When winter approaches, we break out the sweaters, coats, boots and mittens. We want to be ready for winter conditions. Your vehicle needs to be ready for winter as well. The last thing you want is to get stranded out in the cold. You need your vehicle to be safe and reliable. It's a good idea to get caught up on any neglected maintenance items anytime - but the stakes are higher in the winter.
There are some specific things that we need to do to have our vehicle ready for winter. The most obvious is having the antifreeze checked. If the antifreeze level is too low, it can't properly protect your engine, radiator and hoses from freezing. If your car does not seem to be making enough heat to keep you warm, your antifreeze level may be low or you could have a thermostat problem. Get it checked out. If you are due for a cooling system service, now is a perfect time to have it done.
In the cold months we always worry about being able to stop in time when it's slick out. The first thing to remember is to slow down and allow yourself plenty of room to stop. Of course, you want your brakes to be working properly. A thorough brake inspection will reveal if the pads or any other parts need replacing. Check with your service consultant to see if it is time to replace your brake fluid. It accumulates water over time which really messes with your stopping power.
It is a really good idea to have your battery tested. A battery's cranking power really drops with the temperature. If your battery is weak in the fall, it may not be up to winter. There is nothing like a dead battery in a snow storm.
Which leads us to an emergency kit. You should always have a blanket or something to keep you and your passengers warm if you get stranded. If you will be venturing away from civilization, pack more items such as food and water to help you survive. Keeping at least half a tank of gas is a good precaution if you get stuck and need to run the car to keep warm and it will help keep your gas lines from freezing up.
Winter always makes us think of our windshield wiper blades - usually during that first storm when they aren't working right. That's why it's a really good idea to replace your blades in the fall before the winter storms. If you live where there's a lot of snow and ice, you might want a special winter blade that resists freezing up. And be sure to have enough windshield washer fluid.
The final thing to consider is your tires. Any tire can lose pressure over time - up to one pound every six or eight weeks. For every 10 degrees the temperature drops you lose another pound of pressure. So if it was 80 degrees outside when you checked your tire pressure two months ago and now it's 40 degrees out, you could be down 5 pounds of pressure. That's enough to be a real safety issue and it wastes gas too. You may need special winter tires as well. Your tire professional can help you find the right tire design for your expected road conditions.
If you're getting winter tires, it is always best to put them on all four wheels. If you are only getting two, have them put on the rear - even if you have a front-wheel drive or four-wheel drive vehicle.
This is a very important safety measure recommended by tire manufacturers. Sliding or fish-tailing on ice and snow is a matter of not having enough traction at the rear end. That is why your newest tires should always be on the rear.
Auto Service Resources.
Videos and articles designed to help you diagnose and maintain your vehicle.
Archive for July 2010
Winter Prep Service
Date: July 30, 2010 3:22 PM - Category: Tires and Wheels
What To Do After You Buy a Used Vehicle in Apple Valley
Date: July 26, 2010 1:44 PM - Category: Older Vehicles
So you’ve bought a used car in the Apple Valley area. How do you know what you’re getting? It is hard to know what you’re getting because people in the Apple Valley area sell cars for different reasons. Think about why you’ve sold cars. Did you just want something new or were there problems that you wanted to run away from. Maybe it was a little of both.
Used cars with 25,000 to 35,000 miles on them are often lease returns, corporate program cars or vehicles that have done duty in rental fleets. We feel pretty confident because they’re newer and may still be under warranty. But how well have they been maintained?
If you plan on owning a car for a long time, you’ll keep up on the maintenance so that you can avoid expensive repairs down the road. But, if you know you’re only going to have the car for two or three years, you may not be so committed to maintenance. It would be easy to think that skipping an oil change here and there wouldn’t ruin a brand new engine. Then it’ll be someone else’s problem when it comes time to pay for the damage.
It would be very tempting to skip the 30,000 mile service if you knew you’d be turning in your leased vehicle in a couple of months.
If the vehicle didn’t come with maintenance records, you need to assume the worst. Most likely the coolant system and transmission have never been serviced. The cabin air filter has probably not been changed and a fuel system cleaning may be in order.
You’ll want Valley Auto Care to check the air conditioning, battery, engine air filter, serpentine belt and hoses. An inspection at Valley Auto Care is well worth the cost.
And if your “new” used vehicle has more miles on it, an inspection is even more important. Check your owner’s manual or talk with your service advisor at Valley Auto Care (call 952-431-2700) about what should have been done. Please don’t forget the timing belt; that can be very expensive if it fails.
Valley Auto Care will help you with a plan to take care of critical services and get the rest caught up. If your budget won’t allow you to take care of everything right away, we can help you prioritize your needs and get it taken care of over the next several months. And remember to keep your maintenance records. They’ll help you get top dollar when it’s time for you to sell.
