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Plan Ahead for the Colorado Car Camping this Summer!

Summer will be here soon and many Colorado Campgrounds start taking reservations now for camping in May and through the season.  Campgrounds can fill up quickly, especially on the weekends, so check your calendar and set your dates. Many campgrounds have online reservations, so you can plan ahead. Others are first come, first serve and you will need to arrive early on a Friday to be able to find a campsite on the weekends.

Don’t forget to make sure your car is ready for summer travel – have the oil changed and your vehicle inspected to be sure your vehicle is road ready!  A battery/charging system check and air conditioning system test will you stay cool and keep you on the road.  No one likes to be stranded when you and your family are excited to get to your destination!

Below are our recommendations for great, close to Colorado Springs, car camping:

Mueller State Park has over 5000 acres of land (only 40 miles away, 4 miles south of Divide), with 55 miles of trails for hiking, biking, hunting, hiking, and horseback riding.  Mueller has 132 campsites in the trees (17 open for winter camping too!).  This is an easy weekend get-away, and reservations are available online, so plan ahead!

The Crags is just 3 miles south of Mueller State Park, access by turning left on Hwy. 62 (rough road).  The Crags is smaller, with just 17 tent and small trailer campsites.  Campsites are first-come/first-serve, so get there early for weekend camping.  Experienced hikers can hike to the top of Pikes Peak on the west slope (13.1 miles), or access other hiking trail loops that are shorter distances.

Eleven Mile State Park (50 miles from Colorado Springs) is the place to go for lake and stream fishing, along with camping!  Eleven Mile Reservoir is over 5 miles long, and is known for having cutthroat, rainbow and brown trout, and northern pike.  Kokanee salmon can be found in the river flow, Dream Stream, on the north side of the reservoir.  More than 300 campsites are available for trailers and tent camping.  Numerous hiking and biking trails are also accessible.

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is a little further, but worth the drive!  About 170 miles south/southwest of Colorado Springs, it is a fun destination.  Hike to the top of the tallest dunes in North America…then go sand-sledding down the dunes! There is camping available (88 sites) at Pinion Flats (National Park Service campground, just north of the Visitor Center).  Reservations (online) are recommended well in advance for the peak season (May-September), although there may be first-come, first serve sights available if not filled. There are also several private campgrounds available within 20-40 miles of the dunes.

La Vista Campground is just under 90 miles south near Rye, CO and is a relaxing place in the Wet Mountains to camp, fish and hike.  The campground sits next to 40-acre Lake Isabel reservoir, which is regularly stocked by CO Parks and Wildlife.  Nearby St. Charles Creek is available for stream fishing also.  The campground is open May 18-Sept. 22 and reservations are available online.  While you are in the area, be sure to check out Bishop Castle just 7 miles to the north.  Jim Bishop has been building this castle for nearly 60 years, and he has put a lot of work and rebar into this amazing structure (possibly quantity over quality!!

Although there are several campgrounds along the eastern edge of Turquoise Lake (about 2 ½ hours away, just outside Leadville), be sure and check out the May Queen campground on the western side of Turquoise Lake.  It is a little further to get to, but worth the drive.   There is easy access to boating, fishing and hiking.  The views of Holy Cross and Mount Massive Wilderness areas from the campground are wonderful, and you can enjoy hiking over 30,000 acres of the Mount Massive Wilderness area.  More ambitious and in-shape hikers may want to tackle the 14,421 ft. Mount Massive peak!  There is also the Timberline Lake trailhead (2-mile hike to the lake), which can be accessed ½ mile up the road.  Campground is open May 24th-Sept. 3rd. 

Cottonwood Lake Campground, west of Buena Vista off Cottonwood Pass Rd., is another gem waiting to be found (according to our Shop Foreman, Roy, who enjoys camping with his family!).  Just 100 miles west on 24 (and down a few access roads), this campground has 25 sites and is open May-October.  Tents and trailers are welcome, though no hook ups are available for water or electricity. Hand powered boats are allowed on the lake, and fishing is available in the lake or in the South Fork of Cottonwood Creek.   The Colorado Trail is nearby for hiking.

What are your favorite camping spots in Colorado?  We listed campgrounds that are less than 2 ½ hours from Colorado Springs, but we know there are many others in Colorado that should not be missed.  Share your suggestions!

Safe traveling and camping this summer from your friends at Honest Accurate Auto Service!

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Here are tips for maintaining your vehicle’s air conditioning.

