Car Care #15 - Planning a Road Trip this Summer?
Mojave Desert Route 66 by ahisgett, used under CC BY 2.0
With most schools finishing this week, and leading up to Memorial Day weekend. Lots of you will be looking to plan a road trip. Hotels will be booked, activities planned and everybody will be excited. The last thing you need is car trouble along the way. Here are a few minor maintenance issues to have a look over before going onto the road.
Check your tire pressure – pretty straightforward to do but very important. Depending on the distance you are planning to go, lots of highway miles can really add heat to your tires, especially in the heat we have here in Arizona. Most vehicle manuals recommend going slightly higher than usual if you are planning a long trip. Just to be safe. Its always worth having a spare tire too just for peace of mind more than anything.
Check Fluid levels- At Wilhelm, this is standard with every single Car Health Check. So if you have been serviced at one of our shops in the past, you are good to go. We check for things like; engine oil, brake fluid, power steering fluid, transmission fluid and windshield wiper fluid. All are important with some of these requiring a special procedure to check. If you are unsure, call in and have things looked over to make sure you are all set.
Battery Maintenance – If it is possible, check the fluid in the battery to make sure it is not drained. If it is corroded, it could look a little like dry toothpaste. If this is the case then pull off all the cables and clean the terminals properly. Just in case, if you have access to jumper cables, this is never a bad idea. Again, better to be safe than sorry.
Lights and Wiper blades – Checking lights is easy, have a friend or spouse just verify your lights are all in good working order. Changing taillights with a trunk full of luggage can be a pain and so can shopping for new bulbs along your way, especially with some vehicle’s having unusual ones.
Electronics and music – a long road trip with kids can be stressful. Make sure all your devices are charged and ready to go with the necessary cables to charge. Its also nice to have music prepared, audiobooks or podcasts to make the journey more interesting.
Maps and GPS – most of this is done through our phones nowadays, so make sure again, your phone or GPS is charged and ready to guide you.
Tools – Wrenches, screwdrivers and anything like a normal toolbox can be helpful in tough situations. Also, a flashlight is absolutely vital. Having a flat at night can be a real pain if you are not prepared.
Vehicle papers – finally, its always a good idea to travel with your vehicles documentation to avoid any problems along the way. Also, if you have Roadside Assistance, make sure you have the correct number in case you run into any problems.
Happy Memorial Day to everyone, we hope you have a safe trip to wherever you plan to go.
Car Care #14 - How often do I need to change my oil?
One of the most common questions when you have an auto repair shop. How often should I be changing my oil? The easy answer of the past is you should follow the manufacturers recommendations because the truth is, every car is different in what it needs. These are usually available on most of the manufactures websites or you should have a handout booklet where you can follow your vehicle guidelines.
The fact is, newer cars need their oil changed a lot less regular than older vehicles. The recommended guideline used to be anywhere between 3,000 and 5,000 miles. One thing to remember is, no harm can come from doing oil changes too frequent.. That being said, there is no point in changing it if it does not need to be changed, that money could be spent on other maintenance needs or saved for any future maintenance requirements.
Waiting for a low oil change light can be one of the WORST things you can do for your vehicle. Whatever oil you do have left when this light comes on, has almost certainly lost its ability to function properly. The damage these conditions can cause are often irreversible and lead to either an engine overhaul or replacement. The oils main function is to cut the friction. Friction wears out parts much faster so oil is extremely vital to the engine.
As I mentioned, cars are much smarter now. Advances in engineering (mostly to oil itself) means that its life cycle is nearly double the old number. Also, if you are using synthetic oil, this changes the frequency you need to change your oil. Synthetic oil changes are more expensive but the life cycle for a synthetic oil change is anywhere between 7,000 and 10,000 miles.
Other things that affect our oil changes include the TYPE of driving we do, the extreme heat (something we have here in AZ) and putting your vehicle through harder work such as towing. If you regularly are making small trips, this can also affect the length oil life.
Here are a few tips for you to summarize this very important, and often overlooked part of maintenance.
- Track your maintenance – when was your last oil change? When are you scheduling your next one?
- Do not buy cheap oil – a few dollars saved here and there can have longer-term affects.
- Do not put it off – going to get your oil changed is hardly a interesting job but its one that needs doing.
Car Care #13 – April National Car Care Month – The KEY to a long lasting vehicle.
April is regarded as National Car Care month. It is a month we use to give our car a little more attention than normal in order to keep it running long term. Most people nowadays seem to understand that the key to keeping your car on the road is keeping up with the scheduled maintenance. Almost all of the maintenance is pretty straightforward and can help save huge costs further down the road.
