Heart in Hands


Why Proper Wheel Alignment Is Important

If you believe that proper wheel alignment is not as high a priority for your vehicle as, say, engine repair or transmission service, think again. That's the kind of thinking that can shorten the life of your vehicle, not to mention costing you a lot more in the long run. While failing transmissions or broken belts are certainly more acute problems, wheels that are out of alignment are silently eroding away the road life of your car, sowing seeds for a lot more "acute" problems in the future. The truth is, wheel alignment is as much a part of proper auto repair and maintenance as changing the oil, and the cost of having it done is extremely low compared to the costs that can arise later from not having it done. Benefits of proper wheel alignment For a moment, let's forget about what improper alignment can do to your car, and let's look at what good things come from keeping the wheels aligned: Savings on fuel. When the wheels are out of alignment, it causes undue resistance ... read more

5 Ways To Tell If Your Car Needs Suspension Repair

For many drivers, the suspension on their vehicles (i.e., shocks or struts) is something they take for granted and don't think about often. Even if you begin to notice a rough ride, you might figure you need to save your money for more critical engine repairs. However, if your car needs suspension repair and you ignore it, you won't have as much control of your vehicle, and tires and other moving parts can wear out more quickly. It stands to reason that keeping your car's shocks or struts in good repair can not only extend the life of your car, but also keep you safer on the road. How can you tell whether your vehicle needs suspension repair? Here are five things to watch for. 1. Rough ride To state the obvious, the most common sign of failing shocks or struts is a rougher ride. You'll start feeling every bump under the tires, or you'll feel the car get more "bouncy" on uneven roads. If this happens, it's usually time to have the shocks checked at a trusted ... read more

3 Myths About European Auto Repairs

If you own a European-made vehicle like BMW, MINI, Jaguar or Volkswagen (or if you're thinking about buying one), you've probably heard a few stories about how difficult or expensive they are to repair and maintain. The truth is, European auto repairs and maintenance don't have to be pricey, and when properly maintained, European cars run just as well as (or better than) most other vehicles on the road. While it's true that you want to be selective about which auto repair shop you use, it's definitely possible to have quality repairs and maintenance performed on your European vehicle without breaking the bank. Let's dispel three common myths about European automobile maintenance and repair. MYTH ONE: European cars have to be repaired and maintained by the dealership. This myth is perhaps the most common reason why people mistakenly believe that owning a European car is expensive. Dealership service departments tend to charge premium rates for their services, th ... read more

5 Tips for Proper Tire Maintenance

Getting a new set of tires is an investment in your vehicle by any standard, and naturally, you want to ensure that those new tires keep you car rolling safely along the road for as long as possible. Practicing basic tire maintenance is an important part of making sure you're getting the most out of your investment. Here are five common-sense tips to keep your tires at their very best. 1. Keep tires properly inflated Keeping the right amount of air in your tires is possibly the most important thing you can do to extend the life and effectiveness of your tires. (It will also improve your gas mileage.) The proper inflation level will be imprinted on the tire wall. Check the air pressure regularly, and put air in the tires as needed. If you notice one or more tires losing pressure regularly, you may have a leak; take the vehicle to a trusted auto repair center to have the tires checked. 2. Rotate and balance the tires regularly Another key ingredient of proper tire maintenance is ... read more

What Are Engine Diagnostics?

"Engine diagnostics" sounds like something from a Star Trek episode: "The coaxial warp drive is what caused the anomaly in the first place," Scotty reports. "Commence engine diagnostics." Kirk directs! But other than checking for cosmic problems such as your engine generating a galactic disturbance, what do engine diagnostics really consist of? Since your vehicle doesn't come with equipped a Scottish engineer, it warns you of engine problems with a "check engine" displaying a glowing outline of the shape of your engine. Cars are now more futuristic than we give them credit, more controlled by computers and electronics than we think. Indeed, todays' car carries more computing capability than Apollo 13! Anyway, think of engine diagnostics as a full-body CT scan for your car. First, a skilled mechanic plugs his computer into your car's onboard computing system interface, usually located under the driver's side dashboard. Your car's system them communicates specific codes to the me ... read more

