Posted by & filed under Inspection.

Road trip, anyone? Nothing spoils a great vacation for us Kent motorists then ending up stranded on the side of the road or spending a week in a rundown motel while our vehicle sits in the shop. Long days on the road can bring out the worst in your vehicle, so before you leave, prepare it for the journey by getting an inspection at Central Avenue Automotive in Kent. After all, you wouldn’t travel without clean socks, why ask your vehicle to travel with a load of harmful dirty oil?

The first step in a trip inspection at Central Avenue Automotive is to look at your travel plans. What kinds of roads will you be driving on? Will you be in the WA backcountry or on the freeway? Will you be crossing mountains? Off-roading? What will the weather be like? How many miles away from Kent will you be traveling? How much are you hauling? Will you be towing a trailer or lugging a rooftop carrier? Will you encounter dust, mud, snow or sea salt? All of these questions can help Kent car owners confirm which Central Avenue Automotive services are the most needed. And don’t hesitate to speak with your Central Avenue Automotive service advisor. He can give you good auto advice on what trip conditions are hardest on what systems of your car and what kinds of services your vehicle realistically needs. Start with the tires and review them for tread wear and proper inflation. Replace or rotate them as needed. If you need to change them out for winter tires, then do so.

Then inspect your shocks or struts for wear. Replace them if needed. You’ll want that extra comfort on your trip. Be sure to check your alignment. Steering a vehicle that is out of alignment is tiring, and dangerous. Don’t overlook your brakes. With extra passengers and baggage, your brakes are going to get a workout. You want them in top condition.

In addition, inspect belts and hoses. If any of them are close to wearing out, have them replaced before your long trip does them in.

Change your engine air filter if it needs it or if it’s close to needing it. For every gallon of gas you burn, your air filter processes 12,000 gallons of air. A clean air filter will protect vital electronic sensors that effect how your engine runs.

Get an oil change at Central Avenue Automotive in Kent if it’s coming due. Make it a full-service oil change while you’re at it. That way, all of your fluids will get checked and topped off. Change any dirty or old fluids. Kent auto owners don’t want to overstress their cooling systems or transmissions with dangerous dirty fluid during a long trip.

Does your vehicle smell? Check the cabin air filter. The bad smell could also indicate an exhaust leak, which can be fatal on a long trip. So don’t ignore bad odors; check them out.

If your air conditioning hasn’t been up to snuff, then give it an overhaul. You want your vacation to be relaxed and pleasant, and that means keeping the passenger compartment comfortable.

And be sure to review your wiper blades and your headlamps. You may find yourself driving in unfamiliar territory at night after a long day. You’ll want to be able to see as much as possible.

Of course, almost everything listed here is just part of vital preventive maintenance for smart Kent auto owners. If you keep up with your car care on a regular basis, a trip inspection will be a breeze at Central Avenue Automotive.

Taking care of your vehicle before you leave for a road trip will pay you back in safety, peace of mind, improved comfort and better MPG. It will also help your vacation go as planned by keeping you on the road and headed for that next great adventure. Just don’t forget to pack your socks.

Posted by & filed under Brakes, Transmission.

Once on a trip to Maui, we took a day trip to the Haleakala Volcano. This is a road that goes from Sea level to over 10,000 feet in about 27 miles, with plenty of pedaling on and off the brakes. I noticed several signs that suggested to downshift instead of using my brakes and I thought to myself, “that would be a great blog post!”

Downshift Down Hills
Photo Credit: JoshBerglund19 via Compfight cc

The reason that you want to downshift is to protect the brakes. When your brakes are applied, they create friction, and this friction is what slows the vehicle down. But friction also creates heat, and too much heat will damage the brakes. Too much heat can also make brakes completely fail. Brake failure happens when brake fluid gets too hot and starts to boil. When brake fluid boils, brake pedal fade will occur, or complete brake failure can happen while driving downhill.

A vehicle’s downhill speed will increase due to gravity. Heavier use of the vehicle’s brakes is needed in order to slow down the vehicle’s progress. Under heavy braking, brake fade can occur. Brake fade is a result of overheating and reduces friction between the brake pads and discs. When brake fade happens, it reduces the effectiveness of the brakes, which is dangerous and often more common in larger vehicles.

