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Sounds Exhausting! (Exhaust Service)

Most of us know a bad muffler when we hear it.  That loud, rumbling sound is unmistakable. Did you also know you can get a ticket for driving around with a loud exhaust system?

If your exhaust system has a leak in it, it may be allowing poisonous gases inside your vehicle and could make you seriously ill (or even kill you!) if you breathe too much in.

Unfortunately, your exhaust system faces a lot of destructive forces out on the road.  Rust is the worst, and not just in colder climates where they use salt and brine as de-icers.  Exhaust systems can rust from the inside out when moisture condenses inside the pipes.  Vibrations and jolts from rough roads (and the occasional run in with a rock or a curb) can wreak havoc with exhaust systems.  Even a bad oxygen sensor can send too much fuel into the catalytic converter, and the resulting heat can wind up destroying this very expensive component.

Your exhaust system is made up of several parts, and all need to be in good shape in order for you to be sure that the gases created by your engine's combustion get properly moved out and away from the vehicle. The good news is that many newer exhaust systems are made out of more durable materials like stainless steel.  But all exhaust systems are subjected to some of the roughest elements streets can dish out. So it's a good idea to have your exhaust system periodically inspected and serviced.

There are a lot of parts to keep track of in an exhaust system, including the muffler, manifold, catalytic convertor, oxygen sensors and the muffler (or maybe your vehicle has more than one).  We strongly recommend having your exhaust system periodically checked so we can catch a problem before it turns into something major… and maybe dangerous.  We can recommend repair or replacement that suits your driving habits and budget. 

Oh, and remember one final benefit to a tip-top-shape exhaust system.  Your vehicle will dump far less pollution into the atmosphere if it's working the way engineers designed it.  We'll all breathe a little easier when our exhaust systems are doing their job right.

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

Categories:

Exhaust

A Hot Mess (AC System-Compresser)

Air conditioning used to be a real luxury in a vehicle, but now it's standard in most.  Your vehicle's air conditioning system is built to last a pretty long time, but like anything mechanical, sometimes it fails. 

It helps to know a little about how the A/C works. There's a compressor that pressurizes the refrigerant (you probably recognize the term Freon).  That makes it hotter, so it then goes through a condenser that cools it off.  Then another component takes out impurities and humidity before the Freon goes to a device that makes it lose pressure before it goes to the evaporator.  That's where it gets colder and takes the humidity out of the air. Then your vehicle's ventilation system blows air over the evaporator, cooling the cabin air that gives you such relief on a hot day.

Of all these parts, one that does a lot of work is the compressor.  It has to compress that refrigerant and circulate it through the system.  It turns on and off several times when it's working. The good news is that if it's going to fail, it sometimes lets you know. 

One of the signs that your air conditioning compressor is going bad is a noise under the hood when the engine is on, sometimes a squealing or grinding sound. It usually is pretty noticeable. Compressors have a bearing that can seize up after time, causing the belt that drives it to squeal when it's trying to turn something that won't turn.  It will sometimes cause that belt to break. 

Your service advisor can tell you if your compressor is repairable or must be replaced.  In the case of a broken belt (often a serpentine belt that drives several components) the belt will have to be replaced as well.

The compressor also has a clutch that turns the compressor on and off so it doesn't have to run all the time. Sometimes that clutch can fail, too, and your service advisor will often recommend you replace the compressor and the clutch at the same time. Our technicians can help make sure your air conditioning system keeps its cool, and you along with it. 

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

Categories:

Air Conditioning

More than Pads and Rotors (Brake Caliper Replacement)

You might be familiar with brake pads and rotors, two components of your vehicle's brakes that have to be regularly serviced.  Here's another important component of your brakes: the calipers.

Calipers are used in disc brakes, the type of brakes now found in most recently manufactured vehicles.  A caliper is the part of the brakes that squeezes the brake pads against the discs, or rotors, which turn with your wheels. 

