“Everything Auto” Blog – You’ve Got Questions, We’ve Got Answers

Our focus is to keep you and your family safe on the road. We employ the most qualified people who will accurately determine your needs, clearly communicate the best solutions and execute all work with integrity.

When you have questions, please use us as a trusted resource for honest information. We will provide high-quality auto repair work and trusted pre-owned auto sales, we love this stuff so much we even want to blog about it!

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Get Your Car Ready for Winter

Does anyone remember the snow, sleet and ice brought to us by last year’s “polar vortex?” The forecast for winter 2015 doesn’t look too much different, and that means that car owners like you must prepare for the worst, especially if you plan to travel.


What should you do to get your vehicle ready for winter? It has everything to do with staying on top of routine maintenance and outfitting the car with appropriate cold weather gear where necessary.

Think About Cold Weather Battery Care

We can think of few things less pleasant than trying to start the car on a chilly winter morning and realizing that the battery is dead. Avoid this situation now by getting your battery tested and checking all connections for dirt and corrosion. Extreme temperatures are tough on vehicle batteries so you want to make sure that yours is in good condition from the get-go. Remember: Never try to jumpstart a frozen battery. How do you know if the battery is frozen? If temperatures have been in single digits for a number of days, if ice is forming around terminal connections, or if the vehicle won’t crank at all, there is a chance of that it is frozen. Attempting to jumpstart can result in a dangerous explosion. Instead, bring the battery inside for a a day or two to let it warm up and try again from there.

Make Sure All Lights and Signals are Functional

Though your vehicle’s dash light will likely alert you in the event of a fully burnt out bulb, it’s smart to check that all lights and signals are operating properly and to clean all headlights. Darker days and dangerous driving conditions mean that drivers must make every effort to maximize visibility. Another important tip to this end: replace old wiper blades.

Test the Heater and Defroster

It is uncomfortable and in some cases downright dangerous to have a malfunctioning car heater in the winter time. Reasons for a broken heater are generally related to the health of the cooling system and include low coolant, a plugged heater core, or a damaged thermostat. If the heat isn’t working, it is vital that you get your vehicle to a professional who specializes in engine repair, as it is often a signal of bigger engine problems.

Since it is a secondary function of a car’s AC system, issues with the defroster often come along with heater problems.  A windshield that won’t defrost is extremely unsafe.

Check Tire Tread

It seems like we mention this once a blog post, but proper tire maintenance is ESSENTIAL for safe winter driving. Tires that are thread bare will slip and slide on ice. Remember: if you do the “Penny Test” by placing a penny head down into several places on the tire tread and see Lincoln’s head…you need new tires.

Drive Smartly and Be Prepared

In addition to having an ice scraper or two on hand, we suggest that all families keep an emergency kit in the trunk that includes plenty of bottled water, non perishable food, a flashlight, extra medications, blankets, and flares.

When it comes to winter driving, one should always take care to accelerate and brake slowly and observe all posted speed limits (especially in inclement weather).

If you can, try to keep your gas tank at least half full when weather is below freezing. Failure to do so can cause the fuel lines to freeze.

Be mindful of exhaust. In the event of snow, be sure to keep your exhaust pipe free of snow, as a blocked pipe can filter carbon monoxide into the vehicle’s cabin.

Is your vehicle ready for winter and holiday road trips? Bring it into any of our 3 American Pride locations during the month of November and we will make sure it is with a free Travel Safe Checkup. Contact us to schedule an appointment today.



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November Special: FREE Travel Safe Checkup


November and December are two of the most heavily traveled months of the year. Between holiday visiting, students going back and forth between college and shopping, your vehicle goes through a lot this time of year.

This month, take advantage of our FREE Travel Safe Checkup — a preventative look at your car before you hit the road this season.  We’ll check your tire pressure and tread life, check all fluid levels, and look at, listen to and smell your engine for any obvious signs of issues or concerns.  If needed, we’ll even take a short test drive if we spot any concerns that need additional investigation.*

All for FREE.  There is no catch — we simply find this is a great way to introduce people to the service, quality and integrity found at American Pride Automotive.  Of course we hope you’ll consider us in the future when you need an auto repair, state inspection, oil change or even a new vehicle.

Call us today to find out the best time to get your free Travel Safe Checkup.  The checkup takes less than 30 minutes and you’ll have peace of mind when you and your loved ones travel this holiday season.


*Note, the Travel Safe Checkup is not a substitute for a full diagnostic check for identified issues.


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6 Habits of Responsible Car Owners

The child in a safety seat near to mother who sits on forward siAt American Pride Automotive, we believe that owning a well-maintained vehicle is more  than handling the technical stuff like regular service and repairs. It is also about encouraging smart driving practices. These 6 habits of responsible car owners go far for keeping your vehicle running smoothy and your family safe.

