Sometimes we hear people say, "What's up with all this maintenance stuff? Modern cars just don't break down." While it is true that today's cars and trucks are extremely reliable, they are also becoming increasingly complicated and use more exotic materials than ever before. All that complexity demands higher tolerances for everything. For example, most folks don't realize how high tech automotive fluids have become. Fluids like, engine oil, transmission fluid, coolant and brake fluid.
Did you know that a modern engine would not run for more than a few months using motor oil formulas from 30 years ago? Today's automotive fluids contain a much higher percentage of additives to protect your vehicle's components from premature wear and corrosion. Time and miles march on for all of our cars. Please don't think we're using scare tactics to get you to take care of your maintenance - but here are some personal stories from AutoNetTV staff members to emphasize the importance of getting things done when they are due. Names are withheld to avoid embarrassment to those who should know better. Even though they should know better, it usually comes down to real life: time and budget. But they are tales of a stitch in time saves nine.
The first comes from a staffer who bought a used pick-up truck for his son. The oil was clean and all the fluids were topped off. A short time later, the truck overheated on the highway and shut down. The repair shop diagnosed the problem: the radiator pan was corroded and dumped the coolant. Even though the coolant level was correct, it was clear that the coolant had never been exchanged - just topped off from time to time. While this kept the engine cool, all of the anti-corrosion additives had worn out; the coolant became acidic and ate through the radiator pan. The cost: hundred of dollars and four days in the shop. This demonstrates the need to get your coolant exchanged on schedule.
Another story involves the true cost of skipping an annual inspection. Our staffer took his SUV in for the Washington safety inspection to renew his registration. At the inspection station, he learned that the law had changed and that his newer rig only required an inspection every two years. He was very happy to save the $45 bucks. The problem was, his rear brake pads were very worn. Two months later, it was bad enough that he could hear the grind - over the radio, DVD player and the kids. He took it in to get the bad news. Both of the rear brake rotors were damaged. The left one could be resurfaced. The right had to be replaced. So saving a few bucks on his safety inspection turned into an extra $500 over what brake pad replacement would have been. Moral of the story: don't skip your annual inspections. The irony is that many Auburn service centers would have done a brake inspection for free.
Next: a teenage daughter and a curb. Daddy's little princess smacked a curb when she turned into a shopping center and popped the tire. The problem came when Dad didn't get an alignment. The impact was hard enough to ruin the tire - so it was hard enough wreck the alignment. But instead of an alignment after the first tire, Papa ended up buying a second tire a few months later - and then an alignment.
Situation: son and wife with cars from the same manufacturer with essentially the same engine. Our staffer checked the son's maintenance schedule and saw that it needed a timing belt replacement at 90,000 miles/145,000 km. He had it done - it cost several hundred dollars. His wife's car had about 60,000 miles/97,000 km, so it should be ok for a while. Right? Wrong. The problem was that the wife had the turbo charged version. Its belt was scheduled for replacement at 60,000 mi/97,000 km. At 63,000 mi./101,000 km, the belt snapped on the interstate. The valves all crashed down into the cylinders at high speed and the entire head was shredded and had to be replaced. The cost: several thousand dollars. Does he wish he had checked the maintenance schedule? You bet he does - every time he passes a big-screen TV.
We're talking about taking care of little things before they become big things. And when you take care of the little things, your car runs better and is more economical to operate. Remember to save those maintenance records. It'll show potential buyers that you've taken care of your vehicle and it will help you get a better price. Or when you buy a used car, check those records. If there aren't any, assume that the maintenance hasn't been done and take it to your Federal Way or Covington service center for an inspection. Take care of unperformed maintenance sooner rather than later.
Posted in the Maintenance category
Modern Auburn vehicles have several computers on board that control all kinds of things like engine functions, transmission shifts, traction control, anti-lock brakes, stability control, emissions – and on some vehicles, even steering, braking and the throttle.
Think about that for a minute – things that used to be controlled by simple mechanical connections now have electronic controls that rely on computers, software and sensors. It’s no wonder that when something goes wrong with their SUV it can be pretty complicated for Auburn drivers to track down the source of the problem.
To help your Dave's Valley Auto Clinic service specialist figure out what’s wrong, your SUV is equipped with on-board diagnostics. The Check Engine Light comes on to tell you there’s a problem and the engine management computer stores a trouble code. Your friendly Dave's Valley Auto Clinic service specialist connects a scan tool to your vehicle’s diagnostic port and retrieves the trouble codes as well as other important data.
