When Should I Change My Fluids? 

Change Your Fluids
Oil, transmission, wiper fluids – these are the most often thought of fluids that people regularly change, or have serviced. There are also coolants, brake and power steering fluids that should be serviced according to your owners manual maintenance schedules.  You probably are clear on when to change your oil – the rule of thumb being every 3 months or 3000 miles – but when do you change other fluids?
You should know where to look and what to look for. We’re often told to “check your fluids often,” so let’s see how often that is and when to replace them.


Start your car, take a short drive, and give it 5 minutes to cool down. This lets oil run through the system and then cool down enough to be safe to test. You should know where your oil dipstick is, and if not, consult your owners manual. Since this is such a basic preventative measure, everyone should know how to do this. There is a dipstick usually towards the front of the engine, and easily seen. Pull it out, wipe it with a cloth or towel, and then dip it all the way back into the oil tank. Pull it back out and see check where the oil line is. There is usually a notch in the dipstick to show you where a safe oil level should be. If it seems low, check the cap or your car manual for the type of oil you should use and then add some yourself. With new oils, synthetics and blends, the old rule of changing every 3,000 miles has been extended to 5 to 10,000 miles depending on the kind of oil you use, and driving habits. You should check engine oil at least once a month and preferably more often. I would also suggest checking many, if not all, of these fluids before taking a long trip as a general good habit to have.

Radiator Fluid

This is another critical engine fluid – your radiator keeps your engine from overheating and cycles coolant while in operation. If you run low, you risk overheating and getting stranded or causing damage to the engine. You should check this when your car has been driven, not while its cold. Be careful though, because you can’t just open the radiator cap as soon as you stop. The radiator is pressurized during operation. It needs to cool back down, much like checking your engines oil. Almost universally, you’ll find the radiator cap in the front and middle of the engine compartment. Open it carefully with a rag, and look into the radiator to see if you can see the coolant. If you can’t see it near the top, you’ll need to add more. Check it every 6 months or more often. How often should you change this? Consult your owner’s manual, some vehicles change their radiator fluid on a schedule of  60,000 miles, and then every 30,000 miles after that.

Transmission Fluid

Transmission fluid is the other dipstick that you will see in your engine. It could be a little less obvious than your engine oil dipstick, and again, refer to your owners manual if you have questions. The process for checking is pretty much the same as for oil. Just remove the dipstick, wipe it off with a rag or cloth, and put it back in the tank. Pull it out again to see how high the fluid reaches on the stick. You also want to check the quality. Get a bit on your fingers and rub it around to see if it is pinkish or clear like it should be. If it smells burnt or has particles in it, it’s time for a change.  Most manufacturers recommend that manual transmission fluid be changed every 30,000 to 60,000 miles. Under heavy-duty use, some manufacturers suggest changing transmission fluid every 15,000 miles. Service intervals for an automatic transmission vary from every 30,000 miles to never. Check this at least once a year.

Power Steering Fluid

There is usually a reservoir under the hood that holds your power steering fluid. Often on the passenger side – but refer to your owners manual to be certain. Many cars have a see through reservoir so you can glance at it to see the general level without opening the cap. Open the cap and use the dipstick the same way you would with the oil tank. If the fluid is low, you can easily add more yourself. You may also want to check around the reservoir to make sure there isn’t a leak. This should be done about every two years, or every 75,000 to 100,000 miles.

Brake Fluid

Brake fluid is another one you want to regularly check – if you feel pressure on your brake pedal is becoming looser, this is likely the cause. Brake fluid is pressurized and adds power to your braking and letting this get low can really be dangerous to yourself and other drivers. It is usually near the back of the engine compartment. Unscrew the cap after cleaning the area – you do not want to get any dirt in your brake fluid. Open the reservoir and look inside to see where the fluid level is. It should be within about a half-inch of the cap.  The color should NOT be dark – if it is dark, then your should have us replace it. You probably only need to check your brake fluid levels once a year, and we recommend changing it every 30,000 miles or three years.

