Car Care Tips from BROOKWOOD AUTOMOTIVE SERVICE CENTER
It’s always better to fix something before it breaks, the same applies to your car. That’s why regular maintenance is so important on today’s vehicles. Below are some helpful hints and articles that we think will help you maintain your vehicle for years to come.
- Change your oil at regular service intervals.
- Replace your wiper blades twice a year for streak-free visibility.
- Screeching or grinding sounds from your brakes can mean trouble. Make an appointment with us to get a brake inspection.
- A loud muffler may not just be annoying, it can be dangerous because harmful exhaust fumes may be leaking into the passenger compartment. Have your exhaust system checked as soon as possible.
- Brake pads are your friends. Check them regularly.
- Maintaining proper oil and coolant levels can help ensure a long life for your engine.
Car Care Question and Answer
Here are some commonly asked car care and repair questions.
Are my tires properly inflated?
The correct tire pressure for a vehicle is determined by the size and weight of the vehicle, the type of tires it uses, load hauled, and the type of driving the vehicle is intended for. The vehicle manufacturer places a tire inflation placard in each vehicle that gives the proper tire inflation pressures for that vehicle. This placard is located on the inside of the glove box door, inside the fuel-filler door, or on the driver’s side doorpost (depending upon manufacturer). Most manufacturers also list tire inflation levels in the owner’s manual.
How long should wiper blades last?
For vehicles that are parked inside, car care experts recommend that the wiper blades be replaced at least once a year or when the wiper blades start streaking – which ever comes first. On vehicles kept outside or in areas where the wipers receive excessive use, changing the blades two or even three times a year is recommended for clear vision.
When should I change my engine oil?
According to automotive experts, regularly scheduled oil/filter changes are the single most important item for prolonging engine life. Most new vehicles have recommended oil/filter change intervals of 7,500 miles and some new vehicles have recommended oil change intervals of 11,000 to 15,000 miles under normal operating conditions, with “”normal”” operation described as the operation of the vehicle for at least 20 minutes at a medium speed, with a steady throttle and in a clean driving environment.
Short hops to the store, stop-and-go rush hour driving, driving on dirt roads and inclement-weather operation are all considered severe operating conditions that can cause impurities to build up quickly in the oil, resulting in increased wear and tear on internal parts. That is why most owner’s manuals and mechanics recommend changing the oil and filter every three months or 3,000 miles (whichever comes first) to assure that maximum engine lubrication occurs while a minimum of impurities are suspended in the oil. To find out what the recommended oil change frequency is for your vehicle, check your owner’s manual or talk with your automotive service professional.
How can I tell if my coolant is OK?
It is impossible to determine the condition of the coolant in the radiator just by looking at it. Coolant, a mixture of ethylene glycol and water, breaks down with age, picks up contaminants that cause sludge, and becomes acidic. When this happens, it can cause corrosion within the radiator and cooling passages of the engine. To determine its condition, coolant must be checked with coolant test strips that measure PH balance. Coolant is an environmentally hazardous substance. It pollutes the water table and is poisonous to people and animals and therefore must be disposed of as a hazardous waste. Your mechanic has special tools and procedures for testing and changing coolant.
Why is heat coming from my A/C?
If your air conditioning system is blowing hot air instead of cool, the refrigerant gas may have leaked out, you may have a clogged condenser, or the air conditioner’s blend door may be stuck. Whatever the cause of the problem, the air conditioning system needs immediate service. Turn the system off. You can cool the vehicle interior by putting the ventilation control in the “”vent”” position and/or opening the windows.
What can I do if my car overheats?
If you are driving at normal highway speed and the vehicle starts to overheat, turn off the air conditioner, turn on the heater and immediately pull over to the shoulder. Odds are if the vehicle starts to overheat at highway speed, there is a problem in the cooling system such as low coolant, a clogged radiator or a broken drive belt or burst hose. Once at the shoulder, shut off the engine, open the hood and let the engine cool down – 20 minutes minimum. Once any overboiling stops and the engine has cooled, look for obvious signs of trouble. DO NOT attempt to open the radiator cap unless the engine is off and the top of the radiator is cold. If there is no noticeable problem such as a broken drive belt or burst hose, you can then add a coolant/water mixture to the radiator or overflow reservoir, start the vehicle and drive slowly to a service facility.
