Posted by & filed under Engine, Fluids, Keys to a long lasting vehicle, Maintenance, Service Intervals.

Life is busy and dollars are tighter than ever for many people. The car is just a machine that provides freedom to get where we need to go at a moment’s notice. Many of us remember when the car talked to you when it was not feeling well.

What I mean is before technology, if the car needed spark plugs, it would idle rough, hiccup or stall. With the modern car, the computer system can mask a concern until it’s too late, resulting in an expensive repairs.

Most shops preach service to make sure our customers don’t wait until the car needs major work; we want to keep our customers safe and off the tow truck at all cost.

This is accomplished by the consumer paying attention to their machine. Watching the gauges, having those dash lights checked even when the car seems to runs fine, when you back out of a driveway or parking space, you always look for fluid on the ground.

We have a customer whom is strapped for cash and is always busy. He notices some very small drops of coolant on the ground (the car was talking to him). He chose to ignore the cry for help from the car and because the temperature gauge was reading normal, he was not concerned.

As a result, the car slowly lost coolant and the computer kept the car going until he felt the second cry for help while driving on the freeway. The car was losing power, again it was ignored, finally the car just stopped running on the freeway. Fortunately the customer was able to coast to the shoulder and not stop in the car pool lane.

This customer’s engine locked and was ruined, instead of fixing the coolant leak that would have cost $323.00, he now faces an engine replacement of $7,000.00 and possibly more, depending on the damage.

This scenario is common, when your car cries for help, please don’t ignore it. Your will save money, time and aggravation if you have the car serviced regularly and at least call for advice when your car cries for help.

Posted by & filed under Keys to a long lasting vehicle, Maintenance.

Your car, “Old Faithful,” is paid off or almost paid off.  You toy with the idea of buying a new one, but would really like to keep using that monthly money for other things. You like the look and smell of a new vehicle, we all do, but does anyone really like the payments that come with it?  In today’s economy, people are thinking twice before financing a new vehicle that they may be able to do without until times are more stable. Taking better care of your current car definitely makes a difference in the long run when it comes to your finances.

“We advise our clients that if they want a 10 percent increase on their investments every year, they need to cut down on their expenses. A new automobile is, for most people, their second biggest investment next to a home, so a great way to save money and increase financial assets is to hang onto their current vehicle rather than buy a new one every few years. Budgeting for and doing preventative maintenance on your car is one of the best ways to cut your costs and keep your car.”

~Terry Mulcahy, Vice President of Investments for R.W. Baird

The Car Care Council estimates that over $60 billion each year that should be going to vehicle maintenance is not being spent! This tells us that consumers are not protecting their investment, and more importantly that there are a lot of unsafe vehicles on our nation’s highways.  We’ve all driven behind a car spewing black smoke as it meanders down the expressway.  It isn’t pleasant for the rest of us sharing the road, and it’s bad for the environment — plus we know a costly repair is in their future if they don’t take care of the problem right away.

Quarterly preventative maintenance and the occasional repair costs so little when it’s compared to monthly payments on a brand new car.  A maintained car saves you money on gasoline, too! It is more reliable and more valuable than when you decide to get a new car.  Not only does preventative maintenance benefit you financially, it’s a great way to have a “greener” car without the expensive car payment to go with it.  When your car is paid off, it is in what we call the “Cinderella Era,” which is when your car becomes an asset to you if you keep up with the routine maintenance and repairs.

A Runzheimer International study shows that trading a vehicle every eight years instead of every four can save more than $2,481.75 a year after the payoff. That includes repairs and maintenance, license, registration, taxes and insurance. In this economy, that is good news!  If dollars and cents are as important to you right now as they are to most of us, take care of “Old Faithful” and “Old Faithful” will be there for you!

Please call us with any questions at 253-854-6762.


Posted by & filed under Engine, Fluids, Maintenance.

Motor oil is often referred to as the lifeblood of our vehicles. It performs many important functions.

• It acts as a lubricant for the engine parts.
• It helps protect the emission system.
• It provides enhanced fuel economy.

