Serpentine Belt Service at The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley in Lancaster
Aug 30, 2017
If you've ever heard a squealing sound under your vehicle hood, chances are it was your serpentine belt. More importantly, the belt powers the alternator. The alternator creates electricity that's used by your vehicle's electrical systems and also charges the battery. Without the alternator, the battery will go dead after a short distance.
The serpentine belt may also run the pumps for both the power steering (some are electric) and power brakes (some use vacuum boost).
And, on most vehicles, the serpentine belt powers the water pump. The water pump circulates coolant through the engine to keep it within optimal operating temperatures. On some Lancaster vehicles, the water pump is powered by the timing belt instead of the serpentine belt.
When they understand what it does, Lancaster drivers realize that if it breaks, it affects a lot of systems. That's why vehicle manufacturers outline recommended replacement guidelines in the owner’s manuals. If this important maintenance component is not included in your owner’s manual, come see us at The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley.
At The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley inLancaster, your professional technician can perform a visual inspection of the belt to see if it has any cracks that signal the belt could fail soon. If the belt has more than three or four cracks every inch or couple of centimeters, has deep cracks that penetrate half the depth of the belt, is frayed, is missing pieces or has a shiny, glazed look, it needs to be replaced regardless of age or mileage.
If it has lost a significant amount of thickness, it also needs to be replaced. Talk to your service advisor at The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley. There's a special 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 The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley, we recommend that the tensioner be replaced at the same time as the serpentine belt.
As mentioned, a squealing sound could alert you that the serpentine belt needs to be replaced. It may be loose if you hear a slow, slapping sound when idling your vehicle.
All in all, the serpentine belt is very important to the operation of your vehicle. And it's not that expensive to replace at The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley – so it's good to do so before it fails.
Regular Schedule or Severe Service Schedule at The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley?
Jul 30, 2017
Today's The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley article focuses on severe service maintenance. Many Lancaster drivers are not aware of them and yet there are also very vocal advocates in California who think that severe service schedules apply to everyone. Somewhere between a complete lack of awareness and the dire blanket statements lies a reasonable approach to severe service maintenance at The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley.
To back up a little, vehicle owner's manuals have schedules for preventive maintenance: things like oil changes, transmission service and so on. They say you should change your oil after a certain distanced traveled or after so many months. Lancaster drivers understand this very well. What they may not know is that there are actually two service schedules: the regular schedule and the severe service schedule. The mileage and time intervals are lower on the severe service schedule.
Now when you hear 'severe service,' you may think it doesn't apply to you because you don't feel your driving conditions are severe or extreme – it's just normal everyday driving in the Lancaster area. So let's list some of the conditions that classify as severe so that you can make the judgment on your own driving.
Before we start the list, here's a point of contrast that definitely is not severe driving. Driving down your nearest California interstate at the highway speed limit on a 75 degree F/24 degree C day loaded only with your passengers. This is an easy trip for your vehicle: your engine is loafing along at low RPMs, no heavy loads to pull and moderate Lancaster temperatures. Now let's look at some severe service driving conditions.
Most trips around Lancaster are less than four miles/six and a half kilometers. When your vehicle engine cools down, moisture condenses in the engine. This water in the oil doesn't get a chance to evaporate on short trips because the oil doesn't get hot enough. A lot of short trips in your vehicle means a lot of water build up. And water in the oil leads to the creation of sludge which can damage the engine. Changing the oil more frequently keeps sludge from building up. By contrast, highway driving warms the engine up and gets the water burned off.
Here's another example. Most trips around Lancaster are less than 10 miles/16 km and outside temperatures are below freezing. This is the same reasoning, but in very cold California weather it takes even longer for the oil to get hot enough to evaporate the water, hence 10 miles/16 km as opposed to 4 miles/6.4 km.
Next, you drive in very hot California weather. The hotter it is outside, the more cooling the engine, transmission, brake fluid and so on becomes. The environment in which the fluids reside is more hostile, and the fluids simply break down faster. Therefore, the lower change interval.
