It is very wise to invest in regular preventative car maintenance. This includes oil changes, tire rotations, brake inspections, and tune-ups. Well-maintained cars are more reliable, perform better, get better gas mileage, and last longer, but –most importantly – they are safer.
So what are the items that need to be regularly maintained? Always refer to your owner’s or maintenance manual for any special requirements but we recommend the following general maintenance:
- Oil and filter change every 3,000 miles (or 5,000 miles for synthetic oil)
- Tire rotation every 5,000 to 6,000 miles
- Checking tire pressure and lights at least once a month
- Check and maintain fluid levels at every oil change
- Air filter should be replaced at 10,000 miles or when found dirty on inspection
- Cabin (Climate Control) filter should be replaced at 10,000 miles or when found dirty on inspection
- Tire/wheel balance every other oil change
- Inspection of hoses and belts each time an oil change is performed
- Brake inspection should be performed at each oil change
- Brake fluid should be flushed every two years or when testing indicates excessive moisture content or other contamination
- Power steering fluid should be flushed every 30,000 to 60,000 miles
- The battery should be tested every 6 months and replaced when it becomes weak rather than after it goes bad and leaves you stranded
- Cooling system should be flushed every 30,000 miles
- Hoses and belts should be replaced between 60,000 and 100,000 miles or when worn/cracked
- Automatic transmission service or fluid exchange between 15,000 and 90,000 miles – depending on make/model
- Replace fuel filter every 30,000 miles
- The timing belt (and related components) should be replaced at vehicle manufacturer’s recommendation or between 60,000 and 90,000 miles
- Spark plugs should be replaced as early as 30,000 or when recommended by your vehicle’s manufacturer
- Wheel bearing or axle bearing (CV Joint) grease repack and CV Boot replacement, if applicable, performed every 60,000 to 90,000 miles
There are times when we see customers come in with a broken-down vehicle, falsely believing he/she has saved money by putting off routine maintenance. An inspection or diagnosis of these cars often reveals at least $2,000 to $4,000 of necessary repairs. It’s frustrating to be faced with any kind of car trouble, especially if we’re in a hurry or far from home. Incidents of breaking down can be avoided if you regularly have your car checked and perform preventative maintenance.
On the positive side of things, we also see well-maintained cars in our shop. We recently had a gentleman bring his European car in for its 240,000-mile major service. That’s right 240,000 miles! This customer has been meticulous about having us regularly perform preventative maintenance and it has paid off. This 240,000-mile car has never had a breakdown and is in really good shape, with the original engine, original transmission, original radiator, original power steering components, original drive axles (CV Joints), and original brake hydraulic components all still in fine working order. The money this good man has spent on maintenance over the years is a fraction of what it would’ve cost to repair the breakdowns that he has so wisely avoided.
We depend on our cars to get us to where we’re going – work, a road trip, kids’ school or play dates, and sports events. If you take good care of your car, it will surely take good care of you.
Some helpful spring maintenance tips…
- Change Oil & Filter
If you haven’t changed your oil since the beginning of winter, now is a good time to do it. We recommend an Oil & Filter Change every 3,000 miles for conventional oil and every 5,000 miles for synthetic oil.
- Inspect Brakes
There is probably nothing more important than your brakes and having them function properly. Periodic inspection of brake linings (pads and/or shoes) is essential to ensuring your brakes are safe and functioning. Springtime is a great time to have us inspect your brakes. And remember, at Meineke San Bernardino, brake inspections are always free.
- Rotate Tires
Tire rotation is essential to getting the most mileage out of your tires. We recommend a rotation no later than every 5,000 miles.
- Transmission Fluid Change or Flush
The transmission is perhaps one of the most neglected items. Transmission failure is very costly, likely between $2,000 and $4,000. Nothing prevents catastrophic transmission failure better than periodic fluid changes. Spring is a great time to tend to this often overlooked maintenance service.
- Cooling System Check
With spring in the air, it’s a good time to have us inspect your engine’s cooling system for leaks, worn hoses, and proper function.
Of all the car troubles you could experience, a failed transmission is one of the most expensive and inconvenient. Repairing, rebuilding, or replacing a transmission could potentially cost thousands of dollars. A broken transmission is an expense and hassle we’d rather see our customers avoid. There are things you can do to prolong the life of your transmission.
