Auto Repair Questions

Import Auto Inc wants to help you take great care of your vehicle. Feel free to call us with any of your questions at 770-475-1090. Here are some of the most frequently asked auto repair questions and answers and auto repair tips that we have covered in our past newsletters and or on our Import Auto Inc Facebook page.

Why Evacuate and Recharge the a/c system rather than stopping by the local part store and grabbing the Freon top-off can?

A top-off involves simply adding Freon into your vehicle. An a/c evacuate and recharge service includes removing whatever remaining refrigerant is in your vehicle, removing impurities from that refrigerant using recycling equipment, recharging it into the vehicle, and adding new refrigerant to replace whatever has leaked out.

Topping-off alone can do more harm than good because it isn’t accurate when adding the correct amount of Freon. So the question is why would you consider the more expensive evacuate and recharge? The manufacturer of your vehicle has determined that a specific amount of refrigerant — 2.2 pounds, for example — is correct for your car. When you bring your vehicle to Import Auto, we have the most technically advanced equipment to determine precisely how much refrigerant is left in your vehicle’s system and how much to add.

When using the freon top-off route the air conditioning system can be overcharged or undercharged, thereby affecting the system performance. Most recent models have a feature that shuts an overcharged a/c system down in hot weather.

On the other hand, when Import Auto performs an a/c evacuation and recharge, the technician has extracted all remaining refrigerant from the system, he will then be able to charge the a/c system with the precise amount of refrigerant recommended by the vehicle’s manufacturer.

How to determine leaks?

Freon is a gas so it is very difficult to track leaks. When Import Auto performs an evacuation and recharge we add dye into the system, by doing that we’re able to detect the leak. If the leak is small we might tell you drive the vehicle and bring it back once the problem occurs again.

If you have any issues with your a/c system, stop by Import Auto today! Our team will be more than happy to assist you!

Do my tires need to be balanced?

There are a number of things that can wear your tires and make your wheels go out of balance. When the tire treads wear unevenly, the car goes out of alignment creating a balance problem; the car could also go out of alignment if you hit a pothole or curb, if the tires are underinflated or overinflated or if the suspensions parts are worn out or damaged. One of the signs of needing the tires balanced is a vibration coming from the car getting worse as the car speeds up. If the front tires need balancing you will feel the steering wheel shimmy from side to side and if the rear tires need balancing you will feel vibrations coming from under the front seat.

The weight of the tire and wheel must be evenly balanced to keep it steady at higher speeds. Tires that are out of balance tend to hop and wobble when driving down the road wearing the tire and tread.

When a tire is balanced at Import Auto Inc, it is put on a wheel balancing machine and spun so that sensors can take readings for the technician. As little as a quarter of an ounce of weight can make a big difference. There are different weights and certain types that fit on certain kinds of wheels and at this point the technician will add the correct wheel weight and balance your tires.

When replacing or balancing the tires you will immediately notice how the car handles better and rides smoothly. This in turn will help keep your car on the road longer. If you have a vibration or a shimmy stop by Import Auto and we’ll check it out today.

Import Auto Inc mounts and balances all sizes of wheels and tires. Our machine is designed not to scratch wheels and we mount and balance all major brand tires for all wheels and rims. This includes black, chrome and custom wheels and rims for cars, SUV’s and light trucks. Keep in mind if your tires or wheels are bent or damaged balancing alone will not correct the problem.

What is Coolant?

Another terminology is anti-freeze. The system is mixed with the coolant solution and 50% water.

  • It keeps the water in your radiator and engine from freezing in cold temperatures.
  • It keeps the water from overheating in all temperatures.
  • It helps to lubricate the components in the cooling system. Coolant also will prevent the water from rusting and corroding the internal parts of the cooling system.

