“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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Don’t Tire of Checking Your Tires

Hand holding pressure gauge for car tyre pressure measurement

Did you know that for every 10 degrees (Fahrenheit) the temperature rises, the pressure in your tires goes up 1 PSI (Pounds Per Square Inch). This may not seem significant, but in the summer, when temperatures fluctuate widely between morning and afternoon and vacation miles put extra stress on vehicles, that difference in PSI can mean a lot. It is especially important to check your tire pressure and general tire condition during the summertime.

This is because driving on under or over-inflated tires (the latter is more common when it’s hot) can reduce gas mileage, increase the rate of tire wear, and even make your vehicle susceptible to dangerous blow outs.

Check and Inflate

We assume that as a responsible car owner, you have a working tire gauge and a basic idea of how to use it. Good! Now make it a point once a month this season (and every season) to check your tire pressure first thing in the morning. In order to get an accurate reading, you have to test the tires when they are “cold.” According to C,G, & J Inc, cold tires are tires that:

  • have not been driven for more than one mile
  • have been out of direct sunlight
  • parked on hot pavement
  • warmed by hot daytime temperatures

Checking the tires in the morning is indeed the best way to ensure that they are “cold.”

From there, be sure to check the side of the driver’s side door or the owner’s manual for manufacturer recommended PSI. Note: This is different from the Max PSI listed on the driver’s door. For everyday driving, do not exceed the manufacturer recommended PSI. Keeping your tires inflated to that specification saves gas and reduces strain on the suspension system. If you are driving with a heavy load, it may be appropriate to inflate the tires to the max PSI as listed on the sidewall (or to the PSI listed in your owner’s manual for the expected load).

Over the course of the day, especially when it is hot, you can expect your tire pressure to sometimes meet or exceed the max PSI, and that’s okay as long as they start at the manufacturer recommended specification.

Keeping tires inflated to the proper pressure is one of the best things you can to do maintain your vehicle and keep your family safe on the road this summer. Also, don’t forget to make sure that the tires are in good condition.

If you need your tires changed or suspension repaired, call, contact or come into any of our three American Pride Automotive Locations. Yorktown: (757) 595-4100, Williamsburg: (757) 903-2473, or Toano (757) 250-3880.

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Top 5 Reasons for Automotive AC Problems

Hands of a driver on steering wheel of a car and empty asphalt rIt’s hot. It’s humid. At the end of a long day, the

last thing you want to do is hop into a sweltering car knowing that thanks to a broken AC, there’s no relief in sight! If your vehicle’s air conditioning is “under the weather” or not working at all, there are several possibilities as to the cause(s). These are the five most common sources of automotive AC complaints.

1. Insufficient Refrigerant

Refrigerant, aka coolant or Freon, is the lifeblood of the AC system. When refrigerant is low, all system components must work much harder to cool the air in the cabin. Sometimes the answer to this problem is simply to have an auto mechanic “recharge” the vehicle with more coolant, but usually low coolant is a result of….

2. Leaks

Whether because of something as simple as a loose or damaged O-Ring, or something as complex and costly as a cracked compressor, AC system leaks are a major source of problem. If an auto technician recommends a simple recharge with coolant, make sure they have thoroughly checked the system for leaks. Otherwise, you’re sure to be coming back for another recharge very soon.

3. Mold and Mildew Buildup 

Have you ever experienced an unpleasant smell and/or decreased airflow into your car’s cabin? Both of those phenomena are symptomatic of mold and mildew buildup in the AC system’s evaporator. Usually a simple system cleaning by a trained professional does the trick. It’s also important to keep an eye on the air filter, as it can get dirty and blocked as a vehicle gets older.

4. Fan Issues

Weak airflow but no gross odor? Consider the possibility that your vehicle’s blower fan is malfunctioning or burnt out.

5. Compressor Problems 

Though it’s the last point on our list, the compressor is the first AC system component to take into consideration when diagnosing problems. We put it last on the list because compressor problems often implicate the most expensive repairs. The issue might lie with a malfunctioning compressor clutch (many times caused by persistently low refrigerant), or with the compressor unit itself. If you suspect compressor failure, be sure to talk to an honest, experienced auto technician to help pinpoint the cause and recommend a course of action.

Don’t suffer through summer with a disappointing AC system in your vehicle. Call, contact or come into any of our three American Pride Automotive locations. We are ready to diagnose the issue and provide helpful solutions!

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July Flush Special

am-pride-july-special

Think back to your vehicle’s last service appointment.  Did the auto technician recommend any maintenance that wasn’t quite critical (as in, if you don’t fix this, your car won’t start) but still important for long-term car care?

