You Don’t Need a “Tune Up” (Here’s Why)

tune upHave you ever asked for a tune up? Most people have.

That’s an easy thing to ask for when you want your engine to run better.

But cars have changed so much that tune ups are a thing of the past.

Today I’d like to share some fun facts about how your car works. Read this and you’ll never ask for a tune up again.

How Tune Ups Came to Be

Cars weren’t always as high-tech as they are today. Old cars included parts like carburetors, distributors with points & condensers, and mechanical fuel pumps. Do any of those terms ring a bell? If not, don’t feel bad. My kids don’t know either. These parts aren’t even included on modern vehicles!

Vintage cars required more frequent and thorough inspections. Why? They didn’t come with a fancy computer that monitors their performance. These cars were equipped with mechanical parts that literally made the car spark. Those parts needed to be replaced or adjusted every 6,000-12,000 miles.

Old car engines were very simple. Each spark plug attached to one ignition wire. For best performance, these wires needed to spark the same intensity. Ignition wires make a buzzing sound when they work. A mechanic could tell the adjustment was complete when they all buzzed in tune. That’s where the term “tune up” came from.

Why Tune Ups Are No Longer a Thing

Modern cars are completely electronic. They don’t even have mechanical parts that can be tuned up. Some auto shops continue to use the phrase “tune up,” because it is familiar to customers. Most people aren’t aware of how much cars have changed.

It’s marketing that needs a tune up. Your car is run by sensors and relays. A computer in your engine controls ignition. Dashboard lights alert you to a need for more specific maintenance. A check engine light identifies potential onset of fuel and emission problems.

Don’t ask for a tune up. That might not solve your problem. There isn’t a set standard for what that service includes. It’s different at every shop. If you have a specific problem, describe its symptoms. Your mechanic will offer a solution based on that information.

Preventive maintenance is the tune up of the 21st century. Find this post helpful? Share it with your friends on Facebook and Twitter. Click here to check out the brand new Women Auto Know.

Mechanically Yours,

Audra

Top 5 Common Causes of a Check Engine Light

check engineIt’s tempting to put off a trip to the auto shop, but that could result in a more expensive repair. You don’t have to be a victim of auto anxiety.

If you’re curious about the most common causes of the check engine light, this blog is for you.

1. Your oxygen sensor needs to be replaced.

Oxygen sensors analyze the air and fuel in your engine. It passes information along to the catalytic converter, which turns dangerous emissions into less harmful substances. In other words, they work together to prevent air pollution.

If your oxygen sensor function malfunctions, your gas mileage could decrease by up to 40%. It gets worse. Neglecting to replace your oxygen sensor could lead to the death of your catalytic converter. That would turn a $200 repair into a $2,000 repair. Don’t risk it.

2. Your fuel cap is loose.

It only costs a few bucks to replace your fuel cap… and the one you have might just need to be tightened! This is why you shouldn’t assume the worst when your check engine light comes on.

Leaks, odors, fumes, noises, or jerky motions tend to accompany serious car problems. Nothing like that? It might just be your fuel cap. Pull over, unscrew your cap, and put it back on as tightly as you can. Go to the shop if the “check engine” light stays on. Consider yourself lucky if it turns off.

3. Your catalytic converter crapped out.

You had to know this was coming, right (see point #1)? This is the most expensive repair on this list… and it’s completely preventable! Don’t procrastinate when it comes to auto repair. Trust me.

4. Your spark plugs are failing.

You might never have to replace your spark plugs. They could last 100,000 miles in vehicles that were made after 1996. If you’re striving for the 200,000 mile club, you’ll definitely need to change your spark plugs at some point. Delaying this repair could cost you thousands, since bad spark plugs can cause permanent damage to your catalytic converter. Are you a DIY sort? Replacing spark plugs isn’t very difficult (once you take everything apart to get to the plugs).  Watch this video for a demonstration.

5. Your mass airflow sensor is having some issues.

Your mass airflow sensor (MAF) measures how the mass of air is flowing through your engine. It uses that info to determine how much fuel your engine needs to perform efficiently. If your vehicle is stalling at the time of your “check engine” light, your MAF might be malfunctioning. This can lead to an increase in emissions and 25% decrease in fuel economy.

