This Autumn, Fall in Love with Your 4×4 All Over Again

Over the years, we’ve seen 4×4 trucks and SUVs become more and more popular in Amarillo. And why not? What better way to explore the dusty, dirt trails and flats outside the city and command the road in town. However, by simply doing what it’s made for, your 4×4 goes through more than the normal amount of vehicle wear and tear. So, before embarking on your next off-road excursion this fall, follow these maintenance tips for 4×4 vehicles.

Oil changes – All vehicles require routine oil changes, and this is especially true for 4x4s. Off-road use puts a lot of stress on the engine. Also, several driving modes use a lower gear to increase torque. This makes your vehicle’s engine work harder, potentially leading to increased oil sludge.

Air filter changes – Off-road surfaces are full of dirt and other pollutants. Those contaminants build up over time and can clog your vehicle’s air filter, which, in turn, can seriously compromise engine performance. Always follow the air filter change intervals provided in your vehicle’s manual, but more frequent changes may be necessary if you take your 4×4 for frequent off-road excursions.

Suspension – Bumpy, uneven roads and trails can cause suspension damage. If your ride feels rougher, or if your 4×4 nosedives during sudden braking, you may need suspension service or a repair. Bring your vehicle in for a suspension inspection even if you have a skid plate.

Shocks and struts – Potholes abound on off-road trails, so your shocks and struts need to be up to the task. Worn shocks affect your steering and can even break through your vehicle’s body. If driving your 4×4 feels especially bumpy and jostling, you may have damaged shocks needing repair or replacement.

Tire balance and rotation – Your vehicle’s transfer case will sustain significant wear and tear if tire balance or rotation is off even a little bit. Properly balanced and rotated tires help to distribute the weight evenly around the CV axle.

At Aardvark Automotive, we’ve seen our fair share of huge 4×4 trucks and SUVs in our shop, and we love working on these beasts. And rest assured, our facility is big enough to house the big vehicles we service and repair. So, before going on your next off-road excursion in the Amarillo area, bring your 4×4 to Aardvark for a maintenance inspection and any necessary repairs. You’ll feel more confident behind the wheel, making your truck that much more enjoyable.

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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.

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.

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.