Are you cold in the winter and hot in the summer? Well, chances are your air conditioning system is not working properly and if it is it may not be working to its maximum potential. Your air conditioning has a few important functions. Keeping you warm is one of them, keeping you cool and comfortable is another and lastly defrosting your windows so you can see and drive safely. Have you ever wondered how your air conditioning system works?

To keep you warm in the winter you will notice that you do not get warm until the car or truck is warm. That’s because there is a heat transfer from the warm liquid in the engine to the air that gets to you and keeps you cozy. This is accomplished by the heater core. Cars typically have one heater core where large SUV’s and mini vans can have two heater cores. A heater core looks just like your radiator with all the little aluminum fins only its much smaller and sits in the dash of your car or truck. Its not visible and it is difficult to get to for repair. As hot coolant flows through the heater core a fan pulls air across the hot fins and then the warm air is directed to you through a lot of duct work in your dash and magically you are warm! Now, it is important to keep up on your coolant flushes so that old coolant does not corrode your heater core or cause it to clog as this is a very expensive fix. One way to tell if your heater core is leaking is your carpet will be wet on the inside on either the driver or passenger side of the car or truck. Another is your car may overheat if it gets low enough on coolant causing catastrophic damage to the engine. It’s always a good idea to regularly flush your coolant not just for the engine’s sake but for all the rubber hoses and the aluminum heater core. Sometimes air pockets can form in the heater core causing you to lose heat in the cabin. This is an easier fix but can be time intensive. The heat in your vehicle is really nice to have especially here in Colorado Springs.

With our temperatures here in Colorado Springs going up and down constantly along with snow and rain whenever it wants, its good to have you’re A/C working even if its not hot but most importantly when it is hot! An A/C system is comprised of a compressor driven by the serpentine belt, the condenser, expansion valve and evaporator. The compressor, compresses the refrigerant in your vehicle so that is can eventually expand and cool down. The condenser is what sits in front of your radiator and looks almost identical to your radiator only smaller. The condensers job is to get rid of heat from the compressed refrigerant. The expansion valve is where the magic happens. As the compressed gas that is warm expands, it cools down and gets really cold just like when you spray key board cleaner on a keyboard. You will notice the can gets cold. As the gas expands rapidly it cools down and that’s how we are able to stay cold in the Summer. The evaporator is inside the cabin of the car and is where air is pulled through to become cold. Again, an evaporator looks like a miniature radiator and its also where moisture is pulled out of the air so that it is dry air. Just like moisture on a cold soda can forms it’s the same for the evaporator. Moisture forms on the cold evaporator and drips down and out of a tube on the bottom of your car. Sometimes people will think they have a leak because it is so humid outside and there is a lot of water running out of the car with the air conditioning running.

Lastly, the A/C system in your car has a lot of rubber O-rings, aluminum lines, seals and rubber hoses and can form leaks as the seals harden or damage occurs. It’s always good to have a leak test performed and find a leak before its too hot and unbearable in your car and so that we can do our best to keep those harmful gases from escaping into the atmosphere and keep them contained in our machines designed to handle refrigerant. Come see the A/C pros at Honest Accurate Auto Service and let us help you and your family stay nice and cool this summer!

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Tips for Cleaning Your Car and Getting it Ready for Summer Fun!

Springtime…everything smells fresh and clean outside!  How does your car smell?? Are there a few lingering odors from food crumbs, spilled drinks, or stale gym clothes?  Even a dirty cabin air filter may smell musty and/or nasty when you turn on your fan or air conditioning.  Spring is a good time to give your car a good interior clean (and exterior wash and wax), especially before you head out on that summer road trip!

Keeping your car clean inside and out is an important aspect to your automobile service.  Cleaning your car will not only help maintain the value of your vehicle, it will help prevent small rodents from being attracted to smells of food in your car.  Rodents can wreak havoc in your engine compartment or interior by building nests or gnawing on colorful wires, often creating an electrical nightmare. 

Here are a few tips on self-cleaning your vehicle:

Interior Car Cleaning   

Carpet and Floor Mats: Remove floor mats – wash rubber mats with a pressure washer and/or scrub brush.  Then, vacuum dirt and crumbs from the carpets and around the seats.  An Air Blow Gun can help get particles out from small crevices, both alongside the seats or in the dash or console.  If you have stains in the carpet, Spot Shot is my go-to cleaner (can be purchased at most any grocery store) for getting out tough spots.  

