Videos and articles designed to help you diagnose and maintain your vehicle.
Archive for July 2011
The Fallacy of Cheap Tires
Date: July 28, 2011 2:41 PM - Category: Tires and Wheels
Do you ever shop for shoes in one of our Apple Valley area shoe stores? When buying a running shoe, is quality important? Does durability matter as long as the shoes look fabulous? Would you rather have one pair of long lasting shoes or two pair of lower quality shoes at the same price?
Is the warranty important when buying tires?
When you choose new tires in Apple Valley, what's the most important factor for you?
Give us a call at Valley Auto Care at 952-431-2700 for tire recommendations.
You know, buying tires in Apple Valley is a big deal. It's a big ticket item so you know you'll be spending a lot. You're not only concerned about the price, but you want to know that it'll be a long time before you need to buy new tires again.
And of course there's the safety aspect as well. The tires do a lot of work – they carry the weight of the vehicle and you and your passengers. They need to be up to the task. You want to be sure they hold the road and provide good traction. If you carry heavy loads or tow a trailer, the tires need a high load rating to be up for the job.
As a tire professional, I think it's important that people understand the effect of price on a tire's performance and durability. When I was a kid, my dad had a saying. He said, "Pay twice as much and buy half as many".
Dad applied that to a lot of things. He thought that one high quality suit would last longer and look better than two cheap suits. The saying really seems to hold true when it comes to shoes and boots, too.
I buy high-quality work shoes because I spend a lot of time on my feet. They're more comfortable, have important safety features like steel toes and non-slip soles – and they last at least twice as long as cheap shoes. I feel I get very good value for my money.
I apply the same thinking to tires. The major tire brands that you're familiar with are known as Tier 1 tires. These tires are well-engineered and very high quality. Comparable tires are usually in the same price range from brand to brand.
Stepping down in price you come to private label tires. Some large tire store chains carry tires with the chain's own brand. It's important to know that most private label tires are built by the same Tier 1 brands that you are familiar with – so they are a quality product. You can ask your tire professional who makes their private brand.
The lowest priced tires on the market are Tier 3 tires. These tend to be imported from China or South America. Since you get what you pay for, you can't expect a Tier 3 tire to deliver the same performance and durability as the others.
So let's say you need new tires. You've determined the features you need. So you have several options, including price options. Now, you've probably heard the term 'it's a 40 thousand mile tire' or 'it's a 60 thousand mile tire'. Simply put, the manufacturer warrantees the tire for 'X' number of miles. If that's important to you, look for the warranty.
What's the difference in the tires with higher mileage warranties? It's the rubber compounds and the amount of tread material. As you might expect, you'll pay more for the longer-lasting tire.
Now the cheapest tires you can find won't have a manufacturer's mileage warranty or if it does, it'll be relatively low. That brings us back to dad's saying; if you buy the cheapest Tier 3 tire you can, you will likely go through two sets in the time it would take to wear out one set of good quality tires. And the good tires won't cost twice as much, so you'll end up paying more per mile driven with the cheap tires.
Hey, I realize that sometimes the budget will only allow for a Tier 3 tire. I make them available for my customers who need them because I would rather see them driving with safe, new tires than pushing their old tires beyond their safety limits. But I always counsel my customers to buy as much tire as they can afford, because it will be much less expensive in the long run.
Your tires are the only part of your vehicle that touch the road. You're only as safe as your tires are well built.
Buy value – not price.
How Your Check Engine Light Works
Date: July 21, 2011 1:29 PM - Category: Dashboard
Have you ever had an experience like this in Apple Valley Minnesota? You drive through the one of those automatic car washes. When you get to the end, where the dryer is blowing, your check engine light started flashing!
You fear the worst, but within a block or two, the light stopped flashing, but stayed on. By the next day, the light was off.
You wonder; "What was going on?" Well, it's actually a good lesson in how the Check Engine light works.
Your air intake system has a sensor that measures how much air is coming through it. When you went under the high-speed dryer, all that air was blasting past the sensor. Your engine computer was saying, there shouldn't be that much air when the engine is just idling. Something's wrong. Whatever's wrong could cause some serious engine damage.
Warning, warning! It flashes the check engine light, to alert you to take immediate action.
It stopped flashing because once you were out from under the dryer, the airflow returned to normal. Now the engine control computer says the danger is past, but I'm still concerned, I'll keep this light on for now.
Then the Check Engine Light goes off in a day or two.
The condition never did recur, so the computer says whatever it was, it's gone now. The danger is past, I'll turn that light off.
Now a flashing check engine light is serious. You need to get it into our Apple Valley Minnesota shop as soon as possible. But if it stops flashing, so you have time to see if the problem will clear itself or if you need to get it checked. How does the computer know when to clear itself?
