Five Things Your Car Needs You to Stop Doing NowMarch 5, 2018
1. Ignoring that Check Engine Light
We have a few customers who have brought in vehicles with the check engine light on. When we point out the fact that the light is on, they say “Oh, that’s just the way the car is. There’s nothing wrong, the light is just always on”. That’s actually not the case almost ever. The check engine light is there for a reason, to let you know there’s a problem with the car that is causing it to put out more emissions that it was designed to. The reason the light is on might not be an emergency, but it definitely means there is something wrong. The problem with not repairing the problem even if it isn’t vital is that if something more serious does happen, you won’t know because the light was already on. So if you have a car with a minor evap leak that you aren’t too worried about so you let it go, you won’t have any idea if you have a spark plug going bad and causing an intermittent misfire. That intermittent misfire can lead to a more serious misfire and a bad catalytic converter, potentially costing thousands of dollars.
2. Holding Off On Oil Changes
Changing your oil helps maintain lubrication of all the moving parts in the engine, it keeps the engine from overheating (friction equals heat), it removes particles and sludge that ordinarily accumulates in an engine, it can help improve fuel mileage and increase the longevity of your vehicle. Is the dealer telling you that your car can go 10 or 12,000 miles between oil changes? Ask yourself if the manufacturer wants you to be able to keep your car well past 100,000 miles or if they want you to trade it in after a couple of years for a new one. Additionally, that oil filter that is catching the particulate matter in the oil? It is not designed to go that long and can only hold so much debris. Four oil changes a year (figuring the use of synthetic oil and that 20,000 miles were put on the car) would cost about $200 total. A new engine costs about $4,000 just for the part. You do the math.
3. Not Taking Care of Routine Maintenance
What can happen if you ignore that recommended coolant flush? Head gasket failure among other things, leading to a repair that can cost thousands of dollars. It’s important to keep the pH of the coolant correct or it eats away at the material they use to make head gaskets. How about spark plugs? Ignoring spark plug replacement recommendations can lead to a bad ignition coil (we see this fairly frequently now), adding several hundred dollars to an already expensive job in some cases. We recommend flushing the power steering fluid, brake fluid, transmission fluid and engine coolant every 30,000 miles. Check out the BG Maintenance Services to learn more about what we offer. https://www.bgprod.com/services/
4. Not Taking Your Car to a Qualified Technician
Your car is probably second only to your house in terms of cost, why would you take it to be worked on by someone who isn’t qualified. The days of taking your car to some dude working out of a barn are over. Your car is a sophisticated piece of equipment that requires a technician who is properly trained and has the proper tools. On some cars you can’t even replace the brakes without having a scan tool to release the calipers to start the job. Having a shop today requires literally hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of equipment, not just a tool box. You can’t even top off fluids now without access to information showing you which type of fluid to use, because each manufacturer has a different requirement. When looking for a garage, start by looking for ASE certifications. ASE certification is not exactly easy to get, but anyone who is a half decent mechanic should be able to pass at least one of the tests. Certification is offered in a variety of topics, each one requiring a written test of your mechanical knowledge. Attaining Master Certified status is difficult and can take years, but every mechanic should have at least one certification or be working towards it. Check out the ASE website for more information about what they do https://www.bgprod.com/services/
5. Not Changing Your Cabin Air Filter
“Is that even a thing?” one customer asked when I told her she needed her cabin air filter replaced. We are all used to having to replace our engine air filter, but the cabin air filter is usually a harder sell. It shouldn’t be though, because it has an important job. It keeps dust, pollen, allergens and mold from getting into the vehicle cabin, helping with allergies and preventing health problems. A plugged cabin air filter can also restrict air flow over the evaporator core leading to A/C compressor failure. If your car has one you can find the recommended replacement schedule in your owner’s manual, or any good shop should be able to look up the schedule for you. Keep track of when you replaced it last and then follow the schedule. The cabin air filter is not something that every tech will check with an oil change because they can be hard to get to, some of them taking 30-45 minutes to remove.