Seats:  Depending upon whether you have cloth or leather seats will determine what type of cleaner you should use.  There are many good leather cleaners on the market – be sure and check your Owner’s Manual for their recommendations, and use something safe for your vehicle’s interior.  While you are vacuuming, be sure and vacuum the seat crevices too!

Dashboard and plastic surfaces:  There are many products on the market, beyond what you can find in the local automotive stores.  Check Google for ratings from people who attend car shows – they use what will cleans the best and what will leave the least residue. 

Interior Windows:  What is that hazy film that accumulates on the inside of your windshield?  It is a combination of gasses released from the plastic on your dashboard, as well as smog and exhaust from your car.  When your car is heated up in the summer sun, the plastic emits gasses that adhere to the inside of your windshield.  If you have smokers in your car, that just makes the whole problem worse.  There are several commercial window cleaners, but a good homemade window cleaner recipe is 1 cup water, 1 cup vinegar, and 1 cup of rubbing alcohol.  A drop or two (only a small amount!) of Dawn detergent also helps cut greasy residue. 

Exterior Car Cleaning Tips:

First, be sure and rinse your car well BEFORE you use the sudsy brush at the self-car wash or before rubbing the surface with soap and water.  If you don’t, you will scratch the paint surface by rubbing the sand and dust particles into the paint.  

Wash, dry, and wax your car in the shade.  Bright sun will make your car dry too quickly, before you have time to wipe the windows. Water spots will form quickly and will be difficult to remove. If you try to wax your car in the sun, the wax will dry too quickly and will be much more difficult to buff to a bright shine! 2019 Car Bibles Review and Buying Guide recommends Meguiar’s Ultimate Liquid Wax.

Wash and dry your car, top to bottom, and wash and wax in sections so the soapy water doesn’t dry on the car.  Rinse as you go.  After the last rinse, use clean, dry towels to dry the car.  Microfiber towels work great for reducing streaks on the paint as well as on the windows.

If this all sounds like too much for you, but you LOVE a clean car, consider using one of our local auto detailing services.  We have used Chase at Auto Detailing Delivered, both personally and professionally.  He comes to our home (or shop) and has everything he needs in his van to do the job right.  I know we got a better price for a van we were selling because it looked so good!

Happy Spring Cleaning!  We at Honest Accurate Auto Service wish you safe driving on your summer vacations – be sure your routine auto service is up to date on your car too!

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An alignment is much more than pointing the tires straight ahead. It is looking at angles and adjusting them to make the car or truck track the best on the road according to the manufacturer. Camber, caster, toe and the thrust angle all play a very important part in how your car drives and how straight it drives on roads with a crown. An Experienced technician will be able to tell you how your car or truck drives just by looking at the alignment. Its also crucial to annually check your alignment because it does not take much for it to fall out of alignment. Potholes and separation cracks in the road continuously beat away at the suspension and your alignment.

Camber is the angle when looking head on into a tire. Is it straight up and down or leaning inward or outward? Some camber is good and too much can be bad and cause excessive tire wear. Some European cars like a lot of camber for the road handling benefits. BMW for example has a lot of negative camber and contributes to their racecar like driving experience. When driving behind a BMW next time you will see the top of the tire leaning in towards the car. Your basic commuter car on the other hand will have closer to zero degrease of camber. This is good for fuel economy and overall even tire wear. Excessive camber can cause extreme inside tire wear and cupping if the tread is an off-road style truck tire.

Caster is only measured on the front of the car where the tires turn back and forth. Caster does not cause tire wear but does contribute significantly to how your car handles on a road crown and the highway. Think of a time that you were turning and then let the steering wheel slide through your hands as it returns back to center. That is caster at work. Because of caster your steering wheel likes to sit strait ahead and track strait down the road. Now to picture caster you need to draw a line from the top ball joint or pivot point through the bottom ball joint. That is the axis on which the tire turns from side to side. Positive caster is where the line tilts back towards the driver and this Is what we want. Negative caster would be like the wheels on a shopping cart and it would be uncontrollable on a car. A little bit less positive caster on the driver’s side versus the passenger side is desired for road crown and helps the car track strait on a road that is slanted to side instead of having to fight it.

