|Brake repairs – critical? Of course! Your brakes keep your family safe. Brake repairs and parts for imports – expensive? You bet! Brake rotors for import cars, unlike domestics, are built with minimal thicknesses to save weight – meaning they can’t be “turned”; they must be replaced.
Brake rotors for imports are also more sensitive to warping from heat, and overheated brakes are the second most common cause of failure (first is wear-and-tear).
Save money on brake repairs and parts with these tips:
Use Your Eyes & Ears to Inspect Your Brakes
Visually inspect your brakes’ condition at least every six months. Here are some things to look for:
Brake Rotors (discs) should be inspected all the way around the surface and on both sides for any concentric scoring (grooves) or obvious defects. If defects are found, replace your rotors immediately. Any rotor discoloration may be a sign of overheating and an inspection by a brake repair professional is needed.
Brake Pads will normally match rotor scoring but should also be inspected for uneven wear, breakage or cracking on the friction surface. Again, if defects are found, replace the pads immediately. Many cars also have brake pad sensors to warn of pad wear. If your car uses sensors, replace these at the same time as your pads.
Brake Drums (if equipped) should also be inspected on a regular basis. Check for the same types of flaws as noted above. The drums should not have excessive grooves or have a deep “trough” dug into them where the shoes ride.
Brake Shoes (if equipped) should be worn evenly and have no rivets protruding to the friction surface.
Additional Troubleshooting: When inspecting brakes, check calipers, wheel cylinders, hoses and fittings for any hydraulic fluid leakage.
Inspect the master cylinder, reservoir and proportioning valve assemblies as well. Replace or rebuild as required.
A “spongy” brake pedal or one that’s gotten lower underfoot also needs looking into. It could be caused by sticking calipers, worn pads, low fluid or hydraulic system problems.
If you can’t “pump them up”, then you definitely have hydraulic problems that need work. If you always have to pump them up, at the very least your hydraulic fluid needs replacement.
To check brakes by sound, know how your brakes should sound and listen for out-of-the-ordinary noises.
Most cars have a slight brushing sound from the pads lightly touching the rotors. This is perfectly normal. Sounds to beware of include:
Squeaking may be caused by dust or dirt on the brakes, loose pads vibrating when applied or worn pads.
Rhythmic noise might mean you have a warped rotor. Instead of a solid squeaking noise, it pulsates. In extreme cases, the brake pedal will also pulsate underfoot.
Constant brake noise is never a good sound and any grinding noise spells real trouble!
Most importantly: As soon as any problem is noticed, get it repaired immediately. Delaying brake repairs is extremely dangerous.
Overstressed rotors and drums can break. Brakes may be too worn or damaged to stop your car in an emergency.
Even if you manage to avoid physical harm, the longer you delay fixing brake problems, the more you increase the cost of doing so.
Badly worn, warped or overheated rotors can damage wheel bearings and the complete wheel hub assembly. These parts often cost as much or more than the brakes themselves.
Even if you like doing your own work, every few years your brakes should be examined by a professional. Checking brakes for “run-out”, warping, wheel bearing play, proper proportioning balance, among others, are normally more involved than can be accomplished in your garage. This inspection can also uncover underlying problems that could eventually become costly or dangerous.
Important Things to Remember
Heed these tips and you’re on your way to ensuring your brakes won’t fail:
Tip #1: Keep the hydraulic reservoir at the proper level with the fluid type recommended by the car manufacturer. Never substitute or mix types of fluid. Remember also that hydraulic fluid absorbs water. Never use old hydraulic fluid – always use a fresh container.
Tip #2: Keep brakes clean by washing them off at the same time as your car. This keeps squeaky dust and dirt off the pads and makes brakes easier to inspect and work on.
Tip #3: Never spray, touch or drip any oil or lubricants on the brake friction surfaces. If this occurs, spray immediately with brake cleaner to remove completely.
Tip #4: There are no shortcuts or quick fixes to brake problems. They either function properly or they don’t. Know your brake system – how it should work, feel and sound – before it acts up so you’ll know when something’s wrong.
