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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Turning Water into Windshield Washer Fluid

Good or bad idea?

Lots of people have done it. You run out of windshield washer fluid, forget to buy more, and fill up the reservoir with water to use in the meantime. Then maybe you asked yourself, “Is it bad to use plain water in place of windshield washer fluid? Does it really matter?” To be honest, there are pros and cons to both water and windshield washer fluid. Read on and decide what you think is best for you and your car.

What is windshield washer fluid, anyway?

Windshield washer fluid is generally a mixture of solvent, antifreeze, and detergent. Some advanced formulas may include methylated spirits, which prevent the fluid from freezing in the tubing or reservoir during the wintertime. Other windshield washer fluids are specifically formulated to remove bugs, tar, or other forms of grime.

So, is windshield washer fluid necessary?

Ok, so now we know what windshield washer fluid is made of. But how does plain old water compare? In fact, water is already a main staple for cleaning, cooling, and powering your car. That’s why vehicles have a water pump for keeping the engine cool. Some car batteries also require distilled water to replenish electrolyte levels. When it comes to your windshield, water can wash away regular dirt and dust. However, it may not be sufficiently powerful to clean certain splatters, like bird droppings and bug parts. And in colder months, water can quickly freeze on the windshield surface, creating a potentially dangerous situation. For this reason, water alone is inadequate for winter use. In the summer, however, water may work well enough if you don’t mind cleaning windshield debris that won’t come off with just H2O.

fluids

Ok, got it, but windshield washer fluid is relatively cheap. Any benefits, besides cost, to using water?

While windshield washer fluid is superior to water from a performance standpoint, it does have a major drawback—the ethanol and methanol in the fluid are poisonous and toxic for the environment. Windshield washer fluid can also erode paint finishes and damage rubber and plastic parts. Bottomline: water won’t hurt your car or the environment in any way, but it’s simply not as effective or efficient as windshield washer fluid.

When you come to Aardvark Automotive for vehicle maintenance, we’ll check all your fluids and make sure they’re in good condition. Now that winter is upon us, we recommend sticking with quality windshield washer fluid to keep your windshield clear during bad weather.

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!

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.

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.