During a coolant flush, Import Auto removes all fluid in the cooling system. A hose is attached to both ends of the cooling system and the entire system is power flushed and cleaned. Then, we use a BG product that gets pushed through the system (radiator, hoses, pump, engine block, etc.). A flush is different from a simple drain and refill because it replaces all of the old coolant, and flushes out sludge, rust, and dirt buildup. A drain and refill entails only draining and refilling the coolant in the radiator (It’s like taking a shower and putting on dirty clothes). Flushing the coolant in your vehicle’s cooling system is a great way to help maintain a healthy engine.

Why Does Your Vehicle Need a Coolant Flush?

As coolant gets older, it begins to lose its protective properties and doesn’t do its job as well as it used to. Sludge, dirt and rust can also buildup in the cooling system which can cause a blockage in a hose or line. Having fresh coolant and a clean system better protects and cools all components. Also, old coolant can turn into an acidic. On this stage the coolant starts eating through the metal. Import Auto has a test strip that can verify the PH level and tell you if this stage is present in your cooling system.

How often should you flush your coolant?

At Import Auto, we feel you should have your coolant system flushed every 30,000 miles. We at Import Auto would be excited to perform this service on your car. Stop by today and let us keep your engine safe from overheating!

Q.What is the difference between a Wheel Alignment and Tire Balancing?

A. A wheel alignment and tire balancing are frequently confused with each other however they are related in the way that they both affect the driving experience making the car handle better and ride smoothly. A wheel alignment involves putting your vehicle on a Wheel Alignment machine to make adjustments to the suspension and wheels. Tire Balancing involves putting the vehicles wheels on a tire balancer machine making sure that the weight of the tire and wheel are evenly distributed. Both of these services prevent uneven tire wear.

Alignments: If you notice your car pulling to the right or to the left while driving or when you let your hands off the wheel then most likely you need an alignment. Your car needs to be realigned if you hit a pothole, bump a curb on the road and as the vehicle and the suspension parts and components age. If you have noticed any uneven tire wear or it has been awhile since your last services ask your mechanic to check the alignment settings while on your next visit. Whenever you are replacing the tires or have major suspension work done you should always have the alignment checked to protect your investment.

Tire Balancing: If your car has vibrations ask your mechanic to take a look first. Typically when a car has poor wheel balance the sign is a vibration coming from the car getting worse as the car speeds up. If the front tires need balancing you will feel the steering wheel shimmy from side to side and if the rear tires need balancing you will feel vibrations from under the front seat. Describe this to the mechanic and have him check the car. The weight of the tire and wheel must be evenly distributed to keep it steady at higher speeds. Tires that are out of balance tend to hop and wobble when driving down the road wearing the tread out prematurely. When a tire is balanced, it is put on a wheel balancing machine, spinning so that sensors can take readings and give the technician a readout of how much weight the wheel needs to be balanced and exactly where to put the weights. As little as a quarter of an ounce of weight can make a big difference. Once the weights are installed the technician runs the machine again to verify that the wheel and tire are perfectly balanced. There are different weights available, certain types fit on certain kinds of wheels and your mechanic uses the correct one specifically designed for your wheels. Balancing the tires makes the car handle better, ride smoothly and protects the suspension parts and components from breaking down which in turn keeps your car on the road longer. So if you have a shimmy, have your mechanic look into it, you may need to balance your tires.

Consumers Can Avoid Problems by Watching for Warning Signs

When it comes to your car’s safety, brakes top the list of systems that need monitoring. However, many people are unaware of the signs that indicate a car’s brakes may need maintenance or repair.

For routine maintenance, it’s important to check the vehicle’s braking system at least once a year. A thorough inspection should include brake lining wear, brake fluid level, rotor thickness, condition of hoses and brake lines, brake and dash warning lights, as well as taking the car for a test drive to detect other potential brake system problems.

It is important to be alert and recognize the danger signs of brake problems. Other warning signs include an illuminated brake warning light, brake grabbing, low pedal feel, vibration, hard pedal feel and squealing.

“Sometimes it’s only a few miles between a soft brake pedal and a pedal that goes clear to the floor,” said Stephen Powell, NAPA/ASE Technician of the Year and owner of Thoroughbred Transmissions & AutoCare, Inc. in Laurel, Md. “But consumers easily can protect themselves from brake failure by watching and listening for a few simple clues.”