Valley Auto Care
7125 151st St. West, Suite 105
Apple Valley, Minnesota 55124
PCV Valve Replacement
Date: July 26, 2010 1:39 PM - Category: Parts
The energy from exploding fuel is what powers your engine. But some of the vapors from the explosions escape into the lower part of the engine, called the crankcase. The crankcase is where your engine oil hangs out. These gases are about 70% unburned fuel. If the gases were allowed to stay in the crankcase, they would quickly contaminate the oil and turn it to sludge. Sludge is one of the biggest enemies of your engine, clogging it up, eventually leading to expensive failures. Also, the pressure build up would cause seals and gaskets to blow out. Therefore, these gases need to be vented out.
Gasoline engines used to simply have a hose that let the poisonous fumes vent out into the air. In 1963, the federal government required gas engines to have a special one-way valve installed to help reduce dangerous emissions. Diesel engines are not required to have these valves.
The positive crankcase ventilation, or PCV, valve routes crankcase gases through a hose and back into the air intake system where they are re-burned in the engine. Fresh, clean air is brought into the crankcase through a breather tube. It's really a pretty simple system, but does an important job. The re-circulating air removes moisture and combustion waste from the crankcase, preventing sludge. This extends not only the life of your oil, but the engine as well. The PCV relieves pressure in the crankcase, preventing oil leaks.
Eventually, the PCV valve can get gummed up. Then it can not move enough air through the engine to keep it working efficiently. If the PCV valve is sticking enough, you could have oil leaks, excess oil consumption and a fouled intake system. If you experience hesitation or surging or an oil leak, it may be a sign of PCV value problems. Your owners' manual may give a recommendation for when the PCV valve should be replaced - usually between 20,000 mi/32,000 km and 50,000 mi/80,000 km. Unfortunately, some manufacturers don't list a recommendation in the manual, so it can be easy to overlook.
Many PCV system problems can be diagnosed with a visual inspection. Fortunately, PCV valve replacement is both quick and inexpensive. Proper oil changes will greatly extend the life of the PCV valve. Skipping a few recommended oil changes can allow varnish and gum to build up in the valve, reducing its efficiency. So now when your Apple Valley service technician tells you its time to replace your PCV valve, you will know what he's talking about. If you have had your car for a while and this is the first you've ever heard of a PCV value, ask your tech to check yours out or call Valley Auto Care at 952-431-2700.
Date: July 26, 2010 1:38 PM - Category: Drive Train
Here at AutoNetTV, we have viewers, like you, from all across the country who write to us with questions or feedback. One common question we're asked is: What is a differential and what does it do? You may have been told your differential needs service, or seen it as an option up on the service menu. Differential service covers a lot of things, so let's first talk about what a differential does.
As you drive through a turn, your outside wheels and inside wheels turn at different speeds. Kind of like the cars going around a race track - the ones driving in the outside lanes have a greater distance to travel than the cars in the inside lanes. The differential is what allows the outside and inside drive wheels to rotate at slightly different speeds so that the tires don't hop or skip while taking corners, or lose traction in dirt or snow. Differentials have gears in them that transfer the power from the drive train to your wheels - which is why they're often referred to as gear boxes. The gears need to be very strong to do this work, and they need to be properly protected so that they'll last.
All vehicles have some form of differential. If you have a front-wheel drive car, your differential is often called a transaxle and is located in the front. If you have rear-wheel drive, the differential is in the back of the car. If you have a four-wheel drive vehicle, you will have a differential in the front and the back - and in the middle as well. The center differential adjusts for differences in speed between the front and rear wheels.
Differential fluid lubricates and cools the gears. Over time, the fluid can get dirty from bits of the gears grinding off. The additives that keep the fluid clean and protect the differential break down over time. So your vehicle manufacturer has scheduled intervals for you to have your differential fluid changed.
Differentials are hard working mechanisms, and, along with the gears in a manual transmission, need to be serviced regularly with high-quality, replacement fluid. Your Apple Valley automotive service advisor can give you more information as to when your next differential service is recommended. You can also ask if they have a record of when the service was last completed.
As with most service intervals, if you are driving under more severe conditions, you will want to service your differential more frequently. "Severe service" conditions are defined in most owners' manuals, and include: frequent starts and stops, short trips, cold weather, hot weather and towing. All these conditions add to the stress of the vehicle and its parts. Also, off-roading in Minnesota can be especially hard on differentials, especially if you cross streams. Proper service will extend the life of your gears and keep them running more smoothly. If you have never had your differential checked, visit http://www.valleyautocare.com/contact.php for more information.
Proper Fluids for Your Vehicle
Date: July 26, 2010 1:36 PM - Category: Fluids
We would like to give you an update on some of the things happening in automotive fluids. You know, cars are becoming more sophisticated everyday - and fluids such as, oil, coolant and transmission fluid are becoming more specialized at about the same pace.
The do-it-yourselfer has to be pretty careful so that they do not actually harm their vehicle with the wrong type of fluid. That is why so many Minnesota car owners rely on the advice of their service consultant to not only get the correct family of fluids, but to suggest the formulation that is best for their car and the way they drive.