Air Conditioning Coolant

During the summer, if your A\C isn’t cutting the heat, it could be due to a loss of refrigerant. Checking this fluid is actually not as easy as the other fluids due to it being charged and under pressure. You can bring it in and have us check it, or have it checked during regular maintenance. Coolant levels can be topped off with kits from a local auto parts store, or your can have us do it for you.

Washer Fluid

Wiper fluid won’t keep your engine from operating badly, but it sure is handy to see where you’re driving. Checking the washer fluid is easy. Most cars have slightly see through washer fluid tanks with a label on the cap like “windshield” or “washer.” You should be able to see inside without removing the cap. Otherwise it should just twist off, since the fluid isn’t pressurized or dangerous. If you need more fluid, don’t just use soap and water. Get some proper washer fluid that’s formulated to handle bugs and road grime. If you’re completely out and in for a dirty drive, the window cleaner you use at home can work until you can get washer fluid.

What the Difference Between 4WD & AWD? 

4 Wheel Drive
We’ll start with what is similar – like All Wheel Drive (AWD) systems, 4 Wheel Drive (4WD) is designed to send torque to all four of a vehicle’s wheels to increase traction when needed. But 4WD systems tend to be more robust than AWD ones and can generally handle more rugged terrain.
When 4WD is selected, torque is split evenly between the four wheels. Part-time 4WD vehicles tend not to have differentials between the front and rear axles.  All-wheel drive is in some ways similar to the full-time 4WD system in that it also sends torque to all four wheels constantly.
Both 4WD and AWD just help you get going in slippery conditions, but they don’t improve handling on corners and they don’t improve braking distances. Both can give drivers a false sense of security. Once it starts driving, unless you have snow tires, all you have is a heavy car.
So what are the differences? AWD has become the description for a car that drives all of the wheels, all of the time. 4WD is generally accepted as a car or more typically a larger SUV (Sports Utility Vehicle) that uses a driver selectable system that mechanically engages the drive to all four wheels. They are vehicles designed to use the extra traction in an off road situation. Usually truck based platforms with large wheels and special off road tires. The 4WD mode is engaged with a mechanical\manually selected system and a locked 4WD driveline. This enables the vehicle to venture off-road and negotiate very difficult terrain. Differences with 4WD are often low or high gear 4X4 modes – which gives a direct mechanical link between front and rear axles. A locked 4WD has no way to allow a difference in the number of rotations on the front and rear axles.
So what does AWD do differently? AWD vehicles drive all of the wheels all of the time, so the system must include a mechanism that is generally a limited slip differential or an electronically controlled clutch to allow a rotational difference between front and rear axles.
Crossover small or medium SUV All-Wheel Drive cars are designed for normal road use with occasional dirt or mild off road use. They generally use permanently engaged AWD systems – and this is the main difference. This makes them safer in that they have twice the grip of a driver selectable 4WD system.

How to Get the Best Gas Mileage

Getting the Best Gas Mileage

The newer your car, truck or SUV is, the better gas mileage you are able to get out it. This is because of lighter materials in construction and more efficient fuel usage in the engine design.  Overall improvements in technology and manufacturing are helping you get more miles for your gas dollars. Outside of manufacturing, there are several steps you as a driver can take to get better – or much worse – mileage. The difference in how to get the best mileage out of your vehicle comes down to driving habits and being mindful of weight and proper maintenance.

How you Drive Accelerate and Brake Gently

The way you drive makes the most difference in how far you can go on a tank of gas. Acceleration and hard braking are the main habits that you can change to get better mileage.  They are not just good defensive driving techniques.  Keep a proper following distance – it won’t just make you a courteous driver, it will also help you on your mileage. By keeping a larger following distance, you can make smoother adjustments.  Every time you slam your brakes instead of evenly slowing and stopping causes your engine to burn much more gas.  Keep a safe following distance while in traffic – the rule of thumb is to keep a minimum of 2 seconds of space between you and the vehicle in front of you.

Overall Weight

Are you driving around with a full trunk? Extra weight contributes to your overall gas mileage by making it harder for the engine to do the same amount of work. One counterintuitive source of significant weight is actually the gas itself. A gallon of gas is 8.34 pounds – if you have an average small car with a 12 gallon tank, a full tank of gas then weighs around 100 pounds.  For every 100 pounds in your car, you can expect to add roughly $31.32 a year.