Think of it this way. The engine control computer is the brain that can make adjustments to manage the engine. Things like alter the air to fuel mix, spark advance, and so on. The computer relies on a series of sensors to get the information it needs to make decisions on what to do.
The computer knows what readings are in a normal range for various conditions. Get out of range, and it logs a trouble code and lights up the check engine warning.
The computer will then try to make adjustments if it can. If the computer can't compensate for the problem, the check engine light stays on.
The computer logs a trouble code. Some people think the code will tell the technician exactly what's wrong?
Actually, the code will tell the technician what sensor reading is out of parameters. It can't really tell you why, because there could be any number of causes.
Let's say you're feeling hot. You get your heat sensor out – a thermometer – put it under our tongue and in a minute or two you learn that you have a fever of 104 degrees.
You know your symptom – a fever – but you don't know what's causing it. Is it the flu, a sinus infection or appendicitis?
You need more information than just that one sensor reading. But it does give you a place to start and narrows down the possible problems.
There are reports on the internet telling you that you can just go down to an auto parts store and get them to read your trouble code or buy a cheap scan tool to do it yourself.
There are two problems with that. First, the computer stores some trouble codes in short term memory, and some in permanent memory. Each manufacturer's computer stores generic trouble codes, but they also store codes that are specific to their brand.
A cheap, generic scan tool, like you can buy or that the auto parts store uses, doesn't have the ability to retrieve long-term storage or manufacturer specific codes. Your Apple Valley Minnesota service center has spent a lot of money on high-end scan tools and software to do a deep retrieval of information from your engine control computer.
The second problem is that once you've got the information, do you know what to do with it? For example, a very common trouble code comes up when the reading on the oxygen sensor is out of whack.
So the common solution is for the auto parts store to sell you a new oxygen sensor, which are not cheap, and send you off on your way. Now your oxygen sensor may indeed have been bad and needed replacing. But the error code could have come from any of a dozen of other problems.
How do you know the right solution? Back to the fever analogy, do you need surgery or an aspirin? Leave it to the pros at Valley Auto Care. Give us a call at 952-431-2700 and let us help you resolve your check engine light issue.
Diesel Maintenance For Minnesota
Date: July 13, 2011 12:29 PM - Category: Fuel System
At Valley Auto Care we hear from a lot of people who are excited about the new diesel engines that will soon be available in passenger cars and SUV's. But our Minnesota friends are often curious about the preventive maintenance requirements. People may not know that diesel engines have long been used extensively in Europe and Asia. In fact, in some markets, there're nearly as many diesel powered passenger cars as there are gasoline.
Here's who's announced or is expected to announce new diesels for North America: BMW, Mercedes, Audi, Volkswagen, Nissan, Honda, Toyota, Hyundai and Subaru. Of course, the US auto makers will be expanding their diesel offerings as well. Diesels will become a very big deal here in Minnesota.
You may ask, why has it taken so long getting to Minnesota and North America? There are a bunch of reasons like fuel tax policies and such, but the biggest hurtle was that Minnesota diesel fuel had a high sulfur content – too high for the latest generation of highly refined diesel engines. Recent government mandates to remove sulfur now opens up Minnesota to the engines the rest of the world's been enjoying for a long time.
Why are diesels so popular worldwide? Well, for starters, diesels get up to 30% better fuel economy than gas engines. And they last a lot longer. And modern diesel engines are refined, quiet and powerful – and there's none of that black smoke we used to see.
Some people may think that diesels create more pollution. But, you need to rethink diesels. Environmental pollution standards for diesel cars and light trucks are scheduled to be as strict as they are for gasoline vehicles. A modern diesel engine is as clean as a gas engine.
You may also have heard a lot in the news about bio-diesel. The exciting thing about diesels is that they're not limited to fossil fuels. They can run on fuel made from vegetable oil. There are refineries that make diesel fuel from cellulosic waste like woodchips from lumber mills. There's even this cool new process where a special strain of algae is used to convert carbon dioxide, water and sunshine into bio-diesel. That's still a ways off, but you can see that diesel can become a sustainable source of fuel.
And, there are not a lot of trade off's with diesel in terms of performance. A modern passenger car diesel is very smooth, quiet and quick. Most folks wouldn't notice any difference. For those who tow trailers and haul heavy loads, diesels will be an improvement.
Now diesel engines are heavy duty, so they cost more than gas engines. But they get better fuel economy – so the break-even point is largely dependent on the difference between Minnesota gas and diesel prices at the pump and how many miles you drive. And diesels have a higher resale value.
Now, let's get back to diesel maintenance. You have to keep in mind that most of the new diesels are just coming in, or will be over the next couple of years, so we don't have the maintenance schedules to make direct comparisons yet.