Trouble codes are like clues for the Auburn technician to follow as he diagnoses what’s wrong with your SUV. In a way, it’s like going to your Auburn doctor with a problem. She’ll run some additional tests and gather the information she needs to make a diagnosis and form a treatment plan. How much a vehicle diagnosis costs at Dave's Valley Auto Clinic in Auburn depends on how much time it takes to sort out the symptoms and find the underlying problem.
Give us a call
Dave's Valley Auto Clinic
4725 Auburn Way N. Auburn
Auburn, Washington 98002
Posted in the Diagnostics category
Working up a sweat is a great thing to do in a gym around Auburn, but not in your car. When your car's AC System has a problem, you'll often feel it right away. The question is, how long do you put up with it? You know, the old comfort versus cost dilemma. But a more comfortable drive around Auburn has a lot of benefits, and keeping the AC System well maintained can help prevent expensive repairs.
A common cause for AC failure is water and air in the system. The system does not work as well with air in it. And water can cause rust that leads to damage of the A/C components. Also refrigerant, the stuff that makes the air cold, can leak out, reducing the efficiency of the system, making it work harder to try to cool the air. That is why periodically evacuating the air conditioning system and recharging it keeps the proper amount of clean refrigerant in the system so it cools better and lasts longer.
You should also run the air conditioner regularly, even in the winter, so that it lubricates itself and keeps the seals from drying out. The seals can crack and that leads to leaks. Your owner's manual will have recommendations for how often to service your air conditioner. Some service centers also have this information as part of their computer databases. Your service advisor at Dave's Valley Auto Clinic can give you more information.
Dave's Valley Auto Clinic
4725 Auburn Way N. Auburn
Auburn, Washington 98002
Of course, if your AC currently isn't working right, then now is the time to get it checked. Many service centers such as Dave's Valley Auto Clinic can inspect and test your air conditioning and offer evacuation and recharge services. This goes a long way to avoiding having to bring your air conditioner in for major repairs.
Recent environmental laws have stopped the manufacture of Freon, a refrigerant that was common in cars made before 1993. There is a very limited supply of Freon so the price is very steep. It may not be worth its weight in gold, but it probably is worth its weight in silver. If you have an older vehicle that uses Freon, you may want to consider having it retrofitted to use the new EPA-approved R134a refrigerant. It will pay for itself in the long run.
Posted in the Air Conditioning category
The government mandates a lot of equipment on cars for the Auburn Washington area: emission devices and control computers; safety equipment like airbags; and crash worthiness requirements. All of this is great for the motoring public in Auburn Washington, but it does add quite a bit to the price of a new car.
Because new cars are more expensive, people are driving their old cars longer. The average car is now over nine years old. 68% of vehicles on the road have more than 75,000 miles/120,000 kilometers. As cars age, their performance drops, they have difficulty idling for long periods and are more sensitive to weather extremes. Fortunately today's cars are up to the challenge - but they need a little help to keep on going.
Some owner's manuals don't specify service requirements at higher mileage. That doesn't mean it doesn't have to be done. In fact, it's more important than ever to stay on top of routine maintenance for cars with more than 120,000 miles/190,000 kilometers. Just extend regular service intervals out: for instance a service that's recommended every 24,000 miles/38,000 kilometers should be performed at 24,000 mi/38,000 km; 48,000 mi/77,000 km; 72,000mi/116,000 km, 96,000 mi/154,000 km; and on and on.
Because of the additional stress older engines experience, the severe service maintenance schedule may be more appropriate than the regular schedule. Watch for leaks - seals and gaskets dry out over time and do not hold the fluids as well as they used to. It is also time to make sure you have a good technician. There are some services and replacements that are scheduled after you put some clicks on the odometer, like timing belts, valve train adjustments, suspension, anti-lock brake service, air bags, etc. And unexpected repairs down the road are just par for the course.
Check for unusual sounds, smells or the way your car feels. These could be hints that trouble is brewing. Better to catch it early before it turns into a costly repair. Regular wash and wax will help maintain your car's appearance. One of the things you can do to really help your high mileage vehicle is to begin using high mileage formulation fluids. There are special engine oils, coolants, and transmission and power steering fluids that are formulated for cars that have a higher mileage.
High mileage oil is designed to condition seals and gaskets, reduce wear and avoid premature burn off. Older engines are dirtier inside - and dirty engines contaminate their oil faster. High mileage oil has special additives that clean the engine, removing sludge deposits over time. The result is less stress on the engine, better fuel economy and excellent wear protection. Come into Dave's Valley Auto Clinic for a checkup.
