What Your Tires Tell You

When it comes to tires, the writing is on the [side]wall. Literally. Tire sidewall markings—those seemingly random numbers and letters embossed on the side of your tires—can tell you a lot about not only your tires, but also your whole vehicle. Here’s how to read tire sidewall markings.

Class, Width & Aspect Ratio

The first letter on a tire indicates the tire’s class. For example, a “P” designates a tire as a passenger car tire, while an “LT” means the tire is meant for light trucks. Next comes the section width, which is the width of the tire from one sidewall to the other measured in millimeters. After the section width is the aspect ratio, referring to the height of the sidewall as a percentage of the section width.

Speed Rating & Tire Type

As you move along, you’ll next see the speed rating, which designates the maximum speed the tire can be driven when properly installed and inflated. “Z” is the highest speed rating. If you see an “R” after the speed rating, your tire is a radial tire. Radial tires have layers of fabric with cords running at right angles to the circumference of the tire and tread that is strengthened by even more layers, making it the most common type of automotive tire.

Diameter, Load Carrying Capacity & Speed Rating (Again)

Next in line is the wheel diameter, specifying the size of the wheel that the tire fits. Then comes the load carrying capacity in large print right after the diameter marking. It is very important to only install tires with a load index that meets or exceeds your vehicle manufacturer’s specification. Another speed rating generally appears as a single letter right after the load carrying capacity. The second speed rating denotes the actual miles per hour the tire is rated for.

Traction, Temperature & Treadwear

Modern vehicles have stock tires that undergo the Uniform Tire Quality Grade (UTQG) review, which analyzes the parameters of traction, temperature, and treadwear. The traction grade, ranging from AA to C, represents a tire’s ability to come to a full stop on wet and slippery roads. Next to the traction rating is the temperature grade. This represents how well a tire can resist and dissipate heat. Finally, the treadwear grade refers to a tire’s tread durability and longevity.

Ask Aardvark if You have Auto Questions

If you have concerns about your tires or any aspect of your vehicle, come to Aardvark Automotive and get your questions answered honestly and clearly. We fix what others can’t in Amarillo, TX!

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Adios Apple Maps

Google Maps is becoming available for use with Apple CarPlay

We’ve talked before about how dangerous it is to use a cell phone while driving, whether you’re talking or texting. (Texas finally banned texting and driving last year.) One way automakers have made it easier for drivers to avoid cell phone use behind the wheel is by integrating cell phones into vehicle operating and entertainment systems. Today, just about every major auto brand has Apple CarPlay and/or Android Auto on their vehicles, and those that don’t are working to make the feature available.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto allow drivers to use the interface from their cell phones on their car’s center screen. Not all phone apps are compatible, but generally the most important ones are. You can play music on your phone through your vehicle’s speakers and send messages using the car’s voice control system. As far as navigation, with CarPlay or Android Auto, you don’t have to spring for the automaker’s built-in navigation system, which often isn’t as good a cell phone navigation app.

But for those who have Apple CarPlay, a common complaint is being forced to use Apple Maps, rather than Google Maps, Waze, or any other preferred third-party application. Well, those annoying days are gone because Apple just announced CarPlay will begin supporting third-party navigation apps.

We bet this function will help prevent drivers from glancing down at their phones while driving (because they’re using a different navigation app), and it’s probably a big reason Apple decided to change its business strategy. While less people will likely use Apple Maps, the company doesn’t want to be blamed for causing more car accidents simply for the sake of not allowing the competition on CarPlay.

Look for the update this fall

According to Apple’s announcement, the third-party navigation compatibility enhancement is part of a significant number of updates that come along with Apple iOS 12. The update will roll out this fall for iPhone 5s and later models, in addition to certain iPad and iPod models.

At Aardvark Automotive, our technicians are trained, qualified, and equipped to service the latest and greatest vehicles on the market. In other words, if you don’t want to go back to the dealer for maintenance or repairs on your new(er) car, you don’t have to. Enjoy the personalized service of a local auto repair shop and the technical capability of skilled and experienced mechanics.

 

 

Car Games for the Kiddos to Keep You Rolling this Summer

Summer is upon us, and for many families that means more time in the car with the kids, especially if you’re planning a summer road trip. Yes, we have iPads and portable DVD players to keep children occupied during long car rides, but sometimes good old-fashioned car games are just as good at keeping kids entertained, not to mention excellent for family bonding. So, plan some quality family time in the form of old-school car games, and plan to have your vehicle inspected before any long summer road trips. Even the most rousing game of eye-spy is no match for a vehicle breakdown.

The Name Game

Start by naming an animal and ask the kids to think of another animal that starts with the same letter. Players receive a point when the other players can’t think of a name within 30 seconds. For older kids, do the same but perhaps with tougher topics, like geographical areas, song titles, or celebrities.

