Car Questions

Ask Tommy questions about problems with your car. We answer basic car repair questions to complicated problems that nobody has been able to fix. For more information about our repair services visit our car repair page.

5 Fluids Your Car Needs to Survive the Winter

Lady troubleshooting her car in the snowWinter is here- which means it’s time to prepare your car for harsh temperatures. No matter the season, your car requires certain fluids to operate properly. Make sure your car is running right by visiting a trusted mechanic to check the following:

1. Oil

Your vehicle is a complex machine that is made up of several different parts; oil lubricates the parts found in your engine. Over time, the oil in your car becomes dirty, which makes your car work twice as hard to operate smoothly. To ensure your car receives clean oil, you should get your oil changed every 3 months or 3,000 miles.

In fact, changing to a different oil all together may be necessary. When temperatures drop in the winter, our car requires a thinner oil to operate effectively. Thicker oils can harm your engine because the viscosity makes your oil pump overwork to reach all the parts it needs to lubricate the engine.

We all travel at some point during the holidays and car maintenance may be the furthest thing from our minds, but it is important to remember. If your car continues to run on dirty oil, you may be asking Santa for an expensive engine cleaning!

2. Anti-Freeze

Anti-freeze is a genius liquid that keeps your engine’s cooling system running. In colder temperatures, your cooling system is vulnerable. However, if you add this substance, you could be saving your car from serious radiator damage.

Make sure to purchase a ready-mix version, also known as an engine coolant. Be careful when purchasing a concentrated form. This variety means you will have to do some diluting; you want your system to carry 50% water and 50% antifreeze.

Check with your mechanic about your car’s requirements! Manufacturers may have different recommendations depending on the make, model, and year of your car.

3. Brake Fluid

Brake fluid matters because this is what keeps you safe on the road! It is required by law that you pass a brake test, but in extreme weather conditions, you will want to make sure your brakes are in tip-top shape.

A mechanic can easily assess your brake fluid for you. If your fluid levels are below the lower marking indicated on your brake fluid reservoir, this could mean your brakes are worn or leaking.

Don’t take a chance this season! High functioning brakes become particularly important during unpredictable winters.

4. Automatic Transmission Fluid

Like oil, transmission fluid keeps all the bells and whistles in your car running appropriately. Generally, you should change your transmission fluid every 30,000 miles. Some cars have sealed transmissions, which means a professional will have to refill this for you.

5. Windshield Wiper

Worn wipers are the worst, especially during inclement weather! Your wiper fluid reservoir requires two blends throughout the year: a summer blend and a winter blend. It’s imperative to make this switch; if not, your windshield fluid will freeze to your windshield in temperatures below 32 degrees.

Is it time to visit us for a check up? Contact us to schedule an appointment today.

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 overpressurized 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 Carter Drive 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?

Make Sure Your Battery Doesn’t Leave You Out in the Cold

car batteryBatteries are one of the simplest, yet most vital parts of a car.  If the battery is dead or isn’t working, the car won’t even start in the first place. However, people often forget to check their batteries until it’s too late and end up stranded.

Two easy ways to keep your battery running longer include keeping your car in a garage when it’s at home to shield it from the elements and cleaning off the battery.  To clean the battery, look for build-up around the terminals; it can usually be easily removed with some baking soda and water.

It’s also a good idea to keep tabs on how your battery is doing throughout its lifecycle.  You can do this by using a battery tester at a local auto shop. Although these testers can’t give you perfect information about what is going on, they can give you an idea of how the battery is doing overall.

People often have problems with batteries in the winter for a couple of reasons.  First of all, the oil inside your engine is essentially like molasses in the cold weather, making the engine much harder to turn over (requires more current from battery).  Second of all, your battery does not produce its normal amount of energy in the cold.  These two factors combine to cause a lot of problems, which is why it’s better to be safe than sorry with batteries, especially in the winter.

A battery’s typical lifetime usually ranges between 4 and 5 years.  At that point, there’s usually nothing that can be done to save the battery; it simply has to be replaced.  Just remember, you’d rather be on top of it and get it replaced 6 months early on your own schedule than have to do an emergency repair after your battery fails out and strands you in the cold.

Just in case you have a battery problem, it’s always good to remember how to jump a car.

Have questions about your battery? Give us a call (610) 696-2633.

How to Jump A Car

The holidays are full of cheer, bright lights, and wintry weather.  But did you know winter weather could also mean a dead car battery?

Snow isn’t the only piece of winter that can take a beating on your car. When the temperatures drops, so does your battery power. In fact, when the temperature dips below freezing, your car’s battery loses 33% of its power. When the temperature falls below zero, you car battery can lose over 50% of its power.

It’s not too late to winterize your battery. Follow these tips:

  • Test the Battery. We recommend testing your car’s starting and charging systems every 6 months.
  • Charge It. Use a battery charger to maintain the proper charge levels. A fully charged battery is less likely to freeze in the cold.
  • Check Up. Make sure you inspect your battery cables, posts and fasteners.

Feel free to give Tommy’s a call if you need help winterizing your car.

If you do find yourself needing to jump your car, just follow these simple steps:

How to Jump a Car

The Importance of Wheel Alignment

Q: What’s the deal with wheel alignment? Should I really be concerned about it?

A: The answer is yes. If you notice your car seems to drift to one side of the road, you may need to get your tires checked. If your vehicle has properly aligned wheels, then you will travel straight and true. Plus, wheel alignment is considered standard auto maintenance and proper adjustments help to reduce tire wear.

Tommy’s Automotive provides Chester County wheel alignment services, which we consider an important part of routine maintenance. The process involves adjusting a vehicle’s wheel angles. Properly aligned wheels help to cut down on a vehicle’s rolling resistance. This means that your car won’t require as much power or fuel to move. Additionally, if you have your tires in place, your car will be better protected from normal wear and tear.

Alicia's Mitsubishi

Q: I have a 2001 mitsibushi galant es. when ever i hit 45 or 50 mph it jerks and sometimes when i park it just cuts off. what could be the problem??

A: Thanks for the submission Alicia. There are a few components that can cause a similar problem. One of them is a transmission issue, a part of the transmission called the torque converter is designed to “lock up” at highway speeds to help out with fuel economy. If the converter gets stuck locked on it can cause the car to stall when coming to a stop. The other main cause that comes to mind is a faulty EGR valve. This component is designed to reduce emissions when the engine is under a load, but if the EGR sticks in the open position at the wrong time it can cause a jerking condition, and or stalling concern. Is the check engine light on? If so this could narrow it down easily. The best bet in this situation is to have a technician drive the car and perform some basic diagnostic tests. Let me know what fixes it. Good Luck!

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.

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