We have taken the time to address 9 issues you may want to look into. All 9 of these are part of our regular Car Care Health check that is offered every time you get a service done here in any of our 7 stores;
- Check all hoses and belts – Here we are mainly checking for cracked, frayed, loose or overly worn down belts and hoses.
- Battery – this is vital in our heat – we have to make sure the connection is tight, clean and corrosion free.
- Check all fluids – Engine oil, power steering, brake, coolant and windshield washer solvents are amongst the most common problems to make sure you stay on top of.
- Exhaust system – are there any leaks? Is there excess damage to the exhaust system? Some factors are visible some are not. Can you hear any uncommon noises that just don’t sound right?
- Brake system – The biggest issue with regards to our safety on the roads. At least annually you should have the brake linings, rotors and drums inspected.
- Schedule a tune up – This helps to produce low level of emissions as well as other details to keep the engine power balanced with fuel economy.
- Inspect steering and suspension – These should be checked annually. We offer yearly special on shocks and struts through Monroe in October. Important to keep on top of these maintenance issues.
- Wipers and lighting – Every now and again we get torrential rain here in phoenix, it is important our wipers are in good working order for these moments to keep us safe. Also, lights should be regularly checked. These are both pretty straightforward check ups.
- Check the tires – This includes both the pressure and the tread of all 4 tires. Uneven wear means you may be due for an alignment in the near future. Also, please note any bald spots or bulges as a need for a check up.
Car Care #12 - Is your car trying to tell you something? Common Warning Lights and what they mean
Modern cars are becoming much better at monitoring themselves lately and letting you know when there is a problem. They communicate this with picture signals and warning lights to let you know something just isn’t right. But have you ever had a warning light and you weren’t completely sure what it meant? Well here is a list of the most important, and most dangerous signs for you to see. When it is just a regular maintenance issue or when should safely pull to the side of the ride to avoid those costly repair bills. A lot of time and money can be saved my listening to your car.
Here are the most important warning lights you should watch out for:
1) Engine warning light
A major safety issue with your vehicle is the engine. When your engine light is illuminated, it will soon be pretty obvious why and you will see some unusual symptoms happening. Lack of power and the engine going into “safe mode” is one of the most common. At this point you should not keep driving it. Pull safely to the side of the road and give an expert a call to find out what is going on. Towing in will save you money here in the long term as opposed to pushing the engine too much. Sometimes, these issues are only minor but they need addressing it the most correct, safest manor possible. Driving around longer with these issues can cause long-term damage to your vehicle.
2) Brake system / brake fluid warning light
Safety has always been our biggest concern here at Wilhelm, and when you talk about safety, one thing comes to mind. Brakes. If this signal is appearing on your dash, you are best to get it checked out straight away and avoid any potential danger. Brake jobs usually aren’t overly expensive and without doubt are a necessity, If you are in any doubt, get them checked out by an expert before getting back behind the wheel.
3) Coolant warning light
If this warning light it showing, it means you engine is in danger of overheating and causing a lot of damage and costly repairs. Without enough coolant, the engine can be caused some real damage. If the gauge is well into the red, then the engine is already overheating and you need to stop driving whenever it is safe to do so. These issues are commonly linked to bigger problems such as head gasket failure. Although that is not always the case it is better to be safe than sorry. It could just be something reasonably minor like a leak in the system somewhere but it is best to get it looked over to avoid costly repairs.
4) Oil warning light
Similar to the coolant warning light, oil Is vitally important to the engine running correctly. If the light flashes up, that means oil level is too low or the temperature of the oil is getting too high. The bigger issue here is the low oil level in the vehicle. If this is the case, there may be a bigger issue to address. The result of something like this would be for the engine to stop working and therefore an expensive repair bill. If this issue is addressed early, it can be monitored and repaired before a major issue occurs.
5) Airbag warning light
Airbag features are obviously a necessity it todays vehicles. All cars have to go through a tough safety procedure before they are allowed anywhere near our roads. The Air bag is a key component to the driver’s safety in their vehicle. If you see an issue with your airbag and your dashboard has a light like this one, go get it checked out. A faulty air bag may not go off in the event of a crash and when you need it to protect you. Other common factors include the airbag going off at an irrelevant moment causing potential major implications to your vision on the road.
6) Power steering
Power steering is another issue we cannot take any risk with. Imagine driving at high speed on a highway and you have to change direction quick to avoid a slower vehicle. Our cars needs to be ready for any. If the power steering goes “heavy” and this warning light comes on, it is best to get it checked out. Sometimes the fluid is just low and sometimes it is a more detailed problem. Either way, best to get it checked out.
