A recent report stated that over 80 percent of the vehicles on our Wilmington North Carolina roads have one or more service or repair that’s needed, but hasn’t been taken care of. Now that’s a lot of undone service. That translates into something over 160 million vehicles in the U.S. alone. Some of the neglected items are minor. Others are serious safety concerns.
There are several reasons why we hesitate to take care of recommended services; especially services that our Wilmington North Carolina automotive advisor recommends when we’re in for something else, like an oil change.
The first issue boils down to comfort with car care. We don’t always feel we know enough to make good decisions. Some of that can be attributed to the fact that vehicles are so reliable these days. They almost become an appliance. Of course you love your sedans, but if you don’t have to worry about it breaking down all the time, you’re not forced to think as much about preventive maintenance.
Perhaps your dad knew a lot about cars and always made sure they were taken care of. He was very comfortable dealing with his local Wilmington North Carolina service advisor. People who don’t know as much about cars hesitate to ask questions because they don’t want to look ignorant.
It’s human nature. But, there’s so much to know in this world, we can’t all be experts in everything. So we specialize. It’s very important to ask questions of any specialist, whether it’s your doctor, financial advisor or your automotive technician in Wilmington, North Carolina.
Your auto technician at Atlantic Car Care wants your questions. We want you to understand the recommendation and why it needs to be done.
That brings us to the next issue; people say that they don’t always know if they really need the service or if they are just being sold something.
At the heart, it speaks to trust. Do you trust your Wilmington service center and your service advisor? Trust has to be earned and that takes time and experience. But you can shortcut the process when you realize that most of the recommendations are based on manufacturer’s maintenance schedules.
In other words, “you don’t have to trust me, you can trust your owner’s manual”.
Your Wilmington service center has computer databases that contain the manufacturer’s recommendations for almost all vehicles, so they don’t need to rummage through your glove box to look for your owner’s manual to know what to do.
Basically, the engineers who designed the car say “here’s when you need to have it serviced”. That’s who makes the recommendation, not the technician. He’s just reminding you.
Now you do need to trust your Wilmington technician’s experience and judgment from time to time. When he inspects your vehicle, he may find problems or concerns. He will explain things so that you can prioritize the concern and make a good decision about whether or not to have something done.
That brings us to the third issue; money. Often the concern is about spending the money to take care of a recommended service. Our money has many places it needs to go. And we have another list of places we want it to go. Auto maintenance isn’t usually on either of those lists.
Look, everyone who works at Atlantic Car Care has a family budget, too. They can relate. Maybe a little look behind the scenes would be helpful.
Service centers like Atlantic Car Care invest heavily in training, diagnostic equipment and tools so that they can make repairs and perform services as efficiently as possible. And like any other business, they have labor costs, insurance, rent, utilities, shop and office supplies, taxes and so on.
We work hard to make sure that we diagnose the problem correctly and fix it right the first time. That’s the only way we can maintain our reputation and remain in business. If we’re not satisfying our customers and providing a good value, you won’t come back and the service center won’t be around for long.
When there is a real budget concern, your Wilmington service center can help you prioritize the work that needs to be done and come up with a plan for taking care of it that works within your budget.
Let’s say you have a serious problem with your brakes. That’s a safety concern so a technician can’t ethically say, well, let’s put that off for a couple of months. What they can do is take care of the brakes now and address the cabin air filter or transmission service next month.
Today we’re going to talk about power steering service in Wilmington. If you took an informal poll around Wilmington you’d probably find that most have never heard of power steering service. That’s not surprising. Even though power steering is standard on every vehicle, most people in Wilmington aren’t aware that it needs periodic service.
If you’re younger than a certain age, you’ve probably never driven a car or truck without power steering. To get an idea of the difference; if you’ve ever cut a board with a hand saw, you know it’s a lot of work. Using a power saw is easy-peasy by comparison.
Without power steering, your arms have to do all the work to steer the wheels, and that’s hard, especially around downtown Wilmington. That’s why old cars had such big steering wheels; to get enough leverage to steer.