Powell says noise is one of the leading indicators that something is awry with brakes. “Any out of the ordinary sound is often a sign that brakes have worn to the point they should be checked,” he said. “Watch especially for a grinding noise, and if your brakes typically throw off brake dust on your wheels, look for a sudden increase or decrease in dust.” He added that finding small metal flakes on the wheels is also a sign that brakes should be checked.

Another leading indicator is the feel of the brake pedal, Powell said. If the car pulls left or right when braking, or if the front end shakes, those are both signs of excessive brake wear. If the brake pedal begins to feel spongy, it could be a sign that air has entered the brake system or fluid is low.

“A mushy brake pedal, along with a decrease in brake fluid, could also indicate brake wear,” Powell added. “Check the brake fluid reservoir to make sure it’s topped off. If not, then brake fluid is likely remaining at the wheel to fill the space caused by wear.”

Many cars now have ABS (Automatic Braking System) that initiates a rapid- fire pumping sequence to the brakes to keep the car straight during sudden or hard braking. “If the ABS light illuminates on your instrument panel, then it’s likely that the wheel sensors have detected excessive build-up of metal particles from the brake system,” Powell said. “Most cars are designed to shut down the ABS when excessive particle build-up occurs.” Powell added that a shutdown ABS does not prevent you from stopping, just that the ABS feature isn’t working.

Other tips:

  • Wheels should be pulled and brakes checked once a year by an ASE- Certified technician. “It’s not uncommon to replace brakes after 12,000-15,000 miles,” Powell explained. An inspection typically includes the rotors, calipers, drums, pads, pistons and brake lines.
  • Brake systems should be flushed and brake fluid replaced every two years. “Brake fluid absorbs moisture in the system and becomes acidic after two years or 30,000 miles,” Powell said.
  • Check your owner’s manual or ask your ASE-Certified technician to see what kind of brakes your car has and how they are adjusted. For example, most drum brakes are self-adjusting by backing up or engaging the emergency brake.
  • Regardless of care, brakes should most likely be replaced every 20,000- 30,000 miles. “Of course, how and where someone drives will greatly influence when brakes should be replaced,” Powell emphasized.

Copyright © 2013 Car Care

Q. Why are the experts at our repair shop suggesting a brake flush

rather than a brake fluid top off?

A. The system should be flushed at least every 24 months. Brake fluid becomes contaminated with moisture and dirt. The hygroscopic action of the brake fluid lowers the boiling point of the fluid, resulting in a loss of brake performance. Brake fluid has a moisture absorption rate of 3% of its volume per year, which can drop the boiling point of the fluid by as much as 50%. When this occurs, the fluid can vaporize under extreme braking, resulting in pedal fade or a loss of pedal. This condition can promote residual drag, which keeps the system in the applied position. The fluid must be compatible with the components in the system. Have your brake fluid tested if you are not sure when it was last flushed.

Q.If I fail my Emissions Test is it the Catalytic Converter?

A. Not necessarily. Emission test failures happen for several reasons including bad timing due to contaminated spark plugs and wires, or malfunctioning oxygen sensors and exhaust gas recirculation systems (EGR) are known to be the cause of many emission test failures. Carbon deposit build up will affect parts like the throttle body, intake valves and injectors. The EGR valve and Ports can become clogged and dirty. If these deposits are found in one place you can assume the deposits were left in all of the areas mentioned. The technician will check your vehicle and recommend the right place to start cleaning or the right part replacement for you. It is not always necessary to clean the whole system. The technicians will check your car and the reading from the failed emissions test in order to get a full picture of the problem. If you have had any odor issues or have noticed your car using more gas, stalling or sputtering then you should tell the service writer.

Q. The automatic transmission on my vehicle always seems to be working properly, why

is it important to have it serviced regularly?