How often should my car get a tune-up?
The term “tune-up” actually applies only to older cars without electronic ignition (before 1981). On these vehicles a tune-up would generally be required every 15,000 – 20,000 miles and consisted of replacing the spark plugs, ignition contact points, rotor and distributor cap and adjusting the ignition timing as well as the carburetor.
On modern vehicles equipped with electronic ignition, fuel injection and computer controls, the term “engine performance maintenance” is a more accurate term. A “tune-up” for these newer vehicles is an orderly process of inspection, computer diagnosis, testing and adjustment to maintain peak engine performance, maximum operating efficiency and low exhaust emissions. During this process, spark plugs, plug wires, sensors, and modules may be replaced. The frequency at which a newer vehicle needs a tune-up is dependent more upon driving conditions than mileage and recommended tune-up frequencies vary between 30,000 – 100,000 miles, depending on the manufacturer. To learn how often your vehicle needs a tune-up, check your owner’s manual or speak with your local automotive service provider.
Why are my brakes making noise?
If you hear a grinding or squealing sound when the pedal is applied, you probably need new brake shoes or pads. Brakes shouldn’t make any noise as they operate. Even if the actual problem turns out to be something minor, the only safe assumption is this one: noisy brakes are unsafe brakes. Postponing service is unsafe and could raise the cost of repairs later. If your brakes are making noise, get them inspected or serviced right away.
Does my transmission ever need service?
Most car care experts advise having an automatic transmission’s fluid and filter changed every two years or 24,000 miles, to keep it in good working order. This is especially important if the vehicle is more than five years old. Many vehicles newer than five years old may need scheduled service less often and some new vehicles have transmissions that need no scheduled service for the life of the car.
By-the-book service, however, may not be adequate if your vehicle is driven hard, tows a trailer, goes off-road or carries a camper. Under these conditions, the fluid and filter may need to be changed more often — every 12 months or 12,000 miles –because dirt and moisture buildup in the fluid can cause internal damage. Heat buildup can also be a problem. The harder the transmission works, the hotter the fluid gets and the quicker the fluid breaks down. To find out the recommended service schedule for your vehicle’s transmission, check the owner’s manual or talk with your local automotive service provider.
Body & Interior Car Care Question and Answer
Here are answers to some common questions about keeping your car looking good, inside and out.
Can a chipped or cracked windshield be repaired?
The window glass on your car is made of automotive safety glass, a lamination of two pieces of glass with a plastic membrane in between. The middle layer of plastic is what keeps the glass from splintering into sharp pieces during an accident. When your windshield gets a chip, start burst, or crack, it is in the outer layer of glass. Because of the middle layer of plastic material, it is possible to repair minor damage to most windshields. The repair technician cleans the damaged area and then injects a special clear adhesive resin that welds the damaged area together, restoring the structural integrity of the glass without destroying visibility through the glass.
Although major damage to the windshield require glass replacement, minor to moderate damage can be fixed for significantly less than replacing the glass. Stone chips up to the size of a 50 cent piece and cracks up to two feet long are generally, though not always, repairable.
Is there a proper way to wash and wax a car?
Believe it or not, there is a right way and a wrong way to wash and wax your vehicle. Use the wrong products and methods and your vehicle’s finish could be damaged. Dish detergent and laundry soap, for example, can remove all the wax from the surface and dull the finish. Using hot water for washing or waxing your car in the sun will also have a detrimental effect.
To wash your vehicle correctly, park the car in a shady place, use plenty of clean, cool water and a car wash agent that is specifically designed to lift dirt off the surface without removing the wax or dulling the paint. Fill a bucket with water and a measured amount of the wash agent. Let it get sudsy. Then, wet the car thouroughly and start washing the vehicle from the top down with a wash mitt. Rinse the mitt in the suds frequently and rinse the car as you wash. When you are finished, use a chamois to dry the car.
