Car Care

Car Care

For keeping your vehicle in tip top shape!


Batteries

Today's vehicles have more electrical demands than ever, and batteries play an essential role in meeting those demands. The battery supplies the electrical current that the starter motor requires to start the engine. It also provides power to the electrical components and accessories when the vehicle's engine is not running. When the electrical load exceeds the charging system's capacity, the battery steps in supplying the extra current required. The battery also acts as a voltage stabilizer for the entire electrical system. Do-it-yourself maintenance can play an essential role in maximizing the life of your battery. It is also important to have your battery and charging system checked at least once a year. Early detection of a weak component can save you time and money. Have us perform a complete electrical system check and a conductance test on the battery with the Midtronics  700 analyzer. As a battery ages, the plate surface can sulfate or shed active material, which adversely affects its ability to perform. Conductance can be used to detect cell defects, shorts, and open circuits which can cause the battery to fail. Using Conductance, Midtronics testers are able to determine the battery's true state of health and provide an indication of the battery's remaining life. Midtronics Conductance Technology is recognized worldwide as the new standard for determining battery condition and controlling battery charging, and is the required test method for battery warranty decisions at most automotive OEMs worldwide. Major backup power users worldwide use Conductance testing as their guideline for battery management decisions.

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Brakes

How to keep your brakes from letting you down

Think of your car's brake system as an extension of your body.  If you push on the pedal and the car doesn't respond as you expect it to, you may be in trouble.  When your brakes feel good you'll feel better about driving.  There are no short cuts on brake work.  Invest in the best service you can get.

Why Do You Need The Brake System Flushed?

There is an increasing awareness of the dangers of water and corrosion producing contaminates. Brake fluid contaminated by moisture lowers the boiling point of the fluid to the point that, even under ordinary conditions, your brakes could get hot enough to cause the brake fluid to boil causing vapor to form in the brake system. The vapor is compressible, causing a low or no brake pedal. Moisture gets into the fluid because conventional brake fluid is hygroscopic (it has a magnetic attraction for moisture, which it absorbs from the atmosphere). In your vehicle, moisture is absorbed through the brake master cylinder reservoir and permeable brake hoses. As a result of this, the moisture along the steel line, rubber hoses, cast iron, aluminum and brake fluid, temperatures can reach 400 to 500 degrees. This causes an electrochemical reaction that makes the brake fluid so acidic that it can result in early failure of brake components and putting you in danger. Brake fluid contamination has become so much a concern of the major car manufacturers, that they have added it to their required maintenance. Failure to change your vehicle's brake fluid can result in very costly repairs. If you have a vehicle with ABS-type brakes, component failure can run into the thousands.

Your brake fluid should be flushed every 30,000 miles or every 2 years. Just adding new fluid is not sufficient enough, the system needs to be properly flushed to rid the system from contaminants and moisture.   

Brake Failure Symptoms Noises

Noises: Your brake system may be crying for help if you're hearing strange noises when you depress the brake.  Two of the most common are squeaks or grinding.
Squeaks: Friction from the brake lining causes heat.  Under extreme conditions this can damage the pads and/or lining, brake drums and rotors.
Grinding: A metallic grinding sound indicates your brake pads are worn through.  Metal-to-metal contact will damage drums or rotors.
Low or Fading brake pedal: Do your brakes require pumping to stop the car?  Does the pedal sink to the floor board when you're stopped at a light?  There may be a leak in the brake system, air in the brake lines, or the need for a brake adjustment.
Pulling to on side or brake drag: Worn or uneven brake linings or a damaged brake line can cause your vehicle to pull to one side.  Brakes that are out of adjustment or have contaminated fluid can cause brakes to drag.

Inspecting Your Brakes

Master Cylinder: The master cylinder, heart of the brake system, contains a reservoir for brake fluid.  It is located on the firewall and should be checked periodically to ensure the proper fluid level.
Brake Lines: Attached to the master cylinder, steel brake tubing runs to all four wheels.  Brake lines should be inspected for rust, which can lead to leaks.  If the lines are damaged they should be replaced.
Brake Hoses: Rubber brake hoses run from the brake lines to the brake calipers and wheel cylinders.  Constant exposure to road grime, dirt, salt and other elements can cause the rubber to become brittle and crack, leading to brake failure.
Linings and Pads: The pads and brake shoe linings should be checked per4iodically for uneven or excess wear, glazing, or saturation from brake fluid or grease.
Calipers and Wheel Cylinders: Brakes are activated by brake fluid pressure from the master cylinder pushing a piston located in the caliper or wheel cylinder against the pad or shoe.  A leak can cause erratic braking or brake failure.
Bearings and Seals: Wheel bearings should be inspected and lubricated periodically.  Worn wheel bearings, which can cause faulty steering as well as erratic braking, should be replaces.
Parking Brake: The parking brake should be adjusted periodically.