Toe is the angle you think of most when driving a car or truck. Are the wheels pointed straight ahead? Is your steering wheel strait when driving? I hope so! This angle does cause tire wear and is usually adjusted when doing an alignment. This angle is adjusted front and rear and should be checked and adjusted annually and when you get new tires to make them last as long as humanly possible. Alignments are the best insurance to make sure you are getting the best bang for your buck on those new shiny rubbers and make sure it is a four-wheel alignment.

Thrust angle is rarely talked about but is important in understanding why a vehicle may be “dog tracking” (driving down the road at an angle). This angle is in the rear of the car or truck and indicates where both of the rear tires are pointed. The rear of the car is what actually determines the direction of the car. Are they straight ahead or off to one side or the other? In large trucks it’s a good way to spot damaged suspension components or that something is bent in a rear solid-axle truck or car. A seasoned technician will look at this angle before adjusting the front so they can get the steering wheel as strait as possible.

Now you know why you need an alignment! Remember potholes here in Colorado Springs are brutal and constantly taking a toll on your alignment and the suspension parts that make all of that movement possible. From ball joints, control arm bushings, tie rods and your shocks all taking the brunt of our rough roads its good to have a seasoned mechanic “shake-down” the suspension before an alignment to see If anything needs replacement before an alignment. At Honest Accurate Auto Service, we do just that and we show you if anything is wrong.

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Car Noises

Is your car making an odd noise?  It is important to find out where the noise is coming from, and prevent a more severe, progressive problem that may be increasingly expensive to fix.  If you are concerned about a noise, a quick solution is to stop by one of our shops and have one of our technicians ride with you on a Complimentary “Quick Check”.  They can let you know if you have a problem that needs to be addressed right away, or if it is something that can wait.  One of our customers stopped by with a noise, and all we needed to do was put the car on a lift and remove the trapped piece of sagebrush that was rubbing!  We all like those easy fixes!

Here are some common noises that you might hear that may need your attention:

Squealing (upon braking):  As brake pads wear down, they will require replacement.  The pads have a “wear bar” that is intended to squeal when the pads become too thin to be effective. When that “wear bar” makes contact with the rotor, you will hear a squealing sound.  This means that you need to have your brakes checked, the pads replaced, and possibly the rotors resurfaced (machined so they are smooth) or replaced. 

Grinding (upon braking):  If you ignore the squeal, the noise will turn into grinding, which is the metal backing rubbing on the brake rotor.  Not only is it unsafe, the longer it goes the more expensive the repair can become.  The metal backing will wear grooves into the rotor, probably requiring rotor replacement.  Any other grinding sounds should be looked at as soon as possible, as there is some type of metal-upon-metal contact without lubrication occurring that will generally only get worse and cause damage if not addressed.

Clunk or clinking (going over bumps!):  Something in your suspension is loose or broken, probably due to hitting one of our city’s many potholes!  This could be a CV joint, axle part, or struts/shocks which will  generally become worse over time. 

Sudden Chirping Noise under the hood:  If it is not a bird in your engine, a chirping noise that starts out of the blue could be a pulley coming apart or a belt about to break.  Have it checked out immediately!  Some pulleys that break can shut down the engine (the serpentine belt powers all of your cars major systems), so if it breaks you will be left stranded on the side of the road with major engine damage.

Whoop-whoop or groaning: A wheel bearing going bad is grinding into the “race” or groove in which the bearing turns.  Bearings are intended to reduce friction in the wheel housing, but if they become worn and out-of-round, they no longer roll friction-free, requiring replacement.  With a wheel bearing  problem, the sound changes as you turn right or left (could get better or could get worse). The groaning also becomes worse as you accelerate, similar to the sound you hear when you drive on the rumble strip on the side of the road, although not quite as loud.

Knock Knock!  Who’s there?  Your engine may simply be telling you it doesn’t like the type/grade of gas you have been using. If the octane level is too low, the fuel may improperly ignite and make a knocking sound. Using cheap gas for long periods of time can cause deposits to build up, which can increase knocking sounds. Improper spark plugs (using an inexpensive or incorrect spark plug for your particular vehicle) can also add to creation of deposits and increase the engine’s internal temperature, also adding to a knocking noise.  Running out of or low on oil can create friction, noise, and will eventually (quickly) seize and destroy your car’s engine. As you can tell, there are several reasons your car’s engine may “knock” and it is important to find out the cause and resolve the issue, sooner rather than later!

Do not ignore noises that crop up in your vehicle.    Many automotive parts are “wear” items and will require periodic replacement…that noise is probably just telling you your car needs some attention!  Most noises become worse, and more expensive, to repair over time.  Addressing problems early can save you time and money!  Let Honest Accurate Auto Service help you keep on track and riding safely!