For a quality, streak-free shine, you’ll need a car wax formulated for the type of paint you have. Most newer vehicle have a clearcoat finish, so make sure the wax you choose is intended for use on clearcoat surfaces. You’ll also need a soft applicator pad to apply the wax and a soft, lint free cotton cloth to rub out the wax to a perfect shine. Before you start, make sure the vehicle is clean, dry and parked in the shade. Then, working from the top down, start applying wax in a circular motion to a small area — say, two feet square. Work the wax into the surface and rub it out before moving on to the next section.
Why is the paint on my door bottom bubbling?
Bubbling paint on door bottoms, trunk lids and fenders is an indication that the metal under the paint has corroded or rusted through. What happens is that road salts, moisture, and dirt have collected on the underside of the metal and a pinhole perforation has formed. This allows moisture to seep between the paint and the metal surface, forming a bubble. Because auto manufacturers treat steel fenders with special galvanic coatings and improved finishes (undercoat, paint, clearcoat), to protect a vehicle from corrosion, perforation is not as common on cars as it once was
The two most common spots for paint bubbles to occur are along the door edges and at the bottom of the fenders. Even though both these areas are treated with rust protection, they collect enough dirt and moisture so that over time corrosion can occur. Small amounts of rain and water from car washes seeps into the doors around the window channels. If the drain holes on the bottom of the door frame are plugged up, the water has no where to go and it eventually corrodes the metal. One of the best ways to prevent this problem is to regularly clear out the drain holes with a wire so that water can drain away.
Because of the way cars must be designed, the areas behind the front wheels and in front of the rear wheels are prone to collect moisture holding mud and debris that leads to corrosion. You can protect these areas by hitting them with a high pressure hose every time you take your vehicle to the car wash.
How can I find a good body shop?
For most people, the purchase of an automobile represents the single largest purchase they will ever make, except when they buy a home.
We invest a lot of money in our vehicles between purchase and the cost of operation and we expect to get a reasonable return on that investment when we sell or trade them in. It is important, therefore, to keep our vehicle in the best mechanical and cosmetic condition possible.
Because most people have their vehicles regularly maintained, keeping a car in good mechanical condition is not difficult. Repair shops are located every where and finding a good one is relatively easy. Finding a reputable body and paint shop, however, is not as easy because most of us seldom need to use one. So when we find we need the services of a body shop, we don’t know where to look.
Locating a quality shop staffed by trained professionals needn’t be difficult if you follow a few simple steps:
- Even though you don’t need a body shop now, start looking around at the shops in your area. Pay them a visit and check to see that the shops have modern equipment, trained staffs, and a good reputation.
- Look for certification plaques from ASE, I-CAR and other associations that show the staff is trained is specific areas such a frame alignment, body work, and painting.
- Check with the Better Business Bureau to see if the shop has any unresolved complaints lodged against it.
- Ask friends where they got their vehicles repaired and if they were happy with the work.
What can be done about a cracked dashboard?
As your vehicle interior ages, exposure to the sun’s ultra violet waves and extremes in temperature dries out the vinyl surfaces of the interior. Because the dash faces skyward, is located right under the windshield and stretched tight over the dash, it tends to dry out quicker than other vinyl surfaces. When this happens, unsightly crack and breaks will appear in the dash.
If the cracks are small, you may be able to repair them using a vinyl repair kit available from any auto parts store. These kits cost only a few dollars, come with easy-to-follow instructions and have a variety of vinyl colors so you can color match your dash.
You can also purchase a carpet cover that lays over the dash, covering the cracks. These covers are available at auto parts and discount stores for just about every make and model, cost between $30 and $90 and install in minutes. They have the added advantage of eliminating most of the dashboard reflections in the windshield. Dash covers will keep an uncracked dash from cracking if they are installed when the dash is new and hasn’t dried out. If you do this, it is wise to remove the cover every once in awhile and treat the dash with a vinyl protectant that keeps it from drying out.
If you want to keep an original appearance, or don’t like carpeted dashboards, you can opt for a dash panel overlay. These overlays are made from molded plastic and fit over a damaged dash to make it look like new. They should be installed by a body and trim shop, and while somewhat costly, they are an inexpensive alternative to replacing an entire dashboard.
Auto Body Repair
Get educated about your collision, auto body, interior and glass needs.
Getting a Damage Appraisal : Been in a wreck? A damage appraisal is often the first thing your insurance company will want. Read these tips for navigating the process.
