Road trip ready car: a maintenance checklist

If you’re getting ready for that summer road trip, you’ve probably got more than a few things on your to-do list. From packing everything you need to stocking up on those road trip snacks, there’s a lot of details to manage. One thing that should not be overlooked as you prepare for your road trip is your car. There are at least a few things to check that will ensure a safe and enjoyable road trip.

Check your battery

Before you hit the road, it’s always a good idea to check your battery for any corrosion and to ensure that your connections are tight. Corrosive acid can leak if your battery connections are forced off, so if you’re not familiar with cleaning your battery, we recommend asking a mechanic to take a look.

Belts & Hoses

Your belts and hoses are critical to keeping your electrical system, power steering, and cooling system functioning properly. Have your belts inspected for fraying or cracking. When it comes to your hoses you want to check for leaks and drips. Left unattended, a broken belt of hose can cause a breakdown and leave you waiting for a tow.

Lights & Electrical Equipment

It’s always a good idea to check your lights before heading out. After you finish checking your interior lights, plan on inspecting your headlights, turn signals, and tail lights. Plan on replacing any burned out bulbs.

Windshield Wipers for your Road Trip

Did you know your windshield wipers should be replaced every 6 months? If it’s been a while, you’ll want to get new blades to keep your visibility clear in case you run into any summer rain storms. While you’re thinking about it, check your windshield washer fluid levels and fill her up.

Air Conditioner

Checking your air conditioner before the dog days of summer is another maintenance check you won’t want to miss. If your air is not blowing cold air like it used to, your mechanic can do an AC system check. You’ll also want to replace your cabin air filter which keeps allergens, mold, and other pollutants from getting inside your car.

Road Trip and Checking the Brake Pads

To ensure your family’s safety, it’s a good idea to have your brake pads inspected before you hit the road. Signs your brake pads need attention include: squealing noises while braking, a spongy brake pedal, pulling to one side while braking, and a shaking brake pedal. If you notice any of these signs, be sure to have your mechanic inspect your brakes before hitting the road.

Tire pressure

Improperly inflated tires can create stress for your engine, will add unnecessary wear & tear on your brakes, and can cause uneven tire wear. Poorly inflated tires are susceptible to blow outs and decreased fuel economy so be sure to check your air pressure before leaving.

Tire Rotation

While you’re down there checking air pressure, it’s a good idea to think about having your tires rotated. If you have a front or rear wheel drive vehicle, your tires can wear more quickly. Rotating your tires promotes even wear and greater safety for all your passengers.

Top Your Fluids

Before heading out, checking on your fluid levels can give you peace of mind when on the road. Start with having an oil change so you’re good to go for a long trip. After that, you’ll want to check that your transmission, power steering, and brake fluid are filled to the proper levels.

Checking these maintenance items before you hit the road can ensure a fun and smooth road trip. If you need a mechanic to inspect any of these items, then give us a call — our team is ready to get your car road trip ready in no time.

Why is my check engine light on?

You’re driving along – minding your own business on the road, and your check engine light goes on. If you’re like most Minnesotan drivers, you may wonder why your check engine light is on all of sudden and what it really means. Your check engine light is a warning from your car’s engine that something is awry, and we always recommend having your mechanic check it out. But if you’ve wondering why it may be on, we’ve got you covered with some common reasons the check engine light goes on.

Loose or faulty gas cap

Your gas cap and valves keep your gas in your tank and circulate the gas. If your gas cap is loose, it may cause you to lose fuel due to evaporation or for your fuel to circulate improperly.

Worn spark plugs

Your spark plugs ignite a mixture of fuel and air to create combustion which powers your engine’s cylinders. If your spark plugs are not firing right, it can cause an engine misfire which increases hydrocarbon emissions and can create weaker engine performance.