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We love our older vehicles and as a shop we take pride in helping our customers get 200,000+ miles out of them while making sure they are still great cars to drive and not just junkers they are trying to squeeze the last mile out of. In most cases the best financial decision is to fix a broken vehicle rather than get into a new one but that’s not always true. A new driver or a new baby can also be a good reason to add a vehicle or replace one that just doesn’t meet your families needs anymore, but one factor that often seems to get overlooked is safety. Auto manufacturers have made huge strides over the last 20 years in overall vehicle safety and depending on what you drive that could be as good a reason as any to check out a newer vehicle.

If you have been paying attention the last five years or so you have probably seen some of the really advanced new technology like, night vision, lane departure, assisted braking, and active cruise control. These are considered “active” safety systems and are designed to help you avoid a collision. All of these are great but there is also a lot going on that you can’t see. “Passive” safety systems are designed to save lives after the impact has already occured. Improved airbags and deployment strategies are helping to reduce the injuries caused by the airbags themselves and improve their effectiveness on deployment, sometimes that means knowing when not to deploy at all. Crumple zones, frame materials, and build techniques have all been improved to keep the passenger cabin intact and absorb the force of the impact so the passengers don’t have to. Active seatbelt tensioners will actually tighten the belt and secure the passengers in their seat and along with door anchors and improved door latch designs we can greatly reduce the chances of an occupant being ejected during an accident. The improved outcomes during crash testing over the last 20 or so years is stunning and should definitely be a factor when deciding on your next vehicle or the fate of your current one.

Protect your most precious cargo with proper car seat installation

Car seats and car seat installation are another topic that we would love to see addressed more. A study published by the Journal of Pediatrics found that in the U.S. 95% of infant seats are installed with at least one major error, 95%!!!!!

Some of the most common errors

  • The recline angle of the car seat is not correct.
  • The car seat’s harness is too loose.
  • Lower anchors are attached too loosely or are used improperly, such as in the middle seat of the vehicle.
  • The baby is not positioned correctly in the car seat, whether it’s an infant car seat, convertible car seat, or all-in-one car seat.
  • The seat belt retractor is not locked in car seats that use seat belts.
  • The wrong seat belt path is used or not used at all.

Installing a car seat correctly is quite a bit more complicated than most of us think and if you’re not sure your best bet is to check with the pros. Call you local police and fire departments and ask if they offer seat installation. Most of the time they will have a certified installed on their crew and are happy to show you how to do it right. If you don’t have access to that service make sure to thoroughly read the instructions that came with your seat and don’t be shy about contacting the manufacturer if you need help. They are just as concerned with safety as you are and want their products to work as advertised.

When it’s time to add a car for that new driver or you are how well a car seat will fit in the backseat of your coupe, make sure you keep safety in mind. There’s nothing wrong with driving older cars and for a lot of us there is a certain amount of pride in getting over that 200k or even 300k mark. Just remember the difference in safety equipment between and 10 year old vehicle and a 20 year old vehicle can be astounding, and when you need it most, it’s priceless.

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So, you are considering purchasing that beautiful, luxury European vehicle, maybe a BMW, Mercedes Benz, Audi, or VW – are you prepared for the associated costs of ownership, including maintenance and repair?  Owning a European vehicle will be more expensive to own than an American or Asian car or truck.  What makes them more expensive (and is it worth it?)?

First, consider these costs of ownership when deciding whether to purchase a European vs. an American- or Asian-produced vehicle:

  • Purchase Price (plus interest costs, if financing)
  • Taxes and Licensing Fees
  • Insurance Premiums
  • Gas
  • Maintenance
  • Repairs
  • Depreciation (per CARFAX Nov. 2018, the value of a new car drops 20% after the first 12 months, and approximately 10% per year annually for the next 4 years)

First, the cost of engineering, technology, manufacturing, and shipping will contribute to the initial purchase price of a European vehicle, which can be substantial.  Although some European cars are built in the United States, most are still actually produced in Europe.  The exchange rates, labor costs, and tariffs, which can be variable and unpredictable, are built into the price of the vehicle.  Advanced engineering is what makes these vehicles fun to drive, as well as feeling very sturdy and solid.  High-end interior and exterior finishes also contribute to that luxury feel and add to the price.  Even the brand name of the vehicle adds to the cost – you will pay simply for the name of Jaguar, Mercedes Benz, or Audi etc. on your vehicle!