7) Battery charge warning light
In Arizona, battery issues are more common because of the hot summer climate. Batteries usually last for about 2-3 years but there can be different cases. The last thing you want is being stuck somewhere if your car will not start due to a faulty or damaged battery. Something worth keeping an eye on, especially during the extremely HOT summer months in Arizona.
This could be to do with many issues such as;
- Faulty battery
- Bad connection
- Faulty alternator
- If your car isn’t charging its battery when it is in motion, then it could be the alternator.
Worst-case scenario, the light could be on due to an alternator drive belt braking.
8) Tire pressure monitor warning light
This warning light allows you to monitor the air pressure in the tiresl. For a number of reasons it is important to keep an eye on this. You may have an issue with one tire, or multiple tires. It could even be an issue with one of the sensors. You may have ran over a nail and the tire is low. Either way, best to get it looked at
9) DPF / Diesel particulate filter warning light
This is a problem that is specific to Diesel based vehicles. Most modern diesel vehicles are fitted with a particular filter to protect it. It could be causing damage to your engine but also could be releasing toxic clouds to the environment. Something we always want to try and avoid.
Car Care #11 – AC Repair and AC Systems
Its already March and Arizona that means only one thing, those temperatures are creeping up. With it reaching the 90’s at some point this week, we need to make sure our AC is in top shape to deal with surefire fact that we will soon be seeing TRIPLE digits on our thermostats sooner rather than later. But did you know the extent it takes at which an Air Conditioning Unit can be dissembled and repaired?
The pictures show the amount of disassembly needed to replace some a/c actuator motors. Here we were working with a Ford F150 and as you can see, the dash and center console have to be completely removed to gain access to the area that needs to be worked on. This is where the labor time really comes into play. It is not a quick fix job and needs to be done correctly, by certified technicians to get fixed properly. If you have ever been in through a summer in Arizona with some problems with your AC, you know first hand it is not worth trouble. Don’t forget our AC special online where you can get your whole AC system checked for just $24.95.
Car Care #10 – Oil Consumption concerns?
Many owners of Suburban’s, Avalanches, Silverado’s, and Tahoe’s are claiming they need a new quart of oil every 1000-1500 miles without any visible leaks. This particular 2005 Chevy Tahoe had come in describing a much more severe situation. The customer had a complaint of losing approximately 1-2 quarts every 750 miles or so. Multiple tests were performed including a compression test which found little to no compression in one of the cylinders. A follow up leak down test had found that the cylinder was losing the compression both back through the intake via worn valves and pitted valve seats as well as into the crankcase through the piston rings. Cylinder head removal and engine oil pan removal was required to pull the piston from the suspect cylinder. The defective parts were verified by a visual inspection. The technician had found the oil control rings were “gummed up” and stuck inside of the piston ring grooves allowing by pass. The attached pictures show the story. The remedy in this particular case ended up being a complete engine replacement due to the high mileage currently on the truck.
About Oil Consumption ----- All engines require oil to lubricate and protect the moving parts of an engine from wear. These parts include cylinder walls, pistons and piston rings. When a piston moves down its cylinder, it leaves a thin film of oil on the cylinder wall. This tiny amount of oil partially gets consumed by the combustion process and therefore it's normal to see a small amount of oil reduction is the engine. What's not normal, however, is to see the rapid and extreme oil consumption of some Chevrolet engines.
What Causes Chevrolet's Oil Problem? According to a Chevrolet service bulletin, the most common cause is stuck oil control rings. Generally the stuck oil control rings are the result of excessive oil on the cylinder walls and this excessive oil can come from the PCV system and/or the AFM pressure relief valve in the oil pan. Upon inspection of an engine experiencing this problem, you will typically see an oil-fouled spark plug. Although excessive oil may also show up in the intake manifold.
If you are currently experiencing excessive oil consumption be sure to have your vehicle diagnosed by a certified automotive professional.
Car Care #9 – Is it time to perform a timing belt/water pump replacement?
In order to perform a timing belt/water pump replacement on most of the Audi/VW V6 engines complete front clip removal is required. This particular VW Passat had originally came in for a coolant leak. Testing had found that the water pump was leaking from behind the timing cover. On this occasion, once the water pump was made visible for verification of component failure, a very long process of front end removal and having to disassemble the front of the engine, the ASE certified technician had also noticed that the thermostat housing was the origin of yet another leak. Once replacement was completed another happy customer left with a smile and a newfound appreciation for the engineering department at Volkswagen. Every vehicle and situation is unique so taking the time to diagnose properly is the most important thing.
