Maintenence Questions

Car Maintenance Questions and Tips. For more information about Tommy’s Car Maintenance Services visit our car maintenance page.

When and Why to Replace Your Vehicle Air Filters

replace air filterOh, Canada! No, we aren’t singing their anthem . . . but we are breathing in their air, and that hasn’t been a good thing. If you have noticed the increase of smokey days around Pennsylvania this summer, we can thank our neighbors to the north. While you may feel you can breathe easy indoors or in your car as long as the windows are up, you would be wrong. When smoke particles in the atmosphere increase, breathing them in can cause a lot of health damage. That is why using HEPA filters in your homes and cars is critical.

The Importance of Filtered Air

Replacing your vehicle’s cabin air filter and the engine air filter is vital for breathing, even if there isn’t an active wildfire nearby, but it is also critical for the health of your vehicle. When you neglect your cars’s air filters, a few things can happen:

  • If you breathe in air that has not been filtered or is filtered through a dirty cabin air filter, you may notice that you get sick more often, have difficulty taking deep breaths, and have allergies that are exacerbated. Your car’s health may be at risk, too.
  • Not only can the dirty air filter cause damage to spark plugs but dirty air will cause the engine to run and idle roughly.
  • A clean engine air filter actually helps contribute to good fuel economy. A dirty or damaged engine air filter makes your engine work harder, meaning it uses more fuel. An engine needs nearly 10,000 quarts of oxygen to burn a quart of fuel . . . so give it some clean air!
  • Because your engine works harder when it doesn’t have clean air, your engine life may be dramatically reduced. . . and those things aren’t cheap!

When to Replace Your Air Filter

At Tommy’s Automotive, we always check your air filter during every auto service. In general, we recommend replacing air filters (even if they look like they are okay) every 12,000 miles (or every 3-6 months depending on how much you drive). City drivers may need to replace these more often as stop-and-go traffic can increase air emissions and dirty up your filter faster (we’re talkin’ to you, Philly).

If your vehicle has been in an accident or you have taken it off-roading where the air filter may have gotten damaged or dirty – it is worth a check or replacement. The benefit is that checking your air filter is quick and replacing them is affordable. There is no reason not to!

Get a Tune-Up at Tommy’s

Whatever vehicle service you may need, our team is experienced and ready to help. We can explain further why replacing air filters is important, and we can also give you other great tips to keep your vehicle in tip-top shape. It all starts with routine maintenance, so get on the schedule today.

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

dead car batteryIt can be one of the most miserable experiences in a person’s life . . . dealing with a dead battery on the side of the road in frigid temperatures. As cold temperatures set in, it is crucial to inspect your battery before you end up in that situation. If you have a dead battery, your vehicle will not start. This can happen because of cold weather or a battery that is worn out. Because a battery is such a simple part of your car, it is easy to forget this vital inspection when cold weather sets in.

Increasing the Life of Your Battery

Once you purchase a new car battery, you should have between 7 to 10 years of life in it. This depends on how many times the battery is used and what kind of conditions you use it in. Starting a vehicle in temperatures below freezing will shorten your battery life considerably. There are some ways to lengthen your battery life, though.

  • Turn off accessories when not in use, this includes your radio, headlights, overhead lights, etc.
  • Keep your vehicle warm by parking in the garage.
  • Purchase heating pads that are made specifically for your battery to keep it from succumbing to the frigid temps.
  • Apply anti-corrosion to the battery terminals to prevent anything that may prohibit conductivity between the battery and the battery cables.
  • Test your battery at any local automotive shop if you have concerns that your vehicle is not turning over (starting) as smoothly as it should be.
  • Make sure your car has a properly functioning alternator and voltage regulator. This will help keep your battery charged to the optimal level and prevent an abnormally short service life.

