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Car Care Tips

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Monthly Checklist

Take 10 minutes and use our Monthly Checklist to do your own quick visual car inspection and fluid levels check. A few minutes each month could save you a lot of money on repairs down the road. Following a basic car maintenance checklist can help keep you on the road and out of the repair shop. A little vehicular pampering can also help extend your fuel economy and put less of a burden on the environment. Take care of your car, and it will take care of you.

Basic automobile maintenance and upkeep describes the action of examining and testing the state of your car’s engine and servicing or replacing parts and fluids. Regular maintenance is necessary to ensure the safety, reliability, drivability, comfort and longevity of your car. Completing a monthly preventive maintenance checklist, will alert you to fixable problems, before it’s too late.

The actual schedule for a monthly preventive maintenance checklist varies depending on the year, make, and model of your car, its driving conditions and driver behavior. Auto makers create their recommended service schedules based on boundary factors such as:

  • number of trips and distance traveled per trip per day
  • extreme hot or cold climate conditions
  • mountainous, dusty or de-iced roads
  • heavy stop-and-go vs. long-distance cruising
  • towing a trailer or other heavy load

Our monthly preventive maintenance checklist (created by experienced service technicians) recommends a maintenance schedule based on the driving conditions and behavior of the car owner or driver.

Common car maintenance tasks include:

  • Car wash
  • check/replace the engine oil and replace oil filters
  • check/replace fuel filters
  • inspect or replace windshield wipers
  • check or refill windshield washer fluid
  • inspect tires for pressure and wear
  • Tire balancing
  • Tire rotation
  • Wheel alignment
  • check, clean or replace battery terminals and top up battery fluid
  • inspect or replace brake pads
  • check or flush brake fluid
  • check or flush transmission fluid
  • check or flush power steering fluid
  • check and flush engine coolant
  • inspect or replace spark plugs
  • inspect or replace air filter
  • inspect or replace timing belt and other belts
  • lubricate locks, latches, hinges
  • check all lights
  • tighten chassis nuts and bolts
  • check if rubber boots are cracked and need replacement
  • test electronics, e.g., Anti-lock braking system or ABS
  • read fault codes from the Engine control unit

Following a basic car maintenance checklist can help keep you on the road and out of the repair shop. A little vehicular pampering can also help extend your fuel economy and put less of a burden on the environment. Take 10 minutes and use our Monthly Checklist to do your own quick visual car inspection and fluid levels check. A few minutes each month could save you a lot of money on repairs down the road. Remember … Take care of your car, and it will take care of you.

Wheel Alignment

Have your Wheel Alignment checked every other tire rotation and always when installing new tires. Wheel alignment sometimes referred to as tracking, is part of standard automobile maintenance that consists of adjusting the angles of the wheels so that they are set to the car maker’s specification. The purpose of these adjustments is to reduce tire wear, and to ensure that vehicle travel, is straight and true (without “pulling” to one side). Alignment angles can also be altered beyond the maker’s specifications to obtain a specific handling characteristic. Motorsport and off-road applications may call for angles to be adjusted well beyond “normal” for a variety of reasons.

Car Belts and Hoses

Why Routine Car Belt Replacement and Hose Inspection is Critical to Life of Car

Correctly preserving and regular replacement of belts and hoses can save money and time over the life of your vehicle. Belts and hose pipes control important functions in your vehicle. To prevent some of the most typical causes of breakdown,make certain your belts and hoses are checked at regular periods. It is recommended to have them checked every 3,000 miles or with every oil change.

We give thorough Automotive Belt and Hose Inspections, & Replacements

Throughout a belt assessment our professionals examine each belt for: Glazing, breaking, peeling and softening Correct tensioning Appropriate drive pulley alignment Throughout a hose pipe inspection our professionals examine for: Leaks and fractures Hardening, splitting and softening A cooling system pressure examination to help inspect for holes Loose or worn clamps Ask your mechanic about belts and hoses if you observe any: Loss of power. Squealing or grinding sound. If you feel vibrations, ‘slips’ or ‘catching’.

