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.

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.

 

 

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.

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.

How Long Will My Car Battery Last?

shutterstock_62480023Nobody wants to be stranded with a dead car battery. You can avoid the aggravation and inconvenience by knowing the life of your car batter, and the circumstances that can affect its projected lifespan.

Typical car battery life expectancy is around three years, with higher quality batteries lasting up to five years. Sometimes batteries even last much longer. However, many common occurrences can potentially diminish battery life, and it’s important to be aware of these factors to know if your battery has been compromised.

Factors Affecting Battery Life

One factor affecting car battery life is long standing times, such as not driving your vehicle for a couple of weeks. High temperatures that accelerate corrosion and discharging your battery accidentally (i.e. leaving your lights on) can also contribute to the early retirement of your battery. Temperature extremes are bad, too. Batteries are more likely to die or go flat during very cold periods because it takes more effort to start the motor in low temperatures. (This means that by the time spring rolls around, your battery could be on its last legs.) At the other extreme, very hot weather will also lead to increased battery corrosion and degradation.

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So we’ve gone over the bad… Now here are some tips for extending the life of your car battery:

  1. Wrap a heat barrier around your battery to protect it from extreme temperatures.
  2. Don’t add new electrolyte (acid) to your battery.
  3. Don’t disconnect battery cables while the engine is running.
  4. Don’t put off recharging your battery.
  5. Avoid making too many short trips, which don’t give your battery the opportunity to recharge fully.

 

The Times They are a Fuel Filter Changin’

It’s possible you’ve heard changing a fuel filter is an easy job. (“You just need a screwdriver!”) However, any time you are handling raw fuel there is a risk of fire, and modern vehicles have fuel systems that are under a lot of pressure. The truth is changing a fuel filter used to be a relatively simple task. With newer cars it’s is much more difficult, and best left to an experienced mechanic. Read on to learn why.

DIYing a Fuel Filter Change isn’t Worth the Hassle or Hazard

On older vehicles, the fuel filter was located right in the engine compartment, making it easy to access and change. Since the 1980s and 90s, most fuel filters are located under the car on the frame rail, and some are located inside the gas tank. It’s also likely you’ll need more than just a screwdriver to get the job done. Removing a modern fuel filter often requires specific wrench sizes, and a lift makes a huge difference in getting the job done efficiently.shutterstock_330850982

There’s also the danger of handling raw fuel. If you don’t properly relieve built up pressure with the fuel pressure relief valve, when you loosen the fittings, fuel will spray everywhere. To stay safe, you also need to have some type of container to catch any gas that might leak out.

If it’s time to change your vehicle’s fuel filter, come by Aardvark Automotive to get the job done right, with no headaches, hassles, or hazards for you!

Father’s Day Car Care Treat

Father’s Day falls on Sunday, June 21st this year. If your dad spends a lot of time behind the wheel, maybe servicing and sprucing up his vehicle is the perfect gift! You could treat him—and his car—to new seat covers or floor mats, or if part of his vehicle’s interior is old or damaged, such as the steering wheel or dash, you could have it repaired, replaced, or recovered. He may also love a GPS navigation system, remote starter, or satellite radio.

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Our June Special

On the service side of things, you could arrange to cover the cost of oil changes and any other routine maintenance his vehicle needs. Maybe give him a fun coupon book, and he can redeem the coupons with you when he needs a maintenance service.

Or you could give the very simple, but very considerate—and always appreciated—gift of a clean car. When cleaning the car, approach the inside first and follow with the outside. Remove all trash, including what has accumulated in the trunk, vacuum the inside, and clean the windows.

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Get the whole family involved!

For  the outside, include the tires and wheels and the underside and fenders to eliminate any road salt or grime. Wheels and tires should be cleaned with a mitt other than the one used to wash the body. This step will avoid contaminating the vehicle’s paint with debris from the wheels and tires.

Wash the car in the shade and use a product sold specifically for cars. Wash one section at a time, thoroughly rinsing away the soap as you go. Clean the fenders and bumpers last since they will have the most dirt and grime that can contaminate the wash mitt.

Give the car a final rinse by letting water cascade down the surfaces of the vehicle. To avoid water spots, use a chamois or other product made for drying to dry the car. If you have time, you may also want to wax the car according to the manufacturer’s instructions for application. Waxing should always be done out of direct sunlight and every six months.

Once you’re done, a new air freshener and trash container are the perfect finishing touches!

Honor Earth Day with Eco-Friendly Car Care All Year Long

Did you give Mother Earth a little extra love yesterday? You can help protect the planet all year long by following a few simple strategies when it comes to driving and servicing your vehicle. Along with being good for the environment, these easy-to implement practices will help your car last longer and command a higher resale price.

Take care of your car; take care of the planet.

Take care of your car; take care of the planet.