Tip #5: Most imports don’t have serviceable rotors. They must be replaced at the same time as the pads. The rotors cannot be “turned” to remove imperfections. There isn’t sufficient metal thickness to safely accomplish this.
Tip #6: Keep a repair log with receipts when any service is performed on your car. It helps when you need to check if your warranty is still in effect. More importantly, it’s a great gauge of performance and an indicator of other problems.
Tip #7: Whenever the pads are replaced, the hydraulic system must be bled to remove any air bubbles. Most specialists recommend changing the fluid with every pad replacement. If you’re unsure of the proper technique for bleeding the hydraulic system, don’t perform the job yourself. Seek help from a professional. ABS equipped cars should be bled only by professionals.
Tip #8: Most noises are usually related to your pads. However, whenever replacing pads, you should also replace the sensors and seriously consider replacing the rotors at the same time.
Tip #9: After installing new pads, remember to “set” them properly. This conditions them for maximum performance and prevents premature failure. Instructions for setting pads is usually provided in the package with your new pads.
Brake Parts Shopping List
When shopping for parts, remember two important things:
1. OEM/OES (original equipment manufactured/supplied) or equivalent pads and rotors are not always cheap. You do, however, get what you pay for. OE parts will give you the most trouble-free driving and peace of mind. And . . . isn’t that what’s most important?
2. Before requesting any brake parts for your import car, make sure you have the year, exact model designation, engine size and type, brake configuration, type of rotors (solid or vented), vehicle ID number (VIN) and production date. For Volvos, you’ll also need rotor diameter, caliper manufacturer and mount and shape of the pads.
Here is a list of parts you should consider when working on brake systems:
– Front Brake Rotors (Brake Discs) –
It’s a beautiful night and you and your sweetie are driving down a pretty country road. The bliss of the night is interrupted by a high-pitched scream. The scream wasn’t Sweetie; it was you because the car just lost all power to the headlights.
Since the car is running fine the only conclusion to make is there is a blown fuse. Luckily a few tips and tricks of the trade, not to mention knowing where to look, will fix the problem in a jiffy.
The first thing to do is be prepared. The Boy Scouts are on to something with that one. Being prepared means having the correct fuses for your vehicle on hand, not in the garage at home. They won’t help you there. Ten dollars or less spent at the auto store will provide your car with a spare set of fuses for any emergency.
Newer model cars and trucks rely heavily on their electrical systems. Ask anyone who has worked on them. Some of these models have up to three different fuse boxes.
An easy way to determine which box to check and which fuse to change is using the owner’s manual. There should be a chart detailing those specifics included. If the chart is missing, the fastest way to find the faulty fuse is to test it with a test light or voltmeter.
Now, if the Boy Scouts’ rule has been forgotten, the option left for you is to check them by sight individually. To test if the fuse is blown, connect the ground wire of your test light or voltmeter to a chassis point, one with exposed metal is a good choice. Then touch the tool’s probe to the fuse’s conductor.
A working fuse will show voltage power on both sides. Obviously the faulty culprit fuse will be missing its charge on one side. Fortunately changing the fuse involves removing the bad one and plugging in a new fuse.
Pay attention here. Make sure the fuse you are using to replace the bad one is the correct amp. If you use a fuse with too high amperage it is possible to start an electrical fire in your vehicle and do more damage than a simple blown fuse is worth.
Fuses typically come in three sizes, mini, normal, and maxi. The fuses that are mini and normal are color-coded. The wrench thrown in is that the maxi sized fuses are color-coded differently.
This being the case it is imperative to check that the amperage on the fuse is correct for location. Don’t even trust a trained mechanic, they make mistakes too. Just because that was the last fuse put in doesn’t mean it was the right amperage.
Knowing how to change your car fuses and being prepared for the possibility is the perfect way to ensure that there won’t be any late night blackouts. Sweetie will thank you for it.
You’re not sure if you hit a nail or ran through glass. What you do know it that your tire is definitely flat. It could be repaired at the mechanic’s shop or you could save yourself the trip and expense and do it yourself. The process can be a little time consuming, but once you know how to repair a flat you will never again be at the mercy of closed shops or stuck in the middle of nowhere. Taking the time to learn this essential maintenance process now will save a lot of time and hassle later.