1. Pay Attention to Tire Condition

You should check your tires for wear once a month and before and after road trips. In addition to a basic visual inspection, try the penny test on each tire to ensure that the tread is deep enough. What’s the penny test,  you ask? Stick a penny in the tread of each tire with Lincoln’s head facing down. If you can see all of his head, it’s time to get new tires.

It is also important to examine each tire for nails or other punctures and to check tire pressure once a month when the tires are cold. Never drive on over inflated or under inflated tires.  Taking these steps will help ensure safe driving with no blow outs, flat tires or other avoidable issues.

2. Drive carefully.

Accelerating and braking slowly, going the speed limit, and using one’s turn signals contribute to keeping a vehicle in good condition by putting less stress on mechanical components and reducing the risk of accidents.

3. Avoid emotional driving.

Along the same lines, remember that driving when upset or tired is never a good idea. Pull over, ask someone else to drive, or just stay put until you feel 100%. Tired drivers tend to have slower response times and emotional drivers are apt to road rage and aggression. Both of these can cause traffic accidents.

4. Follow the recommended maintenance schedule for your vehicle.

Check the owner’s manual or the internet for the recommended service schedule for your make and model. Manufacturers generally specify certain mileage checkpoints for important service procedures that will keep your car running smoothly for the long term.

5. Always get the car checked by a professional before heading out on a long road trip.

We mentioned the need to examine tires before and after a long trip, but it’s also smart to give the whole vehicle a once over before hitting the road. Make sure all fluids are full, the battery charged, and the brakes aren’t worn down. It’s best to get a automotive service professional to do a road trip check because they are well-equipped to pinpoint hidden issues that might leave you stranded on the interstate. If you have any doubts about the condition of your vehicle, repair any possible problems or rent a car. (More on this next week)

6. Model good driving habits.

Driving safely and taking care of your vehicle is the best way to set your children on the path to responsible car ownership. If you refrain from distracted driving and service your vehicles regularly, your kids are likely to emulate you.

We at American Pride Automotive put your family first, just like you do. Let us be your automotive repair and service shop. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

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Get Your Car Inspected for a Good Cause!

Update: As of October 1,  we have raised $1,855 of the $6,000 fundraising goal for Hospice House and Support Care of Williamsburg through our State Inspections for our Community initiative. Thank you to all who have come out to one of our locations to have their vehicles inspected. It is always amazing to see people in the community gather together to help each other and at American Pride Automotive, we are passionate about making opportunities to do so happen.

Not familiar with our State Inspections for the Community program? Periodically, American Pride chooses a charity or esteemed organization to which we donate a portion of state inspection proceeds.

state-inspections-for-our-community-200px Until the end of 2014, that organization (our “Community Star”)  is Hospice House and Support Care of Williamsburg. Hospice House provides end-of-life care to terminally ill people at no cost to caregivers. Their mission is to enhance the quality of life for terminally ill people and their families in an environment that feels more like a home than a medical facility.

When you bring your vehicle in for an inspection until December 31, 2014, $5 of the inspection fee goes to supporting Hospice House and the families they help.

Does your windshield have a 10/14 on it? Have one of our locations perform your State Inspection and you will be supporting a very worthy cause!

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October Special: Half-Off Wheel Alignments


Everyday wear and tear, poor road conditions, fender benders and hitting the curb while parallel parking can all knock a vehicle’s wheels out of alignment. Poor wheel alignment puts unnecessary wear on even the highest quality tires and unnecessary stress on the whole vehicle. Too many people elect to not have their wheels aligned when they come in for a service visit and are then surprised when at their next visit the technician recommends tire replacement due to uneven wear! We here at American Pride don’t want that to happen to any of our customers, and that’s why we are offering half-priced wheel alignments throughout the month of October!

Some signs that your vehicle may need a wheel alignment include visible tire wear, the car “pulling” to one side of the road, and a shaky steering wheel. Still, it is important to keep in mind that often there are no obvious or visible signs of poorly aligned wheels until the vehicle is up on a lift. That is why it is vital for car owners to have their tires and suspension systems inspected and their wheels aligned regularly—especially after replacing tires or getting into an accident.

Don’t put off your next wheel alignment! Schedule an appointment at American Pride in October to get this critical service performed and save money doing it.

Along with our wheel alignment special, there’s a lot going on at American Pride during the month of October! Through the State Inspections for the Community Program, $5 of every state inspection through the end of 2014 goes to our Community Star, Hospice House and Support Care of Williamsburg. So, if your car is due for inspection within the next few months, visit American Pride for a state inspection you can feel good about. Learn more about our State Inspections for the Community Program here.

