五月丁香社区Tips, tricks and stories from West Shore Michigan's most dedicated automotive repair team

Monday, August 27, 2012

Annual Auto Maintenance Schedule: What to Do & When to Do It!

 by Rob, Cars for Keeps

So,you understand the importance of routine auto maintenance, you're ready tostart treating your vehicle like the potential investment it is, but you don'tknow where - or when - to start. What exactly IS routine maintenance, and howoften does it need to be performed?

Because not all auto components wear down at the same rate, true "routinemaintenance" is a little more complicated than it seems. Routinemaintenance for a timing belt, for example, is having it changed every60-70,000 miles, while routine maintenance for your engine oil requireschanging it every 4-7,000 miles. That's a big difference!

To make understanding routine automaintenance a little easier on drivers, we've put together the followingschedule.


Brake, power steering, transmission, antifreeze and windshield washerfluids. While none of these may need to be changed each month,it's a good idea to have them checked to make sure they're not dirty, sludgy orrunning low. These fluids - particularly brake, power steering and transmission- are important to your vehicle's safety, and making sure they're clean andtopped up can prevent far more serious problems down the road.

Tire air pressure. Did you know that under inflated tires can cause yourvehicle to not only run less efficiently, but also have unsafe"splashy" steering? Checking your tires for proper inflation is fast,simple and free, so monthly checkups are definitely worth it!

Head & tail lights. Sure, it doesn't take a rocket scientist tocheck to make sure all your vehicle's lights are working properly - but itstill needs to be done! Faulty lights pose safety risks - not to mention therisk of getting ticketed - so it's a good idea to either check or have thesechecked monthly.

The Free Cars for Keeps Pit Stop takes care of these whenever you need it.

3 Month Maintenance

Oil changes. Three months is a general guideline, and necessaryintervals can vary from vehicle to vehicle. Older autos often require oilchanges more often - every 3,000 miles or so - while some newer vehicles may beable to go as far as 7,000 miles before an oil change is necessary. Check yourvehicle's manual, or ask your auto technician about your vehicle model. Ofcourse, it certainly doesn't hurt to have your oil changed every 3 months -just ask our High Mile Club members!

Chassis lubrication. Again, it may not be necessary to have thisperformed as often as three months, but it depends on your vehicle's model andage. Many newer autos are "lubed for life", while some older carsstill require it. The chassis' steering and suspension components may, however,require periodic replacement to prevent further damage, so it's a good idea tohave the chassis inspected every 3 months just in case.

Battery maintenance and cleaning. Just because your battery isn't deaddoesn't mean something isn't wrong. Dirty or corroded batter cable posts cancreate a poor connection, causing faulty ignition start or inefficient poweruse.

6 Month Maintenance

Air filters. Air filters essentially help vehicles "breathe"clean air. When these filters become dirty or clogged over time, they make itmore difficult for engines to get the oxygen they need, causing inefficientmileage and poor performance. Different air filter brands last for differentperiods of time, so it's best to have them checked at least twice every year.

Wiper Blades. Do we need to say it?! Wiper blades inevitably becomestiff and cracked over time - typically about six months - causing chatteringand streaking, which can cause dangerously poor visibility during inclement weather.Have these replaced twice each year.
Yearly Maintenance

Engine tuning. Faulty spark plugs and gummed up fuel injectors - both engine components - can reduce fuel efficiency as much as thirty percent. Most people won't notice the change because today's computers keep things adjusted right up to the point of failure (when the computer can no longer adjust for them) the best way to make sure all spark plugs and engine components are working properly is to have them checked every one year.

Engine belts. While most engine belts don't need to be replaced eachyear, it's a good idea to have an auto technician take a look at those that areaccessible, and to keep tabs on how long less accessible belts have beeninstalled. V-belts typically need to be replaced every four years or 35,000miles, serpentine belts every four years or 50,000 (or sooner), and timingbelts every five years or 60,000 miles - whichever comes first. Over time, thesebelts become stiff, loose and cracked or worn, and if they break while yourvehicle is running, they can cause serious damage.

Shock absorbers and struts. Worn shock absorbers and struts can not onlymake for a bumpier ride, but they can cause fuel inefficiency, misalignment anda host of other safety problems. For best performance, have these inspected byan auto technician each year.

Wheel Alignment. The average price of a newly mounted and balanced tire witha new valve stem is roughly $125 per tire. That’s $500 for the set of four. Ifyour wheel alignment is out, you could lose that $500 in short order. That’swhy you should, at the very least, check wheel alignment before venturing outon a new set of tires. So how could you lose money by not having an alignmentdone? By significantly decreasing the life of your new tires. The steering andsuspension of your vehicle has wear points. They are bushings, ball &socket joints, and miscellaneous mechanical links. When the steering andsuspension system is new and adjusted according to factory specs, the rate atwhich the tires wear is minimized and the vehicle corners and handles smoothly.Over time, the steering and suspension systems are jostled and hammered(compliments of America’s highways). This produces wear in the parts listedabove, causing the alignment to go out from factory specs. This results in poorcornering and handling, and a significant increase in tire wear.