The good news is that you can descend down most any hill without ever using your brakes. This is done by a method of “downshifting,” or selecting a lower gear. This method uses the vehicle’s drivetrain to slow the vehicle. Large trucks have been using the downshifting technique for years.

How To “Engine Brake”

If your car has a manual 5-speed transmission, you would typically use 3rd gear if you want to descend a hill around a 40mph speed limit. Most of the time, that will help you maintain your speed, and you may even have to accelerate a few times. If you are going too fast, then a 5 second push of the pedal will slow you down without overheating the brakes. When you downshift into a lower gear, the brakes will have a chance to cool before you use them again. If you hold onto the brakes by riding the pedal for an extended period, the brakes will overheat and will become damaged. When you get to the bottom of the hill, simply put the vehicle back into drive and it will go back to computer-controlled shifting for optimum fuel economy.

Several types of vehicles, like the Acura MDX and BMW x5, come with sport modes that give you enhanced control over the vehicle’s transmission. Most Automatic Volkswagens use a tiptronic transmission switch. When you shift into that mode, it allows you to select the gear you want like a manual transmission without a clutch pedal to push.

If you have questions about downshifting and using the engine to help slow you down hills, contact one of our experienced technicians at Central Avenue Automotive. You can give us a call at (253) 854-6762, or schedule an appointment using our convenient online appointment booking service. You can also come into our repair shop, located at 1514 Central Ave. Kent, Washington 98032.

Posted by & filed under Diagnostics, Engine.

WHY IS IT BAD TO DRIVE MY CAR WHEN MY CHECK ENGINE LIGHT IS BLINKING?

If you are like most drivers, you may have experienced the frightening moment when you’re confronted with a blinking engine light. Many people realize that “blinking” means “emergency” and get their cars into the shop right away. Others may take awhile to get the light investigated, whether it’s because they do not have the time to take their car in or do not think they can afford a costly repair. This post is going to tell you why it is never a good idea to drive your car while the service light is blinking.

Blinking Service Light
Photo Credit: CJ Isherwood via Compfight cc

When the Check Engine or Service Engine Soon light starts blinking (as opposed to staying steadily illuminated), this means that a catalytic converter-damaging condition is occurring. Usually you will be able to feel a noticeable difference in the way your vehicle is running. When this Check Engine or Service Engine Soon light flashes, you should pull over safely and shut the vehicle off as soon as possible. Have the vehicle towed to your trusted repair facility for a diagnosis and repair. Continuing to drive this vehicle in this condition will do more damage and will cost more to repair. Depending on the type and age of vehicle you drive, there can be a huge variance on the replacement cost of a catalytic converter. Some converters may cost over $2000 per converter, and many cars use 2, 3, or even 4 converters.

The other thing to consider is that a lot of the vehicles we drive in the Puget Sound are built to meet California Emissions Standards. That means if the catalytic converter in your vehicle fails, it needs to be replaced with a catalytic converter that meets California Emissions Standards, and these cost even more than a vehicle that conforms to Federal Emission Standards. California Emission Standards are much more strict than federal, and if you don’t replace the faulty part with the correct part, it will not work with the emissions calibration on your vehicle’s computer. This could still signal a catalytic converter efficiency code, which will illuminate your Check Engine or Service Engine Soon light, and you will not pass the emission test. When your light is illuminated, or if there are current codes stored in the computer of your vehicle, it will not pass DEQ. There are pros and cons to your vehicle being built to California Emissions Standards. The upside is that your vehicle runs much cleaner for our environment, since California holds higher standards. The downside is that the vehicles are more expensive to repair.

The service light is there for a reason: to alert you when there is an issue with your vehicle so that you can take it in for service. There are many reasons why the service engine light may blink on. These reasons can range from quick and inexpensive fixes to extensive and costly repairs. Some of the most common culprits behind a blinking engine light are as follows:

  • Ignition coil has failed
  • Fuel injector has failed
  • Engine computer has failed
  • Spark plug
  • Spark plug wire
  • Bad engine valves

If your check engine light is on and not flashing, this means you need to schedule an appointment as soon as possible to have the vehicle diagnosed. A diagnostic procedure on most vehicles typically takes 1-2 hours, and should cost $80 – $100 dollars in most cases. Driving a car with a blinking engine light will cost you the amount of the repair, plus the cost of a new catalytic converter. A Mini Cooper converter will range from $700 to $1500, while an Audi converter can range from $700 to $2400. A tow bill is usually under $100, and at Central Ave Auto, we offer free towing service to our shop in our designated area.