Be aware of published “Costs of Maintenance” for individual makes and models of vehicles.  These are an average of what routine maintenance services will cost over time, and are based upon individual Manufacturer’s Maintenance Schedules.  Be aware that manufacturers may extend the recommended time between oil changes to decrease these costs of ownership, to improve sales of their cars.  For example, the “normal” driving conditions maintenance schedule on some European turbo vehicles calls for oil changes every 15,000 miles (* see notes below on “severe” driving conditions).  Per our European technician, because of the high heat (over 1300 degrees) that turbo engines generate, he recommends changing the oil every 5,000 miles (which is what he would do if maintaining his own car and he wanted it to last many years).  Miles and temperature take a toll on engines, and the best insurance against having problems and expensive repairs is to do regular oil and fluid changes.    

Given that the purchase price on luxury European cars is typically higher than our American or Asian vehicles, it follows that taxes, licensing, and insurance will also increase.  Check into these prices before you buy that car you have been dreaming about.  Nothing takes away from the enjoyment of owning that really nice car than the surprise of unexpectedly high costs to just get it on the road!

Be aware that most European vehicles have specific high standards called out on oil and fluids that can be used in the car.  These grades of oils come with a higher price tag, as they cost the automotive shops more to purchase and typically cannot be purchased in bulk.  Belts, hoses, brake pads and rotors, as well as many other parts that are considered wear items and require periodic replacement, are more expensive for each specific European vehicle when compared to a comparable American or Asian vehicle.  Even aftermarket parts (not Original Equipment Manufacturer -OEM- parts) run higher than a comparable part for American/Asian vehicle.

Diagnostic software that is specific to each European manufacturer is more expensive than American/Asian software.  This software accesses the “brains”, or computers in the car that will give a technician information (diagnostic codes and pin-point testing, which tell him/her where to start looking for the problem.  All of these tools add to the costs of maintenance and repairs.   

According to YourMechanic.com and Consumer Reports, the most expensive cars to maintain over a 10-year period are BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, Jaguar, and Audi.  Land Rover comes in at #15, Volkswagon at #22, and Mini Cooper at #25.  As a comparison, Lexus average costs over 10 years is $7000 vs. $17,800 for BMW.  Toyota is lowest at $5,500.

Driving a luxury European model of car can be a great experience, and the superior performance and handling can make them a pleasure to drive. However, they are much more fun and enjoyable when you are prepared for the associated costs that come with that ownership.  At Honest Accurate Auto Service, we have the tools, technicians, and experience to keep your European vehicle driving safely and reliably for years to come.

*All manufacturers base their cost of ownership and maintenance on “normal” driving conditions, not on “severe” driving conditions.  Operating your vehicle in Colorado will place significantly higher demands on all your drivetrain components when compared to say, California. We live and operate at higher altitudes, steeper grades (mountains) and significant climactic swings (winter vs. summer temperatures (which can occur all in one day sometimes!).  All of these conditions are hard on your car. To optimize the life of your vehicle, you should maintain your vehicle under the “severe” driving conditions schedule. 

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As vehicle build quality and improves and our fluids and lubricants become more and more durable, the maintenance schedules for modern vehicles have increased significantly. The old recommendation of changing your oil every 3000 miles has gone from 5,000, to 7,000, and in some cases 10,000 miles or more! If your vehicle is only seeing the repair shop every 10,000 miles for a scheduled oil change you could be missing some of the early signs of wear in other parts of the vehicle that could end up costing you down the road. We recommend getting your vehicle in for an oil change every 5,000 miles so it can get up in the air for a thorough inspection, but there are also some things you can do between those long service intervals that just might help prevent a surprise breakdown.