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Cooling System

Cooling System Servicing

Since we experience extreme temperature changes throughout the year, there are several things considered critical in your vehicle's maintenance.  Since the engine is the heart of your vehicle and directly affects its operation, here is what you can do to ensure proper engine life and performance.  A vehicle's cooling system should be serviced seasonally to prevent premature engine wear due to extreme climate or engine temperature.  Have us perform a few basic preventive maintenance checks during your next routine servicing.

 Check for external leaks: Usual areas of leakage are water manifolds, radiator seams, water pumps, freeze plugs and all hose connections.  The condition of radiator hoses should be carefully scrutinized for possible deterioration from age and/or wear from rubbing against accessory brackets, etc.  Be aware that in many cases radiator hoses wear from the inside out, so outside appearance can be deceiving.

Check for internal leaks: Pull the oil dipstick and check for evidence of coolant.  It will show up as minute droplets or sludge and should be easy to spot.  This could indicate a cracked head, block or blown head gasket.

Check the radiator: This is the one component in your vehicle's cooling system which can quickly diminish the efficiency and durability of the engine.  Check for obstructed air flow and clean any debris from the fins.  Also check the radiator mounting for loose bolts or cracked brackets from vibration and stress.

Check the Cooling fan: If the vehicle is equipped with a centrifugal thermo-static type fan clutch, it is important to spot problems before they occur.  Check for wear by moving the fan blade back and forth.  Over 1/4" of play in either direction could point towards excessive bearing wear.  You should also turn the fan by hand.  If it free-wheels or there is a rough grating feel as the fan turns, this could mean excessive fluid loss or bearing wear respectively.  If any of these conditions exist or there is evidence of fluid leakage, the fan clutch should be replaced.  If the vehicle is equipped with an electric cooling fan, a quick performance check can be bade by turning on the A/C and checking to make sure it operates without excess vibration or noise.  Also check all electrical connections for signs of corrosion, or physical damage.  With the engine hot, check to see if the fan is coming on at the correct temperature and operating properly.

Check the coolant level and conditions: Use an antifreeze tester to determine the protection range of the coolant.  It should be at least adequate for the geographic area where you live.  If the coolant is over 2-4 years old or has rust in it, system flushing and refilling with new antifreeze solution is recommended and will be sufficient for most climates.  The 2-4 year replacement interval is necessary to maintain proper rust inhibitor and other additive protection in the cooling system.

Check the radiator cap: If your cap is rusted or the rubber seal is dried out, it should be replaced.  A pressure tester should be used to be sure the cap is operating at the recommended pressure level.

Check the thermostat: Remove the radiator cap and start the engine.  Insert a suitable thermometer into the radiator neck.  When the coolant level drops in the radiator, the thermostat has opened and is allowing circulation.  Record the temperature on the thermometer and compare to the thermostat specifications.  It should be no more than a few degrees either way of the actual thermostat setting.  If you are not in the correct range, the thermostat will have to be replaced.  Be sure to install a new gasket and inspect the thermostat seating area for corrosion and pitting.

Check drive belts: Visually inspect all belts for glazing or deterioration.  These conditions usually are caused by wear but can be accelerated by improper adjustment, engine fluid spillage, lubricant leakage or improper belt sizing.  Check the vehicle manufacturer's specification listing for proper belt size, tension and/or deflection specifications.

Check heater operation: A quick functional testing of the heater unit can save a lot of mid-season grief.  Visually inspect all hoses for deterioration from age and wear.  Check the floor under the heater assembly for signs of coolant loss.  This could point towards a leaking heater core.  Also make sure to check the heater valve.  Check vacuum lines for leakage or deterioration.  Lubricate all control cables, such as the heater valve control cable, etc.  Last but no least, check all function switches and blower motor switches for proper operation.  Having basic cooling system checks made during routine servicing can prevent costly breakdowns and inefficient operation of equipment during extreme climate conditions.  Preventive maintenance is the key to being able to drive your car longer while reducing long term expenses.

Have You Flushed Your Cooling System?

Your car runs fine with no sign of trouble, so why bother with it?

Here's why. The cost of overhauling an engine can run into thousands of dollars; automatic transmission repairs also are expensive and cooling system neglect could be responsible.

A cooling system performs several functions: (1) it must keep the engine running within specified temperatures, not too hot and not too cold; (2) it cools the automatic transmission and, lest we forget, (3) it circulates hot water through the heater.

Temperatures inside an engine may soar to 4,500 - 5,000 degrees F., enough to melt an engine block in a matter of minutes if it were not for the cooling system.

