Brake fluid is easily the most neglected liquid at work in cars on the road today. Despite how vital it is for safe driving, people simply ignore or forget about the need to have this fluid flushed on a regular occasion. Brake fluid is the liquid at work in your vehicle that allows the hydraulic pressure required to slow the car to be applied to the actual braking system. Without this liquid and the pressures associated with the mechanical component, you would be unable to apply enough pressure to the brakes to stop the vehicle when traveling at high speeds.
Why should you care about brake fluid?
It is important to have this fluid flushed and replaced on a regular basis because a number of things can begin to contaminate the fluid over time. As this fluid degrades, it weakens the ability of the hydraulic to physically stop the car. Brake fluid is subject to many impurities over time that include rust and moisture. The fluid itself is not indestructible either. Constant use wears down the molecules of the liquid, causing it to be less effective. The more the liquid is compromised, the weaker your braking system becomes.
Brakes were not always hydraulically driven, however. The first braking systems placed in automobiles were completely mechanical, making braking a far more grueling task than it is today. It was not until 1914 that the first hydraulic system was installed by American designers. The earliest brake fluids were also composed of drastically different elements. The earliest mixtures were alcohol or castor-oil based. Today, the mixtures being used in vehicles are primarily glycol and silicone-based, making them much more effective while dramatically increasing their lifespan.
Get your brakes flushed and bring those brakes back to life
Brake fluid flushes are a very important part of regular maintenance for all vehicles. For most drivers with a normal routine, having the fluid flushed every 30,000 miles is a nice rule of thumb. The procedure involves completely removing the old fluid before thoroughly flushing the lines in order to rid them of any contaminants that are present. New fluid is then inserted to support the hydraulic braking system. It is also important to note that there is a difference between bleeding the brakes and flushing the system. Bleeding the brake fluid simply involves letting out small portions of the fluid in order to rid the line of any air bubbles. When choosing a shop to have this service performed, compare their prices with other places in the area. You should also rely heavily on word of mouth advertising from previous customers. A shop that cares works hard to build a good relationship with each and every customer.
Scheduled Service Intervals
If your vehicle is approaching the 30,000, 60,000 or 90,000 miles mark, it’s time to schedule regular service. You know that keeping up on maintenance for your vehicle is just as important as taking care of your own yearly physical, but you might not understand exactly what’s behind every service appointment. Service appointments can seem like somewhat of a mystery, but rest assured that vehicle manufacturers have set these guidelines after decades of studying vehicle usage and wear.
- At 30,000 miles, you should expect your fuel filter to be changed. Coolant, power steering and transmission fluids should also be flushed out and replaced at this time. Windshield wiper blades may be changed.
- At 60,000 miles, the basic maintenance completed at 30,000 miles is completed and the timing belt for your vehicle should be replaced. It may also be necessary to replace your battery during this service.
- At 90,000 miles, the same roster of services will be completed as were done at the 30,000 mile service. In addition, spark plugs and other engine components may be changed. If your timing belt wasn’t replaced at the 60,000 mile service, it will likely be replaced now.
If you’re looking for a mechanic to complete scheduled service, remember to work only with licensed professionals who are certified by your vehicle’s manufacturer. It’s a good idea to look for an auto repair shop in your area that specializes in completing regular service and safety checks. Doing so is a great way to ensure that your vehicle is safe and will run as designed.
What is a Tune Up Service?
Specific guidelines as to what a tune-up should include vary from one shop to the next, but it remains clear that regular maintenance ensures efficient and reliable vehicle performance.
What a Tune-up will do for your Vehicle
Tune-up is a catchall word that describes the process of adjusting, realigning and replacing auto parts to make sure that the engine operates at peak efficiency. Before computer-controlled cars came along, these adjustments were performed by an auto mechanic. The process included replacement of spark plugs, examination of distributor points, inspection and replacement of the cap and rotor and other parts. The tune-up reference likened the process to a piano tuner adjusting various parts until the instrument performed to standards.
Use of the word tune-up could also be traced to the magneto ignition systems used in early vehicles. The system included a coil for each spark plug with each coil requiring adjustments to equalize spark intensity. The coils emitted a buzzing sound that would buzz in tune with proper adjustments.
An automobile is a marvel of engineering with thousands of parts designed to work in tandem so that the engine fires up and performs as required. These parts need lubrication, cleaning, adjustment and replacement periodically, and regular tune-ups will catch problems before they lead to engine damage.