Call us or stop in today for an assessment of your car belts and hoses.

    Air Filters

    Check and/or change your Air Filter every 6 months to improve fuel economy and keep your engine running smoothly.

    It’s hard to give a specific time or mileage figure because the life of the filter depends on how much crud it ingests. A filter that lasts 20,000 or even 30,000 miles on a vehicle that’s driven mostly on expressways may last only a month or two in a rural setting where the vehicle is driven frequently on gravel roads. Changing it annually or every 15,000 miles for preventative maintenance may be a good recommendation for the city driver, but not its country cousin.

    Regardless of the mileage or time, a filter should be replaced before it reaches the point where it creates a significant restriction to airflow. But when exactly that point is reached is subject to opinion.

    A slightly dirty filter actually cleans more efficiently than a brand new filter. That’s because the debris trapped by the filter element helps screen out smaller particles that try to get through. But eventually every filter reaches the point where it causes enough of a pressure drop to restrict airflow. Fuel economy, performance and emissions begin to deteriorate and get progressively worse until the dirty filter is replaced.

    Many heavy-duty trucks have a “restriction” meter on the air filter housing that signals when the filter is dirty enough to need replacing. But lacking such a device, the best you can do is guess.

    Removing the filter and holding it up to a light will show you how dirty it is. If it’s really caked with dirt, it obviously needs to be replaced. Trying to shake or blow the dirt out is a waste of time because too much of it will be embedded in the filter fibers.

    NOTE: Many filters that appear to be dirty are in fact still good and do not really need to be replaced. So it’s up to you. If you think it’s dirty, replace it. If you don’t think it’s dirty enough to need replacing, then don’t.

    Oil Changes

    It is recommended that you get an Oil Change on your vehicle every 3,500 miles for regular oil and every 5,000 miles for synthetic oil. Checking and changing the oil is essential to keep today’s engines working properly and efficiently. Check the oil level with the engine and the car parked on a flat surface. Open the hood, remove the dipstick, wipe off with a cloth towel or paper, then back into the oil tank. Pull it again and see if the level is within the acceptable range marked on the dipstick. If you add the oil yourself, do not over fill. Over filling can damage the engine.

    Most automobile manufacturers recommend oil changes once every year or every 7,500 miles of car and light truck gasoline engines. Diesel engines and turbocharged gasoline engines, the usual recommendation is every 3,000 miles or six months.

    You’ll find that a once a year (7,500 mile) oil change is for vehicles driven in ideal circumstances. What most of us think is “normal” driving is actually “severe service” driving. This includes frequent short trips (less than 10 miles, especially in cold weather), stop-and-go city traffic driving, driving in dusty conditions (gravel roads, etc), and sustained highway driving speed during the warm season. For this type of driving behavior, the recommendation is to change the oil every 3,000 miles or six months.

    For maximum protection, most oil companies say to change the oil every 3,000 miles or three to six months regardless of what type of driving you do. Regular oil changes for preventative maintenance are cheap insurance against engine wear, and will always save you money in the long run if you keep a car for more than three or four years. It’s very uncommon to see an engine that has been well maintained with regular oil changes develop major bearing, ring, cam or valve problems under 100,000 miles.

    Transmission Fluid Flush

    Change transmission fluid every 30,000 miles. Most owner’s manuals say it isn’t necessary. Yeah, right. That’s why transmission shops are making a fortune replacing burned out automatic transmissions. For optimum protection, change the Transmission Fluid and filter every 30,000 miles (unless you have a new vehicle that is filled with Dexron III ATF, which is supposed to be good for 100,000 miles).

    Why ATF Wears Out

    An automatic transmission creates a lot of internal heat through friction: the friction of the fluid churning inside the torque converter, friction created when the clutch plates engage, and the normal friction created by gears and bearings carrying their loads.