Surving Winter RoadsJanuary 22, 2018
Even though we are almost a month into winter already, keeping your car ready for safe winter is still a very relevant topic. We get a lot of customers who come in for a winter safety check, which includes the basic fluid, brake and suspension checks, but also some winter specific items that are easy to forget about. Here are some tips to help you through the last few winter months. How many of these things are you forgetting to check?
1. Tires, Tires, Tires
No one wants to talk about buying new tires, but the fact is that tires that seem perfectly fine for summer and fall driving won’t perform well in the winter. The minimum tread depth to pass state inspection is 2/32, but tires that are that low are not going to do well in the snow and ice. I know that it seems like an unnecessary expense to invest in winter tires, but no one we have sold them to this year has regretted the decision. Winter tires can either be taken off in the spring or run all year as long as they aren’t studded, depending on your preference. Studded tires are permitted until April 15th.
2. Wiper Blades
Driving in the rain, snow and fog is a lot easier with wiper blades that are doing a good job for you. There are a few things you can do to help them last longer. First, clean the rubber part of the blade with an alcohol wipe to help preserve the rubber. Second, stand your wipers up if you are expecting inclement weather and your car sits outside. This will keep the wipers from freezing to the windshield. If your wipers won’t stand up, you can use a plastic grocery bag as well to help keep them from sticking. If your blades are frozen to the windshield make sure the car is good and thawed out and the blades are free of ice and snow before you try to use them (this will also extend the life of your wiper motor). Finally, make sure to replace your wipers at the first sign that they are going bad, you don’t want to end up with a scratched up windshield. You should expect to have to replace your wipers twice a year at a minimum. When getting wipers remember that you get what you pay for, the $3 wipers at Walmart are probably not going to fit right or last very long. Decent wipers should run you $10-$15 a piece.
The last cold spell we had in the area wiped out quite a few batteries for people in this area, unfortunately, stranding and inconveniencing people unnecessarily. You should have your battery tested at least every season and by someone who is using a good tester. Any decent battery tester is going to let you know how many cold cranking amps the battery has and at what temperature the battery may fail. Keep in mind that extreme heat and cold are very hard on batteries, as is leaving the lights on and draining the battery. Watch for signs like a car that is slow to start and then get the battery checked right away.
Many newer cars will let you know when a bulb is out, but if your car doesn’t have that feature, make sure that you are checking your lights fairly often for a burnt out bulb. Also watch the headlight assemblies on older cars for glazing (when the plastic is all scratched up making it harder for the headlights to shine through them). For a while I thought I was going to have to quit driving at night I couldn’t see anything. It turned out that I just needed new headlight assemblies!
As always, feel free to make an appointment to have your car checked for any concerns at all. At any given time either Matt or I (Linda) or our son Christopher will be available to help you, an if we can’t help you immediately we will make sure you aren’t in an unsafe situation and give you an appointment to come back at a time that is convenient for you. We want to make sure that you and your vehicle are happy when you leave our shop. We had an elderly customer come in recently who had her car into a local dealership for inspection, after they inspected it there was still $1200 worth of safety related repairs that needed done, including a frame that had holes that needed patched. That same week we changed the oil on a 2018 Ford Truck with less than 6,000 miles on it that had no fluid leaks and yet no fluid at all in the rear differential. Clearly no one cared enough at the dealership to check the fluid. When you are deciding who you want to take care of your car ask yourself if you shouldn’t be taking it somewhere where the owners are involved and invested in the day to day operation and care about you and your vehicle.
Direct Injection Engines and Associated ProblemsJanuary 26, 2017
We are seeing a lot of fairly new vehicles with GDI (Gas Direct Injection) engines with driveability problems and wanted to pass some information about them along to our customers, so that when you bring your vehicle in for service, you have a base understanding.
Direct injection engines are great for increasing power and reducing emissions, however, carbon building up on the intake valves is wreaking havoc with some of them. The carbon deposits cause the air/fuel mixture to be distributed unevenly leading to driveability problems and misfire codes.