Service procedures like flushes, filter cleanings, lubrications and alignments are easy to pass up when faced with an extra fee, but all of these measures help prevent bigger, more costly repair needs in the future. We understand.  That’s why we are offering $21 off of any vehicle flush during July. This special offer includes flushes of the transmission, cooling system, brakes and power steering system. If your vehicle needs a flush, now is the perfect time to schedule your appointment at American Pride. Not sure? Check out these reasons to flush various vehicle systems.

Transmission

While many people understand the importance of changing the transmission filter and fluid, fewer get the transmission flushed. This is a problem because, though filter and fluid changes help keep the unit clean, debris still builds up over time. To keep the transmission function long into the future, a flush should be performed about every 30,000 miles.

Cooling System 

A vehicle’s cooling system keeps it running smoothly in all weather conditions and maintains the temperature of the engine. Coolant is like blood to the cooling system and as the fluid gets older, it loses its viscosity. In the meantime, the pipes and equipment that make up the cooling system experiment a buildup of gunk and grime. A coolant flush, performed about every 25,000 miles, sloughs out the gunk and makes room for fresh coolant.

Brakes 

Brake fluid is your brake’s best ally against wear and tear and makes it possible for a vehicle to stop safely and efficiently. But just like the other fluids that keep a car in great working order, brake fluid accumulates dirt and loses its effectiveness. To be safe, a brake flush should be performed every 3 year (varies based on the make, model and condition of the car).

Power Steering 

Though once a luxury option, most vehicles today are equipped with power steering systems that increase the ease and preciseness of steering. It is vital to the health of your steering system and the safety of your family to flush the system and refill it with new fluid about ever 2 years. Otherwise, grime will build up in the fluid and eventually oxidize power steering components.

Your vehicle may not need all of these flushes, but if you passed any of these recommendations by at its last service visit, be sure to take advantage of American Pride’s $21 off promotion. We are here for you. Call, contact or stop by any of our three locations in Yorktown, Williamsburg or Toano in the month of July.

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5 Tips for Driving Safely in the Rain

Young people driving retro car in the rain

It’s that time of the year during which there is almost always a chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon. This presents a challenge to drivers who are anxious about driving in the pouring rain, but there are steps you can take to make wet weather driving a breeze.

1. Drive at or Below the Speed Limit 

Bad weather means giving yourself a little more time to get where you’re going because, legally, you have to slow down. It is extremely unsafe to speed in wet weather. Breathe and keep several car lengths between you and other vehicles.

2. Check Your Tires 

Don’t take a chance on bare, or even moderately worn tires. Remember the penny test? Place a penny with Lincoln’s head down. If you can see the top of his head, you need new tires! In addition to posing a serious safety hazard in the rain, worn tires decrease gas mileage and place undue wear on your vehicle as a whole. If you need your tires replaced, call American Pride. We can help.

3. Know What to Do When You Hydroplane

We’ve all been there. Driving along in a rainstorm when suddenly, the car slides out of control. The worst thing you can do in this situation is panic and slame on the brakes. The best thing you can do is to sense where the vehicle is headed, try to identify open space in that direction, and continue to lightly accelerate.

4. Turn on Those Headlights

According to Virginia Law 46.2-1030 A., headlights must be illuminated in the event of “rain, smoke, fog, snow sleet, insufficient light, or any other unfavorable atmospheric condition., visibility is reduced to a degree whereby persons or vehicles on the highway are not clearly discernible at a distance of 500 ft, and whenever windshield wipers are in use as a result of fog, rain, sleet, or snow.”

5. Pull Over If You Can’t See

No matter how skilled a driver you are, if you cannot see anything in front of you despite windshield wipers, please pull over until the rain passes. Accordingly, make sure your windshield wipers are in good shape by looking for cracks or dryness in the blades. Quality wipers can make all the difference in the ease of driving in the rain.

American Pride has three locations in Yorktown, Williamsburg and Toano. We specialize in auto maintenance and repair, so please stop in. We’re ready to handle all of your auto care needs.  One of the most important aspects of safety when driving in inclement weather is making sure that your vehicle is in good condition as a whole.  Contact American Pride to schedule a tune-up or routine maintenance visit.

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It’s Time for June State Inspections!

June-State-Inspections

Can you believe that June is almost over? We can’t either! If your vehicle is due for inspection this month, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment at any of our three American Pride Automotive locations. We are a certified Virginia Inspection Station and perform all necessary repairs on site, so you can get on the road legally and safely.