Routine Transmission Maintenance: Just like changing the oil in your engine, your transmission fluid should be changed on a regular schedule. We recommend this service no later than every 30,000 miles. The transmission fluid is very critical and keeps all moving parts working smoothly and, more importantly, the fluid reduces heat caused by friction. When the fluid gets old, it tends to coat the moving parts with a sticky substance and fails to properly reduce heat. This leads to premature wear and failure of the internal parts. My experience shows that the vast majority of transmissions die from neglected fluid.
Take it Easy: While accelerating slowly and gradually isn’t everyone’s favorite mode of driving, it is the most cost-saving method. This method of driving doesn’t only save fuel, it can do wonders for preserving the life of your transmission. Slow and even acceleration reduces friction and so keeps temperatures down. This goes for both your transmission and engine. Also, whenever possible, try to avoid stop-and-go traffic. The biggest enemy of your transmission is heat and heavy traffic conditions will add on a few degrees to the internal temperature of your transmission.
Keep the Transmission Cool: A hot transmission is surely one that will die early. High transmission temperatures break down the fluid, causing the sticky substance discussed in the previous paragraph. Replacing or exchanging the transmission fluid regularly helps keep it cool. However, if your car isn’t already equipped with one, we recommend installing an external transmission cooler. These coolers are relatively inexpensive and easy to install. In many instances, having a transmission cooler can double the life of your transmission. A transmission cooler is highly recommended for anyone routinely driving in above 90-degree weather, driving in constant stop-and-go traffic, and anyone placing extra-ordinary demands on the transmission, such as towing.
Maintain Proper Fluid Level: While dirty fluid will damage a transmission over time, the absence of fluid will almost instantly cause severe damage. Always, make sure the transmission fluid (ATF) is at the proper level. This too means regular car check-ups and watching for any signs of leaks.
Be Aware and Catch Transmission Problems Early: When driving, keep your eyes, ears, and nose open. Be on alert for strange noises, smells, or sights – such as fluid leaks or smoke. Also, watch for changes in performance, such as harsh shifting, hesitation in shifting, clunking sound before a sudden shift, extra engine revs while accelerating, or grinding shifts. These are some signs of a failing transmission. The check engine light coming on can also be a result of early transmission problems. Catching a problem right when it starts, especially with your transmission, can potentially save you hundreds or thousands of dollars. A failing transmission will only get worse with time, adding unnecessary costs to the repair. We have had some customers who came in at the very first sign of transmission trouble and were able to get away with a mere transmission flush and filter replacement to remedy the problem. In these instances, ignoring the problem and continuing to drive would’ve surely killed the transmission, since transmission damage is almost always progressive.
With proper maintenance and quick action at the first sign of trouble, transmissions can last up to a few hundred thousand miles. Be good to your car and your car will be good to you.
What Is A Timing Belt?
Your timing belt drives the engine camshaft or, in the case of a dual overhead cam (DOHC) engine, the timing belt drives both camshafts. The belt is called a “timing belt” because it perfectly times the opening and closing of the intake and exhaust valves in the cylinder head with the movement of the pistons.
When Should The Timing Belt Be Replaced?
The recommended intervals for timing belt replacement vary from one vehicle manufacturer to another. Most manufacturers recommend timing belt replacement sometime between 60,000 and 120,000 miles. Your maintenance schedule manual should provide the mileage interval at which your timing belt is recommended to be replaced.
Many times, faulty belt tensioners and idlers, a leaking water pump, or oil from an oil leak soaking into the belt can cause early timing belt failure. This is why it is important to have your timing belt, and vehicle for that matter, inspected at regular intervals – even before the mileage at which your vehicle manufacturer recommends timing belt replacement. The timing belt is usually housed behind one or more timing belt covers on the front of the engine. One of these covers can be removed to provide a good visual of the belt. At Meineke San Bernardino, we provide a FREE MULTI-POINT VEHICLE INSPECTION that can identify oil leaks and other conditions that could lead to premature timing belt failure. Please ask us to remove the timing belt cover and directly inspect the belt, which we will be happy to include for free at the time we perform the multi-point inspection. Visit us at one of our San Bernardino locations anytime or click here to make an appointment. Another thing to keep in mind is that timing belt failure usually occurs without any warning. Most of the time, your engine will seem to run normally, even when your timing belt is cracked or soaked with harmful oils.
