A Fluid Situation (Check Fluid Levels)
There's one fluid in your car you are always careful to keep at a certain level: the fuel. If you don't have fuel, you're not going anywhere. Your vehicle has other fluids which are vitally important to proper and safe operation, too. So, here's a "level" headed approach to those "other" fluids.
Engine oil. This one's probably the most important fluid to maintain at the proper level. Without enough oil, you'll wear out your engine prematurely. Sometimes vehicles have warning lights on the dash that will tell you to get your oil checked. Don't ignore that one; get it checked immediately. Certainly don't go on a long trip at high speeds with your oil level low. Oh, and it's not good to have too much oil in, either. Our pros at The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley can advise you on oil levels and tell if you if you should be concerned about abnormal fluctuations.
Windshield washer fluid. OK, this is one you probably know about. You certainly miss it when it runs out. You find yourself trying to clean your windshield with the wipers but you need a little liquid help. Unless you live in an area that requires you to use an awful lot of windshield washer fluid, one fill-up can often last between oil changes. Modern vehicles have large enough windshield washer fluid reservoirs to keep you going for quite a while.
Engine Coolant. Here's another fluid you need to keep your engine running properly. You need it to keep the engine running at the proper temperature. Plus, you'll need it for heat when the temperature gets chilly outside.
Power Steering Fluid. If you have a vehicle that uses power steering fluid, it's important to keep the correct amount in your system. Without enough of it, you might find steering difficult. Plus, if you’re losing power steering fluid, our experts at The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley can find out why and perhaps prevent a more expensive repair later.
Brake Fluid. You may have heard of hydraulic brakes. Hydraulic refers to the fluid and is one of the key reasons your brakes work. Levels should be checked regularly and, like power steering fluid, if you're losing brake fluid, a technician needs to find out why so you can get the issue repaired and maintain your stopping ability.
If you have regular preventative maintenance performed at The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley, we’ll keep an eye on all of these fluids when you bring your vehicle in for service.
The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley
Change is Good (Oil Change)
You've heard that expression, change is good. When it comes to your vehicle's oil, change is not only good, it's vital for the health of the engine. But there's one question that puzzles many drivers: how frequently should my vehicle's oil be changed? There is not one simple answer, but here are some guidelines that will help.
It used to be pretty much a rule of thumb that vehicles got their oil changed once every 3 months or 3,000 miles/5,000 kilometers. But times have changed. Oil formulations have gotten better and engine designs have made longer oil change intervals possible.
Most experts advise you to read the recommendations that come from the manufacturer that designed and built your vehicle. Their designers and engineers know more about your vehicle than anyone else. They spell out their recommended oil change interval and type of oil in your owner's manual. Many automakers say you can go at least 5,000 miles/8,000 kilometers between oil changes and many recommend even longer intervals now. If you use synthetic oil, it doesn't have to be changed as often.
Ever wonder why you have to change your oil? Your vehicle lives in a dirty environment. Contaminants build up in your engine oil and, after time, they inhibit the lubricating properties of the oil. Without optimal lubrication, increased friction inside the engine starts wearing down the metal parts, shortening the engine's life.
Not only do vehicle manufacturers recommend oil change intervals in the manual, many also now alert drivers by a light or other electronic indicator on your dash. It doesn't exactly say, "Hey, time get your oil changed. This oil's starting to wear on me." But it does give you a pretty good hint. Some of these warning systems simply measure the distance you've traveled. More sophisticated vehicles have sensors that measure temperature, driving time and engine revolutions to determine when the oil is getting past its useful life. Here's one situation where it's easy to see the light. Do yourself a favor and don't wait too long before coming in for an appointment at The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley.
Oh, and driving habits matter, too. Short trips with a lot of stop-and-go driving will stress your engine and oil more than longer trips at highway speeds.
And here's one more plus side to getting your oil changed regularly at The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley in Lancaster. Our technician will also keep an eye on the rest of your vehicle to spot anything that might need attention.
The bottom line is this: Oil changes are good for your vehicle in so many ways and probably the most important maintenance service you can get.
The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley
STRAIGHT TALK ABOUT STEERING (Loose Steering)
Perhaps you've heard someone use the term "loose steering." And it's pretty much what it sounds like. You turn the steering wheel and the vehicle's wheels don't seem to go exactly where you thought you were pointing them. You have to constantly make steering adjustments.
Loose steering is sloppy steering, and it can be a safety hazard. You need to be able to control your vehicle with pretty much the same precision as the way it was when it came off the assembly line.
If the steering in your vehicle is starting to feel loose and sloppy, there may be some significant suspension issues that need examining by a trained technician.
