Prepping Your Car For The Upcoming Winter With Jammin’ J Auto
Winter can be an extremely testing time for cars and drivers alike. A lot of common winter-specific problems, such as frozen doors, dead batteries, corrosion caused by increased humidity, lower air pressure in your tires, unresponsive spark plugs, etc., are forgotten about throughout the rest of the year.
Therefore, preparing your car in advance for the winter months can save you money and a great deal of grief. Thankfully, here at Jammin’ J Auto, St. Louis’ premiere Auto Suspension & Power Steering repair shop, we can take care of your vehicle’s pre-winter tune-up and save you money at the same time.
Our team of expert techs can take a quick look at your car, and in a matter of minutes come up with a list of issues that, if taken care of in advance of the winter months, will make your life easier.
By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail, so take a look at the list below and prep your car for this upcoming winter.
Knowing how your car’s exhaust system works can actually help you attain maximum performance while helping to maintain your vehicle in top shape over the years.
So, let’s talk about what an exhaust system is, what it does, and how an exhaust tune-up from a professional repair shop can save you money down the line.
First Things First - What Is Exhaust?
The exhaust system is a crucial element of your car’s overall performance. Your car’s exhaust system is the set of components that allow the engine’s combustion byproduct gases to be funneled outwards and vented into the environment. The exhaust system is particularly important to your vehicle’s operation for two reasons:
If the byproduct of the engine’s combustion reaction is vented quickly, the engine gains more power because the cylinders clear out more efficiently after each combustion cycle. However, if improperly tuned, this can lead to overheating and a higher rate of fuel consumption. If the engine’s combustion byproducts are not vented properly, there won’t be sufficient room for fresh air to mix with the gas and the engine will lose power as well as fuel efficiency
No matter what season it is now, if you live in St. Louis we all know it is cold one day, hot the next and if it isn’t leaves, it is flowers or gumballs – always something falling on your vehicle. I wanted to touch base with you on a problem we see that can damage vehicles that no one really spends much time thinking about.
All of our vehicles are designed with paths for the water from rain to flow from the top of your car, through the gaps and down, to the bottom of your car. These gaps are specially designed to do this and they are very important in keeping your engine and all the very costly electronics from getting soaked every time it rains! So look at your trunk next time you walk by your car and look where water would go if it goes in the gap at the front of the trunk lid and you will see a channel that guides the water down each side of the trunk opening and out the bottom usually around the tail lights. Is there debris there? Sometimes we find a small collection of leaves, or blooms from your trees, or even pine needles. If the answer is yes, take a minute and remove the leaf and tree dropping sludge before it clogs the pathway and backs up into your trunk.
There are also drains under your hood that direct the water that come down the windshield through some plastic screens and usually out the lower front fender. These screens we usually see clogged up especially in the fall when the leaves are coming down but also in the spring and summer when we see other debris falling from trees or animals that live in the trees above our vehicles.
It is indisputable that the brake system is one of the most critical safety systems, if not the most important, of all of the integral systems in a motor vehicle. Brakes are essential to user integrity and safety and are the primary means of protection that we have on the road when we go behind the wheel of a car.
The brake system helps us to slow down and stop the vehicle. Therefore, the brake system has to work effectively and efficiently. Its operation must be precise, and its maintenance must be prioritized above all things. Otherwise, we run the risk of experiencing premature deterioration of the system, and we run the risk of getting into a potentially life-threatening accident. For the brake system to always work correctly, it is necessary to keep all of its components in perfect condition. In fact, with each braking, heat and friction cause the components to suffer from wear and tear. As such, in order to not impair the proper functioning of the system as a whole, at some point, the discs and brakes must be replaced altogether.
Drums and Discs There are two primary types of brake systems: Drum and Disc.Drum Brakes: Drum brakes are located on the wheel itself and, for the most part, found on vehicles from the '60s and 70s, since the more efficient disc system replaced them. However, plenty of cars on the road still use Drum brake technology. The main problem with drum brake systems is that they have a rather reduced cooling capacity. In other words, they can quickly overheat. Additionally, their maintenance and assembly are far more complex than in the case of disc brakes. Drum brake systems provide great braking power. It requires less effort on the pedal, but it implies a greater risk of locking, despite their high efficiency. Drum systems are very durable; however, it is recommended that they are serviced regularly.
