Gene’s Car Tips

Shake, Rattle, and Roll

Shake, Rattle, and Roll | Certified Automotive

Shake, Rattle, and Roll could be the description of an earthquake. It was also a song recorded by Elvis, the man some call the King of Rock and Roll. But if you want to be king (or queen) of the road, having worn out shocks and struts will shake you right off your throne—no earthquake needed! When your suspension system is operating efficiently, it takes a beating, so you don’t have to. 

On the other hand, when it’s not working well, your ride is anything but smooth. Are you experiencing the following as you drive?

  • Bounce — The compression of the spring and damper of the shock absorber keeps your wheels on the asphalt. When compromised, you will feel the car jump when it hits a bump.

  • Sway and Roll — When you take a turn, does the body of your car tilt? Sways and rolls happen when worn out suspension system parts allow gravity to compress the outside of the car and lift the inside during a turn. Your car should feel solid while turning.

  • Diving and Squatting — Coming to a stop, does the nose of your car dive down? Squatting occurs when the rear of the car dips during hard acceleration. Each might mean that your suspension system is not operating efficiently.

  • Rattling — hearing loud noises such as clunking and rattling could mean a number of things, the main one being that it’s time to bring your car into a trusted professional!

Any one of these indications means it might be time to replace your shocks or struts. Your suspension system eases the pain of driving through road construction zones and stabilizes you as you run into bumps in the road. We take the system for granted as we brake, hit the gas pedal or navigate turns. But the above indications are like having a toothache. Treat it early and you have minimal pain, damage, and cost. If you wait, it begins to affect other parts of your car, such as your tires.  

So, what should you do? In an earthquake, try to find something solid to crawl under. While you’re down there, take some time to listen to the original Joe Turner version of Shake, Rattle, and Roll — considered to be 126th of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time by Rolling Stone magazine. And when that pothole feels like it will rattle the fillings out of your teeth, call the professional at Certified Automotive Specialists a call at 253-854-6762 or schedule your appointment online today!

Is Your Engine Gasping for Air?

Your car is chock-full of expensive, complicated devices. It also carries very valuable cargo—like you, your family, and friends. Filters may not seem like the most critical technology in your vehicle, but filters protect all that costly equipment from harmful debris. It also ensures you get that precious payload where it needs to go.

Think about the furnace in your house for a minute. If you don’t change or clean it every so often, it gets clogged. Ignoring it, your heater stops working efficiently over time. This costs you in fuel and potential future repair bills. The air filter in your car or truck works the same way. It stops damaging dirt and dust from harming the motor.

Your engine demands a precise ratio of air and fuel to run at peak efficiency. The longer you wait to change your air filter, the more fuel mileage and acceleration decreases. Waiting to change your air filter can also increase emissions. When the system has operated with a prolonged poor air-fuel mixture, you may even get a “Check Engine” or “Service Engine Soon” light. This is avoidable. In addition, in the long run, you’ll be protecting your investment by changing out the filter. Something as small as a grain of salt can disrupt and damage cylinders and pistons.      

Air filters should be changed every 12,000 to 15,000 miles. But when you decide to change your air filter depends on how and where you drive. Do you live in a rural or desert location that has lots of dirt and dust in the air? Do you drive through construction zones every day? Then you’ll need to have your filter replaced more often than other drivers. Fortunately, the air filter is just one of the components we check when you bring in your vehicle for regular maintenance. Keeping up with maintenance improves vehicle performance and reliability—crucial for safely transporting your priceless loved ones to work, school, errands and safely back home!

Ready, Aim, Misfire!

Have you ever spilled a drink at a gathering? Or worse, knocked over someone else’s? Maybe red wine on a white carpet? A party foul is sure to muck up a good time. Fouled spark plugs do the same thing.

Spark plugs are the life of your engine’s party. They get a high voltage electric current from the ignition coil(s), igniting the air-fuel mixture in the combustion chamber. When you are driving, this occurs thousands of times each minute and is what propels you down the road. They not only get the party started; they keep it rockin’!

Occasionally, spark plugs misfire when the spark is too weak to ignite fuel. This causes a temporary loss of power, wasted fuel, and pollution. Misfiring spark plugs can make your vehicle hard to start. It may also start running rough. You may have trouble firing your car up when it is cold. Fuel mileage and acceleration will go down and hydrocarbon emissions will increase. Too many misfires will result in your vehicle failing an emissions test, making it challenging to register or sell. It might even cause enough raw fuel to be dumped into the exhaust to overheat and damage the catalytic converter. Or worse, heat up the temperature enough to melt down the converter substrate which could block up the exhaust system.

What Makes A Spark Plug Go Bad?

A spark plug is fouled when it has become contaminated with fuel or oil. This prevents it from generating a spark. Once the plugs get hot enough, they can burn the contaminates off. This works well if you generally make longer trips. Unfortunately, when you make short, frequent trips, the plugs don’t get hot enough. You’ll have to get them replaced more often.