How do you know if your vehicle needs to be looked at? Try turning the steering wheel and see how much play is in it. One rule of thumb: if you can turn it the distance of a quarter and a dime placed side by side without seeing the outside wheels move, it's time to have it inspected by one of our technicians.
Our The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley technician will examine those components that are supposed to work together to make sure your steering is tight and precise. They are linked together by things called (of course) linkages.
When these linkage components were new, they all fit together tightly and moved together to make sure your wheels responded quickly and precisely to your movements of the steering wheel.
But hit a few potholes, travel over a couple of rough railroad tracks and those metal components can be damaged or bent. Given enough time, they will simply wear out. Our trained The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley technician can inspect all of those parts and determine what needs to be repaired and/or replaced.
Keep your steering tight. Loose or sloppy steering can be dangerous. Thank goodness it usually warns you in plenty of time before it fails completely. Just straight talk… about steering.
The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley
QUIET TIME (Listening for Vehicle Problems)
Everybody's got friends like this. You know, the kind who, the minute they get in their vehicle and turn the key, the sound system is deafening. They just love to hear that music, sports, news… anything but the sound of the vehicle itself.
And maybe you're that person, too. Here's something to consider: your sound system might be drowning out some valuable clues that could help you diagnose problems with your vehicle, problems that need to be dealt with. So, turn down the volume and listen for these things:
Here’s our The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley suggestion - set a regular weekly alarm in your smartphone alerting you to listen to your vehicle once a week for five minutes. Just five minutes without the music or the sports show or public radio… whatever your taste is. You can even use your smartphone to record any noise you might be hearing. Between that and your description to your service advisor, a The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley technician should be able to diagnose the source of the noise and get your vehicle sounding healthy again. Do it before that noise turns into the sound of a serious problem.
Who knew a little quiet time could be so useful?
NOT JUST ANOTHER CUSTOMER (Finding the Right Service Facility)
You might remember a hit TV sitcom that was set in a bar, a place where "everybody knows your name." The idea, of course, is people feel more comfortable where they aren't just another customer among many; they're special because their relationship goes back a few years.
That comfortable relationship can extend to professionals you deal with, too. Think of your accountant, your dentist, your doctor. Most people try to stick with the same person or firm in those businesses. They have grown to know their work over the years and they've learned to trust their professionalism, the quality of their work and their track record.
Ideally, you should have that same relationship with your automotive service facility, like your friends here at The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley. You may have tried several facilities over the years until you found one that did good work at a reasonable price. The longer your relationship with your service facility, the better the people there understand your wants and needs.
And you trust them to only perform repairs you really need and not try to sell you parts and services you don't.
For most of us, it's a great feeling when you walk in the door and you're greeted with a smile. That goes for us at The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley as well. That history you've established by regularly going to one facility for service and maintenance helps you feel more confident about the work they do. And, at The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley, we appreciate your loyalty as a customer. Maybe it won't be exactly like that TV sitcom place, and maybe not "everybody knows your name." But your service advisor will, and you won't feel like you're just another customer.
DOG FOOD IN YOUR ENGINE (Keeping Rodents out of your Engine)
A technician was telling us the other day that he was servicing an engine and spotted something he'd never seen before: A collection of dry dog food siting on a horizontal metal ledge near the base of the engine. It was neatly stashed and was in a spot where the food pellets couldn't have simply fallen down in there.
Even though it's the first time he'd seen dog food in an engine, he immediately knew what was going on. Critters like mice or chipmunks had found the dog food somewhere nearby and had used the engine as a nice storage unit.
Mice, squirrels, chipmunks—you name it—like the heat of the engine. And they'll use that to store up supplies of food for use in cold weather when outside food supplies are scarce. The problem is they'll also chew on engine components while they're there. And they can do a lot of damage if they start gnawing on the wires. Depending on how much of your electrical system needs to be replaced, repairs can mount up to the thousands of dollars.
Those electrical problems can be tricky to track down, too, because the rodents can get to spots technicians don't have easy access to. Oh, the signs are there; they'll find mouse droppings, acorns… even full mouse nests in your engine. Yikes.
OK, but even if you get your vehicle fixed, how do you keep the critters from simply setting up their personal pantry again? Here are some things to try:
The next time you bring your vehicle into The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley for maintenance or service, your technician will be on the lookout, too. Hey, the dog food belongs in the dog's dish, not supplying fast food for little critters with razor-sharp teeth that can create electrical system mayhem.
"Current" Affairs (Blown Fuses)
You may be driving along and find that suddenly your radio stops working. There are no numbers on the display. Then when you get home, you notice the garage door opener doesn't do a thing when you press the button. Hmm, this was working just fine this morning. Are the two problems somehow related?