Faulty catalytic converter

Your catalytic converter changes carbon monoxide into carbon dioxide which helps protect the environment. When your catalytic converter is faulty, it can reduce your fuel economy and increase your exhaust emissions. The answer is not always a replacement. Typically, this can be caused by something else like a blown head gasket which can force burnt coolant vapor into your exhaust.

Dirty MAS airflow sensor

Your MAS airflow sensor determines how much fuel is needed to run the engine. It measures the amount of air entering the engine, and can be susceptible to oil and dirt build up. Your MAS airflow sensor may need cleaning, but ask your mechanic to inspect it to be sure.

Oxygen sensor failure

Your oxygen sensor measures the amount of unburnt oxygen in your exhaust system. It sends data to your car’s computer which uses this information to regulate the mixture of air and fuel that enters the cylinders. If you have a sensor failure, your car can keep running, but it will burn more fuel – and over time can damage your spark plugs and catalytic converter.

Vacuum Leak

Your vacuum system helps decrease emissions by routing the fumes as gas evaporates through the engine. Your vacuum hoses can crack or dry out especially if exposed to intense heat or cold.

Issues with your ignition coils

Your ignition coils deliver electrical pulses to each spark plug. When your engine computer sends a signal, the coil releases pent up energy to the spark plug when it ignites a mixture of air and fuel. Ignition coils are prone to failure after several years which can lead to poor fuel economy, and decreased engine power.

Your Fuel Injector

Each of your engine’s cylinders has a fuel injector which is a small electronically activated valve that regulates how much fuel is sprayed into the cylinder during the intake cycle. Fuel naturally has imperfections, and when these imperfections are mixed with carbon from the combustion process – it can cause the miniscule holes in the injector tip to plug or clog. When your fuel injector is completely clogged, your fuel injector can get stuck open and continuously leak fuel into the cylinder which causes your engine to run roughly.

These are just some of the issues that may cause your check engine light to turn on. It’s always a good idea to make an appointment with your mechanic when your check engine light goes on so they can correctly diagnose your engine’s problem. If your check engine light has recently turned on, our team would love to help inspect your car and get you back out on the road sooner rather than later.

A Complete History of Auto AC and Refrigerant

As our days start to get hotter, you may be reaching for that knob to turn on your auto air conditioning. And if you’re a little bit curious about history and where your auto AC came from, you may be wondering how we got to the point where we can cool off the inside of our car with the click of a button. In less than a century, we’ve gone from cars without AC to every car having AC installed automatically. If you’d like to know more, then keep reading as we uncover the history of Auto AC and refrigerants.

Early Auto Cooling

The earliest Model Ts had no doors and a collapsible roof. Car owners were more concerned about keeping warm in the winter instead of cool in the summer. In those early days, auto cooling was automatic and relied on open air doors and roofs to keep drivers and passengers cool while driving.

Shortly thereafter, closed body vehicles were invented with doors and windows. At this time, drivers would cool down the inside of the cars simply by opening their windows. Cars would come with vents underneath the dashboard that would circulate the outside air in an attempt to keep everyone cool. This system had one drawback: it didn’t keep dirt and dust from getting inside the car like our AC systems do today.

First steps to innovation

Once vents were installed underneath the dash, car makers got to work innovating an even more effective way to cool off the inside of the car. The Knapp Limo-Sedan Fan hit the market which consisted of an electric fan that was mounted to the interior of the car. A second option for car owners was the car cooler which was attached to the roof of the car and used water evaporation to deliver cool air through the open windows. While these innovations were an improvement over the open air, they could only reduce the interior car temperature by 15-20 degrees.

The first factory installed air conditioning system

In the 1940s, Packard became the first automaker to offer factory installed AC. The unit was installed in the trunk and was manually operated. This required the driver to get out of the car and manually install or remove the drive belt from the compressor to turn it on or off. This unit did not circulate outside air, and only circulated inside air to cool off the interior of the car. It used condensed water that ran overhead in the car with the biggest complaint being water would drip on passengers as it cooled.