The first thing you need to do is determine where the puncture is located. A quick way to do this is to submerge the tire in water and watch where air bubbles form. Obviously this area or areas are the place you need to concentrate on. Before the patch job can begin it is important to remove any foreign object that is stuck there. Pliers are a good tool for this step. Simply use the pliers to pull the object out in the same direction as the tire’s tread. Being sure to go with the tread helps ensure that minimal additional damage is done to the tire.
Now is the time to prepare to patch the tire hole. Using a tire reamer clean the hole out from the inside of the tire. This will remove any dirt or oil that may later cause adhesion issues with the cement and patch. Place the patch centered over the puncture to be sure sizing is correct. Remove the patch and coat an awl with cement. Be sure to run the awl through the hole several times to be sure the cement is coating the damaged area adequately. Place a coat of vulcanizing cement on the patch and buffed area of the tire and allow to dry thoroughly.
To finish up the tire repair job and to help make sure your tire problems are a thing of the past, take the time to complete a few preventative measures. One useful precaution is to take a look at your valve stems. If they look worn, old, or damaged it is a good idea to change them. Be sure they are the right length and diameter for your car’s tires.
Valve stems are important because not only do they function to retain valve core air retention, but they also keep moisture and dirt from getting inside the tire. Once you are assured that the valve stems are in good condition reinflate the tire. Using soapy water sprayed on the tire is useful to see if there are any leaks in the new patch, around valve stems, or the beads.
One of the most irritating occurrences for a driver is to lose their rear view mirror. Not lost exactly, just that it is no longer attached to the windshield. Besides being illegal and unsafe, not having a rear view mirror is a serious inconvenience to a driver. The good news is it is fairly easy and inexpensive to reattach the mirror.
The first thing to do is get all of your necessary supplies ready. A quick trip to the auto parts store will do nicely. Pick up a rearview mirror adhesive kit. It will have a strong glue vial and a supply of accelerant to speed up the glue curing process.
A small Allen wrench and thin, razorblade scraper will be helpful as well. Get together some odds and ends from the house too. Masking tape and, if the weather is chilly, a hair dryer or heat gun will be helpful.
Use the scraper to remove any old glue from the windshield. Allowing the car windshield to warm up in the sun or warming the glass with the hair dryer or heat gun will loosen it as well.
It is usually pretty obvious where the rearview mirror should be placed due to residue from the original mirror. However if that is not the case use your tape measure to mark a place halfway across the windshield and about 4 inches from the headliner.
Make sure the area of glass that is to be home to your rearview mirror is clean of the old glue and dirt or oil. The base plate of mirror should be scraped and clean of residue as well. The old glue will prohibit the new adhesion from sticking properly.
The next step is to place the rearview mirror. Using the glue from the kit, apply an adequate amount to the clean glass. Remove the mounting base from the mirror with the Allen wrench.
Working with the mirror attached is cumbersome and awkward. Apply the accelerant to the base plate and allow the accelerant time to dry. Both surfaces are now prepped for adhesion.
You’re almost there. Liberally apply the glue to the back of the base plate and firmly press it onto the prepared spot on the inside of the windshield. Be sure to hold it in place for at least two minutes.
The base plate should be left alone for a 15-minute minimum and longer is even better. If it is convenient letting the adhesive cure overnight is an excellent idea.
After the base plate has had adequate time to dry, rescrew the mirror to its base. Don’t be tempted to test the hold and pull on the rearview mirror. It will hold just fine as it is and with any luck, the job will last for the life of the car.
After a fender bender, it’s just as smart to steer yourself into the hands of the right auto body collision repair center as it is to check out a contractor’s credentials when you need home repair.
With more than 35,000 auto body repair shops nationwide, choosing a shop can be confusing.