Whatever the cause of your blinking service light, rest assured that our experienced technicians are trained to handle it in a professional and timely manner. Give us a call at (253) 854-6762 or schedule an appointment using our convenient online appointment booking service. You can also come into our repair shop, located at 1514 Central Ave in Kent, for a diagnostic.

Posted by & filed under Fuel Economy.

As fuel prices in the Kent area climb, so does the amount of gas saving tips and tricks. Some of it, like what you hear on AutoNetTV, is really great. Some is pure myth. Some is just designed to prey on local drivers desperate to save some money on gas.

When you get one of those emails that goes around telling you how to save gas, try to think it through.

Does it really make sense? Does it defy the laws of physics?

Do some research on the internet, check Snopes, or ask your favorite local service advisor at Central Avenue Automotive.

There aren’t any magic pills you can drop in your gas tank and the government hasn’t suppressed a device you can clamp on your fuel line to make your car run on air. Not even in Kent! If it sounds too good to be true, that’s because it is.

So next time you get one of those emails, check it out with an automotive professional. You’ll get more bang for your buck with an oil change or an engine air filter replacement. Keeping your car well-maintained is the best way to improve your fuel efficiency and save gas. You can also always consider a hybrid or fuel-efficient car next time your lease is up or you’re purchasing new! Make sure to bring any new or new-to-you car in for a second opinion and initial inspection.

We’re Central Avenue Automotive, give us a call at 253.854.6762 for good, honest advice about your car, including gas saving tips.

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

The price of gas and the uncertain economy are both causing WA residents to review their finances. More and more Kent auto owners are opting to keep their vehicles longer and put off purchasing a newer car. It is estimated that two-thirds of the vehicles on the roads of North America today have over 75,000 miles on them. And the average age of vehicles is now over eleven years. That translates to some car care issues that many Kent men and women haven’t dealt with in the past.

Older vehicles simply have different maintenance requirements than newer ones
. Learning those requirements presents a challenge for Kent auto owners because many owner’s manuals only publish maintenance schedules up to 60,000 or 90,000 miles. Vehicle owners have to keep good records and be more involved in planning preventive maintenance if they want to keep their SUVs on the road. First of all, any service in your owner’s manual that comes with a recommended mileage interval should be continued at that interval.

For example, if it is recommended that you change your oil every 5,000 miles, you should continue to change your oil every 5,000 miles. The owner of an older vehicle has to recognize that his engine is operating under higher stress than a new one. It’s just starting to show its age. So many experts suggest that the “severe service schedule” should be followed once a vehicle has racked up some serious miles. On this schedule, the mileage interval for many services is shortened or should be performed more often. Check with your considerate Central Avenue Automotive service professional.

Kent motorists who own older vehicles should also be careful not to neglect or postpone oil changes. A full-service oil change is more critical for an older SUV than for a new one. Older engines have had a lot of time to build up sludge in their oil compartment, so changing the oil at regular intervals is a must. Skipping an oil change compounds the sludge problem. With a full-service oil change, the vehicle’s fluids are also checked and topped off. Your considerate Central Avenue Automotive service professional will also let you know if these fluids need to be replaced. Older SUVs have older seals and gaskets, which often develop tiny leaks. Regularly checking fluids will compensate for these leaks and offer a heads-up about any serious ones. So, again, it is important to stay on schedule and not skip or procrastinate a fluid check.

Older seals and gaskets begin to dry out and show their age by becoming brittle. High-mileage formulation oils and fluids can help extend the lives of these gaskets and seals. These products contain additives that recondition seals and gaskets and keep them from leaking. High-mileage formulas cost more than standard products, but in the long run they can pay for themselves by preventing more costly repair bills.

If a vehicle is getting on in years or mileage, its parts are as well. High-mileage car maintenance requires necessary repairs and replacements. Timing belts, radiator hoses, parts of the suspension system, anti-lock brakes, air bags, water pumps, alternators and batteries will not last forever and will wear out in higher-mileage vehicles. They need to be inspected regularly by your considerate Central Avenue Automotive service professional and replaced as necessary.