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What to Do When a Car Overheats


You’re on the road and suddenly you notice the little red engine temperature needle climbing into dangerous territory. You may even see smoke or steam wafting up from under the hood. The engine is overheating. What do you do? What could cause this to happen?

First things first: Don’t panic. Your engine isn’t likely to blow up (though if you do notice smoke or steam, pull over immediately). If it seems to be overheating just slightly, turn off the air conditioner to take some strain off of the engine and turn on the heat to draw heat away from the engine.

If turning off the A/C and blasting the heat brings the needle back down, try your best to make it home or to the nearest auto repair shop if those places are within a quarter mile. If not, pull over and turn the engine off. When a vehicle overheats in heavy traffic, avoid using the brakes too frequently and do your best to get off the road as soon as possible. From there, either call a tow truck or, if you’re comfortable with the inner workings of your vehicle (and have coolant, water and basic auto repair tools on hand), prepare to find the source of the problem.

Once the engine has cooled after about half an hour, carefully pop the hood and find the coolant tank. The initial thing to look for is a coolant leak. If the tank is empty or if coolant is low and there is an obvious crack, a leak is probable. In this case you will need to have the coolant tank replaced eventually, but in the meantime you should add coolant to the radiator. SAFETY NOTE: Wait until the engine is completely cool before opening the radiator cap. Failing to do so can lead to serious burns from pressurized fluid.

From there, add the correct ratio of coolant and water, replace the cap, close the hood and make your way to an auto repair shop.

If both the coolant reservoir and radiator have the correct levels of coolant, a number of other mechanical issues could be causing the overheating:

  • incorrect coolant to water ratio
  • a malfunctioning thermostat
  • a broken radiator or radiator fan
  • a cracked or broken hoses
  • a bad water pump
  • a broken fan belt
  • a clogged radiator
  • extremely hot weather

If you find that your engine gets a little too hot a little too often or experience a major overheating episode, bring the vehicle into American Pride. We specialize in cooling system and engine repair and our ASE-certified technicians are well-versed in fixing the problems that lead an engine to overheat. Call or contact American Pride today to schedule an appointment.

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State Inspections for Our Community: Hospice House and Support Care of Williamsburg

Close your eyes and imagine being genuinely excited about your annual state vehicle inspection. Does that scenario seem unrealistic? Well, with American Pride Automotive’s State Inspections for Our Community Program, it’s a very real possibility!

Periodically, we choose a organization in the area with an admirable mission and donate a portion of all state inspection fees to their cause. Past beneficiaries include the Peninsula SPCA, March of Dimes, Heritage Humane Society and more.

APA_State_Inpections_Comm_Logo_Three Versions_V2

From September till the end of 2014, American Pride is proud to partner with Hospice House and Support Care of Williamsburg. $5 of every state inspection we perform will be donated directly to Hospice House, a one-of-a-kind fixture in our community that provides end-of-life care to terminal patients at no cost to families. By enhancing the patient’s quality of life and giving support to their caregivers, Hospice House offers an invaluable service.

Learn more about Hospice House and our State Inspections for the Community program here.

Getting your car inspected can feel like a hassle, but when you get the inspection done at American Pride, you can feel good about two things: 1) making sure your vehicle is safe and legal to drive, and 2) doing good for your neighbors. The best part? You don’t pay any more to have a vehicle inspected at American Pride than you would anywhere else–the money just goes to those who need it most.

If your registration expires soon, be sure to schedule a Virginia state inspection appointment. Our certified technicians are ready and waiting to get you on the road safely.


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Why Does My Car Shake When I Brake?

It starts out subtle, a slight “shimmy” of the steering wheel when coming to a stop. But as time goes on, that shimmy becomes a full on shake that makes you ask the question, “Is my car safe to drive?” The answer depends on a number of factors, but in general, it is best to take your vehicle to a certified mechanic at the first shimmy of the steering wheel. The cause is likely warped rotors that need resurfacing or replacement.

How Rotors Work

Front Brake Parts Disks and Pads

Brake rotors (also known as brake discs) are the mechanisms in the brake system that brake pads clamp onto to stop the wheels. As you may imagine, slowing down rapidly spinning wheels involves a great deal of heat that, over time, can disfigure the rotors. Imbalances caused by the disfiguration are then felt as an unsettling rumble in the steering wheel. Though the first instances of the shakes are not critical, they are your car’s way of telling you, “Hey! Bigger problems ahead!”

Consequences of Warped Rotors

Just as balance is important to the skeletal and other body systems, so is balance important to all vehicle systems–including the brake system. The imbalance caused by warped rotors can eventually wear out brake pads and other components as well as compromise the safety of anti-lock brakes (or cause the brakes to fail entirely).