No matter what is causing your check engine light, get your car to a mechanic as soon as you can. Did you find this blog helpful? If so, please share it with your friends on Facebook and Twitter.

Mechanically Yours,

Audra

What’s that Big “W” on Motor Oil?

On the go? No problem! Listen to our blog here!

oil capEveryone has seen the “W” on bottles of motor oil and in fact, people usually request or shop for motor oil by name: 10W-30, 10W-40, etc. But very few people actually know what that “W” stands for and why it is so

important. So let me enlighten you fine ladies and gentlemen. The “W” on motor oil labels stands for…. drum roll please…. Winter. Whaaaaat? I know, not that exciting, is it? But it is important. And here’s why.

Oil weight, or the oil viscosity, refers to how thick or thin the oil is. Temperature affects the flow of oil in the same way it affects the flow of other liquids. Think about it. If you took cooking oil and stuck it in your freezer, it would begin to thicken and solidify.

The same thing happens with motor oil. The thinner the oil is, the easier it will flow through the engine. When it’s cold, the oil naturally becomes thicker. In order to maintain a healthy Motor Oilengine, the oil needs to flow through it with ease. This means engines need oil that is thin enough for cold starts and thick enough when the engine is hot. An oil is rated by the SAE* for viscosity by heating it to a specified temperature and then allowing it to flow out of a specifically sized hole. Its viscosity rating is determined by the length of time it takes to flow out of the hole. If it flows quickly, it gets a low rating. If it flows slowly, it gets a high rating.

Oils meeting the SAE’s low temperature requirements have a “W” after the viscosity rating (example: 10W), and oils that meet the high ratings have no letter (example SAE 30). Before you select a motor oil for your vehicle, check your owner’s manual and see which one is recommended. Then look to see which motor oil will maintain fluidity in your particular climate and season.

Mechanically yours,

Audra

*(SAE) Society of Automotive Engineers- the premiere world resource for the design, manufacturing, operation, and maintenance of automobiles, among other modes of transportation too

Motor Oil – Your Car’s Life Blood!

Photo Feb 16, 6 29 05 AMThe weather outside is frightful… but your engine’s performance doesn’t have to be! Aside from taking the normal steps to prepare your vehicle for cold weather, like using de-icer, checking your tire tread and hoses, you should also check your fluid reservoirs. Wiper fluid is a must-have to keep the salt and sand from building up on your windshield. Antifreeze, a.k.a. coolant ensures the cooling system in your engine stays at the proper temperature. And motor oil cleans, cools, protects and lubricates your engine. The oil filter is just that – a filter that traps any debris floating through the engine, preventing it from causing engine build-up.

Motor oil is kind of like your car’s lifeblood. It travels through all parts of your engine, keeping each component properly lubricated so each can do its respective job. The oil filter is similar to your kidneys and liver, flushing and cleaning the oil. The cleaner your motor oil is, the better your engine will perform. And like the blood that circulates through your body, this is especially important in extreme temperatures.

Motor Oil IV

Think of it this way… when you are exercising, your body temperature increases and produces more heat. Your heart pumps faster and your blood is pushed through your system at higher speeds. Poor blood circulation, unclean blood or clots could cause significant damage when you are overheated. Similarly, blood that is not circulating properly can under perform during times of extreme cold, when the body must work harder to maintain a proper temperature.

Your car’s motor oil has the same job as your body’s blood. It must be clean, in good working order and flowing properly in order to protect all the parts of your car, especially during extremely hot or cold temperatures.

Checking and changing your oil and filter are the best ways to ensure your car gets the proper lubrication and flow to keep your engine running its best. Cars manufactured before 1990 should get oil changes every 3000 miles, while newer model cars can go as long as 10,000 miles between changes.

2012-06-19 16.24.50 - CopyYou can check the oil on your own, but ALWAYS make sure your engine is off and has had a few minutes to cool down before you check your oil level. This allows time for the oil to drain down into the oil pan and will give you an accurate reading when you look at the dipstick. 