Inflate Tires to the Correct Pressure

We recently discussed how to get the best life out of your tires. Having tires with the correct pressure not only lengthens their life, but will give you more efficient mileage.

Correct Motor Oil and Regular Oil Changes

Another recent blog entry covers the differences in types of oil and how it impacts your vehicle. Proper oil maintenance not only allows your car to perform better, giving you better mileage, it also keeps the parts from becoming damaged. Most of the loss in gas mileage that isn’t driving habit-related will come from leaks and worn down engine parts.


How easily a vehicle moves through the air is also a factor in gas mileage. This is also why vehicles have been moving further and further away from older boxy looking designs. Automakers fine-tune the way the air attaches to the vehicle’s surface, and the way it leaves the rear end. If you have ski racks or mudflaps, they are just adding wind resistance, making the job of cutting through the air that much more difficult.

Other Basic Habits and Maintenance Tips

Use your cruise control and avoid idling for long periods of time. If you have a manual, drive in the highest gear for the speed you are traveling. Make sure that your gas cap is secured; loose or lost gas caps can kill your gas mileage as it allows the gas to easily evaporate right into the air.
When buying gas, use apps like Gasbuddy to find the best price in your area.  Air filters can also affect your mileage and should be considered something to routinely check as part of maintenance.

Getting the Most Out of Your Tires

Worn Out Tires
Tire pressure, alignment and tread wear are the main killers of tires over time. You can take steps to counteract tread wear by rotating your tires and stay on top of the other issues with routine checks and basic tire maintenance.

Tire Pressure

Tires are built to specifications that they are intended to be driven on. Under or over inflating tires can cause damage to the tire and each vehicle has a tire size\pressure combination that it is intended to run at. There is actually a tire load index that manufacturers release to determine what your tires can safely carry. For example, if a tire has a load index of 92, it can support 1,389 pounds at maximum air pressure. Multiply that by four tires (4 x 1,389 = 5,556 pounds) to get your car’s maximum load carrying capacity. Never install tires with a lower load carrying capacity than the original tires that were factory installed on your vehicle.
Those rims and low profile tires you want may look the way you want, but they need to support your car’s Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR).  This number can be found in the owner’s manual.  You don’t exactly need to do all the math yourself, but keep it in mind and if you have questions about it, ask your mechanic or a tire shop to confirm the tires will work with your car.

Check Pressure Weekly

For every 10-degree Fahrenheit decrease in temperature, the pressure will drop 2 psi (pounds per square inch). So, as it gets colder and when we experience Texas weather fluctuations where we get all the seasons in one day, tires will need to be checked and inflated more often. Tires naturally lose pressure as well. Some newer cars often have features like a Tire Pressure Management System that lets you check on the pressure of each tire from the dashboard.


If your car actively pulls or drifts right or left, or the steering wheel vibrates or shakes, your car may have a wheel alignment problem. Your vehicle could be driving fine and still be out of alignment. When you bump up against a parking lot barrier, hit a pothole, or hit the curb, something has to give, and it’s often your alignment. Driving while out of alignment unevenly causes wear on the tread, even if it is not a noticeable pull while driving. If it IS a noticeable pull, it is something you will want to have corrected by a mechanic and getting ahead of the issue before it causes your tires to be ruined or even causes blowout can save you a ton of pain and money. You should have it checked every six months or whenever you think something is wrong.

Tread Wear

Do not wait until you can actively feel your vehicle pulling one way or another. If you do, it may already be too late to prevent premature wear. Run your hand over the thread and visually inspect the tires. You should look for distortion in the tread, feathering or cupping. If corrected early enough, bad wear patterns can be countered by rotating the tires, and tire life can be extended. Tire rotation makes it more likely that the treads will wear down evenly. Rotate your tires every 5,000 miles. Front wheel drive has more wear on, you guessed it, the front wheels. That can cause uneven tire wear. On rear-wheel drive vehicles, it’s the back tires. Even all-wheel drive vehicles can see uneven wear, as most shift the drive from one wheel to another.  If you replace a tire, it is important that you replace it with the same kind of tire. It is recommended that you replace your tires after 6 years of age, regardless of tread depth.