Disc Brakes: Brake systems that utilize disc components can be mounted on the interior or exterior of the wheels. They can also be placed on any axle shaft and have a smaller friction surface; this provides them with a more efficient cooling capacity than drum-based systems. Disc brakes possess a more gradual braking speed, which makes them more effective overall. However, disc brakes erode far more quickly than drum brakes and are very sensitive to moisture and grime. As a result, disc brakes are more susceptible to deformations, cracking, and rust. It is extremely important that disc brakes are serviced regularly, and in comparison, to drum brakes, disc brake pads need to be replaced more frequently.
So, if you notice that your brakes are making a weird noise, or you feel a distinct pulse when you brake, swing on by Jammin' J Auto & Tire to get a detailed analysis and professional service.
Let's talk about air conditioning. Most of us in St. Louis don't give our air conditioning a second thought as long as it works when we turn it on. But it's a complex and expensive system that we should spend time thinking about before it starts blowing hot air. The air conditioning system in your vehicle performs four basic functions: cooling, dehumidifying, cleaning and circulation of the air in the vehicle. As the refrigerant goes through all of the four phases of compression, condensation, expansion, and vaporization it goes through its own changes. During the condensation phase, heat transfers out of it and into the surrounding air and it expands, then when it evaporates, it absorbs heat to cool the air in the surrounding area. As the refrigerant runs through all of the phases of the cycle, it goes from liquid to vapor and then back to liquid and so on.
The main parts of the system are the refrigerant, the compressor, a condenser, an evaporator, a receiver-drier, blower and some switches and valves and an array of cooling lines and hoses. The compressor normally has some sort of magnetic clutch as well. The compressor in an AC system has special oil that is used to lubricate the compressor and the entire system. It actually mixes with the refrigerant and travels through the whole cycle to keep everything running. You may hear some of these parts named when you bring a vehicle in for AC service. If this oil leaks out with your refrigerant, your air conditioner may still make cold air, but the parts don't have enough oil to protect them and they wear out faster than they should or things may start to clog up the tiny areas that the vapor has to travel. So it's important to service the air conditioner as recommended by your service center. Even with regular service, A/C parts can just wear out. Normal wear and tear eventually gets to all moving parts. Addressing early problems can save on more extensive repairs down the road. For instance, a common failure is the clutch that turns the compressor on and off. If you can take care of a bad AC Clutch when it first starts having problems, you may be able to save the compressor. Wait too long and you'll have to replace both.
Sometimes, when you first use the system at the beginning of the warm months, you may notice right away that things do not seem cool; but air is blowing, so it is hard to know for sure what is going on. Bring your vehicle to us and we will visually inspect the system for leaks and/or damaged parts, then fill the system with fresh refrigerant mixed with a dye that shows under ultraviolet light. The dye will mark any connections that might have suffered damage and are leaking and we can pinpoint the problem with greater accuracy to facilitate the best solution moving forward. Give our service advisor at Jammin' J Automotive a call for recommendations or to schedule an AC inspection, especially if you are hearing strange sounds when your air conditioning turns on, or even if it just isn't as cold as it used to be.
Let me start off by telling you the old way of replacing Transmission Fluid and then the new…
We used to and sometimes still do (for leaking pan gasket) a transmission filter and pan drop. We take the oil pan off the unit and replace the filter and then put it back together including a new gasket for the pan. The problem is that you usually only get 3 or 4 quarts of the old fluid out and some transmissions can hold 15 or more so you were not replacing the majority of the fluid.
Today we do a full Transmission Fluid Exchange or commonly known as a Transmission Flush. 1st a chemical cleaner known as BG Quick Clean that dissolves the varnishes that get baked onto transmission parts is poured in and driven to get the heat activated cleaner working. Then a Fluid Exchange machine (pictured below) is hooked up to the transmission cooler lines. This machine is literally like a dialysis machine for humans, it removes the old fluid while cycling in the new, it also cycles through 16 quarts as an over flush to make sure all of the cleaning fluid is removed.
