Should You Drive or Tow Your Car to the Auto Repair Shop?

You’re driving along, and suddenly you detect something wrong with your vehicle—maybe the temperature gauge starts going up, or it begins to make a strange noise. Clearly, you need to get your car to a mechanic. But should you drive or have your car towed to the auto repair shop? Even if your vehicle is still operable, that doesn’t necessarily mean you should continue to drive it. Here are some tips for deciding if you need a tow.

Why get my car towed if my mechanic is local?

While your car may still get you from point A to point B after it starts showing symptoms of a problem (point B being Aardvark Automotive), continuing to drive a vehicle with an existing issue can exacerbate the damage. Avoiding a towing fee is generally not worth doing further harm to your vehicle. In fact, it could result in costlier repairs that could have been prevented if you had your car towed to the shop.

But when it comes down to it, whether to get a tow is a judgment call, and you need to rely on your familiarity with your vehicle to make the decision. Factors to consider include the extent of the symptoms, such as:

  • Smoke coming from the hood or tailpipe
  • The smell of burning oil
  • Screeching, whirring, or knocking from under the hood
  • How far the car temperature falls or increases according to the temperature gauge
  • Intermittent stalling or slow acceleration
  • Rotational noise that increases with acceleration
  • Grinding noise from the brakes when applied
  • Vehicle warning lights displaying on the dashboard

While not always, any of these symptoms could indicate a severe problem with your vehicle—one that could become worse if you continue to drive. A $75 tow could end up saving you several hundred dollars in repairs. Not to mention, it could be dangerous to continue operating your vehicle if it’s not running well. To us, the old maximum “better safe than sorry” holds true in the driving versus towing debate.

Don’t wait to take care of car problems—it’ll cost you in the long run!

Whether you decide to drive or tow your car, what’s most important is to get your car to a professional mechanic as soon as possible. At Aardvark Automotive, we specialize in high-end European cars, as well as the most common makes and models.

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What, My Car Won’t Start?!

Some auto parts wear out even if you don’t drive a lot…

Maybe you’ve been there before. You haven’t driven your car for a week or so, and you go to start it, and nothing—likely a dead battery, but it could be something else as well. Unfortunately, some auto parts wear out even if your vehicle is sitting in the garage most of the time, and it’s simply not true that driving less is the key to prolonging the life of your car. For this reason, it’s important to bring your vehicle in for a tune-up now and again, even if it’s only used occasionally for running local errands.

Auto Parts Prone to Wear When You’re NOT Driving

  1. Most obvious is the battery. Eventually, batteries evaporate fluid, especially if they are not used a lot. An aging battery is also more likely to leak and suffer from corrosion. It’s smart to replace your battery every four to five years rather than wait until it dies, and your car won’t start.
  2. Next, let’s talk about the fuel pump. Your fuel pump can fail without warning, and should be inspected every 60,000 miles. Symptoms of a worn fuel pump include engine sputtering at high speeds, and jerking during acceleration from a stop. These issues can be taken care of by a trained mechanic during routine maintenance.
  3. Your vehicle’s timing belt is made from rubber. Rubber degrades over time due to temperature fluctuations, which cause constant contraction and expansion. If your timing belt breaks while you’re driving, it can cause serious damage to your engine valves.
  4. Of course, tires wear with rough use, like driving over potholes, and not keeping them inflated to the recommended PSI can cause damage. However, tires are also made from rubber (like timing belts), and are vulnerable to contraction and expansion from temperature changes, no matter how much or how rough you drive. Therefore, you should inspect your tires annually once they reach the six-year age mark.

 

Our Technicians Know When You Need to Replace a Part

When you don’t drive a vehicle frequently, it can be difficult to know when something’s not right. Before anything goes wrong with your car, schedule a tune-up at Aardvark Automotive. A vehicle inspection will identify any parts that are near the end of their lifespan, so you can get them replaced before they fail. We promise to give you honest recommendations for keeping your car in safe and reliable condition.

Summer is the season for baseball, barbecues, and breakdowns… but not if you follow our summertime car care advice!

Yay! Summer is upon us. We’re ready for baseball games, barbecues, camping, swimming, and spending lots of time with friends and family. Unfortunately, another hallmark of summer is an increased number of broken down vehicles making an appearance at our shop. Please heed our summertime car care advice and avoid being stranded with all your beach gear on the way to the lake. You can thank us later. 😉