  • Pilots walkaround – You can do this any time you like but it should at least be done every time you fill the gas tank. Look for anything out of place or hanging off. Make sure none of your lug nuts are missing and look for flat tires. Check for any body damage that may have occurred while the vehicle was parked or for some reason went unnoticed. Also check for broken light assemblies, mirrors, and glass.
  • At every fill up take a minute to check your fluids and tires. Oil, coolant, power steering, and washer fluid are usually pretty easy to check. Brake fluid level will change depending on the wear on your brake pads so if you see it is a little low it doesn’t mean you need to add fluid, let your mechanic check it out before you add brake fluid. If you don’t know how to check your fluids just ask next time you are in for service, most shops would be happy to take a few minutes to show you. Keep a flash light and tire pressure gauge in your glovebox along with a small towel or rag. Check for wet spots and visible fluid leaks in the engine compartment and check the inflation pressure of your tires. You can’t always tell if a tire is low just by looking at it, it is important to use a gauge and make sure your pressure is correct after filling.
  • When you park, turn your steering wheel all the way to one side. This will allow you to get a really good look at your tire wear patterns and tread depth on the front wheels. Your tread wear should be relatively even across the tire and there should be no flat spots. If you run your hand along the tire it should be flat and even with no low spots or ridges. All tires will have wear indicators of some kind that can help you determine just how low your tread is, but it’s a good idea to keep and tread depth gauge in your glovebox.
  • Listen to the car, turn your radio off every now and then and just listen. Nobody knows better than you what your car should feel and sound like when everything is normal. Listen for anything unusual during your normal commute. It could be over bumps, while you are turning, or at high speed, just do your best to listen during different driving conditions and make sure the car isn’t trying to tell you something. If something seems off, make a mental note of how you were able to produce the noise so you can give your mechanic as much detail as possible and make easy for them to duplicate on their test drive.

The most important thing is just to pay attention to your vehicle and do not neglect it. If you can’t remember the last time it was up in the air it might be a good time to schedule a service appointment. Remember that a quick lube oil change will not get you a thorough inspection and should not be your primary form of vehicle maintenance. If you need more information just call your shop, most of them will be happy to help and can give you some guidance based on your personal vehicle and situation.  

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DPF Filter

As diesel engines have evolved, and vehicle emissions have been monitored heavily, manufacturers have been employing more and more emissions control devices, to better protect the environment and reduce the unsightly ‘black clouds’ that are renowned with older diesel vehicles.

One of these systems is the Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF) which sits in the exhaust system and filters harmful carbon particulates produced in the combustion cycle, preventing these particles from being released into the atmosphere.

What is a diesel particulate filter?

A diesel particulate filter (DPF) is a filter that captures and stores exhaust soot (some refer to them as soot traps) in order to reduce emissions from diesel cars and trucks. The filter is designed to deliver an 80% reduction in diesel particulate and soot emissions, it does this by trapping the particles in the filter itself. But because they only have a finite capacity, this trapped soot periodically has to be emptied or ‘burned off’ to regenerate the DPF.

This regeneration process cleanly burns off the excess soot deposited in the filter, reducing the harmful exhaust emission and helps to prevent the tell-tale black smoke you used to see from diesel vehicles, particularly when accelerating.

First fitted to diesel vehicles since 2007, the DPF has been causing confusion and, in many cases, expensive repair bills for drivers, due to lack of knowledge about the system.

The engine control unit (ECU) monitors the saturation level inside the filter, and when it reaches a certain percentage, increases the temperature inside the exhaust to ‘burn off’ the particles.

The procedure for your vehicle’s DPF regeneration process, as well as all the information on the system, will be located in your owner’s manual.

There are three different types of DPF regeneration methods:

Passive Regeneration

Active Regeneration

Forced Regeneration

Passive Regeneration

Passive regeneration takes place automatically, with no warning lights coming up on the dashboard. It mainly occurs on highways, when the vehicle speed and exhaust temperature is high. Depending on how the vehicle is used however, this may not be possible. Stop-start driving, or around town trips will not allow the exhaust to get up to temperature to carry out this regeneration.

Active Regeneration

Once the ECU reads the soot loading has reached a certain limit (usually around 45%), it will instigate what is known as post combustion fuel injection. This procedure injects a small amount of fuel into the engine after the main combustion cycle, to increase the temperature in the exhaust and trigger the regeneration process.

The ECU will usually give a warning on the dashboard to alert the driver that the regeneration process is in progress.

Depending on your vehicle, you will need to keep your vehicle over a certain speed and engine RPM until the warning has been turned off.

The procedure should be covered in your owner’s manual, but a rough guide is to keep the engine speed over 2,000RPM and the vehicle speed over 40mph.

Depending on the saturation level, this process may take anywhere from 5 minutes up to 30 minutes.

You may notice increased fuel consumption, the cooling fans running constantly and a slight acrid smell from the vehicle during this period. This is normal, as the exhaust temperature reaches over 600 degrees to burn off the particles.