Let's start with engine oil. If you have been paying attention, you will have noticed a number of new oil weights on the scene in the last several years. Modern engines are built to much tighter tolerances and have very complicated valve trains. The oil must be thin enough to lubricate complicated parts when the engine is cold. The weight of an oil is expressed in terms like 20-W-50 or 5-W-30. Manufacturers recommend the weight of oil for each vehicle they make. The recommendation is based on engine design. Your Apple Valley service center will know what weight your manufacturer recommends - and it's important to follow those recommendations. A service adviser at Valley Auto Care can also offer suggestions for special formulations and can explain conventional and synthetic oils.
Antifreeze, or engine coolant, is another area that has become more complicated. For a long time, manufacturers only called for a couple of different types of coolant. Now there are several different formulations that are needed because of the different materials that manufacturers are using to build the cooling system. Using the wrong type of coolant can actually void your warranty, so you want to get that right.
Transmission fluid is beginning to be specialized as well. New transmission designs have particular requirements that mandate the use of specific formulations. Recently, new, somewhat confusing, standards for brake fluid have also been released.
Not too long ago, there was a good chance that all of the vehicles at your house would use many of the same fluids. However, as automotive technology advances, the array of basic automotive fluids you need will grow. And, some of the formulations will cost a little more. Fortunately, your Apple Valley service center will continue to update their training to keep pace with technology so that you'll get the right fluids your car needs. It's all part of the commitment your service center makes to your driving peace of mind.
Date: July 26, 2010 1:31 PM - Category: Fuel System
The last new car sold with a carburetor in North America rolled out of the dealership in 1990. Since then, all new vehicles have had fuel injectors. In very simple terms, a fuel injector is a valve that squirts fuel into your engine. Your engine control computer tells the fuel injector how much gas to deliver as well as the precise time it should be delivered. Of course this happens thousands of times a minute. Fuel injection is a much more precise way of delivering fuel than carburetors. That translates into better fuel economy and power. Virtually all fuel injectors for gas engines are known as port fuel injectors because they deliver the fuel to a port just outside the cylinder. Port fuel injectors operate at about 40 to 80 pounds per square inch of pressure.
A few auto makers have introduced gas direct injection systems on some engines recently. These systems inject the gas directly into the cylinders under very high pressure - hundreds of times the pressure of port injection systems. Although more complicated, direct injection technology promises greater power with improved fuel economy, so we can expect to see more of it in the future.
As you can see, the level of precision required of your fuel injectors is very high. They need to be operating properly in order for your car to run right.
High temperatures under your hood and variations in gas quality cause fuel injectors to become fouled with wax, dirt, and carbon. Injectors can become partially clogged, preventing them from delivering the proper amount of fuel at the correct pressure. The design of each engine requires a specific spray pattern from the fuel injector that might be altered when the injector is dirty. When injectors are dirty, the fuel doesn't burn as efficiently resulting in poor fuel economy and loss of power. So it is important to keep your fuel injectors clean.
Skilled service technicians at Valley Auto Care in Apple Valley can perform a fuel system service for you. (Visit http://www.valleyautocare.com/contact.php.) That is a fuel system service - not just fuel injector cleaning. That is because the fuel has a lot of ways to become dirty or contaminated between the gas tank and the fuel injector. A fuel system service starts with a fuel filter replacement. This filter cleans the gas as it leaves the tank. The various parts of the fuel intake system need to be cleaned from time to time to remove harmful gum, deposits and varnish. Finally, the fuel injectors are cleaned so that they operate properly and deliver the right amount of fuel at the right time.
Your Rosemount area service center uses a process for cleaning your fuel system that includes state-of-the-art cleaning chemicals as well as some old fashioned scrubbing. Proper maintenance of your fuel system means that you will spend less on gas, enjoy strong performance and prevent costly repairs down the road.
Date: July 26, 2010 1:25 PM - Category: Tires and Wheels
What type of technology do you use? Do you prefer an 8-track tape or an iPod? When it comes to winter tires, much of the public's perception dates back to when 8-track was the best way to listen to the Bee Gees.
Twenty years ago, winter tires differed from highway tires only in their tread design. We called them snow tires back then and they had big, knobby lugs that were designed to give good traction in deep snow. They had the same rubber compound as regular tires and they weren't very good on ice, packed snow or wet roads. They were not even very good on dry roads. They really helped in deep or loose snow, but they did a poor job the rest of the time. They were loud and rode hard. You couldn't wait to get them off in the spring.
Then all-season tires started to come along. All-season tires are really a compromise between summer and winter performance. They have acceptable hot weather ride and tread life, and you can get through mild winter road conditions OK. But there are some really good reasons to consider winter tires.
Modern winter tires do a terrific job in a wide range of winter conditions. First of all, below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, regular tires become hard and inflexible. That means they don't provide the road grip you need. Even if you don't live somewhere with a lot of snow, but it still gets below 45 degrees in the winter, you will be safer with winter tires.