    It doesn’t take long for the automatic transmission fluid (ATF) to heat up once the vehicle is in motion. Normal driving will raise fluid temperatures to 175 degrees F., which is the usual temperature range at which most fluids are designed to operate. If fluid temperatures can be held to 175 degrees F., ATF will last almost indefinitely — say up to 100,000 miles. But if the fluid temperature goes much higher, the life of the fluid begins to plummet. The problem is even normal driving can push fluid temperatures well beyond safe limits. And once that happens, the trouble begins.

    At elevated operating temperatures, ATF oxidizes, turns brown and takes on a smell like burnt toast. As heat destroys the fluid’s lubricating qualities and friction characteristics, varnish begins to form on internal parts (such as the valve body) which interferes with the operation of the transmission. If the temperature gets above 250 degrees F., rubber seals begin to harden, which leads to leaks and pressure losses. At higher temperatures the transmission begins to slip, which only aggravates overheating even more. Eventually the clutches burn out and the transmission calls it quits. The only way to repair the damage now is with an overhaul — a job which can easily run upwards of $1500 on a late model front-wheel drive car or minivan.

    As a rule of thumb, every 20 degree increase in operating temperature above 175 degrees F. cuts the life of the fluid in half!

    At 195 degrees F., for instance, fluid life is reduced to 50,000 miles. At 220 degrees, which is commonly encountered in many transmissions, the fluid is only good for about 25,000 miles. At 240 degrees F., the fluid won’t go much over 10,000 miles. Add another 20 degrees, and life expectancy drops to 5,000 miles. Go to 295 or 300 degrees F., and 1,000 to 1,500 miles is about all you’ll get before the transmission burns up.

    If you think this is propaganda put forth by the suppliers of ATF to sell more fluid, think again. According to the Automatic Transmission Rebuilders Association, 90% of ALL transmission failures are caused by overheating. And most of these can be blamed on worn out fluid that should have been replaced.

    On most vehicles, the automatic transmission fluid is cooled by a small heat exchanger inside the bottom or end tank of the radiator. Hot ATF from the transmission circulates through a short loop of pipe and is thus “cooled.” Cooling is a relative term here, however, because the radiator itself may be running at anywhere from 180 to 220 degrees F.!

    Tests have shown that the typical original equipment oil cooler is marginal at best. ATF that enters the radiator cooler at 300 degrees F. leaves at 240 to 270 degrees F., which is only a 10 to 20% drop in temperature, and is nowhere good enough for extended fluid life.

    Any number of things can push ATF temperatures beyond the system’s ability to maintain safe limits: towing a trailer, mountain driving, driving at sustained high speeds during hot weather, stop-and-go driving in city traffic, “rocking” an automatic transmission from drive to reverse to free a tire from mud or snow, etc. Problems in the cooling system itself such as a low coolant level, a defective cooling fan, fan clutch, thermostat or water pump, an obstructed radiator, etc., will also diminish ATF cooling efficiency. In some cases, transmission overheating can even lead to engine coolant overheating! That’s why there’s a good demand for auxiliary add-on transmission coolers.

    Auxiliary Cooling

    An auxiliary transmission fluid cooler is easy to install and can substantially lower fluid operating temperatures. The plate/fin type cooler is somewhat more efficient than the tube and fin design, but either can lower fluid temperatures anywhere from 80 to 140 degrees when installed in series with the stock unit. Typical cooling efficiencies run in the 35 to 50% range.

    Atf Fluid Types

    What kind of automatic transmission fluid should you use in your transmission? The type specified in your owner’s manual or printed on the transmission dipstick.

    For older Ford automatics and certain imports, Type “F” is usually required. Most Fords since the 1980s require “Mercon” fluid, which is Ford’s equivalent of Dexron II.

    For General Motors, Chrysler and other imports, Dexron II is usually specified.

    NOTE: Some newer vehicles with electronically-controlled transmissions require Dexron IIe or Dexron III fluid. GM says its new long-life Dexron III fluid can be substituted for Dexron II in older vehicle applications.

