Is Your Car Ready for Winter?

As fall moves into winter, make sure your vehicle is as prepared for the cold as you are. At Lake City Auto Care, we offer a winter prep check service to make sure your car reliably gets you where you need to go all winter long. Issues that create a minor inconvenience in the summer can be catastrophic and dangerous during the winter months. Read on to find out what systems in your vehicle need attention before the weather gets cold.

Antifreeze and Coolant

If the coolant in your vehicle is over 50% water when the temperature drops below freezing, both your cooling system and the engine can sustain catastrophic damage. Frozen water expands, and the cooling ports in your engine are not able to accommodate expansion. The result will be a cracked engine block and an expensive repair bill.

coolant-expansion-tank

Windshield Washer Fluid

In a blizzard on the highway not having windshield washer fluid can be extremely dangerous. Slush, mud, and snow kicked up from other vehicles can quickly reduce your visibility. When the road conditions are already bad, the last thing you need to worry about is a dirty windshield.

windshield-wipers

Battery Health

In the winter, being stranded in the cold by a dead battery can be serious. Ensuring your battery is healthy enough to start your car in the coldest temperatures is one of the most essential items to check before winter starts.

battery-jumper-cables

Oil Change

Starting your vehicle in the cold puts a lot of stress on the motor. Before the temperatures drop, it is important to have your oil and filter changed to ensure proper lubrication on cold starts. This winterization step will help extend the life of your vehicle by reducing the wear and tear on engine components on cold starts in the seconds before the oil has been disbursed throughout the block.

oil-on-dipstick

Tires

One of the biggest dangers in winter weather driving is lack of traction. Properly inflated snow tires will make your vehicle handle better, accelerate quicker, and brake faster on the slushiest and iciest roads. If you aren’t getting new tires, making sure the tires with the deepest tread are on the rear of the car will keep your vehicle in your lane when going around turns. Additionally, your spare tire should be checked for proper inflation and condition before the snow flies. Getting a flat in the cold without a functional spare can spell disaster.

tire-in-snow

Brakes

An inspection of your rotors, pads, and brake fluid before winter will ensure you can stop quickly and safely while driving on slippery roads. Worn pads are a safety issue on dry summer roads, and this issue is only amplified in the winter. If your pads are worn out or brake fluid is leaking, get your brakes serviced.

brake-disc-service

Let our technicians help

At Lake City Auto Care, we know the importance of properly winterizing your car or truck. Our technicians will look your vehicle over bumper to bumper and make sure you are prepared to safely drive in the worst winter weather conditions we see in Northern Idaho. Give us a call or schedule an appointment at one of our locations today!

6 Common Automotive Electrical Problems

Modern cars have a complex array of electrical systems responsible for everything from starting the engine to powering the radio. Electrical issues are common and have become harder and harder to diagnose as vehicles get more complicated. If you suspect your car or truck is having electrical problems, there are several common areas to check. These are the six most common automotive electrical issues.

Dead Battery or Bad Cables

If your car does not start, the very first thing to check is the battery. A dead or weak battery will be unable to power the starter, leaving you stranded. An easy way to check your battery is to turn on the headlights with the engine off. If the lights are dim or do not come on, your battery may be dead. Corroded or damaged battery cables can cause the same issues as a dead battery. A visual inspection of the terminals and wires can quickly rule this problem out.

dead_battery

Bad Alternator

The alternator converts energy from the engine into electricity to power the electrical components in your vehicle. The alternator is also responsible for keeping the battery charged. A failing alternator can cause issues with every electrical system in your car. You may notice the radio, headlights, or power windows not working correctly. A dead battery can also be an indicator of a failing alternator.

failing_alternator

Failing Starter 

The starter motor is responsible for cranking and starting the engine when you turn the key. If the starter motor has burned out your car will not turn over or start, you may hear a clicking noise when you turn the key, and in some cases, after prolonged attempts, the starter may smoke. A bad starter can be caused by bad wire connections, corrosion, or broken components in the starter motor itself. If you turn the key and the dash lights and headlights come on but the engine doesn’t start, the starter may be to blame. This test can rule out other electrical issues and isolate the problem to the starter motor.

Bad Ground 

The ground strap or wire is an essential component in your vehicle’s electrical system. The ground allows for excess electricity to safely escape from your car or return to its source in the event of a ground fault. A frayed or disconnected grounding wire in any of your vehicle’s electrical systems can cause a range of issues from no start conditions to dim and flickering lights. A bad ground can cause countless issues and is a good place to begin when diagnosing an electrical problem in your car.