No, your vehicle doesn't need an exorcism. This has all the signs of an electrical issue, and when you experience symptoms like those, you've probably blown a fuse. Most vehicles have fuses just like most houses have circuit breakers (some houses still have fuses). They cut the power when it reaches a pre-determined threshold that could cause major damage if it was allowed to continue. You might say fuses take one for the team.
Most modern automotive fuses are plastic with a thin strip of metal in them designed to melt when a calibrated amount of power passes through. The philosophy is it's better for an inexpensive fuse to be destroyed than your sound system or your engine's main computer.
It can be tricky to figure out what fuse has blown and why. Modern vehicles have many computerized electronic components; they can easily be damaged if too much electricity gets to the wrong spot. At The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley in Lancaster, we have technicians trained to trace which fuse has blown and why.
While sometimes a simple fuse replacement will fix the problem, other times there may be some other electrical component that has failed, causing the circuit overload. Our technicians have special equipment to track down where the power problems are, get to the root of the problem and fix it at the source.
Keep in mind, fuses are there to protect your vehicle. And when they shut down your radio, garage door opener, vanity mirror or anything else, just be thankful they're doing their job. They may have saved you from a much more expensive repair. They've sent an important signal to you about your electrical system. That's why it's good to keep up with "current" affairs.
THE IMPORTANCE OF VISIBILITY (Cleaning Vehicle Glass)
We've all been through it. The vehicle ahead of us kicks up mud, slush, snow or salt on our windshield and we can't see a thing. And not being able to see a thing when we're driving? Not a good thing.
Debris on a vehicle's glass can be blinding when driving directly into the sun. And other things can ruin visibility: scratches on the glass, fogged windows, mineral deposits.
So lets make one thing clear: Your windows. Here are some tips.
Now that you have clean windows, here's how to keep 'em clean.
Your service advisor at The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley will be able to recommend good wiper blades for your vehicle and install them properly.
Visibility. See what we mean?
When Metal Meets Metal (Wheel Bearings)
What part of your vehicle has little metal balls inside that are lubricated and allow you to cruise on down the road? They are wheel bearings, and automotive designers might argue they are human beings' second greatest invention of all time (the first is, of course, the wheel!).
You have a wheel bearing at each wheel. They allow your wheels to turn freely, minimizing friction that would ordinarily slow you down when metal meets metal. When one of your wheel bearings starts to go bad, it lets you know. A wheel bearing does its work quietly when it's in good health but starts getting noisy when it isn't. People describe the noise differently. Sometimes it sounds like road noise, a pulsating, rhythmic, sound. That pulse speeds up when your vehicle speeds up.
Here's what's happening when you hear that sound. As mentioned, the bearing has these little metal balls inside a ring. They have a lubricant inside to reduce friction between the balls; modern wheel bearings are sealed and they're intended to do their job without any maintenance.
Wheel bearings take a beating; you hit some rough potholes or go over some uneven railroad tracks. Sometimes water can get into a bearing and reduce the ability of the lubricant to do its job. Time starts to take its toll, too. When the lubricant isn't reducing friction like it should, the bearing can heat up. One of those little balls can start shedding pieces of metal and soon those shards start grinding up the other balls. Friction takes over and soon your wheel isn't turning smoothly. That's what's causing the sound. If a wheel bearing is not fixed, it could eventually seize up completely, and you can be stranded.
It's a lot easier if you heed the early warning signals, that pulsating noise. Now, sometimes a similar noise can be caused by a bad tire, but in either case, it's important to have it checked out. Our The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley technicians will be able to tell you fairly quickly what the problem is and offer a solution.
Wheel bearings generally don't fail often and usually last from 85,000-100,000 miles/140,000km to 160,000km. But consider them a long-term maintenance item that, once fixed, will keep you heading smoothly to the next destination.
For 4x4s (Maintenance of 4x4 Vehicles)
Some people love 4x4 vehicles, the true 4-wheel drive works of engineering like Jeeps and 4x4 pickups that allow you to seemingly go anywhere on the planet. You can climb up a 40-degree rock trail with some planning and skill (always careful to protect the environment, of course), or you can get through the deepest snow.
But with that added capability comes additional complexity, drive-train components and other systems that less capable vehicles don't have. And that is why when it comes to 4x4s, you have to maintain them a little differently from those vehicles that spend their lives on pavement. Here are some of the key things to keep an eye on:
So enjoy your 4x4 and what it can do that other vehicles can't. Just remember that even though it's tough on the outside, it needs special care to keep it going. Oh, and remember to take care of the environment when you go off-roading, too.
The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley
226 West Avenue I
Lancaster, California 93534
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