If you’ve ever taken the time to peruse the array of oils available today at an auto supply store, it can be overwhelming, and if you choose the wrong oil, it can have consequences. It can even damage your car’s engine over time. If you are a person who changes their own oil, always check your owner’s manual before you proceed and make sure you have purchased the correct oil for your particular type of vehicle.

types of motor oil

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There are three types of motor oil:

• Conventional (75 – 80% of refined crude oil)
• Full Synthetic (Standard base plus additives)
• Synthetic Blend (Conventional and Synthetic)

Then there are additives, such as detergents to keep the high-temperature surfaces clean and antioxidants that prevent oxidation and keep the engine oil from thickening. Additives also capture dirt and other contaminants to prevent build up on engine parts. There are even special oils just for high-mileage vehicles that have a conditioning component for the seals to prevent leakage.

The American Petroleum Institute classifies motor oil by viscosity. Using the correct viscosity of oil is vitally important to get the most benefit for your engine type. Viscosity refers to the motor oil’s weight, and on the container, “W” stands for weight. If you live in a warmer climate, you will need different weight oil than those living in colder climates.

Motor oil is and has always been the life blood of your vehicle’s engine. Getting the correct oil is crucial to keep your vehicle’s engine running well for years to come. When we service your vehicle, you can rest assured that we always use the correct oil.

Please call us with any questions at 253-854-6762 or visit our website.

Posted by & filed under Dashboard, Diagnostics.

OBD stands for “On Board Diagnostics,” and if your vehicle was built after 1996, then your car, SUV, or light truck has this system. It’s your car’s built-in computer, and its purpose is to monitor the major components of your vehicle’s engine, including emission controls. When there is a malfunction to the system, your dashboard illuminates the “check engine” light.

You know your OBD is working when you start your engine. The “check engine” or “service engine soon” light will very briefly illuminate just so you know it is working. If it comes on and stays on, it is letting you know that something isn’t right so you can get it checked out before it becomes an expensive repair. It could also be something simple, like your gas cap needing to be tightened. Sometimes the light comes on and before you can get to a repair shop, it turns off all by itself and doesn’t come back on. This just lets you know that the system corrected the problem by itself.

OBD on board diagnostics

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A blinking check engine light means you need to get your vehicle serviced immediately. The technician at your car care provider will use a hand-held scanning tool to help diagnose the problem. This is a very efficient method of testing your vehicle, and it saves time and money. A skilled technician will be able to take the code, which typically only gives them an idea of where the issue is occurring, and allows them to focus and figure out the exact problem.

Parts of Washington, including Kent, Covington, Maple Valley, Des Moines, and Auburn, are areas that must check the OBD as part of our Clean Air Act inspection. Before 1996, we did tailpipe testing. This isn’t as efficient as OBD, nor does it give drivers sufficient warning that there is a problem. OBD does a great job of letting consumers know when service is necessary, and that, along with the tightening of the gas cap and regular service on your vehicle, will save you time, money, and keep our air cleaner.

Please call us with any questions at 253-854-6762 or visit our website.

Posted by & filed under Fuel Economy, Maintenance, Uncategorized.

Taking a look at a 2013 study provides some eye-opening data that may make you think twice about the kind of car you own, your driving habits, and whether you should shop around for auto insurance or the lowest gas prices.

cost of ownership

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Different car types equal different costs

AAA calculated the average costs for six different car types based on the cost of ownership in the study. It found that the average cost of all sedans — the majority of cars on the road — is 60.8 cents per mile or $9,122 annually, based on 15,000 miles of driving. Small sedans cost the least — $6,967 annually. Four-wheel drive sport utility vehicles cost the most — $11,599 annually — largely due to the fuel costs of those cars. Perhaps surprisingly, large sedans cost almost as much — $11,248 — as four-wheel drive SUVs, while minivans, which often have about the same amount of passenger and cargo-carrying capability as many SUVs, averaged just $9,795.

Depreciation doesn’t compensate

In the 2013 study, depreciation rates had slowed significantly, making cars worth more and partially offsetting the increases in ownership. According to the 2013 Your Driving Costs study, depreciation rose 0.78 percent to $3,571 annually on average. AAA attributed this to an increase of used cars available, which has softened resale values.

Next, for other cost of ownership info, we’ll focus on the sedan as our example.

