Sonoma County Auto Repair With Sonoma County Values
How do I save on gas?
Use regular gasoline
Unless your vehicle requires premium gasoline, filling up your car with high-octane gas is a waste of money. The premium gas doesn’t boost your gas mileage or performance. If you're not sure what grade works best for your vehicle, your owner's manual will tell you. You can also ask your mechanic what grade to use. Using regular gasoline over high-octane gasoline could save you hundreds of dollars a year.
Don't top off
Don't top off when filling your car's gas tank. Any additional gas is just going to slop around or seep out. Stop pumping at the first indication that your tank is full when the automatic nozzle clicks off.
Tighten up the gas cap
Gas will evaporate from the gas tank if it has an escape. Loose, missing or damaged gas caps cause 147 million gallons of gas to evaporate each year, according to the Car Care Council. So be sure to tighten up that gas cap each time you fuel up your car.
Go for the shade
The hot summer sun that makes the inside of your car feel like a sauna also zaps fuel from your gas tank. So park your car in the shade of a building or tree whenever possible. And buy a good windshield shade. A windshield shade blocks sunlight and helps to keep heat out of the inside of your car.
Use your garage for your car
Got a garage? Clear it out and make room for your car. Parking in your garage will help your car stay warm in winter and cool in summer, and you won't have to depend as much on your gas-guzzling air-conditioning or defroster when you drive.
Pump up your tires
Don't get caught driving on under inflated tires. Under inflated tires wear down more quickly, and they also lower your car's gas mileage. Your car's gas mileage may plummet by as much as 15 percent. Driving on under inflated tires may also reduce the life of your tires by 15 percent or more.
Check your tire pressure once a month
Buy a digital gauge and keep it in your glove box. Compare the pressure in your tires with the recommended pressure listed in your owner's manual and on the placard located in your car door. Then inflate your tires as needed. Be sure to check tire pressure when your tires are cold. A good time is early in the morning after your car's been idle overnight.
Keep your engine in tune
Fixing a car that is out of tune or has failed an emissions test can boost gas mileage by about 4 percent. So be sure to give your car regular tune-ups. You'll also want to watch out for worn spark plugs. A misfiring spark plug can reduce a car's fuel efficiency by as much as 30 percent. Ensure your mechanic checks for them.
Replace air filters
When the engine air filter clogs with dirt, dust and bugs, it causes your engine to work harder and your car becomes less fuel efficient. Replacing a clogged air filter could improve your gas mileage by as much as 10 percent and save you 15 cents a gallon. It's a good idea to have your engine air filter checked at each oil change. The Car Care Council recommends changing your car's air and oil filters every three months or 3,000 miles or as specified in your owner's manual.
Use the right oil
You can improve your vehicle gas mileage by 1 to 2 percent by using the manufacturer's recommended grade of motor oil. Use motor oil with the words "energy conserving" on the API (American Petroleum Institute) performance label. This oil contains additives to lower the friction.
Don't skimp on maintenance
Your car's performance depends on it being properly maintained. The owner's manual of your vehicle will tell you what maintenance is needed and when. If you have any questions, your auto repair shop will be able to show you the recommended maintenance for your car. Follow the car care guidelines outlined in your owner's manual. Not only will they improve efficiency, they will also save you money on costly repairs in the long run.
Do I have to go to the dealership for repairs or scheduled maintenance?
No. In fact there are laws that require the factory to honor your warranty as long as you have proper documentation of the appropriate maintenance being done.
Just have any legitimate mechanic do it, and hold onto your records and receipts. If you have a maintenance schedule book, have the mechanic sign it.
How often should I change my oil?
For maximum protection, most oil companies say to change the oil every 3,000 miles or three to six months regardless of what type of driving you do.
A new engine with little or no wear can probably get by on 7,500 mile oil changes. But as an engine accumulates miles, it dumps more unburned fuel into the crankcase which dilutes the oil. This causes the oil to break down. So if the oil isn't changed often enough, you can end up with accelerated wear and all the engine problems that come with it (loss of performance and fuel economy, and increased emissions and oil consumption).
Regular oil changes as part of preventative maintenance are cheap insurance against engine wear, and will always save you money in the long run if you keep a car for more than three or four years.
What about the oil filter?
To reduce the costs of vehicle ownership and maintenance, many car makers say the oil filter only needs to be replaced at every other oil change. Most mechanics will tell you this is false economy.
The oil filters on most engines today have been downsized to save weight, cost and space. The "standard" quart-sized filter that was once common on most engines, has been replaced by a pint-sized (or smaller) filter. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that a smaller filter has less total filtering capacity. Even so, the little filters should be adequate for a 3,000 mile oil change intervals — but may run out of capacity long before a second oil change at 6,000 or 15,000 miles. Replacing the oil filter every time the oil is changed, therefore, is highly recommended.