But don’t go running for the new car lot just yet. These repairs may sound like a lot, but in total, they’re still cheaper for Kent motorists than new car payments. And if you stay on top of them and budget for them, they aren’t as burdensome as it may appear.

If you plan on driving your vehicle into its high-mileage years, there are two relationships you need to develop. The first is with your Kent service center. Your Central Avenue Automotive service specialist can offer you invaluable auto advice and help you develop a service plan that is right for you and your vehicle. Second, you need to develop a relationship with your SUV itself. You don’t need to name it, but you should become familiar with its noises and idiosyncrasies. Pay attention to changes in its habits such as new or unusual sounds, smells, vibrations, etc. Taking note of such things and sharing them with your service advisor can help stave off a lot of big-ticket repair issues.

As we get older, keeping up with a diet and exercise plan becomes more and more critical to maintaining good health. It’s the same with our vehicles. A preventive maintenance plan and smart car care will keep them on the road and keep them safe for a good many years to come.

Posted by & filed under Parts, Transmission, Warranty.

If you are in need of a new clutch or clutch repair, it helps to have an understanding of what is involved to appreciate the cost. Central Avenue Automotive can provide you with a rough estimate for clutch repair cost based on the following factors:

  • Which make and model you own
  • What type of vehicle you own
  • Where you drive your vehicle
  • Whether or not new parts are used
  • Whether or not remanufactured parts are used
  • Whether or not you replace all the parts or just the clutch friction parts
  • General labor costs

The cost to repair a clutch can range between $500 to $2,500. It really depends on the car. Performance cars, exotic cars, and European cars are more expensive to replace the clutch than Japanese economy cars. Four wheel drive vehicles cost more than two wheel drive vehicles. Regardless of these varying factors, a correctly done clutch job should include the following:

  • Replacement of the clutch disk
  • Release bearing pilot bearing
  • Resurfacing or replacement of the flywheel
Clutch Repair Kent

Photo Credit: The Pug Father via Compfight cc

Here are a few examples of the cost to repair the clutch for specific makes and models:

Toyota clutch repair:
A clutch in a Toyota pickup will cost is between $600 – $900, depending on what parts need to be replaced, whether the car has a v6 engine or a 4 cylinder, and if it’s a 4×4 truck. A clutch in a Toyota Camry costs between $600 – $900, depending on what parts need to be replaced and whether the car has a v6 or a 4 cylinder engine.

Mazda clutch repair:
A clutch for a Mazda pickup costs between $550 – $800, and depends on what parts need to be replaced, whether the car has a v6 or 4 cylinder engine, and if it’s a 4 wheel drive.

Honda clutch repair:
A Honda Civic clutch costs $499 – $800, depending on what parts need to be replaced and what type of 4 cylinder engine it has. An Si Honda Civic will cost more than a standard model Civic.

Volkswagen clutch repair:
The clutch for a Volkswagen Jetta is between $500 – $1500. Some of these cars use a special flywheel that requires replacement, so that adds considerable cost to the repair.

BMW clutch repair:
BMW vehicles, such as a M3, can cost over $2000 dollars to replace the clutch. It depends on the year of the vehicle, too.

Mini Cooper clutch repair:
A Mini Cooper’s clutch cost will vary widely, depending on the model. On average clutch repair will cost about $1200 – $2000 if you need to replace the flywheel.

Ford clutch repair:
Clutches on Ford F-150 and Ranger pickups will range between $600 – $900, but these vehicles also have an internal slave cylinder. You should always spend the extra money, typically $150 – $200, to have this component replaced. It will save you in the long run, believe us. In order to replace this component, you must remove the transmission to gain access to it.

Front wheel drive clutch repair:
Vehicles that are front wheel drive usually cost more than other vehicles because these vehicles require more labor to remove the transmission. In some cases, front wheel drives will require the engine to be removed in order to replace the clutch. Yes, that’s lot’s of work, but we’re happy to do it.

Finally, when you go to have your clutch replaced, there are some things that you should ask about. These are the three main things to ask your clutch repair technicians:

Warranty — A good warranty on a clutch should be at least 3 years or 36000 miles.