Studies have even shown that using high mileage fluids early will actually prevent some of the problems of high kilometer vehicles. So once you hit around 50,000 mi/80,000 km, consider stepping up to high mileage formulations. The fluids cost a bit more than standard fluids because of the additional additives, but they can be worth their weight in gold in terms of preventing repair costs down the road.
It does cost more to properly maintain a higher mileage vehicle - but it's much cheaper than a new car payment!
Posted in the Fuel System category
You may know that most automotive failures in Auburn Washington are tire related, but do you know the second most common cause for vehicle failure? Nope, it's not teenagers. It is the coolant system. But, if you take good care of your coolant system, it will take good care of you.
A car's engine creates a lot of heat - so much heat, that if it is not properly cooled, the engine can lock up, resulting in massive damage and repair bills. But when everything is working right, your engine operates at the proper temperature and all is well. Without antifreeze in your cooling system, the water could freeze and cause engine damage. This could be very expensive, not to mention inconvenient.
The right mix of water and antifreeze protects the engine against damage from freezing and overheating. Antifreeze also protects the coolant system against corrosion that could cause the system to fail. The thing to remember is this: coolant system failure is very common, but it is also very easy to prevent. Your Auburn service center knows the manufacturers' recommendations, and can tell you when the coolant needs to be changed. They can also perform a coolant system service.
Give us a call or stop by for a coolant service or checkup.
Dave's Valley Auto Clinic
4725 Auburn Way N. Auburn
Auburn, Washington 98002
Even the best antifreeze cannot completely protect the coolant system from harmful deposits forever. The anti-corrosion additives are used up over time, so the coolant must be replaced. A coolant service cleans out the system and replaces the old fluid with fresh coolant. A coolant system service is a low-cost way to protect against major engine repairs down the road. Prevention is the key. Be sure to watch out for the two main warning signs: if your temperature gauge is in the "hot" zone or if you get a message warning you to check your coolant. If you take a look under the hood, you will see the coolant overflow bottle. You can see there are lines that indicate the proper level of coolant ... if your engine is cold - or if it is hot.
You can add water or antifreeze to that bottle yourself, but be careful. First, you never want to open the radiator pressure cap. The steam could severely burn you. Second, try to get to your service center immediately if your coolant is low. If that is not possible, follow the directions in your owner's manual. Third, remember that you need a proper mixture of water and antifreeze, or you will damage your engine. If you make an emergency addition to your cooling system, follow-up with your service center where they can make necessary corrections. Fourth, not all cars use the same type of antifreeze.
You will need to check your owner's manual to make sure you use the right kind. Mixing antifreeze types or using the wrong kind of antifreeze may void the manufacturers warranty on your cooling system. If you're not sure, ask your service technician at Dave's Valley Auto Clinic for guidance.
Posted in the Cooling System category
Looking at getting some new tires? The choices at Federal Way tire stores can be a little overwhelming. Suppose you have an SUV and are trying to decide between all season tires or some that are also rated for off-highway. Do you get off the payment on the outskirts of Federal Way more than most? If so, some additional off-road traction would be nice.
Maybe the real reason for wanting those off-highway tires is that they look cool. Well there’s nothing wrong with that. If you make sure that you’ve got your functional needs covered with your selection, then you can have some fun with where you go from there.
Let’s suppose you zip around Federal Way in a sporty car. You may like to run a high-performance summer tire when the weather’s good. When Washington weather turns cold, you can put on high-performance winter tires. For the kind of driving you like to do, you want full-on performance tires. All-season tires are naturally a compromise that works well for most Federal Way drivers, but since you have a choice, go for dedicated summer and winter tires.
When it’s time for new tires, visit with a knowledgeable Dave's Valley Auto Clinic tire professional. Describe your needs and wants. He’ll come up with some selections for you to discuss. And once you settle on a type of tire, there are options for special needs: like pulling a trailer or carrying heavy loads.
Tires are one of the biggest purchases for Federal Way drivers. With so many choices, you’ll be able to get what’s best for you. Take their time. And don’t worry about what’s in stock. If you want something that isn’t here at Dave's Valley Auto Clinic, manager Dave Heer can order it. Chances are you’ll be rolling on your new tires in a couple of days.
