If You Don’t Replace Your Car’s Air Filter…

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Anytime you get some basic service done on your car, a good mechanic will check a number of important things that can have a major impact on engine performance. One of those things happens to be your car’s air filter.

car air filter replacementCar Air Filter Inspection: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Many technicians like to pull out the air filter under the hood and show you what it looks like. If it’s new and relatively clean, the filter will be a nice, bright white. With a little age, it might have a dull-gray color. And if it’s been trying to protect your engine for far too long, it might be borderline black and filled with tiny dust-like particles. We’ve even seen air filters neglected for so long that they’re even packed with bigger debris like leaves and small twigs.

How Much Does a New Car Air Filter Cost?
Replacing an air filter is a relatively easy thing to do. It’s something most people can do on their own, once they know where to find the air filter and how to remove/replace the old one. A new air filter at an auto parts store typically $10 to $25.

But a lot of people neglect to replace the air filter. Sometimes it’s just because they don’t want the cost of a typical oil change to double in price. And sometimes, it’s just something people forget to do. Unfortunately, neglecting to replace your air filter on a regular basis could cost you a lot more than a bag of groceries.

A Bad Car Air Filter Damage the Mass Air Flow Sensor

Your engine is powered by a mixture of air and fuel. The amount of air your engine gets is regulated by a part called a mass air flow sensor. For the most part, the mass air flow sensor isn’t one of those parts that needs to be replaced on a regular basis like brakes and belts. However, running your car for mile after mile with a dirty air filter will take a toll on the mass air flow sensor. If it fails, industry estimates show the average repair cost to replace the mass air flow sensor runs about $400.

Need your air filter changed or routine maintenance to help prevent costly repairs? We can help. Give us a call at 515-423-8185 or click here to schedule an appointment.

Tips to Protect Your Car Battery in Iowa’s Hot Weather

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When Mother Nature heats things up during the peak of summer, most people take action to keep cool. Consuming cold drinks, swimming, or cranking up your home’s air conditioner can help you stay cool. But your car probably doesn’t have that luxury.

battery care des moines iowa When you’re not driving it, your car is probably soaking up the sun in your driveway, in the parking lot at work or the store, or in your garage where it’s still hot. Too much exposure to direct sunlight can take a toll on your car’s paint job, but that’s the least of your worries when it’s hot and you’re in a hurry to get to work or pick up the kids from swimming lessons. Hot weather can take a toll on your car battery too.

In fact, it’s one of the most common factors that shorten the life of a car battery, according to the Car Care Council. Cold weather might prevent your battery from firing and make the engine harder to start, but it’s not nearly as damaging as hot weather.

When your car battery gets hot from being in 80-plus-degree weather, it causes fluids inside your battery to evaporate. Lack of fluid in your car battery cells, can cause permanent damage to the battery. If this happens, it can cause your battery to be overcharged, which slowly drains the life out of it. At first, your car might seem hard to start in hot weather. And then one day, you’re walk out the door into a blast of heat, put your key in the ignition and nothing happens.

Here are some things you can do to protect your car battery from exposure to hot weather:

  1. Have your battery and electrical system checked to make sure it’s charging correctly. Overcharging or undercharging can shorten the life of your battery.
  1. Check fluid levels in your car battery. If any of the cells are empty or low, add distilled water. It’s a good idea to check battery fluid levels regularly during hot weather.
  1. If you need a new battery, follow the manufacturer’s recommendations to get the right battery for optimal performance.
  1. Keep the battery, cables, and terminals clean. Dirt on the battery, cables, and terminals can drain your battery and prevent your battery from working properly.

Need to give your battery a check-up? Give us a call at 515-423-8185 or click here to schedule an appointment.

Car Purchasing Advice from Millionaires: Buy Used

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Have you been thinking about purchasing a new car? It’s tempting when there’s countless commercials, magazine ads, and promotions showing off the latest models in style and features. But in order to afford a new car, most people are going to finance the cost with a combination of a down payment, trade-in, and years of monthly payments.car purchase tips des moines iowa

But if you can avoid financing a car, you should. That’s what authors Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko discovered in their book The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy. They interviewed dozens of ordinary people who amassed at least a million dollars in wealth through hard work, smart investments, and frugal living.

In their quest to uncover the habits of self-made millionaires, they found that many intentionally bought used cars for years instead of making payments on a new one. It’s a novel concept that can save you a lot of money.

Car Repairs and Regular Maintenance Can Save You Money

Buy used and pay cash. Take good care of the car with regular maintenance and necessary repairs. Save some money. After a couple of years, trade-up for another used car with your trade-in and cash to cover the cost. It’s one of the ways people with ordinary jobs in The Millionaire Next Door were able to save a lot of money and eventually drive their dream car.

If you’re driving an older car that has a few issues, you might be tempted to get rid of it and buy a new-off-the-lot car. But in most cases, it’s going to cost a lot more in the long run to buy a new car than to keep your used car up and running.