How Do I Read the Engine Oil Bottle Numbers and Letters?

Check Engine Oil
It is time to change your oil, or maybe you are just curious. What exactly are the numbers on all the oil selections at your auto parts store? You should know what kind of oil is appropriate for your car and your owners manual should have that information in the front of the manual.  Some new engines require synthetic oil, while older engines use conventional oil.


All oils are intended for an application and in general are not interchangeable. So what are we looking for in an oil? What does it do?  The oil must be thick enough to adhere to the components as it passes by to provide adequate lubrication. At the same time, it must be thin enough to easily flow through the system.


Most oils on the shelves today are “Multigrades”, which simply means that the oil falls into 2 viscosity grades (i.e. 10w-40 etc)
In a 10w-40 for example the 10w bit (W = winter, not weight or watt or anything else for that matter) simply means that the oil must have a certain maximum viscosity/flow at low temperature. The lower the “W” number the better the oil’s cold temperature/cold start performance.

The 40 in a 10w-40 simply means that the oil must fall within certain viscosity limits at 100°C. Once again the lower the number, the thinner the oil: a 30 oil is thinner than a 40 oil at 100°C, etc.

Service Classifications: A two-letter code is listed on the motor oil label that tells you which types of vehicles the oil is designed for. It will begin with either an S for gasoline engines or a C for diesel engines. The second letter tells you which model years the oil is designed to work with. For the letter A, the oil meets requirements of vehicles that were developed before 1930. The classification of current vehicles is N, so that the two-letter code should read SN for owners of relatively new, gasoline powered cars. This is mainly important for classic cars.

Gasoline – All specifications prior to SL are now obsolete and, although suitable for some older vehicles, are more than 10 years old, and do not provide the same level of performance or protection as the more up to date SL and SM specifications.

Diesel – All specifications prior to CH4 are now obsolete and, although suitable for some older vehicles, are more than 10 years old and do not provide the same level of performance or protection as the more up to date CH4 & CI4 specifications.
If you want a better more up to date oil specification then look for SL, SM, CH4, CI4

A lot of the other information are meaningless and just marketing blurbs. Be wary of statements like “synthetic blend” if you are looking for a fully synthetic oil as this will merely be a semi-synthetic.

Like everything in life, you get what you pay for and the cheaper the oil the cheaper the ingredients and lower the performance levels.

Symptoms of Using the Wrong Oil

If you use the wrong viscosity oil, you won’t notice much difference as long as it is close in grade. However, the engine will wear down sooner and may provide lower performance. Mixing synthetic motor oil with conventional oil and vice-versa can damage internal engine seals and gaskets and lead to overheating problems.

Having a professional service your vehicle can avoid issues of using the wrong kinds of oil. Be sure to pay attention to your mileage and when the last time you changed your oil was.

How Bad is Distracted Driving?

Distracted Driving

You have seen it. You may even have been the example. However you can relate – distracted driving is a serious threat to public safety. How serious?  Distracted driving is a leading cause of car crashes in the United States. Texting, talking on a cell phone, and eating and drinking are the most common driver distractions.

Distracted driving continues to be a problem in Texas as data indicates that drivers are not changing their behaviors. With 1 in 5 crashes involving distracted driving – a ratio that has not changed in the past three years – this should be a sobering call to awareness.Statistics courtesy of Txdot and DMV.

In 2017, the total number of reportable motor vehicle traffic crashes on Texas roads was 537,475. Of those, 100,687 or 19% involved distracted driving (driver distraction, inattention or cellphone use). The 100,687 crashes in Texas resulted in 444 deaths and 2,889 serious injuries.

Every year, about 421,000 people are injured in crashes that have involved a driver who was distracted in some way. Each year, over 330,000 accidents caused by texting while driving lead to severe injuries. This means that over 78% of all distracted drivers are distracted because they have been texting while driving.
In 2016 alone, 3,450 people were killed.