Maintenance costs see big rise

In terms of car-maintenance costs, the AAA study found that there were significant increases in the cost of labor and parts over the past year. As a result, average maintenance costs are up by 11.26 percent on average for sedan owners, the largest percent year-over-year increase, to 4.97 cents per mile. Included in that figure are the labor and parts costs to maintain and repair the car for five years and 75,000 miles as well as purchasing an extended warranty. AAA noted that figure also has increased due to increases in extended warranty prices — the result of high losses by underwriters.

Car insurance costs more, too

While AAA notes that auto insurance rates vary widely due to numerous factors, car insurance is rising 2.76 percent to $1,029 annually for the average sedan owner over 2012. To arrive at its average, AAA used a hypothetical low-risk driver with a clean driving record and obtained quotes from five AAA clubs and insurance companies representing seven states.

Fuel costs rise marginally

While gas prices have continued to rise, fuel costs are up only slightly, partially offset by improvements in car fuel economy. The average cost for regular unleaded gasoline is up 3.84 percent, but due to miles-per-gallon improvements, fuel costs have risen just 1.93 percent to 14.45 cents per mile on average for sedan owners. For its calculation, AAA uses the national average for regular, unleaded gas in the fourth quarter of the prior year.

Posted by & filed under Tires and Wheels.

Tires can be pretty expensive, and the better you take care of them, the longer they will last. Still, tires do have a life expectancy, but what that lifespan is seems to be up for debate. Some think that six years is the magic number, even if the tires haven’t actually been used. When tires sit on a shelf or have been in storage for six years, they still age and deteriorate. The Rubber Manufacturer Association says it isn’t as simple as that. Until the experts agree, it is up to us in the automotive service and repair industry to keep a good eye on our customers’ old tires.

Most consumers may not be aware that the date of manufacture is on your tire wall. For example, if you see a code such as 8PY806 stamped in a recessed rectangle on a tire, the 806 means it was manufactured in 2006 and in the eighth week of that year. When you purchase new tires, check the date. Some tires sit around for years before being sold as “new,” and you don’t want to purchase old tires when you’re paying for new!

It has been determined that over 6,000 accidents a year are caused by tire problems. That is not too surprising, considering that car manufacturers recommend we check our tire pressure every time we fill up our gas tank. Do you ever see anyone actually doing that? I’ve never personally witnessed it.

old tires

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Tires do come with wear bars or flat spots between the tread grooves. When the tread wears to the point equal to the flat spots, the tire needs to be replaced. When you look at a rubber tire and see cords showing through, bulges, deep cracks, or tread starting to separate, you have a very unsafe tire and should not drive on it.

Climate does play a factor in the aging of tires. NHTSSA says tires age faster in warmer climates, and high ambient temperatures can accelerate the aging process. This can cause tread separations. Tires that are used infrequently, such as those on collectible or recreational vehicles, can also age even though they aren’t used as much. These old tires might have great tread left, but the structural integrity gets weakened from disuse.

Many drivers are confused about when to replace tires. Check your owner’s manual and use those recommendations as guidelines. Again, a lot depends on your driving habits, the road conditions, and climate. Most manufacturers recommend replacing tires at least every six years, but some say ten.

Keeping your tires properly inflated is incredibly important to the tires’ lifespan. Some consumers think the tire pressure listed on the tire sidewall is the proper pressure. That is not true. That is the maximum the tire can hold. The recommended tire inflation pressure can be found in your owner’s manual, on the vehicle’s door jamb, or inside the fuel hatch filler flap or glove compartment in some vehicles. Keeping your tires at the recommended inflation can save you nine cents per gallon of gas!

While you’re thinking about tires, don’t forget the spare. Hopefully you won’t have to use it, but it’s nice to know it is ready just in case!

For more information about tires, give us a call any time.

Posted by & filed under Fluids.

In the world of “you get what you pay for,” the cheapest price for an oil change is not always the best value. I would like to break down a $19.95 oil change advertisement that I recently heard on the radio.

It said: “Our premium oil change and complete inspection for only $19.95.”

This seems like a very good price… until you listen to the disclaimer.

The disclaimer states that the price is good for conventional grade oil only, and most cars from 2000 and newer require an oil better than the conventional grade.