Another: driving at low speed most of the time. Every vehicle engine has what's called its power band. This is a range of RPMs in which it's most efficient. Low speed driving doesn't keep the engine in its power band so it's working harder. This is one of the reasons that ratings are worse in downtown than on the highway.
Stop and go driving in Lancaster is another severe service condition. You're always accelerating, which works the vehicle engine and transmission harder. Then you're stopping, which works the brake fluid harder, causing it to get very hot. Highway driving, on the other hand, requires far less horsepower to maintain its speed than getting a stationary vehicle from a stop light up to 25 mph/40 kph. A lot of this and you'll need to follow the severe service schedule.
Also on the list is operating your vehicle in dusty, polluted or muddy conditions. Obviously, your engine air filter and cabin air will get dirty faster and need to be changed more frequently as will your breather element. Some of this dust and dirt will make its way into your fluids. They will simple get dirty faster and won't protect the components as well as fresh fluids.
Finally, you're driving under severe conditions in Lancaster when you tow a trailer, regularly carry heavy loads or carry a car-top carrier. This is pretty obvious. You'll spend more time in lower gears so the engine and transmission work much harder and create more heat. Brakes will be more stressed stopping the heavier loads.
Sounds like most of us in Lancaster operate under severe driving conditions at least some of the time. How can Lancaster drivers know which schedule to follow?
Think of it as a spectrum with "always driving under severe conditions" on one end and "never driving under severe conditions" on the other end. Some will be at one extreme or the other, but most of us will fall somewhere in between.
Carefully think about your driving conditions and decide if you should do your preventive maintenance closer to the severe service recommendation or the regular recommendation. Of course, your The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley service advisor can help you with your decision.
Relax When the Wind Blows in California: Winter Car Prep for Lancaster Drivers
Dec 06, 2016
When autumn comes around in Lancaster, leaves fall, nights get longer and there's a definite nip in the air. Time to unpack the boots and gloves and fold some extra blankets onto the beds. It's also time for Lancaster drivers to winterize their vehicles.
Here is some expert auto advice for Lancaster drivers on what vehicles need to keep everyone safe and rolling throughout the California winter months.
1. Check your antifreeze. Top it off or change it if necessary. You don't want your radiator, engine or hoses freezing up. If your vehicle isn't generating enough heat to keep you warm, your antifreeze might be low, or you might have a thermostat problem. Either way, you should get it checked out before the full force of California winter sets in. If you are due for a cooling system service at The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley in Lancaster, get that done as well.
2. Check your brakes. The slushy wet conditions of winter increase stopping distances. Ice exacerbates the problem. Your first concern, of course, is to make sure you adapt your driving habits to winter weather: slow down, and give yourself plenty of room to stop. Get your brakes checked at The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley and replace any worn pads or other parts. Check your brake fluid. It can accumulate moisture and decrease your stopping power.
3. Test your battery. A battery's cranking power drops in the cold, so if your battery is already weak, the onset of winter will do it in. The last thing you want is to be on a snowy California road in the dark and cold with a dead battery.
4. Pack emergency supplies. Toss a blanket into the trunk. If you do find yourself stranded, your first concern will be to stay warm. If you're traveling away from California population centers, then pack some emergency food and water as well. Also, it's a good idea to top off your tank in winter. That way, if you get stuck, you'll have some fuel to burn to stay warm, and it'll keep your gas lines from freezing up.
5. Check your wiper blades. They may be able to handle a light Lancaster summer rain shower, but they might not be up to the ice and snow that collect on a windshield in winter. If you experience particularly harsh winters or really wet ones, you can purchase special blades that resist freezing. And don't forget to top off your wiper fluid.