In many instances, the timing belt can last beyond the recommended interval for replacement. We often come across high mile vehicles where the timing belt hasn’t yet been replaced as recommended. We also have seen cars come in on a tow truck with engine damage due to a timing belt that broke sometime very shortly after the recommended replacement interval. So, the conclusion is that it’s risky and unpredictable to prolong timing belt replacement after the recommended replacement mileage. One other factor to consider is driving conditions. Think about this: your engine is running and the camshaft(s) is still turning weather the car is actually moving and racking up miles or not, such as in the case of regularly driving in heavy traffic . In this situation, you could be on borrowed time even before the mileage for timing belt replacement is reached.
What Happens When The Timing Belt Breaks?
Timing belt replacement is very important because, on most cars, if the belt breaks it can cause internal engine damage. When the timing of the valve opening in coordination to the up and down movement of the pistons is lost due to a broken belt, the pistons could hit and bend the valves or crack the cylinder head. The engine type where damage can occur when the timing belt breaks is called an “interference engine.” On the other hand, engines where damage from a broken belt is limited are called “non-interference engines.” These engines will usually only stop running when the timing belt breaks, but engine damage rarely occurs.
Other Types Of Timing Belt Failures And Symptoms:
Sometimes an old timing belt will stretch but not break (or, at least, not yet). This may result in the engine timing going out of specification or being delayed. Some symptoms of delayed engine timing are a lack of power or slow acceleration. In some cars, a stretched or loose timing belt will create a rattle in the engine from the timing belt cover area. These are all signs that the timing belt should be replaced immediately, especially in an interference engine.
Is It Necessary To Replace Related Components With The Timing Belt?
Usually, when replacing a timing belt, it is recommended that the water pump and camshaft seals be replaced at the same time. Please keep in mind that, unless something is found to be specifically wrong with the water pump or cam seals, this recommendation is purely a maintenance recommendation. Timing belt replacement is a very labor-intensive job. The water pump and cam seals are instantly accessible when the timing belt is off. Replacing the water pump and cam seals now will prevent added expenses and headaches in the future if the water pump or seals fail later. In most cases, water pump and camshaft seal replacement during the operation of replacing the timing belt is only an additional parts cost with labor being included already. In almost all instances, timing belt replacement kits are available from the parts supplier that include the water pump and camshaft seals along with the timing belt. These kits provide additional parts savings.
Be sure to come in today or click here to schedule an appointment for your free timing belt inspection. If you do need a timing belt replacement, mention this article and receive 20% OFF or click here for a coupon.
What Are Struts and Shocks?
Struts & Shocks are parts of your car’s suspension. They dampen the bounce in the suspension springs that absorb the shock that your car experiences on rough roads. This dampening helps keep your tires on the road and contributes to the car’s smooth ride and stability. Just like many other components in your car, the struts and shocks occasionally need maintenance or replacement. When struts and shocks fail, it becomes necessary to take your car in to be inspected. The question, though, is when is this replacement necessary. There are some simple tests that can be performed to determine if the struts and shocks need attention.
What’s the Difference Between Struts and Shocks? Shocks are one part of your car’s suspension. They have a simple cylinder-shaped design that helps absorb the bumps and movement of the leaf springs. Struts are more of a complete suspension system and are enclosed by the coil springs. Like shocks, struts are designed to absorb the up and down movement of the coil springs. Typically, but not always, struts are placed in the front and shocks are on the rear of your car. Most light trucks have shocks on the front and rear suspension. Shocks are almost always less expensive to replace than are struts.
Common Signs That Your Struts or Shocks are Bad
Recognizing when your struts and shocks are starting to go bad can help prevent additional damage and additional costs, such as wearing out tires or other suspension components. Below are some things to look for.
Bottoming Out: One of the most common indications that struts or shocks are bad is the sensation of bottoming out. Bottoming out in the front or rear when carrying excessive weight or passengers can mean that your struts and shocks are no longer doing their job of supporting the weight.