A. There are clutches inside your Automatic Transmission that give off a “dust” as they wear. This dust can contaminate the automatic transmission fluid (ATF) & clog the transmission filter, causing a loss of lubrication inside your transmission. Unexpected, and often extensive damage can occur as a result of this. Having the ATF, transmission filter and gasket replaced every 60,000 miles can often save you from an expensive transmission overhaul.

Q. Why is my “check engine” light on…?

A. Here at Import Auto Inc. we want to help you take great care of your vehicle. One of the ways we can do that is to assist you in preventing small things from turning into major problems. Our technicians are ASE Certified and know your vehicle inside and out. This months “Ask The Experts” topic is a common question we get, “Why is my ‘Check Engine’ light on?” This is often something very minor. In fact, one of the main causes of a check engine light coming on is due simply to a loose gas cap. We suggest that every time you refuel your vehicle you make sure to tighten your gas cap until you hear the clicking sound. This should, in most cases, take care of the light. However, if the light continues to remain on, it is best to have it checked out in case it is something more serious. Feel free to call us if you have any questions about this issue or any others. We are always willing to assist you in any way that we can.

Q.Why Should I check or change my engine coolant/antifreeze..?

A. Beyond the comforts offered by being able to control the temperature inside your vehicle, your auto’s heating and cooling systems are necessary in preventing your ride from breaking down due to incredibly high operating temperatures.

Checking your auto’s cooling and heating systems is particularly crucial in the weeks preceding the subfreezing winter season and the sweltering heat of summer. But it’s more advisable that you check these systems every time you conduct a routine car check-up or you engage in basic vehicle maintenance.

Every time you drive, your radiator uses up coolant and water mixture to help lower the temperatures in your vehicle’s engine system. The longer and the faster you drive, the bigger the stress on your engine, allowing temperatures to skyrocket to incredible heights leading to the increase of the likelihood of overheating. Because of the coolant’s crucial role in maintaining your engine’s efficiency, you need to keep your ride equipped with the right coolant mixture (pretty much the same way you’d pick out the right type of gas for your car).

Coolant, like all the other fluids used by your vehicle, has a tendency to break down over time. This is why you need to replace your coolant mixture once in a while. When the coolant breaks down, more stress is placed on your radiator and your engine begins to run hotter than normal. Gunk and mineral deposits also build up under your vehicle’s hood, effectively reducing your vehicle’s overall performance. Prolonged use of bad coolant can also result to radiator damage, requiring you to replace the radiator sooner than you actually have to.

Q. Why Do I Need To Flush My Coolant?

A. The cooling system on your vehicle has a pretty difficult task, it has to keep the engine, which runs at incredibly high temperatures, from overheating and direct heat through the heater core to keep your warm in colder months. Antifreeze (or coolant) is pumped through all the heat producing components of the engine, picking up heat as it goes and getting rid of it as it goes through the radiator. Components in modern engines are made from several different types of metals which corrode at different rates. Those different metals together in an electrolytic solution lead to galvanic corrosion, a severe type of corrosion. Therefore special care has to be taken to prevent the buildup of rust and other materials, which is another job of your coolant, and to make sure that the acidity of the coolant is kept at the correct level. After time, that coolant will start to break down and quit doing its job like it should, which is why a coolant flush is such a vital part

of the maintenance of your vehicle. This is a service that you should consider doing at least once a year, unless your vehicle uses extended life antifreeze, in which case you could probably do it every other year. At a cost of $50 to $100, though, it’s a lot less expensive than buying a new radiator or water pump. When you have your oil changed, you should ask your technician to check your coolant for signs of breakdown. A coolant flush will:

  • Removes rust and deposits from your cooling system
  • All the old antifreeze is removed
  • New antifreeze has corrosion inhibitors
  • Helps the engine run at the proper temperature preventing overheating or freezing

Q. What is a Good Tip for Safe for Winter Driving?

A. Install a new set of wiper blades. If you live in a climate with a great deal of precipitation, consider heavy-duty winter blades designed to prevent snow build-up. Have rain-repellent glass treatment applied to your windshield by your automotive service professional. Today’s advanced glass treatments, such as Aquapel Glass Treatment from PPG Industries, repel rain and snow from auto glass and reduce glare during wet conditions, especially at night. The result is a clearer view, and that leads to improved response time when it counts. “A vehicle traveling just 40 mph travels the distance of a football field in five seconds, so even one or two seconds of blurred visibility can pose a real danger,” notes Bob Howard, manager of Aquapel Glass Products. As an added benefit, the treatment eases the removal of snow, sleet, and ice from your windshield, helping to clear the way for safer winter driving. It can be applied quickly and inexpensively at your local fast-lube or automotive service center. One application generally lasts through up to six months of normal driving and car washing.