Post-war Improvements

Before World War II began, there were about 3,000 cars that had air conditioning, but after the War there were over 1 million cars with air conditioning. In 1953, General Motors, Chrysler, and Packed all introduced new AC systems for cars, and the GM Radiator Division developed a revolutionary system that fit in a car’s engine. In other words, no more hopping out of the car and into your trunk to turn your AC on and off. In 1963, Cadillac made a breakthrough invention and added comfort control – allowing drivers to set their own temperature for inside comfort.

Refrigerants and Environmental Concerns

In the 1970s, scientists discovered compounds Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were depleting the earth’s ozone layer. At the time, auto AC used a refrigerant called R12, also known as Freon, which was a CFC. The auto industry knew it needed a new option that was better for the environment. After years of testing, a suitable replacement was found in a refrigerant called R-134a. In 1987, the U.S. Government signed the Montreal Compact, which in part required manufacturers to make the switch to safer refrigerants like R-134a by 1996.

Modern Day

You probably already know from your own car that modern-day AC systems have advanced to dual and rear climate control at the push of a button. Nowadays, virtually every car has an AC (only 1% of cars manufactured today don’t). And while your AC refrigerant isn’t impacting our ozone layer, it can decrease our fuel efficiency by up to 25%. Some simple tips to increase your fuel efficiency when using your AC include only using your AC while driving at highway speeds, not idling with your AC on, and opening windows before turning on your AC to let the hot air out.

There you have it. In less than a century, we’ve made advanced strides in keeping cool while driving in the summer, but our advanced systems need regular maintenance. If you haven’t brought your car in for a summer maintenance and AC system check, our team would love to help keep you cool all summer long.

 

Boat trailer maintenance tips before you hit the water this summer

With the arrival of summer, Minnesotans like you, are ready to get outside and enjoy the great outdoors. Summer is for baseball, boating, and backyard BBQs. If you own a boat, you’re probably itching to get out on the water for some fishing, skiing, and summer fun boat rides. Before you get carried away, it’s important to not neglect some maintenance tips before you hit the road to the cabin or that boat slip down the street. You’ll want to make sure your boat trailer is in working order to ensure your safety and to get your boat to your destination.

Check your trailer lights

Your trailer lights are one of the most important safety measures as they let other vehicles know that you’re carrying a boat and to keep a safe distance. Driving with faulty trailer lights can get you a hefty fine which is why it’s important to inspect these lights on a regular basis. You’ll want to check to see if your trailer lights are dim, flickering, or not working at all. Older trailer lights can burn out so you’ll want to get these replaced if they are not working. One additional measure you can take is ensuring a clean connection with your vehicle and your trailer. You can install a cover when you’re not towing to prevent corrosion on the metal pins.  These can be purchased at any auto parts store.

Check your trailer brakes

For obvious reasons, you’re going to want to make sure your brakes are in working order. Many states require that you have brakes installed on at least one of your trailer’s axles for safety reasons. This ensures safety for you and other motorists. If your trailer weighs over 3000 lbs and you only have brakes on your vehicle, your trailer can swerve causing a safety hazard. You’ll want to inspect your brakes and clean dirt and debris. You also want to inspect your brake pads for wear and tear. If you notice any wear and tear – it may be time to replace the pads. Lastly, you’ll want to fill your brake fluid to the proper levels.

Check your wheel bearings

Faulty wheel bearings are a common cause of issues with boat trailers. Winter water and moisture can cause your wheel bearings to corrode and rust – which can cause friction and keep your wheels from turning properly. To ensure your safety on the road, you’ll want to inspect your wheel bearings for any corrosion, and grease them before you head out with your boat. If your trailer doesn’t already have them, you may want to install bearing protectors to keep your wheel bearings in shape in every season.