Importance of Periodic Tune-ups
Engine problems due to lack of maintenance can render the vehicle undriveable, but a major engine failure while the vehicle is being operated on the highway can be catastrophic for the driver, passengers and other vehicles on the road.
Tune-ups of modern vehicles typically follow manufacturer-recommended timelines at 30,000/60,000 or 90,000 miles. The process should include checking the battery voltage, which is crucial with all the onboard electronic components. It may include scanning for fault codes, checking engine emissions, checking the dynamic compression for leaky valves, bad gaskets and worn seals. Checking the idle speed will verify efficiency of the injector dwell.
How to Choose a Tune-up Shop
Look for a shop where mechanics are certified for the make and model of your car. Referrals from trusted sources are always helpful, but make sure that the mechanic is one who takes the time to explain inspection results, costs and options. Choose a shop where basic safety measures are observed because that is the shop that will handle your vehicle with care.
Fuel Injection Cleaning
You hardly hear a word about carburetors any more, but for the majority of gasoline engines prior to 1980, they were pretty much the only game in town.
Although rudimentary versions of the fuel injector had existed since the early 1900s, most gasoline-powered vehicles never enjoyed the benefits. Instead, they continued to labor under systems whose poor aptitude for fuel atomization and inability to deliver a properly altered mixture resulted in high emissions and low gas mileage.
All that is changed today, with fuel injectors now the primary source of gas delivery in automotive engines everywhere.
The Fuel Injection Revolution
Fuel injection systems have a talent that carburetors lacked: the ability to atomize fuel by pumping it under high pressure through a small nozzle. Optimum fuel economy, enhanced engine performance and improved control of carbon and hydrocarbon emissions are the desirable end result.
However, to do its job correctly, a fuel injection system must be clean. Dirty fuel injectors will be unable to deliver fuel in the proper dosage with the correct spray pattern. This situation will cause:
Hesitation on acceleration.
Loss of power.
Rough engine idle.
Worsening gas mileage.
A proper cleaning is a multistep process that includes:
- The addition of cleaner to the gas lines while the engine is running.
- The introduction of a second cleaner to target the combustion chamber.
- A final hand polishing to wipe out varnish deposits.
If the injectors are dirty enough, they may also require the follow-up of a specialized off-the-car treatment.
Choosing the Right Shop
When your fuel injectors are due for a cleaning, remember that experience counts. The shop you choose should employ trained technicians, use premium materials and guarantee its work. Don’t forget to ask for an up-front estimate before they start.
When dirty fuel injectors are once again clean, you’re sure to notice the difference as your vehicle’s engine responds with improved performance, reduced emissions and longer life.
Why Should I Flush My Car’s Transmission?
Your car uses its automatic transmission to get the maximum power while protecting the engine from over-use. Regular transmission flushes remove gunk and grime that can build up and interfere with the car’s operation.
The automatic transmission first became available in the 1940 Oldsmobile. This was a major innovation. Drivers no longer had to know when their engine needed to shift gears. The wonderful new device took care of that for them.
A transmission’s gears let the car run at different speeds while letting the engine turn at the ideal rate for the work it is doing. With a manual transmission, the driver needs to shift gears frequently. The clutch and gearshift must be used together, and timing is crucial. It can be a lot of work.
Your automatic transmission replaces this work with something called a planetary gear set. Where a manual transmission has multiple sets of gears, this system uses a single set of gears which work according to driving speed. Transmission fluid applies pressure in order to shift gears properly.
Just like your car’s oil, transmission fluid breaks down over time. City driving, carrying heavy loads, even very hot summer weather can make this worse. When the fluid deteriorates, it can’t do its job. And there’s more bad news.
The transmission can collect sludge, grease and dirt. This clogs the channels that let the car shift properly. The result can be grinding noises, difficulty shifting — even problems with the car surging or reacting sluggishly.
Here is what you can expect with a complete transmission flush:
Change fluid in the entire system, including torque converter.
Remove pan and install new transmission filter.
Replace old gasket material with new pan gasket.
Fill with new transmission fluid.
Before you take your car in for a transmission flush, ask if the mechanics are ASE certified. Find if they have experience with your make and model. Is the shop equipped to run diagnostics on any computer components?
Regular transmission flushes can extend the life of your vehicle. Make them a part of your car care routine.
Although you may think of your car’s air conditioning system as a luxury, this critical system helps keep you safe, comfortable and alert during Texas’ hot summers. Your car’s windows act as a greenhouse, trapping heat inside the cabin. Your engine doesn’t help matters; excess heat from the normal operation of your engine can leak into your cabin as well, sending the internal temperature soaring. Keeping your air conditioner in good working condition can help you survive the summer.