According to a study conducted by the Cohen Children’s Medical Center, distracted driving crashes cause 9% more teen deaths than alcohol-related accidents. The more passengers that are in the car, the higher the accident risk for teenage drivers.
Let’s say that one more time- distracted driving causes more teen deaths than alcohol-related accidents! But before you think to get on your teenager about the risks, consider that parents are largely responsible for their teen’s risky behavior. 15% of youth drivers have witnessed their parents send or read text messages while behind the wheel.

The statewide ban on texting and driving was one of 673 new Texas laws as of Sept. 1. If you’re driving, you can still use your phone to talk hands-free. But texting and driving state-wide is strictly illegal.

What do I do If I get a flat tire on the highway?

Flat Tire
Blow outs and flat tires can be one of the scarier things to go wrong for you on the highway.   The AAA says “tire-related” problems are responsible for approximately one-third of all roadside emergencies.   It happens so often that thousands of drivers are dealing with this problem just while you took the time to read this blog entry. About seven times every second!

What Should I Do If I Get a Flat Tire While I’m Driving?

You hear the thumping or bumping, your vehicle might be pulling to the left or right, and you suspect it is an issue with your tires. Don’t panic, put on your emergency flashers. Slow down, and try to get off the road. If you’re near a parking lot, you can pull in to it otherwise, pull off onto the right shoulder as far as possible. The left side shoulder may be an option on certain freeways. You do not want to continue driving far because without air in the tire, there is just a thin piece of rubber between the pavement and your rim. Any extra time driving on that piece of rubber makes it THAT much more likely that a flat tire becomes a blowout. You can easily bend the rim as well if you drive on it for any period of time.
Let those considerations make the choice for you between trying to make the next exit and choosing the nearest shoulder to safely pull off.

Should I Try Fixing a Flat Tire Myself?

The frustration of being on the side of the road on a busy highway is bad. With a lugnut that will not break loose it is even worse. It is something I have experienced myself and I don’t recommend it for anyone. Changing a tire can be a simple task but the complications can easily add up and make calling roadside assistance a good idea.The steps to do it yourself SHOULD be just a matter of loosening a few lug nuts, jacking up the car, swapping wheels and getting the lug nuts tight again. Years without being unscrewed or a previous mechanic using an air wrench that tightens the lugnuts extremely tight make these steps far more difficult.
The easiest repairs quickly can become dangerous. With traffic whizzing by at 70 mph, or if you’ve pulled over so that the flat tire is on the same side as the passing cars and trucks, the risk is even higher.
Fewer and fewer new vehicles have spare tires. The AAA reports that nearly 30 percent of the cars and trucks produced for the 2017 model year rely on alternatives such as run-flat tires and inflator kits instead. And neither will help if you have more than a small hole in your tire.  Run-flat tires are a thing. They contain capsules of lubricant so the tyre can be driven on, flat, for tens of miles at modest speed. Enough to get to a garage. The downside is that once they’re driven on flat, they cannot be repaired.
Most modern vehicles have tire-pressure monitoring, so you ought to know if a tire is going or has gone flat even if you can’t tell by the handling.

The best tool for changing tires

Pew studies for 2017 show that 95% of people have a cellphone while only 70% of new cars have spare tires. Your cellphone may just be the best tool you have for responding to a flat on the highway. Ultimately, your safety is the most important consideration- tires can be replaced, people can not be.

What’s In Your Car’s Emergency Kit?

