and the hoses will start to leak. You can postpone that day by having a power steering service from time to time. We will drain the old fluid and replace it with fresh fluid. This removes water and contaminants that can corrode power steering parts. Ask your service advisor for the recommended change interval.
What about the mechanical steering parts? Is there anything you can do to maintain them? Yes. If any of the steering parts can be lubed, your technician will take care of that with a lube, oil and filter service. Other than that, just watch for signs that parts are wearing out. Things like loose steering and uneven tire wear.
Worn parts can be replaced to get you back on the road. Now, sometimes parts can be bent or damaged from hitting potholes, curbs or rocks. It’s important to take care of these problems early on. If you neglect them, the damaged parts stress other attached components which starts a chain reaction of damage.
Steering maintenance is pretty straight forward: Replace power steering fluid as recommended and fix worn or damaged parts right away. That’ll save you money in the long run.
Let’s address a very important maintenance item – timing belt replacement. It’s important because letting this one slide can lead to very expensive engine damage.
Your timing belt choreographs the timing of your combustion process. Your pistons travel up and down in the cylinder. Intake valves open at the right time to let in air and fuel, they close at the right time to allow the fuel to burn and then the exhaust valves open at the right time to let out the exhaust.
All this happens thousands of times a minute and it’s your timing belt that makes sure the valves are opening and closing at precisely the right time. If the timing is off, your engine won’t run. And that’s the best case.
The worst case is that a valve is opening at the wrong time and collides with the piston. The result is bent valves and maybe even more damage to the cylinder head. Repairs can run several thousand dollars.
Now, timing belts just wear out naturally so you want to replace a worn belt before it slips or breaks. Check your owner’s manual or with your service advisor to see when they recommend you replace the timing belt. If you’ve never replaced your timing belt and have 60,000 or more miles on the clock, talk with your service advisor right away to see if you’re due.
On some engines, the water pump is driven by the timing belt as opposed to the serpentine belt. If that’s the case, it’s a good idea to replace the water pump when you’re replacing the timing belt, and vice versa since much of the same work has to be done for either. The same is true for the timing belt tensioner – it should be inspected and possibly replaced.
Now, replacing a timing belt is one of the more expensive routine maintenance items on your service schedule. But not replacing your timing belt can lead to some of the most expensive repairs you’re likely to ever have.
You can make your tires last longer with regular tire rotation and wheel balancing. Let’s start with tire rotation. In normal driving, your front tires wear more on the shoulders because they handle much of the cornering forces in turns. Front-wheel drive vehicles have even more force on the front tires.
We rotate the tires so that all of the tires do some duty on the front end as well as getting a little break on the back end. That way, all four tires wear more evenly over their life and last longer. tires always rotated front to back
For most vehicles, tires are rotated front to back. Some manufacturers recommend a cross rotational pattern that includes the spare tire and some high-performance vehicles have different size tires on the front and rear and may even have uni-directional tires that can only be on the left or the right side of the vehicle. Your service advisor can help you sort that out and will perform the right tire rotation for your vehicle.
Your tire manufacturer will have a recommendation for how often you should rotate your tires. It’s usually somewhere around 5,000 to 8,000 miles.
Let’s move on to wheel balancing. That’s when there are heavy spots on the tire and wheel that cause it a bit of wobble. Balancing adds weights to the wheel to balance it out. Now, we are talking about very small weight differences. Variations in the tire and wheel manufacture can cause a slight imbalance. The valve stem, and now the tire pressure monitoring sensors in the tire, also play into the equation.
Even small differences can cause annoying vibrations at speed: the wheel is essentially bouncing a bit as it goes down the road. For example, at freeway speeds, an out of balance wheel can be slamming into the road 14 times a second. That’s annoying and can cause your tires to wear out more quickly.
If a front wheel’s out of balance you’ll feel the vibration through the steering wheel. When it’s a rear tire, you’ll feel the vibration through your seat. If you’re getting bad vibes from your vehicle, bring it in to see if it’s a balance issue or something else. You should balance your wheels whenever you get a new tire or remount a tire like when it’s been removed for a flat repair.
Let’s talk transmissions. Transmissions are heavy duty pieces of equipment that are designed to last a long time. But like any other machine, they’ll eventually wear out and need repair. So let’s focus on what you can do to push that day off as far as possible.
The first thing you can do is to make sure your transmission always has enough fluid. Transmission fluid cools and lubricates the transmission. When there’s not enough fluid, the transmission will run hotter and wear out sooner. The transmission fluid also provides the pressure needed to transfer power from the engine to the transmission. Not enough fluid, and your transmission won’t shift properly.
Your service center will check your transmission fluid level with a full service oil change and top it off if needed. If you see any transmission fluid on the driveway – it’s a reddish color – have us inspect it for a leak. A gasket, hose or seal could be leaking and may need to be repaired.
The next thing you can do to prolong the life of your transmission is to replace your transmission fluid on schedule. As you can imagine, all those gears grinding on each other result in lots of little bits of metal in the fluid. The more there is, the faster the transmission parts will wear out. Transmission fluid also contains detergents and other additives to protect your transmission. These additives are depleted over time, so old fluid doesn’t protect as well as new fluid. Your owner’s manual or service advisor will have a recommendation for when you should have a transmission service.
If your transmission isn’t shifting as smoothly as it should, or if you suspect a transmission leak, let us take a look at it. And ask if it’s time for a transmission service. Regular maintenance and taking care of small leaks right away will help your transmission last as long as possible.
We’re going to talk about windshield wiper blades. Now that may seem like a pretty mundane topic, but think about how important your vision is: We protect our eyes. If we need contacts or glasses, we taken care of them too. And, well, wiper blades are critical to our vision when we drive.
We really ought to think about wipers as part of an important safety system. We should think about maintaining safety – not just responding when our wiper blades fail: how many times have you been caught off-guard by the first storm of the season with a streaky windshield you can barely see out of? Or with no washer fluid.
Wiper blades live outside the vehicle, exposed to heat and sun in the summer and cold and ice in the winter. It’s no wonder that they get dry, brittle and torn.
We recommend changing wiper blades twice a year – before they’re so damaged that they don’t work. If you replace them in one of your spring and fall oil changes, you should always have wiper blades that can get the job done.
Some of us live in areas with more extreme weather and temperature conditions. You might just live somewhere where it rains more so your blades wear out faster, or you travel a lot and use your wipers to clean bugs and road grime.
If that’s the case, consider a premium grade wiper. There are special wiper material compounds, blade designs and wiper arms that really improve your vision in adverse conditions. There are even special winter blades that don’t get all clogged up with ice and snow.
We can also apply a special windshield treatment that repels rain, sleet and snow as you drive. The increased visibility can improve your driving response time.
When it comes to wiper blades, it’s important to think of it as maintaining this safety component by replacing your blades before they fail. That’ll keep you seeing clearly in all conditions.
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