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Ask a Technician: Do I really need to get frequent oil changes?

Posted on 07/08/2013

autoTECH AutomotiveQ. How bad is it to not get the oil changed in my car regularly?

A. Clean oil makes for a happy car. Happy cars are less expensive to maintain and have a better resale value, making for a happy owner. Oil serves several purposes. It lubricates your engine, but it also cleans as it goes.

Lubricating your engine parts is oil’s number one job. Without oil, all of those metal parts would be scraping against each other. The result would be a hefty repair bill. Clean oil keeps your car running smoothly and limits the wear and tear your engine endures.

Oil is also a diligent little cleaner. That’s why your oil gets darker as it ages. It’s picking up all sorts of gunk from your engine. If you don’t change your oil, it will get more and more sludgy. Eventually, it can’t absorb anymore dust or combustion byproducts and those substances would be left to do some serious damage to your car.

Most cars should have their oil changed every 5,000 miles. Check your owner’s manual to see what your manufacturer recommends. It’s a cheap upfront cost with great down the line benefits.

Check with our dealership about the cost of an average oil change. We promise that it’s worth scheduling consistent oil changes to save your engine from a premature grave at the junkyard.

How to Quickly Change a Tire

Posted on 07/08/2013

A flat tire can instantly change a fun and fulfilling road trip into a nightmare. With your car disabled on the side of the road, you become a hazard for other motorists and their passengers, so you should change your tire as quickly as possible. A little determination, a few helpful tips, and speed can get you and your car back on the road in a short time, so you can safely enjoy the rest of your trip.

Preparation

If you have never changed a tire on your car before, schedule some time to practice, so you can become familiar with the tools and the procedure. This way, a flat tire will never catch you off guard. Even if you know how to change a tire, the time spent preparing for an emergency can minimize the effect of a flat tire on your trip. Start by locating and inspecting your essential equipment and supplies. A jack, spare tire, and lug nut wrench comes with every car, so make sure these items are in your car. Always check the air pressure in your spare tire to avoid unnecessary complications. A flat spare tire will not help you reach your destination.

Before leaving your driveway, make sure you have everything necessary to safely change a tire. This includes safety flares, a flashlight, lug nut wrench, jack, and a properly inflated spare tire. If you have enough space available in your trunk, keep a wheel block in your car. When properly used, this will keep your car from rolling while it is on the jack.

Getting Started

You should pull your car as far away from traffic as possible, so you can stay safe from traffic while you work. You should also choose level ground to help prevent your car from moving while you work. Place safety flares on the ground behind your car to alert motorists about your presence. Next, place your car in park, apply the parking brake, and insert the wheel block. Always have your cell phone ready to call the police in case a person approaches you and makes you feel threatened while your car is disabled.

Changing the Tire

Position the jack under the appropriate lift point as defined in the owner’s manual that came with your car. Extend the jack until it firmly contacts the car and the ground. Loosen the lug nuts on the affected wheel while it still is in contact with the ground. Then, use the jack to raise the car until the wheel is off the ground. After raising the car, remove the lug nuts and place them safely on the ground where they can rest undisturbed. Remove the tire and place it out of the way on the ground.

If you have a fully inflated full-size spare tire, you may have to raise your car to provide enough clearance to mount in onto the wheel assembly. After placing the spare tire on the wheel drum, tighten the lug nuts until the wheel starts to spin. Next, slowly lower your jack until the spare tire contacts the ground. Finally, tighten the lug nuts.

Finishing the Job

After changing a flat tire, always make sure to place all tools and supplies in your trunk. As soon as possible, visit a dealer service center so they can replace or repair your flat tire and make sure the lug nuts on your wheel are tightened to factory specifications.

Ask a Technician: What should I do when the warning light on my dashboard comes on?

Posted on 07/08/2013

Q. The warning light came on my dashboard, should I panic and drive straight to the mechanic?

A. First, don’t panic. Save that for when your 401k shrinks to a 201k. The “check engine” warning light is simply a general alarm. How it looks and what it means varies from car to car. It might be a yellow or red light or just a little engine symbol. No matter what it looks like, all it lets you know is that the computer that monitors your car has determined that some component of your car is not working properly.

That problem can be a minor one or a major one. It could indicate something as simple as a loose fuel cap, especially if you’ve recently refueled. Stop the car in a safe place, turn off the engine, and tighten the gas cap until you hear two or three clicks. Sometimes, that does the trick. But if it doesn’t, you need to take your car in for a diagnostic evaluation. Don’t worry; they’re generally painless. But not always cheap.

As a general rule of thumb, if your check engine light comes on and stays on, you should take your car to a mechanic, but there’s no immediate danger to you or the car. If, however, the light blinks on and off with a regular pulse, it can be a sign of something much more serious. You should pull over when it’s safe to do so and have your car towed to the mechanic.

Ask a Technician: How do I know whether my suspension is healthy?

Posted on 07/08/2013

AutoTECH AutomotiveKeep your car's suspension in top form for safer handling and better performance
Automotive suspensions have grown increasingly complex as consumers demand better handling, a kinder ride, and greater sophistication from their automobiles. While the quality across the board is improving with automotive suspensions, they require periodic inspection and maintenance like other systems on your vehicle.

So how do you know if your suspension is healthy? To start, you need to know the basics of how suspensions work. Usually, there are springs to support the weight of the vehicle, shocks and/or struts to dampen up-and-down motions (think of the thing that keeps your screen door from slamming – it’s the same idea), and a series of bars, arms and joints that keep your wheels pointed in the right direction and at the right angle.

From a drivers’ perspective there are several things to look out for. Worn suspensions often creak or clunk while steering or going over bumps. Turn the radio off and drive normally for a period of time at various speeds to see if you hear anything you don’t remember hearing when the car was newer. Next, try driving on a straight road. Does it feel like your car is pulling to one side? Does it seem to wallow around curves and over bumps? Is there irregular tire wear or awkward handling? All these things can point to worn suspension components. This type of wear tends to creep up gradually, so things may feel “normal” to the person driving the car every day. If you notice any of these symptoms, you should take your car to the dealership as soon as possible to have your suspension inspected.

There are dozens of moving parts involved in your suspension, and by keeping a careful eye on them you will likely enjoy longer component life. As always, we suggest a preventative approach to keeping your suspension healthy. When your car is at our dealership for other maintenance, ask that your shocks, struts and ball joints be inspected for damage or wear. Evidence of problems is often hidden in the deepest recesses of your vehicle’s undercarriage, so having it up on a lift in the hands of one of our professional technicians is the best way to check for damage. Leaking shocks or struts, cracked or visibly worn componentry, or torn rubber bushings can be signs of problems to come.

The best approach is of course to ask your service manager to keep an eye on your suspension. Being aware of impending problems and having them addressed early will keep you safer and help you save money in the long run.

For more information about keeping your suspension healthy or to schedule a service appointment, contact our dealership today.

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