What's In Your Car's Emergency Kit?
Being prepared can make a huge difference in how you are able to respond to an emergency on the road. Breakdowns and accidents are by nature not planned. You have a spare tire and a basic jack to change a tire, but is that the extent of your car’s emergency kit? Here is a list from dmv.org on for an emergency kit:
  • First Aid kit. Some of the items to include are:
    • Band-Aids
    • Hand sanitizer.
    • Antiseptic.
    • Antibiotic ointment.
    • Bug spray.
    • Aspirin (or similar).
    • Cotton balls.
    • Gauze pads.
    • Tweezers.
    • Bandana.
    • Ace bandage.
  • Fire extinguisher. Choose a small one that is easy to store.
  • Road flares (if not already in your tire-changing tools).
  • Jumper cables.
  • Rain ponchos.
  • Tarp.
  • Flashlight and extra batteries.
  • Rags.
  • Duct tape
  • Scent-free baby wipes.
  • Drinking water and non-perishable snacks.
  • Multipurpose tool.
Some optional items for your roadside kit include:
  • Collapsible shuttle.
  • Ice scraper.
  • Cat litter for slick roads.
  • Small battery-powered fan.
  • Blankets and/or warm clothing.
Other great ideas are keeping fluids that are commonly needed. Oil, antifreeze, and brake fluid for your vehicle are excellent choices if you need them in a pinch. If you have an older car, add these to your kit—but if you regularly check your fluids, you shouldn’t need them.

A final suggestion is to include items that suit your family. If you have kids or pets, you can add things like diapers, dehydrated food, dog treats, or a water bowl.

Winter Car Care Tips

Winter Car Care Tips
Winter will be here before you know it. While we don’t see extreme temperatures very often here in Texas, the colder temperatures do take a toll on your car. In order to make sure your vehicle is in tip-top shape and can get you where you’re going without any worry, there are a few things that need to be checked and maintained.

Battery Power

Cold temperatures significantly reduce the power that your battery puts out. If your battery is getting close to the end of its life, it may be time to invest in a new one. Of course, you can always bring it in to a mechanic or auto parts store to verify that it is still providing enough cranking amps to weather the Winter temperatures.


Making sure your car has a proper amount of anti-freeze will make things much easier on your engine. Anti-freeze lowers the freezing point of the fluid that keep your car from overheating. Your engine requires anti-freeze/coolant to keep moving throughout the engine to maintain its temperature. When your coolant is a frozen block of ice, it could result in expensive damage to your engine!

Windshield Wipers/Wiper Fluid

If it’s below freezing outside and raining, your sight becomes compromised by ice forming on your windshield. The first line of defense against ice forming in your line of sight is a good windshield wiper. If your wipers have tears and cracks in them, they will likely run right over ice that has frozen to the glass. Installing a new set of wipers and filling your wiper fluid reservoir with specially formulated ice melting fluid will help you keep your windshield ice free!

Tire Pressure

Cold weather also means your tires air pressure takes a dip. hen your tires are low on air pressure, they can droop and lift the tread in the center of the tire off of the ground. This is dangerous because the tread of your tire is what gives you traction on wet and icy roads! Once the temperatures drop, double check your tire pressure to the manufacturer’s specifications!

When Should I Get New Brake Pads?

Brake Pads

What’s the one thing you rely on to stop your car? The brakes! Brake pads are the first line of defense to prevent you from getting into a fender-bender. Mashing on the brake pedal has certainly gotten you out of trouble before! So, it’s worth the time to make sure your brakes are in proper working order. Here are a few warning signs that it may be time for a new set of brake pads.



Modern brake pads are designed to make shrill screeching sound when the pads have worn down to a certain level. When you press on the brake and it starts making that sound, head over to our shop and we can get you taken care of.


Vibrating Pedal

When you come to a hard stop and feel the pedal vibrating, that could mean that your brake rotor needs to be resurfaced and, possibly, your brake pads need to be replaced. In modern cars with ABS brake systems, you will feel the pedal vibrate when you come to a hard stop. This is caused by the ABS system stopping the brakes from locking up, helping you keep control of the car.


Stopping Distance

If you’ve noticed that you have to press down on the brake pedal a little harder to make sure you stop in time, that could mean that your brake system needs to be looked at. It could be a leak of brake fluid, or insufficient surface area on your brake pads.


Warning Lights

In most modern cars, they are equipped with a sensor that will notify the driver when it’s time to take a look at the brakes. Check your owner’s manual to see just how your car will let you know. Most cars will flash a light around the speedometer and odometer when you start your car.


Contact Rick’s Radiator and Muffler today at (972)723-8467 for brake repair!