  • Keep the engine running at peak performance. A misfiring spark plug can reduce fuel efficiency as much as 30%. Replace filters and fluids as recommended in the owner’s manual.
  • Don’t ignore your “Check Engine” light. Today’s vehicles have much cleaner tailpipe emissions than they did 30 years ago, but a poorly running engine or faulty exhaust system will cause your vehicle to pollute much more than it would otherwise.
  • Keep tires properly inflated and aligned. Not only will you reduce the engine’s effort and, thus, gasoline consumption, your tires will last longer too, saving you money and easing the burden at recycling centers.
  • Have your vehicle’s A/C serviced only by a technician certified to handle and recycle refrigerants. Older air conditioners contain ozone-depleting chemicals, which could be released into the atmosphere through improper service.
  • Avoid speeding and sudden accelerations. Both of these habits guzzle gas. When waiting for friends or family, shut off the engine. Consolidate daily errands to one trip to eliminate unnecessary driving.
  • Remove excess items from your vehicle. Less weight equals better gas mileage. If you have a roof-top luggage carrier, remove it when you’re not using it to reduce air drag too.
  • Make sure your auto repair shop properly disposes of engine fluids and batteries. Improperly disposed fluids, such as antifreeze can harm pets and wildlife.

Is Your A/C A-OK?

Early spring is the perfect time to make sure your air conditioning system is working properly. Who wants to be stuck in a hot car once the temperatures rise, or worse, when you’re taking a summer road trip or vacation? Conducting a periodic under-hood inspection can help you spot A/C issues before they cause you to break a sweat—literally.

Here’s what to look for:

  1. Are A/C component mounting bolts in place and tightly secured?
  2. Are caps installed on the A/C system service ports? This keeps out dirt, and also provides a seal for refrigerant.
  3. With the engine running, does the compressor clutch engage when the A/C is switched on? If it doesn’t, this usually indicates a low (or empty) refrigerant condition, or an electrical problem. Also, listen for rapid clicking or cycling noises at the compressor when the A/C is switched on. If this is happening, it could also indicate low refrigerant or some other problems. A technician here at Aardvark can check it for you.
  4. With the engine running and the A/C switched off, listen for knocking or rumbling sounds in the vicinity of the compressor. These could indicate a failing compressor clutch, and/or loose mounting hardware.
  5. Check all belts for cracks, wear, and glazing. Have them replaced at the first sign of any of these conditions. Also, check for belts that vibrate while the engine is running and the A/C is on. This may indicate a belt that needs to be tightened, or a defective automatic belt tensioner.
  6. Examine all A/C and cooling system hoses for cuts, abrasion, weak spots, and signs of leakage. Leakage from A/C system hoses is often indicated by an accumulation of dirt and oil, particularly at connections and fittings.
  7. Make sure the condenser (in front of the radiator) is free of any obstructions, such as leaves or insects. This could reduce airflow, resulting in reduced A/C performance. You can rinse the condenser clean with a garden hose.

Even when your air conditioning system is working properly, it can still take some time for your car to cool down on a hot day, especially if it’s been sitting in the sun. Open the door for 30 seconds to let out some of the built-up heat. Start your car and turn on the A/C with the fan on high speed and the windows up, closed completely. Leaving the windows down will actually take longer to cool your car’s interior. If you need help with your A/C give us a call!

Check Your Cabin Air Filter and Breathe Easier

Make Sure Your Cabin Air Filter is Doing Its Job

The air along busy roads and highways contains high levels of soot, smog, dust, and pollen. These harmful pollutants can easily enter your vehicle and aggravate your lungs. Children with “young lungs” are even more sensitive to the effects of air pollution than adults, so it’s important to protect drivers and passengers from breathing dirty air inside the car.

Modern vehicles utilize a cabin air filter to do the job. Cabin air filters trap dust, dirt, and grime from the road and pump clean air into the passenger compartment. Over time, however, your car’s cabin air filter can become clogged and actually multiply the dangers associated with these pollutants. That’s because dirty air comes into your vehicle through the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system but has no way to escape once it invades your vehicle.

Types of Cabin Air Filters

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Make Sure Your Kids are Breathing Clean Air in the Car

While more than 40 million vehicles on the road are equipped with cabin air filtration systems, many drivers have no idea that their vehicle has one, or what purpose it serves. Sometimes, the cabin air filter is referred to by various other names, such as pollen filter, air conditioning filter, interior ventilation filter, and dust filter, which can confuse car owners. If you’re not sure if your vehicle has a cabin air filter, a repair shop technician at Aardvark Automotive can check for you.

When to Change Your Cabin Air Filter

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Time to Change the Cabin Air Filter (Image from Flickr)

Recommendations on when you should replace your cabin air filter vary by manufacturer. Some say every 12,000 or 15,000 miles, and others say longer. Another factor is how often you drive and where. If you frequently drive in heavy traffic, you could need to replace your filter annually or even more often.

You can also look for signs that you need a new cabin air filter. For example, you may notice reduced air flow from your vents when you turn on the heater or AC, or you may smell a bad odor.

Many people are surprised to see how dirty their cabin air filters are when we remove them from a vehicle. Often, we find leaves, twigs, and insects in addition to dirt and grime.

For more information about cabin air filters, see this article from carcare.org.