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Strutting Your Stuff (Shocks and Struts)

Ever wonder how your vehicle is able to move over bumps, potholes and other irregularities in the road and you hardly feel a vibration in the cabin? It’s your shocks and struts doing the hard work along with the rest of your suspension and tires.  They keep the ride smooth and are important for your vehicle’s safe operation. 

So, how do you know when your shocks and struts are wearing out? One way is to look at the surface of your tire (where the rubber meets the road—where the tread is).  You might see some little indentations in certain spots, known as tire cupping.  If your vehicle takes longer to stop than it used to, takes a dive when you hit the brake pedal or bottoms out (scrapes) on a big bump in the road, that’s another sign, as are loud, odd noises.

You may also notice your vehicle sways more than it used to. Every once in a while, look around at your shocks to see what shape things are in.  If you see the rubber cover cracked or worn out or see a fluid outside your shocks, those are signs to bring your vehicle in to us so we can see what’s going on. 

Since shocks and struts contribute to the safe operation of your vehicle, this service is important. Shocks and struts are what help your tires stay in close contact with the road and help stabilize your vehicle. They also help electronic safety systems work properly, including anti-lock braking, stability control, and collision avoidance.  Bad shocks and struts are just going to get worse with time.

It's best to have regular maintenance done before anything goes wrong with your struts and shocks.  Your vehicle’s manufacturer has guidelines for how long those intervals are.  If you do start to see some of the warning signs, head on over so we can evaluate any problems.  We’ll replace the parts your vehicle needs and have you strutting your stuff once again.

West Service Center
904 Cavalier Blvd
Chesapeake, Virginia 23323
757-487-4420
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A Bright Spark (Ignition Coil Replacement)

Ever wonder how your vehicle’s engine is able to take the 12-volts from its battery and ramp that up to as high as the tens of thousands of volts it takes to fire its spark plugs? The secret is something called an ignition coil.  Most newer vehicles have an ignition coil at each cylinder, but older ones have a coil that serves all of the spark plugs. 

There are telltale signs that you have an ignition coil problem.  As you might expect, one symptom is it’s hard to start your engine or it won’t start at all.  If your engine is misfiring or not running smoothly or you see the Check Engine light come on, those all could point to an ignition coil failure.

Several things can contribute to ignition coil trouble in addition to normal wear and tear. Moisture and dirt may have gotten inside the coil, plus the heat and vibration of your engine over time can contribute to them going bad.  Bad spark plugs or plug wires can also be a cause.  

While ignition coils can last 100,000 miles/160,000 km, depending on how you drive and in what conditions.  If you start noticing some of the signs and symptoms just described, it’s a good idea to schedule a visit to see us so a technician can diagnose what’s wrong. Driving too long with an engine misfiring can damage your catalytic converter, and that can be expensive to replace.

A technician will thoroughly check your ignition system and determine where the failure is.  If it’s only one coil that’s bad, it may be the only thing that will need replacing.  If your vehicle has a distributor, it may also need to be replaced.  Properly-working ignition coils will help your vehicle operate at its best and help prevent future engine damage.

West Service Center
904 Cavalier Blvd
Chesapeake, Virginia 23323
757-487-4420
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Full Stop (Brake Master Cylinder Replacement)

When you step on your brake pedal, you want to feel confident that your vehicle’s going to stop.  If your brakes aren’t working right, it’s a risk to your safety and the safety of others on the road.  After all, you’re driving a machine that weighs thousands of pounds, and you have to be able to stop that big machine quickly and with control, especially with some of the speeds you travel on the highways. 

The heart of your vehicle’s brake system is the master cylinder.  When you apply the brakes, the master cylinder has pistons, springs, and brake fluid.  That fluid amplifies and distributes the force of your foot through brake lines to calipers at all your wheels.  Those calipers squeeze down on rotors or discs, which is what slows down and stops your vehicle.

For safety, a master cylinder has two cylinders, one for two wheels, and the other for the remaining two wheels.  That way, if there is a failure in one, you’ll still have braking power at half your wheels.

The master cylinder doesn’t last forever, of course, and here are some signs it may have problems.  When you press on the brake pedal, it feels soft and spongy.  You may see the brake light on your instrument panel go on.  You may notice brake fluid leaking, or it may be discolored. 