Eye-Spy

“Eye-spy with my little eye something… red!” This classic game is especially fun for younger children and when you’re stuck in traffic.

Spot the Car

Ask the kids to look for cars of a specific color and tally up the points when they spot them. For older children, ask them to identify vehicles according to make and/or model. For example, “SUV” with bonus points for Ford Explorer. This is a great way to help children develop automotive knowledge.

Alphabet Shout-Out

With this game, each player’s goal is to get to the end of the alphabet by naming a word they see outside that starts with each letter of the alphabet. The words may be on other vehicles, billboards, exit markers, etc. For example, “A – Acura”, “B – Best Value Inn”, and so on. Whoever gets to the end of the alphabet first wins. Often, players get stuck for miles on letters like “Q” and “Z”.

Restaurant Race

Name a restaurant chain, like McDonald’s or Cracker Barrel. For a designated amount of time, everyone’s goal is to spot signs for that restaurant. Whoever spots the restaurant the most times the fastest, wins. You can also designate half-points for calling out similar restaurants, such as Burger King instead of McDonald’s.

Map Quest

No, not that Map Quest. Bring along an actual road atlas (you should have one in your vehicle anyway in case of emergencies), and have one child identify a town, city, or landmark on the map. The other player has 60 seconds or so to locate the spot him or herself. This is an awesome (and fun!) game for developing map-reading skills.

True or False? You must go to a dealer for service if your car is still under warranty.

New car owners often assume auto maintenance performed at an independent auto repair shop will void their vehicle warranty. But do cars under warranty require auto maintenance at the dealer? After all, many people have a local mechanic they’ve trusted for years, and who wants to upgrade their vehicle only to downgrade on customer service? The fact is you don’t have to—you can have your car serviced wherever you like without jeopardizing your new vehicle warranty. The law protects your right to choose where you want to get your car serviced.

The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act Protects Your Right to Choose Where You Get Your Car Serviced

A federal law known as the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act allows car owners to service their vehicles at an independent auto repair shop, and neither the dealership nor the auto manufacturer can void your warranty because you had a repair or tune-up performed at a third-party servicer. The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act also prohibits vehicle manufacturers from voiding a warranty because the owner used recycled, refurbished, or aftermarket parts. In most cases—not because we recommend it, but to show the intent of the law—you can do maintenance work yourself without invalidating your warranty.

However, while you’re protected by law to choose your auto service provider, you should always keep records of all servicing from an independent auto shop. If you file a warranty claim, the manufacturer may ask for proof of servicing, and your receipts show that servicing was done by a reputable provider and in accordance with manufacturer specifications. Also, the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act does not apply in absolutely every instance. For example, vehicle manufacturers can nullify warranties due to some specific cosmetic changes.

Is your car still under warranty? Bring your vehicle to Aardvark Automotive for maintenance and repairs, maintain your warranty, and enjoy exceptional customer service!

A lot of the information you find online about auto maintenance is incorrect. Please ask us if you have questions about your vehicle’s warranty and your options for handling auto repairs and maintenance. We always give honest car care advice because one of our goals is to help customers make smart, informed decisions to get the most from their vehicles. And if your car is still under warranty, don’t fret about having to go to a dealer for service. You have options, and the right to choose what’s best for your needs.

 

 

 

 

More Power to You — Common Reasons a Car Battery Won’t Hold a Charge

Most drivers have had to use jumper cables (or enlist the help of someone else’s jumper cables) at one point or another because their car failed to start. Perhaps you left the headlights on, or an interior light, or maybe your battery simply reached the end of its lifespan. But, in some cases, when a car battery charge won’t hold, the battery itself may not be the problem. The issue may be a bigger, more complex malfunction that requires a professional diagnosis by an experienced auto repair technician.

Repeat dead battery? We can help with that

Sometimes, a repeat dead battery requires the straightforward solution of simply getting a new battery for your vehicle. Generally, if the battery is more than four years old, or if it appears corroded and worn out, it’s safe to say age or battery corrosion is, in fact, your problem, and car battery replacement is your obvious solution. Another way to determine if you have a bad battery is by testing your headlights. If they appear dimmer than normal, or don’t come on at all, then a nearly-expired battery is most likely the cause.

Other times, a faulty alternator may be preventing your battery from holding a charge. If you come to us with a charging or starting issue, we’ll check the alternator cables for signs of fraying or cracking. If the engine stalls not long after jumpstarting your car, that’s another indication you have an alternator issue. We’ll also check your starter because a malfunctioning starter can also cause your battery to lose its charge.

We advise bringing your vehicle in for maintenance if it fails to start, as replacing the battery when the alternator or starter is the root cause of your charging issue will only lead to future troubles and unnecessary headaches—and the reverse is also true. In addition, we’d like to point out that battery, charging, and/or starting-related problems happen just as often in the spring and summer as they do in the winter. So, don’t ignore your battery as the temperatures rise because a dead battery isn’t a season-specific issue.