Most vehicles in Wilmington have a hydraulic power steering system. The serpentine belt from the engine powers a pump. The pump pressurizes the power steering fluid. This actuates a hydraulic cylinder that provides power to help steer.
Some vehicles in Wilmington use an electric pump to pressurize the fluid rather than a belt driven pump. We’re also seeing vehicles with electric motors providing the power assist, not using power steering fluid at all. We’ll see a lot more electric systems as more hybrids and electric vehicles hit the market.
At least for now, the vast majority of power steering systems use power steering fluid that needs to be serviced. The fluid needs to be changed for a couple of reasons. For one, it attracts moisture. Water has different hydraulic qualities than power steering fluid, and that makes a difference in steering performance. Water is also corrosive and can damage power steering components. The fluid also just gets dirty and needs to be changed. Removing the old fluid and flushing out the system gets rid of dirt and deposits. The clean, fresh fluid lubricates and provides better corrosion protection.
So ask your Wilmington service advisor at Atlantic Car Care or check your owner’s manual to see when power steering service is recommended. It’ll extend the life of your power steering components.
Suspension systems function effectively for many years and tens of thousands of miles. Eventually, however, sedans suspension components do wear out, but how long that takes depends a lot on how you drive around Wilmington and Burgaw.
As you can imagine, if most of your driving is on smooth North Carolina highways, your shock absorbers will last a lot longer than if you do most of your driving on bumpy Wilmington roads or haul heavy loads. In addition to just wearing out, sedans suspension components can be damaged in an accident or by a hard impact – like a pothole, hitting a curb or a rock in the road. Because the life span of shocks can vary so widely, sedans auto manufacturers recommend periodic inspections. During an inspection at Atlantic Car Care in Wilmington, your Honest automotive service technician will check for worn, broken or missing parts.
Here’s a quick rundown of suspension system components:
First there are the springs which hold the weight of your sedans. There are several varieties of springs. Springs are obviously heavy duty parts that rarely break or wear out. Shock absorbers work in conjunction with springs to smooth out the ride and help keep the tires on the road. Good shocks are essential for handling performance and ride comfort.
You’ve probably heard of struts. They combine a shock absorber and a coil spring in one unit. Shocks and struts will wear out over time. If your tires develop a cupped wear pattern, your shocks or struts may be wearing out. This is from the shocks bouncing unevenly. You may notice a floaty or drifting sensation when cornering. If the front of your sedans dives excessively when stopping, or rocks back and forth after you’ve stopped, your shocks may be worn out. And if they are leaking fluid, it’s definitely time to replace them at Atlantic Car Care.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, visit Atlantic Car Care for a suspension inspection. Same if you’ve been in an accident that involved one of your wheels. If your sedans suspension actually fails, it could lead to a serious accident, so don’t put it off.
When you replace your shocks, it’s usually a good idea to replace all four at the same time. That’ll give you more even handling. Talk with your Atlantic Car Care technician because you don’t want a big difference between the performance of your shocks from wheel to wheel, and replacing all may be the safest bet.
There are different grades of shocks and struts. You always want to use a replacement shock or strut that equals the one that came as original equipment when your sedans was new. But remember, they were designed to meet the expected needs of the broad range of Burgaw people who buy that particular vehicle. Your needs may be more specialized.
For example, if you want increased handling performance, your Honest Atlantic Car Care advisor can recommend an upgraded shock or strut specially designed for improved handling. If you haul heavy loads or trailers, we can recommend some heavy duty shock absorbers.
Flats, blow outs, skids and longer stopping distances can all be the result of Wilmington auto owners driving around on under-inflated tires. Admittedly, it’s hard to tell when a radial tire is under-inflated. If your manufacturer recommends 35 pounds of pressure, your sedans tire’s considered significantly under inflated at 26 pounds. The tire may not look low until it gets below 20 pounds.