We have been seeing problems with carbon buildup in engines for a long time, but the problem is much more severe in direct injection engines because the fuel and associated detergents are not hitting the back side of the valves. Oily air and debris from the PCV system gets pulled into the intake and then into the combustion chamber where it should be burnt off. In a port injected engine the fuel was injected into the intake manifold, allowing fuel to rinse off the valves. Now, in a direct injection engine the gasoline is injected right into the cylinder instead of onto the back of the valves, so that debris just gets baked on instead of being rinsed away.
Carbon buildup problems are starting to show up on engines now with as few as 15,000 miles on them. Problems like low power, engine misfires and in extreme cases, engine failure. With more than 45% of vehicles produced in 2016 using GDI technology, this is not a problem that is going away. What can you do about this? Maintenance, maintenance, maintenance.
To start with you need to have the engine oil changed at least every 5,000 miles with synthetic oil (I know, the manufacturer recommendation is probably higher than that, do you think they set those recommendations to help you keep your vehicle in good running conditions for 300,000 miles? No they want you to buy a new car every four years or sooner) Second, you should have the induction system cleaned and often, starting at 15,000 miles. Finally it’s important to keep up on reflashes released for the PCM. On most vehicles we can hook up to your vehicle with a lap top and tell if you have the latest software updates and download them as needed. Manufacturers will make adjustments to engine timing through software updates that will help.
If you have questions about GDI engines, feel free to stop in or email us anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, thank you for your business!
Facts and Myths about the Mysterious Check Engine LightAugust 11, 2016
There is a lot of confusion and misinformation out there about why a check engine light comes on. 1996 and newer vehicles have an OBDII computerized monitoring system. OBDII uses different sensors to gather information, vehicle speed, air temperature and engine temperature, for example. It feeds that information into the vehicles computer, commonly called the ECM. The ECM then adjusts things like air/fuel ratio so that the vehicle runs well. If OBDII detects a fault in one of the sensors, it will turn on the check engine light to let you know that something is wrong. Here are some myths cleared up about why the check engine light may be on and what you should do about it.
Myth: My check engine light is on, my oil must be low
Fact: A low oil level condition will not set your check engine light in most cases. That light will come on if something is wrong causing your vehicle to produce more one and a half times more the emissions than it was designed to produce. It will not come on if your oil level is low, if you need windshield washer fluid or if there is a problem with your brakes. If the oil is not changed regularly it is possible for a solenoid called the Variable Valve Timing Solenoid to get plugged and require replacing, but if your oil is just a little past due it should not make the light come on.
Myth: The code in the computer was for an oxygen sensor so I should replace it.
Fact: Your check engine light came on so you stopped at Auto Zone and they scanned the computer for you for free and said that the code was for a bad oxygen sensor, so they sold you a new sensor to replace. First of all, there is likely more than one sensor on your vehicle, are you sure you got the right one and are you sure you are replacing the right one? An oxygen sensor code, or any code for that matter, can come on for a number of different reasons. The oxygen sensor code, for example, could be caused by a problem in the wiring for the sensors or a plugged catalytic converter or a number of other things. A check engine light will direct you to what system is throwing the code, but it will not tell you what caused it. Further diagnosis is necessary, just replacing parts is expensive and the light may come back.
Myth: My check engine light came on, I should have the vehicle towed
Fact: So many things can make that light come on from a bad MAF sensor to a gas cap that isn’t seated properly. The rule of thumb is if the check engine light is on and flashing, pull over and have the vehicle towed. If it is on and steady and the car isn’t running so badly that it isn’t safe (bucking, hesitating, stalling) then you can drive it. If the light is flashing it is an indication of a misfire so severe that there is a danger of doing damage to the catalytic converters.
Myth: My check engine light has always been on, there’s nothing wrong with the car, the light just stays on.
Fact: The light will not come on if there isn’t a problem. It may be a problem that is hard to find, it may be a evaporative fuel leak that is so small it’s hard to detect, but if you bring the vehicle to the right technician with the right equipment it can be fixed. Depending on the code, not having it fixed can lead to poor gas mileage, carbon buildup in your engine and further damage done to other vehicle components eventually rendering the vehicle undrivable. Additionally, the illuminated check engine light causes the vehicle to fail emissions inspection.
