Transmission Flush

 

Photo courtesy of Amara U/flickr

Most car owners put off some services until problems arise. A vehicle’s transmission is key to driving and signs of it failing should not be ignored. A transmission flush is important to the health of a vehicle and is an excellent preventative measure. The purpose of the transmission is to ensure that the right amount of power is going to the wheels so your vehicle can drive at any given speed. It shifts gears similar to that of a bicycle, without the chain, the bike cannot go. A car’s transmission works in the same way. If it is not properly maintained, you can lose fuel-economy or the loss to drive at all.

A transmission flush is the process where all of the oil in a transmission is removed and new oil is then run through. A special machine is used to push out any grime or sludge so that all debris is removed and 100% of the used oil can be replaced with fresh quarts.

There is a difference between a transmission flush and a fluid change. Having your transmission flushed requires a professional grade machine. The process involves removing contaminants from the torque converter and cooler lines and uses special solutions to do so. Changing transmission fluid simply drains using gravity. This process does not guarantee that all contaminants will be flushed out.

For automatic transmissions, a flush is recommended at 50,000 miles and up to 100,000 miles or every two years. The average cost for a flush is between $125-$250 for a full service.

Some signs that your transmission may be failing and need a flush include slipping or feeling like your car is not changing gears, hearing clunking noises when changing gears, delayed engagement between gears, fluid leaks, and warning lights. If your vehicle is experiencing these symptoms, contact us today for an inspection.

Engine Tuning

Engine tuning has a long history originating with early race cars. It can involve simple routine adjustments to overhauling the entire engine. No matter what type of tuning you are looking into, here are some things you should know.

Engine tuning is the adjustment or modification of the internal combustion engine or modification of its control unit. It can be used to adjust optimal performance, increase an engine’s power output, economy, or durability. Most cars today are made to be as reliable and economical as possible. Any upgrades or modifications should be made with consideration and documentation.

Some vehicles just need a good tune-up. Poor gas mileage, burning through motor oil, and having a rough start can be signs that your vehicle is in need of one. Simple solutions like cleaning the intake, replacing the air filter, spark-plugs, and cables can help restore and revamp your car.

Vehicles are subject to torsion or twisting when accelerating and this can cause warping in the framework over time. Reinforcement such as torque bars can be installed to address this problem. Torque bars vary per vehicle drivetrain type.

A performance-tuned ECU (Engine Control Unit) should be performed if the check engine light has been flashing or if the vehicle is struggling to start or idles. This tuning helps to understand any significant changes in horsepower or torque data. An ECU can also be used to modify gear ratios in automatic transmissions.

Cold-air-intakes (CAI) and catbacks (performance exhaust systems) are more for show than horsepower but engine and exhaust noise is more noticeable and small increases in horsepower is possible if done correctly.

If the desire is to supercharge the engine, kits are usually expensive but can provide the moxie that you are going for. Be sure that your engine can safely withstand such major upgrades. Unless you are mechanically-savvy, however, it is always better to have a professional do it for you.

Shocks and Struts

Photo courtesy of Dave Wirth/flickr

The terms “shock” and “strut” are commonly used interchangeably. They both damp the movement of the spring and stop oscillation and bounce but are completely different parts. A strut cannot replace a shock and vice versa. Every vehicle is designed with either shocks or struts at each wheel and you cannot change one out with the other. The major difference between the two is that a strut is a structural part of the vehicle suspension and a crucial part of the steering system that greatly affects alignment angles where a shock is not. Camber and caster angles are usually adjusted right on the strut. Struts are typically more expensive than shocks because they are a pivot point for the steering system and contain a coil spring. Shocks are integral to the vehicle’s handling and braking performance. Without shocks, the springs on a car will cause it to bounce around every time it hits a bump. Functioning shock absorbers allow springs to react to driving conditions and return to normal ride height quickly.

Both shocks and struts do not need to be replaced at a specific mileage but there are warning signs to identify when it is time to get them inspected. Both wear out over time and all cars are driven differently. The failure to maintain a safe suspension system, however, can be dangerous.

Excessive bouncing can be a warning sign that your shocks are worn out. Coil springs are a part of the vehicle’s suspension system. Whether your car has shocks or struts, when you drive over a bump, your car bounces on the coil springs and the absorbers keep your car from bouncing nonstop. If you notice that your vehicle continues to bounce after driving over a bumpy road it may be time to inspect the struts or shocks.

