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.

 

 

 

 

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.

Does Modern Automotive Technology Affect Driving Proficiency?

Over the last 30+ years, automotive technology has evolved by leaps and bounds. Features from antilock brakes to parking assist have made driving safer and easier. However, the numerous options, advancements, and upgrades now offered by auto manufacturers have led some to wonder if modern technology is creating less proficient drivers. In this blog, we’re going to look at how auto technology affects driving skills, especially when it comes to younger drivers.

What Studies Show About Technology & Driving Skills

A study from a few years ago found that 1.5 million drivers veered into oncoming traffic while they were looking at their GPS navigation systems. The same study revealed that drivers who regularly use GPS are also more likely to lose their sense of direction when they don’t have GPS, even when they’ve made the same trip multiple times. So, while GPS helps you get where you need to go with fewer wrong turns and less traffic, it may also lead to more accidents, and more difficulty if you find yourself without your GPS for some reason.

It’s also been found that car technology disrupts certain parts of the brain because the technology makes people work less. In other words, drivers rely on GPS instead of forming a mental map in their brains. When you listen to the voice from the navigation system, you simply follow directions instead of putting your cognitive abilities to work. Even worse, studies show that keeping your eyes on a smartphone map or infotainment screen can affect your peripheral vision and ability to react to road hazards.

Implications for Young Drivers

Many teenagers have never been in a vehicle without some level of modern automotive technology. Our advice is to teach teenagers to drive without using any of the tech features, such as parking assist and GPS. Teach your son or daughter how to rear park and parallel park without using a rearview camera, and make sure there’s a map in the vehicle—that he or she knows how to use. In addition, show your teens how to check oil levels and other simple maintenance items, such as adding air to the tires. We bet they’ll thank you in the long run.

Call Aardvark Automotive for All Your Car Care Needs—Tech or Otherwise

If you notice anything wrong with your vehicle’s gadgetry, bring your car to Aardvark Automotive. While modern automotive technology can affect driving proficiency in some ways that are negative, we believe tech does have its place so long as you don’t rely on it too much. Together, we can find the balance between making driving simpler and easier and maintaining the skills you need to be safe on the road.

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.

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!

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.

Don’t Sweat it this Summer… Take Care of Your A/C!

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It’s hot! In Amarillo, we’re expected to reach 100° this weekend, and it’s probably going to be in the 90s through all of August and possibly September, too. If your car’s A/C isn’t working, just admit it, you’re going to be miserable! But don’t worry—Aardvark Automotive can help. We’ll pinpoint exactly what is wrong with your air conditioning, and as you’ll see from this article, it could be a few different things. You want to make sure your cooling system gets the right fix to work properly, with the least cost and inconvenience for you.

Don’t Ignore Weak Airflow from Your A/C

One of the first signs of a compromised A/C system is weak airflow from your vents. The main causes of weak airflow are mold or mildew in the evaporator core, a loose hose, non-functioning ventilation fan, and worn out seals. Just having one these issues can not only cause weak airflow, it can lead to much more significant problems, so it’s best to have your air conditioning checked out before further damage occurs. With A/C, it’s literally cooler not to procrastinate.

When Your A/C Just Isn’t What It Used to Be…

Some vehicles have Driver Information Centers (DIC) to let you know how your car’s systems are faring, but many do not, so you may not realize your A/C is failing until it starts blowing less-than-cold air. The lack of crisp, cold air in your vehicle could be caused by:

  • Failed compressor or compressor clutch
  • Failed blower motor or blower motor resistor
  • Clogged expansion tube or refrigerant charging hose
  • Failed o-ring, seal, hose, or another A/C system component causing a Freon leak
  • Failed switch, fuse, relay, control module, blend door or solenoid
  • Damaged or failed condenser or evaporator
  • Vacuum leaks

If your car develops an A/C leak, letting it go for too long can spell major trouble for your cooling system. On the other hand, if you (or we) find the leak early, the repair you need will likely be small and much less expensive than if the leak has been affecting your air conditioning for a while. With long-time leaks, moisture will most likely enter your cooling system and damage vital and expensive parts.

