Summer Driving Tips

Q: Tom, I am taking a car trip with my family this summer, what are some things I should check before we leave?

A: Long car trips for summer vacation can really turn nasty if your vehicle breaks down. We have compiled a short list of things to check out before you take that long awaited trip to the shore.

1. The Cooling System – Take a look at the coolant container under your hood and top it off if necessary. If you need to add coolant more than once in 6 months, or if you smell a sweet burning odor, you probably have a leak. Also, if you can’t remember the last time your coolant was flushed, it’s a good idea to have that done. Dirty fluid can clog parts of your cooling system and cause your vehicle to overheat.

2. Tire Pressure – Be sure you check your tire pressure on all tires and make sure it is in the recommended range. Remember that there is a difference between the maximum pressure listed on the tire and the recommended pressure. Also, for every 10 degrees tire pressure increases by one pound. If your tires were filled in the freezing cold this winter, they may be over pressurized in the summer heat. For those of you packing your car to the brim for vacation its not a bad idea to look for recommended tire pressure for “heavy loads” in your owners manual. If you’re taking a long trip, you should invest in a full-size spare tire if you don’t have one already.

3. The Oil – Driving long distances in excessive heat puts a lot of stress on your motor oil. If you are due for an oil change, don’t wait until after your trip. Oil that has been used for more than 3,000 miles breaks down more easily and can put more wear on your engine. If you are taking a heavy load or towing a trailer, some car manufacturers recommend using a thicker type of oil that is better suited for the heat.

4. The air conditioning – Turn on your AC to make sure you are getting nice cold air out of the vents. If it is not as cold as you remember, it is probably time to have your AC recharged. If you are getting cold air, then your AC system is working and there is no need to get it checked. If your AC is not working and you think you can tough it out, be careful. In some newer cars, the AC is tied to several other components that may not function correctly if the AC is in need of repair.

If for some reason you are not taking your car or truck to Tommy’s Automotive on Bolmar St in West Chester, you can ask your mechanic to check for the following.

1. The cooling system – including the radiator, coolant, belts, hoses, cooling fans, heater core and water pump.

2. Tires – check tread depth, uneven wear and tire pressure.

3. The front end: check ball joints, tie rod ends and steering components.

4. Change the oil. Look for leaks.

5. Check the air conditioning system: refrigerant level, compressor clutch and belts.

6. Check the tranny. Are you close to the recommended service interval? Is the fluid nice and clean? Any leaks?

Battery/Starter Problem

Q: I own a 1990 Buick Century, 6cyl. I bought a new battery and 2 battery cables. When I attempted to connect the cables to the battery, the engine cranked-like it was trying to start- as if I turned the ignition key. What’s wrong? – RT

A: It sounds to me like you need to check your connections. If your cable from the battery to the starter is installed incorrectly then the starter could be powered whenever the battery is connected instead of just when the key is turned. I know that if one of the cables connecting to the starter is at all touching the other terminal on the starter it will cause this problem.

My axle boot is torn

Q: My right front outer CV axle boot is torn. The car rides fine right now. How long do you recommend I go before replacing the boot/axle?

A: The purpose of the boot on a CV axle is to retain the grease that lubricates the axle joint. When the boot tears the grease is thrown out of the joint while driving. The axle will not last long without the proper lubrication. There is no way to tell for sure how long it will last, however there is a way to tell when it absolutely must be replaced. If it starts making a clicking noise when turning it is on its last leg and needs to be replaced asap.

Service Area

Q: Tom, what areas are most of your customers from?

A: Most people try to find an auto repair shop within 15 miles of their house. That includes West Goshen Township, East Goshen Township, East Bradford Township, Exton, Downingtown, Malvern, West Chester University, Bradford, Marshall Square, including zip codes 19380, 19381, 19382, 19383, 19341, and 19335. I also have a lot of customers from the Havertown PA where I grew up and still live today. I find that people are willing to drive a little further to an auto repair shop when they find an auto mechanic that they trust.

Question from Larry

Q: I have 2003 Pontiac Vibe that makes a low, high pitched noise. It only happens when the car is warmed up, not when cold. If I shift from D to Neutral, it stops. Any ideas on what to check for?

A: If its only noisy in drive it could be transmission related. Does it make a difference if the car is moving or standing still? Does it make noise in reverse? Email me @ tom@tommysautomotive.com

Oil Changes

Q: How often should I change my oil?

A: You should change your oil at least every five months or 5,000 miles. I personally recommend every three months or 3,000 miles for typical city/local driving conditions in this area.

Problem Solved

Q: Tom, the Flux Capacitor in my delorean can’t modulate the 21 gigawatts of energy I need to transmogrify the time / space continuum. So far all attempts to locate a flux capacitor have proved fruitless, hence why I haven’t been able to time travel. They’ve got them in the future, but I can’t
get there to get one.

A: I dont know a great deal about flux capacitors as my machine does not use one. You could try getting in contact with Marty McFly, his delorean time machine is based on Flux capaitation and he maybe able to supply you with one.