Cabin Air Filter(s). The filter in your dashboard is much like your furnacefilter… If you drove your furnace through bugs & other road debris. Gross. Ifit's plugged, the passenger compartment might as well be a sealed cabin—andwith a carload of friends the glass will fog in minutes. Filter life depends onthe air quality in your area, but a year, or 12,000 to 15,000 miles, typicallyis the recommended replacement interval.

Of course, the best way to make sure all your vehicle's routine maintenanceneeds are taken care of is to sit down with your auto technician(s) and createan
annual auto maintenance schedule. We can help you by scheduling maintenance at intervals which are customized to your vehicle's age and specific maintenance needs.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

My steering wheel isn't straight, Whats wrong?

The image above shows some of the common tire wear issues and causes along with defining the different angles addressed in wheel alignment.

Your car may feel like it drives fine, steers straight & handles OK, all while the vehicle is out of alignment. Most drivers can’t tell when the alignment is slightly off. As a matter of fact, we seedrivers that driving cars that can ruin tires in a matter of 5,000 miles. So, good for you, you’re paying attention!

One of the most common indicators of misalignment is a steering wheel that isn’t straight. Another is that the vehicle drifts or “pulls” to one side or the other.

Research shows that with toe alignment just 0.34 degrees (0.17 inches) out of specifications, the average car has dragged its tires sideways for over 68 miles by the end of the year! That's considering the average car is driven about 12,000 miles per year.

Many manufacturers recommend that you have your vehicle's tires checked every 10,000 miles or at least once a year. Proper wheel alignment can add thousands of miles to the life of your tires.

Other benefits to proper wheel alignment include:
  • Better gas mileage due to reduced rolling resistance
  • Improved handling as steering improves and vibration eases as your rides become smoother
  • Safer driving, especially when suspension problems are detected and repaired.
  • Less fatigue from the driver fighting (consciously or unconsciously) an ill handling vehicle.
At Cars for Keeps, We offer a simple alignment inspection for less than $25.00 that measures the alignment settings to either confirm that everything is within manufacturers specifications or show issues that need to be addressed.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Woman's Point of View: Let's Talk Belts!

by Colette Cooley, Cars for Keeps Office Manager

For the fashion conscious woman, this is the time of year that our minds turn to our summer wardrobe.Let’s talk belts.There are fashion belts, designer belts, utilitarian belts, chastity belts, cloth belts, leather belts, bejeweled belts, girdle belts, and the list goes on.How about serpentine belts?

No, they are not snakes wrapped around the waist. The serpentine belt is a long, continuous, multi-grooved belt that drives several devices in the engine, such as, the alternator, A/C compressor, air pump and water pump.It increases mechanical efficiency and reduces the load on the engine and increases fuel economy and power.This very important belt must be checked regularly for wear and breakage.If it breaks in two, it can act like a weed whip and do a pretty thorough job of chewing up engine parts.

Other belts include the vee belt, the ribbed belt, and timing belts.The vee belt is the basic belt for power transmission.The ribbed belt is also a transmission belt that has a long life, stability and reduced vibration.The timing belt is used instead of chains and gears, is less noisy and does not need to be lubricated.They are used in the camshaft and are the most efficient at transferring power.

If maintained properly and chanced at proper intervals, these belts help your car remain healthy and reliable. If left without maintenance, many of these belts can become brittle and cause moderate to extensive damage.At Cars For Keeps your belts are checked for wear every time you get your oil changed.You will be advised if you should get a new belt now, or if it just needs to be checked again soon.

Personal note:I wish they came in colors, but basic black does go with everything!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

New-Used Cars: Be Smart Before You Buy!

by Dennis Sweet, Cars for Keeps Customer Service Manager

Have you bought something and regretted it afterwards? I'm sure we all have. While there's nothing we at Cars for Keeps can recommend for shopping sprees, we can help you feel better about your used car purchase, while saving you money down the road.

When you're shopping for a new-to-you vehicle, everything looks good! New used cars are shiny, have less miles than your vehicle, and they're new and different to you. Buying that used car sounds like fun, it's in a price range you can afford, and you really like how it looks. You buy it, you feel good and then you bring it in for its first service visit. The auto garage brings you back a list of items which need to be fixed three pages long! You get the sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach, you are angry, disappointed and you begin to realize that your decision to purchase that vehicle may not have been a good one.

I hope you never find yourself in this situation. At Cars for Keeps, we can ensure that this never happens to you by performing a pre-purchase used car inspection on any vehicle you're considering purchasing. This a bumper to bumper inspection, after which we provide you with complete list of items that a vehicle needs or is going to need in the near future. This way, you know what repairs a vehicle needs and what its true working condition is, so you can make the best, most educated decision. We have helped my clients over the past 20 years with this decision making process.

When if you find yourself looking for a different vehicle, happy hunting!