In addition, they are specifically designed to more effectively move snow and water. That's the key to traction on ice, packed snow and wet roads. They use a micro-pore compound that allows the tire to bite into ice and snow. They also use wider grooves that run around the circumference of the tread to expel snow from the tire better. The lugs and grooves on winter tires have a special shape that throws the packed snow out of the tread as the tire turns. The tread is then open when it comes back in contact with the road and can provide good traction.
Winter tires also have a lot of sipes. Sipes are thin slits in the tread. The edge of the sipes grab ice and packed snow to provide tons of traction and to expel water and slush out of the tread. winter tires have a rounder casing to cut into the snow's surface. The treads on regular summer tires can actually get packed with snow instead and become very slick. winter tires offer 25% to 50% more traction than all-season tires. And when it comes to stopping power, all-season tires take 42% longer to stop than winter tires. Sometimes that's the difference between getting home safely and spending the night in a snow bank.
Now back when the 8-track was king, you just put snow tires on the drive wheels. That worked out OK because the rubber compound was essentially the same. Now, winter tires provide so much more traction than all-season or summer tires, that there's a huge difference between the traction at the front and rear ends of the car if you only put winter tires on the drive wheels.
For example: if you take a corner on an icy road and the rear end starts to slide out, essentially the rear is trying to pass the front because it's going faster. If you have high traction winter tires only on the front, they are going to be much more effective at transferring cornering grip and stopping power to the front wheels. This will actually cause the rear end to whip out even more.
That's why tire manufactures instruct their dealers that they must install winter tires on the rear wheels as well whenever they put winter tires on the front end of any vehicle. It's a major safety concern. It's strongly recommended that winter tires be installed on all four wheels on rear wheel drive vehicles as well. The front tires do most of the steering and braking work - it only makes sense that you provide the front end with the best traction you can.
People often assume that if they have four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive they don't need winter tires on all four wheels. Would you intentionally disconnect the four-wheel drive in poor road conditions? Of course you wouldn't, but that's essentially what you do if you only put winter tires on one end. It only makes sense to have the same level of traction and control at all four corners.
The province of Quebec in Canada has issued a law requiring all passenger vehicles, taxis and rental cars with Quebec license plates to install a full set of four winter tires between November 15th and April 1. It's that important.
Many modern cars have traction control and anti-lock brakes so people may think that they don't need winter tires. But you need traction to accelerate, steer and stop. The tires provide the traction so that the traction control and anti-lock brakes have something to work with.
Look for tires with the symbol of a mountain with a snowflake in it. This means the tire complies with the severe snow standard. All-season tires will have an M&S, for mud and snow, on the sidewall.
So when the temperatures drop below 45 degrees, be sure you have a set of four winter tires for maximum performance in snow, packed snow, ice, wet and dry roads. Your tire professional can help you find the right winter tire for your vehicle and driving needs.
Date: July 26, 2010 1:23 PM - Category: Alignment
North Americans love their cars. And nothing goes with cars better than the road trip. Freedom from daily schedules, new sights and the open road – it’s great! But there’s nothing like car trouble to bring the fun to a grinding halt.
Now you can’t always avoid problems, but you can take steps to reduce the probability of getting sidelined on your trip. The first step is to look at your trip plan from your vehicle’s perspective. What kind of roads will you be traveling – winding byways or super-highways? Mountains or plains? What weather conditions are you likely to encounter? How many miles will you travel? How much weight will you be hauling – passengers and luggage? Lugging a trailer or roof top carrier? Will it be dusty?
Armed with the answers to these questions, you can start a trip inspection to help you prepare your Apple Valley vehicle for your big adventure. A lot of our Apple Valley customers prefer to go through this exercise with an automotive service advisor at Valley Auto Care to get their input and make sure they haven’t left anything out.
A great place to start is with the tires. Inspect them for tread wear and proper inflation. Is it time to rotate your tires? Replace them? Are they up to the job – you wouldn’t want to drive regular highway tires on a muddy off-road adventure.
Shocks and struts play a major role in both driving comfort and safety. If they need to be replaced, you’ll really be glad you did once you hit the road. Is it time for a wheel alignment? Fighting a car that’s pulling to one side all day can be tiring and dangerous.
And don’t forget your brakes. Any strange noises, grabbing, soft or hard peddle feel? If there is any doubt, get a brake inspection before you leave.
Moving under the hood, have your belts and hoses inspected. If something is excessively worn or near failure, the stress of a long road trip might just be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
Your engine air filter will be important. For every gallon of gas you burn, your car will filter and use 12,000 gallons of air. If the filter needs to be changed, you’ll notice the fuel savings on your trip.
How close are you to your next oil change? Will you be able to complete your trip before it’s due? If not, just get it taken care of before you go so that you don’t need to interrupt your trip. In fact, a full service oil change is a great idea because they will top off all your fluids and check to see if any other maintenance items are due, such as transmission or cooling system service.
Do you notice any unusual odors in your vehicle? If so, it could as harmless as a dirty cabin air filter. But if it’s an exhaust leak it could be fatal on a long trip. Of course you’ll want to be comfortable, so get an air conditioning service if you aren’t getting the cold air you used to.