Shocks and struts help keep your car steady and stable at all times. If you notice that your car dives at the front or at the nose when you brake or if your car “squats” when you accelerate, it may be time to get the shocks or struts inspected.

Tire “cupping” or “scalloping” is when the tires on a vehicle bounce up and down when you drive and bits of rubber get scraped off. This can happen when the shocks or struts are worn out and the tread on your tires is off.

Leaking fluid is one last symptom to look out for. It is normal for some hydraulic fluid to leak out of the shocks and struts but when it is excessive and the shocks and struts look wet and oily, then you need to get your car inspected.

If your car is experiencing any of these symptoms or if you are unsure whether your vehicle as struts or shocks, contact us today!

Winter Weather Driving Tips

Photo Courtesy of Chris Connelly/Flickr

Strong winds, ice, and low temperatures can create hazardous driving conditions. Drivers should be cautious when severe weather hits. If you do not have to be out, don’t risk it. Driving on ice can be very dangerous and you should avoid getting out on the road unless you absolutely have to. If you have to drive during severe winter weather, follow these tips to ensure a safe trip.

Be prepared. Before the weather hits, make sure your vehicle is winterized. Check tire pressure as it tends to go down in the winter. If tires are under inflated they can cause a vehicle to react more slowly. Battery power goes down as well when the temperature lowers. Make sure your battery has sufficient voltage. Check your lights. You want to be seen coming down the road as well as see what is in front of you. Other things to check are the heater and ignition system. Make sure the gas tank is sufficiently full and that the oil has been changed. Restock your first aid and emergency supplies in case you get stranded.

Do not start driving until the windshield and other windows are clear. Even if you are only going a short distance, you need to be able to see around you in hazardous conditions. If you want to warm up your car before getting in, make sure it is in an open area. Do not leave the garage door shut for example.

When hitting the road start slow to get a feel of road conditions. Test the steering control and braking ability. Rain, snow, and ice have huge effects on the braking distance of a vehicle. Being able to complete a smooth and safe stop is severely limited due to reduced tire traction. Take gentle turns and drive at a low speed. Avoid sudden movements and brake gently when stopping. Keep a safe distance between you and the car in front of you. Make sure your wiper blades are functioning. There are even special blades available that assist in removing snow.

If you happen to be caught in winter weather or stalled, stay with your but do not overexert yourself. Contact 911 or emergency roadside assistance as soon as you can. Running your car for long periods of time with the windows rolled up can cause carbon monoxide poisoning. To say warm, make sure the exhaust pipe is cleared of any debris or snow and run your vehicle sporadically.

Battery Maintenance

Photo Courtesy of Flickr/Mike Mozart

 

Car batteries are important as they supply the necessary current to the starter motor and ignition system while cranking to start the engine. If your vehicle’s battery is not functioning properly, you will not be able to drive it.

Testing your vehicle’s battery can prevent it from dying or causing other issues. Testing should not be done only in an emergency or when you start noticing problems. It should be used as a preventative measure. Most experts agree that it should be done frequently as a precaution. To be proactive, you should test it at least twice a year.

One way to keep track of your battery’s performance is to check the label. There should be punch-outs with the month and year the battery was purchased. If the battery was manufactured more than 4 years ago, it may be time to replace it. Symptoms of a bad car battery can be found even before it dies or stops working. If your vehicle takes longer than usual to start, this could be a sign of a bad battery. Look for corrosion on the battery and its terminals.

If your battery is dead, there is not much to do other than dispose of it and buy a new one. Getting rid of the old battery however must be done in a clean manner or recycled as lead-acid batteries are an environmental hazard. First, you can find a recycling location in your area that takes car batteries. AAA has a system for recycling old batteries and more information can be found here. You can also take the battery to a parts store or auto shop. This is most common since this is where new batteries are purchased.

Batteries are not universal and different vehicles require different types. When purchasing a new battery, make sure you know what kind of your vehicle needs and how much you want to spend. Refer to the owner manual of your vehicle to get the size and measurements for a new battery. You can also check the manual for the minimum cranking amp value that your car requires. Performance is important and you want to look for batteries that have a higher cold cranking amp. When budgeting, a typical, low cost car battery will be no more than $200. Batteries with higher performance, resilient construction, and a good warranty will be more expensive.

Winter Car Care

Temperatures are starting drop and with them, come challenges for car owners such as icy roads, freezing temperatures, and strong winds. Here are car care tips to ensure that your vehicle stays in great shape all winter long.