Changing your oil is something you CAN do, but unless your a hobbyist, I wouldn’t recommend it. This dirty deed is better left to a shop because your car should be on a lift for this task and your oil and filter should be recycled properly.

Download our Quick Guide for checking and adding oil here!

Something else you CAN do, make sure you know what type of oil your car needs. Check your OMV owner’s manual for your vehicle or ask your mechanic.
Follow these simple guidelines to keep your engine running at its best this winter and all year long!
Mechanically yours,
Audra

Beautiful Battery?

Keeping your battery looking great is more important than you think! Your car battery doesn’t just provide power for your tunes! It also provides the burst of power the starter needs to create an ignition spark and start the engine. If your battery isn’t working properly, you can’t start your car.

Battery problems can be caused by corrosion, loose connections, or no charge. First try to clean the battery terminals using a wire brush and a little baking soda and water, or even some Coca Cola (yep, it really works). Always wear gloves and rinse the battery before you try to start the car. Also, make sure the connections to the battery are tight and all the terminals are properly fastened. Just a little TLC and you could be on your way! If you don’t have any charge, even after jumping and cleaning the battery, you may need to replace.

 

Car Battery 101

We all know what a car battery is, and where it is. And we certainly know when ours isn’t working right! But many women don’t understand what a car battery actually does. Car batteries are just like the batteries we use in other devices, our remote controls, our cell phones, just bigger. In a car, the battery powers the electronic features, and also starts the car.

The car battery kind of works like a self-recharging battery, too. When you turn the key, or push your ignition button, the battery provides a burst of power to start the engine. Once the car is running, the engine’s alternator keeps the battery charged so it will work next time you start the car.

Chillin’ with Coolant – Don’t Overheat!

Coffee, flat irons and men are things that should always be HOT!

Your car’s engine is another thing that will always be hot, but should never be too hot. Coolant, also known as antifreeze, was developed to keep your car from getting too cold or too hot. When you hit the road, your car’s engine kicks into gear and produces an enormous amount of heat. Small explosions in the engine push that heat through the engine into the spark plugs. This creates the spark that ignites the fuel and keeps you rolling! But if this heat gets out of control, the only place you’ll be rolling is into your auto repair shop.

Your car’s radiator takes the heat from the engine and moves it away from the car. The core of the radiator is made of aluminum strips that kind of look like an A/C filter in your home. There is a plastic tank connected to each end of the radiator with gaskets. A hose on the top of the radiator lets the coolant into the tank and a hose on the bottom spits the coolant back out. On automatic transmissions, there is an additional tank inside one of these tanks that circulates transmission fluid so it can also be kept cool.

When the radiator, fan, hose and coolant all work together, they move the heat away from the engine, cool the fluids down and recirculate it all back into the engine. When they don’t work, the engine can overheat.

Symptoms of an overheated engine include:

  • Smoke coming from your engineSlide1
  • Hot air coming from your air conditioning
  • Coolant leaking or spraying from your radiator
  • A sticky sweet smell of coolant coming from your engine
  • Temperature gauge rising

If your car overheats, turn the engine off immediately to prevent the radiator from blowing. If you are in traffic and can’t stop…

Take the following steps to lower your car’s temperature:

  • Turn off air conditioning and roll windows down if you need fresh air
  • In heavy traffic, drive slowly rather than coming to a complete stop and start, if you can
  • Crank the heat to draw heat away from the engine

Take the following steps to lower YOUR temperature:

  • Remember that you are smart, empowered and educated, cause you read this!
  • Remind yourself that you will get to a safe place and get this fixed
  • Focus on practicing the steps here, taking deep breaths, and being aware of the traffic around you until you are in a safe place
  • Remember that you are awesome!

Once you can get to a safe spot, pull over, turn the car off and wait several minutes before you open your hood. Your radiator will be extremely hot, and if you have a radiator or hose leak, the pressure can cause hot radiator fluid to spray or burst out. Wait AT LEAST 30 MINUTES for the engine to cool, then open the radiator cap using a rag of some sort to protect yourself from getting burned. If you need coolant, add it – but only AFTER the engine has cooled down. If you don’t have any coolant, add water until you can replace with coolant.