Posted in the Tires and Wheels category
Today we're going to talk about power steering service in Auburn. If you took an informal poll around Auburn you'd probably find that most have never heard of power steering service. That's not surprising. Even though power steering is standard on every vehicle, most people in Auburn aren't aware that it needs periodic service.
If you're younger than a certain age, you've probably never driven a car or truck without power steering. To get an idea of the difference; if you've ever cut a board with a hand saw, you know it's a lot of work. Using a power saw is easy-peasy by comparison.
Without power steering, your arms have to do all the work to steer the wheels, and that's hard, especially around downtown Auburn. That's why old cars had such big steering wheels; to get enough leverage to steer.
Most vehicles in Auburn have a hydraulic power steering system. The serpentine belt from the engine powers a pump. The pump pressurizes the power steering fluid. This actuates a hydraulic cylinder that provides power to help steer.
Some vehicles in Auburn use an electric pump to pressurize the fluid rather than a belt driven pump. We're also seeing vehicles with electric motors providing the power assist, not using power steering fluid at all. We'll see a lot more electric systems as more hybrids and electric vehicles hit the market.
At least for now, the vast majority of power steering systems use power steering fluid that needs to be serviced. The fluid needs to be changed for a couple of reasons. For one, it attracts moisture. Water has different hydraulic qualities than power steering fluid, and that makes a difference in steering performance. Water is also corrosive and can damage power steering components. The fluid also just gets dirty and needs to be changed. Removing the old fluid and flushing out the system gets rid of dirt and deposits. The clean, fresh fluid lubricates and provides better corrosion protection.
So ask your Auburn service advisor at Dave's Valley Auto Clinic or check your owner's manual to see when power steering service is recommended. It'll extend the life of your power steering components.
Posted in the Steering category
Today's Dave's Valley Auto Clinic auto maintenance article focuses on your serpentine belt. Your serpentine belt is a long belt that’s driven by your engine. It winds around several accessories that power important automotive systems. Let’s go over them.
First, the serpentine belt drives your SUV air conditioning system. It spins the compressor that makes the cool air that takes the edge off the summer heat in Auburn.
Next, the belt powers the alternator. The alternator creates electricity that’s used by your SUV’s electrical systems and also charges your car battery. All Auburn motorists know that without the alternator, the battery will go dead in a few miles.
The serpentine belt may also run the pumps for both the power steering and power brakes. And, on many SUVs, the serpentine belt powers the water pump. The water pump circulates coolant through the engine to keep it within normal operating temperatures for Auburn motorists. (On some SUVs, the water pump is powered by the timing belt instead of the serpentine belt.)
So you can see the serpentine belt does a lot of work. And it if breaks, it affects a lot of systems. That’s why auto makers and your service advisor at Dave's Valley Auto Clinic have recommended that it be changed every so often so that it doesn’t fail.
Your Dave's Valley Auto Clinic service advisor can perform a visual inspection of the belt to see if it has any cracks that signal the belt could fail soon and will measure the amount of belt material to make sure there is enough.
Your serpentine belt works in tandem with a spring loaded pulley attached to the engine called the tensioner pulley. Its job is to make sure there’s a constant tension on the serpentine belt so that it doesn’t slip. The spring can become worn and no longer provide the necessary pressure to keep the belt tight. At Dave's Valley Auto Clinic, we recommend that the tensioner be replaced at the same time as the serpentine belt.
All in all, the serpentine belt’s a critical part for the function of your SUV. And it’s not that expensive to replace at Dave's Valley Auto Clinic – so bring in your vehicle if it hasn't been checked in a while.
Posted in the Maintenance category
With front-wheel drive being so common these days in Auburn, Washington, the differential is just taken care of during a transmission service, so most folks in Auburn, Washington don't even have to think about it. And rear-wheel drive differentials don't need to be serviced for years, so it's understandable that it's not something on the top of mind for our Auburn customers. So it's not uncommon for people to not know they have a differential let alone know that it needs service.
Call Dave's Valley Auto Clinic at 253-850-1538 for information about differential service, or stop by our Auburn, Washington auto center at 4725 Auburn Way N. Auburn 98002.
To better understand what a differential does, think about our local Auburn high school track. There are lanes marked off on the track. For the longer distance races, the starting lines are staggered. The starting lines for the outside lanes are ahead of the starting lines for the inside lanes. That's to compensate for the longer length of the outside lanes. Staggering the starting lines means that each runner has the same distance to run.
The differential compensates for the difference in speeds between the inside wheel and the outside wheel in a turn, because they have to travel together through slightly different distances.