Have a used car that needs a little help? Basic maintenance like regular oil changes and replacing the brakes, belts, and air filters can prolong the life of your car. Keeping up on routine maintenance can help prevent more costly repairs and save you money over time. In The Millionaire Next Door people used that extra money to save and make smart investments instead of making monthly car payments.

Want to get the most mileage out of your car? We can help. A full-inspection can identify any issues and routine maintenance will keep your car running longer, smoother, and more efficiently, and cost you less money over time. Give us a call at 515-423-8185 or click here to schedule an appointment.

Radiator Cap Check Can Save You Time & Money

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It’s a hot summer day. You’ve packed up your car with everything you need for a week-long vacation and take I-35 out of town. Everything seems to be going as planned on your road trip, until you notice the needle of the thermostat gauge start creeping towards H-O-T.

radiator cap checkIf your car overheats, it’s possible to let the engine cool, refill the coolant reservoir, and keep on going. But driving your car when it’s overheating, can lead to serious engine damage. And if there’s any truth to Murphy’s Law (anything that can go wrong, will go wrong), your car could overheat in the middle of nowhere during the hottest time of day where cell service is poor.

While car trouble on a summer vacation road trip might be funny in the movies, it’s not when you’re the one stuck on the side of the road. There are a variety of reasons your car could overheat. But sometimes, it’s as simple as a faulty radiator cap.

How the Radiator Cap Works

The radiator cap on the coolant reservoir is made of metal. There’s a spring inside that helps regulate pressure inside the radiator. The cap also has a rubber gasket designed to create a proper seal with the coolant reservoir. Both the spring inside the radiator cap and the rubber seal are wearable parts and should be inspected periodically.

How to Inspect Radiator Cap

A quick inspection of the radiator cap can save you time and money. But you’ll want to do this before your next road trip. Here’s how:

  1. When your car engine is cool, open the hood and locate the radiator cap. (It’s typically a silver-colored cap on the reservoir that contains coolant or antifreeze.)
  1. Push down, twist, and pull up on the radiator cap. It requires a little effort because it’s spring loaded and should have a solid seal if the rubber gasket is good.

Here’s what to look for:

  • If you don’t feel any resistance or pressure when you push down on the radiator cap, the spring inside may no longer be working properly.
  • Once the cap is off, take a closer look at the rubber gasket. If it’s cracked or brittle in any places, it’s not creating a proper seal.

If you find either of these problems, replace the radiator cap. It’s a good time to check the coolant level and top off the reservoir, too.

If you need help with a failing radiator cap, or your car is still prone to overheating after replacing it, we can help. Give us a call at 515-423-8185 or click here to schedule an appointment.

 

Listen… 5 Warning Sounds Your Car May Be Making

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When you start up your car, you want to hear your engine running smoothly and quietly. And when you leave the house in a rush to get to work or head out of town on vacation, the last thing you want to hear some unfamiliar sound coming from your car.

engine noise warningsTo the untrained ear, any unfamiliar or new sound coming from under the hood can seem like impending doom for your vehicle. While some sounds may indeed be a telltale sign of a serious problem, some sounds are early warning signs that are inexpensive to fix. Here are five common sounds you might hear coming from your car, along with what to do about it.

1. Clicking and Tapping
It’s a warning sound you’ll notice right away, especially when your car has been running smoothly. Hear clicking or tapping, and you’ll probably roll down your window while driving to get a closer listen to the sound. Chances are pretty good it’s either a valve problem related to a worn part, or low oil pressure. Make sure the engine has enough oil, and if you can’t find the source of the sound, schedule an inspection.

2. Loud Knocking Noises
If you hear this warning sound, stop driving as soon as possible. Loud knocking sounds usually indicate a major issue with a part inside the engine. Continue driving, and the problem can lead to serious engine damage that might only be repairable by replacing the engine.

3. Rattling and Whining
If your car has a cam shaft belt problem, you might notice a rattling or whining sound when you step on the gas. The camshaft helps open and close valves in the engine, and it’s a critical component for engine performance. If the cam shaft belt is loose, poorly aligned, or slips, it can cause a rattling or whining noise, particularly when you accelerate. A problem with the cam shaft is best handled by a trained mechanic.

4. Squealing During Acceleration
When an engine fan belt is loose or slips, it can make a terrible squealing sound. It’s most often caused by an aging belt that has developed cracks and is beginning to loosen. The engine fan belt is also called a serpentine belt. When the rubber teeth of the belt no longer grip the pulley tightly, they can drag across the pulley and make the telltale squealing sound. The belt either needs to be tightened to eliminate the squealing, and in most cases usually needs to be replaced.

5. Grinding Sounds
If you hear grinding sounds, it may not be coming from the engine. Let’s hope not (grinding sounds coming from the engine usually indicate a very serious problem). Roll down your window and listen carefully. The grinding sound may be coming from your brakes. Worn out brake pads and rotors can make a grinding sound. Hear this warning sound, and it’s a good time to get a brake inspection.

Got a car sound that’s driving you crazy? We can help. Give us a call at 515-423-8185 or click here to schedule an appointment.