They also said that the “complete inspection” included a visual brake inspection only, which means the wheels would not be removed to do a thorough brake inspection, either.

cheap oil change

Another disclaimer states, “Valid for up to 5 quarts of 10/30 or 5/30 conventional oil. Extra fees for synthetic or semi-synthetic blend oil. Cartridge oil filters extra. Valid for most cars.” Okay, let’s break that down. Many cars these days have cartridge filters by default, so that’s an extra charge tacked on right there. When they say “most cars,” what does that mean? What are most cars? Which cars are excluded from the deal?

The average cost for an oil change on a 2000-2010 car should be in $39.00 range. Most shops add a hazardous waste fee and tax on top of this cost.

Cost for the correct engine oil averages $4.00 per quart. Multiply that by 5 quarts on an average car and that equals $20.00 in oil, all before adding an oil filter or paying a person to do the service.

As you can see, a qualified technician is well aware of these costs and can give you a real breakdown of where the money’s going. If you hear a “good deal” on the radio or see an ad online or in your paper, it’s important to read the fine print and see which caveats apply. You won’t be happy if you go in for the “deal” and find a bunch of extra charges tacked onto your bill anyway. It’s best to find a trusted shop that you know does quality work, even if it seems a little more expensive up front. In the end, the cost will likely be the same.

Posted by & filed under Fuel System.

Are you one of those people who don’t put gas into your tank until it beeps a warning? Do you feel confident you can go several more miles before actually running out of gas? Do you make a game of “I think I can, I think I can,” meaning “I think I can get to a gas station running on fumes alone?” If so, read on!

I’ve known a few people in my time who enjoy the challenge of pulling up to the gas station on fumes. Sure, they’ve lost the game a few times and had to hoof it to the nearest station, buy a gas can and walk back to where their trusty vehicle finally stopped. Many brag after this experience that now they actually know for sure how many miles they can drive after their car beeps! I’m happy those people enjoy such games and challenges, but playing that game can have costly, not to mention damaging, results for your vehicle.

running on fumes

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Most vehicles have an electric fuel pump. This sits inside the tank actually submerged in the fuel. This allows the pump to stay cool and lubricated. Without this submergence in fuel, the pump can self-destruct from overheating. The reserve fuel inside your tank prevents this from happening. Some vehicles have a well that the pump sits inside, and if this well runs dry, the pump also gets damaged. If your vehicle is fueled by diesel and this occurs, it also becomes necessary to “prime it” to get fuel to the pump.

Heat also plays a factor. When you have 90 degree days coupled with the heat from the pavement on the bottom side of the car where the fuel tank sits, it does not take much for the pumps to go bad.

Obviously you can’t drive forever on an empty tank, but if you regularly put in just enough gas to get by, your fuel pump can fail earlier than normal. Your pump will also be taking in the “bottom of the barrel” fuel, which is full of debris. This sediment in the bottom of the fuel tank can also clog the fuel filter and fuel injectors, as well as the pump pickup. I generally don’t let my tank get below 1/4 tank for this reason.

The best thing you can do for your vehicle is fill it up when it gets to a quarter tank. It will save you money in the long run and keep your car running well. Sure, it doesn’t offer the same challenge as running on fumes, but when it comes to your vehicle, it is always wise to consider damage control — both to your car and your wallet!

Please call us with any questions at 253-854-6762 or visit our website. Have a great day!

Posted by & filed under Dashboard.

Have you ever had an experience like this in Kent WA? You drive through the one of those automatic car washes. When you get to the end, where the dryer is blowing, your check engine light started flashing!

You fear the worst, but within a block or two, the light stopped flashing, but stayed on. By the next day, the light was off.

You wonder; “What was going on?” Well, it’s actually a good lesson in how the Check Engine light works.

Your air intake system has a sensor that measures how much air is coming through it. When you went under the high-speed dryer, all that air was blasting past the sensor. Your engine computer was saying, there shouldn’t be that much air when the engine is just idling. Something’s wrong. Whatever’s wrong could cause some serious engine damage.

Warning, warning! It flashes the check engine light, to alert you to take immediate action.

It stopped flashing because once you were out from under the dryer, the airflow returned to normal. Now the engine control computer says the danger is past, but I’m still concerned, I’ll keep this light on for now.

Then the Check Engine Light goes off in a day or two.

The condition never did recur, so the computer says whatever it was, it’s gone now. The danger is past, I’ll turn that light off.