Parts — You should also make sure that all the parts are new and that you replace the clutch disk, pressure plate and release bearing. Some vehicles also use a pilot bearing and some also use a internal slave cylinder (or hydraulic release bearing). You should also make sure that your flywheel is resurfaced or replaced. Some replacement flywheels can be very costly but if you don’t replace them or resurface them. How do you know your flywheel needs repair? Your vehicle will vibrate badly in first gear and reverse when you are letting out the clutch. A bad flywheel will prematurely wear out the clutch and will cause other damage to the vehicle.

Transmission Service – Replacement of the transmission fluid and a few engine fluids are very inexpensive to do when the transmission is already removed. If you choose to have them replaced after the transmission is back in, it could be very pricey. Examples include the crankshaft rear main seal and the engine freeze plugs behind the transmission. The freeze plugs and the rear main seal should be inspected and possibly replaced when the transmission is removed.

For any of these or our other services, make an appointment online today.

Posted by & filed under Service Intervals.

 

Have you ever noticed that your car maker has a schedule in your owner’s manual for what is called “severe service” maintenance? Let’s define what severe driving conditions aren’t: The easiest driving a vehicle experiences is traveling on the interstate for twenty miles or more at a constant rate of 65 miles per hour in 75°F weather with only passengers on board. Change any one of those parameters and you are adding stress to your engine. Change them significantly, and you are driving under severe conditions.

Let’s look at the critical parameters one a time. First, the length of the trip. Short trips around Kent are harder on an engine than longer ones. As your engine cools down, water in the air condenses onto the engine. When you heat the engine again, the water evaporates off. This is healthy. But on short trips, the engine doesn’t stay hot enough long enough for all of the water to evaporate so it starts to build up in the engine oil leading to sludge, which can clog up your engine and lead to serious engine damage. If most or all of your trips around Auburn are less than four miles, you should consider using the severe service maintenance schedule. Changing your oil more frequently at Central Avenue Automotive in Kent will help prevent the formation of sludge.

Each SUV engine has a “power band,” or the range of RPM’s in which it runs most efficiently. Generally this power band falls in the range of WA highway speed driving. So if you’re driving around town in Kent all the time, your engine has to work harder. That’s why MPG ratings are so much better on the freeway than in the city. Again, this type of driving is considered severe and requires more frequent maintenance for your transmission, cooling system and brake fluid.

Most of us Kent drivers think of severe WA weather conditions when we think of severe driving conditions. And we’re right. Cold Auburn area weather takes its toll on the oil in your vehicle. Remember how water has to evaporate out of the oil to keep your engine healthy? It can take up to ten miles of driving for an engine to get hot enough to get rid of moisture in the oil when the weather is cold.

Hot Kent weather is also detrimental for SUVs. When an engine runs, it gets hot. The longer it runs, the hotter it gets. If it gets too hot, it breaks down. So it has to be constantly cooled to keep running. Hot WA weather means your cooling system has to work harder to keep your engine from getting too hot.

Another critical element of severe driving is the conditions we drive through. Dusty, polluted Kent areas are harmful to your filters. Dirt, dust and contaminants will also get into your fluids, and they’ll get dirty faster, so they’ll need to be changed more often as well. Finally, when you’re pulling a trailer around Kent, carrying heavy loads or using a car-top carrier, you are putting more stress on your engine. The engine, transmission and brakes are all working harder to handle the extra load.

So, in the end, most of us Kent drivers drive under severe conditions some of the time. Smart Kent drivers will ask themselves the question: “Should I follow the severe service maintenance schedule?” An honest evaluation of our driving habits is the best way to determine which schedule to follow.

Posted by & filed under Diagnostics.

Why is my check engine light on?

Modern Kent vehicles have several computers on board that control all kinds of things like engine functions, transmission shifts, traction control, anti-lock brakes, stability control, emissions – and on some vehicles, even steering, braking and the throttle.

Think about that for a minute – things that used to be controlled by simple mechanical connections now have electronic controls that rely on computers, software and sensors. It’s no wonder that when something goes wrong with their SUV it can be pretty complicated for Kent motorists to track down the source of the problem.