Antifreeze or coolant is paramount to your vehicle in the winter. It ensures that your car will not freeze in cold temperatures. Have coolant levels checked and leaks in the engine to lower your engine’s freezing point, mix 50/50 of coolant and water.

Days are shorter in winter months and that means commuters must drive with less light. Vehicle owners should make sure that all of the lights on their car are working properly. Replace any broken bulbs and restore any foggy or yellow headlights.

Car batteries lose their charge more slowly in colder temperatures, but if a battery was going bad in the summer or had a leak, it will most likely die in the winter. Take your vehicle in and have a volt test performed to make sure that it is working properly or if you need to replace it.

Tire pressure can drop as temperatures get colder. Low tire pressure causes strain on your tires as well as potential tread separation which could lead to an accident. It is important to keep track of your tire pressure and if they are low, to fill them up as soon as you can.

Check your wiper blades for replacement. Fog and rain can cut down visibility in winter and shoddy blades can be dangerous. When ice or snow falls on your windshield, make sure to turn off your wiper blades when you park. This will help the wiper motor the next time you turn on the vehicle from burning out. If you do not have a garage, you can pop the wiper blades up when you park so they don’t freeze to the windshield.

Add a bottle of fuel deicer to your tank once a month. This will help moisture from freezing in the fuel line. Do not let your tank get too low. Keeping the gas tank full also helps to prevent moisture from forming.

Gift Guide for Car Lovers

 

Tis the season for gifts! It can be hard to shop for car lovers but we are here to help. Here are some ideas for this holiday season.

Customized Floor Mats
WeatherTech is an American company that makes customized floor mats, trunk liners, and other accessories. Their floor liners are laser measured to protect all sides of the vehicle’s footwell and are engineered with advanced surfacing that makes cleaning messes unbelievably simple. Most car lovers have heard of them and would relish any gift from the company. If you are unable to provide floor mats for your loved one’s vehicle, WeatherTech offers gift cards as well.

Satellite Radio Subscription
Many cars come with satellite radio units, but most car owners let those introductory subscriptions lapse. Purchase a subscription or gift card to streaming services like SiriusXM.

Portable jump-starter/charger.
Jumper cables are quickly becoming a thing of the past. Portable jump-starters are easy to use and can also be utilized to charge smartphones, tablets, and other devices. They come in sizes small enough to fit into the glove compartment and run relatively inexpensive.

Smartphone Dash Mount
Keep your driver safe and from a ticket. A dash mount will allow them to use their smartphone hands-free while driving.

Heated Massage Cushion
For those that spend a lot of time in their vehicle, offer some relief. Portable seat cushions attach to the seat with heat and massage capabilities. If they would like to use it at their office or recliner at home, they can remove it easily.

Hail Protector Car Cover System
Texas may not get a lot of snow, but hail is a problem. For those that may not have a garage, they can keep their cars safe. It inflates using a remote control and can cover sedans, hatchbacks, and wagons up to 175” in length.

High-quality Auto Care Products
Create a gift basket they will love filled with a chenille wash mitt, professional microfiber towels, a collapsible bucket, foam auto wash, and more!

500 Nascar Race Weekend
For the those that love Nascar, grab them tickets to the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 Nascar Race weekend.

Fall Car Camping

Photo courtesy of Liz West/flickr

Summer has finally ended and it’s time to start enjoying outside. Over the past 20 years, fewer kids have been introduced to the pastime of camping so there is a declining number of adults who know how to pitch a tent or use a camp stove. If you are new to camping or want to start, car camping is a great first step. Most state parks provide access to toilets and showers and camping in your vehicle can help ease you into the great outdoors. Mistakes are easier to make and learn from with the safety net of your vehicle. Follow these tips to stay safe and make the most out of your car camping trip.

 

Remember safety first. Never sleep in a vehicle while it is running. Find campgrounds that require guests to register and who monitor unregistered visitors. Lock your vehicle’s doors and store valuables out of sight. The camping community is friendly and open but you want to be wise. Use apps like AllStays or Hipcamp to find out where you can stay legally and not be bothered. They list a variety of free or paid locations.