Ways to Kill a Battery

Whether it is from nature or neglect, a battery’s life can be shortened in a few ways. A lot of batteries die due to weather. When the temps dip below freezing, your oil becomes thicker (think about water turning into honey at 32 degrees). This slows down the conductivity of your battery, making it hard or impossible for the vehicle to start. Here are some ways to kill your battery:

  • Listening to the radio without turning your vehicle on. Most people will turn their radio or overhead lights on when they are working in the garage or hanging out at a park because they don’t want to waste the gas (and with prices of fuel rising, who can blame them)- but doing this without starting the car will kill your battery, leaving you stranded. Here’s hoping your friends brought their own vehicles!
  • Don’t start it. No one wants to go out in cold weather, but leaving your vehicle sitting in the cold for days without starting it can actually kill your battery – for good. The longer you wait to start your vehicle the more likely it is that you will have battery issues.
  • Overheat your battery. If your car does not want to start and you continue to crank on the starter, it will eventually overheat your battery. Doing this means you will need to replace the battery entirely.

Getting ahead of the problem is the best way to prevent being stranded on the side of the road, or being left at home without a running vehicle. Remember, that if you maintain your vehicle properly, your battery should last 7-10 years. If you aren’t sure how old the battery is, take it to an auto shop to have them test it. Depending on how much you spend, your battery will usually come with a 48-84 month warranty. Be sure to ask about this the next time you purchase a battery.

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.

Our PA Inspection Process

mechanic conducting a PA inspectionAll Pennsylvania vehicles are required to be inspected each year at an Official PA Inspection Station. This is to keep the roads safe for Pennsylvanians.

Since Tommy’s is an Official PA Inspection station, we’re familiar with the process of having a vehicle inspected. This is usually the process we follow when we complete inspections.

Exterior Check

We’ll look at your license plate and make sure it’s fastened onto your vehicle securely and is easily visible. To prevent visibility issues and risk of further damage, we’ll take a close look at your windows and windshield to ensure there aren’t any cracks or chips. We’ll do a test of your doors, windows, and wiper blades to make sure they’re functioning safely. We’ll also make sure your turn signals, headlights, taillights, and any other exterior lights don’t need to be replaced. Lastly, we’ll check your bumpers for stability.

Interior Check

An important part of the inspection is checking your steering wheel. We want to make sure your wheels will turn and that your steering wheel and column are in good condition–we call this part checking the alignment. We’ll check your seatbelts, press your horn to make sure it’s working, and then do a thorough inspection of your brakes. Your brake pads, brake pedal, and parking brake all need to be in working order for your car to pass inspection. You can learn more about our brake repair services here.

Engine Check

During this phase of the inspection, we’ll pop your hood to see what’s going on underneath. We’ll look over your exhaust, transmission, fuel, battery, and coolant systems to ensure that there is no leaking or signs of damage. This is also when we check your emissions system.

Chassis Check

Now, we head underneath your vehicle to check the chassis. We’ll take a look at your shocks, coil springs, axels, and frame to ensure they’re free of wear and damage. We’ll do a final check of your brakes and exhaust system.

The last part of the process is the tires. We’ll check the tread and the depth and look for signs of wear. We’ll ensure there aren’t punctures or other damage. And if your tires need to be fixed, we will be able to take care of that in our shop.

Before your car officially passes inspection, we’ll take it for a test drive.

You can click here to learn more about PennDot’s regulations.

Contact us today to schedule your vehicle inspection!

Traveling to the Shore? We’ve Got Tips

Jersey Shore

If you are planning on heading to the beach (or the shore) this summer, you’ll likely be crawling in crippling traffic. It’s the last thing you want when beachful bliss is just miles away.

We want to help you out and give you the latest traffic reports. We have a few tips and local resources for you to check out. Still, we can’t guarantee you won’t be moving slowly for at least a bit. You can thank us after you get your killer summer tan.

1. Plan Your Timing. Leaving at 10 am on a Saturday pretty much guarantees you’ll be stuck in bumper to bumper traffic. Leaving very early in the morning ensures you’ll beat out the rest of the slackers. If you have summer hours on Fridays at work, take advantage of the extra time and get on the road as soon as you can.

2. Get An App. If you have a smartphone, take advantage of the helpful apps you have. For example, the iPhone Maps app and the Google Maps app now account for real-time traffic. You might know you’re way around, but having a heads up about traffic allows you to consider other routes. Another popular traffic app is Waze. Just don’t get distracted by your phone, and if you have a helpful passenger, designate them the navigator. They’ll feel really special when they get an official title and job.