Car Care #8 - Expensive repairs – Blown Head Gasket?
When you think of a blown head gasket, we automatically jump to the conclusion that this is going to be an expensive repair. What most people do not know is exactly what you are paying for. The majority ofthe expensive costs come from the hours of labor to fix the problem.The head gasket sits between the engine’s cylinder head and engine block. In order to replace this gasket you need to remove a significant portion of the engine and its accessories. Besides removal, putting the engine back together is not simply a matter of replacing components and tightening bolts. It is a very complicated process.
To fix a blown head gasket is one of the most expensive issues on your car. Like on all repairs, the costs vary depending on year make and model and cost of parts. But as we mentioned previously, the majority of the high costs come from the time in labor. Many of the components that need to be reattached after a new head gasket is installed require specific torque settings to ensure a proper seal and no damage to be done. Also,removal of the cylinder heads on any engine means you have to make sure when it is reassembled that the engine is timed correctly to make sure further engine damage does not occur. All of these reassembling complications take time and a high level of skill so it is very important that it should only be done by very experienced technicians.
Car Care #7 - Engine Rebuild?
One of the hardest decisions for an automobile owner can be whether or not it is worth replacing an engine on an older car. Is it more cost efficient to rebuild an engine on an older vehicle, or replacing it completely with a new vehicle? Both have obvious advantages and disadvantages. Buying a new car completely is expensive; replacing an engine also involves a certain level of risk. Each situation is different but it can be a very cost efficient way of moving forward for longer than you might expect.
Recently we had a 2000 Ford ranger in our Goodyear store with 82,000 miles on it. Replacing the engine was down to a number of reasons with the main one being the radiator cracked whilst the customer was driving causing head gasket failure and the engine cylinders and engine oil to be filled with coolant. This caused a loss of compression for multiple cylinders. In this case, the car was towed in and is currently been repaired.
Car Care #6 - Car Repair and Maintenance Checklist
The worst thing you can do with your car, is ignore regular maintenance issues that will no doubt to lead to bigger, more long term (and expensive) problems in the future. There are 4 main things that you will need to keep a close eye on.
- Tires – Tire pressure and tread can have an impact on miles per gallon amongst other things. Check the tires regularly while they are cold with a quality tire gauge. Check the recommended pressure and make sure you are good to go. Especially before long road trips. Also, a lack of tread is an obvious safety issue when planning on hitting the road. Some car companies are going away from having a “spare “ tire in their vehicles, but if you have one, this is also an important issue.
- Oil Changes – The Oil change is one of the most important and underrated maintenance checks that many motorists forget. Before it was pretty common knowledge an oil change was needed around every 3,000 miles but many more recent makes and models can go for 5,000 or even 10,000 miles. Check your vehicles handbook so you are sure to get regular oil changes when they are needed.
- Battery – Nobody likes to be stranded on the side of the road, gas station or home when they required to be somewhere important. Flat batteries are a common issue in Arizona because of the climate we live in. We need to be sure the cable connections are tight, and are clear of any corrosion. The recommended check up would be if the battery is more than 3 years old, it is probably a good idea to have it checked out at a shop.
- Wiper Blades – Slightly less of a problem in Arizona again due to climate. But with the unexpected downpours we have here, especially in monsoon season it is very important our wiper blades are up to the test. Also, check the washer reservoir is filled to be on the safe side.
Car Care #5 - 1948 Willy's Jeepster - Classic Cars
Work on classic cars can often end up being expensive. With parts not as readily available as more modern cars. However, some are just too valued to the customer to even think about giving up on. In our Peoria store we had a classic #1948 Willy Jeepster that needed some maintenance.
Here is a list of all maintenance performed to keep this classic running smoothly.
- The front end suspension needed replacing
- Bushings and steering components also needed replacing.
- Front and rear brakes and bearings needed replacing.
- Complete exhaust replaced.
- Electrical repairs on exterior lighting.
A classic car takes special care and attention from the technicians. If you have ever dreamt of owning a classic car, here are our 5 top tips in MAINTENANCE that you might want to read over before taking ownership.
- Washing and detailing is always a good idea. For one, it keeps the car looking great and also washing the undercarriage helps to remove salt, mud, grime and all other dirt.
- Take a small run in the car once a month so make sure everything stays in working order. Nothing like leaving a car in your garage for years without testing it out.