  1. Get your oil and filter changed regularly. If you’ve been driving a lot (as we often do in summer), base your need for an oil change on the number of miles you’ve driven, not the date you last had your oil changed. A fresh oil filter and clean oil will help your car run better in the heat.
  2. Tire pressure increases in warm weather, so check your tire pressure often, but only after your car is rested to ensure an accurate reading. With correct tire pressure, you’re less likely to experience a flat, and you’ll enjoy improved gas mileage.
  3. Summer in Amarillo without air conditioning is not an option. Get your A/C and cooling system checked to make sure you don’t have any leaks or bad hoses, and you do have proper levels of refrigerant and coolant fluid.
  4. Speaking of hoses, you should have all of them inspected, and your belts too. If your belts and hoses overheat, your vehicle cannot lubricate itself properly, and a breakdown is likely.
  5. No vehicle inspection is complete without checking the braking system, as your brakes are critical for your safety, your passengers’ safety, and everyone else with whom you share the road.
  6. Change your wiper blades if you haven’t recently—you need to be able to see in the event of a summer downpour.
  7. Do you own a front window shade? If not, get one, and if so, use it. It will protect your vehicle’s interior from sun damage (think of it as auto SPF), and help keep you from boiling when you get in the car on a hot day.
  8. Now is a good time of year to change your cabin air filter to get rid of any springtime leaves and pollen.
  9. Want to know a great summertime chore for the kids—washing the car once a week. Dirt and grime make it difficult to see when the sun is glaring through your windshield, and keeping the exterior clean helps protect your paint from damage caused by insects and birds.
  10. Last—but definitely not least—drive safely. It’s easy to get distracted when you’re on a long road trip or out driving with friends. Please pay attention when you’re behind the wheel, and help ensure everyone has a safe and happy summer.

Thank you for reading, and happy summer from all of us here at Aardvark Automotive!

The Aardvark Automotive Guide to Dashboard Warning Lights

Everyone who drives a modern vehicle is at least somewhat aware of the dashboard warning lights that let you know when there may be trouble lurking under your hood. The “check engine light” is probably the most familiar—but it continues to perplex drivers regularly… “My car’s driving fine. Why is my check engine light on?” or “I just got an oil change. What’s up with the check engine light?” In addition to the check engine light, many newer cars have warning lights for tire pressure, the cooling system, engine oil, other fluids, and more. So, if you see one of these lights while driving, what should you do? Keep going? Panic? Pull over? Should you stop where you are, or is it safe to drive home?

Without further ado, here’s Aardvark Automotive’s guide to dashboard warning lights…

Check Engine Light – Flashing Versus Solid

Your vehicle’s check engine light can indicate many different issues, but you may not know that there is a distinction between a solid light and one that is flashing. A solid check engine light usually means a problem has occurred more than once—often an emission-related problem—and you should get it checked out soon. In general, a solid check engine light is no cause for immediate alarm, but get it checked as soon as you can. On the other hand, a flashing check engine light is an urgent warning. If you continue driving, you are likely doing damage to your engine, so you should stop as soon as possible.

Oil Pressure Warning Light

The oil pressure light appears when you start your vehicle, and should go off almost immediately. If you ever see this light while driving, stop when you can and check your oil level. If you’re low on oil, top it up, and start the engine again. If the light stays on, or if you weren’t low on oil, it could be an indicator of a more serious problem, so bring your car in for a check-up ASAP.

Battery Warning Light

Like the oil pressure warning light, your battery light appears when you start your vehicle, and probably goes off soon after. If it stays on, or if it appears while you’re driving, then there could be either a problem with your battery or alternator. A battery warning light should be taken seriously—you don’t want to be stranded with a car that won’t start. If your batter is over two years old, it may need replacing. If not, you may have an alternator problem.

ABS Light

The ABS light indicates trouble with your antilock braking system. While it doesn’t usually mean you have no braking ability, the ABS light means something about the system isn’t functioning properly. So, it’s okay to drive your car for the time being, but you should be driving straight to the auto repair shop.

Brake & ABS Warning Light

If you see a light shaped like a circle with an exclamation point in the middle, you should stop driving as soon as safely possible. Don’t brake suddenly. Rather, slow down gradually, and get yourself some assistance. This light signifies a problem with your brake system that is serious and potentially dangerous.

If any of your dashboard warning lights are on, call Aardvark Automotive and schedule service. Even if it doesn’t seem like anything’s wrong with your vehicle right now, you can save yourself from dealing with—and paying for—a major repair down the road.

Ideas for Old Tires

In the spring and summer, we think it’s great to have some fun projects in mind to keep ourselves outdoors and busy. For an auto-related upscale, look no further than the old tires you’ve had (or need to have) replaced.

Did you know that every year 290 million tires are discarded? But luckily for the environment (and for us), about 233 million of those tires are recycled in one way or another. For example, shredded tires can be used for playground surfaces, welcome mats, hot-melt asphalt, bark mulch, and even made into building materials for green construction. You can also recycle your own used tires by creating rustic and funky planters, tables, and more. Here are some ideas:

  • Do you have kids or grandkids? Do you have an old tractor tire or know someone with a farm or ranch in the Amarillo area? If so, fill a tractor tire with sand to make a great sandbox for kids, especially little boys who love farm equipment.
  • To make a cool planter with personality, stack a couple of tires on top of each other, bolt them together, and paint them a cheerful color (or two). Fill with dirt and plant your favorite flowers. (Just don’t grow vegetable plants in tires.)
  • Another way to do tire planters is to hang the tires and fill the bottom with dirt, or you can slightly embed them in the ground.
  • For fun and exercise, lay two rows of tires next to each other, somewhat staggered, and use them for broken-field running.
  • To make an instant patio table, bolt two tires together, paint them a fun color, and add a wood or glass top. We think a salvaged wood and salvaged tire table combo is whimsical, charming, and so much better than a generic patio table from the store.
  • Combine used tires with other building materials (and a little imagination), and you could set up an entire playground of climbing structures and obstacle courses.
  • And of course, we can’t leave out the classic repurposing of an old tire… what kid (or grownup) doesn’t love a tire swing? All you need is a rope and a tree, and sweet sunny afternoons.