Properly replacing spark plugs means getting the correct “heat range.” A cold plug has a shorter insulator nose length and is better for high rpm engines. On the other hand, lower rpm engines benefit from a hot plug that cleans the plug when it operates at a slower pace. Each spark plug brand is unique and heat ranges are not universal. This is just one of the reasons why it is helpful to bring your car to a trusted automotive repair professional. We will make sure your spark plugs are at the center of the party. And for all the right reasons!  

Addressing Your Car’s Slow Drip, Drip, Drip

The slow drip of anything can be annoying—faucets, news, sinuses. But the slow, persistent drip, drip, drip under your car is more than just aggravating.  It can make a sticky, splotchy mess in your driveway and garage floor. You can end up making every place you park less attractive than when you showed up. Who wants to be someone who makes everywhere worse?

If you have been running your AC and the leaky liquid is clear and odorless, it may well be condensation from your air conditioner. No worries, then! Unfortunately, all other drips signal trouble. In fact, small drips are your vehicle’s way of asking: Hey, Bub, could you check under the hood? If you ignore this warning, your car will soon stop being so polite.

Don’t Let Minors Become Majors

Left unchecked, those slow drips will only increase. It was bad enough when you left an unsightly, environmentally unfriendly reminder of your presence every time you parked. Once small splotches become big puddles your friends and family will be asking you to park down the block!

And it isn’t just about leaving your mark in parking spaces and driveways. Your minor vehicle issue can quickly become a major problem. You’ve probably heard the advice: Don’t major on the minors.” This is good life advice for those who focus too narrowly on the negative. With a vehicle, though, taking care of the minor can stop it from being major. We advise you to go ahead and major on the minor with your vehicle since minor repairs come with minor price tags while major problems will cost you major dollars!

Seeing Red? It’s Most Likely Transmission Fluid

If the liquid is red it’s probably transmission fluid. Green or orange liquid that smells sweet most often means coolant is the culprit. Brown or black fluid indicates an engine oil leak. Also, liquid isn’t the only sign of a leak. Blue smoke from the tailpipe can also mean oil is leaking into the engine. No matter what color you see, remember that a leaking hose or seal is small potatoes compared to a catastrophic engine failure.

For minor and major vehicle maintenance and repair, call us at (253) 854-6762 or schedule your appointment online. We can’t do much about the slow drip, drip, drip of the news cycle or a runny nose, but we can certainly stop minor vehicle drips before they become major!

Want Your Vehicle to Be More Powerful and Efficient?

Who doesn’t want to be more powerful and effective? Despite New Year’s Eve resolutions or buying the latest self-help bestseller, personal growth can be hard to achieve. It’s not easy to be your own best friend. Fortunately, it is a little easier to be chummy with your vehicle and make it run stronger, quieter and more efficiently.

Fuel injection cleaning is not listed in your owner’s manual as part of routine maintenance. Still, your fuel system can become clogged with dirt and debris. This can jam up your fuel pump, fuel filter, and fuel injectors. These crucial parts of your fuel system need to be clear of all that yuck to allow the right mixture of fuel and air to reach the engine.

Friends with Benefits

When you treat your car right, it treats you right! By being friends with your car you get benefits which include better fuel efficiency, more horsepower, and no more engine knocking. When you think about it, it makes sense. Your car doesn’t burn dirty fuel as well as clean fuel—a drop in gas mileage may mean you need your fuel injectors cleaned. Does your car seem to lack the get-up-and-go it once had? Is it noisier? These are other signs that your BFF is asking you to clean up its fuel system!

The reason fuel injection cleaning isn’t listed in your owner’s manual is that if you are servicing your vehicle regularly, your injectors and fuel system will remain clean. Over the years, we have noticed that folks are increasingly skipping regular maintenance. This neglect causes the harmful build-up of grime and sludge. These are not your friends!

What Are Friends For?

Fuel injection cleaning will give your vehicle a longer life span, lower repair costs, and fewer headaches! You can worry less about being stuck on the side of the road or with a car that won’t start in the morning. Call us today at (253) 854-6762 or set up your appointment online. We will ensure that your car is running right and you won’t need to empty your wallet to for unneeded parts, repairs, or services. What are friends for?

Smooth Ride? Thank Your Suspension System!

Sure, the road of life can be bumpy. SoCal roads can be even bumpier! But you don’t need to get jolted at every pothole and gap in the asphalt. At least, not if your suspension system is operating right.

A suspension system is something you don’t notice until it stops working properly. What are some of the obvious signs your suspension system is not doing its job? Feeling every shake and bounce is, of course, the plainest signal and means you might be having trouble with shock absorbers or struts. Another symptom is your car pulling to one side of the road, though this could also be caused by your tires or brakes. Other signs include one corner of your car looking lower than the rest of the vehicle or hearing “clunking” as you drive over even small bumps. There are many more including leaking shock absorbers, difficulty when steering, or swaying while turning or stopping.

What Is Your Car’s Suspension?

Your suspension system is a spring-like structure. It is attached by the sides of the wheels and enables the frame to hold the weight of the body. It maximizes the friction between the tires and the road surface. This provides steering stability, good handling, and comfort.