But going off what we already have in Minnesota, we can expect fluid drain intervals to be similar to gasoline engines. Diesels do require very clean fuel, air and oil, so their filters are much higher capacity than gasoline filters and cost more. The engine air filter needs to be changed more frequently as well.
Repair costs are similar. As with gasoline engines, proper maintenance is the key to long engine life and to avoiding repairs. So pretty much what we have come to expect with gas vehicles; coolant system service, transmission service, power brakes, power steering, differential, filters, fuel system, and so on. And the payoff for you, if you're the kind that likes to keep your vehicles for a long time, is that a properly maintained diesel engine can last for hundreds of thousands of miles.
Go Straight: Wheel Alignment For Apple Valley Automobiles
Date: July 8, 2011 3:04 PM - Category: Alignment
You may have an alignment problem if your car drifts or pulls to one side, your steering wheel’s off center, you have uneven tire wear or your car doesn’t feel like it handles right as you drive down our local Apple Valley Minnesota streets.
When all of a vehicle’s wheels are lined up exactly with each other, your wheels are in alignment. Running into potholes, smacking a curb or other objects around Apple Valley, Minnesota are great ways to knock your car out of alignment. Then one or more of your wheels starts pulling in a slightly different direction and the problems begin.
Driving for an extended time when your car is out of alignment causes your tires to wear unevenly and excessively. Sometimes the tire can be worn so badly that it will fail.
At the very least, you’ll have to replace your tires sooner. You could end up with premature wear to your suspension system, which can be really expensive. The front wheel alignment is adjustable on all vehicles, and the back wheels are also adjustable on some cars.
Now, let’s talk about some alignment basics. Wheels are adjustable for toe, caster and camber. The ideal alignment for your car was designed by its engineers.
From there, the vehicle is put on an alignment rack and we take an initial alignment reading.
If all four wheels are adjustable, they are lined up perfectly parallel with the vehicle’s centerline. If the back wheels aren’t adjustable, the direction they push is determined and the front wheels are aligned to match.
Like most things, your manufacturer has suggested a mileage interval for having your alignment checked. But if you run into a curb, pothole or something else that’s given you a big jolt, pay attention to whether your vehicle is pulling to one side when you drive around the Apple Valley area. It’s better to have your alignment checked before waiting to see if there is uneven tire tread wear – by then, the damage is done.
Getting your alignment checked when needed is a great way to extend the life of your tires and suspension parts. It also makes sure that your tire meets the road properly for maximum performance and safety.
Come see us at Valley Auto Care for more information about your tire alignment. We look forward to seeing you.
Hey Apple Valley Drivers; What Is The Most Distracting Food?
Date: July 1, 2011 2:59 PM - Category: Maintenance
So what is the most distracting food to have in the car while driving around Apple Valley?
A Soft Drink, or
Well, you may be surprised to learn that all but the gummy bears are in the top ten most distracting foods when you are driving, but if you chose 'coffee', then give yourself an extra two points; coffee is the number one food distraction for drivers in Apple Valley and around the country.
Food distractions cause 25 percent of all car accidents; over a million and a half each year!
You'll notice that all of the top ten distracting food items are messy. Messy foods are the type of food you might spill (very distracting!), then try to clean up (a safe-driving impossibility!). If you gotta eat on the run, take five-then drive. You'll thank yourself later for two reasons, one being that you can actually relax for just a moment in our fast-paced world, and the other is that you won't have to worry about getting that cinnamon roll frosting out of your dashboard after that near miss.
Keep drinks in spill-proof containers, too, so you can keep your eyes on the Apple Valley road without worrying about where that spill is headed.
So; taking a food break… Or filling out accident reports. We don't have to ask you which you prefer: It's a no brainer.
Valley Auto Care, along with AutoNetTV, wants you to keep both eyes on the road. Please eat safely and keep your eyes on the road.
Valley Auto Care 7125 151st St. West, Suite 105 Apple Valley, Minnesota 55124 Give us a call at: 952-431-2700
Valley Auto Care in Apple Valley MN helps people and their vehicles throughout Apple Valley and along Cedar Ave, County Rd. 42, Galaxy Ave, and 160th St. We work on all vehicles including the following manufacturers: Audi, BMW, Volkswagen, Mercedes, Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Ford, Mazda, Chevrolet, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Saturn, GMC, Cadillac, Mercury, Lincoln, Infiniti, Acura, Lexus, Buick, Dodge, Chrysler, Jeep, and Plymouth with most auto service needs including: Tires, Wheels, Brakes, Transmission, Tune-Up, Computer Diagnostics, Engine Codes, Suspension, Shocks, Struts, Alignment, AC, Clutch & more.