Steve Cox, vice president of the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB), says, “Although an insurance company may make some recommendations, drivers ultimately are responsible for selecting an auto body repair shop. Choosing a trustworthy, quality-oriented shop is very important for ensuring the best possible results.”
repair experience, with tips on choosing a trustworthy shop, saving money on a replacement rental car and knowing how to settle any disputes.
Choose a Trustworthy Collision Repair Shop. Check out the shop’s qualifications by asking about advanced technician training from a national organization such as the Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair (I-CAR) or National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certification.
Look for Commitment to Customer Satisfaction. Ask whether the shop is a member of the Better Business Bureau and verify information on the BBB Web site at www.bbb.org to see if the shop maintains a good reputation.
Arrange a Replacement Rental Car. Since the average car is in the repair shop for two weeks, ask if the shop can make recommendations for a rental car company and if it can arrange for a replacement rental car to be ready when you drop off your car. If your auto insurance policy includes replacement rental car coverage, which is usually only a couple dollars a month, you may get a rental car for little or no money.
Get Everything in Writing Up Front. Get a written repair and price estimate of the work to be performed, as well as an explanation of why specific recommendations are necessary to correct the collision damage, before the job begins. Also, ask about a warranty. Professional, reputable repair shops will stand behind their repair work by offering a warranty.
When deciding where to have their car repaired or serviced, most people choose a repair shop they trust and one that’s convenient to their home or work, so they can fit such visits into their already busy schedules.
Most people assume they will always be able to choose where their cars are repaired, but that may not always be the case.
Cars are run by computers and car manufacturers don’t always want to release the computer codes that are required for anyone to determine what is wrong with a car, and the necessary information for the shop to properly complete the repair.
There are nearly 225 million vehicles in the U.S. and only 21,640 car dealerships. In addition, there are 132,000 businesses that repair cars for a living. Without access to the computer codes they need, such repair shops would eventually be forced out of business because there will be fewer and fewer repairs on an automobile that they can fix.
Some members of Congress understand the implications of this problem and are working to pass the Motor Vehicle Owners Right To Repair Act.
The bill would require the car companies to share the same information and tools with independent repair shops that they provide car dealers, while protecting the car companies’ trade secrets.
If the thought of only being able to take your car to a dealership causes concern, you may want to discuss this proposed legislation with your elected officials.
Lobbyists for large car companies and new car dealers have been very vocal about how this bill would affect them. Last year, the act had 100 Congressional supporters, but Congress did not pass the bill before it adjourned.
“If the driving public does not speak up, they may lose the right to choose where to have their vehicles serviced and repaired,” said Kathleen Schmatz, president and CEO of the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association. “Something as simple as sending a letter to one’s Congressional representatives would have great impact.”
If so, is it really necessary to go to a dealership or high-end import specialist and pay the extra money commonly associated with this service?
You may be surprised.
Depending on the brand offered by the shop, you might even enjoy the benefits of more robust, premium-grade materials, factory-quality fit and a carefully tuned exhaust “note” that helps make your vehicle sound like new.
“Many import owners feel that the dealership or high-end import specialists are the only ones with quality replacement exhaust products,” said Bill Shutt, emissions control product manager for Tenneco Inc.’s Walker brand.
“The fact is, you can save hundreds of dollars by relying on a qualified auto repair shop that carries a leading exhaust brand.”
In some cases, according to Shutt, an “aftermarket” system will be virtually identical to the more expensive OE product. In fact, some aftermarket manufacturers, including Tenneco, also design and produce OE systems for vehicle manufacturers around the world.
“The bottom line for the consumer, regardless of the vehicle make or model, is finding the best total value in terms of fit, durability, exhaust flow characteristics, and sound,” Shutt said.
“These benefits are available through any auto repair shop that carries Walker products and other leading aftermarket brands.”
The same is true in the case of catalytic converter replacement, said Shutt.
Some vehicle owners assume that quality converter service is available only through the dealership. In truth, however, virtually any qualified shop can install an OE-style replacement converter on nearly any import model.
Is it best to repair or replace your car? That’s a good question in this economy and here are some helpful tips to make your decision a little easier for you.