How Do Air Conditioners Keep You Cool?
Air conditioners work on a fairly simple and well-understood principle. As liquids evaporate and condense, they absorb and release heat. By taking advantage of certain chemicals, called refrigerants, with convenient boiling and condensing temperatures, air conditioners can manipulate the flow of heat within an enclosed space. These air conditioners consist of three basic parts: a compressor to pressurize the refrigerant, a condenser to cool the refrigerant, and an evaporator to cool your car. The first modern air conditioners were invented in the early 1900s, and some companies began offering aftermarket air conditioners for the vehicles of the well-heeled in the early 1930s. Most automakers didn’t begin offering air conditioning as an option until the 1950s; today, as the technology has become more affordable, almost every vehicle includes air conditioning as a standard feature.
The Importance of Regular Maintenance
Although your car can run without a functional air conditioner, an inefficient or broken air conditioner will make your long commutes and road trips a painful experience, especially in the summer. In extreme cases, you may suffer from exhaustion, dehydration, drowsiness or even heat stroke.
To prevent air conditioning problems, it’s important to stay on top of your maintenance. Like most machines, the components of your air conditioner will wear out over time. Hoses and valves may begin to crack, refrigerant can leak and the condenser may fail. If you notice that your air conditioner doesn’t pack the punch that it used to, make sure to bring it in for a service appointment.
What to Look for When Getting Your Air Conditioner Serviced
Select a air conditioning repair shop with certified and experienced technicians. In addition, the shop should keep a supply of refrigerants in stock to refill your air conditioner. Finally, the shop should have the ability to determine the temperature of the air put out by your air conditioner.
Although your annual Texas vehicle inspection may seem like a hassle, this program helps to keep Texas drivers safe. Many car systems begin experiencing problems in small ways, but they can fail suddenly and catastrophically if left unattended for too long. By having your vehicle inspected each year, you can prevent major problems and keep your car safe.
Why Does the State Require Vehicle Inspections?
In the early 1900s, most cars were custom-built. Vehicles had a wide range of safety features, some more effective than others. Even as automobiles began to spread and become standardized, however, not all drivers maintained their vehicles as scrupulously as they should have. As time passed, the dangers of improperly maintained vehicles became more apparent. By the early 1920s, many groups began advocating regular vehicle inspections to prevent the unnecessary loss of life and property caused by unsafe vehicles. In the 1950s, Texas began taking its first steps towards a mandatory inspection program. Today, all vehicles in Texas are required to undergo a yearly inspection to ensure that each vehicle is road-worthy and safe to drive. These inspections cover essential safety features, such as seat belts, horns and brakes.
Skipping Inspections Can Hurt
Texas is serious about keeping its roadways safe. Starting in 2014, you won’t be able to register your vehicle without proof of your annual inspection, potentially subjecting yourself to a ticket of up to $200. There’s no need to ever get this ticket; vehicle inspections are fast and easy, and they may even save you money in the long run. You can be in and out in under half an hour, and your inspection will be good for a full year. In addition, keeping up with your car’s inspections may help you catch minor car problems before they become expensive and dangerous issues.
Choosing a Shop for Your Inspection
A shop that is qualified to perform state inspections will advertise that it’s an official Texas inspection station. To become an inspection station, auto shops must submit an application and acquire several pieces of essential equipment. Finally, the shop’s employees must be certified by the state to perform inspections.
Your car’s brakes are its most important safety system. Brakes allow you to control your stopping point and avoid collisions. Understanding your brakes will help you keep them in good repair and find a reliable shop when they need to be serviced.
How Do Brakes Work?
Automobile brakes have come a long way since the invention of the automobile. Early brakes were nothing more than a wood block attached to a lever; to stop the car, the driver would pull on the lever, pushing the block against the wheel and slowing it down. Eventually, automakers developed the drum brake, an empty drum mounted to the back of the wheel. Special pads, called shoes, waited inside the drum for the driver to pull a lever. When he did, the shoes would expand outwards and press on the inside of the drum, slowing the car.
Most modern vehicles use a type of brake called a disc brake, which started to become popular in the 1950s and 1960s. With these types of brakes, a flat disc is attached to the back of each wheel. A pad, typically made of ceramic, is attached to a caliper and installed over the disc. When you press the brake pedal, the pad squeezes on the disc, slowing its rotation like a Frisbee caught between your fingers.