Why is this important? Transmission fluid, just like motor oil, breaks down; the fluid is subject to very high heat which wears it out. As worn fluid is pumped through the unit, parts wear quicker especially the clutch disc (pictured below). If you notice in the picture there is a steel disc and a friction disc stacked every other one. The friction material, which is designed to slip and not slip at certain times, relies on this transmission fluid being clean. When you allow that fluid to go too long without ever having an exchange, the debris in the fluid will literally wear the friction material off the friction disc. Then if you do the flush too late, you replace the gritty old fluid with clean new fluid and then the car will not move because all the friction material went out with the old fluid.
The solution, is to not wait too long, have the Transmission Fluid exchanged every 36 - 50,000 miles. This service includes…
The big debate on oil changes is how often do I change my oil: 3,000 miles? 5,000 miles? 7,500 miles or even more? Back in the day the recommended mileage interval was every 3,000 miles and/or 3 months. Today vehicle manufacturers are pushing back the intervals to 5K and some are going as far as 10K with the advertisement of vehicles with low maintenance costs. But, is it really OK for the engine to go that long without the oil being changed?
As the engine runs and burns fuel it produces carbon, acids and water. These wastes when blended with the oil form sludge. Sludge buildup can get so bad that it will start to restrict the flow of oil and even clog the oil passages, which in turn can starve the engine of oil lubrication. This can be made worse by lots of short trips where the engine temperature does not get hot enough to evaporate the humidity that builds up inside the engine. Engine damage may range from a noisy start up to broken timing belts and even engines locking up and becoming boat anchors.
As oil breaks down it loses its viscosity (becomes thinner) and your engine is designed to run at a specific viscosity and the longer you run the oil the more it breaks down. So back to what the manufacturers recommend; understand that their goal is to get your vehicle out of the warranty period and they are confident that your engine will survive several 7,500 mile oil changes during the warranty period. After that your engine is fixed on your dollar, not theirs.
Below are pictures of a customer’s engine that was in for an oil leak. We found that the oil was having such a hard time returning to the oil pan because of sludge buildup that it was building up in the valve cover and eventually caused an oil leak because it had nowhere to go. This is the type of sludge problems that come from not changing the oil on a regular basis!
The more often you change your oil the better, here at Jammin J Automotive we recommend 3,000 mile or 3 months whichever comes first. We also recommend and use a product known as BG Motor Oil Additive (MOA) which is a cleaner and friction reducer. The MOA impregnates the engine components at the molecular level and helps extend the life of the oil. With MOA we recommend 5,000 miles or 4 months. Once again, the more you change your oil the better. Our commitment to you and your vehicle is for the life of the vehicle, not just the warranty period.
Brake fluid attracts moisture, over time moisture creeps into the brake hydraulic system and can cause serious problems (especially on today's cars with anti-lock brakes). What happens is the moisture gets into the system and not only causes rust and corrosion in the lines, but it can also reduce the boiling point of the brake fluid and this can cause the fluid to boil inside the caliper causing brake fade.
We had a customer come in for the typical brake job (pads & rotors) and upon the test drive the vehicle pulled to the left and we could tell that something was not right. After checking the calipers for sticking in their slides we eventually found contamination in the brake hydraulic system. When the caliper pistons pushed back in, it literally stirred up the dirt and sediment inside the caliper which kept the pistons from moving freely. The pictures below is of the inside of the brake system and the piston, showing the debris that had accumulated inside the lines causing the problem.
Another repair we make on a regular basis is the replacement of steel brake lines, some of which are rusted and broken from the inside. A brake fluid flush keeps new fluid in the system and greatly decreases the lines from rusting from within and removes debris.
On this picture, you are seeing a rubber plug that has been crammed into the side wall of a tire. There is so many things wrong with this that I don’t know where to start, but I’ll attempt to hit the high (or low) points.
#1 At Jammin’ J Automotive, we will not install a plug on a passenger car tire, it's not a good fix for any tire! (A tire plug is a very tough piece of rubber, coated with glue, and stuffed into the tire injury and everyone just hopes it will hold)
We have had customers come in wanting us to do what we call a pad slap. A pad slap is when you just put new brake pads on and do nothing to resurface the rotor surface. When I get asked to do a pad slap I always hear my Automotive Tech School instructor’s voice in my head saying “Never, never, never put new pads on an old rotor surface!” While a pad slap is, in theory, cheap and fast, you are doing your car and yourself wrong.