Forward Dive: Another telltale sign of worn out struts or shocks is when your car’s front end takes a nosedive while braking. When you apply your brakes, most of your car’s weight is transferred forward. If your struts or shocks are worn, they will not be able to handle this additional weight and the car takes a nosedive. This can add stress to your brakes and also create problems controlling or steering your car.
Rock and Roll: Worn out struts and shocks can cause your car to roll from side to side. While turning, the car’s weight shifts in the direction of your turn. If the struts or shocks are worn out, they will not be able to absorb this additional weight and this causes the car to roll excessively to that side. This will cause uneven tire wear and can be dangerous if the roll is bad enough to cause loss of control at higher speeds.
Bumpy Ride: If your struts and shocks are worn, you’ll likely experience a rough and bumpy ride. Bumpy roads can send vibrations through your car that your struts and shocks are supposed to absorb. If the struts and shocks are worn out, they will no longer absorb these vibrations. This will create a bumpy ride. Noises and rattles can also occur due to road bumps not being properly absorbed.
Unpredictable Handling: Unfavorable driving conditions like excessive wind and bumpy or wavy roads can cause your car to sway from side to side if the struts and shocks are worn out.
What We Do to Test Struts and Shocks
Unlike other maintenance requirements on your car, struts and shocks do not have a mileage interval at which they are recommended to be replaced. However, it’s a really good idea to have your struts and shocks inspected at least starting at 50,000 miles.
Leak Test: If they are showing signs of leaks, your car’s struts and shocks are recommended to be replaced. Struts and shocks that are oil-filled may leave that oil on the ground when they leak. However, most commonly, the leaking oil will leave residue on the strut or shock itself.
“Air suspension systems” have struts and shocks that are filled with air. When air leaks from these struts and shocks, it’s not as easy to see these leaks. In these suspension systems, we will usually spray a soapy liquid on the struts, shocks, and air lines. We will then inspect the components for air bubbles that indicate a leak.
Bounce Test: One of the most common ways of testing to see if struts and shocks are worn is to perform a simple bounce test. Just push down on either the front or the back of the car and then let go. If the car bounces excessively, then the struts or shocks are likely worn out.
At Meineke San Bernardino we offer a complimentary multi-point vehicle and undercar inspection that includes inspection and testing of struts and shocks. Come in anytime or click here for an appointment.
What exactly is a cooling system flush?
The cooling system on your car has a really hard job to do. The cooling system has to keep your engine, which produces very high temperatures due to friction, from overheating. The cooling system also channels hot coolant through the heater core in your dashboard to operate the heater and keep you warm during the winter months. Coolant is pumped through all the parts of the engine that produce heat, then it gets rid of all this heat through the radiator.
The components in your engine are each made from different types of metals and, as such, will corrode at different rates. So proper maintenance is needed to prevent the buildup of damaging rust. Over time, the coolant in your engine starts to break down and will no longer do its job.
The traditional method of simply draining and refilling the coolant does not get all the coolant out of the engine and cooling system. In fact, in most cases, a mere drain and refill only gets out about 50% of the coolant. So, in these instances, fresh new coolant is being mixed with old, corroded coolant. This would be like only changing half of your engine oil and allowing the old oil to mix with the new.
A complete cooling system flush will remove all of the old coolant from the system. In addition to removing all the coolant, most rust and sludge will also be removed in the process. This is like scrubbing the system clean before adding the new coolant.
The benefits of a complete coolant flush?
The number one benefit of a cooling system flush is the removal of old coolant before it becomes corrosive and damages engine and cooling system components. Just like the oil in your engine, coolant will break down over time.
So a cooling system flush will extend the life of your cooling system. Such components as the water pump, radiator, and heater core will last longer if maintained with a periodic cooling system flush. By regularly flushing the cooling system, you’re ensuring that clean and fresh coolant (which contains protective additives) continues to do its job of protecting your engine and cooling system components from corrosion and acidity.
Below is a list of benefits that a complete cooling system flush will provide:
- A cooling system flush prevents rust from building up in the radiator and other metal parts of the engine, water pump, heater core, and metal cooling lines.
- A cooling system flush can boost your car’s performance.
- Fresh, clean coolant with the absence of any of the old impurities will help lubricate cooling system components.