All of those are signs of brakes that need attention, and among the possible culprits is a master cylinder that has failed.  When you bring it in for a technician to look at, they’ll check not only the master cylinder but also the rest of the components, such as pads, discs, shoes, brake lines, and hoses.  If your master cylinder needs replacing, we’ll make sure all the other parts meet the manufacturer’s specs as well. 

Brakes are important.  Really important. Full stop.

West Service Center
904 Cavalier Blvd
Chesapeake, Virginia 23323
757-487-4420
http://westservicecenter.com

Categories:

Brakes

Steering You Right (Power Steering Fluid Service)

It’s important for safe driving that two of the most important systems in your vehicle work right.  One is the brakes.  The other is the steering.  Nearly all vehicles on the road have some sort of power steering that allows you to direct a very heavy machine with little effort. 

There are two types, hydraulic and electric.  Many newer vehicles have electric power steering that uses an electric motor to make your steering easier.  But there are many vehicles on the road that use a system that has been around for years.  It uses a power steering pump, a cylinder, several valves, and hydraulic fluid to make it easy for you to turn the wheel. 

If you have hydraulic power steering in your vehicle, it’s important to change your power steering fluid every once in a while.  Over time, the fluid gets contaminated with dirt and other particles.  You might notice your steering is loose, maybe harder to turn and makes a low, straining noise. The first step in determining hydraulic power steering problems is to have your fluid checked.  Its color and smell can give a technician clues to any problems. They will recommend changing it if it has signs of being old, such as the wrong color or smell. 

Because steering is such a vital safety feature in your vehicle, the best strategy is to maintain your power steering according to the vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations.  That means periodically, the fluid should be changed.  That will prolong the life of the other steering systems components, such as hoses, seals, valves, and the power steering pump.  During this service, the technician will replace the fluid, bleed the system and check for leaks.  You’ll be back on the road knowing your vehicle is in top shape to steer you right.

West Service Center
904 Cavalier Blvd
Chesapeake, Virginia 23323
757-487-4420
http://westservicecenter.com

Categories:

Steering

How Cool is That! (Coolant level sensor replacement)

Your vehicle’s engine runs hot.  It should, since it’s a series of little explosions that create the power that gets you going where you want to go.  To keep the engine cool, engineers have designed wonderful cooling systems that use liquid coolant, hoses, and a radiator to transfer the heat from the engine to the outside air. 

In order for the system to work right, it has to have the right amount of that liquid coolant in it.  So that you know when the coolant has dipped below the correct amount, there is a sensor that keeps an eye on it.  When the coolant gets low, that sensor lights up a signal on the dash to alert you.  It may literally say “Check Coolant” or it may have a picture that looks like an old-style bulb thermometer sitting in liquid.  Your owner’s manual will usually tell you exactly what the one in your vehicle looks like.

If that sensor system isn’t working right, you could wind up driving for a long time with not enough coolant in the engine, and the excess heat can cause some extensive—and expensive—damage. 

There are a couple of ways you will know if something’s wrong with your coolant level sensor.  One is when you top off the coolant tank, and the low coolant light stays on.  If you suspect yours might be having a problem, bring it in so we can thoroughly check your coolant system.

If it is a sensor, we can run a test to see where the problem is in your cooling system.  It could be a bad sensor, but it also could be that there is something causing your coolant level to be low.  If the sensor needs replacing, the technician will replace it, fill your coolant level to the manufacturer’s recommended level, and test for any leaks in the system.  Really, how cool is that?

West Service Center
904 Cavalier Blvd
Chesapeake, Virginia 23323
757-487-4420
http://westservicecenter.com

test

Categories:

Cooling System

I Want a New Vehicle. Or Do I? (Vehicle Maintenance Payoffs)

Spring is a peak season for vehicle sales; companies aggressively market new models and offer all sorts of incentives.  So you may be tempted to buy a shiny new beauty.  But should you?

If you've regularly maintained the vehicle you're driving now, you probably don't NEED a new one.  Even if your current one needs some repairs, how do those costs compare to what you'd spend on a new vehicle?