Save money on repairs
Automotive technicians are often compared to doctors. This comparison undoubtedly makes some techs smile and others grimace. But in the end, the two professions have a lot in common. It may surprise consumers to find that by choosing these professionals wisely, they can get better care at a better price.
When it comes to choosing a repair shop, many experts praise the virtues of the clean facility, a wall covered with ASE certificates or a coffee pot and some tasty snacks. While these items are important, these four vital questions tell most of the story:
- Will the service advisor or tech take time to listen to your description of the car’s problem?
- Can they explain things to you in laymen’s terms?
- If necessary, will they test-drive the car with you?
- Do they have the knowledge and equipment to diagnose and repair it the first time?
Back to the doctor/technician comparison. Some doctor’s are great diagnosticians. They can pin point a problem when their peers are coming up with empty charts. What’s the difference between that doctor and the people wearing white coats? Possibly his/her knowledge and perhaps equipment, but probably it’s listening skills that sets the really great docs apart from the good ones.
When choosing a professional, the variety that looks after your car or the variety that looks after your body, ask them the four-questions. In effect, audition them. See how the doctor takes care of your flu and how the tech deals with an oil change before visiting with something more serious.
Watch how they handle their time and be aware of how much time is allotted to you. Are they tuned into your problems and asking relevant questions? Are they providing an objective opinion based on information they’ve gathered during your discussion? Can they explain the problem and solution to you in laymen’s terms?
The bottom line is this, time is money. The less time these people are willing to spend with you often multiplies the amount of time needed on the back end. In the case of both the doctor and tech, the extra time spent having to fix you or your car a second or third time not only is expensive, it can be detrimental to the car or patient’s condition.
We only hire the best technicians and service advisors with the ability to handle any situation you have with your vehicle. That’s the reason we have built the reputation of being the most knowledgeable shop in the area.
Summer weather automotive tips
Summer can be tough on cars, especially during high temperatures when heat can destroy batteries and stress the cooling system and tires. As a precaution, these vehicle components should be checked periodically during summer to help avoid breakdowns and car problems, according to the Car Care Council.
Life of your Battery
Excessive heat and overcharging shorten the life of a battery. Heat causes battery fluid to evaporate, which then damages the internal structure of the battery. A malfunctioning component in the charging system, usually the voltage regulator, allows too high a charging rate, which will eventually destroy a battery. To get the most life out of a battery, the council recommends having the electrical system checked to make sure it is charging at the correct rate. If your car’s battery is the type that needs to be topped off, check it often, especially in hot weather and add distilled water if necessary. Keep the top of the battery clean. Dirt can become a conductor, which drains battery power. If corrosion accumulates on battery terminals, it becomes an insulator and inhibits the current flow.
The Cooling System
The cooling system also works harder during hot temperatures to prevent overheating of the engine. To keep the cooling system working effectively, the coolant and distilled water mixture for a vehicle’s radiator should be 50:50. As a reminder, never open a hot radiator cap when checking the coolant level in the reservoir. As a rule of thumb, the coolant should be changed annually on most vehicles. This will keep the cooling system fresh and clean inside, which helps prevent corrosion and assures that the coolant has the proper boiling point and protection.
A pressure test, thermostat test, a cooling fan test and a visual inspection for leaks and corrosion should also be done annually. Hoses and drive belts should be checked for cracks, bulges or frayed edges. The radiator should be kept clean by periodically using a garden hose and a soft brush to carefully remove bugs, dirt and debris.
Tires also need special care in warmer weather as high temperatures put added stress on them. To maximize tire life and safety, check the tire condition and inflation pressure monthly, and have the tires rotated every 6,000 miles. Summer heat will cause the pressure within a tire to rise, therefore, it’s important to check the pressure when tires are cold. The owner’s manual includes the recommended air pressure for your vehicle’s tires.
“It takes very little time and money to make sure your car runs properly during summer, and although breakdowns happen, they can definitely be minimized by taking a few extra preventive maintenance steps,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council.
How Do I prepare for a long trip?
Have your regular maintenance done
A week or so before you leave, have regular maintenance done, like oil and filter change, or routine maintenance. Specifically, ask the shop to check the air filter and change it if necessary. Changing the air filter is an inexpensive way to enhance fuel economy and performance. Also have them check the tires again. If the pressure has gone down since the last check, you may have a leak that can be fixed on the spot.
Have your repair shop check the tire pressure and adjust it if necessary
If the pressure is too low, it can cause a blowout at high speed. Also have them check the tread on the tires for excessive wear. (You can also do this yourself by placing the head of a penny into the tread of the tire. If you can see all of Lincoln's head, you probably need new tires.) Be sure to have your repair shop check to see that the spare tire is inflated and the appropriate tools are available to install it if necessary.
Have the auto repair shop check the coolant
Are you going somewhere with a warmer or colder climate? Let your repair shop know so your mechanic can adjust the mixture of water and antifreeze to ensure the car is protected against temperature extremes.