Now a flashing check engine light is serious. You need to get it into our Kent WA shop as soon as possible. But if it stops flashing, so you have time to see if the problem will clear itself or if you need to get it checked. How does the computer know when to clear itself?

Think of it this way. The engine control computer is the brain that can make adjustments to manage the engine. Things like alter the air to fuel mix, spark advance, and so on. The computer relies on a series of sensors to get the information it needs to make decisions on what to do.

The computer knows what readings are in a normal range for various conditions. Get out of range, and it logs a trouble code and lights up the check engine warning.

The computer will then try to make adjustments if it can. If the computer can’t compensate for the problem, the check engine light stays on.

The computer logs a trouble code. Some people think the code will tell the technician exactly what’s wrong?

Actually, the code will tell the technician what sensor reading is out of parameters. It can’t really tell you why, because there could be any number of causes.

Let’s say you’re feeling hot. You get your heat sensor out – a thermometer – put it under our tongue and in a minute or two you learn that you have a fever of 104 degrees.

You know your symptom – a fever – but you don’t know what’s causing it. Is it the flu, a sinus infection or appendicitis?

You need more information than just that one sensor reading. But it does give you a place to start and narrows down the possible problems.

There are reports on the internet telling you that you can just go down to an auto parts store and get them to read your trouble code or buy a cheap scan tool to do it yourself.

There are two problems with that. First, the computer stores some trouble codes in short term memory, and some in permanent memory. Each manufacturer’s computer stores generic trouble codes, but they also store codes that are specific to their brand.

A cheap, generic scan tool, like you can buy or that the auto parts store uses, doesn’t have the ability to retrieve long-term storage or manufacturer specific codes. Your Kent WA service center has spent a lot of money on high-end scan tools and software to do a deep retrieval of information from your engine control computer.

The second problem is that once you’ve got the information, do you know what to do with it? For example, a very common trouble code comes up when the reading on the oxygen sensor is out of whack.

So the common solution is for the auto parts store to sell you a new oxygen sensor, which are not cheap, and send you off on your way. Now your oxygen sensor may indeed have been bad and needed replacing. But the error code could have come from any of a dozen of other problems.

How do you know the right solution? Back to the fever analogy, do you need surgery or an aspirin? Leave it to the pros at Central Avenue Automotive. Give us a call at 253.854.6762 and let us help you resolve your check engine light issue.

Posted by & filed under Engine, Fuel Economy.

Are you old enough to remember this? If you drove a 4-cylinder vehicle, you needed to get a running start up a hill or it seemed the car would never make it to the top. Honeywell Turbo Technologies is currently working with automotive manufacturers to give consumers an affordable, fuel-efficient, downsized turbocharged engine. The turbocharging technology has been used for years for commercial vehicles and globally for passenger vehicles.

In 2008 when the large 8-cylinder engines were not as popular due to the economy and higher fuel costs, the 4-cylinder engine was more in demand. At that time, the turbochargers were only available in two percent of gasoline and flex-fuel vehicles. In 2011, turbochargers became available in 9.5 percent and it’s predicted by LMC Automotive that by 2017 that figure will be at 20 percent.

turbocharged vehicles

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The Environmental Protection Agency is pleased because turbocharging improves CO2 and fuel economy at the same time. That is good news for us all! This has been proven over the past seven years because now manufacturers can make smaller, more efficient engines without sacrificing power in the vehicles. A smaller engine enables a 20 to 40 percent fuel economy improvement. That is something we can all enjoy.

Hybrid and electric vehicles come with large price tags and are expensive to repair, and battery material mining is hard on the environment. Many people don’t consider that we are burning fuel and coal to produce the electricity to power their electric car. Vehicles equipped with the Honeywell turbocharged engine let a consumer enjoy a 40 mile per gallon (higher on the highway) ride. Many of these vehicles also come with a price tag of $20,000 or less.

Here is a list of some of the vehicles with Honeywell turbocharged engines:
• Ford’s Eco Boost vehicles
• Chevrolet’s Sonic, Cruze and Silverado
• Dodge Dart (scheduled for release later this year)
• Fiat 500 Abarth
• Volkswagen Touareg

Innovation is always born when the need is there!

Please give us a call if you have any questions at 253-854-6762 or visit our website.