Call Aardvark When Your Car Won’t Start!

As part of a routine spring check-up at Aardvark Automotive, our technicians will examine the health of your battery, and we’ll let you know if your battery or any other vehicle component is near the end of its life. Because it goes without saying (but we can’t help ourselves), the last thing anybody wants is a car that won’t start, or a spring breakdown.

Slow Down for Speed Bumps— Not Only for Safety, But Also to Avoid Damaging Your Car

We know, sometimes speed bumps can seem like a nuisance when you’re driving along at a reasonable pace, and there’s no apparent reason to suddenly slow down. However, failing to put on the brakes for a speed bump is not only irresponsible, it puts tremendous wear on your car. So, next time you’re tempted to zip right over a speed bump, consider the following damage you may be doing to your vehicle, and the expensive auto repairs such damage may require down the road.

Ways Speeding Over Speed Bumps Can Harm Your Vehicle

The four components/parts of your car that are most likely to be damaged by speed bumps are your shocks, steering, exhaust system, and tires. Here’s how…

  • Shocks – Your vehicle’s shocks are responsible for absorbing unevenness in the road, such as potholes and rocks but also speed bumps. However, your shocks may not be able to absorb all the impact of a sudden bump or dip at high speeds, causing your shocks to bend and shatter and leaving your car with less protection.
  • Steering – If your shocks are compromised and ineffective, your vehicle’s other components and systems become vulnerable—particularly, your steering. Once your steering is susceptible to vibrations, a leak in the power steering reservoir may develop, your steering rack mounts may be damaged, and/or your wheels may be thrown out of alignment.
  • Exhaust – Your exhaust system is located right underneath your car. When you drive faster than you should over a speed bump, your vehicle may launch off the road, and when you land, your exhaust system can strike the pavement, hard, causing serious damage.
  • Tires – When your vehicle lands with force after hitting a speed bump, the impact can cause your tire’s sidewall to contact the pavement. Because the sidewall is much thinner than the tread, your tires will wear prematurely as the result of weakening the sidewall.

Call Aardvark Automotive for Help with Shocks, Steering, Exhaust & Tires

At Aardvark Automotive, our auto repair technicians are skilled at identifying and fixing issues involving shocks, steering, exhaust, and tires—no matter how they are caused. However, we hope after reading this article, your auto repairs won’t be necessitated by driving too fast over speed bumps. Let’s keep our cars in safe and reliable condition and our neighborhoods even safer. Don’t let a speed bump get the better of you by damaging your vehicle.

Winter Car Care Advice: It’s Not Cool (or Necessary) to Warm Up Your Engine Before Driving

As temperatures are falling in Amarillo this winter (it has been dipping below freezing at nighttime recently), you may be tempted to warm up your car in the early hours of the morning before you head to work—perhaps for your own comfort, or because you’ve heard letting the engine idle for a minute or two prolongs its life. We’re here to tell you there is no truth to the age-old practice of letting your car warm up on cold mornings. In fact, engine warming is NOT beneficial for your vehicle. (Sorry toes!)

The Reason Warming Up Your Engine Is Unnecessary & Potentially Harmful

Here’s what happens inside an internal combustion engine as it idles: when you start your car, the pistons compress air and vaporized fuel inside the engine cylinders. Then, the spark plugs ignite this mixture, creating a miniature explosion that supplies power to your vehicle’s drivetrain. However, when the engine is cold, the gas may not evaporate completely as it combines with the air. In modern cars with an electronic fuel injection, there are sensors that detect this and compensate by adding more gas to the mixture.

For this reason, letting your car idle can lead to excess fuel in the chamber, and when there is too much fuel in the chamber, some of it inevitably condenses onto the cylinder walls and strips away the lubricating oil. When the lubricating oil is gone, components like the cylinder liners and piston rings will wear prematurely. Adding insult to injury, extra fuel is also used, which means more trips to the gas station.

Wear Your Gloves & Don’t Wear Out Your Engine Components

Now that you know letting a cold engine idle can strip oil away from your pistons and cylinders (talk about counterproductive!), don’t do it. Warming up your car isn’t necessary in the winter no matter how chilly it is outside. Once you’re on the road, trust your engine will warm up as needed, and your thermostat and radiator will then keep the engine operating at proper temperature, so long as your vehicle is performing as it should. If you think your heating and/or cooling system isn’t functioning properly, make an appointment for service right away. A car can overheat in the colder temps as well, leading to a breakdown.

For more information on engine idling and performance, bring your car to Aardvark Automotive for a vehicle check-up, especially if any of your warning lights have come on, even if only for a brief amount of time. But as for warming up your engine, you can stop doing that.