When it’s this hot, don’t risk your comfort and safety with a poorly functioning A/C system. Bring your vehicle to Aardvark Automotive, and we’ll make sure your air conditioning is in top condition!

Optimum Summer Car Care

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Summer’s almost here!

Summer is coming. While it’s arguably the most fun season of the year, with barbecues and pool parties aplenty, it is also one of the roughest seasons on your car. With summer temperatures in Amarillo running in the upper 80s to 90s, your car or truck will be subjected to a beating from hood to tires.

Extreme temperatures can fade and crack your paint and dashboard and overheat your battery and tires. And the cooling system gets put on very high demand, so it needs to be in excellent shape. When temps can reach up to 200° inside your vehicle, any malfunction that causes your car to break down can put your health and even your life in jeopardy.

The following simple measures are inexpensive and quick ways to make sure your car is ready to face summer.

Inspect and/or Swap Out Your Tires

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Change your tires if needed.

Remove winter tires as soon as winter is over. Winter tires are softer and wear out faster in normal – and especially hot – driving conditions, so replace them with summer tires if your performance car requires two different sets of tires throughout the year. If you have all-weather tires, you should be fine.

Whatever kind of tires you have, it is necessary to check if they’re inflated properly. Get out your tire-pressure gauge and see if they are inflated to manufacturer-recommended levels specified in your owner’s manual or on the door jamb. Underinflated tires can cause a blowout, while overinflated tires are at a higher risk for hydroplaning. Properly inflated tires can increase fuel efficiency up to 3%. Tip: check your tire pressure when your tires are cool and you haven’t driven yet. Hot weather makes the air inside tires expand.

Don’t forget to check tread depth! The easiest way is to place a penny into several tread grooves across the tire, with Lincoln’s head facing down. If part of Lincoln’s head is always covered by the tread, you have more than 2/32” of the tread remaining (legally, you need 2/32” or more of tread depth).

Important: Check the pressure of your spare – you never know when you might need it, and there’s no point in having a spare if it’s in unusable condition.

Change Your Oil and Filters

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Oil changes are essential to keep your car running optimally.

Since summer is road trip season, optimizing fuel economy will help you save money and maintain your engine’s longevity. Heavy driving and extreme temperatures mean you should look at how your oil is doing no matter what.

Oil and filter changes are the most important steps to making your engine last. Oil changes need to occur somewhere between every 3,000 and 7,500 miles, depending on your car’s make, model, and age. Reference your owner’s manual for the recommended oil change schedule.

If you have an older car, you may have to use a thinner oil in the winter (so oil flows more easily when it’s cold) and a thicker one in the summer (since the heat can thin out oil). Newer cars typically run on synthetic oil or oil suited for year-round use.

Get Your A/C in Shape

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The worst way to find out your A/C isn’t working is in the middle of traffic on a hot summer day. Prevent this horrific scene by checking if your A/C can generate and maintain temperatures 50° F lower than the outside temperature. If your air conditioning is not working up to par, the most likely cause is low levels of refrigerant, which could be due to a leak.

Since the air conditioning system is highly complex, if you have an air conditioning problem we recommend you take your car to 2nd-to-None Service, where we can diagnose and fix the problem.

Important: Was your car built before 1994? If so, we’ll need to check out your refrigerant and determine how to appropriately dispose of or recycle it. Older cars tend to need a recharge before summer starts.

Check Your Air Filter

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Dirty air filter? Change it!

Changing your air filter is an inexpensive way to maximize fuel efficiency. Because Albuquerque frequently gets dusty, air filters can get clogged quickly and may need to be changed more than the recommended service schedule of every 12,000 miles.

How do you know if your air filter needs to be replaced? Just take it out for a quick inspection. If it looks grimy then it has to go.

Keep that Battery Fresh

Just like us, batteries have a tendency to overheat in the summer. When temperatures run too hot, chemical reactions speed up, overcharging the battery. This shortens the battery’s lifespan.

Keep your battery running smoothly by detaching the battery cables and wiping off terminals. Secure all connections.