Check your tires

You’ll want to make sure your trailer tires are in good shape before hitting the road with your boat. First, you’ll want to make sure your tires are properly inflated to the maximum rating on the tires or as listed on the capacity sticker on the trailer. Tires can naturally lose over a pound of air pressure each month, so it’s important to double check before you hit the road. While you’re down there checking air pressure, you should also inspect for any wear and tear on your trailer tires. Tires that are more than 6 years old or that are experiencing wear and tear should be replaced. It’s also a good idea to check your spare, and if you don’t have one – you’ll want to get one just in case.

Check your safety chain

Your safety chain should crisscross underneath the trailer tongue and attach to your vehicle for support. You’ll want to inspect your safety chain and make sure it’s in good shape.

Check your bunk rollers

Last, but not least, give your bunks rollers a good once over. Do they look like they are in good condition? Do they support the hull? Damaged and poorly conditioned bunk rollers can cause scratches and damage the hull. Following these tips before you load up your boat and hit the water can ensure your safety and enjoyment of your boat all summer long.

Top 7 Spring Maintenance Tips for your car

Spring is in the air, and if you’re like many other Minnesotans, there’s a lot to do to get ready to enjoy nicer weather and beautiful sunshine. From spring cleaning to planting gardens, Minnesotans are busy checking off their to-do list. One item you might want to add, however, is giving your car some attention. Winter can be harsh on our cars, and spring is the best time to perform maintenance on these 7 areas of your car.

Tires & Alignment

One of the most hard-hit areas of your car over the winter is your tires. Snow, ice, salt, and even potholes this spring can really do a number on those tires. You’ll want to inspect your tires for uneven tread or wear – which can be a safety hazard when driving. You’ll also want to check for any dents or damage to your rims, while you’re at it. Lastly, it’s important to pay attention to your car’s alignment. Winter road conditions can create issues in your alignment that show up with symptoms like uneven or rapid tire wear, your steering wheel being crooked while driving straight, and pulling to one side while driving. Getting your tires rotated & balanced, and having your alignment checked is a great way to get your car ready for spring and summer driving.

Suspension

Your suspension systems can also take a beating especially if you’ve run into one of those potholes recently. Take your car into your mechanic to have your struts and/or shocks checked. Wondering if your suspension needs some attention? Some signs of a suspension issue include continued bouncing after hitting bumps, pulling to one side after turning corners, unusually bumpy rides, and one side of a parked car sitting lower than the other.

Belts & Hoses

Our bitterly cold temps over the winter can wreak havoc on your belts and hoses. It’s important to have your mechanic check these for any wearing, tearing, or crack. Left unattended, a torn belt or hose can lead to a breakdown on the side of the road. Save yourself the headache of waiting for a tow and have your mechanic inspect them this spring.

Cabin Air Filter

If your car was manufactured after 1999, then you probably have a cabin air filter in your vehicle. The cabin air filter’s job is to keep the inside air of your vehicle clean by keeping pollen, mold, and other pollutants out. Spring is a great time to get a fresh cabin air filter installed to keep your air quality high when driving through the spring and summer months.

AC

If you’re like most Minnesota drivers, we’re guessing you haven’t used your AC in a while. You’ll want to make sure your AC is in working order as you prepare for those hot days later this summer.  Simply ask your mechanic to run an AC output test to make sure you’re ready to roll when the temperatures start to heat up.

Headlights, Taillights, and Turn Signals

All that snow and salt can be an issue for the lights on your car. It’s always a good idea to make sure they are all in working order and replace any burnt out lamps. In addition, winter conditions can cause headlights, and sometimes tail lights, to form a yellowish haze, which can be a nighttime driving hazard. Inspect your headlights and taillights and if you notice any yellowing, have your mechanic take a look and replace to ensure safe driving all summer long.

Wipers

It may be a little thing, but winter can dull your wiper blades. We highly recommend replacing your wiper blades each spring to make sure you’re ready for those spring and summer rains later on.

If you’re in spring cleaning mode, these 7 tips will ensure that you and your family will be safe as you drive into spring. If you’re ready to have a mechanic perform spring maintenance for you, simply call and make an appointment. Our team is always ready to help!