Warning Lights OnJune 15, 2016
Dashboard Warning Lights – The Check Engine Light
It’s a busy weekday morning. You barely get out the door in time, and when you get to the car, start the ignition, and a dashboard warning light comes on- the check engine light.
The check engine light is probably every driver’s most hated warning light. It gives no details about what’s wrong, and the list of potential problems goes on and on, ranging from minor malfunctions to costly problems.
NOTE: If your check engine light comes on and is flashing, this indicates a serious problem and you should get to the nearest auto repair facility immediately.
Top 3 Most Common Causes of the Check Engine Light
Oxygen Sensor : The oxygen sensors in your car helps determine how much fuel you burn. A defective oxygen sensor effects mileage calculation and leads to a decrease in fuel economy.
While oxygen sensors are a relatively easy and inexpensive part to replace, failing to replace them in time can eventually destroy your catalytic converter. And depending on the car, a catalytic converter is thousands of dollars to replace.
Gas Cap : It might seem silly that something as small as a gas cap can trigger your warning light, but the gas cap keeps fuel from evaporating, keeping your emissions and gas mileage low.
Check to see if your gas cap is loose before you leave the driveway. Turn off your engine, and replace the gas cap tightly before turning your car back on. It may take a while for the light to go off, even if the gas cap is the culprit. If the light doesn’t go off within the next couple of days, take your car to your mechanic.
Catalytic Converter : A dying catalytic converter leads to lower gas mileage, and makes it difficult for your engine to accelerate. If you notice any of these problems, take your car to your mechanic as soon as possible to fix it.
Regardless of whether the problem is minor, like a loose gas cap, or major, like a catalytic converter failure, you risk serious damage to your car and the safety of yourself and others on the road when you continue to drive with your check engine light on.
The first thing you should do is bring your vehicle to an experienced, certified mechanic like our team at Alpine Automotive. They will be able to diagnose the problem and give you an estimate on how much it will cost you.
If your check engine light, or any other of your dashboard warning lights, has come on and you don’t know why, contact Alpine Automotive in Lake Zurich to figure out the problem and get an estimate of your repair cost. Don’t wait- you save money and lives when you act early!
Replacing the Air FilterMay 15, 2016
We all fear that time of spring when everything turns yellow in color and everyone we know seems to come down with hay fever. The effects of pollen on air quality during spring are obvious in indoor and outdoor settings, but it’s really important not to neglect the effects of pollen on your car.
When you think about it, our cars are on the front lines of the war on pollen. Imagine if you went out for a jog one spring day, but you magically acquired a new super power that enabled you to run at 50 miles per hour. It’d be a total blast at first, but after the first few blocks you’d be wheezing and sneezing from all the pollen suddenly rushing into your face and lungs.
Why are air filters so important?
We tend to think of our cars as solid, and totally protected from the elements like rain and wind. But lots of air flows through our vehicles when we drive, both into the interior cabin of the car where we sit, and under the hood into the engine and machinery. That’s why there are a number of different air filters to protect you and your car from the elements, and keep out large particles of dust and dirt that build up with frequent driving.
When your filter is dirty, and trust me, we see it all the time, your car’s performance really suffers.
Side effects of a dirty filter:
A dirty, over saturated filter lets in less air, so your engine has to work twice as hard to burn fuel and get the job done.
A dirty filter is a less-effective filter. Too much dust and dirt can wear it down, and let in more dirt, pollen and you-name-it into your engine, leading to inefficiency and possible long-term damage.
A dirty cabin filter negatively affects your heating and air-conditioning, and in some cases will produce some terrible smells.
A dirty engine air filter lowers your fuel economy!
Now that pollen season is just around the corner, it’s time to check on your filters, and get them replaced as a preventative measure. The longer you wait between each engine filter replacement, the more damage and wear you can expect to see in your vehicle. Stop by Alpine Automotive in Lake Zurich to hear how our team of experts can assist you with your air filters.
Air Filters and Your Vehicle’s Performance
A lot of people are surprised to hear that regular maintenance and replacement of air filters in your car increases your fuel economy! Your engine needs clean and pure air to function efficiently, and gas mileage is one of the first things to be affected by a dirty filter.
Air filters are important for fuel economy!
The average family car needs about 12 thousand gallons of air to burn just one gallon of gas! That’s a LOT of air!