New laws required auto makers to include a Tire Pressure Monitoring System – or TPMS system – in all cars and light trucks by the 2008 model year. The system has a dashboard mounted warning light that goes off if one or more of the tires falls 25% below manufacturer’s pressure recommendations.
This technology has been used by Wilmington race car drivers for years. They are able to head off problems from under inflation by closely monitoring tire pressure on the track. It’s up to your sedans’s manufacturer to determine which of many TPMS systems available they’ll use to comply with the law.
Obviously, all of this doesn’t come free for Wilmington drivers. U.S. government studies have estimated the net costs. Of course, the TPMS system itself will cost something. Maintaining the system will have a cost, replacement of worn or broken parts and tire repair cost increases.
The costs are partially offset by improved fuel efficiency and longer tire life. There’s also a potential savings in property damage avoided and fewer travel delays. The net cost is estimated to be between $27 and $100. The government predicts fewer fatal accidents. They estimate that it will cost between three and nine million dollars for every life saved.
Your safety has always been a priority at Atlantic Car Care. We want you on the road and accident free. We’ve traditionally provided things like tire rotations, snow tire mounting and flat fixes at a very low cost. We’ve been able to quickly and cheaply provide the service, and pass the low cost on to you as an expression of our good will.
That’s why we’re concerned about how you’ll perceive the changes that this new law requires. Every time a tire is changed: taken off to fix a flat, a new tire installed, a snow tire mounted; the Atlantic Car Care service technician is now going to have to deal with the TPMS system.
Even a simple tire rotation will require that the monitor be reprogrammed to the new location of each tire. When a car battery is disconnected, the TPMS system will need to be reprogrammed. TPMS sensor batteries will need to be changed and failed parts replaced.
Like all other Wilmington service centers, here at Atlantic Car Care we’ve had to purchase new scanning equipment to work with the TPMS sensors and to update expensive tire change equipment to better service wheels equipped with the new monitoring systems. Our Atlantic Car Care service technicians have been thoroughly trained on many systems and new tire-changing techniques. All of this adds up to significantly increased cost to perform what was once a very inexpensive service for you.
So when you start so see the cost of tire changes, flat repairs and rotations going up at Atlantic Car Care, please keep in mind that it’s because of government mandated safety equipment. We want to keep you safely on the road – and we’re committed to doing it at a fair price. This new safety equipment will help you avoid the most common types of vehicle failure in Wilmington, and possibly a catastrophic accident.
Many Wilmington drivers have been hearing about technological advances in power steering, specifically, electric power steering. Some very high-end cars have been featuring electric power steering for a few years now. An electric motor directly provides the power assist to make steering easier. Undoubtedly we’ll see much more of this in Wilmington as full electric cars and electric hybrids become more common.
The vast majority of cars and trucks serviced at Atlantic Car Care in Wilmington use a hydraulic power boost system. With hydraulics, fluid is pressurized by a pump which actuates a hydraulic cylinder to reduce steering effort. Some of these pumps are powered by an electric motor. Most pumps are powered by the serpentine belt driven by the engine.
Power steering fluid has the necessary hydraulic properties and the ability to lubricate the internal parts. The power steering fluid also protects sedans components from rust and corrosion. Wilmington car owners should be aware that manufacturers recommend that the fluid be replaced on schedule. At Atlantic Car Care, the old fluid is drained and the system cleaned thoroughly. Fresh fluid is then installed.
Unfortunately, many Wilmington drivers don’t realize how critical it is to service their power steering, and some may not even know that it’s necessary in the first place. A neglected power steering system can develop leaks that will shorten the life of the pump.
Wilmington drivers should be aware of warnings that indicate possible power steering problems: the need to constantly add power steering fluid, a loud whining from the pump, erratic power assist or high steering effort. If you’re experiencing any of these problems, have your power steering checked out at Atlantic Car Care in Wilmington.
In addition to the pump and hydraulic system, there are mechanical parts in the steering system. The rods, arms, joints and knuckles that actually turn the wheels can become worn or damaged. A standard alignment service at Wilmington includes an inspection of steering components.