6. Check your tires. Tires lose pressure over time, but they lose pressure fast when it's cold outside in Lancaster. Tires lose about one pound of pressure every six to eight weeks; they also lose one pound of pressure for every 10°F/5.6°C drop in temperature. If the last time you checked your tires it was 80°F/26.7°C outside and it's 40°F/4.4°C now, your tires could be down five pounds in pressure — and that's serious. It's a safety issue and cuts down on your fuel economy.
7. Driving conditions in the Lancaster area may warrant special winter tires. Check with your friendly and knowledgeable The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley tire professional to get the right tires for your area and for your driving habits. If you are getting winter tires, it's always best to get them for all four wheels. But if you're only going to get two, put them on the rear wheels, even if you drive a front-wheel or four-wheel drive vehicle. Traction is more important on the rear of a vehicle if you want to prevent sliding or fish-tailing on slick surfaces.
So there you have it: a quick checklist to winterize your car in California. When it comes to car care, preventive maintenance is always the best practice for Lancaster drivers, especially when it comes to winter weather. None of us want to be caught out in the winter cold.
Change Your Engine Air Filter at The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley
Nov 08, 2016
Many Lancaster car owners have probably wondered: "What's the harm in putting off replacing an engine air filter? The answer is that not replacing it could cause your Mass Air Flow (MAF) sensor to fail. This expensive sensor is situated between your engine air filter and your engine. Dirty air filters are a leading cause of massair flow sensorfailure – and these babies can cost several hundred dollars to replace in Lancaster.
Change your vehicle air filter at The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley when it's dirty. Your vehicle engine will thank you.
Fall and Spring Inspection at The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley
Oct 03, 2016
Good vehicle care for us Lancaster residents has always meant taking our vehicles in every spring and fall for a check-up. Vehicles needed routine maintenance to prepare them for the changes in weather. Today's vehicles aren't quite as sensitive to seasonal changes. Older vehicles required different weights of oil for summer and winter. But today's engines can run on the same oil all year. Both the engines and the oils have been improved.
Antifreeze—or coolant as it's also called—protects the engine from both freezing and hot temperatures and thus is required by the engine year-round. Modern coolants don't have to be changed as often as they did in the past, but your owner's manual has a recommendation for when it should be replaced to extend cooling system life.
Getting a spring and fall checkup at The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley in Lancaster for your vehicle is still good auto advice.
First of all, there is a lot of preventive auto maintenance involved in properly caring for a vehicle. Dropping your vehicle off twice a year at The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley for a quick inspection and routine maintenance is still part of good vehicle care. The changes in the California seasons can provide a good reminder that it's time to get the vehicle serviced, just as they remind us that it's time to take care of the furnace or air conditioner, purchase school clothes or bathing suits, drag out or put away the coats and boots.
There are other advantages to spring and fall maintenance for Lancaster residents. Springtime signals the advent of warmer weather. Although modern coolant is designed to last longer than one season, it's a good idea to check it regularly to ensure you have enough. While you're at it, your vehicle should also be checked for leaks and worn hoses in the cooling system.
Summer is the time when most of us Lancaster residents take vacations or go on road trips. So a spring check-up for our vehicles can lead to a stress-free summer and better memories on the road.
Fall, of course, signals the advent of colder weather in the Lancaster area. This is a good time for a routine battery check. The hot weather of summer takes a toll on battery life – then comes winter. Cranking up a cold engine takes a lot more battery power than starting a warm one. So before that cold weather hits, it's a good idea to check your battery and replace it if necessary. But your tires aren't completely adapted to changing weather conditions. If you live where temperatures drop below 45°F (7°C) in the winter, or if your commute frequently takes you through snow or ice, you may want to consider changing to winter tires in the fall.
A fall check-up at The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley, just like a spring check-up, can keep you on the road no matter what California weather brings. Consider how much a worry-free summer vacation and a less stressful Lancaster winter commute are worth to you. Then, spring and fall, reset your clocks, change the batteries in your smoke detectors and take your vehicle in for a check-up.
