“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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Keep, Sell or Toss: Your Next Car Buying Decision

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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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Top 4 Qualities of a Great Auto Repair Shop

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If you are new to the Hampton Roads area or simply looking to entrust the care of your family’s vehicle to a different mechanic, the huge number of options out there can seem overwhelming. The reality is, however, that a high-quality auto mechanic is surprisingly hard to find these days. As you decide where to take your vehicle, take these 4 qualities of a great auto repair shop into consideration.

1. Displays Honesty and Integrity. The stereotype of the shyster auto mechanic is a familiar one. He nickels and dimes, charges for unnecessary repairs and does a less than thorough job (if he fixes the problem at all). The best way to avoid getting in with a character like this is to do your homework. Ask friends and family for reliable referrals and check every online review you can find for prospective candidates.

2. Employs Only Certified Technicians. Mechanics are not required by law to become certified by any of the major U.S. auto credential programs, but the repair shop you choose should require it. Certification helps ensure that the people working on your vehicle are performing at a professional standard. American Pride automotive technicians are all certified through the highly reputable National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE).

3. Invests in Continuing Education. Cars and trucks are getting more complex every day and the industry is constantly changing. It’s vital that you work with technicians who are up-to-speed in the latest automotive technology. At American Pride, we require (and pay) our service staff to undergo quarterly continuing education and training sessions.

4. Makes Good Communication a Priority. A quality mechanic is skilled at translating technical automotive jargon to something that a layperson can easily understand. They should always be able to clearly communicate the reason for a repair or maintenance procedure and make you feel at ease.

The team at American Pride makes a concerted effort to exceed these standards daily. We specialize in automotive repair, maintenance and certified Virginia state inspections. Click or call to schedule an appointment or stop into anyone of the three American Pride locations in Yorktown, Williamsburg and Toano.

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Is Your Car’s AC Blowing Hot Air? (Best of the Everything Auto Blog)

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Uh-oh. The air is blowing out of your car’s vents, but it is as hot as the air outside! What could be causing it? Take a second to read one of our most popular posts of all time and get some answers.

To solve any and all automotive air conditioning issues, call or contact American Pride. You can schedule an appointment at any of our 3 locations.

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Tune Up for What? Get $50 Off Your Tune-up in August

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When was your vehicle’s last engine tune-up? Don’t remember? You’re not alone. Thanks to better, more technologically advanced engine components, people these days tend to neglect the tune-up until they experience engine-related problems—often requiring costly repairs that could have been avoided with proper engine maintenance. Don’t let that happen to you. Take advantage of American Pride Automotive’s August car care special and get $50 off an engine tune-up.

Why Tune My Engine?

Just as a responsible musician tunes his piano regularly, so should a responsible car owner tune his engine. Sticking to your vehicle’s manufacturer-recommended maintenance intervals is the best way to maximize engine performance and efficiency, lower emissions and preserve the life of the whole vehicle.

What Does a Tune-Up Include?

The procedures included with a tune-up depend heavily on the length of time since last engine service, your vehicle’s age, and the number of miles driven. Common engine issues and problematic components include bad spark plugs, dirty fuel systems and filters, and malfunctioning sensors. American Pride’s ASE-certified technicians perform the following:

    • Identify symptoms of engine performance issues
    • Do a road test (before and after tune-up)
    • Visually inspect engine components
    • Analyze the engine based on the vehicle’s on-board computer system
    • Also includes spark plugs, fuel filter, coil boots, pcv valve and apply engine top end cleaner.

Our tune-up comes with a 24-month/24,000 mile nationwide warranty so you can guarantee that the work we do will keep your engine in good shape.

Don’t wait to give your engine the love and care it needs. August is the month to save $50 by scheduling a tune-up at any of the three American Pride Automotive locations, Yorktown: (757) 595-4100, Williamsburg: (757) 903-2473, or Toano (757) 250-3880.

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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

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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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