Q. When should I replace my timing belt?

A. Does your car have a timing belt and could your engine suffer major damage if it breaks? Preventative maintenance on your car’s timing belt can help you avoid a major breakdown.

The last thing a motorist wants to hear is the sound of an engine grinding to a halt. Yet, more than 20 percent of all consumers neglect key parts like belts and hoses, placing their cars in danger for major repairs. When it comes to keeping your car in fine running shape, prevention is key. The parts that cause your car to die suddenly and strand you are things like belts, hoses, fuel pumps, water pumps and alternators, among other things. A timing belt failure, for example, can be a serious problem, not only because it strands the motorist, but also because of the engine damage it can cause. Timing belts synchronize the critical rotation of the camshaft and crankshaft. On some engines, the belt also drives other components such as the oil pump, water pump, and balance shafts. If the timing belt breaks, everything in your engine stops dead. On many engines, timing belt failures may result in bent valves, damaged pistons and a very expensive repair bill. Independent technicians agree, but to be safe, they also recommend replacing timing system idlers and pulleys, which may have a shorter operational life than the belt. Because some water pumps are driven by the timing belt, these two items should be replaced at the same time. Timing belt replacement usually requires removal of the engine drive belt (or belts) that operates the water pump, alternator, power steering pump and air conditioner. Because of the time it takes to remove all these components it is much more cost effective to replace them all at one time.

Q. Did you know that Proper washing and waxing can add value to vehicle?

A. More than one-third of car owners use damaging nonautomotive products when washing their cars. Products that could contain harmful detergents, abrasives and additives and almost half of motorists don’t ever wax their vehicles. “Waxing at least twice a year is recommended for maximum protection, yet surveys show that 48 percent of motorists don’t wax their vehicles at all,” said Jeffrey Webb, director of retail marketing at Turtle Wax, Inc. “That’s leaving money on the table at trade-in time, as a clean, well-maintained car can be worth up to 50 percent more than one in ‘fair’ condition, according to the Kelley Blue Book.” Motorists should avoid dish detergent, which contains harsh chemicals that, intended to cut through grease, will strip away the wax finish on your car. Some are hard to rinse off and leave streaks. For best results, a formulated automotive wash is recommended, one that gently lifts the dirt and grime while protecting the finish. Washing an automobile on a regular basis protects it from the natural elements that harm the finish. The Car Care Council recommends the following do’s and don’ts when it comes to a do-it-yourself car wash:

  • Don’t wash cars in direct sunlight. Do wash cars in shade or in cooler temperatures in the early morning or late afternoon.
  • Don’t use dish detergent. Do use a formulated car wash.
  • Do fill your bucket with warm water.
  • Do use a soft terrycloth towel or washing mitt.
  • Do spray the car often with water.
  • Don’t scrub the car all at once. Do complete one section at a time, rinsing repeatedly to prevent the soap from drying on the paint.
  • Do use soft terrycloth towels or scratch-free fabric to dry the vehicle.
  • Don’t neglect waxing the vehicle. Do prep the car for waxing using cleaner/polish to remove contaminants.

“The myth of not having to wax your car because you have a clear-coat finish is just that, a myth,” Webb said. “Clear-coat finish is only as thick as a piece of paper and can become damaged from the effects of sunlight, UV radiation, acid rain, salt, dirt and air pollution.”