Change Your Wiper Blades Twice Yearly at The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley
Sep 13, 2016
Because 90% of our driving decisions are based on visual information, unobscured vision is paramount. Which brings us to the topic of today's The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley article: wiper blades. While this isn't the most exciting automotive subject, it's important. You wouldn't drive at night in Lancaster with your headlights off, but a dirty or streaked vehicle windshield can catch the glare of the sun or on-coming headlights and make it just as difficult to see.
Most of us in Lancaster replace our wiper blades when they no longer do the job. They are so worn, hard or brittle that they can't clean the windshield. They may even be falling apart. In other words, we deal with our wiper blades from a failure perspective. We address them when they no longer function. The theory, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," doesn't apply here. Instead, we should think about wipers blades as an important safety system that we should maintain rather than repair.
California automotive experts recommend that we change our wiper blades twice a year, in the spring and fall. That way you have functional blades for those Lancaster spring showers and winter storms.
When we use our wipers a lot, they get worn from the Lancaster road grime and bug juice. Even if we don't use them very often, they're exposed to the sun, heat and cold, and air which cause them to dry out, become brittle and break.
And of course, you need a good windshield washer fluid in your vehicle to help the wipers do their job. Always use washer fluid because plain water doesn't work as well and it can freeze in the reservoir. If you're driving where there are a lot of bugs in California, you can pay a little more and get fluid that does a better job of clearing them. If you live where you have extremely cold winters, you can get fluid that resists freezing.
Like everything else in the automotive world, there've been some big advancements in wiper blades, both in terms of the design and the materials from which the blade is made. If you are a local Lancaster driver that has a need for better than average windshield wipers, you can pay some more for an upgraded wiper. And if you live where there's a lot of snow and ice in California, they make special winter blades that don't clog up and freeze like standard blades.
At one of your fall and spring oil changes, ask your The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley service advisor which isbest wiper bladefor your driving conditions. Replace your blades on schedule so you never have to struggle with your vision when you switch on your wipers.
Another Couple of Years: Making Your Vehicle Last With Help From The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley
Sep 06, 2016
A while back, the Cash for Clunkers program was all over the California news. Lancaster people could trade in their old vehicle for a new one that got better gas mileage and receive a government rebate.
A lot of Lancaster motorists had so-called clunkers that they wanted to keep. They're good commuters, grocery getters or toy haulers. They enjoy that fact that they're paid off, or soon will be. They would gladly like to keep their vehicles for 200,000 miles (320,000 kilometers) or more – as long as it's economical to do so.
There are plenty of Lancaster drivers whose vehicles are running after 150,000 or 200,000 miles (240,000 or 320,000 kilometers). We can learn from what they're doing to keep our own vehicles on the road in California.
The Lancaster drivers of high-mileage cars often report a common denominator of never skipping an oil change.
That may sound a bit unsophisticated, but it's really not. First off, oil is the life blood of your vehicle's engine and it needs to be clean to properly lubricate. Skipping oil changes leads to clogged oil filters and sludge that is bad for your engine.
There's another reason the scheduled oil change is so important for Lancaster car owners. It's simple – a The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley professional is going to be looking at your car. All of your fluid levels will be inspected and topped off so they won't get so low that damage can be done. If there is a significant fluid loss, let's use brake fluid as an example, your The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley technician can look for the cause of the loss and find the problem before it leads to an accident or repair.
Your friendly and knowledgeable The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley service advisor will also visually inspect your vehicle for worn belts and hoses, uneven tire wear, leaking shock absorbers and more. Problems get addressed before they lead to repairs that cost more than the car's worth.
Realistically, things are going to wear out as your vehicle gets older. On the way to 200,000 miles (320,000 kilometers) you'll go through several batteries, probably a couple of alternators and water pumps, a set of shocks and likely some brake rotors.
Of course, these things cost some money, but they are less than new vehicle payments in Lancaster. With proper service at The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley and regular inspections, you'll keep surprise repairs to a minimum and more money in your wallet.