Engine air filters are necessary because they prevent fine particles like dirt and dust from getting inside your engine and causing damage to the walls, pistons and piston rings. Air filters are your main line of defense from the hazards of daily driving.
Many drivers neglect to change air filters regularly, thinking that a dirty filter is better than no filter at all. A dirty, clogged filter starves your engine of the air it needs to work properly and causes stress on the engine- making it work harder and significantly raising the overall fuel economy of the vehicle.
With an old, dirty filter, your engine will burn much more fuel to compensate for the lack of air flow. Your mechanic isn’t just trying to sell you another part, he’s trying to help you save some of that gas money.
High pollen counts have a very negative effect on the overall performance of your engine. That’s why it’s really important to check and replace your car air filters during the spring months.
There are a number of air filters that go into your car.
Cabin air filters – protects and cleans the air that flows into where you sit. If you or someone in your family suffers from allergies, high performance filters and regular replacements are a must. Cabin filters should be replaced every year, or every 12,000 miles.
Engine filters – these protect the flow of clean air into your engine. During pollen season, it’s best that you replace your air filter more often than the manufacturer’s 15,000 mile recommendation.
Air Filters- Your Main Line of Defense against Pollen
Spring into early summer are prime months for pollen season. Last year, pollen counts broke records with over 8,000 particles per square meter. Technically, a “high” pollen count on the scale is 120 particles per square meter.
To make matters worse, pollen counts ebb and flow as different species of plants bloom and release their pollen. The overall count and increase and decrease over the course of spring as different trees, weeds and flowers come into bloom. Pine pollen is generally the culprit behind massive pollen counts – just think about all the pine trees in your neighborhood!
While it’s important to keep you and your family safe and healthy during the miserable pollen season, don’t forget that your family vehicle is also a prime location for pollen saturation. As your car drives along during the day, plant particles in the air are drawn into the engine and ventilation system by the tens of thousands.
So how can you combat this massive assault of pollen during the spring?
The first place to start is to maintain a clean filtration system. Just like the air filters in your home ventilation system, or air purifier, cabin air filters in your car block harmful particles from getting into the passenger area of your car. A high quality cabin air filter will block almost all of the harmful pollen in the air, only if it’s replaced regularly.
Cabin air filters protect and clean the air that flows into where you sit. If you or someone in your family suffers from allergies, high performance filters and regular replacements are a must. Cabin filters should be replaced every year, or every 12,000 miles.
Replace Your Air Filters Before Spring Comes
Be sure to check and replace both your engine air and cabin air filters before the pollen surge hits. A dirty cabin air filter will quickly become a health hazard once pollen counts reach extreme levels again.
Stop by our Alpine Automotive in Lake Zurich to get one of these filters for your vehicle. We look forward to seeing you!
When is it Time for Struts & Shocks RepairApril 15, 2016
Knowing when to take your vehicle into the auto shop for struts and shocks repair can be kind of tricky. The damping characteristics of shocks and struts diminish slowly over time, making it difficult to detect a problem. Usually when a driver notices that there is a problem, it’s well past the time of needing replacement.
Shocks and (or) struts are part of your vehicle’s suspension system. Not all vehicles have both shocks and struts; some only have one or the other. Each aid in the vehicle’s stability and handling. There’s no strictly set time for shock and strut replacement as part of it depends on driving conditions such as how you drive and the condition of the roads. Some need replacement at 30,000 miles, and others can go as long as 60,000 miles. There are however some good indications that it’s time to get in to the auto shop and have them looked at by service technician.
Signs that it’s Time to Replace or Repair Struts
Shocks and struts are responsible for keeping you on the road, so you’ll want to know the signs of wear. If you notice any of theses signs, it’s important to take your vehicle into the automotive repair shop to ensure that it’s working safely and properly.
- The vehicle is not running as smoothly as it once did or showing difficulty in handling while on the road.
- The ride is excessively bumpy.
- The vehicle bottoms out when going over a bump or dip in the road.
- When driving on a curvy road, the vehicle tends to sway.
- You notice fluid leaking from the shock or strut
- You notice a poor steering response or noise when steering.
- The shocks or struts show signs of physical damage.
- The vehicle makes an excessive nose dive when breaking.
- Tires show cupped or uneven wear.
- The drive feels “shaky.”
- You notice instability when braking.