Blown Fuse 

If you notice a single component like a tail light or your radio is not working, you may have blown a fuse. A fuse protects components in a circuit by stopping the flow of electricity when too much current passes through it. Fuses are found in a fuse box, which typically contains labeling indicating which fuse belongs to which system. Visual inspection of the fuse will tell you whether or not it is blown. Excessive current will cause the metal band in the fuse to melt, breaking the connection.

blown_fuse

Spark Plug Issues 

If the wires running to your coil packs or sparkplugs are damaged, dirty, or disconnected, the engine in your car will not be getting the spark it needs to run properly. A misfire like this can lead to other issues caused by unburnt fuel, like damage to the catalytic converters. You will also see a check engine light and experience poor performance if your spark plugs are not working.

coilpack_wire

Conclusion

Determining the cause of an electrical issue in your vehicle can be tricky. The system is interconnected, meaning one symptom can indicate a variety of different issues. At Lake City Auto Care, we take the guesswork out of solving electrical problems. Bring your vehicle to one of our three locations and we will diagnose and fix the issue, whether it’s a blown fuse or a faulty alternator. Give us a call or schedule an appointment today!

Why are Oil Changes so Important?

Routine maintenance is a critical part of any vehicle’s life. Vehicle engineers transfer these maintenance needs into a service schedule that appears in your vehicle’s owner’s manual. Major maintenance services are generally referred to as 30/60/90K maintenance because they are done at 30,000-mile intervals. However, there is one service that is necessary much more frequently to keep your vehicle healthy. For most vehicles, oil changes are recommended every 3,000 to 5,000 miles. But why is this service so important to complete? Frequent oil changes with the correct oil help prevent catastrophic engine failure. The importance of an oil change goes beyond fresh oil and a new filter. Oil weight and composition have a direct impact on how well your vehicle is protected. 

Why are oil changes so crucial?

Your engine relies on oil as your body relies on blood. Oil is circulated through the engine, keeping moving parts lubricated and cool. Without it, the friction generated from metal moving against metal would destroy your engine. 

Over time, engine oil breaks down and picks up debris that reduces its ability to lubricate and cool the engine, as well as contribute to power and fuel economy loss.

Regulates Engine Temperature

Engine oil is engineered to be able to help control the temperature of the engine as it operates by absorbing heat. But as oil ages it begins to break down, losing its ability to do so and it may reflect heat causing the engine to heat up to dangerous temperatures. While the cooling system can generally handle the task of keeping the engine cool, oil reaches areas that coolant can’t, thus providing a valuable service. 

Clean oil does a better job of reducing friction than dirty oil, and lower friction between moving engine components leads to less overall heat. 

Restores Engine Power

As oil circulates through the engine it picks up dirt, dust, metal flakes, and other contaminants that have made their way inside the engine. This turns the oil into a mud-like substance often referred to as sludge. The sludge makes it difficult for the pistons to pump up and down, decreasing engine power and reducing your fuel-efficiency. When the oil is changed, sludge is removed from the engine, in turn restoring power and fuel economy. At the same time the oil filter is also replaced, ensuring that oil can properly circulate through the engine.

new_oil_filters

Ensures Proper Lubrication

The most important reason to have your oil changed on time is to ensure proper lubrication of the moving parts inside the engine. Fresh oil is imperative to the operation of the engine, as it prevents harsh metal on metal contact that can cause major damage inside the motor. Neglecting regular oil changes can result in catastrophic engine damage, in some cases resulting in the need for a replacement engine. 

During an oil change, the technicians servicing your vehicle are also able to identify any potential problems that your vehicle may be suffering from, not only regarding issues related to the engine oil but all over the vehicle.

oil_starvation_engine_damage
Oil starvation can cause damage to engine components, and in some cases destroy them.

Does oil type matter?

There are three main oil types available, conventional motor oil, synthetic blend, and full synthetic. There are several key differences between these oil types.

What is synthetic oil?

Full synthetic is a highly refined oil with additives for power and engine cleaning. Synthetic oil has several key benefits.

  1. Much more consistent molecule size than conventional, leading to better lubrication
  2. Fewer impurities present due to the refining process 
  3. Added benefits of engine cleaning and performance-boosting additives
full_synthetic_motul_oil

What is a synthetic blend?

A synthetic blend combines some of the technology and additives of full synthetic oil with less refined mineral oil. Lower cost is the main benefit of a synthetic blend. These oils are cheaper than a full synthetic, but offer benefits you can not get in conventional mineral oil. 

What is conventional mineral oil?

Conventional motor oil is a refined mineral oil that comes out of the ground. It lacks the additives and advanced refinement of fully synthetic and synthetic blend oils but is significantly less expensive.

Do I need synthetic?

It depends entirely on your vehicle. Some require it, while others do not. For vehicles that use conventional oil, the extra cost of synthetic may not be worth the marginal improvements. 

However, it is imperative to use synthetic on vehicles that require it. Not doing so can cause premature wear on engine components that rely on the lubricating qualities synthetic oil provides. 

Oil Weight

Oils will have different ratings on their packaging. These ratings refer to the oil’s viscosity at different temperatures, and are shown as a series of letters and numbers (5W-30, 0W-40). For example, an oil rated as a 5W-30 will flow like a 5-weight oil when it is cold, and a 30-weight oil when it is up to operating temperature. 