A used rotor surface has a mirror like finish that you won’t see on a new rotor. When you put new pads on an old glazed rotor you are messing with the friction coefficient that is designed to stop the car in all situations.Sometimes customers come in and their brake pads look great as far as thickness, but they are saying that they have a vibration when braking, especially on the highway. What has happened is the brake rotor over time has been exposed to excessive heat and cold, which causes the rotor to warp and they are feeling this as a shake/vibration when braking. Rotors must either be replaced or machined when pads are replaced.
We first measure the old rotors to make sure there is enough material to be machined (cut) off so that the rotor does not go below the minimum thickness specification. At Jammin J Automotive we have a Procut On Car Brake Lathe, which will do what is called Machine Matching of the brake rotors. The Procut Machine machines the rotor while still on the vehicle and literally matches it to the wheel bearing and hub; the result is a beautiful new braking surface which is balanced to the vehicles rotating parts associated with that wheel’s braking system which equals safe and very smooth braking. When we purchased the machine we were told by the technician that even new rotors should be machined and we thought he was crazy. After measuring and testing new rotors over the course of several weeks, we were shocked at how many needed resurfacing (all of them!) to correct for inconsistencies in the rotor’s surface and now we Machine Match all new and existing brake rotors to ensure the best braking performance possible on every brake service we perform. To view what this process actually looks like, click here to view a video.
Here are some pictures of a customer's rotors who wanted just pads only, showing both sides of the rotor. While the side of the rotor that was visible through the wheel doesn’t look so bad, the back side clearly has extensive rust and very severe grooves that are just too deep to machine out of the rotor.
Today I would like to talk about Cadillac Converters, or Catalytic Converters! A Catalytic Converter is an emissions control device that runs the pollutants from the internal combustion of your engine through a honey comb which contains Platinum that converts these emissions byproducts into less toxic substances before being released as exhaust.
It is a common belief that to fix today's cars you simply pull the code out of the vehicle’s onboard diagnostic system, (OBD II) look the code up on the internet, and replace that part. With some parts, you may get lucky and this may work.However, the concern with converters is that you must find what caused the converter to go bad or you will be doing the job again. Catalytic Converters are designed to last the lifetime of your vehicle.If you have been told that you need a new one, there is a good chance that it is a symptom of another problem with your vehicle.Yes, occasionally a truly faulty converter will go bad on its own, but it is unlikely.Only by fully diagnosing your vehicle’s engine can a repair shop know what has caused the converter to fail. Converters have platinum in them which makes them very expensive so you want to get it right the first time.
The attached pictures show the inlet and outlet of a converter, please note that the one that is clogged up is the inlet. In this case this vehicle has a leaking intake manifold which was allowing antifreeze to go through the engine into the exhaust and then through the converter. When the O2 sensors began to see a drop in the converter’s efficiency, the Check Engine Light was activated. The proper fix was an intake manifold gasket, converter, and to replace all O2 sensors. If the Leaking Intake had not been properly diagnosed, the vehicle would have been back for another converter in a matter of months. The cost of a proper diagnosis can prevent much more costly repairs in the future and help assure that your repair is correct the first time.
Yes I'm sorry to say it came off my car!
I have an old 1969 Mach 1 Mustang that talks to me in my sleep, it says things like… “pssssst - the kids don’t need braces, I need a new performance radiator” or “buy me the latest Ricky Racer go fast part don’t worry about the kids needing school supplies, it's OK. “
Well, as you can imagine, the car sits for most of the time and when we do get her out it’s usually for a quick cruise through the park and back into the garage. Now, I knew it needed front tires, I knew they were in bad shape, and I knew this because I drove it knowing that it needed to be aligned. Driving it while out of alignment caused the tires to wear on the inside edges. I did not know that one of the tires was coming apart, until I heard the thumping noise and it was too late.