What you need to know to make sure you get the repair you are entitled to.
By Peter duPre
Whether your vehicle has been involved in a major collision or merely a minor parking lot fender bender, before repairs can be made the damage must be assessed by a professional estimator or appraiser.
The appraiser’s job is to carefully inspect the damage to the vehicle, make an estimate at to what repairs are need, calculate the cost of the repairs and make a determination whether these repairs require OEM, used or aftermarket parts, and help you and the insurance company determine whether is it is worthwhile repairing the vehicle.
The appraiser who examines your vehicle may work for your insurance company, he may be an independent appraiser, or he may be the estimator at the local body shop. Which ever category your damage appraiser falls into, ask what kind of certifications he holds. Modern cars are sophisticated machines that often require complicated and expensive repairs after an accident. The appraiser must have the latest training to evaluate this damage. Ask what kind of training he has and where he got it. I-CAR (Inter-Industry ASE Conference on Auto Collision Repair), collision trade associations, automobile insurance companies and vehicle manufacturers all offer damage appraisal training. While some body shop estimators also work as insurance appraisers, not all are qualified to do so. It is one thing to estimate a repair job and quite another to calculate cost versus damage and vehicle value. If your shop is also doing the appraisal, make this is acceptable with your insurance company.
Most insurance companies require some kind of damage appraisal on any damage beyond an extremely minor fender bender. Your job as the vehicle owner is to make the vehicle accessible to the appraiser and to supply him with any information he may need to do the job. Following the tips listed below will assure that you get the best appraisal possible:
- Make the Vehicle Accessible – If your vehicle has only minor damage, odds are that the appraiser will come to you. When the appraiser contact you to make an appointment, make sure the car will be available for inspection. Generally it is best to have the vehicle parked outside or in a well-lighted area. If possible, have the vehicle at the body shop. This is generally more convenient for the appraiser and in the case of major damage, having the vehicle at the shop will allow the appraiser and the shop estimator to compare notes.
- Have Documentation Ready – Your appraiser may need to see your vehicle registration, insurance card, and repair estimate. Have these ready when the appraiser arrives.
>Leave the Appraiser Alone
- – Damage appraisal on modern vehicles is complicated, detail-oriented work. Don’t bother the appraiser with a lot of questions. Let him complete his assessment without interruptions and ask your question when he is through inspecting the vehicle.
- Honesty is the Best Policy – You may be asked to point out the damaged area to the appraiser. Be honest. Point out only the damage that is due to the accident. Trying to get old damage fixed as part of your current claim is dishonest and illegal. Besides, you won’t be fooling anyone. A competent damage appraiser can tell new damage from old, as well as the direction of the collision.
- Get a Copy of the Appraisal – If your appraiser is working for the insurance company instead of for you, make sure you get a copy of the appraisal. Usually, you won’t be able to get the appraisal right away. The physical inspection of the damage is only part of the process, but most appraisers will mail you a copy of their assessment if you ask them to.
- It’s Not the Appraiser’s Fault – If you are having problems dealing with the insurance company or body shop, don’t take it out on the appraiser. He is only doing the job he was hired to do. Be cooperative and polite. Remember the appraiser is trying to give you money (for the needed repairs). Treat them as nice as possible and you’ll find that many of them will go out of their way to make sure you get what you need. As with anything else, there is a certain latitude with damage appraisal. This can be an advantage if there is some hidden or questionable damage.
- Ask About Differences – If the damage assessment doesn’t match up with the estimate from the body shop or with your idea of what should fixed and how it should be fixed, don’t be afraid to ask the appraiser to explain the assessment. You may need to argue with the insurance company about the repair, so a complete understanding of the damage and the appraisal is necessary.
Choosing a Body Shop: The key to quality auto body repair lies in choosing the right shop. Here are eight bits of good advice for finding the right shop for the work you need.
Had a fender bender – or worse? Here’s what you need to know to pick the shop that’s right for you.
By Peter duPre
Even though you are a good driver, odds are that sooner or later your car will need the services of a competent collision repair shop. It could be that your vehicle was rear ended on the freeway or simply that you scraped a post while backing out of a tight parking space.