Since brakes are so integral to keeping your family safe on the road, brake maintenance is one of the most important aspects of overall car care.  Regular service appointments with ASE certified technicians should keep your vehicle in the clear, but if you notice odd indications like a shaky steering wheel when braking, it is smart to get your car to the shop as soon as possible.

American Pride Automotive offers comprehensive brake system maintenance and brake repair including:

  • Brake pad relining and replacement
  • Repair of Antilock braking systems
  • Rotor machining (resurfacing), turning and replacement
  • Brake fluid exchange
  • Brake system flush
  • Drum resurfacing
  • Installation of brake system components

Call or contact any one of our three locations to schedule a brake repair/maintenance appointment. We look forward to talking with you and answering any questions you may have!


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Take $150 Off Timing Belt Kit and Installation in September


At your vehicle’s last service appointment, did the auto technician recommend timing belt replacement? Did you decline it based on cost? Waiting to replace an old timing belt is a giant gamble and the life of your engine is at stake. If this is your situation, then September is your month! Every day this month, American Pride Automotive is offering $150 off the timing belt kit and installation.

When in good condition, the timing belt and its components prolong the life of the engine and keep it running smoothly.  In poor condition, the timing belt can contribute to catastrophic engine failure and sky-high repair costs. That’s why it’s vital that a car owner replaces the belt anywhere from 60 to 100,000 miles (according to the maintenance schedule in a vehicle’s owners manual). Unfortunately, many people put off this necessary maintenance service until the timing belt breaks and causes far bigger engine problems—the difference between a $500 repair and a several thousand dollar repair.

The timing belt and its components control the operation of the engine’s exhaust valves by keeping the crankshaft and camshaft operating in sync (hence: “timing” belt). The system, or “kit,” is made up of the belt, tensioners, idler pulleys, seals and, if applicable, the water pump. Learn more about the importance of the timing belt kit and how it works here.

timing belt component illustration


It is recommended that when replacing the belt, you also replace all components.  At American Pride, we are proud to install Gates timing belt kits, as they are first-in-class in quality and customer satisfaction. Gates provides an industry-leading warranty that covers not only the timing belt kit components, but your entire enginefor the duration of the vehicle’s manufacturer-recommended replacement interval.  Though not an inexpensive service, installing a new timing belt kit is an essential part of vehicle maintenance and far less costly than the alternative of full engine replacement.

Schedule an appointment during the month of September at any of the three American Pride locations to get $150 off your timing belt kit and installation. Your engine can’t afford to wait!

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Keep, Sell or Toss: Your Next Car Buying Decision


There comes a time in every vehicle’s journey when its owner has to make a choice about whether to keep driving it, put it on the market or lay it to rest. There are a few situations that may prompt the need for such a decision. You may encounter the prospect of a major repair, experience a life event like the birth of a child that calls for a bigger vehicle, or simply want a change of pace. You may know that it is time for a different vehicle, but choosing what to do with the old one can be overwhelming. Let us help.

When (And When Not) to Keep Your Car

Remember that keeping a used car  is almost always cheaper than buying a new or “new” used car. That’s why it’s important to make the distinction between want and need, and to make absolutely certain that a purchase is in your budget. If nothing is particularly wrong with the vehicle and/or the added expense of a new vehicle will be a stretch, consider sticking with your current vehicle for a while longer. That being said, a car with critical mechanical problems or sky-high mileage may no longer be a keeper.

Some costly issues that may not be worth fixing include the need for engine or transmission replacement. But don’t jump to conclusions. Sometimes when people see the high price tag of such a repair, they forget that it pales in comparison to the price of a new car. What if you just want something new and different? It might be smart to sell your car to an interested buyer.

When to Sell Your Car

Like we said, putting a vehicle on the market is a smart choice for those who are simply ready for a change–especially if the car has retained significant worth over the course of ownership. There are several options for selling a car. You can put an ad in the paper or on Craigslist, auction it on a site like Ebay, or simply put it out front with a “For Sale” sign. Apart from putting the car on the market privately, also consider negotiating a trade-in at a local dealership (if possible) or let American Pride Automotive do the work for you. We buy all makes and models and are even willing to take a chance on vehicles in need of repair. Fill out our “Sell Us Your Car” form to inquire and schedule a free appraisal of your vehicle.

When to Toss Your Car

For very old cars with non-repairable problems or for vehicles in bad accidents (declared a total loss by the insurance company), the best option is sometimes to sell for parts and recoup what you can.  Visit the DMV website to learn about how to legally declare salvage vehicles in Virginia.

No matter what you decide to do with your current vehicle, American Pride Automotive can assist in any part of the process. We can diagnose and repair mechanical problems, buy an older used  car and even help you find the perfect new-to-you used car. Contact any of our three American Pride locations (Yorktown, Williamsburg or Toano) to learn more.

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