3. Fill Up & Eat Before You Leave. Don’t waste your time with extra detours to stop for gas and food. Be sure to have a full tank and stomach when you leave or you could end up adding a ton of extra time onto your travel.

4. Be Prepared. Take a look at some of the routes below, as they may be helpful in avoiding traffic. Be sure to listen to local radio stations and check on traffic reports before you get on the road.

5. Ensure Your Car is in Top Shape. The absolute last thing you need is a car problem that has you waiting for hours on the side of the road. Here’s some travel tips for coming from the Philly area. Schedule a checkup or auto repair services with Tommy’s before you find yourself stuck in a nightmare.

Need an Alternate Route?

To the Jersey Shore

The Jersey Shore is home to many popular beaches, each with their own traffic problems. A recent NBC10 article asked John Butterworth, who does the WHYY traffic reports, his best advice for getting to the shore.

“It would depend on which Shore you are going to,” Butterworth said. “If you are going to the Wildwoods, go down 55, take the Delsea Drive. If you’re heading to Ocean City, I’d stick with the Atlantic City Expressway and the Parkway.

He suggests those looking for a more scenic route take the Black Horse Pike or the White Horse Pike.

Still, many people believe that staying off the major highways is a big No No because of red lights and low speeds. You be the judge.

Check out the latest Jersey Shore traffic updates.

To the Delaware Beaches

The 495 closure is causing major headaches for area drivers. With the closure, many drivers are taking I95, which of course becomes extremely backed up. For driver’s coming from the Philly area, here’s some travel ideas from the Delaware Tourism Office.

— U.S. 202/Concord Pike from West Chester area takes travelers into Wilmington without having to travel on I-95 or I-495. Once in Wilmington, travelers can head further south toward the beaches (by taking U.S. 13, then connecting with Del. 1); swing to the west toward the DuPont mansions (on Del. 52); or head toward the Newark area (on Del. 2).

— U.S. 13 has long been an alternate route south through Delaware for travelers starting in the far southeastern Pennsylvania area. You can pick up U.S. 13 south just east of I-495, soon after crossing the Delaware border (take the Naamans Road exit off I-95). From that point, travelers can use U.S. 13 (also known as DuPont Highway) to reach Wilmington, or to head further south (to Old New Castle, or to Del. 1, which takes you the rest of the way to the beach).

— Consider taking a bridge over to the New Jersey side and approaching Delaware from the east – I-295, U.S. 40 and the New Jersey Turnpike all cross into Delaware via the Delaware Memorial Bridge. From that point, travelers can jump onto U.S. 13 (to reach Wilmington to the north, or Del. 1/beach destinations to the south).

— If you’re visiting from New York or northern New Jersey, consider traveling to the Delaware beaches on the Cape May-Lewes Ferry.

Check DelDot for the latest traffic advisories.

Coming from the DC area? Here’s some great travel tips for heading up from the South.

Share your beach travel tips & tricks!

Why are dealerships so expensive? Are they ever worth it?

Q: Tom, when should I go to my car manufacturer’s dealership for repair? Is it ever worth the money?

A: The easy answer is if your car is under warranty, go to the dealership, if your warranty has expired, take it to a private shop. You should also take your vehicle to the dealership for any recalls and service bulletins.

In general you will pay much more for your repair at a dealership. You will get a mechanic trained to work specifically on your type of car, but unless you have a rare and complicated problem, a competent mechanic at a local garage will likely give you the same parts and service for up to 40% below what you would pay at a dealership. Some people feel that they need to take their cars to dealerships for factory maintenance. The requirements for factory maintenance are published online and can be performed by any auto repair shop.

I think the most important thing in auto repair is the customer-mechanic relationship. You are less likely to get to know the mechanics at a dealership, and they are less likely to get to know you and vehicle. On the other hand, a dealership represents a multi-million dollar corporation, so they go to great lengths to make sure their service is consistent and reliable. You need to do some research on a private shop before you take your car there because they could be way over-priced, unreliable, or just plain rude.

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.