To help your Central Avenue Automotive technician figure out what’s wrong, your SUV is equipped with on-board diagnostics. The Check Engine Light comes on to tell you there’s a problem and the engine management computer stores a trouble code. Your considerate Central Avenue Automotive service professional connects a scan tool to your vehicle’s diagnostic port and retrieves the trouble codes as well as other important data.

Trouble codes are like clues for the Auburn technician to follow as he diagnoses what’s wrong with your SUV. In a way, it’s like going to your Kent doctor with a problem. She’ll run some additional tests and gather the information she needs to make a diagnosis and form a treatment plan. How much a vehicle diagnosis costs at Central Avenue Automotive in Kent depends on how much time it takes to sort out the symptoms and find the underlying problem.

Give us a call

Central Avenue Automotive
253.854.6762
1514 Central Ave S Ste A
Kent, WA 98032
https://www.centralaveauto.com/

Posted by & filed under Diagnostics.

One might say the most challenging part of being an automotive service technician at Central Avenue Automotive in Kent is diagnosing a car repair problem before it can be fixed.

Cars are made up of a bunch of complex systems. There can typically be a number of reasons for any given symptom, so it’s challenging to track down the actual cause of the problem. It can be frustrating for the vehicle owner because it can take time and money to get to the bottom of an issue. If it’s not something obvious, it’s easy for the customer to focus on the fixing and not the diagnosing.

Let us introduce you to something we’ll call Customer Detective Work – that is, helping your technician find clues as to what’s wrong.

We start with the detective basics: What, Where, and When. Play along with me. You come in to Central Avenue Automotive and your car is making a funny sound.

    • Q: Where’s the sound?
    • A: Around the right front wheel.

 

    • Q: What kind of sound?
    • A: Kind of a clunk, clunk sound.

 

    • Q: When do you hear the sound?
    • A: When I turn and accelerate.

 

  • Q: Right and left? Forwards and back?…

Do you see where we’re going? You’re gathering additional information to help your favorite technician know where to start with your car repair. Based on your car and the tech’s experience, he’ll know where to look and can start with the obvious suspects.

You can see how that would be more helpful than dropping the car off with a note that says “making a funny noise.”

When you think you need to bring a vehicle in, make some notes about the problem. Rather than just saying “it’s leaking,” tell the tech the color of the fluid, and approximately where under the car you see the puddle.

Things like “the car is stalling or sputtering” are often very hard to diagnose because they’re intermittent. They may not happen every time you drive and usually aren’t happening when you actually bring the car in. So, it is a big help for you to describe what’s happening in as much detail as possible.

Your technician at Central Avenue Automotive will need to be able to duplicate the problem if possible, so he needs to know details, like “it stalls after it’s been driven for about 20 minutes and I go over 50 miles an hour.”

If the tech can experience the problem personally, he’s better able to make a diagnosis and car repair, then test to see if the repair solved the problem.

Posted by & filed under Service Intervals.

New cars cost so much these days. Add financing and insurance, and, well, a new vehicle may not seem so attractive. A lot of Kent area drivers are hoping to make their cars last a lot longer.

The good news is that with the current state of automotive engineering and manufacture, there’s no reason a modern vehicle can’t be made to last for a 150,000 miles or more. Long lasting cars are easy to come by if you treat them right!

There is an old saying that says “a stitch in time saves nine,” and that is really true when it comes to taking care of your car. A great example is coolant service.

 

Over time, coolant becomes corrosive and actually starts to damage your radiator and other parts. That’s why you need to have your cooling system serviced on a regular schedule.

The same is true for your power steering system, brake fluid, air conditioning system, differential, and transmission. Also, your oil changes should be done right on schedule to avoid the buildup of harmful oil sludge.

Don’t let your brake pads go too long, or else they’ll be worn to the point that they cause damage to rotors. Preventive maintenance is a great way to keep your operating costs down.

Replacing belts and hoses is much cheaper than repairing the damage that can be caused by failure.

Now this is a lot to remember. Central Avenue Automotive can keep on top of this stuff. We can tell you what your manufacturer recommends and help you with a plan to take care of it. It’s the key to long lasting cars!

Bottom line – take care of this stuff on schedule and you will reduce operating costs, prevent costly damage, and maintain your warranty coverage. Call Central Avenue Automotive today for an appointment; you can reach us at 253.854.6762.

Take good care of your car, and it’ll take good care of you.