What the Check Engine Light Means

Almost everyone has experienced it: you're driving along, minding your own business, and the dreaded check engine light illuminates on the dashboard. For the more nervous among us, this strikes fear into the heart: is the car about to break down? Will auto repairs be expensive? For others, it's more a source of annoyance, and some choose to ignore the light altogether, waiting until a breakdown actually happens before they decide to do something about it. But what does the check engine light really mean? And more importantly, how should you respond when it lights up? Many possible issues Simply put, this indicator is something of a catch-all sensor that can be triggered by many different issues--some serious, and some not so much. Here are just a few things that can trigger the light: Faulty exhaust system Bad spark plugs Failing alternator Failing catalytic converter Bad oxygen sensor Vacuum l ... read more

What is 30/60/90K Maintenance?

What is 30/60/90K Maintenance?

For automobile owners, the terms "factory scheduled maintenance" or "30/60/90K maintenance" are widely misunderstood ideas. They basically refer to the same thing, namely, the auto maintenance schedule recommended by the car's manufacturer. It's often called "30/60/90K factory maintenance" because for most vehicles, the maintenance is scheduled every 30,000 miles. Many drivers consider this maintenance schedule to be optional, or worse, they think it's a ploy by the dealership to get more money out of them. Neither is actually true. For most manufacturers, the 30/60/90K maintenance schedule is a condition for honoring the warranty. Furthermore, keeping this maintenance schedule can actually extend the life of your vehicle, as well as saving you money on more costly repairs down the road. What does factory scheduled maintenance entail? In most cases, the scheduled maintenance involves a thorough inspection of your vehicle's systems to look for iss ... read more

When is it Time for Brake Service?

When is it Time for Brake Service?

Of all the preventative maintenance your car needs, brake service is one of the most important (and unfortunately, also one of the most overlooked). The brakes endure huge amounts of heat and stress in stopping several tons of steel every time we drive, and they typically hold up remarkably well - but they don't last forever. Many people take their brakes for granted and don't notice they need work until they are completely worn out and doing damage to the wheels - or even worse, when they fail completely. However, if you simply pay attention, your vehicle will usually give you a few clues that it's time for a visit to your local auto repair technician to check the brakes. Here are some common symptoms to look for. Brakes squeal or screech when you apply them. Most vehicles are designed with a mechanism that causes a high-pitched squeal/screech when the brake pads are getting too low. This is usually the first and most obvious sign that it's time for bra ... read more

Timing Belt Warning Signs

Timing Belt Warning Signs

For older vehicles, one of the more common causes of a breakdown is a failed timing belt. Sadly, this is also one of the easiest breakdowns to prevent—and one of the most expensive to repair. Replacing a timing belt before it breaks can cost a few hundred dollars, but if it breaks while you're driving, the damage to your engine can total in the thousands. What is the timing belt? It's a small rubber belt that connects the crankshaft to the camshaft, controlling when the valves open and close. When the belt fails, the valves won't close in time, and the pistons hitting against them begin to cause damage immediately. (This is why repairs can be so costly when the belt fails—the engine itself may need to be rebuilt.) If your vehicle's odometer is in the 70,000 to 100,000 mile range, a good auto repair shop should begin talking to you about replacing the timing belt. This is not a suggestion to be ignored—it ... read more

MINI Care and Maintenance Tips

MINI Care and Maintenance Tips

If you're the proud owner of a MINI—whether a MINI Cooper, Countryman, Clubman or other model—then congratulations are in order! You have a precision vehicle that, with proper care, can give you enjoyment for years to come. The following MINI care and maintenance tips will help ensure that your MINI runs at its best throughout its life span. Follow the recommended maintenance schedule There are three levels of service recommended for the MINI: Oil change, Inspection 1 (minor service) and Inspection 2 (major service). The typical maintenance schedule sequence is: Oil change Inspection 1 Oil change Inspection 2 …and so on. Most MINIs come equipped with a Service Interval Display on the speedometer that calculates the next recommended service and how many miles left before you need it. If you go past the mileage point for the recommended service, the display begins to flash, tellin ... read more

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