Are you wiper blades still working well? If not, that is quick and inexpensive to fix. Headlamps are often overlooked when planning for a trip. If you haven’t changed the bulb in six months or so, replacement bulbs will really light up the night on your trip.
All the items mentioned are part of any good vehicle maintenance plan. These are things that you want to take care of anyway, but they all come into focus as you plan for your trip.
They will always save you money in the long run and may prevent inconvenient delays on your trip. After all, you wouldn’t want to miss the world’s largest ball of string, would you?
Braking News: Keep Your Stopping Power
Date: July 26, 2010 1:21 PM - Category: Brakes
Richard Petty once told AutoNetTV, “You’ve gotta have good brakes. If you’ve got good brakes you can keep yourself out of a lotta trouble.”
That’s why a regular brake inspection is on every Apple Valley car’s maintenance schedule. An inspection at Valley Auto Care will check your brake system and let you know if there are any problems.
Of course, if you’re having trouble with your brakes, get your car into Valley Auto Care right away. Here are some symptoms to watch for:
- Low or spongy brake pedal
- Hard brake pedal
- A brake warning light that stays on
- Constantly squealing or grinding brakes
- Vibrations or clunking sounds when you apply your brakes
If you are experiencing any of these, it’s time to get your brakes checked.
There are two types of brakes: disk and drum. Disk brakes have a rotor that’s attached to the axle. Calipers straddle the rotor, kind of like the brakes on a bicycle.
Drum brakes are more common on back wheels. Both types have pads or shoes that press against the brakes and slow the vehicle. Brake pads and shoes are made out of very tough material to withstand the heat and force generated when stopping your car. Eventually, they wear out with use, and become too thin and need to be replaced.
If the brake pads wear away completely, you can damage the rotors. The calipers can grind grooves in the rotor. Then the rotor must either be resurfaced or replaced. That’s not only expensive, but also dangerous because your vehicle won’t stop as quickly. Sometimes rotors warp or crack and must be replaced.
Brake service will also include a check of your brake fluid. When the brakes are applied, the pressure in the fluid actives the brake pads or shoes. Not enough fluid means not enough pressure to brake properly. Also, water builds up in the brake fluid over time, which leads to corrosion, leaks and brake damage, and with hard use, the brakes could severely fade or even fail. You should change the brake fluid when your manufacturer recommends to avoid these problems.
There are different grades of brake pads; good, better and best. Higher grades cost more, but give better braking performance and smoother operation. It’s OK to upgrade your brake pads. But, never use a grade that’s lower than what the manufacturer recommends.
So, be sure to properly maintain your brakes, because it’s a lot cheaper than paying the body shop after an accident.
Come in to Valley Auto Care for an brake inspection before damage occurs. You can call ahead for an appointment by calling 952-431-2700.
Date: July 26, 2010 1:19 PM - Category: Warranty
If you own a Minnesota vehicle with a warranty, beware! Many dealers and manufacturers suggest that you need to get your maintenance services at a dealership in order to keep your warranty. That simply isn't true! You can have your vehicle serviced at your trusted, local service center without affecting your warranty. A federal law, called the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, prohibits a manufacturer from voiding your warranty just because you got parts or services from a non-dealer. In fact, a manufacturer can't require you to use their brand of oil filters, lubricant, or any other part in order to maintain your warranty protection. This protection is true for aftermarket extended warranties purchased on new or used vehicles. This protection also applies to leased vehicles. There are similar laws in Canada as well.
If a manufacturer can prove that the replacement parts or service lead to a vehicle failure, they can void a portion of the warranty. Of course, Valley Auto Care uses quality parts and fluids that meet or exceed manufacturers' specifications. (See http://www.valleyautocare.com/contact.php.) A lot of people do not know that service centers subscribe to data services that tell them exactly which parts and fluids meet manufacturers' specifications. These services are updated constantly so that your Apple Valley automotive service center always knows what you need for your car. You can be assured that your vehicle will receive high quality replacement parts that'll keep you safely on the road.
Proper maintenance is so important to safety. It can also prevent costly repairs and save you money over the long haul. Just because you don't have to go to a dealer to get your maintenance service performed doesn't mean that you don't need to have it done at all. In fact, some protections from your warranty require that scheduled maintenance be performed. If you miss having important work done, you may lose some warranty coverage. Refer to your owners' manual and vehicle warranty for more details. And keep good records of the work you've had done.
The protection you receive under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act can save you hundreds of dollars each year. The average hourly labor rate for service is nearly twenty percent lower at independent service centers such as Valley Auto Care. We are conveniently located at 7125 151st St. West, Suite 105 in Apple Valley. So why go anywhere else?
Cabin Air Filter
Date: July 26, 2010 1:18 PM - Category: Cabin Air Filter
What is a cabin air filter?
- A filter for a house in the middle of the woods?
- A fresh, piney scent?
- A filter for the passenger compartment of your car?
Clever you, it's 3.
A cabin air filter cleans the outside air before it comes into the passenger compartment. It filters out dust, pollen, spores, bacteria, pollutants, sparrows, exhaust gas and odors.