- Keep it away from extreme hot or cold weather. Here is Arizona in the summer it is very difficult, but try keep the car covered up. If you ever have to store it for a long time without use, remember to remove the battery and don’t forget to drain the fluids.
- Cover it using a soft cotton cloth or a reliable and recommended car cover. Also, rolling the windows down to allow real air circulation can help the interior.
- As previously mentioned, classic car parts are rare and engines need special attention. So find yourself a reliable parts dealer and a reliable mechanic to keep your classic running smoothly.
Car Care #4 - Water Pump leaks
Generally when a leaking water pump is recommended to a customer there is a lot of hesitation. Most of this hesitation is just due to the lack of knowledge and even the way that the potential repair is presented. Just because there is a leaking water pump dose not necessarily mean you will see a puddle in your driveway. In most cases you wont even know its leaking unless a repair shop spots it or it gets to the point of engine overheating. The way coolant is manufactured these days is a mixture of Glycol, Water, and other chemicals. In most instances when a water pump is leaking the coolant flows out of the pre-designed "weep hole" (we will touch on this in a bit), and starts to whip around all the pulleys splashing around in the engine bay. By the time the coolant reaches its destination the water in the coolant mixture has evaporated and thus will build up a residue to anything it touches.
In the two pictures you can see (circled in red) a build up of residue coming out of the water pump and in the other picture you can even see a large pinkish streak, This is from all the spinning pulleys splashing it up. On most water pumps the weep hole starts to leak, this is designed to tell you the bearings of the pump are bad and it is time to replace. Eventually the bearings will come apart or all the coolant will be lost.
Just something we recommend to keep an eye on if it is recommended to you. Again, it is not necessarily visible to the naked eye but can cause damage that will need more work in the future it is not fixed correctly.
Car Care #3 - Suspension Problems for European Vehicles
Today we are going to shine a bit of light on suspension issues on most European vehicles. Typically these problems can start occurring as early as the 55 thousand mile marker. Most euro vehicles these days are equipped with hydraulically filled rubber suspension bushings. Typically most issues with them go unnoticed until you've put 3 sets of tires on within a couple years and taken it to several shops with much dismay. It’s due to the fact that new cars are new cars! They are more sophisticated than your average 1991 Honda Civic. In the pictures you will see a broken down front end of a 2010 Mini Cooper. The control arm bushings are circled in red. Imagine them being loose, when you are driving down the road they will let the tires "sprawl out" and cause excessive inner tire wear. Many people would misdiagnose this tire wear reading for a possible camber or alignment issue due to the fact that the bushing is not actually broken, but if you look closely at the old dirty control arm bushing you will see some hydraulic oil that has seeped out and left a stain (red arrow). After the control arm has leaked the hydraulic fluid it is compromised and should be replaced.
Here at Wilhelm, we have certified technicians in all 7 of our stores that have regularly worked with all kinds of European vehicles like BMW, Mercedes, Mini, Volkswagen, and Audi already have tire wear issues due to there sporty suspension so keeping up on suspension issues is vital to your tire wear.
Car Care #2 - Fuel Injection rebuild on Classic Car
The pictures attached are of a very UNIQUE car we have been working on in our Happy Valley store!
1957 Chevrolet Corvette w/fuel injection. What sets this car apart is that it is all original with factory fuel injection. We are currently in the process of performing a fuel injection rebuild. This is a very intricate process that typically takes up to 2-3 weeks. Here at Wilhelm we work on all makes and models, new and old! Great to see a Classic car in such great condition!
Car Care #1 - Common Chevy Truck Issues ***That most shop don't even know about!!!***
At Wilhelm Automotive we have some of the most experienced staff that have the ability to spot common problems. We see many #Chevy trucks at all of our locations and most of them with the same common problems. Today we are fixing one of the most reoccurring issues with the truck, The oil cooler gasket (circled in red). This oil leak is commonly mistaken for an oil pan or rear main seal leak which is a costly repair. The replacement of just the oil cooler seal is fairly fast and and can prevent a whole number of future problems
Every oil "Service" (Not just a change at Wilhelm) is extremely valuable to the consumer for the many benefits like Fluid observation, Suspension check, Engine analysis. The most important part about the service is having a certified technician performing all of the work. This will ensure not only that the service is done to specific manufacture specifications, but the trained technician will have the Skill, "Know-how", and Experience to catch common problems like this oil cooler seal leaking while saving you time and money in the long run.
Arizona Auto Resource Links
Below are some useful resource links from Arizona and other US Government agencies.