If the process is interrupted and the regeneration cannot be completed, the ECU will activate ‘Reduced Power Mode’ or ‘Limp Home’ mode. This will limit power to prevent any damage to the engine or exhaust systems. The DPF and Engine warning lights will both come on when the vehicle enters this mode.

Forced Regeneration

If the DPF and Engine warning lights come on, the final regeneration will need to be completed. This is known as a Forced Regeneration. The vehicle will need to be driven carefully or towed down to a repair facility to have the DPF manually regenerated.

This process is carried out by connecting a diagnostic scan tool to the vehicle and forcing the vehicle to carry out a regeneration. This can be a costly exercise as the oil and oil filter will require changing after the service has been completed. This is due to the extra fuel that is added after the combustion cycle, as some of it works its way into the sump and dilutes the oil.

Depending on how blocked the DPF is, it may be the case that these regeneration procedures cannot clean the DPF completely. The only way to carry out complete removal of particles is to remove the filter from the vehicle, and have it professionally cleaned, and or replace the filter altogether. This is an extremely expensive exercise, as replacement DPF units can cost many thousands of dollars!!

What can prevent normal regeneration taking place?

  • Frequent short journeys, such as stop-start city driving, that do not allow the engine to reach correct operating temperature
  • Using the wrong oil type – DPF equipped vehicles require oil of a ‘low Ash, low Sulphur’ grade, to prevent excess build-up occurring
  • An issue with another emissions control device, such as the exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) system, or a problem with the air inlet or fuel systems
  • Low fuel level – most vehicles will not carry out a regeneration cycle if the fuel level is under ¼ of a tank
  • Overdue service interval – low oil quality or level will prevent regeneration from occurring
  • Engine warning light on – a warning light or a diagnostic trouble code stored in the ECU may prevent regeneration

When purchasing a diesel vehicle, it is important to check and see if it is fitted with a Diesel Particulate Filter, and whether your driving style will allow the system to be used to its full potential, or it will cause you headaches and expensive repairs in the long run.

If you own Diesel truck or are considering purchasing one, feel free to send us an email with any questions you may have.   

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What do you need to know about owning a diesel car truck or SUV before buying one? Well, there is a few things that will help you make an educated decision.

First, do you have a lot of money? I say this because whether you buy a European diesel, or an American diesel truck you will need to be prepared to spend money on repairs. Everything in a diesel engine is more expensive. From injectors to the after treatment systems that clean up the dirty exhaust called particulate filters, everything is pricey. Diesel trucks also require more maintenance and have more filters than gas cars. Don’t let this scare you but think twice when you think you are saving money because you are getting better gas mileage. If you need a diesel truck to haul things or use it for work, then keep up on regular maintenances and you will not have as many big repairs. On the flip side, diesel cars and trucks are a great option for many that tow or have long commutes and owning one can provide lower long-term ownership costs with proper maintenance and care.

When looking to buy a diesel truck make sure to look at the hours on the engine. Miles are not always a good indicator of its use or age. The hours on an engine can indicate a much different story. Most diesels being used for work spend a lot of time idling. One hour of idle time is equivalent to twenty-five miles of driving so always inspect the “engine hours” displayed in the instrument cluster and do the math on how many actual miles it probably has.

Do not rush your diesel car, truck or SUV purchase. Take your time, inspect the undercarriage for rust or signs of leaks and most importantly get a pre-purchase inspection by a trained diesel technician who can tell you the flaws of the vehicle you are trying to purchase. Mechanics see so many vehicles and know which vehicles are prone to common engine, transmission and driveline problems. Listen to your mechanic and let him steer you in the right direction of which diesel to buy and ask him what to expect so you are not caught off guard by unwanted costly repairs.

Always ask for any maintenance records. These “paper trails” of oil changes, repairs and regular maintenances will tell the true story of how well a vehicle has been taken care of. Remember that once a vehicle has been poorly maintained that doing a large maintenance service on it will not fix any large problems it may have. Worn bearings in the engine cannot be mended without engine replacement or a complete rebuild so beware when a few oil changes are missing in the records or you are seeing ten to twenty thousand mile or change intervals. Even though diesels tend to hold more oil does not necessarily mean it can go longer on an oil change.

Owning a diesel can be rewarding as they tent to get better fuel mileage, have more torque for pulling heavy loads, and when meticulously maintained can run forever and be extremely reliable. Have our trained technicians at Honest Accurate Auto service give you the insight you need about owning a diesel truck or car before you buy one!

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