A brand new vehicle starts to depreciate the second you drive it off the lot. How much? Experts say you'll lose half of its value during the first 5 years of owning a new vehicle. So if you pay $30,000 for a new one, you'll lose $15,000 in 5 years.  That's a lot.

If you have paid off your current vehicle, think of having to start making car payments again.  Let's say your new payment would be $350 a month.  Bet you can think of a lot of things you can buy with an extra $350 a month.

Many considering a new vehicle don't factor how much their insurance and license tag fees will increase.  You may save yourself hundreds of dollars in insurance and license tag fees every year if you keep your old vehicle.

That gets us back to the original question.  Do you need a new vehicle? Reliability and durability of most models have made dramatic improvements in the last couple of decades.  It's not unusual for a vehicle to reliably reach the 200,000 mile/325,000 km mark these days.  That's due to new engineering in powertrains, corrosion protection and lubricants. 

The best bet to keeping a vehicle on the road longer is scheduled, regular maintenance and inspection.  Replacing parts before they fail is often cheaper than waiting till they do fail; frequently that prevents a damaging domino effect that affects other systems in the vehicle. Finding a service facility you can trust and developing a relationship with that facility ensures your scheduled service and maintenance will be done correctly, minimizing breakdowns. 

Sure, at some point you may find you need a big repair that will cost more than your vehicle is worth, or rust will destroy vital components. But it's wise to use reason rather than emotion when you're making any decision about your vehicle, and sticking with your current one could be the most sensible choice.


West Service Center
904 Cavalier Blvd
Chesapeake, Virginia 23323
757-487-4420
http://westservicecenter.com

Categories:

Inspection

The Vivacious Vernal Vehicle (Preparing Vehicle for Spring)

Most of us look forward to spring because the days are longer, the weather's warmer and we can finally get our vehicles into warm weather mode.  Here are a few things that will breathe fresh energy into anyone's car, SUV, truck or van.

First thing is a good cleaning, especially underneath. If you live where salt and brine are used on the roads, it's important to get that off.  One thing to note… if you hose off your undercarriage, be careful not to get your spark plugs/wires wet.  You could notice your vehicle running rough plus the Check Engine light may come on. It usually dries out quickly, but if the engine light stays on for more than a couple of days, have your service facility check it out.

Next, replace your windshield wipers.  They've taken a beating through the winter. New ones will have fresh rubber and you'll see clearly (and safely) out your windshield again.

Have your brakes inspected.  That salt doesn't do your brake's metal components any good.  Have a technician make sure your pads and rotors are clean and properly lubricated so they can stop you when you ask them to.

Speaking of wheels, it's a good time to have your tires checked, too.  Road debris and potholes can take a toll on tread and sidewalls. It may also be a good idea to have a technician check your alignment since you likely have hit something pretty hard on a patch of rough road at some time during the winter.

Make sure your tire pressure is appropriate for the rising temperatures. As the outside air warms up, your tire pressure climbs without you adding any air.  Make sure it's what the manufacturer recommends.

Finally, treat your vehicle's interior to a thorough refresh.  Those floor mats and carpets may be white with salt; clean 'em up.  Get rid of wrappers, drink lids, empty water bottles and anything else that's fallen down.  And if you need to, have your upholstery cleaned so it looks and smells new. A clean exterior is nice, but since you spend your time inside your vehicle, it'll feel even better when your cabin is sparkling fresh.


West Service Center
904 Cavalier Blvd
Chesapeake, Virginia 23323
757-487-4420
http://westservicecenter.com

Categories:

Inspection

Catalytic Converter Replacement

Many of us have become aware of how important it is to keep our planet’s air clean, and your vehicle has a key component that helps do just that: the catalytic converter.  It’s in the exhaust system, and its job is to superheat unburned, harmful byproducts in the exhaust, so they don’t get spewed out into the atmosphere.

There’s another important purpose the catalytic converter has: it improves your vehicle’s efficiency. 

Most of us don’t give the catalytic converter much thought until it breaks or someone steals yours, something that’s been happening much more frequently in recent years.  The reason people steal them is that catalytic converters use precious metals such as platinum, palladium, and rhodium to do their job. So, they contain valuable materials thieves can sell.