 American Pride’s friendly staff and expert technicians understand that getting your vehicle inspected is an often unpleasant errand, so we try to make the process as painless as possible. What’s more, in the month of June, $5 of every state inspection goes directly to the Heritage Humane Society! This means that having your car inspected at American Pride helps both you and displaced animals in our area.

 And now for a Frequently Asked Virginia State Inspection Question:

 Q. What are the consequences of driving with an expired sticker?

A. If a police officer sees the expired sticker, or if you are pulled over for another reason you will be issued a ticket for not having a current inspection. As of early 2012 the ticket was $90.

Don’t take the risk! Call or contact American Pride to schedule an inspection appointment or just stop in. We look forward to seeing you!

 

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Top 10 Ways to Save on Gas This Summer

There are essentially two classic plights for car owners during the summer: 1) faltering AC and 2) rising gas prices.  We’ve already given you a solution for #1 (find the details on our AC maintenance special in last week’s blog post). Now it’s time for the top ten ways to save money on gas and improve your vehicle’s fuel economy.

Dumping Money Into Gas Tank

  1. Choose a more fuel efficient vehicle. If you are currently driving a gas guzzler and are in the market for a new car, consider opting for a smaller car or even a hybrid truck or SUV.  New and used fuel-efficient car and truck options abound these days.
  2. Buy gas when it’s coolest outside. When you pay at the pump on a warm afternoon, did you know that you may be paying more for gas than if  you filled up that morning? When gasoline expands with heat, you get less gas for the same price (it is sold by volume, not by density). Some argue that the price difference is negligible but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
  3. Don’t top off the tank. Trust the auto shut-off when filling up the tank! Any extra fuel will likely slosh out, evaporate and waste money.
  4. Stop idling. Ever heard that it takes more fuel to restart an engine than it does to idle? While that may have been true for older vehicles, sophisticated fuel injection systems make restarting cars much more efficient! Idling is considerably less efficient. We don’t recommend turning off the engine at stop lights, but if you are stuck in bumper-to-bumper vacation traffic, feel free to roll down the windows and turn off the car.
  5. Lighten the load. Speaking of vacation traffic, keep luggage load in mind this summer when packing your vehicle. Heavy cargo can place a real drag on fuel economy. This goes for auto rooftop car carriers and of course the everyday stuff we collect in the car.
  6. Opt for cruise control on the highway. If you’re like many drivers, you may not keep a steady speed while on the highway. Speed fluctuations consume more fuel than necessary, so if your vehicle is cruise control enabled, take advantage of it! 
  7. Accelerate and brake slowly. Calm, efficient driving goes a long way when it comes to saving money on gas and keeping a vehicle as fuel efficient as possible. Avoid hard starts and stops and….
  8. Respect the speed limit. This is a tough one for many of us. Here’s an interesting statistic from FuelEconomy.gov: ” While each vehicle reaches its optimal fuel economy at a different speed (or range of speeds), gas mileage usually decreases rapidly at speeds above 50 mph. You can assume that each 5 mph you drive over 50 mph is like paying an additional $0.24 per gallon for gas.
  9. Combine trips.  It is better for your car and your wallet to take longer trips than it is to buzz from point A to point B and back again a few hours later. Plan errands ahead of time.
  10. Maintain your vehicle. There are a number of routine car care measures that enhance fuel economy for the life of a vehicle. Changing the oil and air filter at the manufacturer-recommended times, adjusting the alignment and suspension system and receiving regular engine tune-ups all maximize fuel efficiency.

Don’t get down about summertime gas prices. Call or contact American Pride today or stop in at any of our three locations in Toano, Williamsburg or Yorktown. We can perform service and routine maintenance on your vehicle and even sell you a quality, fuel-efficient used car if that is what you need. Our team is ready to help!

P.S. We did a whole series of posts on fuel economy last year. Check out the How can I save on gas? The “Everything Auto” Fuel Economy Series Parts 1, 2, and 3 for more info on maximizing gas mileage.

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Take Advantage of Our Automotive Air Conditioning Service Special!

apa-ac-june-special

Please don’t suffer with ineffective air conditioning or even worse…. air conditioning that only blows warm. We have trained technicians and the latest equipment enabling us to quickly and easily repair your air conditioning system.

During the month of June we are reducing the cost of your air conditioning service by $37.00. This service has our technicians evacuating your system, holding a vacuum to remove moisture and a complete recharge along with the addition of dye.

Hot Summer driving with the inevitable traffic back ups will try anyone’s patience when the a/c is not working, keep cool this Summer and save a little along the way.

Call or contact any of our three convenient locations (Yorktown, Toano or Williamsburg) today to schedule an Auto A/C appointment.

