At Star Auto Authority, we are your vehicle service experts. Whether you drive a domestic minivan, European sportscar or Asian sedan, one of our highly skilled, experienced professionals specializes in your make and model.
And we want to share our wealth of knowledge with you. While there are scores of blogs about new cars, we're here to bring you money-saving advice, resources and information about the car you already drive.
Today in our Star Auto Authority blog, we’re going to talk about following recommended service intervals. Your SUV isn’t the only aspect of your life in Vernon Hills with recommended intervals: Let’s start with twice yearly dental cleaning. And physical exams. How about laundry, mowing the lawn and paying the bills?
Now, what would happen if you didn’t follow these intervals? Well, you’d get more cavities. You’d probably not become aware of health issues that benefit from early detection and treatment. And you’d have to wear dirty clothes, be embarrassed by your overgrown lawn and have your utilities shut off.
We all realize there are some things in life that we have to take care of regularly. If we don’t, there are negative consequences. Our quality of life takes a hit and it inevitably costs more money.
So why is it so hard to remember to follow regular preventive maintenance on our SUVs? Probably a couple of reasons. One is that automotive maintenance items just don’t seem that urgent. Everyone in Vernon Hills can see our dirty shirt, but no one knows how dirty our transmission fluid is. It’s easy to put off. The other reason is that we’re just not as familiar with automotive maintenance, so it’s a bit intimidating.
From a practical standpoint, Vernon Hills people don’t need to memorize their SUV owner’s manuals. You can let your Star Auto Authority advisor remind you of the manufacturer’s recommendations: he has checklists of what the manufacturer recommends and can find potential problems when he inspects your SUV. You really can rely on Star Auto Authority professionals to help you make good car care decisions.
For Vernon Hills drivers who want to be more proactive with their SUV care, here are some simple ways to remember what has a maintenance interval.
First: Fluids. If it’s liquid, it’s got a replacement schedule. Oil, transmission fluid, coolant, power steering fluid, brake fluid, differential fluid, etc.
Then think tires. They need air, rotation, balancing, and alignment. And while you’re thinking tires, think brakes and shock absorbers.
And what makes your SUV go? Air and fuel. Air filter replacement, fuel filters and fuel system cleaning. Of course there are more items, but if Vernon Hills car owners remember to take their car or truck in to Star Auto Authority for these things, their service advisor will help them with the rest.
And if you don’t follow recommended service intervals? You use more gas, your SUV doesn’t perform as well, your safety is compromised and you’ll spend more money in the long run. So it’s the same as everything else: The quality of your motoring life takes a hit and it ends up costing you more.
Reason enough for me to follow recommended service intervals.
An out-of-whack wheel alignment can lead to all kinds of problems, ranging from safety-compromising premature tire wear to difficulty controlling a vehicle at highway speeds.
Aside from the safety considerations (which should be enough), a misaligned vehicle will slurp excess gas due to the extra friction that misaligned wheels generate.
Considering how vital proper alignment is to a safely and efficiently operating vehicle, it’s imperative that a wheel alignment be performed by expert auto technicians. A free alignment with the purchase of new tires may be less than you bargained for.
At Star Auto Authority, all alignments are performed on state-of-the-art Hunter Engineering Co. wheel-alignment equipment.
But at Star Auto Authority, all alignments are performed on state-of-the-art Hunter Engineering Co. wheel-alignment equipment. This technology ensures an extremely accurate four-wheel alignment.
Prior to setting the alignment, an experienced, ASE-certified technician inspects the vehicle for worn or loose steering and suspension components.
Finally, all vehicles are road-tested to confirm other aspects of the vehicle are performing as designed. This includes confirming tires are balanced so no vibration exists and ensuring the steering wheel is properly centered.
Your wheel alignment can be knocked outside of acceptable parameters due to several factors, including damaged tires, wheels, shocks and struts. These parts often become damaged after a vehicle strikes a pothole—hardly a rarity on Chicago-area streets and highways.
The following checklist provides a list of symptoms that might very well indicate a vehicle’s alignment requires correcting. (Please note: these factors also can indicate steering-system or suspension-component damage.)
If your car exhibits any of the following signs, bring it to Star Auto Authority for a complimentary inspection:
Vehicle pulls left or right.
Vibration at any speed, particularly if the steering wheel also vibrates.
Vehicle “rolls” or sways on turns.
Vehicle’s front-end dives when braking.
Vehicle shakes or shimmies at highway speeds.