Most cars are more than one ton of metal and they hurtle down the road at high speed. Even if the road surface looks smooth, without its suspension system, you and your car would be shaken to pieces. The suspension system allows the body and frame to move independent and undisturbed. It allows the wheels to take the bumps and lumps, not you. Your springs do the bulk of the work absorbing the thud and smash of driving down the street—your shock absorbers dampen all that springing so you are not riding a bucking bronco!

When your life gets bumpy, at least the driving around part, give Certified Automotive Specialists a call at 253-854-6762 or schedule your appointment online today!

Got a Quarter? Take this Test!

Inflation! You have probably noticed the cost of goods and services rising. We have, too. We spend a lot of energy doing everything in our power to keep the cost of taking care of your car down, but we do make one exception.

For years, the traditional auto industry recommendation has been to check the tread on tires using a penny. With Abe Lincoln facing you upside-down, place the penny in one of the grooves. If you can see honest Abe’s whole head, then, no lie, you need new tires. This test tells you that you only have 1/16” of tire tread left.

Automotive specialists have been rethinking the 1/16” of tread rule. It just isn’t enough in the most critical situations. If you have to come to a sudden stop on a rainy day on slick asphalt, you need more grip on the road.  Recent research by Tire Rack showed that brand new tires stop you the fastest. If you have 1/8” of an inch of tread you stop within 300 feet. But if you have just 1/16” of an inch, you might not stop until it is too late!

The Quarter Is The Way To Go

That’s why we no longer advise you to use a penny. It’ll cost you a quarter now! Let George Washington tell you the truth about whether your tires need swapping out. While running the same test with a quarter, if our first president’s whole head is visible you have less than 1/8 of an inch and we strongly suggest you get your tires replaced.

Of course, we are happy to give you some great options if you need new tires—and some more advice about inflation. Once you get your new tires, be sure to keep them properly inflated! Also, don’t forget to bring them in for rotation every 5,000 to 6,000 miles. We will keep you and your tires rolling smoothly and safely down the road!

Give Your Brakes a Break!

Does it feel like you just can’t catch a break sometimes? Your brakes might just feel the same way! They work hard for you. Your car is a heavy hunk of metal and when it is rolling down the road it takes a lot of friction to slow down all that momentum, especially when you need to stop quickly. If you don’t take care for your brakes, they can’t do their job. And it’s pretty important work! The well-being of you and your passengers is dependent upon the health and strength of your brakes.

How long has it been since your brakes have gotten a check-up? Here are some signs that they are going to need some attention:

  • Low brake pedal or brake fade (reduction of braking power)
  • Car pulls to one side during braking
  • Shimmy or pulsating feeling when you apply the brakes
  • Squeaking, squealing, or grinding sounds
  • Spongy or mushy feeling when you step on the brake
  • Brake pedal becomes hard to depress

If your brakes are showing any of these signs, it almost always means the brake pads and shoes need replacing.  It also means that you should bring your car to us for a brake inspection. This includes checking the brake linings, the drums and rotors, and the brake fluid. If you have waited too long, it may be more serious and we may have to turn or replace the rotors.

Don’t wait for your brakes to get to metal on metal! It takes much less time and money to repair them before your car is vibrating and groaning every time you pull up to a red light. It isn’t just embarrassing to attract attention at intersections for all the wrong reasons. Don’t forget. You’re transporting precious cargo. The safety of your friends and family is your most important job—so give your brakes a break!

What is the Actual Cost of an Oil Change These Days?

oil change

Oil changes are never “one type fits all cars” and the cost is never the cost advertised. How many times do you see an advertisement for an oil change?

  • $29 for conventional oil
  • $44.00 for semi-synthetic or synthetic blend (same oil)
  • $59.00 for full synthetic oil

Pretty straight forward, right? When was the last time you paid the price advertised? I would venture to say never. Here are the additional items that you will be charged:

  • Over 5 quarts ($6 to $12 per quart additional)
  • Specialty oil for many cars (especially European makes)
  • High mileage oils
  • Canister oil filters ($10 additional)
  • Hazard fee ($2- $4 additional)
  • Sales tax ($2 to $5 additional)

Always ask what the cost will be including all fees and taxes before you visit!  NEVER, EVER use oil in your car that is not recommended for it.

Do your best to be knowledgeable about what oil is recommended for your vehicle. Be informed by checking your owner’s manual; go online or open the hood and look at the oil fill cap. Feed it the fluids it needs, just as you feed your body the nutrition it needs to live a longer, heathier life.

Here is what I have observed as a professional automotive shop owner for 41 years; folks that have a local shop take care of them, will have cars that easily have 150,000 to 300,000 miles on them, because all the correct oils and fluids are being used. Folks that bounce around from shop to shop in order to get the cheapest oil change and do not use the recommended oil and fluids for their car, usually have cars that won’t make the 100,000-mile mark without major repairs.

An oil change is starting to become part of a mileage service, but again check your manual or better yet find one of the many automotive service professionals out there and get to know them, trust them and enjoy a long-lasting car.