(NAPSI)-A growing number of people are finding that the economy has them debating whether it’s best to buy a new car or repair the one they have. If you are trying to decide between buying and repairing, here are some tips that may help:
The 50-Percent Rule
After receiving the estimate of a major repair, consider the “50-percent rule.” When the cost of a needed repair approaches 50 percent of the vehicle’s value, it is time to seriously consider replacing it.
Reliability And Maintenance History
The best way to know a vehicle’s condition is by maintaining it on a regular basis and using the same repair shop. If a repair shop knows the service history of a vehicle, consumers can look to its technicians for guidance on when their vehicle likely will need major repairs.
“Following the vehicle manufacturer’s maintenance recommendations can greatly increase the life span of vehicle,” said John Nielsen, director of AAA Approved Auto Repair and Auto Buying.
The cosmetic condition of a vehicle can greatly affect its value and a motorist’s desire to hold on to it. Motorists should take a critical look at their vehicle for signs of wear and tear and evaluate how important their vehicle’s cosmetics are to them.
Changes in lifestyle can be a large factor in changing vehicles. Family size, commute length, recreational usage and business needs are all legitimate reasons to consider purchasing a newer vehicle that is better suited to a consumer’s driving routine.
Several outside factors may impact the decision between repairing and replacing a vehicle, such as reduced pricing and special offers from manufacturers. A vehicle that could become a valuable classic might be worthy of extraordinary repairs and maintenance.
A poll of ASE-certified automotive technicians indicated that drivers over 60 are among the most conscientious when it comes to taking their vehicles in for routine maintenance and repair.
The experts at the nonprofit National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) remind consumers that good communication between shop and customer can help make the repair process go smoothly.
The following tips from ASE should make the repair process go smoothly:
Don’t ignore what your vehicle is telling you.
* Unusual sounds, odors, drips, leaks, smoke, warning lights, gauge readings.
* Changes in acceleration, engine performance, gas mileage, fluid levels.
* Worn tires, belts and hoses.
* Problems in handling, braking, steering, vibrations.
* Note when the problem occurs and whether it is constant or periodic.
Stay involved; communicate your findings:
* Be prepared to describe any symptoms. In larger shops, you’ll probably speak with a service consultant rather than with the technician directly.
* Carry a written list of the symptoms that you can give to the technician or service consultant.
* Do not be embarrassed to request simple definitions of technical terms.
* Ask to be called and apprised of the problem, course of action and costs before work begins.
* Before you leave, make a note of shop policies regarding labor rates, guarantees and acceptable methods of payment.
* Keep a record of all repairs and service.
Due to the current economic climate, many Americans are becoming less willing to make expensive purchases. Even the nation’s long-held love affair with the automobile hasn’t escaped the penny-pinching trend.
The latest trends demonstrate that Americans are trying to stretch the mileage of their current vehicles. In 2006, the average car owner drove their car for 68 months before trading it in for a new vehicle. By the fourth quarter of 2008, the average trade-in was 76 months old.
– Always consult your owner’s manual, but a good rule of thumb is to have the oil and filter changed regularly, every 3,000 to 4,000 miles.
– Have all fluids checked, including brake, power steering, transmission and transaxle, windshield washer solvent and antifreeze. These fluids play a large role in the safety and performance of the vehicle.
– Keep your engine tuned. A fouled spark plug or restricted fuel injector can reduce fuel efficiency as much as 30 percent.
– Have the chassis lubricated frequently. This step extends the life of the moving components of the vehicle’s suspension system.
– Check battery cables and connections for corrosion, and clean them as needed.
– Have the lighting system checked frequently, including headlights, turn signals and brake and tail lights.
– Check windshield wiper blades for cracks, tears and windshield contact. Replace them approximately once a year or sooner if streaking begins.
– Inspect engine belts regularly. Worn belts will affect the engine performance. Look for cracks and missing sections or segments.
– Have the air filtration system checked frequently. The air filter should be checked approximately every other oil change for clogging or damage. This system ensures that the vehicle is performing at its peak condition.
Always consult the vehicle owner’s manual for individual service schedules as manufacturer maintenance requirements will vary.