Myth: You can disconnect the battery or pull the fuse for the ECM and the check engine light will go out.
Fact: The light may go out briefly, but it will come back, usually within 50 miles or less. Clearing the light will not fix the problem, as you drive it the OBDII system will run tests for each sensor, once the same problem occurs again the light will come back on. That’s why it’s always best if you have a check engine light issue fixed to have the technician NOT turn out the light, but to run a drive cycle if possible so that the light will go out on its own. That’s how you can be sure that the problem was fixed. This is especially important if you are bringing the vehicle in for an emissions test. It’s true that one component of the test is making sure that the light is not illuminated when the car is running, but another component is connecting it to a computer that checks to make sure that all the monitors are set. If you disconnect the battery and all those monitors are cleared, the computer can tell that and will not allow the vehicle to be tested until most of the monitors are set. This can be a real pain in the winter when some monitors require specific air temperatures that we might not reach for weeks here in Western Pennsylvania.
How to Make Your Tires LastApril 12, 2016
Finding out the tires that you thought should last you another 20,000 miles are worn out can really hurt your budget. New tires are a significant investment, but if you know how to take care of them and what to watch out for, they should also last a while. What can you do to make them last longer? A lot.
1. Check Your Tire Pressures Either pickup a good tire pressure gauge (remember, you get what you pay for) or stop in to have one of our techs check your tire pressures roughly every time you get gas. This is probably the number one thing you can do to insure long life. A tire will lose about 1psi a month under normal operating conditions, so that can add up and lead to new tires if you aren’t careful. Many new cars come with a tire pressure monitoring system, but don’t rely on that to keep you informed, sensors can fail. It’s best to be sure and check the pressures manually at least once a month.
2. Wheel Alignment One good pothole can throw your alignment off and cause your tires to completely wear out within 1000 miles. We recommend having the alignment checked whenever you get new tires and then twice a year.
3. Tire Rotation If you buy your tires from us we will rotate them for you for free as often as you like, we suggest either every oil change or every other oil change at the least. This can help you get even tire wear and longer tire life. Unevenly worn tires can cause poor handling and decreased fuel mileage. Tires wear unevenly because the front tires tend to wear out faster and on the outside edges. By rotating them you make sure that all the tires are getting the same amount of wear. When we rotate your tires we will also check and adjust your tire pressures and check your brakes.
4. Check Tire Depth You may have noticed on your receipt when you get your vehicle inspected that we list different measurements. Tire depth is one of those measurements. Worn out tires can lead to an accident or a blowout, neither of which you want. PA safety inspection code requires that tires be replaced when they reach a measurement of 2/32. For optimal performance in the rain or cold, we recommend replacement at 4/32.
5. Vehicle Maintenance In order to keep your tires from being chewed off it’s important to take care of any suspension or steering problems that pop us ASAP. Ball joints, tie rod ends and wheel bearings can cause tires to wear poorly and lead to premature replacement.
6. All Wheel Drive Vehicles We all like our AWD and 4WD vehicles when we are driving on snowy roads or slippery surfaces, they go like they do because the vehicle is able to divide the horsepower generated by the engine between all four tires. In order to transfer that horsepower, the driveline mechanically connects all of the tires so that the work in unison. Vehicles are designed to allow for momentary differences in speeds when a vehicle turns a corner, but they are not designed to run all the time with tires that have different circumferences or diameters. Replacing only 2 tires at a time or running different tires can lead to excessive heat and failure in the rear differential or transfer case. Tire rotations is especially important for AWD or 4WD vehicles because you want to keep the tire wear as even as possible.
7. Avoid Road Hazards This might sound obvious, but potholes are curbs contribute daily to blown out tires. If you have a leaking tire get it repaired ASAP. We are able to plug or patch tires as long as the problem isn’t in the sidewall of the tire. If your vehicle is equipped with tire pressure lights you have something else to worry about. Tire pressure monitors are made out of aluminum and fit into the valve stem area on the rim. Corrosion can lead to fairly frequent monitor failure and they can be fairly expensive to replace? Just the part can run $40-$100. They are a part of your vehicle’s safety program, though, and it’s important to keep them in good working order.