Finally, it’s important not to ignore the warning signs. The shocks and struts make your vehicle manageable to drive and interact with other systems such as steering and alignment. Neglecting them can lead to the need for additional future repairs, adding to repair costs. Driving on worn shocks and struts can make the vehicle difficult to drive which could lead to unsafe driving conditions. Replacing shocks and struts regularly can keep your vehicle performing optimally and help extend it’s life expectancy.
Seasonal Tire PressureMarch 15, 2016
Having the correct tire pressure is an important part of regular maintenance of your car, and it’s also a necessity for being a good driver. The amount of air pressure in your tires has an immediate effect on the quality of your driving, especially when braking and turning. Aside from these concerns, seasonal temperature changes can also effect the performance of your tires, and the overall pressure within them.
Let’s start with the basics, of tire pressure.
Like most maintenance suggestions and requirements, always check the user manual and manufacturer’s schedule for when to have certain repairs and what is required. Your car’s user manual and maintenance handbook will also tell you the exact psi requirements for your tires, and you can also find this information on the tires themselves.
Always check the psi in your tires regularly, during scheduled maintenance and tune-ups (your mechanic should always do this for you), and it’s a good idea to go it before going on long car trips too. If your tires are under-inflated, or have a low psi, this can create unnecessary drag on the car and can cause decreased fuel efficiency.
How does weather affect my tires?
When the seasons change and temperatures begin to rise and fall, so does the air pressure in your tires. Because air that is colder contracts, the air pressure inside your tires falls and the tire may become under inflated. In the summer, the reverse is true. When air starts to get warmer, the volume of the air expands, so for air trapped inside the tires, it begins to expand and increases the overall pressure and potentially causing the tire to become over inflated.
In extreme cases, this can damage the tires and cars if not taken care of. It’s always a good idea to keep an eye on your tires and check the pressure when the temperature starts to rise and fall dramatically like in summer and winter.
Winter tires, tires designed especially to deal with winter weather precipitation like snow and ice, may have their own specific psi requirements that differ from the average tire. Be sure to check these when getting new winter tires, and check regularly to make sure that the correct psi is maintained throughout the season to deal with fluctuating weather and temperatures. This is especially important when driving in adverse weather conditions, so you always want to make sure you are fully prepared to drive in anything!
Having trouble with your tires? Feel free to stop by Alpine Automotive to talk to a mechanic about your car’s tires and get everything checked out!
Winter Automotive MaintenanceFebruary 15, 2016
Adjusting to the winter months takes some effort, and some of that effort should go in to winter automotive maintenance. No matter where you live, the changing seasons present a challenge to your vehicle, and probably more than you realize. A lot goes in to keeping your ride riding smoothly, and any car maintenance issues that you ignored in the summer could create an additional hazard in the winter.
Winter automotive maintenance includes anything that prepares your car for winter, from protecting sensitive components to assuring proper visibility. Auto repair shops approach the process in two ways; preparing the car for the worse possible weather conditions and making important repairs that insure the long-term functionality of your car.
You might have to grit your teeth and personally gird yourself for a long harsh winter, but winter automotive maintenance is much easier than most people think. Most importantly, any efforts you put in now can increase safety while decreasing the probability of costly repairs.
Battery Test or Replacement
Cold temperatures can reduce battery power up to 50% and shorten the batter life. When temperatures drop, have your auto repair shop test your battery for performance. If it is near expiration, it’s better to replace it than risk driving with a dying battery.
Have an auto technician go through the heating and auto-defrost system and make sure it is in top condition. On the road is not the place to find out that a water pump has a crack or there is a short in the electrical circuit.
Worn brakes can cause a problem at any time of year but pose even greater hazard in wet weather. Brakes are no places to cut corners, so have your auto repair shop inspect your brakes for any problems.
Having proper antifreeze levels is essential to your winter automotive maintenance checklist. Make sure the level is full and the mixture is as close to 50/50 as possible.
Your tires are the point of connection to the road, so you’ll want to make sure that they are in good condition. Look for ware, cracking, cupping, or bulging. If they are in poor shape, replace them If you are in an area that receives snow, use snow tires during the winter months.
Lights, Bulbs, Wipers, Windows
Maintaining visibility is high on the list of winter care priorities. Inspect all bulbs and lenses. Replace any that are burned out and clean or replace any dirty or damaged lenses. Wiper blades only last a year, so replacing for the winter months is a great idea. Use a detail polish on your windshield to help rain or snow sheet off.
There are many important elements in preparing your vehicle for the long winter slog, and auto repair shops make sure that winterizing your car takes the chill out of future repair.