Vehicle’s rear end squats when accelerating.
Vehicle “wanders” when trying to drive straight or you struggle to keep the vehicle moving straight.
Vehicle bounces or slides sideways on a winding, rough road.
“The worst thing about myths is that they’re usually untrue.” Sounds like a stereotypical Yogi Berra-ism, right? (Nope. That one’s ours.) Well, over the years, some absolute whoppers have developed over what does and doesn’t affect gas mileage.
While certain factors—driving style certainly a top contender—have been proven to greatly impact mpg, a lot of grade A baloney has been sold to consumers over the years.
Over the years, some absolute whoppers have developed over what does and doesn’t affect gas mileage.
Proponents of these ideas might be well-intentioned—after all, gas prices are nothing to scoff at—but they’re not well-informed. To clear up some misconceptions, we’ve compiled a list of gas-mileage untruisms. The following ideas are all, pardon the expression, “outta gas.”
Myth #1:Dirty air filters slurp gas. Reality check: OK, this one has some merit…in the past. Older engines did suffer at the hands of a dirty air filter, but computer-equipped modern engines govern the air/fuel ratio so effectively that the air filter no longer is a huge part of the equation. Caveat: A dirty air filter might negatively impact acceleration.
Myth #2: Open windows waste fuel. Reality check: Here’s the theory: Rolling down the windows to get a face full of wind at 55 mph and above negatively impacts a car’s aerodynamics. The problem is that tests have failed to indicate this affects gas mileage. Theory debunked.
Myth #3: It’s important to warm up the engine. Reality check: Again, this has an element of truth…if you’re driving a vintage DeSoto. If you’re operating a modern vehicle—no way. Today’s fuel-injected, computer-run engines are a heckuva lot snappier at the get-go. Sitting in your vehicle, idling the engine every morning is only wasting gas. For a detailed explanation, click here.
Myth #4:Premium gasoline provides improved fuel economy. Reality check: Visit a gas station and you’ll typically see three grades of gas listed on the pump: regular, midgrade and premium, with octane ratings typically 87, 89 and 93, respectively. Certain vehicles—hot-running sports cars and luxury vehicles—require premium, which helps prevent “pre-ignition,” a situation where the air/fuel mixture in an engine cylinder ignites before a spark plug fires. High-octane fuels also help ensure high-performance engines realize their full power. However, the bulk of the vehicles on the road don’t run nearly as hot and aren’t susceptible to pre-ignition. They’ll do fine with regular-grade gas and won’t perform better or achieve better mpg using premium gas. Get into the nitty-gritty on this subject by clicking here.
Myth #5: If it ain’t got a red Pegasus or yellow seashell, it’s trash gas. Reality check: Companies such as Mobil, Shell and BP don’t have a monopoly on good gas (even though they might like to.) Here’s the real deal: Independent filling stations purchase their gas from name-brand oil companies, so their fuel doesn’t differ from the more expensive big-corporation version. Seashell and Pegasus gas might contain engine-cleaning additives, however, but experts say their absence shouldn’t impact most cars.
Myth #6:Low-rolling-resistance tires are the way to go. Reality check: Not so fast, there. Tire rolling resistance is the amount of energy required to roll. Lower resistance=higher fuel economy. But this simple—even simplistic—view ignores the bigger picture of what we rely on tires to do: aid in stopping, provide safe handling and avoid hydroplaning. Experts warn that certain tire models achieve their low rolling resistance by sacrificing wet-weather performance and decent tread life. It’s best to relegate rolling resistance to a minor consideration when purchasing tires. Instead, buy a safety-focused set and keep them properly inflated to maintain safety and realize maximum mpg.
It’s often said “there’s no such thing as a free lunch.” But what about “free maintenance” for automobiles?
One of the more recent car-world trends is manufacturers offering customers so-called “free maintenance” packages. Sounds like a great deal, right? Well, maybe. Debate exists among experts as to whether these programs save consumers money or are just a new-fangled Barnumesque ploy to push cars off dealer lots.
Hmmm. Well, maybe.
The plans vary by automaker. For example, Audi’s plan offers free maintenance for the first 5,000 miles. Cadillac’s plan is considerable more ambitious, with the freebie treatment extending to 50,000 miles. Scion’s plan covers 25,000 miles or 2 years, whichever comes first. At least 11 other carmakers offer their own version of the “free maintenance” concept.
Still, longevity is only one factor to be considered. The plans vary widely in terms of what services are covered and what’s excluded.
