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Answers to frequently asked vehicle maintenance and service questions including preventative maintenance, tire rotation, transmission service, oil changes, timing belts, check engine lights and more.

No one enjoys having to search for a good reputable shop to work on their vehicle. It's just another added headache that you don't need. So, the goal here is to help you find a repair facility that will give you fantastic service for the rest of your life!

The first and best way to start is by asking your friends and family who they use. Then call the Better Business Bureau and ask them to provide you with a list of members in good standing. Then drive by the shops. Ask yourself, is the shop clean? Does it look busy? You may even want to stop and go inside. Any reputable shop will be happy to take you on a tour of their facility to show you how and where your vehicle will be serviced. This will also allow you to meet the staff and see how they handle other customers.

If you stopped and visited the facility: Did they greet you when you first walked in? Are the floors clean? Do they look busy? Are the technician's clean and A.S.E. Certified? Do the employees look professional? Does their attitude show pride in what they are doing?

If you had a repair done, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Did they listen to your complaint?
  2. Were you given an estimate before any work was performed?
  3. Was the final price you paid higher than the estimated price?
  4. Did you feel pressured in making the decision to purchase the repairs?
  5. Were each of your concerns addressed?
  6. Did you receive either, a written copy or a verbal explanation on the condition of the rest of your vehicle? - A good repair facility will generally let you know what condition the rest of your vehicle is in, each time your vehicle goes in for a visit. The value you will receive here is that your repair facility can help prioritize and consult you on other needed maintenance and repairs that you may not realize exist with your vehicle. This will help keep your vehicle in tip-top shape.

Preventative Maintenance or "P.M." is a procedure or a list of items the manufacturer recommends to be inspected or replaced at certain mileage intervals. At face-value one might hesitate to spend money on replacing or inspecting items on their vehicle, especially when there seems to be nothing wrong with the operation of the vehicle at that particular point in time. However, what one may not realize, is that by budgeting and spending money to have preventative maintenance performed, (i.e.- mileage intervals), the vehicle owner will in the "long run" spend less money on repairs and possibly sustain a higher market value for the vehicle. You see, preventative maintenance for your vehicle is very similar to preventative medicine.
People visit their doctor many times during the year to get a "check-up", right? And, if the doctor finds something that is of concern, he addresses it immediately so as to minimize pain, suffering and possible major health risk in the future. Sometimes a doctor just says, "Well, Mr. Jones, we haven't check your blood pressure in over a year, and we haven't checked your cholesterol in two years. I think we should have both of these vitals checked." Well, the same is true for you vehicle, for example, for a fuel filter or a timing belt. The manufacturer recommends, on some models, to change the fuel filter every 30,000 miles and the timing belt every 50,000 miles. Granted, the human body obviously takes precedence to the vehicle any day, but the same is true for both...If you neglect repairs and proper maintenance for either, you will learn very quickly that if you wait until your body or your vehicle breaks down to perform the necessary repairs and maintenance, it is likely to be more painful and more expensive.

There are many more questions you can ask yourself when trying to find a repair shop. However, the most important thing you need to consider is whether or not you feel comfortable with leaving your vehicle with the facility in question.
Trust your "gut" instinct, it's usually right. After all, you are looking for a repair facility that will build a relationship with you and your vehicles, for the rest of your life!

It is important to rotate your tires to even the wear on all four tires. Because your front tires steer your vehicle and set on the pavement differently than your rear tires, they will tend to wear differently than the rear tires. You may experience outside edge wear on the front tires. This is normal as long as the wear is even on both front tires. Excessive wear on either front tire should be checked. If never rotated, front tires typically last 10,000 to 20,000 miles and the rear tires typically last 50,000 to 80,000 miles. When properly rotated, all four tires should last for about the same length of time.

It is important to rotate your tires every 6,000 to 7,500 miles (or about every 2 oil changes). When your tires are rotated the repair shop should:

  1. check to see all tires are properly inflated
  2. rotate the tires
  3. check your brakes

There are different ways of rotating tires, front to back and criss-cross.
Manufacturers generally recommend one way or another.
Your repair facility will know which is best for your situation.

One of the most beneficial services you can do to extend the life of your vehicle's engine is to change the oil regularly. However, regularly does not mean frequently. There has been discussion on the subject of how many miles should pass between oil changes. In mild driving conditions schedules can extend to 7,500 miles and some luxury imports can go as long as 20,000 miles. The determining factor in deciding your oil change schedule is understanding what kind of driving you do. For example, If you live in extreme climate conditions such as extreme heat, cold, heavy dirt or dust, or if you are into heavy stop-and-go driving or pulling trailers. Well, guess what West Texas folks, WE have extreme conditions. Nope, not cold or hot, but DUST and DIRT! In our case it is recommended that we change our oil every 3,000 miles. During this process the repair shop should also check your air filter, belts, hoses, and fuel filter.

By developing a habit of changing your oil every 3,000 miles and having regular scheduled maintenance performed, (such as fuel filters, air filters, fuel system cleanings, transmission services, belts, etc.) you will drastically increase the life of your engine.

Synthetic or Conventional Oil?

An oil's ability to protect an engine is measured and tested based on two important characteristics, pour point and flash point.

Pour Point is the temperature at which the oil stops flowing. (Cold)
Flash Point is the temperature at which the oil burns and then turns to a sticky tar-type substance. (Heat)

Below is a chart showing the differences between Convention, Semi-Synthetic, and full synthetic oils.

Full Synthetic

As you can see the Conventional oil offers protection for most U.S. conditions, however the Full synthetic offers protection for vehicles in extreme areas such as North Dakota where winters get well below -30F.