If you notice any play in the steering wheel, that the steering wheel is off center, or a noise coming from your front wheels, especially when turning, have your Atlantic Car Care advisor do an inspection so the problem can be corrected. Waiting too long could cause uneven tire wear and may even lead to steering failure. Call Atlantic Car Care today at 9107941390.
Hello, welcome to Atlantic Car Care. Today’s focus is batteries. It seems like everything in Wilmington runs on batteries. Of course, the batteries we’re most concerned with here at Atlantic Car Care are those in our customer’s vehicles. Just like the batteries in our smoke detectors or TV remote, car batteries wear out and need to be replaced. There are a couple of things Wilmington drivers should know when looking for a new battery.
Look for two measurements that come into play: cold cranking amps and reserve capacity.
Let’s start with cold cranking amps. This can be thought of as the power output used to start a cold sedans engine. The number of cold cranking amps you need depends on your vehicle and where you live in North Carolina, specifically how cold it is. (Many North Carolina motorists have first-hand experience trying to start their car on a cold winter morning.) The two factors are that the colder your sedans’s engine is, the more power it takes to turn the engine over to get it started. It has all that cold, sluggish oil to contend with.
The other factor is that the chemical reaction in the battery that creates electrical energy is less efficient when the temperature dips. At Atlantic Car Care, we consult the table shown below. Let’s say it’s eighty degrees Fahrenheit in Wilmington. At that temperature, 100% of the battery’s power is available. At freezing, only 65% of battery power is available, but it requires 155% as much power to start the engine as it did at eighty degrees.
As you can see from the chart, the colder it gets, more power’s needed, but the available power drops.
Percent of Power Available
So if you live where it’s cold in North Carolina, you need a battery with more cold cranking amps than you do where it’s moderate or hot. The battery that originally came with your sedans was based on averages. At Atlantic Car Care, we like to remind Wilmington motorists that they should always get at least as many cold cranking amps as their manufacturers recommend, but may want to upgrade if they live where it gets real cold.
And the type of engine you have will impact the battery you need: A six-cylinder engine requires more cold cranking amps than a four. An eight cylinder needs even more. And diesel sedanss require more than a gasoline engine with the same number of cylinders.
Now on to reserve capacity: It’s a measurement of the number of minutes of reserve power the battery has at a given load. The number is more important to Wilmington motorists these days because of parasitic drain. Parasitic drain is the battery energy that’s used when the key is off in your sedans. So, the power drawn by the security system, the remote start system, even the power the computers require to maintain their memory.
Reserves are also needed when you make very short trips around Wilmington. You’re not driving long enough for the battery to recover the energy it used to start the engine. So go with the minimum recommended by your manufacturer or Atlantic Car Care and upgrade if you need more.
Talk with us at Atlantic Car Care about your options. If you need more from your battery, a larger, heavy-duty battery may be called for. At Atlantic Car Care in Wilmington, we remind our customers that it’s very important that the new battery fits your sedans: the terminals can’t be touching other parts.
Batteries are a big ticket item for most North Carolina motorists, so the warranty gives piece of mind. There’re two kinds of car battery warranties: pro-rated and free replacement. With the pro-rated, you get a credit for a portion of the battery if it fails during the warranty period. With a free replacement warranty, you get just that, a free replacement. Be sure to ask us at Atlantic Car Care about the warranty so you know what you’re getting.
Which item is most often stolen from vehicles in Wilmington?
Well, if you said stereo – you used to be right. But airbags have now surpassed stereos as the biggest target for theft in Wilmington – approximately 50,000 a year are stolen across the country. New airbags cost about $1,000, but go for $50 to $200 on the black market in Wilmington.
Stolen airbags are making their way back into cars that have been in an accident. Of course, the danger to the consumer of having a stolen airbag installed is that you can never be sure what may have previously affected them and if they will work right when you need them.