Over the years there have been numerous developments that make it harder for the cooling system to perform theses tasks. Today's engines run much hotter than in years gone by. Added emission control systems, smaller radiators and crowded engine compartments add to the challenge.

To avoid problems resulting from rust, dirt and mineral deposits in the cooling system, it's best to give it an internal cleaning every three to four years.

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Engine Components

Oil Change Intervals

Most of us already know that regularly scheduled oil and filter changes are a vital part of routine car maintenance that is necessary for engine longevity. During the miles between changes, the oil in your vehicle's engine gradually becomes contaminated with soot, metal particles, gasoline and other impurities. As mileage accumulates, so do the contaminants in the oil. Eventually, enough impurities accumulate that the filter cannot remove them and the oil cannot keep them in suspension. When this happens, the resulting sludge can dramatically shorten engine life. Even though modern technology has vastly improved engines and the oils that lubricate them, regularly scheduled oil and filter changes are still a vital part of regular, preventative auto maintenance.

The question is: Just how often does the oil need to be changed?

At regular intervals. The old mantra of responsible motorists that said, "Change your oil every 3,000 miles!" is being replaced. Today car manufacturers' recommendations for oil changes range from 5,000 to 7,500, or even 10,000 miles for many cars when operated under "normal" driving conditions—more often if conditions are "severe." Before you relax, let me point out that the way most of us drive is listed as severe by the automotive experts. According to the owner's manuals of many new cars and trucks, normal operation of a vehicle is at least 20 minutes, at a medium speed with a steady throttle, and in a clean environment. According to one car maker's owner's manual, the oil change interval is seven months or 7,500 miles under normal driving conditions, three months or 3,000 miles under severe conditions.

This is how severe is defined in the manual:

Repeated, short distance driving.

Extended periods of idling or low speed operation.

Extensive use of brakes.

More than 50 percent driving in heavy city traffic during hot weather above 90 degrees F.

Driving for a prolonged period of time in cold temperatures and/or extremely humid climates.

Driving in dusty conditions or sandy areas.

Driving in areas where salt or other corrosive materials are being used.

Driving on rough or muddy roads.

Driving in mountainous areas.

  

Well, it looks like the old mantra about oil changes isn't out of date after all. But what about synthetic oils, don't they extend oil change intervals? Several car manufacturers do recommend synthetic oil for their high-performance models because of the superior protection from friction and extreme temperatures. The protection comes from the processing required to manufacture the base stock and the different additive packages they require. Despite this better performance, synthetic additives wear out just as they do in conventional motor oils, and need to be changed. The key is driving conditions — normal or severe. How about just changing the oil filter, can a car be driven farther between oil changes? Changing the filter is great, but the oil must be changed along with it, given that the oil's additives wear out and contaminants get into the oil itself. The filter can only capture the bigger particles suspended in the oil, not replenish spent additives.

Pinching pennies

From an economic point of view, it would appear that waiting an extra few thousand miles between changes will save money. For example, based on $25 oil changes every 5,000 miles instead of 3,000 miles, more than $300 is saved per 100,000 miles. Sounds pretty good, but if you drive the average of 17,000 miles a year, it will take you almost six years to reach that mileage — or $50 per year savings. Extending the oil change interval beyond what the manufacturer recommends can seriously shorten the useful life of your engine, and cost you several times that $300 savings. Just ask a professional service technician how often he or she changes the oil and filter on their personal vehicle. Chances are the answer will be 3,000 miles. Bottom line: Don't push the limits of motor oil and flirt with damaging your car's engine, especially when chump change is all it takes for an oil change.

Timing Belt

What is a timing belt? A timing belt is used to synchronize the rotation of the camshaft and the crankshaft in your car's engine. This synchronization is critical, especially if you have an 'interference' engine. In this type of engine, the piston occupies the same space as one or more of the valves at different times in the cycle. If the timing is off, serious - and costly - valve and piston damage can result.  Like all belts, timing belts do wear out and will eventually break if not replaced on a regular basis. Preventive maintenance service might be required at 60,000 miles as indicated in the owner's manual for your vehicle.

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Fuel Injection Service

What Is The Fuel Injection Cleaning Service? Simply put, our Fuel Injection Cleaning Service cleans your engine of Harmful Contaminant Deposits. Contaminant deposits in the gasoline fuel distribution system, and particularly in the injectors, are one of the primary service problems in today's high-tech engines, whether they be fuel injected or carbureted. These power robbing deposits are formed during the combustion process and result in low power, hesitation, rough idle, hard starting, excessive emissions and other related drivability problems. If you are not using Top Tier Fuel which is recommended for most new vehicles, then you are chancing engine problems from the deposits building up inside of your engine.