These high tech filters can block particles larger than 3 microns. By contrast, a grain of sand is about 200 microns.
Now not all vehicles have cabin filters. They are fairly new on the scene. About forty percent of new vehicles in Minnesota come with cabin air filters, but the number is growing every year.
Cabin air filters can make for a very nice driving environment. Your car can be a haven during allergy season with very little dust and pollen getting into the cabin. However, the filter eventually gets clogged. When this happens, your heating and air conditioning flow can become restricted. The filter can even get kind of smelly.
Check your owner's manual for recommended replacement intervals. Often, the owner's manual forgets about the cabin air filter, so ask your Valley Auto Care service technician for a recommendation. We are located at 7125 151st St. West, Suite 105 in Apple Valley. It's usually every year or 12,000 miles/ 19,000 kilometers. Change it sooner if you drive in dusty conditions or if you start to notice an odor from your ventilation system.
So keep your cabin air filter clean. It may not help with your brother-in-law in the backseat, but it will make your driving experience more enjoyable.
Severe Service Requirements
Date: July 26, 2010 1:11 PM - Category: Maintenance
A lot of our viewers have asked whether or not they should use their severe service maintenance schedule, which is listed in their car owners' manual. It can be confusing. Let's clear the air on this subject. Cricket Killingsworth is from QMI/Heartland, a manufacturer of automotive products and fluids. She's been in the automotive business for 20 years and is a speaker, a trainer, and a writer. Cricket says there's so much confusion on this topic because, "Most owners' manuals actually have two maintenance schedules. Sometimes these are called 'regular service' and 'severe service'. Sometimes they're simply called Schedule 1 and Schedule 2. A severe service schedule recommends that things like an oil change, air filter replacement, and transmission service be done more often: either in fewer miles or in less time.
Manufacturers create these specific schedules for each vehicle they make. So there isn't one generic schedule that applies to all cars. In addition to your owners' manual, Apple Valley automotive repair centers subscribe to information services that provide the maintenance schedules for every vehicle - so they can help you know when to take care of needed services. Below is a typical definition for severe service.
- Most trips are less than four miles
- Most trips are less than ten miles and outside temperatures are below freezing
- You drive in very hot weather
- The engine is at low speed most of the time (not on the highway)
- Stop and go driving
- You operate your vehicle in dusty or muddy conditions
- You tow a trailer, regularly carry heavy loads or carry a car-top carrier
It's common sense: Just a few minutes at freeway speeds allows the moisture in the oil to evaporate. Very short trips, or trips of less than ten miles when it's very cold, don't allow the engine to heat up enough to get rid of the water. And water in the oil leads to damaging sludge. Also, towing and heavy loads raise operating temperatures and cause fluids to breakdown more quickly. Dusty and muddy driving means that more dirt will get past the air filter to contaminate the fuel system and engine oil.
The bottom line is that you need to decide for yourself if the regular or severe service schedule is right for you, based on your driving. Look at your owners' manual, or talk with your Valley Auto Care service advisor who can help you know which schedule to follow. Valley Auto Care is located at 7125 151st St. West, Suite 105, Apple Valley Minnesota.,
Here is what a fleet manager said recently: "Since city miles are generally tougher on vehicles than highway miles, we use the manufacturer's severe service schedule as the basis for our preventative maintenance program. We massage those schedules over time, increasing or decreasing the service intervals so that they make the most sense. There is a little bit of art to go along with the science.
Make an honest evaluation of your driving habits. Unless you do mostly Minnesota highway driving in moderate weather, you'll likely have a fairly good amount of severe service mixed in. Some people just want to play it safe and follow the severe service recommendations, rather than analyzing how they drive each month.
Date: July 26, 2010 1:02 PM - Category: Cooling System
The coolant system is a vital part of your vehicle. It is also the second most common cause for vehicle failures. Even though coolant system failure is fairly common, it is easy to prevent.
The most recognizable part of the coolant system is the radiator. It is connected to the engine with hoses and is filled with coolant. The coolant draws heat off the engine and then goes into the radiator. Air passes through cooling fins to reduce the temperature of the coolant and then it's back to the engine again.
There are several ways for the cooling system to fail. Most common is with the coolant itself. Coolant is a mixture of water and antifreeze. The proper mixture keeps the coolant from either boiling away or freezing. Both of which can result in massive engine damage.
Another very important coolant issue that is often overlooked is the age of the coolant itself. antifreeze has additives that protect the coolant system from corrosion. As these additives are depleted over time, they can't protect the radiator and other parts from rust, scaling and corrosion. Old coolant may still keep your engine cool, but it won't protect it from corrosion.
If you see a warning message to check the coolant or if the temperature gauge is in the hot zone your cooling system needs to be checked. It's OK to add water or antifreeze yourself. But you need to be cautious. Remember four things.
- First, you never want to open the radiator pressure cap. You could be severely burned.