 

When packing, keep it simple. The Ten Essentials assembled in the 1930s by The Mountaineers has been updated to help people be prepared in the outdoors. This list includes navigation, sun protection, insulation, flashlight, first aid kit, matches or a lighter, food, water, repair kit, and emergency shelter. For most people, devices like smartphones are used as maps and flashlights. Charging, however, can be difficult on the road. Plugging devices into your car to charge overnight is not an option but there are mini solar panels or rechargeable batteries on the market that can keep all of your devices charged for the duration of your trip. Follow food safety precautions and do not keep perishable food in your car for long. Trail mix, freeze dried meals, or hot dogs over a fire are specially designed for campers and require minimal packing and prep time.

 

Read up on camping etiquette. Clean your campsite and follow Leave No Trace principles which are practices to protect natural spaces. This includes disposing of waste properly, minimizing campfire impacts, respecting wildlife, and being considerate of other visitors. Respect quiet hours, use lowlights and don’t cut through campsites.

November Car Events

Photo courtesy of Greg Gjerdingen/flickr

 

The leaves are falling and there is lots to do! Grab your coat and come out to local car shows and fundraisers to honor veterans and kick off the holiday season.

 

Friday, November 3

 

GenNow Annual Car Show
American Airlines Federal Credit Union
4151 Amon Carter Blvd., Ft. Worth, TX
10:30am-2:00pm

Generation Now is teaming up with AAdvantage and AACU to raise $2,000 and awareness for Dallas Animal Services and Pet Adoptions. Suggested vehicle entry is $25 and 1st place wins 25,000 AAdvantage miles. Donations are also welcome. There will be music, food trucks, and more.

 

Saturday, November 4

 

O’Reilly Auto Parts 300

Texas Motor Speedway

3545 Lone Star Cir

Fort Worth, TX

As the NASCAR Xfinity series season winds down, this event is make or break for drivers who have hopes of winning the championship. Kids 12 and under are free and adult ticket prices starting at $25.

 

Sunday, November 12

 

Turkey Trax Auto Show

Forney Community Park
241 S FM 548, Forney, TX
9:00am
In 2007, the City of Forney started the Turkey Trax to bring the community together and honor local veterans. Now held annually the second Sunday in November, Turkey Trax rallies hundreds of collector vehicles in many classes including Vintage, Antiques, Classics, Muscle Cars, and Trucks. As the 10th anniversary of the event, the community will be returning to the original idea of the event by paying honor to all area veterans. There will be a family friendly Veterans 5K to be held before the car show. Car show participants and guests will be encouraged to proudly sport their military pride as patriotic themes will be on display throughout the event grounds. A portion of all proceeds raised will benefit local veteran organizations.

Tailgating Safety Tips

Photo courtesy of Jarrett Campbell/flickr

 

Fall is officially here and that means it’s time for football season and firing up the grill. Whether you plan to get together before or after the game, here are some ways to ensure that everyone can enjoy the festivities.

 

Food Temperatures and Sanitation

 

No one wants their party ruined by a case of food poisoning. To prevent bacteria from growing you want to pay attention to food temperatures. Cold foods should be stored in a cooler or styrofoam container with plenty of ice. There are many ice packs on the market now that stay cold for hours and can be re-used for future tailgating parties. This can save you money and that tedious task of pouring out the water after. Hot foods should be kept well insulated and there are lots of containers made for this. To see a list of recommended food temperatures, go to www.foodsafety.gov. If you are cooking meats, beware of cross-contamination. Clean all utensils, surfaces, and cutting boards after preparing raw meat. Wash your hands before and after handling the meat and always dry with paper towels as dish towels hold bacteria. When packing, place raw meat in separate and individual containers.

 

Grill Rules

 

If you are using a gas grill, make sure you know all of the safety features. Do not light it when the lid is closed, for example, otherwise, you risk an explosion. Read the grill safety guide for instructions on lighting and hose maintenance. In the event of any issues, have a fire extinguisher on hand as well as a first aid kit. You may know how to use your grill, but a combination of wind and paper plates may cause an issue you did not think about. Park your grill at least 6 feet away from any car or combustible and always keep children and pets at a safe distance.

 

After Party

 

When the food is all cooked and everyone is ready to get going, make sure your grill has cooled. If you used coals, make sure they are completely cooled and throw them out. Look for specially designated bins to do this. Throw out all perishable leftovers. It may seem tempting to keep that potato salad for later, but you should not leave food unrefrigerated after two hours.

 

Designate a Driver

 

Everyone wants to have fun, but do not let your party end in a bad decision later. Choose who is going to take one for the team earlier in the day so it is already decided before you start tailgating. This way, you can focus all your energy and excitement on the game.

 

Happy football season!