Either way, getting a professional repair is important to protect your investment in your vehicle. Get a poor repair job on a minor fender bender and it can lower a vehicle’s resale value by 10 percent or more and make the vehicle difficult to sell. Worse yet, get a bad repair job on a major collision, and you could be stuck with an unsafe rattletrap that has zero resale value.
On the other hand, a vehicle that has been properly repaired by professionals will have no drop in resale, and in some case can actually improve in value.
The key to getting a quality repair is choosing the right shop. The problem is that there are a lot of “Bondo Bandits” out there who do slap-dash repairs that will cause you problems later. Your job when picking a repair shop is to know how to separate the fly-by-niters from the professionals. Here are a few important tips that will help assure that your vehicle is properly repaired the first time out:
- Know Before You Go – Most folks start looking for a collision repair shop after their vehicle has been damaged in a collision. Having your transportation out of commission puts a lot of pressure on you and all too often a hasty choice and a bad repair is the result. The best time to start shopping for a body shop is before you need one. Look up the body shops in your area through an online search service such as ProCarCare. Ask friends where they got their vehicles repaired and check with local consumer agencies such as the Better Business Bureau to see if the recommended shops have a good reputation.
- Visit The Shop Before You Need It – First impressions count and during your first visit to the body shop, look around and see how the shop conducts business. Look for a neat, well-maintained facility. Bodywork is by nature a dirty business, but even so, the shop should have a clean overall appearance and be well organized. Look for certificates, decals, and placards that indicate advanced collision repair training by national organizations such as I-CAR (Inter-Industry ASE Conference on Auto Collision Repair) and ASE (National Association for Automotive Service Excellence). Check for trade association membership; this indicates that the shop is keeping up to date with current repair procedures. It is also a good idea to check for membership in the BBB (Better Business Bureau) and look around for civic and community service association awards. These indicate professionalism and a solid connection with the community.
- See What The Shop Is Repairing — See what the shop is working on in the repair bays and what’s parked out back. If you see few newer cars but notice a lot of beaters being worked on it is often an indication that the shop does “quick and dirty” repair jobs at lowball prices.
- Ask About Your Vehicle – Ask the shop manager if they have a lot of experience repairing your make and model vehicle. Body shops often specialize on a particular type of vehicle or body repair. Taking your Honda Accord to a shop that specialized in making fiberglass repairs to old Corvettes and Saab Sonnets is a waste of your time.
- Price Isn’t Everything – In the collision repair business it is common for different shop to give dramatically different repair prices for the same job. Choosing a shop simply by picking the one that offers the lowest price is not always the best policy. Lowball pricing often indicates that the shop’s estimator has improperly assessed the vehicle’s damage or that the shop specializes in quickie repair jobs and poor quality. If you get a repair quote significantly cheaper from one shop, ask the estimator to explain why the quote is so inexpensive before you leave your vehicle.
- Ask About Equipment – Performing a quality repair job on today’s vehicles requires the use of some pretty sophisticated equipment. Ask if the shop has a unibody frame repair machine and measuring equipment, MIG welders, a dust-free paint room, and personnel trained in the latest repair techniques
- OEM or Replacement Parts – The parts used to repair your vehicle should be equal in quality to those installed when the vehicle was first assembled. There are three categories of repair parts:
(1) OEM (original equipment manufacture) parts are made by the vehicle manufacturer or one of his certified suppliers. (2) Aftermarket or Non-OEM parts are made by various body parts suppliers and are not endorsed by the vehicle manufacturer. Many aftermarket parts meet original factory specifications and will mate perfectly to your vehicle. Some aftermarket parts, however, do will not fit your vehicle properly.
(3) Used parts are taken off vehicles previously wrecked or otherwise scrapped. If undamaged, these parts will fit as good as new parts. On some older vehicles, using used parts is often the only alternative as OEM parts may be discontinued. Ask the shop which category of parts they are recommending and why.
- Ask About Warranty – Professional, reputable repair shops will stand behind their repair work by offering a warranty. Usually this warranty is for a specific time – from 30 days to lifetime – and covers the labor, materials used and installation. The actual parts installed will be covered by the manufacturer’s warranty.