Contact Atlantic Car Care for more information about where to get your airbags checked or replaced. Find us at 21 New Bern Street, Wilmington, North Carolina 28403 You can reach us by phone at: 9107941390
There are reports that 1 in 25 airbag replacements are stolen or salvaged airbags – or no airbag is installed at all.
That is definitely one car part you don’t want to take a chance with, so Atlantic Car Care recommends following these guidelines:
Use a reputable collision repair center that employs ASE certified mechanics (we can offer recommendations at Atlantic Car Care).
Inspect the invoice to ensure that the repair shop purchased the airbag from a manufacturer, dealer, or recycler. If you can inspect the airbag prior to installation, it should be packaged in a sealed container from the manufacturer.
You will see the SRS light (Supplemental Restraint System) when you first start your vehicle up. This tells you that the airbag system is activated. If you do not see the SRS light, there is likely a problem with the airbag system.
For more information, contact Mike at Atlantic Car Care by calling 9107941390.
Sometimes we hear people say, “What’s up with all this maintenance stuff? Modern cars just don’t break down.” While it is true that today’s cars and trucks are extremely reliable, they are also becoming increasingly complicated and use more exotic materials than ever before. All that complexity demands higher tolerances for everything. For example, most folks don’t realize how high tech automotive fluids have become. Fluids like, engine oil, transmission fluid, coolant and brake fluid.
Did you know that a modern engine would not run for more than a few months using motor oil formulas from 30 years ago? Today’s automotive fluids contain a much higher percentage of additives to protect your vehicle’s components from premature wear and corrosion. Time and miles march on for all of our cars. Please don’t think we’re using scare tactics to get you to take care of your maintenance – but here are some personal stories from AutoNetTV staff members to emphasize the importance of getting things done when they are due. Names are withheld to avoid embarrassment to those who should know better. Even though they should know better, it usually comes down to real life: time and budget. But they are tales of a stitch in time saves nine.
The first comes from a staffer who bought a used pick-up truck for his son. The oil was clean and all the fluids were topped off. A short time later, the truck overheated on the highway and shut down. The repair shop diagnosed the problem: the radiator pan was corroded and dumped the coolant. Even though the coolant level was correct, it was clear that the coolant had never been exchanged – just topped off from time to time. While this kept the engine cool, all of the anti-corrosion additives had worn out; the coolant became acidic and ate through the radiator pan. The cost: hundred of dollars and four days in the shop. This demonstrates the need to get your coolant exchanged on schedule.
Another story involves the true cost of skipping an annual inspection. Our staffer took his SUV in for the North Carolina safety inspection to renew his registration. At the inspection station, he learned that the law had changed and that his newer rig only required an inspection every two years. He was very happy to save the $45 bucks. The problem was, his rear brake pads were very worn. Two months later, it was bad enough that he could hear the grind – over the radio, DVD player and the kids. He took it in to get the bad news. Both of the rear brake rotors were damaged. The left one could be resurfaced. The right had to be replaced. So saving a few bucks on his safety inspection turned into an extra $500 over what brake pad replacement would have been. Moral of the story: don’t skip your annual inspections. The irony is that many Wilmington service centers would have done a brake inspection for free.
Next: a teenage daughter and a curb. Daddy’s little princess smacked a curb when she turned into a shopping center and popped the tire. The problem came when Dad didn’t get an alignment. The impact was hard enough to ruin the tire – so it was hard enough wreck the alignment. But instead of an alignment after the first tire, Papa ended up buying a second tire a few months later – and then an alignment.
Situation: son and wife with cars from the same manufacturer with essentially the same engine. Our staffer checked the son’s maintenance schedule and saw that it needed a timing belt replacement at 90,000 miles/145,000 km. He had it done – it cost several hundred dollars. His wife’s car had about 60,000 miles/97,000 km, so it should be ok for a while. Right? Wrong. The problem was that the wife had the turbo charged version. Its belt was scheduled for replacement at 60,000 mi/97,000 km. At 63,000 mi./101,000 km, the belt snapped on the interstate. The valves all crashed down into the cylinders at high speed and the entire head was shredded and had to be replaced. The cost: several thousand dollars. Does he wish he had checked the maintenance schedule? You bet he does – every time he passes a big-screen TV.