- Second, try to get to a Apple Valley service center such as Valley Auto Care immediately if your coolant is low. If that is not possible, follow the directions in your owners manual - it will direct you to only make additions to the coolant overflow bottle.
- Third, remember that you need a proper mixture of water and antifreeze. If you make an emergency addition to your cooling system, follow-up with your service center where they can make necessary corrections.
- Fourth, not all cars use the same type of antifreeze. You need to check your owners manual to make sure you use the right kind. Mixing antifreeze types or using the wrong kind of antifreeze may void the manufacturers warranty on your cooling system. Again, another reason to rely on your Apple Valley service center to do things right.
Remember, Valley Auto Care has the equipment to change your coolant quickly and inexpensively. 952-431-2700
Power Steering Service
Date: July 26, 2010 1:01 PM - Category: Steering
For most of us, it is hard to remember life without power steering - cranking those great big steering wheels? It was a pretty good workout. Now power steering is standard. The heart of any power steering system is its pump. The pump pressurizes the power steering fluid that provides assist for steering. Most pumps are driven by a belt that is run by the engine - a few are electrically powered. A high-pressure hose passes fluid from the pump to the steering gear. A low pressure hose returns the fluid back to the pump.
These hoses can develop leaks, so it is a good idea to inspect them at every oil change. Low fluid can damage the power steering pump. That is why fluid level is on the checklist for a full-service oil change. The fluid needs to be compatible with the hoses and seals, so check your owners' manual for the right type - or just ask your service technician.
The fluid cleans, cools and lubricates the power steering system. It breaks down as the years go by and collects unwanted moisture, so it needs to be replaced from time to time. Many manufacturers specify power steering service intervals. Unfortunately, this important service is sometimes left off the maintenance schedule. So, when in doubt, every 25,000 miles/40,000 km or two years is a good fallback. Your Burnsville or Burnsville service center will use a detergent to clean the system, flush out the old fluid and replace it with the good stuff.
Here are some warning signs of trouble with your power steering: It's harder to turn the wheel, there's erratic power assist, you hear loud whining coming from the pump (which may be difficult to hear over the loud whining coming from the backseat), you have to top-off the fluid frequently, or you hear squealing belts. Remember to never hold the steering wheel to the far right or left for more than a few seconds at a time. That will wear out your pump real fast.
Other steering components can be bent or damaged from wear or hard knocks. Ball-joint, idler-arm, steering-gear, steering-knuckle and tie rod to name a few. Warning signs here are steering play, wandering, uneven tire wear, and off-center steering wheel. An annual alignment check at Valley Auto Care in Apple Valley will reveal bent or damaged steering components.
Most SUV's, pick-ups and rear-wheel-drive cars need regular front-wheel-bearing service.
The bearings should be cleaned and inspected. If they are excessively worn, they need to be replaced. The bearings are then repacked in clean grease. It's also recommend the wheel-seal be replaced when the bearings are serviced. Like everything else, check your owners' manual maintenance schedule. It's usually required around every two years or 40,000 miles/64,000 km. If you drive through water, the bearings will need service more often.
Date: July 26, 2010 1:00 PM - Category: Shocks & Struts
When you hear the word 'suspension', you may think back to those energetic days of grade school. Well, your car’s suspension is actually a good thing because it keeps your car up off the road and helps provide a comfy ride. It needs to keep your wheels firmly planted over bumps and through curves. Your suspension system has many parts. If you look under your car, it’s basically everything that connects your wheels to the car’s frame. These are heavy duty parts that do a lot of work. They need to be inspected for damage and excessive wear at least once a year. A good time for this is when you get your annual alignment service.
Here are some warning signs that your suspension may have problems:
- the car pulls to one side;
- it wanders;
- the steering is erratic;
- you see uneven tire wear;
- you experience a poor ride or handling;
- you see oil leaking from shocks
. . . you get the picture. You just don’t feel in control when you’re driving.
Some suspension parts just wear out with use. Shocks and struts eventually lose their ability to control your ride. Wheel bearings need to be repacked every couple of years. And some suspension pieces need to be lubricated when you get your oil changed. Your service advisor can oversee an inspection and tell you what problems you may have.
If you’re in an accident, your suspension can be damaged or knocked out of alignment. Even a minor accident, like hitting a curb around Apple Valley or even a large rock can mess things up. With a minor accident it’s tempting to just get an alignment or wheel balance to correct the problem. But if there’s some damage, a simple alignment won’t actually fix the problem, and you’ll just have to align it again after the repairs are made. So if you have an accident, get your suspension system inspected right away. Suspension problems should be fixed immediately because they can lead to unsafe handling.
One big cause of suspension damage is potholes – those nasty magnets that seem to draw our tires right into them. Here are some tips for avoiding damage from potholes: First, keep your tires at their full air pressure. That gives tires their maximum resiliency and will hopefully keep your wheels or other suspension parts from crunching on a big hole. Next, just pay attention. When you see a hole you can’t miss, slow down before you hit it. Driving at a slower speed will limit the damage, and may keep your drink from spilling. But don’t brake directly over the pothole. That will cause the car’s weight to shift forward and add to the potential damage.