ALWAYS WAIT 30 MINUTES FOR YOUR ENGINE TO COOL DOWN BEFORE ADDING COOLANT OR WATER TO YOUR RADIATER

Driving with your car running hot can cause your engine block to crack –

and that’s WAY worse than a blown radiator!

If you don’t have any coolant or water handy, shame on you! Always keep a few bottles of water rolling around in your trunk for situations like this! Okay, enough scolding. DO NOT DRIVE your car if you have a radiator leak or a hose leak or any coolant leak. Even if you’re driving slowly, you could do more damage to your car. Stay safe and get a ride or a tow.

You Auto Know a couple of other things about coolant:

  • Coolant is LETHAL – keep it out of reach of all children and pets at all times
  • Coolant should be flushed and filled every 2 years
  • Despite its name, coolant doesn’t freeze – which is why it’s also called antifreeze

Keep this information handy as you cruise through the rest of your sizzling summer. And remember, your car can overheat in winter just as easily as it can in the summer. So always have coolant or water on hand so you and your car can be chilling all year long!

Mechanically Yours,

Audra

Blow-Out and Flat – They’re not just hairstyles!

Aside

The world is a busy place ladies. So it’s only natural that some of us are too busy to notice road debris like nails (not the kind on your fingers) or glass (not the kind filled with an apple martini) that could damage your rubber (not THAT kind of rubber), the rubber on your tires!

Getting something stuck in your tire can be small problem and be solved with a simple fix, like a fast mani-pedi. Or, it can be a BIG problem that requires immediate attention – like a damaged rubber… hose, or rubber glove, or rubber – well, rubber! Let’s be honest – this is cause for a FULL STOP Do Not Pass Go – Do Not Collect $200. 

Damage to the your rubber TIRE can be a cause for concern. Any perforation, cut, or puncture could result in a slow leak or even worse, a blow-out! In the best case scenario, you could be all ready for that awesome road trip with your girlfriends and notice you have a flat. Worst case scenario, you could be ON that super-relaxing, much needed girl’s weekend road trip and get a blow-out. And no ladies, I’m not referring to hairstyles when I say blow-out or flat! I’m talking frustrating, annoying, potentially very dangerous situations.

The best way to avoid any of these hazards is to be PROACTIVE – that’s right, look before you leap into the driver’s seat.

If you have a flat, or experience one on the road – follow these simple steps to fix it:

DUCT TAPE AINT GONNA DO IT! 

2013-07-07 17.41.12

 


  1. Park your car on a flat surface, engage the emergency brake and put something in front of the opposite/diagonal wheel to prevent the vehicle from rolling.
  2. Find your tire-iron (usually under the spare or under the back seat) and loosen the lug nuts on your tire, before you jack up your vehicle. Don’t remove them completely.
  3. Find your jack (refer to Owner’s Manual) and jack the car up using the spots indicated on the frame of the car. Once elevated, slide the spare under another part of the frame as a safety precaution.
  4. Finish removing the lug nuts and then the flat or damaged tire. Slide the spare on, and the flat under the frame in place of the spare.
  5. Begin tightening the lug nuts in a star pattern if there are 5, or in the order of top-bottom-right-left if there are only 4. Tighten almost all the way, and then lower the car (remembering to slide the damaged tire out). Tighten the lugs again.
  6. When the jack is removed, finish tightening the lug nuts one last time before you put your tools away.

Download our quick tire changing guide here!

Remember to get your tires rotated regularly and to check your tire pressure every time you fill up at the pump. Your tires are like the shoes for your car. And even though you need to buy your car new shoes once in a while, I’m sure you’d much rather spend that money buying shoes for yourself! So keep a close eye on those tires and you can keep more money in your shoe budget!

 

Mechanically Yours,

Audra

Switchin’ Gears!

So you’ve got some cool toys and you want to tow them, strap them or stuff them in your car and go have some fun. Good for you! But have you ever stopped to think how your transmission feels about your boat or camper?

transmission111Automatic and manual transmissions are quite different, kind of like men and women. For instance, automatic cars don’t have a clutch pedal or a stick shift but manual transmission cars do. Women are missing a few parts that men have too. But these transmissions, like men and women, are designed differently because they work differently.