Whatever you decide to do with your used tires, it’s important to recycle them somehow. (Definitely don’t leave them lying around, as old tires collect water and can quickly become mosquito breeding grounds in the summer.) Not only will you be doing your part to help the environment, you’ll likely have some fun in the process, and you’ll have something to show for it when you’re done.

Talking Tech

Good Communication Makes Auto Repair Easier

 

We know—an unexpected, budget-busting auto repair is stressful. In fact, one of the worst parts of our job is to confront drivers with bad news about their vehicles. And while we strive to explain necessary auto repairs as delicately and sensitively as possible, we understand you may still feel upset when we present you with a poor diagnosis. We believe—just like in any relationship—good communication is an excellent antidote for conflict. Here are some suggestions for talking tech, and getting the most from your auto repair experience.

 

Be specific when describing a problem with your vehicle. For example, “I’m hearing a high-pitched squeal between 50 and 60 miles an hour that seems to come from the left-rear wheel is much more helpful than, “The wheel is making funny noises.” Mention all your observations, even if you don’t know if they’re relevant.

 

Don’t self-diagnose. Targeting and accurately identifying problems in complex modern vehicles is a specialized skill best left to an auto repair technician, not Google. Automakers have established procedures to determine the cause of most vehicle issues, which must be followed before undertaking repairs.

 

Ask questions. If there are any terms, explanations, or charges you don’t understand, just ask. Don’t be shy—we’re here to help.

What to expect from us…

 

Good answers to all your questions. Our service writers are very knowledgeable and skilled at explaining vehicle issues and repairs. If you’d like to talk to the technician working on your car, we’ll introduce you. We want you to feel confident your vehicle is in good hands.

 

A written estimate. We’ll provide you with a written estimate itemizing everything we’re going to do to your car before work begins. And we’ll stick to that estimate unless you authorize changes.

 

Options and priorities for repairs. In many cases, some auto repairs need to be handled immediately while others can wait a certain amount of time. We’ll explain your “repair priorities,” so you can budget accordingly, and we’ll send you reminders so a minor (for now) issue doesn’t turn into a major problem.

 

Count on Aardvark Automotive to handle all your car care needs!

 

If you live in the Amarillo area, we hope you’ll call us here at Aardvark Automotive the next time you need auto repairs or maintenance. We’re an auto repair shop you can trust to do right by you and your car.

2017 New Year’s Resolutions for You & Your Car

We know, sometimes New Year’s Resolutions are tough to stick to, but these five simple car care routines are quick and easy to maintain. (We’d say easier than not eating carbs or sticking to a five-day-a-week exercise routine.) Consider these pointers (and general recommendations) to be just a few little reminders to do the basic things to keep your car running into 2018 and beyond! Think about it – you can still be a responsible adult and eat bread, but not so much if your insurance is expired or you can’t remember the last time you got an oil change.

  1. Wash or get your car washed regularly. This is one of those little things that falls to the side after a while. Keeping your car washed and clean can help maintain visibility and extend the life of your vehicle’s paint coat.
  1. Check the oil. Making sure you always have enough motor oil in the engine is a simple thing to check, and relatively cheap to maintain – much cheaper than auto repairs arising from oil neglect. Plain and simple, oil is a non-negotiable.
  1. Check your tires. Take just a couple extra minutes in the morning, and make sure your tires aren’t going flat on you, or suffering from any type of damage. Use the penny trick to check your tread – simply place a penny headfirst into several tread grooves across the tire. If you always see the top of Lincoln’s head, your treads are shallow and worn. If part of Lincoln’s head is always covered by the tread, you have more than 2/32 of an inch of dread depth remaining, which means you probably don’t need new tires.
  1. Stick to your vehicle manufacturer’s maintenance schedule. Yes, we know, you hear this all the time. Even still, we can’t stress enough how important regular maintenance, like oil changes, are to the life of your car and your engine.
  1. Keep your vehicle insurance up to date. Not only does valid car insurance provide you with worry-free driving for the year, it’s mandatory! Take a moment to make sure your proof of insurance is in your car and your necessary stickers are current.

If you stay on top of these five tasks for your car this year, the other road bumps you may encounter won’t be so bad. But for any issues you do run into, you can count on us to make things right. Make an appointment online or give us a call!

Sincerely,

Your Car Care Conscious

(aka Aardvark Automotive)