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Car Storage Tips

Abandoned Truck

If you’re going to be out of town for more than a couple of weeks or if you will simply not be driving your car or truck for an extended period of time, it’s a good idea to take some precautions to ensure the vehicle is in good working order when you need it again.

The best solution is to have someone drive the car for a least 15 minutes every couple of weeks.  This keeps the battery charged, the engine lubricated, and prevents flat spots from developing on the tires.  If you’re not able to leave the car with someone who can drive it regularly, here are some tips to make sure it’s in drivable condition when you return.

1) Keep the battery charged.  If the car will not be driven while it is in storage, disconnect the negative battery cable, or connect it to a trickle charger.  Of course, using a trickle charger requires a nearby power source, so it’s only an option if you’ll be able to keep the vehicle in a garage.

2) Clean it first.  Anything that’s on the paint can cause damage over time, so it’s best to give the vehicle a wash before putting it in storage.

3) Keep it covered.  Obviously a climate controlled garage is best, but if that’s not an option, invest in a cover.  Covers vary a great deal in price and level of protection.  If you’ll only be storing your car for a couple of weeks, and you don’t plan on doing so again, you may decide that a $30 cover from a big-box store is good enough.  But if you’re storing the car for 6 months (or you store it frequently for short periods of time), the $250 all-weather UV-resistant custom cover may be worth it.

4)  Get the oil changed.  Used engine oil has contaminants that if left sitting could damage the engine over time.  This is more of a concern for long-term storage (a month or more).

5) Don’t use the parking brake.  Instead, use a piece of wood or a tire chock to make sure the car can’t move.  Leaving the parking brake on leaves the brake pads in contact with the rotors which can fuse together over time.

6) Talk to your insurance company.  If the car or truck is in storage, you may be eligible to have your insurance bill reduced, though this is usually only possible if it will be a month or more.

If you have any questions about car care tips, or if you need help getting your car back in working order, give us a call at American Pride or contact us online. With locations in Toano, Williamsburg, Yorktown and Newport News, we’re ready to help you.

Image from katsrcool, used by Creative Commons license.

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3 Tips to Avoid Common Electrical System Problems

big_battery

Electrical system problems are quite common for all makes and models of cars and trucks. Here are a few tips to keep your electrical system in good working order.  Of course if you suspect a problem with your battery, alternator or spark plugs, give us call or stop by so one of our certified mechanics can take a look.

1) Dead battery

We’ve all experienced a dead battery, and it’s usually at an inconvenient time!  Batteries will wear out, but you can extend the life of the battery by avoiding short trips (20 minutes or less) as this doesn’t allow your battery to reach a full charge while driving.  Also, don’t let the radio/lights/other accessories run for extended periods of time while the engine is off. To prevent being stranded with a dead battery, have us check your battery every time you’re in for an oil change.  When it begins to test weak, get it replaced preemptively.

2) Alternator

A bad alternator can leave you stranded too. While there’s not much you can do to prevent your alternator from failing, you can keep an eye out for warning signs so you can replace it before you’re left stranded.  Watch out for dim headlights, a growling or whirring sound, or the smell of burning wires or rubber.  If you experience any of those symptoms, come in to have your alternator checked ASAP.

3) Starter

Starter problems can be hard to distinguish from a dead battery.  If you turn the key and the dashboard lights come on but the engine doesn’t start, it may be the starter. When a starter begins to go bad, it will often make a grinding sound, or it may take more time than usual for the car to start.  If it takes longer than usual for the engine to roar to life, bring your car or truck in and have the starter checked.

If your car is experiencing any of the problems listed above, call American Pride now to schedule an appointment. We’ll get your car back to tip-tip shape and safely on its way.

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Summer is here! Is your AC working?

Thermometer in Car AC Vent

It was a long, cold winter, followed by a brief spring here in Hampton Roads.  With temps in the 90s, summer is here early and everyone is turning on their AC. In other words, we’re seeing a lot of overheated people with broken air conditioning in their vehicles here at American Pride.

The most common problem is that air is coming out of the vents, but it’s either warm or not cold enough.  This usually means that the refrigerant is low and needs to be recharged. A quick recharge might get your AC blowing cold again for a few days, but if the refrigerant is low, it’s because it leaked out somewhere.  Adding refrigerant without fixing the leak is a waste of money.

If your AC isn’t blowing as cold as it used to, take action soon. Bring your car or truck by American Pride and have one of our certified mechanics take a look.  While there are plenty of maintenance and repair tasks suitable for the DIY enthusiast, refrigerant gasses are highly pressurized and can cause serious injury.

We’ll make sure we get you back on the road, safely and comfortably in no time. Contact American Pride now to schedule your appointment.

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