When I was a kid, my dad always made sure he took the cars in for Spring and Fall checkups. I was telling a friend that it's about time to get into The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley for a checkup and he said that he read on the internet that modern cars don't need seasonal service.
My friend is (technically) right about some things, but from a practical standpoint, a seasonal check up still makes sense.
Back when my dad was teaching me about how to take care of the family vehicle, most of them used a different weight of oil in the winter and in the summer. But most of today's modern engines run the same oil year round. High-tech engines and high-tech motor oils are better able to handle the seasonal changes.
Your owner's manual or Lancaster service advisor at The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley can tell you the right oil to use.
Of course, you're concerned about the coolant or antifreeze. You don't want to overheat in the California summer or freeze up in the winter. Your engine cooling system protects against both of these things. And modern coolant — 'antifreeze' as it's sometimes called — is up to doing both very well. It's designed to last for longer distances than most people drive in a year or two.
So how does a Spring and Fall check-up fit in? Let's start with Spring. Summer is coming. That means heat, more driving and road trips. It just makes sense to check your fluid levels and do a visual inspection to see that everything is up to snuff.
You may not be scheduled to drain and replace the coolant for some time, but you need to make sure you have enough coolant and that you don't have any leaks or hoses that are about to fail.
That's pretty practical: a check-up to see if there are any problems or emerging conditions that could later become a problem, like a cracked belt.
And the same principle applies for getting ready for winter. Cold weather means lots of failed batteries. It takes more power to crank up a cold engine, and cold also decreases the available cranking power the battery has available.
So a battery test in the Fall could tell you if you've got a battery that is running on its last legs. And of course, if you live where winter temperatures get below 45 degrees F (7 degrees C) or you have ice and snow, you'll want to consider changing to winter tires.
So Spring and Fall auto checkups at The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley are practical reminders to get ready for the demands of the hot and cold seasons to come.
And odds are that you have one or more routine services that are due anyway. Like a transmission service, brake or power steering fluid, differential service — stuff like that. Are your wiper blades still good? Are your headlamps starting to dim?
So Spring and Fall, change your clocks, replace the batteries in your smoke detectors and get a check-up for your cars.
See, dad was right again.
Come and see us at The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley for your Spring and Fall automotive checkup.
Ever heard the sad tale of a staggeringly steep repair bill from a broken timing belt? Bad news. Let's take a lesson from their woes and remember to think about our timing belt.
First, let's review what a timing belt does. The top part of the engine over the cylinders is called the cylinder head. The head contains the valves. There's at least one valve that lets the fresh air into the cylinder. This air, mixed with fuel, burns to create power. Then another valve or two will open to allow the exhaust out of the engine. Each cylinder has 2 to 4 valves - that's 12 to 24 valves for a V-6, up to 32 values on a V-8. The opening and closing of the valves is done by a camshaft. The timing belt uses the rotation of the engine to drive the camshaft which opens and close the valves. It's called a timing belt because it has to be adjusted to rotate the camshaft to keep proper time with the engine so that everything's in sync.
The timing belt is a toothed rubber belt. But some vehicles use a timing chain or timing gears instead of a belt. Timing chains and gears are much more durable, but vehicle manufactures are using belts more because they are quieter - and cheaper. If you have a small or mid-sized passenger car, crossover or mini-van, chances are you have a timing belt.
Unfortunately, timing belts fail without any warning. That shuts your engine down right away. Your pros at The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley can inspect your timing belt and look for cracks and looseness. But getting to the belt to take a look can be almost as much work as changing it on some vehicles. That's why manufacturers recommend replacing the belt from time to time. For most vehicles it's from 60,000 to 90,000 miles or 95,000 to 145,000 kilometers. If your owner's manual doesn't specify an interval, ask your service advisor at The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley.
Someone we know, who shall remain anonymous, has had two timing belts fail. The first was while he was waiting at a stop light - that repair cost several thousand dollars. The second was while driving on the highway - that one cost more than twice as much. Both had the cars out in the shop for three weeks. His cars had what we call "interference engines," meaning that the valves and pistons are very close to each other. If the timing belt slips even one notch, the pistons will slam into the open valves. That's why our friend's highway failure was so much more - his engine was traveling so fast that the valves were smashed and they chewed up the cylinder head.
A non-interference engine will just shut down if the timing belt breaks. You're stranded, but the engine doesn't suffer permanent damage. In both cases, our hapless friend was just a couple oil changes past the recommended interval for changing the timing belt. This is one of those things that Lancaster drivers just cannot put off. Now replacing a timing belt is not cheap - but repairs for a broken belt can be far more expensive.
The team at The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley recommends Lancaster drivers check their owners' manual ASAP - especially if you have more than a 60,000 miles or 95,000 kilometers. You may need to get that belt replaced right away. And on many cars, the timing belt drives the water pump. So, it may be a good idea to replace the water pump while you're at it because 90% of the work required for the new pump is already done with the belt change. Doing both at the same time saves you a lot of money because as they say, "timing's everything."
The The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley Guide to Vehicle Diagnosis
Aug 14, 2013
Modern Lancaster vehicles have several computers on board that control all kinds of things like engine functions, transmission shifts, traction control, anti-lock brakes, stability control, emissions – and on some vehicles, even steering, braking and the throttle.
Think about that for a minute – things that used to be controlled by simple mechanical connections now have electronic controls that rely on computers, software and sensors. It's no wonder that when something goes wrong with their vehicle it can be pretty complicated for Lancaster drivers to track down the source of the problem.