We’re talking about taking care of little things before they become big things. And when you take care of the little things, your car runs better and is more economical to operate. Remember to save those maintenance records. It’ll show potential buyers that you’ve taken care of your vehicle and it will help you get a better price. Or when you buy a used car, check those records. If there aren’t any, assume that the maintenance hasn’t been done and take it to your Burgaw or Leland service center for an inspection. Take care of unperformed maintenance sooner rather than later.
With high fuel prices in Wilmington North Carolina comes lots of gas saving advice. Some of it, like what you hear on AutoNetTV, is really great. Some is myth. And some is just designed to prey on Wilmington North Carolina people desperate to save some money on gas.
When you get one of those e-mails that’s going 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 or ask your Wilmington North Carolina service advisor at Atlantic Car Care.
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 Wilmington!
So next time you get one of those e-mails, 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.
We’re Atlantic Car Care, give us a call at 9107941390 for good honest advice about your car.
Today’s Atlantic Car Care post focuses on using the proper fluids for your vehicle. Significant advancements in automotive technology have lead to the development of high-tech fluids to keep modern cars operating at peak performance. This is due to both engineering advances and new high-tech materials used to build sedans automotive systems.
A simple example of this is the cooling system. For decades it was primarily made out of iron, steel and rubber hoses. There was one kind of coolant that protected these components from corrosion.
Now cooling system components are made with various metal alloys and plastics. These materials require different additives to protect them from corrosion. Since the materials used vary among sedans vehicle manufacturers, we now have a number of different kinds of coolant.
It’s essential for Heampstead car owners to use the right coolant. If you pour in the wrong kind, it won’t protect the cooling system and may even void the warranty. Check your sedans owner’s manual. Of course, your Atlantic Car Care automotive advisor will know the proper coolant for your vehicle.
Brake fluid is confusing for some Heampstead drivers. Back when we opened Atlantic Car Care 4.5 years ago, most vehicles used Dot 3 brake fluid. Now we have Dot 4 and Dot 5. Some Wilmington people mistakenly think the higher numbers are an upgrade. You know, if 3 is good then 4 must be better. That’s not how it works. They are different formulations to meet the demands of differences in brake systems. Only one of them is designed for your sedans.
Ditto for transmission fluid. For decades there were two basic types of tranny fluid used at Atlantic Car Care: friction modified or not. With the tremendous engineering advances in sedans automatic transmissions, there have been several new types of fluids developed to protect and lubricate them.
Nowhere are the advances in automotive fluids more evident to Heampstead motorists and Atlantic Car Care professionals than in motor oil. Many new weights and formulations have been created to meet the demands of today’s high-tech sedans engine design. Modern engines have more parts and much tighter tolerances. Every year, engines make more power and (thankfully!) get better gas mileage. And along with all the complexity and sophistication, they still have to be durable.
That’s where the new grades of engine oil come in. They have to be formulated to lubricate, protect and clean all of those sedans engine parts, big and little. The oil has to be thin enough to get into little passages, yet resistant to vaporization.
At Atlantic Car Care in Wilmington, we believe that in some ways modern automotive fluids are just as impressive as the new engines. Because weights of oil and types of coolant and transmission fluid are so carefully matched to the vehicle, make sure you always use the proper fluid if you are topping off at home. Check your sedans owner’s manual or ask your Heampstead service technician. The wrong fluid can cause damage to your sedans engine. If you drive a car or truck around North Carolina with 75,000 miles or more, consider high mileage formulations. These fluids contain extra detergent to clean dirtier older engines as well as additives to condition seals and gaskets. That’ll help prevent leaks. Always be sure that the high mileage fluid is the same weight or type of fluid recommended for your sedans.