So don’t put off an inspection of your suspension. We promise the principal won’t be involved.
Valley Auto Care
Give us a call today at 952-431-2700.
Or stop by at 7125 151st St. West, Suite 105, Apple Valley, Minnesota 55124
Date: July 26, 2010 12:57 PM - Category: Exhaust
Whenever we talk about exhaust service, most people normally think about exhaust pipes and mufflers. Well, actually, exhaust service is a lot more comprehensive these days. For example, catalytic converters were mandated in 1976 and on-board emission control computers in 1990. Governmental emissions requirements have forced manufacturers to come up with much more sophisticated ways to comply with environmental regulations.
Exhaust service has really become exhaust and emissions service. High-tech computer controlled emissions devices are now a big part of exhaust service. Because it is so sophisticated, your vehicle manufacturer recommends you have your emission system checked out by a qualified Apple Valley exhaust technician regularly to make sure everything is working right - usually every 6 months or 10,000 miles/16,000 kilometers.
If your Check Engine light comes on, especially if it's flashing, get your car looked at right away. Technicians at Valley Auto Care handle emission problems everyday. You might have exhaust or emissions trouble if your car is difficult to start, runs rough, is noisy or smoking. Call Valley Auto Care at 952-431-2700 to schedule an appointment if you experience these problems.
Let's review the exhaust system. We will start from the top and start with the exhaust manifold. That is the part that attaches to the engine and collects the exhaust from the cylinders and directs it into the exhaust pipe. Exhaust gaskets help seal the connection with the manifold and various other joints along the way. If the manifold is cracked or loose, or a gasket is leaking, dangerous gases could escape into the passenger compartment, where you ride. Carbon monoxide can be deadly, so it is important that your exhaust system doesn't leak. The exhaust pipes connect the various components. They can rust or be damaged by a rock, so they need to be inspected periodically.
Next is the catalytic converter. This part looks like a muffler. It changes chemicals that are dangerous to your health and the environment into harmless carbon dioxide and water. It doesn't require any maintenance itself. But eventually they wear out. You will find this out when your car fails an emissions inspection.
Now the muffler. Its main job is to quiet engine noises. Mufflers work by either absorbing or baffling sound. And you can actually customize your car's sound with different mufflers - anything from whisper quiet to bad-boy rumbley. Rusted or road-damaged mufflers can leak and need to be replaced right away.
The exhaust system is attached to the car by a series of hangers and clamps. These fasteners hold the system in place. When hangers come loose or break, hot exhaust components can touch and melt wires, hoses and lines.
Finally, we end at the tailpipe. This is the final outlet for the exhaust. These can be plain-Jane or pretty flashy. Also, the oxygen sensors monitor the oxygen content of the exhaust so the engine control computer can adjust the fuel-to-air mix to keep the car running right.
Exhaust and emissions service covers plain old pipes and high-tech computers. It impacts everything from life and death safety due to exhaust leaks, to fine-tuning the sound of your ride.
Air Conditioning Service
Date: July 26, 2010 12:57 PM - Category: Air Conditioning
Do you hear loud noises under the hood when you turn on your air conditioner? Do you only get cool air sporadically? If so, it is time to get your air conditioner checked. It's real easy to take your car's air conditioner for granted. Just push the right buttons and out comes cool, dry, clean air. But your air conditioning system needs attention from time to time to help it keep its cool.
When most people hear the words "air conditioning problems", it sends a shiver up their spine. That is because the air conditioning system is fairly complex. It has a lot of parts and when it's broken, it's expensive to repair.
What things can we do to prevent air conditioning breakdowns?
A common cause of air conditioning failure is leaks. Water and air can leak into the system. The system doesn't work as well with air in it. And water can cause rust that leads to damage of the A/C components. Also, refrigerant, the stuff that makes the air cold, can leak out, reducing the efficiency of the system, making it work harder to cool the air. Periodically evacuating the air conditioning system and recharging it keeps the proper amount of clean refrigerant in the system so it cools better and lasts longer.
You should also run the air conditioner regularly, even during Minnesota winters, so that it lubricates itself and keeps the seals from drying out, which leads to leaks. Your owner's manual will have recommendations for how often to service your air conditioner. Of course, if it's not working right, now is the time to get it checked. Many Apple Valley service centers can inspect and test your air conditioning and offer evacuation and recharge services. We recommend Valley Auto Care in Apple Valley. See http://www.valleyautocare.com/contact.php for address and phone number. A quick inspection can help you avoid having to bring your air conditioner in for major repairs.
New environmental laws have stopped the manufacture of Freon, a refrigerant that was common in cars made before 1993. There is a very limited supply of Freon so the price is very steep. It may not be worth its weight in gold, but it probably is worth its weight in silver. If you have an older vehicle that uses Freon, you may want to consider having it retrofitted to use the new R134-A refrigerant. It will pay for itself in the long run. So, if your AC is just a lot of hot air, take it to a Rosemount automotive service center for an inspection.