- A cooling system flush can help avoid expensive repairs or parts replacement by preventing corrosion in these parts.
- A cooling system flush can help prevent a blown head gasket in your engine.
- A cooling system flush can keep your engine running cooler and prevent boil overs during hot summer driving. (Overheating is a leading cause of vehicle breakdowns that can keep you stranded).
How often is a cooling system flush recommended?
We recommend a cooling system flush every 30,000 miles. This is the most common interval recommended by vehicle manufacturers. When you bring your car to one of our Meineke San Bernardino locations, our certified technicians will check the quality and chemical consistency of your coolant/antifreeze and make a recommendation based on the results of this test.
Also, if your cooling system undergoes a major repair, such as a radiator or water pump replacement, we recommend a complete cooling system flush to help protect the newly replaced parts.
We know that replacing brake pads or brake shoes can be a burden, but it will eventually become necessary once they are worn. Auto manufacturers consider brake friction parts, such as pads, rotors, drums, and shoes to be “normal wear components.” So replacing these items is inevitable. However, there are things you can do to prolong the life of your brakes.
- Don’t speed: The faster you’re driving, the more stress it’ll put on your brakes when you do have to stop. If you’re driving on the highway at faster speeds and can manage it, try coasting to a lower speed before pressing on the brakes.
- Don’t tailgate:Hitting your brakes suddenly causes excessive heat build up and that can warp brake discs and drums. Also, stopping rapidly causes friction material (brake pads and brake shoes) to wear out much faster, leading to premature replacement of these parts.
- Flush Brake Fluid periodically: Over time, brake fluid becomes contaminated and oxidized due to the constant pressure it endures as well as environmental conditions. The older the fluid the more moisture it will contain. Contaminated brake fluid can lead to failure of brake hydraulic components, such as calipers and wheel cylinders. The brake fluid in your car needs to be flushed out and replaced with new fluid periodically. We recommend this service every two years, regardless of miles. Clean brake fluid will perform and compress better, putting less pressure on your brake friction material (brake pads or brake shoes). Click here to schedule your brake fluid flush today.
- Be aware of your surroundings: Being aware of the surrounding traffic conditions will allow you to calculate when you need to stop, which lets you coast to reduce speed before applying the brakes. For example, if you know a stop sign or stoplight is coming up ahead, you can slow down over a longer distance instead of slamming on the brakes or otherwise stopping at the last minute. Did you know that stopping from 55MPH uses 33% less brake material than stopping from 65MPH?
- Lighten up your car: The lighter your car, the less stress there is on your brakes. Avoid carrying unnecessary weight in your car. Empty out your trunk, getting rid of all that stuff you really don’t need. This will increase your gas mileage too.
- Avoid sudden starts and stops: Rapidly accelerating and decelerating isn’t likely going to save you much time on your drive. But what it is likely to do is put an unnecessary strain on your brakes. Avoiding this one habit that many of us fall into can really improve the life of your brakes and will save you from having to buy new brakes so often.
- Have your brakes inspected often: Having us perform regular brake inspections will give you the opportunity to make sure small problems are caught before they become big problems. This could ensure that your brake parts last much longer than they otherwise would have. At Meineke San Bernardino we offer a free brake inspection every time you bring your car in. Click here to make an appointment for a free brake inspection today.
For most of us, summertime means more time on the road. You may be planning to take a summer vacation, doing more traveling and driving on the weekends, or just spending more time out at night enjoying the summer weather.
Before you get out and about to enjoy the summer season, give some thought to your vehicle and some summer maintenance. There are things you should do to prepare your car for a summer of driving.
Most vehicle manufacturers recommend an interval for air conditioning system inspection. Right before summer is a great time to have your air conditioner tested. The inspection looks for leaks, worn hoses, evaluates the condition of other system components, and tests the overall operation and efficiency of the system. Environmental laws require leaks to be repaired before refrigerant can be added.
Your Meineke San Bernardino center is fully equipped to inspect and test your A/C system, diagnose any problems, and take the necessary steps to restore the flow of cool air. Come in today for a free Air Conditioning System Check.