Proven safe and effective in applications world-wide, the Pro-Tec cleaner additives cleans the entire fuel distribution system, including fuel injectors, carburetors, intake manifold, intake valves, throttle plate and combustion areas. The process immediately and economically restores horsepower, fuel efficiency and drivability, while also causing significant reductions in emission pollution. World-wide testing substantiates, and documents, the following results from a typical cleaning.

Fuel Savings: 5% to 15%

Decrease Emissions: 15% to 60%

Increase Horsepower: 15% to 45%

Increase Torque: up to 30%

Restore Drivability: up to 50%

Increase Compression: up to 15%

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Automatic Transmission Servicing

Automatic transmissions are a great invention, but because of their increased complexity compared to manual transmissions and transaxles, they often require periodic maintenance or repairs (which ever comes first).

In recent years, the vehicle manufacturers have extended service intervals and downplayed the importance of preventive maintenance.  Many newer vehicles have no recommended service interval for changing the fluid or filter in the transmission.  The latest generation of automatic transmission fluids (ATFs) have increased oxidation resistance for improved longevity.  Even so, that doesn't mean the fluid can be neglected forever, especially if driving conditions push the fluid's temperature above safe limits.

Heat is the enemy of ATF.  As the operating temperature goes up, the fluid's service life goes down.  Oxidation, viscosity breakdown and degradation of the friction modifying additives reduce the fluid's ability to do its job.  Eventually the fluid can no longer provide proper lubrication and the transmission fails.

Fluid contamination from normal wear is another concern.  Friction debris from the clutch packs plus metallic debris from bearings and gears accumulate in the fluid over time.  Some filters will trap most of this debris, but most Asian transmissions only have a plastic or metal strainer that does little to protect the transmission against internal contaminants.  On such vehicles, changing the fluid is the only way to get rid of the contaminants.

So what if the fluid is never replaced?  Sooner or later the transmission will fail.  Ask any transmission shop what the number one cause of transmission failure is and they'll tell you it's fluid neglect.  Not changing the fluid and filter often enough (or ever) causes more transmission problems and failures than anything else.  That's why most transmission experts still recommend changing the fluid and filter every two to three years or 24,000 to 36,000 miles or once a year or every 15,000 miles if a vehicle is used for towing or other server service use.  

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Wheel Alignment

Alignment and 4 Wheel Alignment

Alignment and 4 Wheel Alignment can be a scary word for motorists.  The term, especially "Four Wheel Alignment" conjures up visions of inscrutable equipment and highly specialized automotive service.  Even drivers who understand the term "tune-up" are often mystified by "alignment."  And the new trend toward four wheel alignment can appear to be an expensive service for which the unwary motorist seems to be paying extra.  Don't reject out of hand the terms "alignment" or "Four Wheel Alignment" the next time a service technician recommends it to you, alignment is an important service that your car really needs from time to time.

Alignment is recommended for today's cars and light trucks in at least four situations

When you buy new tires.  In fact, if your old tires wore unevenly, bad alignment could be the reason they had to be replaces, and the same thing could happen quickly to your brand-new tires!

When you have a rack & pinion steering unit or certain other steering parts in your car replaces, alignment is necessary.

When certain warning signs (see below) appear on your car, indicating that alignment is needed.

Or about every 2 years or 30,000 miles, whether warning signs appear or not.

Just what is an alignment

Basically, alignment is making sure the wheels are operating parallel with one another, and that the tires meet the road at the correct angle.  Wheel alignment is much simpler that most people think.  It is simply adjusting the relationship between the suspension and steering components, the wheels, and the frame of the vehicle.  Everyday road shock and general wear and tear can knock some of these angles out of spec.  When that happens, control of the vehicle may be threatened, and the tires may begin to wear unevenly and rapidly.  The car needs to be realigned, to have all the proper angles restored.

Warning signs are easy to spot

Unusual tire wear.  Look closely at all four of your tires.  If one or more of them demonstrate excessive wear on one side, or wear in a cupped, scalloped or diagonal stripe pattern at edges or across the tread, or uneven wear but with feathered edges on the treads, and alignment could be needed.

Unusual steering feel.  If the steering feels stiffer than it used to, or if the wheel does not return to the center position when released, or if the car feels skittish and like it is riding "on tip-toes", your wheels may be out of alignment.

If the steering wheel is cocked to one side when the front wheels are pointing straight ahead, an alignment is almost certainly needed.

While driving, if the car wants to pull to one side, tends to wander or weave, or is subject to front end "shimmy", you should have the alignment checked immediately.

If your car wants to move "crab-like" on the road, with the rear end cocked off to one side while moving straight ahead, you're a top candidate for serious alignment.  

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