10 Essential Automotive Services Not to Let Slide
Every so often (hopefully less often than not) a car or truck will break down, you’ll need to get it towed to the shop, and you’ll listen in dismay as you learn you need a new engine, a significant repair to your transmission, or something even more expensive and involved. That is just part and parcel of owning an aging car. Occasionally, things break and need to be fixed.
However, you’re also probably no stranger to the fact that the vast, overwhelming majority of auto repair services are not only noninvasive yet routine and affordable. Moreover, many of these services – including those that we will address in this article – are instrumental in preventing other, larger headaches and equipment failures down the road. That is, the more frequently you begin a search for “auto repair near me” the less frequently you will need to search for an auto repair shop to have something more seriously addressed.
In other words, routine maintenance goes a long way towards preserving the health of your car in the long run, and oftentimes a dollar today and save you ten dollars tomorrow. Here are some of the more mundane services and repairs that you can perform for your vehicle that have far-reaching benefits.
- Oil changes
Oil changes are not really a repair so much as a routine service, but make no mistake about one very important, very simple truth. This routine service is one of the most important that you can provide for your vehicle, period.
The oil that fills the oil galleries around your vehicle’s operation is vital to its smooth operation and to its performance. Engine oil lubricates the moving components of your engine (of which there are many) and helps to keep the engine from overheating.
Engine oil also filters particulate matter and abrasive agents away from your engine, where they can then be trapped and removed from circulation by the oil filter. This further enhances the fluid operation of your engine.
It’s almost impossible to change your oil “too much,” because fresher oil will enable your engine to run more efficiently, produce less heat as a byproduct, cut down on premature wear of engine components, and improve fuel economy.
There’s no hard or fast rule about how often you need to change your oil – but you can check your engine oil levels yourself. If they’re low or the oil is darkened, it is either burning, breaking down, or saturated with contaminants and needs to be changed. Of course, you can also check your vehicle’s owner’s manual for recommendations on changing your oil.
- Spark plug replacement & engine air filters
The freshness of your vehicle’s oil is not the only factor that can and does impact engine health and performance. The age and condition of your vehicle’s spark plugs and engine air filter will impact engine performance as well.
Over time, your spark plugs will naturally wear down from use. When this happens, they may not fire reliably or may even misfire. If this happens, it will result in incomplete combustion of the air-fuel mixture fed to the engine, which is then passed to the catalytic converters. This stresses the catalytic converter and can result in costly repairs.
If your spark plugs wear down even more and fail to fire reliably, it can result in failure of your engine to run at all, but this is an extreme case and you will probably run into other issues beforehand. Nonetheless, you will experience decreased engine performance and probably notably decreased fuel economy if you are not judicious about replacing your spark plugs as needed.
As for the engine air filter, it helps to ensure that only clean air is fed to your engine through the intake. Replacing your air filter will help your engine run more efficiently and can help preserve your fuel economy as well.
*A note regarding cabin air filters: Not all vehicles have cabin air filters, but if your car does, you should routinely replace the cabin air filter as well because a clogged cabin filter will place extra stress on your vehicle’s HVAC system.
- Fuel filter
Believe it or not, your vehicle’s fuel filter is actually every ounce as important in preserving your engine health and performance as your air filter is. In fact, in some ways, it is more important. It helps to filter particulate contaminants out of your vehicle’s fuel, which protects the internals of your vehicle’s engine from wear and damage.
When dust and other contaminants are not properly filtered from your fuel and enter the engine’s cylinders where they will come in contact with the pistons, the extreme heat and pressure can cause damage to the engine. In addition, ensuring that your fuel filter is replaced routinely or as needed will keep feeding fresh fuel to the engine, which will encourage efficient engine performance and protect fuel economy.
This gives you a double-barreled ability to save money – protecting your engine from potentially costly repairs and also safeguarding your fuel economy, shielding you from excess fuel consumption, which in turn, costs more money.
- Tire care and replacement
Caring for your vehicle’s tires and having your tires rotated will also improve the performance of your vehicle and extend the lifespan of its tires. Your tire’s tread patterns are specifically designed to grip the road, given a set of environmental conditions for which they have been developed. Over time, the treads will wear down, requiring you to replace the tires.
However, tire treads rarely wear down evenly, instead often wearing down around the edges. Because of this, having your tires rotated as needed helps to ensure they wear as evenly as possible so that you don’t need to replace your tires before it becomes necessary.
There are other benefits to having your tires rotated in addition to extending their lifespans. Rotating your tires can improve the performance of your vehicle’s handling and traction, which improves safety as well. The better your traction, the better your vehicle is equipped to respond to the road and to changing conditions.