There are different kinds of calipers, but the basic principle is the same.  You press down the pedal, brake fluid activates a piston or pistons that squeeze the brake pads against the disc and the friction slows down your vehicle.

While modern vehicles have a warning system to let you know it's time to get your brakes checked, your brake light usually goes on when your fluid level is low or your fluid pressure is low.  But you may have to look out for signals your calipers are the problem. 

If your vehicle pulls to one side when you brake, that could be a sign that one caliper isn't working right.  If you smell a burning odor coming from a wheel after a trip, there might be too much pressure from a caliper.  Grinding or squealing when you brake is another signal that it may be time to bring in your vehicle so we can check your brakes.

One way to minimize brake issues is regular inspection.  Have them periodically looked at when you bring in your vehicle for an oil change.  The good news is brake issues are more likely to be caused by pads or rotors wearing out.  Calipers last a lot longer, but even they will need replacing every so often.  

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

Categories:

Brakes

Shifty Letters PRNDL (Transmission)

You probably figured out those shifty letters.  They're what you see on your automatic transmission shifter and stand for Park, Reverse, Neutral, Drive and Low.  Your automatic transmission is one of the great automotive inventions; here are some ways you can keep yours working well.

Maintain your transmission regularly.  A technician will check your transmission fluid's level and even its appearance and smell.  If it's dark or has an unusual odor, that could be a sign of trouble.

Change from one transmission direction gear into another only when your vehicle is stopped.  So many drivers want to switch from Reverse to Drive quickly or the other way around.  If you do that when the vehicle is moving, you can damage your automatic transmission.

Keep your vehicle's cooling system in top shape.  What does the cooling system have to do with the transmission? It helps keep the transmission fluid from overheating. 

Follow the manufacturer's recommendations for maintaining your transmission.  Some recommend at least an annual checkup by a trained technician. 

Let your powertrain warm up a little before overtaxing it. Especially in cold weather, don't step on the throttle too aggressively before all components are warmed up.  That way both your engine and transmission will last longer.

Transmissions can be costly to fix.  If you treat your powertrain with respect and regularly maintain it, you'll not only avoid expensive repairs, but you’re also much less likely to find yourself stranded because of a transmission problem. 

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

Categories:

Transmission

Restore Your Get-Up-and-Go (Fuel and Air Induction Cleaning)

You may have heard the old saying, "My get-up-and-go got up and went." If your vehicle's engine's fuel economy is noticeably worse, your engine is idling roughly or stalling or your vehicle's acceleration isn't what it used to be, ask your service advisor if you might need your vehicle's fuel and air induction systems cleaned.

As the hours pile up on your engine, carbon deposits can build up.  It's not unusual for some of the impurities and additives in fuel to leave behind a black residue that eventually will negatively affect your fuel economy and performance. Maybe you're noticing your engine is harder to start, you hear knocking or pinging in your engine and your vehicle just doesn't have the pep it used to.

While it's a sophisticated process with a lot of components, a gasoline engine essentially produces power by drawing in air from the outside and mixing it with fuel in the cylinders where this blend of fuel and air is ignited by spark plugs in synchronized explosions.

The fuel and air enter your engine through the fuel induction system and air induction system. Because of things like high operating temperatures and impurities, carbon in the fuel can leave behind dark, sooty deposits in the fuel induction system such as the fuel injectors and the throttle body. These and other residue reduce your engine's efficiency and performance. Our service center can use special fuel injector cleaners to remove those deposits from your engine.

The technician may manually clean some of the deposits and also put a fuel additive in the fuel tank that will get rid of other deposits that are still in the fuel system

Keeping the air induction system clean is also important.  A technician can use a liquid cleaner specially designed for the job. Not only can this improve your fuel economy, it may also reduce exhaust emissions and help your engine last longer.

Most gasoline now contains detergents that help reduce or prevent these problems, but direct injection is now being used in more vehicles that are more susceptible to clogging. Ask your service advisor if your vehicle could benefit from fuel and air induction cleaning. 