There are 3 alignment angles; I will explain the 2 that are usually adjustable on most cars on the road today; Toe and Camber. Toe is the pointing in (or out) of the front of the tire, just like pointing your toes in towards each other or out and Camber is the tilting of the top of the tire in or out. If you look at the picture the right edge of the tire is bald, this is (unfortunately) a great example of a camber issue. The tire was literally rolling while leaning on its edge and it caused one side of the tread to wear while the other side did not see much wear. Later, as the steel belts started to show the tire started to come apart on the inside, which can be seen in the picture by looking for the bulge that runs through the tire.
We see uneven tire wear quite frequently while servicing vehicles for our customers. Any time you see uneven tire wear, there is a reason. It could be loose, bent or broken suspension parts, or just out of alignment. Either way once the tires start to wear there is no way to stop them. Some of the best ways to prevent this are to rotate your tires regularly and have the suspension inspected to catch any problems early and to get an alignment when you get new tires and/or new suspension parts. At Jammin’ J Automotive, we include free tire rotation when you purchase new tires from us. Also, we keep track of your vehicle history and will partner with you to help you to remember to do the things that need to be done regularly to keep your tires in good working condition as long as possible. When buying new tires, ask about an alignment, it is a small investment to lengthen the life of your tires.
How do I know what my recommended tire pressure should be?
If you are unsure what your tire pressure should be – rest easy – you are not alone. It is a subject that many people are unsure about. With recommendations coming from all directions, including well-meaning family members, it is hard sometimes to know exactly what to do.
Tire Manufacturers & Distributors and Vehicle Manufacturers all agree – use the Vehicle Manufacturers recommendation. Today’s vehicles have been designed by some amazingly smart engineers and they don’t put just any tire on any car and they take the tire’s pressure very seriously when building the systems on your vehicle. All parts of the system and the computer in your vehicle that monitors the system all are built to accommodate a specific pressure. They take in to account many factors, including fuel economy, load capacity of the vehicle, safety of dry and wet conditions, among others. Running your tires at the wrong pressure can affect the performance of your vehicle in many different ways, shorten the life of your tires and in extreme situations can even cause unsafe driving conditions for your family by affecting your anti-lock braking systems and other safety features
“So, now that I know I’m supposed to go by the Vehicle Manufacturer’s recommended pressure, how do I find it?” Great question! There is a sticker in the door frame of your vehicle on the driver’s side that will list many important bits of information. I have attached several samples with arrows to indicate the tire pressure information as a sample. If you go to your door frame and your sticker is illegible, gone, or just too hard to figure out, then give me a call and I will be happy to look up the information for you!
Recently we had a customer call on the phone requesting a quote to put an EGR Valve on his car. When someone calls our shop with a specific quote request like that, my first question is always, "why do you think it needs an EGR Valve?" He said what many customers say, "My Check Engine Light is on and I got a diagnostic from the local Retail Auto Parts Store and they said that is what I need." We all see the ads on TV that all you do to fix a car is plug a code reader into the car, read the code, look up the code on the internet, and replace the part that goes with that code! Unfortunately for a lot of consumers, it just isn't that easy.
In this case the car had a P0401 insufficient flow code which means that the problem is in the EGR system not necessarily the EGR Valve, yes it could need an EGR Valve but it's no guarantee that a new valve will fix it. Please understand, it could be the vacuum lines have a leak, the EGR Valve Solenoid may not be getting the electrical current, OR the ports to the EGR Valve could be clogged? Basically, the code gives us hints where to start looking for the problem by telling us what symptoms the car has. There are a lot more steps to the proper diagnosis of your engine troubles than just plugging in the code reader and replacing parts.
We have seen over and over where a customer has gotten the parts store diagnostic and after spending hundreds of dollars on parts alone, finally bring the vehicle to us to figure out what is really needed to fix the vehicle and keep that Check Engine Light off! If you are just swapping parts, you are shooting at a moving target with a blind fold on! Sure, it sounds convenient and easy to have someone diagnose your car in the parking lot of the Parts Store for free, but it isn't necessarily going to fix the real problem that your engine is experiencing. Skilled Technicians not only know how to use a code reader, but they also have gone through specific diagnostic training to know how to pinpoint the real problem without just switching all the parts until they get the right one. Don't be afraid to call our shop and ask us to just take a look at your vehicle to diagnose the real problem. Diagnostic fees may seem like an extra charge, but if it prevents replacing the wrong part(s), it is totally worth it. Having your car diagnosed in the parking lot of the Auto Parts Store is a lot like asking the cashier at your local pharmacy to look at your rash and recommend the correct remedy when you really should be going to the Doctor.