Your car’s cooling system is crucial to summertime driving. During hot weather driving, your coolant can reach higher than normal temperatures, which could cause your engine to overheat. So your cooling system will need some extra attention in preparation for summer. It’s critical that the cooling system not only has the correct type of coolant for your brand of car but that the mixture of coolant and water is at the prescribed ratio.
In preparation for summer driving, you’ll also want to have your radiator and cooling hoses checked for cracks or leaks.
Remember to always keep an eye on your temperature gauge when driving in hot weather. If your engine does get hot, shut it off as soon as safely possible to avoid permanent and costly engine damage.
This isn’t necessarily a summer item, but regular brake inspections are always a good thing to remain safe on the road. You’ll want to make sure brake linings (brake pads and/or shoes) have sufficient friction material remaining to ensure no braking problems while on those summertime trips. Remember, if the friction material gets too low and you keep driving, damage to the brake discs or drums can occur. This will substantially increase the cost of a brake job.
Overall Vehicle Inspection
Bring your vehicle in to one of our Meineke San Bernardino locations for a complimentary (yes, free) Summer Inspection. This is a comprehensive multi-point vehicle inspection that includes critical systems, such as your cooling system, air conditioner, belts, hoses, and brakes. Click here to make an appointment.
We’ve all noticed the price per gallon creeping up recently at the pump. While it’s always a good idea to do all you can to increase gas mileage, the recent price jump in gas prices makes us all think twice about being wasteful. Below are some helpful tips for saving gasoline.
Remove any unnecessary weight: Remove all unneeded articles from your car. Keep only the essentials in your trunk. A lighter load equals better gas mileage.
Keep tire pressure at the specified level: Low air level in your tires lowers gas mileage by making the engine work harder to move the car. Always keep tires at the right air pressure as one step toward optimizing gas mileage.
Avoid unnecessary engine idling: Shut your engine off when waiting for family or friends. Of course, as a safety measure, never leave your engine running while filling the tank at the gas station.
Drive at the speed limit: Simply put, speeding reduces your gas mileage.
Drive smoothly and gently: Abrupt and excessive acceleration from a stop guzzles gas. Try to think ahead and anticipate what’s happening up ahead in traffic and adjust your speed smoothly and gradually.
Avoid multiple trips: Try and plan your errands and trips to get as much as possible done in a single outing. Also, try to time your driving when traffic is light. Stop-and-go driving conditions reduce your effective miles per gallon.
Keep your windows closed: Open windows at highway speeds causes additional drag, reducing gas mileage.
Keep your engine properly tuned up: A properly tuned engine operates more efficiently and increases gas mileage. Maintain a clean air filter and follow the vehicle manufacturer’s service schedules for other maintenance items. Be sure to change fluids and replace other filters as recommended. Address engine performance issues (Check-Engine Light on, poor idling, rough acceleration, and the like) as soon as you can.
Performing regular vehicle maintenance will not only increase gas mileage it will prolong the life of your car.
Your air conditioning system cools, conditions, and circulates the air inside your vehicle’s interior. It also removes moisture from the air to keep your windows from fogging up. A common vehicle A/C problem is contaminated refrigerant (or the gas that cools the air). The inside of your air conditioning hoses deteriorate over time and bits of rubber can clog passages. This makes the system less efficient and can overwork other A/C components. Leaks can develop at seals and gaskets, which reduces the amount of refrigerant. This causes the system to work harder to compensate. Dirty air conditioning components can also have the same affect.
If your car’s air conditioning system isn’t making cool air like it used to, there is a problem. It may be as simple as adding more of the right kind of refrigerant. Your A/C system requires special oil, which circulates through the system along with the refrigerant to lubricate and protect expensive components and keep seals and gaskets from drying out. If refrigerant has leaked out, so has the compressor oil. This oil needs to be replenished whenever refrigerant is added.
Most vehicle manufacturers recommend an interval for air conditioning system inspection. The inspection looks for leaks, worn hoses, evaluates the condition of other system components, and tests the overall operation and efficiency of the system. Environmental laws require leaks to be repaired before refrigerant can be added.
Your Meineke San Bernardino center is fully equipped to inspect and test your A/C system, diagnose any problems, and take the necessary steps to restore the flow of cool air. Come in today for a free Air Conditioning System Check or click here to make an appointment.