    CAUTION: Using the wrong type of fluid can affect the way the transmission shifts and feels. Using Type F fluid in an application that calls for Dexron II may make the transmission shift too harshly. Using Dexron II in a transmission that requires Type F may allow the transmission to slip under heavy load, which can accelerate clutch wear.

    Changing The Fluid

    It’s a messy job because there’s no drain plug to change the fluid, but you can do it yourself if you’re so inclined. To change the fluid, you have to get under your vehicle and remove the pan from the bottom of the transmission.

    When you loosen the pan, fluid will start to dribble out in all directions so you need a fairly large catch pan. You should also know that removing the pan doesn’t drain all of the old fluid out of the transmission. Approximately a third of the old fluid will still be in the torque converter. There’s no drain plug on the converter so you’re really only doing a partial fluid change. Even so, a partial fluid change is better than no fluid change at all.

    A typical fluid change will require anywhere from 3 to 6 quarts of ATF depending on the application, a new filter and a pan gasket (or RTV sealer) for the transmission pan. The pan must be thoroughly cleaned prior to reinstallation. This includes wiping all fluid residue from the inside of the pan and scraping all traces of the old gasket from the pan’s sealing surface. Don’t forget to clean the mounting flange on the transmission, too.

    When the new filter is installed, be sure it is mounted in the exact same position as the original and that any O-rings or other gaskets have been properly positioned prior to tightening the bolts. Then tighten the bolts to the manufacturer’s recommended specs.

    When refilling the transmission with fresh fluid, be careful not to allow any dirt or debris to enter the dipstick tube. Using a long-neck funnel with a built-in screen is recommended.

    CAUTION: Do not overfill the transmission. Too much fluid can cause the fluid to foam, which in turn can lead to erratic shifting, oil starvation and transmission damage. Too much fluid may also force ATF to leak past the transmission seals.

    Add half a quart at a time until the dipstick shows full. The transmission really isn’t full yet because the dipstick should be checked when the fluid is hot, and the engine is idling with the gear selector in Park. So start the engine, drive the vehicle around the block, then recheck the fluid level while the engine is idling and add fluid as needed until the dipstick reads full.

      Tire Rotation

      Tire rotation or rotating tires is the the practice of moving automobile wheels and tires from one position on the car to another, to ensure even tire wear. Tire wear becomes uneven for any number of reasons. Even tire wear is necessary to maintain consistent performance in the vehicle and to extend the overall life of a set of tires.

      By design, the weight on the front and rear axles of your car is different, which causes uneven wear. With most cars being front-engine cars, the front axle usually carries the majority of the weight. For rear wheel drive vehicles, the weight distribution between front and back is near 50:50. Front wheel drive vehicles also have the differential in front, adding to the weight, with a typical weight distribution of no better than 60:40. The result of this is that the front tires wear out at almost twice the rate of the rear tires, particularly when you factor in the included stress that braking adds to the front tires. Therefore, tire rotation for front-wheel drive vehicles is even more of a necessity.

      Turning your car (which is unavoidable) also contributes to uneven wear. The outside, front tire is worn disproportionately. In right hand traffic countries the left front tire wears faster than the right front. Also, right turns are tighter than left turns, causing more tire wear. On the other hand the sidewalls on the right tire tend to be more often bumped and rubbed against the curb while parking the vehicle, causing asymmetric sidewall wear. As would be expected, the exact opposite occurs in countries that drive on the left hand side of the road.

      Mechanical issues in the vehicle may also cause uneven tire wear. The wheels need to not only be aligned with each other but also with the vehicle. The wheel that is out of alignment will tend to be pulled along by the other wheels, causing uneven wear in that tire. If the alignment is such that the vehicle pulls to one side or the other, the driver will correct by steering against the pull. Essentially, the vehicle is constantly turning in this case, causing uneven tire wear. Additionally, if a tire is under or over-inflated, then it will wear differently than the other tires on the vehicle. Rotating will not help in this case and the inflation needs to be corrected.
       