When an automatic transmission is put into drive, the gears shift automatically. A manual (MANual – get it?) transmission, with it’s stick and pedal, shifts gears with manual assistance.

If cars didn’t have transmissions, they would  only drive in one gear. That means if you wanted to go really slow, or really fast, you would be stuck in 3rd no matter what. For anyone who has ever driven a stick shift, you know that 3rd gear is great for cruising lazy country roads, but not so great for highway driving or stop and go traffic.

The transmission’s gears use the torque from the engine to keep the engine operating at an appropriate and effective speed. This means when you are towing your toys, the transmission will shift to a lower gear to keep it from working too hard and overheating. In fact, many vehicles that are designed to tow come with transmission coolers (not the kind filled with beers, water and yummy snacks) to prevent this overheating.

Manual and automatic transmissions – like men and women, switch gears differently. Wow, ain’t that the truth?! Back to cars ladies… Manual transmissions lock and unlock different sets of gears to the output shaft to achieve various gear ratios. While in automatic transmissions, the same set of gears produces all sorts of different gear ratios.

The clutch is required on manual transmissions to disconnect the wheels from the engine. Because engines spin continuously, if you ever want to stop, the car’s wheels must be disengaged from the engine. The clutch smoothly disengages a spinning engine to a non-spinning transmission by controlling the slippage between them.

The emergency brake (aka – parking brake) is a necessity for cars with clutches. Because the wheels stop spinning when you press the clutch, they will roll forward – OR BACKWARD – between gears depending on whether you are on a hill or not. So…. if you find yourself climbing a steep hill, stuck in traffic on a mountain, or just parked at an incline (think San Francisco and waiting for a parking spot), either keep your foot on the brake pedal, or keep it in neutral and pull that parking brake!

Remember: Manual and automatic transmissions have different parts (sticks, shafts, clutches) and different methods (switching gears manually or automatically) that help get you and all of your “gear” to your destination.

Happy Towing!

Mechanically Yours,

Audra

New Car? Used Car? Red Car? Blue Car!

Now that you’ve decided another car, new-to-you, is in your future, the next thing to decide is whether you’ll be purchasing New or Used.  Obviously, a new car does not come with the kind of history that used cars do, but you must be careful about scheduled maintenance and mileage to stay within your warranty.  Ebay and out-of-state dealerships are shipping nationally, so that broadens a lot of your used car choices.  See what locals say about their shop, and read reviews if you decide to purchase online.

 new-or-used-not-always-an-easy-choice1Whatever decision you make, remember that once you take ownership of those keys, you are taking ownership of that ride!  It’s true that it’s good to know a car’s history, but this is personal.  Your butt is going to be planted in that seat, logging lots of driving time.  You’ll want to know for sure what kind of ride you can expect before you buy it.  Do your research, and have it checked out by a trusted mechanic.

 Still Can’t Decide?

There is a mathematical formula at Edmunds.com to calculate your estimated yearly auto expenses will be.

Used car buying tips:

Before searching for used cars, consider how long the owner has had the car. The most important thing about buying a used car is that its important to know everything about the history of the car, including the number of previous owners, whether the car was ever involved in an accident, any previous mechanical problems, and the maintenance history of the car. Someone with mechanical knowledge should check out the car, if possible.  Check that the motor, transmission and other major parts of the used car are in fine working condition. You should also inquire about oil changes, the age of the battery, tune-ups and when the tires were last replaced.

There is a wide range of models, brands and colors available for the purchaser to buy a used car. You can often find great bargains by researching used cars for sale online, and then driving to see the car in person. To begin the search, check in the local car classifieds or with pre-owned car classified websites that offer great deals of used cars for sale. Surf car classifieds and use online resources to narrow the search for used cars being offered by individual sellers. There are many opportunities to compare cars on the Internet and car buyers are using these options to the fullest.

Buying a New Car: Have a plan.

Do the research.  It’s easy.  Know exactly what vehicle you want and which options.  Price it on Edmonds or KBB Search!  Add 3% to invoice and that should be a fair deal for any dealer. Unless its the hot car of the moment, then it will be more.  If you can find out how many cars are in supply, this will help your price.  If there are 180 days’ supply of a certain car, the will deal no problem.  But a new model, just hitting the floor will have much less wiggle room.