Technical Stuff: EGR stands for Exhaust Gas Recirculation, what they are doing is recirculating exhaust gas back through the engine for emission control purposes. Because we are recirculating air with a high carbon content the passages to the valve can and do what we call carbon up, see attached picture. In this case we needed to take the passages apart and clean them out and on some vehicles this can take hours to get to all the ports.
Induction What? Induction Flush, Induction Cleaning
Back in the golden oldie days of Carburetors (the 80's) the cleanliness of the air and fuel delivery system was important! Today with precision Multi-port fuel injection it has become imperative that we keep the Induction system clean.
As we drive and burn fossil fuels (dead dinosaurs) they leave behind carbon: black, restricting, choking, carbon. The fuel injection system on your car can easily start under-performing in as little as 24,000 miles. By running BG fuel induction cleaner through engines we can clean and remove carbon deposits.
This brake rotor is toast! Please observe the 1/4 inch ledge on the outer edge of this brake rotor, it's not supposed to be there. This car came in for a flat repair only. When we alerted the customer and showed them just how dangerous these brakes were, they claimed to have heard no noise when braking or experienced any other symptoms. These brake pads were gone, meaning that the brake pad backing plate was and has been grinding into the rotor for quite some time which HAD to make a grinding sound. This is not only a costly situation but also potentially a dangerous one as well.
Vehicle Manufacturers employ teams of very smart engineers to design and build the brakes for your car and they have in mind that the vehicle must stop in the shortest distance possible. Any time we change the friction coefficient (use the wrong equipment or let our brake pads wear off completely) we increase the stopping distance which means that in a panic stop it could mean the difference of just stopping short of the vehicle (or kid in the street) in front of you or plowing into it.
I recently read a magazine article that said it should be illegal to put cheapo brakes on a car, they should be of the OEM (original equipment manufacturer) equivalent or better. Brakes are the #1 safety item on a vehicle in my opinion! Here at Tire Brokers we ALWAYS do them right, we use the best brake pads we can find and we always inspect your rotors and recommend replacement wth your safety in mind. This ensures the vehicle stops the way the engineers designed it to as well as you will get quality brakes that will last. It is great when we can save someone money, but NEVER at the expense of safety. Always know what the difference is when getting pricing on brakes. All brake parts are NOT the same. You and your family's safety is never worth taking a gamble on inferior parts.
Check out the list of services we offer! http://tirebrokers.net/service.html
One belt snap can cost you big!
Your engine has an internal timing belt that synchronizes your camshaft(s) with the crankshaft and on some engines it can cause devastating engine damage if it breaks. Some engines are called interference engines (7 out of 10 vehicles on the road) which means that the valves in the cylinder head will "interfere" with the piston if not synchronized correctly. In layman's terms it means this… if the belt breaks the piston keeps moving and the valve stops and they crunch into each other.
This can commonly cause upwards of $2,000 to repair, so we recommend replacing your timing belt at the manufacturer recommended intervals which is usually somewhere between 60,000 to 100,000 miles.
The photos you see here are of a 2004 Chevrolet Aveo that had a belt break which caused it to bend the valves. The total cost to repair, $2,369.00. The second picture is of a timing belt from another vehicle that quite frankly we couldn't believe the engine was still running and hadn't snapped already! Typically when we to a timing belt replacement the belt that we replace does not look this bad, you just never know when it will break.
Has this car been dredged up from a moss filled lake? No, in this case a rodent has made a nest around and on top of the vehicle's battery.
The problem with this is that they can cause a terrible odor in the car as well as chew though wires, hoses, and insulation and can wreak havoc on how the car drives and performs.
In this case this car is driven to the country and left to sit for weeks at a time, giving our furry friends a chance to set up a nice home.
Believe it or not we see this a lot even in our little corner of Suburbia. Vehicles make great places for a nest or even a place to hide food.
Moving your vehicle every few days may seem like an inconvenience, but it can possibly save you hundreds of dollars by preventing would be nest builders from moving in.