Ask any Lancaster man or woman if they've taken their vehicle in for preventive maintenance lately, and the answer may well be “no.” Surveys indicate that over 80% of vehicles on the road today are in need of some kind of repair or maintenance. Now, ask that same person why he hasn't taken his car in for care. The answer will probably be that he forgot or that he just didn't think about it. Most Lancaster residents seem to have a hard time remembering about scheduled maintenance for their vehicles.
Funny, because most of us in Lancaster have no trouble remembering to wash our clothes, mow our lawns or brush our teeth. It isn't that we can't remember to take our vehicles for service; it's a matter of making it a priority.
When it comes to our vehicles, Lancaster drivers like myself, need to be a little more maintenance-minded. The fact is, we can choose to do it, or we might find ourselves being compelled to do it.
For example, when we consistently forget to brush our teeth, a major consequence usually follows. The pain of that experience usually compels us to be more mindful of our teeth and take better care of them.
The same goes for our vehicles. If we ignore them long enough, a painful experience is sure to follow—painful for our pocketbooks, that is. People in Lancaster who have gone through that experience are usually more conscientious about proper car care.
So, if you're not a fan of the school of hard knocks, at least when it comes to vehicle maintenance, remind yourself to look after your car. Pay attention to the little oil change tag on your windshield. When it's time take your car in, do it. But don't just change the oil. Get a full-service oil change at The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley. Your technician will then check all of your fluids. He can advise you if any of them need to be changed or if any of them are low.
Low fluid levels can indicate leaks or a worn hose or seal, so they can check those for you as well. Other signs of wear are also immediately evident when you get a full-service oil change, such as a cracked serpentine belt or corroded battery cable. Your The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley technician will also check the vehicle manufacturer's service recommendations for your vehicle and advise you of any other routine service that is coming due.
It's like a one-stop shop for auto advice that will keep you on top of your vehicle's maintenance.
If there is more to be done than the budget allows, you can get a picture of what needs to be done. Then, create a plan with your The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley service advisor and budget for it during the coming months. It's a whole lot less painful than unexpected car repairs.
Vehicles are more reliable than they ever have been. They can take a lot of abuse and neglect. But they're also expensive and complicated machines. Lancaster drivers can't expect them to run forever without proper fluids and filters. Preventive maintenance at The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley in Lancaster will improve the reliability and life expectancy of your vehicle, as well as ensuring your safety on the road in California.
Let The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley Help You Keep Your Vehicle Another Couple of Years
Jun 12, 2016
Lancaster area residents may remember when the U.S. government's “Cash for Clunkers” program made a splash on the news scene. People were offered incentives to trade in old vehicles for new, in the interest of better and improved air quality from reduced emissions.
But a lot of Lancaster drivers want to hang onto their old clunkers. They're dependable and they're paid for. Owners would love to see the odometers on those vehicles turn past 200,000 miles (320,000 km), as long as the repair bills don't get too expensive.
There are a lot of vehicles on California roads that have run past the 200,000 mile (320,000 km) odometer reading. Is there something that their owners are doing that keeps these vehicles on the road? Or did they just win the “lemon lottery,” and luck out by getting a particularly good vehicle? Not surprisingly, most of these owners have something in common. They never skip an oil change. Can keeping a vehicle on the road for 200,000 miles (320,000 km) really be that easy for Lancaster drivers?
Actually, it makes sense. Oil is the lifeblood of a vehicle. Clean oil ensures that the engine will run efficiently and staves off the build-up of sludge that can eventually damage engine parts. Oil changes remove dirty oil and replace dirty oil filters, keeping an engine clean and running smoothly, just like eating right keeps our hearts healthy by preventing build-up in our arteries.
But there's another reason why not skipping an oil change can result in a longer life for your car. When you bring your car in to The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley for an oil change, all of the fluid levels are checked and topped off. If these fluids are depleted, dirty or low, they can damage the engine.