Tire rotation, however, is not the only service you can render that helps to ensure even wear, better handling, and even improved fuel economy – alignment services can help with that as well.
- Alignment services
Alignment has nothing to do with your actual tires themselves; it has to do with how they are arranged and angled with respect to each other, the vehicle, and the road. Not every vehicle has the same alignment, and the alignment services necessary for your vehicle may change according to the types of tires used, in addition to other factors.
Allowing your vehicle to fall out of alignment can bring about a series of unpleasant and entirely preventable circumstances. For one, a vehicle that is badly out of alignment will run more roughly on the road. Additionally, an out-of-alignment car will experience faster than average tire wear, diminishing the lifespan of your tires.
If your alignment is not properly adjusted, your car’s handling will be impacted adversely as well. Signs that you should be looking up “auto repair near me” for alignment services including vibrating or shaking while driving or braking, as well as a vehicle that seems to pull to one size. Squealing while braking or turning may also be an indication that your vehicle needs alignment services.
Keeping your vehicle’s alignment properly adjusted will protect your tires against undue and uneven wear, will improve the handling and thus the safety of your vehicle, and will even help preserve your fuel economy, saving you money.
- Brake services
Many cars have front and rear disc brakes, which use brake pads. When you apply pressure to the brake pad, the hydraulic fluid in the brake lines transfers that pressure to the brake pads, closing them around the brake’s rotors. This converts the kinetic energy of the vehicle’s motion into heat and slows the vehicle down.
Because the energy is converted into heat, brake pads must be made from special heat-resistant materials that don’t melt, burn or deform when they are applied. However, over time, friction does wear brake pads down to the point that they need to be replaced.
It should be self-evident that brake service, repair, and replacement is a matter of personal safety and not just of vehicle health. If your vehicle responds sluggishly when you apply the brakes, takes longer to slow down and stop than usual, or produces some sort of sound while braking, bring it in to have the brakes checked out and serviced.
- Battery testing and maintenance
Your car may turn over and start up fine one day, only to be simply stone dead the next. In many instances, a dead battery is a reason that a car won’t start, and after the battery has been replaced, it will start up like a song.
Since the battery is the heart of your vehicle’s electrical system – and the car won’t run without it, anyway, having your battery tested routinely can help you prevent the unpleasant occurrence of, say, going out somewhere, only to come back to a car that won’t start.
Testing is affordable and can help prevent the previous headache. It can make the difference between replacing your battery before it dies and waking up one morning and walking out to a car that won’t start.
- Differential services
Your vehicle’s differential translates the energy from the engine to the wheels; using different gears (hence, differential) it is able to allow your wheels to spin at different speeds depending on the gear in which your vehicle is operating.
Over time, your differential may start to leak fluid, or wear out. If you notice that you are having difficulty while steering or that your car is vibrating excessively while you are driving, these may be signs that your vehicle’s differential may need some attention.
Servicing your differential ahead of time, much like the other routine services covered in this list, can help prevent more costly repairs and replacements down the line, saving you a headache.
- Serpentine belt
Your vehicle’s serpentine belt is something you might never notice until it breaks or fails to work as it did when it was new. Serpentine belts are responsible for powering, among other things, the power steering pump, compressor, and perhaps most importantly, the alternator. In many vehicles, they are noticeably located in front of the engine and are in constant motion when the engine is running.
The serpentine belt itself is not an expensive piece of equipment, but if it fails, you could lose your power steering, HVAC system, and even the ability to run the alternator and produce electricity to power the other systems in your car. In some vehicles, the serpentine belt powers other systems as well, so if it fails, you could run into additional problems.
Signs that your serpentine belt needs to be replaced include cracking, splitting or wear along the edges of the belt. Of course, if you aren’t sure what to look for, that’s alright, too, because our A.S.E. certified technicians are.
- Engine coolant levels
Engine coolant helps to protect an engine from overheating during operation and also helps to lubricate some of the moving parts. If your coolant levels are low, it can lead to overheating or even seizing or other permanent mechanical damage to your engine. In extreme cases, your engine may heat up to the point that certain components, like the pistons, deform or weld to the cylinders.
Checking your coolant levels and having your coolant system serviced is an affordable, easy way to prevent engine damage that is neither affordable nor easy to repair. Have your vehicle scheduled for an appointment to come into one of our locations in Arizona and we will test your coolant levels for you and suggest any necessary services to secure your vehicle health.
Auto Repair Near Me: Borst Automotive for Bumper-to-Bumper Services
Preventive and routine maintenance are some of the biggest factors in protecting your car’s value and ensuring that it runs as smoothly as possible. If you have any questions about these or our other bumper-to-bumper vehicle services, please feel free to contact us for more information and our friendly and knowledgeable staff will be more than happy to assist with more specific information.