As National Fall Car Care Month, this month is the perfect time to ask, “Is my car ready for autumn and winter?” Here are eight things you should check to make sure your car can handle the coming weather and road conditions:
- Tire pressure – Cooling temperatures can affect the pressure in your tires, as external pressure changes with the weather. Take a few moments to check your tires with a pressure gauge and make sure it’s filled to the recommended level. Proper tire pressure not only reduces the chance of a flat, but also improves fuel efficiency.
- Tire tread – Check your tire tread too! While 2/32” is the minimum acceptable tread on your tire, rain and snow conditions require more tread for safe driving. Your tires should have at least 4/32” of tread, without bulges, wear, or bald spots, so you don’t risk losing control of your car on slick roads.
- Windshield wipers – If you wait for the next rain storm to check your windshield wipers, you’re risking your safety. Get in the habit of running your washer fluid periodically – you’ll be able to monitor if your wipers need replaced, and you’ll have a cleaner windshield!
- Defroster/Heater – Also test your defroster before the cold weather hits. On the next cold morning, turn on your heater to make sure it’s working. Make sure air flow reaches your windshield and isn’t blocked in any spots. If it takes too long to warm the interior, bring your car in for a heating system inspection.
- Battery condition – As temperatures drop, your battery may begin to show signs of failure. Test your battery’s condition using a multimeter (or have it tested) to ensure it is operating in the acceptable range. If your battery is getting old or can’t hold the proper charge, your vehicle may not be able to start on cold mornings.
- Brakes – When roads are slick with rain and snow, your brakes are put to the test! Brakes are subject to wear and tear with normal use of a vehicle, which means you’ll need to have them serviced and replaced periodically. Have them inspected before the first storm so you know that they are up to the task.
- Cooling system – If you’ve been putting off your coolant flush, have it done before winter arrives. Coolant (aka antifreeze) is critical to keep your engine running at the proper temperature even when the weather gets cold.
- Winter tools – Chances are you took that pesky ice scraper out of your car to make room for summer gear. Now is the time to put it back in your trunk or glove box so you are prepared for early frosts of the year. It’s also a great time to start prepping your auto survival kit.
Pay attention to your vehicle as the weather changes – some systems that work fine during the summer may start to reveal warning signs this season. Make sure your vehicle is up-to-date on manufacturer recommended maintenance, and address any concerns before they lead to bigger problems and costly repairs.
Stop by our shop for an inspection to make sure your car is ready for this fall!
Did you know that you officially need to replace your tires when the tread is below 2/32” thick? And did you know that the distance between the edge of a penny and the top of Lincoln’s head is exactly 2/32”?
Whether you’ve put extra miles on your tires with summer road trips or they are simply nearing the end of their life, this quick test will let you know if it is time to consider new tires.
Most tires have “wear bars” that run across the tread pattern. When these become visible, connecting patterns across your tire’s tread, they serve as a warning that your tread is getting bare. But not all tires are designed the same, and sometimes you just need an extra test to know with confidence that it is time to replace your tires.
So for a quick tread check, grab a penny! Place the penny, with Lincoln’s head down and facing you, into the tread of the tire.
If all or part of Lincoln’s head is obscured by the tread, your tires still have some life left – but if you can see all of Lincoln’s head, it’s time to replace your tire.
Note: Measure each tire in multiple places – both the inside and outside edge across the tire, and on multiple points around the tire. If your alignment is off, or if you have neglected tire rotation, they may have uneven wear. This also can cause bald spots that mean you need to replace your tires prematurely.
If you don’t have a penny handy, a quarter can also do the trick! The distance between Washington’s head and the edge of a quarter is exactly 4/32” (which also happens to be the recommended thickness for tire tread if you are driving in rain, snow, or icy conditions).
Use the same method, placing the quarter with Washington’s head upside down and facing you in the tread across multiple places on your tire. Whenyou can see all of Washington’s head, you know you will need to replace your tires soon.
You may consider replacing your tires before they reach the 2/32” point. As your tread thins between 4/32” and 2/32” you may start to experience performance issues, especially in wet and slick conditions.
The good news? There are easy steps you can take to extend the life of your tires! Keep your tires properly inflated to reduce extra friction and wear. Rotate your tires regularly to ensure they wear uniformly without creating bald spots. Have an alignment performed periodically. Treat your tires with care – following these recommended maintenance tips can help them wear evenly so you get more miles out of every dollar! Stop by or schedule an appointment for a tire rotation, alignment, or inspection.
Overheating is the most common cause of vehicle breakdowns and internal engine damage. As the heat rises in Omaha over the summer, our shop sees more and more people coming in after breakdowns due to cooling system failure. But there is an easy answer!
A cooling system flush can keep your engine running smooth and cool even on the hottest days. Regularly changing your coolant, aka antifreeze, can prevent larger problems for your cooling system and engine and keep your family safe on the road!
What is the Cooling System?
The engine runs best at a high temperature, so the cooling system helps it to heat up quickly then keep the engine at a regular, constant temperature without overheating as it runs. It accomplishes this by transferring heat into the air with the help of coolant, or antifreeze, and the other components of the cooling system.
In most cars, the cooling system works by circulating radiator fluid (the mixture of coolant and water) through parts and pipes in the engine to absorb the heat and cool the engine. A radiator at the end of the system captures and transfers the heat from the fluid into the air.