It's a very important function. When you think of it, all the power to get a vehicle moving goes through the differential. Most cars in the Auburn, Washington area weigh between three and six thousand pounds – trucks even more. The power from the engine goes through the transmission and then through the differential to the drive wheels.
That's a lot of work and requires very heavy duty parts. And those parts need protection. The differential fluid lubricates the gears in the differential and keeps them cool.
The fluid eventually gets dirty and worn down. Some kinds of differentials require special additives that breakdown over time. So manufacturers recommend intervals for replacing your differential fluid.
Your Auburn, Washington technician at Dave's Valley Auto Clinic will drain the used fluid and check it out for metal bits, which could be a sign of excessive wear on the gears. Then he'll replace the fluid and install the additives if necessary.
Your Dave's Valley Auto Clinic service advisor can look up the manufacturer's recommended service interval or you can check your owner's manual. Give us a call at 253-850-1538 for more information about your differential service.
Posted in the Drive Train category
Everyone in Auburn Washington has blind spots – and no, I'm not talking about the fact that you really don't sing like Jessica Simpson. I mean the areas of the road that you can't see when you're driving around Auburn.
First let's talk about our own blinds spots, and then we can talk about others...
To begin, we can greatly reduce our blind spots by properly adjusting our mirrors to give the widest coverage possible. Make the adjustments in your SUV before you start to drive.
First, adjust your rear view mirror to give the best possible view directly to the rear of your car. You don't need it to get a better view of either side of the car, the kids in the back seat or your dazzling smile. The rear view mirror should look to the rear.
Next, lean your head until it almost touches the driver's side window. Adjust your side mirror so that you can just barely see the side of your car.
Dave's Valley Auto Clinic
We're on 4725 Auburn Way N. Auburn in Auburn, Washington (98002)
Call us to make an appointment at 253-850-1538.
Now, lean your head to the middle of the car and adjust the outside mirror so that you can barely see the right side of the car.
With your mirrors adjusted this way, you'll have maximum coverage. Of course driving is a dynamic process – things change every second. So it's wise to take a quick look to the side when passing to make sure that another vehicle hasn't moved into an area you couldn't see in your mirrors.
Depending on the kind of vehicle you drive (SUV?), you may still have some blind spots. All vehicles have an area behind them that's blind when backing up. The bigger the vehicle, the bigger the blind spot. A pick up or SUV can hide a small child – an RV, bus or tractor-trailer can hide an entire vehicle. So be careful around our Auburn streets!
As you drive around the Auburn area, avoid staying in other diver's blind spots. You can't count on them to be watching their mirrors and looking out for you.
Let's talk about safely sharing the road with heavy trucks and buses. In crashes involving a truck and car, the car causes about 40 percent of the accidents. But 78 percent of the fatalities are with the car. The laws of physics are against the smaller vehicle, so it pays to take extra precautions around trucks and buses.
Heavy vehicles have huge blind spots: to the rear, on both sides and up front. They also can't maneuver like a car. They take twice as long to stop and need twice as much space as you do in your SUV or other type of car. You need to keep wide margins when driving around one of these big rigs.
Here are some tips for passing a heavy vehicle in the Auburn area:
- Avoid the blind spots. If you can't see the driver's face in one of his mirrors or in a window, he cannot see you!
- Don't follow too close. If you can't see one of the truck's mirrors, you're too close.
- Make sure there is plenty of room to pass. Trucks are long and take time to get around. If you're on one of our local Auburn Washington two way highways, wait for a passing zone.
- Don't linger when passing. Because the blind spots are so big on the sides, you want to get through them quickly. If you can't pass quickly, drop back.
- Pass on the left whenever possible. A trucks' blind spot is much larger on the right.
- Be attentive and wear your seat belts while driving anywhere around Auburn, even short drives.
- Don't be aggressive when driving around trucks. Because of their size, they appear to be going slower than they really are. Cutting it short around a truck could be disastrous.
- Use your turn signals when starting to pass. Once you can see the full truck in your rear view mirror, it's safe to signal and move over. Don't cut it short or slow quickly when you pull in front of a truck.
- Be careful passing a truck at an intersection. Trucks need to turn wide to maneuver through city streets. Squeezing between a truck and the curb could put your car in the Auburn body shop. Look for the truck's turn signals.
We at Dave's Valley Auto Clinic want you to watch those blind spots – but feel free to sing in the shower all you want.
Posted in the Automotive News category