Your Friendly Neighborhood Service Manager,


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The 5th Wheel: Spare Tire Dos and Don’ts

by Rob Hopp, Cars for Keeps Owner

The concept of the spare tire seems pretty basic, but it's surprising how often they're used improperly - or not at all. For those car owners out there who are "mechanically challenged", we've put together a few simple suggestions for maintaining and using your spare tire to ensure it's there when you need it most.

Do: Learn how to install the spare on your vehicle - before you have to! Locate where the spare tire, jack, lug wrench and wheel lock key (if equipped) are located and ensure the components needed are actually there. The jack is almost always intended to engage the vehicle in several specific areas to safely lift it without damage. Practice changing a tire. This will make it a lot easier on that cold, dark rainy night when your vehicle has a real flat.

Do: Check the spare tire's air pressure with a tire pressure gauge on a monthly basis, when you check all other tires on the vehicle. There’s nothing more aggravating than a flat spare when you have a flat tire. (This is performed at Cars for keeps whenever we perform our Free Pit Stop or other scheduled maintenance). All temporary (compact) spare tires are designed for short-term use only; they are not designed with the same capabilities as full size spare tires in terms of load capacity, speed capability, or all-weather traction. Refer to your vehicle’s owner's manual and a temporary spare's sidewall for instructions on proper use.

Do: If your vehicle’s spare is located under the vehicle, understand how it is lowered or released. This type of location leaves the assembly exposed to all the debris, salt and moisture you drive through day after day. Cars for Keeps will help you ensure the assembly is lubricated and functional when you need it.

Don’t: Forget the spare when you are preparing for winter, a road trip or sending a loved one off on their own.

Cars for Keeps can help when it comes to keeping the car safe, reliable and ready for life!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Why is Timing Belt Replacement So Important?

If you've ever worked with us - or any other highly accredited repair shop, for that matter - before, you probably have been asked at your car's first visit when the last time its timing belt was changed. Auto technicians who emphasize preventive car maintenance pay special attention to timing belt maintenance, and for good reason. Imagine the following scenario...

Your six-year-old vehicle is starting to show a bit of wear and tear, but everything mechanical still works fine, so maintenance gets pushed to the back burner. Until it doesn't. Specifically, the engine suddenly goes dead silent one fine day, and you find that your vehicles timing belt failed!

Due to the damage the broken timing belt has caused, not only do you have to pay for the tow and the belt replacement, but also a costly valve job, because there's no compression on two cylinders. You're one of the unfortunate car owners with an "interference engine" -- an engine that can leave one or more valves still propped open far enough to contact a piston when the belt parts. Sadly, car sales brochures don't list whether or not an engine might suffer catastrophic damage if the belt goes.

In most cases, this bit of unpleasantness could have been prevented with timely maintenance. It's best to replace the timing belt according to your vehicle manufacturer's recommended schedule. Some rarer engines -- like those in more expensive models -- still use timing chains, rather than belts, like they did back in the day before the popularity of overhead camshafts. Unlike belts, timing chains usually don't have a routine replacement interval, but for most car owners, regular timing belt replacement is critical.

The timing belt (or chain) is the sole component that keeps the camshaft (make that camshafts on a DOHC or V-type OHC engine) and crankshaft in sync. So replacing this cogged reinforced-rubber belt at regular intervals -- generally every 60,000 miles unless the car manufacturer specifies longer -- is a lot less expensive and aggravating than having it break first. To find out what your car's maintenance schedule is, consult with us here at Cars for Keeps or read the owner's manual.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Buying Used Cars: Quick Ways to Spot a Lemon

by Colette Cooley, Cars for Keeps Office Manager

Lemon or lovely – that is the question when you consider buying a used vehicle. It may look gorgeous on the outside, but the inner workings determine whether or not the car will be a money pit.Here are a few tips on what to look for when test driving that little beauty:

1) Pull out the oil dipstick while the engine is running – be careful not rev the engine!Watch the dipstick's hole as the engine idles; if you hear or see any air, gas or oil escaping the dipstick holder it means the rings are worn. A slight escape of air from the dipstick is the first stage of ring failure which is not a serious problem but will get worse until gas and oil start escaping the dipstick holder.The result is less power and leaking oil in the sump.Look for white emulsification on the dipstick which would indicate a cracked cylinder head, which is a serious problem.

2) Look at the exhaust pipe while the car is running. White smoke from the exhaust indicates there's engine oil remaining on the bore that the rings haven’t scraped off, which means oil could be leaking.Black smoke means the fuel injectors are dirty on a diesel engine.

3) Remove the radiator cap and check for oil.Oil in the water also means a cracked cylinder head.

4) Have a pre-purchase inspection performed! A compression test should also be done for failing rings on any used vehicle.This test requires a trained mechanic because of the equipment used and the test is complicated.The readings must be done ‘dry’ and ‘wet’, and it even depends on if you are above or below sea level.

At Cars For Keeps, we do a bumper to bumper inspection on used vehicles before you buy it, and we have saved a lot of people from buying a ‘money pit’.