But my coolant still looks clear, why should I change it?
New coolant usually appears a bright green or a bright red color, as in the picture below. As the coolant runs through the engine, rust and contaminants caused by oxidation and corrosion mix in with the fluid. Unfortunately, when you look under the hood to check your fluid, it may still appear clean and clear even though these contaminants rest under the surface, unseen and threatening the life of your engine.
This video from Monday Morning Mechanic shows the striking visual of these hidden contaminants, and the threats they pose.
How often should I flush my coolant?
Most manufacturers recommend that you change the radiator fluid (the mixture of antifreeze coolant and water) every 24,000 to 36,000 miles or 24 to 36 months. Depending on your driving habits, you may need to flush your coolant more often – we recommend every 1-2 years.
Be leery of “extended life” coolants that tout 100,000 mile lifespans – even these can accumulate rust and contaminants that threaten your engine life. These impurities could add up and cause bigger problems before you reach the 100,000 mile check. Even with “extended life” fluids, you should have these coolants checked frequently.
What happens if I don’t?
Failing to change your coolant can take as much as 100,000 miles off the life of your engine, in addition to big problems and expensive repairs.
Coolant flows through your entire engine, leaving behind contaminants. They can collect on the radiator, inside the water pump or thermostat, getting stuck and preventing the components from working appropriately. Plastic components, like the water pump, can wear and break apart. If the water pump breaks, the system won’t be able to move the water and coolant through the engine. Hoses can also react to contaminants, becoming swollen and rusty on the inside even as they appear normal on the outside. With excess heat, belts that control the cooling system and steering will start cracking, eventually breaking and disabling the systems (imagine a steering belt break, not being able to control your vehicle!).
Bottom line – contaminated coolant can lead to cooling system failure, causing your engine to overheat and break down, leaving you stranded on the road!
We assume your family’s safety is at the top of your priority list, so having your coolant flushed or even just checked while it’s still scorching outside, and before it gets cold, should be as well. Avoid expensive engine breakdowns by having your coolant flushed before problems arise. Call us at 402-896-5800 or stop by our shop.
We’ve had many conversations with our customers here in Omaha, NE – any time we recommend a transmission flush, our customers ask questions. So what is a transmission flush? Can’t you just top off the fluid? Is it really necessary?
We understand your confusion – a transmission flush isn’t one of the aspects of preventative maintenance that usually come to mind. An oil change, new tires, wiper blades… but a transmission flush? Just like an oil change, your transmission needs regular maintenance to keep your car running smoothly.
What is a flush?
A transmission flush usually involves connecting your transmission to a professional grade machine to completely flush the transmission fluid out of your vehicle. Running solution through the lines until they come out clean, it then fills your system with new fluid.
A transmission fluid change, on the other hand, simply drains the fluid with gravity. A change usually does not drain all of the fluid, but does allow you to replace most of the old with fresh transmission fluid. Both services are helpful and can extend the life of your transmission.
Some signs your car needs transmission service:
Carsdirect.com offers these warning signs that you may need a transmission flush – “There may be times when you need to get a transmission flush, in order to help protect your car’s transmission:
- Transmission Grinding or Strange Noises … If you notice your transmission grinding or making strange sounds, you should stop the vehicle and check the transmission fluid level while the engine is still running. Insure that the transmission fluid color is bright red and not brown or black because of grime or sludge. If the fluid level of the transmission is acceptable, your vehicle probably needs a transmission flush.
- Problems Shifting Gears … A transmission that contains too much dirt or sludge will cause sluggish response in the transmission which will result in your vehicle changing gears too quickly or too late while driving. In manual transmission vehicles, you may find it very hard to change gears at all.
- Slipping Gears … A dirty transmission may cause a lack of hydraulic power, much the same as not having enough transmission fluid will cause. In order to stay in the appropriate gear, the transmission must develop enough pressure.
- Surging of the Vehicle … This is caused by inconsistent flow of clean transmission fluid that is needed to ensure smooth operation of the gears and other moving parts inside the transmission bell housing.
- Delay in Vehicle Movement … Another sign that your vehicle may have contaminated transmission fluid is when the vehicle stalls for one or two seconds before moving after having been put in gear. If there are no other problems with the transmission, a transmission flush may help.”
You should be aware that if the vehicle is displaying these symptoms, your dirty transmission may have already caused bigger problems. Read more from Cars Direct here. If your car is displaying any of these symptoms or having other transmission issues, stop by our shop for an inspection.
Is it really necessary?
Ultimately it is best to consult your manufacturer owner’s manual and follow the recommended services and guidelines provided. Many manufacturers recommend a transmission flush every 30,000 miles or 2 years. However, not all recommend this frequently – some suggest a flush only every 100,000 miles, and others don’t recommend a transmission flush at all. Sometimes, if your car is having trouble, you may need a transmission service between the recommended intervals.
A transmission flush can extend the life of your transmission. Like all preventative maintenance, the cost and time of this process can save you from expensive transmission repairs down the road. Our technicians keep track of the manufacturer recommendations for your vehicle and can help you make an informed decision for your family. If you have questions about your vehicle’s transmission, or other concerns, please call us at 402-896-5800.