The Car Care Council is the source of information for the “Be Car Care Aware” campaign, educating consumers about the benefits of regular car maintenance and repair. For more information, visit www.carcare.org. Washing and waxing your car regularly can help retain the vehicle’s value over the years.

Q. Should I schedule a service appointment in advance? And, if so why?

A. Great question! Realistically you don’t have to have an appointment to get service or repair work done at Import Auto Inc. Even if you don’t have an appointment we will still get you in. However, we do encourage appointments, because it helps us prepare for your job. Listed below are some of the benefits of scheduling your appointments in advance;

  • We make sure any parts that may be required for your specific job are in stock and available.
  • It helps insure your Service Advisor has adequate time to spend with you and answer any questions you may have.
  • Knowing if your vehicle will be here for an extended period of time we can set up alternate transportation for you so you don’t have to wait.

Q. What is ASE?

A. ASE stands for National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (www.asecert.org)

You may have seen the ASE blue logo at our repair shop. Or possibly you’ve seen the ASE blue patch on the sleeve of one of our Technician’s shirts. ASE is a national testing organization which sets standards for automotive technicians. To become certified by ASE, a technician first must have repair experience on a particular system, then take and pass the ASE test for that system. All ASE certifications are valid for 4 years, then the Technician must re-take and pass the updated test to be re-certified on that particular system.

Example; a technician has been working at a brake repair shop for a year and wants to become ASE certified on brakes. Since he has qualified the experience criteria for brakes, he may take the ASE brake test. Once the Technician passes the ASE test on brakes, he is then given an “ASE Certification on Brakes”. The Technician can now wear the ASE blue patch and display the ASE logo at his place of work.

Different levels of ASE Certifications

Today’s automobiles are so technologically advanced that most Technicians specialize in just a few areas. If a Technician is certified in all of the 8 areas, he is then known as an ASE Master Certified Technician. A Master Certification is very difficult to accomplish. Most repair shops do not employ a Master Technician. We now have two!!!

Q. What does it mean when I smell sulfur or a rotten egg smell inside the car?

A. – This unpleasant smell is an indicator there may be a problem with your catalytic converter and the cars ability to pass the exhaust due to restriction. Catalysts are needed to reduce emissions without reducing the performance or fuel economy of your vehicle. The catalytic converter is an important component of the car for emissions compliance so if you think you have an issue it needs to be addressed or the car will not pass an emissions test. Three way converters are controlled by a changing air/fuel mixture. The air/fuel ratio is controlled by the PCM or computer of the car working in closed loop function and if there is a problem it doesn’t necessarily mean you need another catalytic converter however you may need to replace the sensors or have other repairs done to correct the problem.

If you have not had any odor issues yet but have noticed your car using more gas, stalling or sputtering then you should tell the service writer and they will check your car and catch the problem before the carbon build ups.

Take the Sniff Test

The Car Care Council www.carcare.org recommends a sniff test of your vehicle to identify any unusual smells, including the following six warning signs:

1. The smell of burnt rubber could be slipping drive belts or misplaced loose hoses that might be rubbing against rotating accessory drive pulleys. Do not reach in if the engine compartment is hot.

2. The smell of hot oil could mean that oil is leaking onto the exhaust system. To verify the leak, look for oil on the pavement or smoke coming from the engine area.

3. The smell of gasoline is likely the sign of a gas leak in some area of the vehicle such as a fuel injector line or the fuel tank. Any smell of fuel can result in a possible fire hazard, so immediate attention should be given.

4. The sweet smell of syrup may be a sign that your car is leaking engine coolant from a leaky component related to the car’s cooling system. Do not open the radiator cap when it is hot.

5. The smell of burning carpet could be a sign of brake trouble and a safety hazard. Have your brakes checked right away, especially if this smell is happening during normal driving conditions.

6. The smell of rotten eggs is never a good one and, if you smell it coming from your vehicle, it could mean a problem with your catalytic converter not converting the hydrogen sulfide in the exhaust to sulfur dioxide properly. This smell can also be attributed to a poorly running engine, causing the catalytic converter to become overloaded and fail due to meltdown.