Transmissions are becoming more complex as new models are introduced into the market.
The first transmissions were built with steel or aluminum components that worked off of hydraulic pressures generated within the transmission. Today, almost every transmission produced contains over 400 parts and at least one electronic component or device that aides in a transmissions operation. With this introduced, transmission repair prices continue to climb. To rebuild late model transmissions, (depending on type and the amount of damage), repair prices can range from $600 to $3,000. As you can see, you can hardly afford to not to service your transmission. The transmission's fluid is the life-blood of the transmission so you can see why it is extremely important to keep your transmission fluid clean and at the proper levels.

Some manufacturer's claim transmissions should be serviced between 30,000 and 100,000 miles.
What you must know here is that manufacturers recommend this schedule based on normal or mild driving conditions. If you live in extreme conditions such as: heat, cold, dust or if you pull trailers you should perform this service more regularly such as once a year or approximately 12,000 miles. West Texas has extreme conditions because of our severe dust and hot temperatures. Therefore, you should service your transmission approximately once a year or 12,000 miles. The chart below shows the life of new transmission fluid at different temperatures. Here are some examples (However, no warranties are made or implied here...)

200 Degrees, transmission fluid will last
100,000 miles
220 Degrees, transmission fluid will last
50,000 miles
240 Degrees, transmission fluid will last
10,000 miles - fluid turns to varnish
260 Degrees, transmission fluid will last
5,000 miles - seals harden
295 Degrees, transmission fluid will last
1,500 miles - clutches slip
315 Degrees, transmission fluid will last
800 miles - fluid turns to tar

Transmission temperatures should operate close to engine coolant operating temperatures. And, in effect if you engine is not cooling properly or is overheating, it can cause the transmission's temperature to climb and possible cause severe damage as described above.

But, what is a "Transmission Service"? For standard transmissions there is usually a drain plug where the fluid is drained and then refilled. This can be done approximately every other year. For automatic transmissions a service should at least include:

  1. Replacing the fluid
  2. Replacing the filter
  3. Replacing the pan gasket
  4. A visual inspection for leaks and needed adjustments
  5. A test drive to check proper shifting patterns

Prices for Transmission Services?

Thorough automatic transmission services typically cost between $70 - $195 depending, of course, on the type, condition of your transmission as well as the type of transmission service you choose. (For example, there is a simple drain and fill service and a more thorough drain, flush, fill and tune service - which requires the use of a special purging/flushing machine)

How do I check my fluid and level?

You should check the level of your transmission fluid often, especially before long trips. To properly check fluid levels the engine should be at operating temperature, running at idle and in park. Pull the dipstick once and wipe it clean. Reinsert the dipstick and pull and check the level again. The fluid should be a pinkish or reddish color. If your fluid smells burnt or is dark in color or looks like varnish, immediate service is necessary. Your fluid has lost its ability to protect and serve as required. Further driving may result with major transmission problems. Tip - In some cases servicing your transmission will cure problems you may be experiencing with your transmission. The thing is, 3 different problems can have the same symptoms, and only an experienced and well trained transmission specialist will be able to diagnose your problem and tell whether or not a transmission service will cure your problem. At least your pocketbook will love you for trying!

Need help financing those unexpected breakdowns?
Don't worry, we can help!
In order to fill a growing need for customer financing, we offer financing programs to suit the needs of our customers. We have two ways to apply for financing:
  1. Click here to fill out an application
  2. Stop by our office at 18th and Avenue N and ask for an application. (It takes approximately 20-30 minutes).

Timing belts and timing chains are just that. They are either a belt (comparable to an engine belt) or a chain (comparable to a bicycle chain). The belt or chain turns a set of gears that controls the opening and closing of the valves. The valves must be timed properly because they work in conjunction with fuel delivery, and the action of the piston If the valves open at the same time the piston comes up, the two will collide and the valves will bend. This collision usually happens when the timing belt or timing chain either slips on the gear or breaks after excessive wear and use.

When a timing belt breaks it does not always bend the valves. If you are lucky you will only have to replace the timing belt and possibly the drive gears the belt rides on. This usually costs approximately $200 to $900 depending on your make and model. In the event your valves bend you will be looking at repair costs of approximately $500 to $1,700, depending on the damage and your make and model. This is why replacing your timing belt at the recommended service intervals is so important. Most people feel that a few hundred dollars is too much to spend on a service, especially when there is nothing broken on their vehicle. However, this service is called "preventive maintenance" and it is meant for just that - to "prevent" your belt or chain from having the opportunity to break and then bend the valves. We compare preventive maintenance to "preventive medicine". People go to the doctor to have regular check-ups for early detection of cancer and other health issues before they spread and cause major problems - we want to do the same for you vehicle Your owners manual or a reputable repair shop can tell you when you timing chain or timing belt should be replaced.

Today's vehicle's have sensors scattered all over the engine compartment and in various other compartments. These sensors monitor or control different operating systems of a vehicle such as fuel delivery, ignition, timing, cooling, struts, steering, etc.. Theses sensors send and receive feedback to and from a central computer usually called the E.C.M. (Electronic Control Module) - the brain of the electronics. When the E.C.M. receives feedback from a sensor that is malfunctioning or reports information outside the operating boundaries it triggers the E.C.M. which in turn notifies the driver turning on a light on the dash or the information center. When this light comes on the computer is attempting to tell the driver that there is a problem or maintenance is needed. The computer also stores a code in its memory. Once a technician accesses the E.C.M. with diagnostic equipment and retrieves the stored code he will then know what system to start his testing (i.e. fuel, ignition, emission).


"No monkey business here!"
No monkey business here!