It’s important to realize that a free maintenance program isn’t the same as a car care schedule. That is, it’s not always a clever idea to rely on what the free program covers as a guide to how to map out your vehicle’s maintenance.
For example, MINI’s 36,000-mile/3-year free program seems generous enough, but its coverage raises concerns among auto experts. For example, MINI only covers oil changes every 15,000 miles or once per year. While debate exists over whether its best to change the oil at 3,000 miles or 5,000 miles, few, if any, automotive technicians are comfortable recommending an oil change every 15,000 miles.
That’s when “free” isn’t so, well, free. Case in point: One automotive technician we know who owns a MINI pays for oil changes every 5,000 to 6,000 miles and returns to the dealer once a year for the free oil change provided under the “free” maintenance plan. Not exactly free or terribly efficient.
This MINI plan also doesn’t cover tire rotations—essential for safety and obtaining the full life out of a set of tires. Again, if a driver were to rely on the “free maintenance” plan to guide maintenance decisions, that motorist would eventually be driving on a lumpy set of tires.
In fairness, the plan does include free brake pads, rotors and wiper blades. That’s not a bad deal for those drivers who will need new brakes in the first 36,000 miles.
It boils down to: Do your research. Understand the limitations of a particular automaker’s maintenance program. Read the owner’s manual, and learn what is recommended vs. what is covered under your maintenance plan. Of course, at Star Auto Authority, we’re happy to offer truly free advice about your maintenance needs. Then you can make an educated decision on whether a “free maintenance” program is truly a free ride or merely a ploy to take you for a ride.
When a teen is learning how to drive, the bulk of advice he or she typically receives has to do with safety-related stuff like: come to a full halt at a stop sign, don’t exceed speed limits, turn down the music and don’t text while driving.
But maintenance and safety are intertwined, and many young drivers are only seeing part of the picture because they aren’t taught how to deal with things like flat tires, breakdowns and maintaining proper fluid levels.
Basic under-the-hood understanding can go a long way toward ensuring a breakdown doesn’t become dangerous or deadly.
So in addition to prepping teens for their driver’s license exam, we are fans of giving youngsters a primer on proper car care, which we like to call “Car Care 101.” And with the start of the school year rapidly approaching, we think it’s an ideal time to prep your high schoolers and college kids for potential trouble on the road.
Maybe this doesn’t seem like a big deal. After all, most teens are merely a cell phone call or text away. But how about those slightly older teens who drive to college or take weekend trips? Imagine their routes complicated by a flat tire in the dead of night or during the iciest winter day. Perhaps they’ll be outside cell phone range or have a depleted phone battery when a problem strikes.
Basic under-the-hood understanding can go a long way toward ensuring a breakdown doesn’t become dangerous or deadly. Some simple car know-how can also keep a developing situation from turning costly and hazardous.
Check it & fix it
Nasty events, such as tire blowouts, dead batteries, overheated engines and mucked up windshields, can be avoided by regularly conducting a simple six-item checklist. The following should be checked often:
While an oil change might be outside the skill (or interest) level of the average driver, important emergency response activities can be accomplished by even the most mechanically challenged individuals. There’s no better time than the present to teach younger drivers how to: change a flat tire, jump start a battery, and replace light bulbs and windshield wiper blades.
Young drivers also would do well to know about the fuse box. Things like car horns and headlights (in addition to just about anything else electrical in a vehicle) can stop working simply because a fuse has blown. Often, all it takes is replacing a fuse to correct the problem. Of course, if a fuse repeatedly blows, you should consult your auto technician.
A flashing Check Engine light is also serious business—typically indicating a misfire that could wreck a catalytic converter. While this isn’t likely to leave you stranded, you do want to take it in for diagnostics as soon as possible. If the Check Engine light illuminates but doesn’t flash and the vehicle still runs OK, it’s probably fine to drive to your destination and make an appointment at Star Auto Authority for service.
Finally, with gas prices not exactly cheap this year, many drivers—young and old—are tempted to top off their gas tanks. Bad idea. Spillage is, of course, an issue. However, jamming as much petroleum into a car’s gas tank can make an engine run poorly. That’s because gas requires space to expand. Filling it to the brim could very well force the extra gas to evaporate into a vehicle’s vapor-collection system, affecting engine performance.
To quote Einstein, a “little knowledge” supposedly is a “dangerous thing.” But when it comes to cars, a little can go a long way and keep young drivers going safely on their way.