The most likely reason you will have to replace your catalytic converter is age.  The more distance your vehicle travels and the more hours your engine runs, it’s putting wear and tear on the converter.  T

You can tell if your catalytic converter is failing by looking out for these signs:

  • Smell of rotten eggs inside your cabin or outside near the exhaust
  • Check Engine light is on
  • Vehicle power isn’t what it used to be, or fuel economy has plunged
  • Vehicle backfires

If you need a new catalytic converter, it can be replaced with an original equipment part if it’s available, or an aftermarket converter can be welded into the exhaust pipe.  It’s not uncommon for oxygen sensors to need replacing as well.  The technician will also check for other problems in your powertrain that may have contributed to your converter failing.

Check to see if an emissions test is required where you live.  If it is, you will have to have a properly functioning catalytic converter to pass it.

West Service Center
904 Cavalier Blvd
Chesapeake, Virginia 23323
757-487-4420
http://westservicecenter.com

Categories:

Exhaust

Beware Dangers of Spring Driving (Seasonal Driving Tips)

Sure, winter is quickly fading in the rearview mirror, but the peril of icy roads is replaced with a whole new set of driving challenges in spring.

Deer and other wildlife. You are not the only one who gets spring fever.  Animals do, too, and spring is the time they start looking for mates and food.  Be extra careful at dawn and dusk when deer are especially active.  Hitting a deer (or having them jump into your path suddenly) is a frightening experience, and even a deer/vehicle collision at slow speeds can cause injury and/or loss of life for both animal and humans, let alone expensive damage to the vehicle.  Be extra vigilant during spring.

The angle of the light.  As the seasons progress, you'll notice sun angles change.  The sun is rising earlier every morning and setting later at light.  When the sun is low in the sky, that glare can render you almost completely blind.  Make sure your windows and windshield are clean; don't forget the inside glass, too, which can build up a haze over the winter. 

Potholes. The freezing and thawing of pavement is shockingly effective at busting up asphalt and concrete. The holes left behind can seem like moon craters, and if you hit one or more hard, they can cause you to lose control of your vehicle, increasing your chances of an accident.  They also can cause some significant damage to your vehicle. If you feel your vehicle pulling to one side, notice it has a rough ride or hear noises you haven’t heard before, have your suspension's integrity inspected at your vehicle service facility.    

Children playing.  Kids are excited to get back outside, running wild, playing with balls and toys… just being kids.  These newly-rediscovered outside thrills can also steal away their attention from what's going on around them and they may dart out onto the street before you know it. Spring is a time to be vigilant and devote extra concentration to roads and neighborhoods. 

Spring is such a breath of fresh air. Remember to be super careful of a whole new set of hazards winter made you forget about for a while.


West Service Center
904 Cavalier Blvd
Chesapeake, Virginia 23323
757-487-4420
http://westservicecenter.com

Categories:

Inspection

A Bumpy Ride (Strut Assembly Replacement)

If you’ve noticed your vehicle’s ride has lately been bumpy or you’re hearing strange noises when you drive over bumps, you may need new struts.   The strut assembly is part of your vehicle’s suspension system that’s used to absorb the irregularities on the surfaces you drive on.

You have probably heard of shocks or shock absorbers.  A shock is a piston with gas or liquid inside.  When you hit a bump, that shock absorbs the blow. Struts are similar to shocks but they also have a coil spring for extra strength.  They’re often used in the front of the vehicle because of the engine’s extra weight. 

As you might imagine, your struts take a beating every day.  Eventually, they will wear out, and your wheels and tires won’t stay connected to the road as well as they used to. In addition to a bumpier ride, you may notice your tires starting to wear with failing struts because those tires aren’t in contact with the road surface as evenly as they used to be. 

When you bring your vehicle in to us, we’ll run some tests to determine what’s going on and what condition your suspension components are in.  Your vehicle’s manufacturer recommends struts to be replaced at certain intervals, and it’s important to change them out with the same type of equipment.  They should always be replaced in pairs on the same axle. 

After your struts are replaced, your suspension should be aligned so everything is headed down the road in the right direction. After that, driving should be smooth sailing.

West Service Center
904 Cavalier Blvd
Chesapeake, Virginia 23323
757-487-4420
http://westservicecenter.com

904 Cavalier Blvd Chesapeake, VA, 23323 (757) 487-4420
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