To help your service advisor at The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley figure out what's wrong, your vehicle is equipped with on-board diagnostics. The Check Engine light comes on to tell you there's a problem and the engine management computer stores a trouble code. Your friendly and knowledgeable The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley technician connects a scan tool to your vehicle's diagnostic port and retrieves the trouble codes as well as other important data.
Trouble codes are like clues for the technician to follow as he diagnoses what's wrong with your vehicle. In a way, it's like going to your Lancaster doctor with a problem. She'll run some additional tests and gather the information she needs to make a diagnosis and form a treatment plan. How much a vehicle diagnosis costs at The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley in Lancaster depends on how much time it takes to sort out the symptoms and find the underlying problem.
Your Well Trained Technician at The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley
Aug 07, 2013
When your vehicle has a problem or just needs some routine service, you might get a little nervous. Your vehicle's so important to your life in Lancaster, you need to get back on the road as soon as possible – with the problem fixed right the first time.
If you've ever checked into some of the technician training The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley professionals receive, you may be surprised at how much specialized knowledge and skill goes into diagnosing and repairing a modern car. For example: Today there are four cylinder engines that generate more power than the 1980s-era V-8's. I mean a new V-6 Toyota Camry could beat Sonny Crocket's Ferrari in a race to 60 mph/100 kph.
Our engines are more and more powerful and at the same time their fuel economy keeps inching up – even with steep Lancaster gas prices. They are also amazingly reliable: Kudos to the automotive engineers. But the advances come at the price of simplicity. The modern vehicles driven around California are so much more complex from a mechanical standpoint that it makes your head spin – not to mention the electronics.
Some vehicles have several networked computers controlling most of the engine functions and many other vehicle operations as well. Lancaster motorists take all of this sophistication for granted, but somebody has to fix it when it breaks. It's a real challenge for The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley in Lancaster technicians to keep up, but we work hard to stay ahead of the technology. It requires a high level of commitment on the part of the technicians and the Lancaster service centers as well.
The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley technicians receive training through a combination of formal classroom training, training provided at The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley by parts and equipment manufacturers, online courses and home study courses.
In addition to the expensive training, there's the financial commitment for The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley to purchase the diagnostic and repair tools.
There are many independent certifications held by the pros at The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley. The ability to repair your vehicle requires a strong combination of training and resources. No one can know everything, so Lancaster auto service centers subscribe to data services, technical libraries and even online communities that can help them when they run into a difficult problem.
It's like those medical diagnosis shows on TV. Here are the symptoms – what's the diagnosis and treatment? Diagnosis is every bit as much an art as a science. At The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley, we want everything to be simple, straightforward and inexpensive – but sometimes it just isn't.
The next time you bring us your vehicle, don't worry. You're in good hands at The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley.
Timing Belt Service to Save Big Bucks in Lancaster
Aug 01, 2013
Your engine is like a finely choreographed dance. All the parts have to work together. If the timing is off at the ballet, dancers crash into each other and fall down. It the timing is off in your engine, it may not run at all. One of the most intricate dances in your engine has to do with the combustion cycle.
Your vehicle engine has cylinders in which a piston travels up and down. At the top of the cylinders are valves that open to bring in the air and fuel. And there are valves that open to let out the exhaust after the fuel has been burned.
Call The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley at 661-949-8484 for answers about your timing belt, or drop by our Lancaster, California, service center on 226 West Avenue I.
It's critical that the values be timed to open and close at precisely the right time in the combustion cycle, or the engine will run poorly or not at all.
The timing belt is responsible for rotating the shafts that control the valves. It's vital and precision work. Timing belts are made of very tough, flexible material. They can last a long time. But they eventually wear out and can break. The consequences can be disastrous.
In some engines, the valves actually protrude far enough into the cylinders that they could come in contact with the piston. If the timing belt breaks, the pistons will smash into the valves. Valves get bent or broken. If the engine is spinning fast enough, the broken parts will shred the cylinder head as well. Repairing this damage can cost several thousand dollars.
It's a sad day when this happens; especially since it usually can be avoided. Manufacturers have issued recommendations for when you should replace your timing belt. For some engines, it's at 60,000 miles/97,000 km. For others it's at 90,000 miles/145,000 km or more. If you're approaching 60,000 miles/97,000 km or have passed it, make sure you check your owner's manual or with your Lancaster auto service advisor at The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley for when the timing belt should be replaced. Don't let this one slip by.
Now some timing belts are visible and can be inspected. Others are hidden under a protective cover and are hard to get to. Some timing belts also drive the water pump. If you have a leaky water pump, the coolant will contaminate the timing belt and could make it fail sooner. So if you have this kind of engine, get it in to The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley for an inspection right away if you have a coolant leak.
Most people in the Lancaster area with this engine design end up with a new timing belt when they replace the water pump. And when you're having your timing belt replaced on schedule, check with your The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley auto service advisor to see if it makes sense to install a new water pump, even if it isn't currently having problems, since most of the labor is already being done any way for the timing belt replacement.
As a heads up; larger engines will often have metal timing chains rather than belts. The chains don't need to be replaced like belts.
We've already told you how very expensive it can be to get your car running again after a timing belt fails. You also need to know that replacing the timing belt is very labor intensive and is one of the most costly maintenance services you will have. So if you will be at the point where your timing belt should be replaced in the next year or so, ask for an estimate from The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley in Lancaster, California, so you can begin to prepare for the expense.
We at The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley, your Lancaster service center, can be a valuable partner. Please take advantage of our knowledge and experience.