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

Categories:

Fuel Economy

Keeping Your Cool (Water Pump Replacement)

No matter what the temperature is outside, it's important for your vehicle's engine to remain cool, calm, and collected.  Well, cool, anyway. If your vehicle has a gasoline engine, it's powered by a bunch of explosions involving spark plugs, pistons, gasoline, and air.  And the by-product of all those things working together? HEAT.

There's a whole cooling system to keep everything at a tolerable temperature for your engine's parts, and a key part of that is the water pump.  Technically, it's pumping more than water. It should actually be called the "coolant" pump since the liquid that circulates through the system is a mixture of water and coolant. 

Basically, the water pump keeps this coolant moving through your engine, where it picks up the engine heat, and then is pumped into the radiator where it gets rid of that heat.  When a water pump fails, the engine heat can build up.  When you get a warning light on the dash (either a gauge or a light) that shows the temperature is too high, it could mean a bad water pump. 

They can fail for many reasons. They have bearings in them that wear out, as does the seal between the pump and the engine. They're often driven by a belt or chain that can go bad.  Corrosion can spell the end of a water pump, too. 

If a technician determines your water pump has failed, it's time to replace it. In addition, other components of the cooling system will be inspected.  The best way to avoid a water pump failure is regular maintenance of your cooling system which includes regular draining and flushing of the coolant. 

Just like it's important for you to keep your cool, the same goes for your vehicle's engine.

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

Categories:

Water Pump

Steering You Right (Power Steering Signs of Problems)

Nearly every modern vehicle on the road today has power steering, a wonderful invention that makes steering take far less effort than it did in the "good old days."  Today, we take our steering for granted: until something goes wrong, that is.

Most power steering these days is rack-and-pinion, the rack being a metal bar between the front wheels with notches in it and the pinion being a gear whose teeth fits into those notches.  Adding power assist makes it easy to turn. That assist comes in the form of hydraulic fluid that is pressurized by a pump powered by the engine, an electric motor that adds a power assist or a system that uses both an electric motor and hydraulic fluid.

Your vehicle usually gives you a heads up that something is going wrong with its steering. Here are a few signs to look for:

  • A humming, whirring, rubbing or grinding sound coming from you engine compartment when you turn.
  • Signs of hydraulic fluid leaking, such as wet spots under your vehicle.
  • The smell of burning oil while you're driving.
  • Steering wheel hard to turn or vibrating.

If you notice any of these signs, it's a good idea to have a trained technician check them out.  They may be signs of:

  • Power steering pump going bad
  • Steering rack or gear seals wearing out, causing them to lose hydraulic fluid
  • Broken fluid hose
  • Defective power steering cooler
  • Loss of pressure in the power steering gearbox
  • Worn out steering pump belt
  • Failing electric power steering motor

It's important to have these checked out sooner rather than later. You need to be able to steer properly in order to drive safely. Plus, some of these problems can cause more serious—and expensive—damage if they're not fixed.  Power steering is a wonderful feature of your vehicle.  Keep it well maintained and it will steer you right.

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

Categories:

Steering

Road Trip? Check! (Trip Inspection)

After months of postponing travel far away from home, a lot of us can't wait to hit the road and scream "Road Trip!" again.  But how long has it been since the vehicle you're planning on taking has had a thorough inspection? And is it roadworthy for several days on the highway? Time to schedule a professional trip inspection in our service center. 

When it comes to long trips, before you go, make sure you can stop.  We can perform a break inspection.  Our technician will visually inspect your brakes for wear and how much life is left in the brake pads and rotors.  They'll also check your brake lines and fluids for fitness and fill.

If it's going to be a long trip, it's important that your engine stays lubricated.  The technician will see when the last time you had an oil change, check the levels and inspect the system for leaks.  If you are close to needing an oil change, it's best to have it done before the trip because no one wants to interrupt a vacation with an oil change in a strange place.  It's also better for your engine to have fresh, clean oil rather than driving with dirty, worn-out oil.