Buy a road atlas or GPS
If you don’t have a current road atlas, get one. Hours and hours of expressway can get boring. Getting off the beaten path can add an entirely new dimension to your trip.
Clean out your car
The day before you leave, thoroughly wash and vacuum the car. It’s much nicer to have your trip in a clean car.
Make sure your paperwork is in order
Make sure your license, registration and insurance are all current and accessible.
Fill the gas tank
Might as well get it out of the way now. Besides, gas is often more expensive on the road.
Look at what you’ve packed
Open your suitcases and take one last look — do you really need all that stuff? Did you forget anything?
Enjoy your trip!
Should I repair my car or buy a new one?
Something goes wrong with your car and you're faced with a high repair bill. It would be nice to get a new car, but is that the smartest decision? Would you be better off fixing your current ride, or is it really time to buy a new one? The answers to these questions will vary, so let me give you some information that might help you make a more informed decision.
Reasons to fix your current vehicle
If you aren't sure if fixing it is the right thing to do, here are a few reasons why it is a good idea to bite the bullet and get the repairs done.
- It is almost always less expensive to repair a car than buy a new one.
- Although something as severe as a blown motor or failed transmission will run you in the thousands of dollars to replace, it still isn't enough to buy a new car. (It would certainly make a nice down payment, but then there are the monthly payments to consider.)
- Insurance and registration fees will go up with a new car.
- A new car typically loses an estimated 20 percent of its value the moment you drive it off the dealer lot. Your existing car has already taken that depreciation hit
- Repairing it now will keep you on the road and give you more time to save up and get your finances in order.
- You have a sentimental attachment to your car. Maybe it was your first car, a gift from a loved one, or a dream car you finally were able to purchase. For you, buying a new car means giving up an old friend.
Reasons to buy a new car
There are times when it's time to buy that new vehicle. Here are some reasons for it:
- You don't want to worry constantly about future breakdowns. Your mechanic told you to expect more things to go wrong with your vehicle.
- You're tired of the back-and-forth to the repair shop. Some things are fixed the first time around, while others seem to need constant attention or do not get fixed right the first time. Either way, trips to the mechanic are costing you too much time away from work or family, in addition to money.
- You're tired of your old car. Perhaps it embarrasses you, it rattles like crazy or you have to bang on the A/C to get it working. Every morning when you walk outside and see the neighbor's car, you long for something new. That's perfectly normal. Just take a good look at your budget and make an honest assessment of your financial situation.
- You want something safer. Your car is old enough where it's simply not safe to drive.
When is it time to buy another car?
A good rule of thumb to estimate when it's time to throw in the towel, is if the cost of repairs is greater than either the value of the vehicle or one year's worth of monthly payments and increased insurance payments.
Get an honest estimate
The only way to make an accurate decision, is to know what to expect. Ask your mechanic to fully inspect the vehicle and let you know what it really needs to run like new.
Is my car safe to drive?
This is a very important question. There are several things that could make a vehicle unsafe to drive as well as things that could damage it more if it were driven. The best thing to do if there is any question in your mind is:
Call your auto repair shop
Your mechanic will be able to assess the situation enough to let you know if it's safe for you to drive or if it needs to be towed.
Don't under any circumstance drive an unsafe vehicle!
If there is any question on the safety of your vehicle, we will help you arrange to get it towed to our shop.
Winter weather automotive tips
When winter is upon us, there are some tips that can help you prepare for the changes in the weather that can surprise any of us. Taking some basic actions to be prepared will make it easier for you to be ready for whatever Mother Nature throws at us.
When using your heating system, there are some tips to help keep you warm and your windows clear. When using your defroster, make sure you are using the fresh air from the outside of the car. Have you ever seen someone driving down the road and all the windows are fogged up? The reason is the car is using the inside air in the car and the system can't get rid of the moisture in the air. And that's why the windows fog up. Also, using the air conditioning in this mode helps too since one of the things the A/C system does is remove the moisture from the air and with the heat on you will keep the inside of the car warm. In fact some of the newer cars automatically turn on the A/C and use fresh air in defrost mode. If you don't know about your vehicle, look in your owner's manual, or just drop by and we will be glad to show you how it works.
Your wipers are also key to keeping your windows clean. Making sure you have the proper washer fluid that is ready for the cold weather will also help you do this. Having a snow brush in the car with an ice scraper will keep you prepared for whatever happens.
Keeping your tires inflated properly and make sure you have good tread will help you with traction and control. A lot of the newer cars have great things like anti-lock brakes and traction control which help with the bad weather. But these systems work much better when you have the most grip you can with good tires.
All of these things mentioned above are checked every time we service your vehicle because we want you to be safe while driving, especially during this time of year. If you would like to stop by we would be glad to check these things for you