If a fluid is significantly low, it usually indicates a leak somewhere, leading to an inspection of relevant parts. This inspection and the replacement of the worn part can prevent repair bills and maintain the health of the engine.
At an oil change, your technician at The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley will also do a quick check for worn belts or hoses, uneven tread wear, leaking shock absorbers and other signs of wear and tear. This advance notice allows the owner to replace parts before they break down and possibly damage your vehicle.
The oil change is also a good time to review any other service that the vehicle might need. Many car owners rely on their pros at The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley for good auto advice on check-ups and follow-up vehicle care that will keep older cars running well.
Parts wear out on older vehicles. There's no avoiding it. As the odometer chugs upward toward 200,000 miles (320,000 km), the vehicle will need several batteries, a couple of alternators and water pumps, a new set of shocks and possibly some brake rotors. But these items—all together—add up to far less than the cost of a new vehicle.
Good vehicle care and preventive maintenance are the hallmark of Lancaster drivers who have kept their vehicles on the road and running past the age when most of us have given up and headed back to a car lot. We can learn from their wisdom.
So treat your car right: Take good care of it and don't skip the check-ups at The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley in Lancaster.
New School: Automotive The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley Technician Training
May 31, 2016
Lancaster consumers are demanding. We want a safe, reliable vehicle that handles well and is comfortable to ride in. Oh, and we want good fuel economy, too. We also want vehicle repairs that are cheap, fast and easy. Unfortunately, one usually comes at the cost of the other.
Today's vehicles have made significant improvements in reliability and performance over the last few decades. They also deliver more power to Lancaster drivers more efficiently than ever before. For example, some of today's 4-cylinder engines are equal to yesterday's V-8's. Our vehicles also offer an amazing range of features that make them more comfortable and convenient than ever before.
But all of that improvement has come at a price for Lancaster vehicle owners. Our vehicles are more complicated and difficult to repair than ever before. They have numerous mechanical and electrical systems. Fuel systems are so complex they have to be run by a computer. Our vehicles are covered with sensors and high-tech electronic equipment. Our dashboards rival the control panel of the first manned space flight.
With all that complicated equipment, it's no wonder we call mechanics service technicians these days. You can't learn to repair vehicles in the backyard with your dad anymore. Today's The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley technicians have to go to school. School may come in the form of classroom instruction, online courses or both. Technicians are also trained on-site at the Lancaster service centers where they work (including The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley) to keep them abreast of constant improvements in vehicle engineering, diagnostic equipment and repair techniques.
Today's technicians need to be certified to work on our vehicles. They can earn a variety of certifications in California, but the highest of these is Master Technician. It's like a graduate degree in auto repair.
Vehicle repair at The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley in Lancaster requires more than just training and certification, though. It also takes information and creative thought. Lancaster area auto service centers subscribe to data services, technical libraries and online repair communities in order to get the information they need to: work on various makes and models of vehicles, get recommended maintenance schedules, learn about non-standard features and locate hard-to-find parts in an unusual engine. They also use this information to help diagnose rare or difficult vehicle problems. Many auto repair problems also require a bit of creative thinking for the team at The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley to solve. Lancaster service technicians at The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley act much like doctors in these situations. They're given a set of symptoms, and they have to come up with a diagnosis and treatment that will fix the problem. This process becomes as much of an art as it is a science.
A proper diagnosis, even by a highly qualified technician, can take time. And a technician's time is going to cost us. It's just the price of progress.
Of course, the best vehicle care for Lancaster vehicle owners is planned preventive auto maintenance. This is also the least costly way to keep your vehicle in good repair. Regular inspections and replacement of worn parts will prevent most repairs from ever being needed in the first place.
And with the amazing complexity of today's automobiles, isn't it good to know there's someone out there with the knowledge, training and skill to give us good auto advice? Whether we need preventive maintenance or repairs, the team of automotive professionals at The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley can help us keep our vehicles on the road. We just can't do it on our own anymore.