Try and buy something that has been out for a year.  Look at the problems people have had with them.  Corvettes had ignition lock problems in the late 90’s.  Let someone else find and work out the bugs for you.

Call the bank, or Credit Union, meet with a lender, personally.  They will be on your side and discuss payments and such and interest rates without pressure.  They can track your credit score and you can ask questions galore.  Maybe you thought you wanted the $35,000 Wrangler, now the $25,000 dollar Mazda looks better?  Don’t forget Tag and Taxes!

Ask friends what dealer they use if they have the car you want.  Call that dealer and ask for the guy that has been there the longest and make an appointment to see him, unless you have a referral to another salesman.  It is never wise to show up onto the lot and get “Pot Luck Pete, the guy who started 2 weeks ago and has one car sold, maybe.

The old guy will not be out on the lot, seeking customers.  He can make his own deals without the Manager.  This is the guy to find.  By making an appointment, you immediately bypass everyone that runs up to a car when they arrive at the Dealer.  Just say you are there to meet so and so.  They will leave you alone, or good sales people will take you right to his office.  If he has what you want, go look at it.  Look at the sticker.  Look for add-on options.  You do not want to pay for dealer added options, as it is an overpriced profit for them.  If there is list of stuff, your job is harder, and you might have to order the car.  They will make more cars.  This isn’t the only one!Car-Salesman

There should be no extra sticker price, at all, really.  The most you may want to negotiate over is floor mats.  Look the car over checking specifically for paint and dent issues.  Test drive and listen with the radio off.  Don’t talk, and let the salesman do his job.  Towards the end of drive, ask him how close to invoice he can get.  This is neutral territory (not his office) and he will tell you what he thinks.

Do the deal and get the floor mats thrown in for free.  Tell him you really don’t want the Finance & Insurance guy to sell you anything and you have financing, etc.  There may be no way out, but try.

Keep in mind, if you are still not sure at this point, stop and go to lunch or dinner or come back the next day.  He sells 30 cars a month, you buy one every 6 years!   This is a big step.  Take it easy on yourself.

If you have to go to Finance and Insurance, HOLD ON TO YOUR WALLET!  Practice saying no, because you will say it more times than your name.  If there wasn’t a list on the car with dealer added-on options, this is where they will tell you what you really should have, too.  Paint sealant: No.  Fabric Protect: No.  Paintless Dent repair- only 29 dollars a month more: No.  Gap Insurance: No. Credit Life: No.  If you have 4% rate from the Credit Union, the F&I guy may get you a better rate, listen up.  He will make 1% on whatever rate he gives you.  So if he can do 3%, he is getting the dealer at least 1% of that loan money.  You will also become fodder for their loan system and offers will come at you for years to come as they sell your info, too.

One last thing to note:

WARRANTY:  All of this is priced out in plans from factory to dealer.  This means that the price is negotiable, just like the price of the car.  And always make sure it is the factory extended plan, not a third party.  Warranty prices can be found online. Tell them no, even if you want it.  Sometimes they offer a free loaner car if you buy their warranty, try for that.

All new cars sold have a period where buying the extended warranty can be done within a reasonable time – 30 days, at least, with no extra charge, sometimes a year.  If you are going to keep the car 10 years, a warranty might be a good thing, but why pay $3,000 dollars for a plan that may be purchased later for $1,800?

When you get the car home, search forums for your vehicle.  Look at topics for warranties and what people paid for them.  A GM dealer in the Midwest may sell the exact same warranty to someone in NJ for 40% less.  Also, other dealers that sell the same car might make a better deal.  This can be done on the telephone and they will need a VIN.  Lastly, call your F&I guy and see if he will meet your price.

If you do their financing, read over the contract!  A friend of mine had the F&I guy print out same contract 3 different times with 3 different interest rates!

Best tip:  If you do not like what is going on, stop.  Leave if you must.  Don’t get angry.  They will not want you to go and there are always other dealers.  

Don’t be intimidated!  Knowledge is Power!