      Automobile manufacturers recommend tire rotation frequency and pattern. Depending on the vehicle, tire rotation may be recommended every 8,000 miles. The rotation pattern is typically moving the back wheels to the front, and the front to the back, but crossing them when moving to the back. If the tires are unidirectional, the rotation can only be rotated front to back on the same side of the vehicle to preserve the rotational direction of the tires. Most unidirectional tires can be moved from side to side if they are remounted.
       
      The current school of thought recommends keeping the best tires on the rear wheels of the vehicle, whether it is front, or rear wheel drive. The logic is that, if the rear wheels lose grip before the front wheels, an “oversteer” situation will occur, which is harder to control than an “understeer” situation. The intuitive idea that the front steering/driving tires need to be the best quality is not actually the case.
       
      Tire wear becomes uneven for any number of reasons. Even tire wear is necessary to maintain consistent performance in the vehicle and to extend the overall life of a set of tires.Tire rotationor rotating tires is the the practice of moving automobile wheels and tires from one position on the car to another, to ensure even tire wear.

      Engine Diagnostics

      The diagnostics of a car’s engine are very complicated. Nothing really tells you when anything has gone awry. Most cars have a Check Engine light that turns on, but even this light does not indicate exactly what the problem is. The only way to find out is to have your mechanic run an engine diagnostics test on your vehicle. 

      There are several reasons to have a full diagnostics test run on your car. With today’s vehicles being basically run by computers, if anything goes wrong an indicator light will turn on. Take the vehicle to your mechanic when the light comes on. Make sure you have a qualified, certified mechanic that you know and trust. He will be the one, who will help keep your car running smoothly for a long time.

      If you are a do-it-yourselfer, you can get many diagnostic supplies at your local mechanic shop as well. In addition, he can help you with any questions you may have. For most new cars it is necessary to have state of the art diagnostic equipment and trained technicians to decipher the root cause of your car engine’s issues.

        Cooling Systems

        Oil Filters

        To reduce the costs of vehicle ownership and maintenance, many car makers say the oil filter only needs to be replaced at every other oil change. Most mechanics will tell you this is false economy.

        The oil filters on most engines today have been downsized to save weight, cost and space. The “standard” quart-sized filter that was once common on most engines has been replaced by a pint-sized (or smaller) filter. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that a smaller filter has less total filtering capacity. Even so, the little filters should be adequate for a 3,000 mile oil change intervals — but may run out of capacity long before a second oil change at 6,000 or 15,000 miles.

        Replacing the oil filter every time the oil is changed, therefore, is highly recommended.

        Filter Replacement

        If you do your own oil changes, make sure you get the correct filter for your engine. Follow the filter manufacturer’s listings in its catalog. Many filters that look the same on the outside have different internal valving. Many overhead cam engines, for example, require an “anti-drainback” valve in the filter to prevent oil from draining out of the filter when the engine is shut off. This allows oil pressure to reach critical engine parts more quickly when the engine is restarted. Filters that are mounted sideways on the engine typically require an anti-drainback valve.

        Used motor oil should be disposed of properly. The Environmental Protection Agency does not consider used motor oil to be a hazardous chemical, but it can foul ground water and does contain traces of lead. The best way to dispose of used motor oil is to take it to a service station, quick lube shop, parts store or other facility for recycling. Your old oil will either be rerefined into other lubricants or petroleum products, or burned as fuel.

        Do not dump used motor oil on the ground, down a drain, into a storm sewer or place it in the trash. Many landfills will not accept used motor oil even if it is in a sealed container because it will eventually leak out into the ground. If you can’t find an environmentally-acceptable way to dispose of the stuff, maybe you shouldn’t be changing your own oil. Service facilities that do oil changes all have storage tanks and recycling programs to dispose of used oil.

        It is recommended that you get an Oil Change on your vehicle every 3,500 miles for regular oil and every 5,000 miles for synthetic oil. Checking and changing the oil is essential to keep today’s engines working properly and efficiently.

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