Why does having two flow ratings matter? 

Having an oil that with a low viscosity when cold helps protect your engine on startup. If the oil is highly viscous on startup, the moving components of the motor would be at risk for the first few minutes of operation. On the reverse side, the oil needs to have higher viscosity at operating temperature to protect the engine.

Ensuring the correct oil weight is used in your vehicle will protect it in all weather conditions.  

Conclusion

Keeping up with your scheduled maintenance, including oil changes, is the best way to prevent break downs. If you’re looking for a fast and professional oil change in Coeur d’Alene, Rathdrum, or Hayden, bring your vehicle to Lake City Auto Care! We offer complete auto maintenance for all makes and models. Contact us, give us a call or schedule an appointment at one of our three North Idaho repair and service shops today!

What To Do When Your Transmission Is Overheating

Nearly 90% of all preventable transmission catastrophes are due to a lack of attention to and overheating transmission. The important word here is preventable. Yes, this is a serious issue that you need to address immediately but there’s no need to panic. Let’s dive into some of the mechanics of what is going on with your vehicle so that you can hire the most qualified person to address your overheating transmission.

Why is my transmission suddenly overheating?

Unlike oil, transmission fluid does not “burn off” so if you are overheating there is most likely an issue somewhere in your lubrication system that needs to be addressed…but maybe not. The top five main reasons why your transmission could be overheating are:

  1. Hot Weather
  2. Lots of stop & go traffic
  3. Vehicle tow overload (includes getting caught in the snow)
  4. A leak or break somewhere in the transmission lubrication system
  5. Neglect (failure to service at 50K for light driving or 25K for heavy duty & towing)

Older vehicles tend to be more susceptible to overheating/overload. If it happens only once, your problem might be situational (hot weather, stop & go traffic, etc.) but if it happens again you should be very concerned and get help right away. Servicing your transmission on a regular basis is essential for keeping things running smoothly.

What’s happening inside of my car when my transmission is overheating?

Push your palms together and twist your hands back and forth in in opposite directions while increasing the pressure. As you increase the pressure, friction creates heat and it becomes harder to twist. This is what’s going on inside your car’s transmission while you’re driving along. The lubrication system in your transmission is intended to…well, lubricate these areas of friction so that this is never a problem.

When your transmission lubricating fluid is scarce temperatures start to rise. This breaks down the fluid inside your transmission even further creating more friction…but instead of your palms (which are relatively forgiving), pieces of metal are scraping together, seals are breaking and many components are approaching devastation.

What your transmission service indicator means (specifically):

A normal “healthy” lubricated transmission operates at or below 175 degrees; anything higher than this breaks down your transmission fluid. Now, when the light comes on indicating that your transmission is overheating, it means that your vehicle is functioning at 250 degrees, which is considered “extremely high” temperature.

At 270 degrees and above, you have a catastrophic situation on your hands so your car’s manufacturers installed a warning to let you know that you can’t wait any more. At 270 degrees your transmission fluid completely breaks down and your transmission can seize up. This can be disastrous for you physically and financially so the goal is to never get there.

This can be a $50 repair (cost of a professional evaluation) or a $6,000 repair depending on whether you take action now or later. A transmission repair shop will check the codes, check the fluid and determine what needs to be done.

Sometimes when it’s super hot outside, weather conditions will deteriorate) the effectiveness of your lubricant. Your issue could simply be hot weather. Either way, when you fail to take action on your blinking transmission service indicator it’s like having $3000 sitting on the roulette table. The odds are stacked against you so, I inquire — when it comes to the transmission of your vehicle are you a betting man/woman? Let’s hope not.

What to do when your transmission is overheating:

  1. Stop driving immediately and let your transmission cool down.
  2. Make a note of what you were doing, where you are, what’s happening (noises, etc.)
  3. After cooling down, start back up & gingerly continue on your way.

If the temperature rises again (if possible) try reducing the load on your vehicle or have a tow truck take you to a local transmission repair shop. Towing may prevent catastrophic damage and save you hundreds (or thousands) of dollars.

Can I take my car to a mechanic or do I need to see a transmission specialist?

When a shop services transmissions day after day, they get to know how to service them and how to repair them because they replace them many times a day. Most general shops may only see one or two transmissions a month. General shops just can’t be experts because of their lack of experience. It’s like going to see a doctor for an eye exam…sure, they can do it but doesn’t it make more sense to see an eye doctor? 

Sometimes, too, general shops may misdiagnose something as catastrophic, when a much smaller repair or service was all that was needed. Don’t chance it…and why would you, when you can hire people with experience for this very specialized type of work?

If you’re having transmission troubles, the friendly & helpful specialists in our service department can help put your mind at ease. Give us a call or send us a quick message so we can help you navigate your transmission concerns before they become a crisis.