Comfort in any vehicle depends partly on the suspension system.  Our technician can examine shocks and struts so you can avoid an uncomfortable and potentially unsafe journey.  Oh, and you'll definitely want to make sure your wheels are aligned.  A long trip in an out-of-alignment vehicle can be a driving nightmare with potential steering problems and tire damage. 

A couple of little things some drivers take for granted are the engine air filter and wiper blades.  A dirty air filter can cost you money by reducing fuel economy; it adds up on a long trip.  And worn-out wiper blades can make visibility while driving in a rainstorm a blinding, unsafe adventure that you never want to experience, especially in unfamiliar territory.

If you're in the habit of having your vehicle regularly maintained, many of these items may be in excellent condition.  But considering the extra stresses a long road trip places on any vehicle, it's nice to have a set of our trained eyes give your vehicle a closer look. That way you'll be able to gaze YOUR eyes on sights like the Leaning Tower of Niles or the Gopher Hole Museum. 

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

Categories:

Trip Inspection

Go With the Flow (MAF Sensor Replacement)

A driver brought her vehicle into the shop the other day and told us how she was getting lousy fuel economy and that the engine was running rough.  Plus, the Check Engine light was on.  Our technician checked the code the engine had generated (why the Check Engine light was on) and found the problem.  It was a faulty Mass Air Flow sensor, MAF sensor for short.

This MAF sensor is an important part of your vehicle.  What it does is calculate the amount of air going into your engine.  As you may know, air is taken into your engine where it's mixed with fuel.  Then, the spark plugs fire, that explosive fuel/air mixture detonates, and all these sequential explosions together provide the power to get your vehicle moving down the road. 

It makes sense that if the MAF sensor isn't sending the engine's computers the correct information on the amount of air going in the engine, the fuel/air mixture isn't going to be right. It will either too rich (too much gasoline for the amount of air) or too lean (not enough gasoline for the amount of air).

In this driver's case, the MAF sensor was damaged and needed to be replaced.  Another thing that may cause the MAF to give an incorrect reading is if its wires are dirty or faulty.  So, replacing or cleaning the wires important as well.

Other symptoms that your MAF sensor is bad? If your engine hesitates when you step on the gas, it stalls, or your vehicle is jerky when you accelerate. 

A malfunctioning MAF sensor is not just bad for performance.  Driving with your vehicle in that condition can cause more damage to your engine.  When you bring your vehicle in for us to check, a technician will thoroughly examine your engine to make sure all issues are taken care of.

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

Don't Blow a Gasket! (Valve Cover Gasket Replacement)

When you head out to your vehicle after it's been parked and notice oil leaking underneath it, that's something to have looked at right away.  Oil leaks mean your oil level is probably low and running a vehicle in that condition can lead to expensive repairs.

While there are many reasons oil leaks develop, one possibility is a bad valve cover gasket.  Vehicle engines have a cover bolted over the spot where the engine valves are, and that cover keeps the oil inside the engine. In between the cover and the engine is a gasket that keeps that seal tight.  But after many years of high engine temperatures and vibrations, that gasket or the bolts that hold on the valve cover can fail or loosen, and oil can leak.

You may see dirty oil on the valve cover in the engine compartment, near the spark plugs, or around the bolts that hold the valve cover on.  All those are signs of leakage and time to bring your vehicle in for our technicians to check out.

In some vehicles, taking off the valve cover and replacing the gasket is a relatively easy job. In some models, though, other engine parts are located near that part of the engine and must be removed to get at the gasket, so repair costs can vary widely.

The technician will measure to make sure the valve cover isn't warped so it can be reused. If it is warped, they'll recommend replacing it with the gasket.  

While the technician has that area of your engine accessible, they will also check to see if other components need replacing at the same time, which could save you money.  And because valve cover gaskets usually fail in older vehicles, the technician will check for other oil leaks then, too. 

One of the best ways to be sure your valve cover is doing its job is to have your vehicle regularly maintained.  The technician will periodically look over your engine compartment and make sure you know when things are showing signs of age and wear BEFORE they fail and leave you stranded.

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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