Without proper maintenance, your brakes can lose their effectiveness or even fail outright. Although most brake systems are designed to last for around 80,000 miles, you should have a qualified mechanic inspect your brake system about every 10,000 miles. Differences in driving behavior and the age of your car may cause your brakes to wear out earlier. If you notice a squeaking, grinding or rumbling sound coming from your wheels when you stop, have your brakes inspected immediately.
Choosing a Brake Repair Shop
When choosing a brake repair shop, make sure that the shop employs certified and experienced technicians. The shop should offer you a variety of choices when it comes to replacement pads, and they should be able to offer you advice on choosing the type of brake pads to fit your driving style and budget. Finally, the shop should offer you a brake inspection and be able to explain what they will service before you agree to have them fix your brakes.
Many drivers fear the illumination of the check engine light. This small message on the dashboard promises a stressful day, filled with headaches and expensive repairs. However, the check engine light is really one of your best friends; by heeding its advice, you may be able to prevent an even greater problem in your car’s engine.
What is the Check Engine Light?
The check engine light is really a catch-all warning sign. This light illuminates whenever your car’s on-board computer detects that something is amiss; because modern cars are so complicated, it would be impractical to install warning lights for every possible condition on your dashboard. The earliest on-board computers started appearing in the 1970s to provide the precision timing needed for fuel injection systems. As these computers grew more powerful, manufacturers began connecting diagnostic sensors to the computers, allowing the car to proactively monitor the car for problems. Finally, in 1996, on-board diagnostics became a government-mandated feature in all new cars, bringing the check engine light to every car on the road.
How Serious is the Check Engine Light?
Because of the nature of the check engine light, its illumination could signal a simple and inexpensive problem or a complicated and expensive repair. These problems can include a loose gas cap, a faulty sensor or a worn-out engine part. Ignoring the Check Engine light may reduce your engine’s power, negatively impact your fuel economy, prematurely wear out your engine, or cause your car to stop running completely. Some manufacturers also use the check engine light to remind drivers to bring their car in for routine service; typically, these manufacturers program the light to illuminate every 5,000-10,000 miles until it’s manually reset by your service technician.
Choosing a Shop to Diagnose Engine Problems
When choosing a shop to diagnose your engine problems, make sure that its mechanics are certified and trained in dealing with your car’s specific systems. The shop should have a special piece of equipment, called a scanner, to interact with your car’s on-board computer and find out the specific condition that triggered the check engine light. In addition, the shop should not simply rely on their scanner’s results to diagnose the problem; experienced technicians will use the scanner’s results as a first step to guide them to a true diagnosis of your car’s problem.
Changing the oil in your car is one of the simplest and most affordable maintenance chores, yet many people underestimate the importance of clean oil. Regular oil changes can prevent catastrophic engine failures and help engines to last for hundreds of thousands of miles. Before you skip your next oil change, stop to consider all of the benefits of clean oil for your car’s engine.
Why is Engine Oil Important?
Your car’s engine is a fantastically complicated piece of precision machinery, engineered to transform the power of combustion into movement. Engine oil was developed to aid in the process, helping the metallic parts in your engine to slide past one another without seizing up. Early oils were nothing more than the leftover byproducts of fuel production and were usually created in home workshops and local shops. As the automobile industry grew, automakers eventually settled on standard motor oil formulas, allowing drivers around the world to use the same oils.
Fresh Oil Protects Your Engine
Dirty and old oil isn’t as effective as fresh, clean oil; eventually, the oil will accumulate dirt and combustion byproducts and become a gummy sludge that will seize up your engine. To prevent this situation, most car manufacturers recommend that you change the oil in your engine at least every 5,000 miles. The type of oil that you use can also change how long you can wait to change your oil. Mineral oil, also called conventional oil, is refined from crude oil and generally wears out the quickest; it’s also the cheapest grade of oil. Choosing a fully synthetic or synthetic-conventional blend oil will extend the life of your oil, but at an increased cost. Follow your manufacturer’s recommendations when choosing an oil, including its recommendations for viscosity, also called the oil weight.
Choosing an Oil Change Location
When choosing an oil change shop, ask about the brands of oil that they use in the shop. Look for major name brands, including Pennzoil, Quaker State and Castrol. The shop should also give you a choice of oils to use, including both recycled and new oil. Finally, look for any additional services that are included with your oil change, including inspections and fluid top-offs. The courtesy inspections might catch a budding problem while it’s still easy to deal with, saving you money down the road.