Find a Good Auto Repair Shop Before You Need One

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If you drive an older car, the chances of something going wrong are probably going to be higher than driving a car home from a dealership. But that doesn’t mean new cars won’t have problems. While you might not want to think about it, do you know where you’ll take your car if it does need a repair?

You should. You don’t have to look far to know that prices among auto mechanics can vary widely on parts and service. And unless you’ve done your homework, you might not know anything about a shop’s customer service, track record, and warranties before someone has your car up on a hydraulic lift.

auto repair shop downtown des moines iowaYou’ll save yourself time, money, and worry, if you know where to take your car when it needs to be fixed, instead of scrambling to find a good mechanic. Here’s how to find one:

Ask Your Friends for a Referral

While Google may help you find a long list of auto shops in Des Moines, you still won’t know a lot about them. Ask your friends for a referral. It’s a good place to start your own research to find a place to take care of your car.

Check Qualifications

Online reviews can tell you a lot about a business, customer service, and quality of work. But don’t base you decision on choosing a mechanic entirely on word-of-mouth. You can also check to see if the business is registered with the state of Iowa, the city of Des Moines, the local Chamber of Commerce, and the Better Business Bureau. You can also check to see if the shop has mechanics on staff with an Automotive Service Excellence certification.

Ask about Warranty Work

If your car is still covered under warranty and need repairs, read the fine print. You may need to take your car to an authorized dealer, but in some cases an approved shop may be able to do the work covered by your warranty, too. You’ll also want to ask the manage about what type of work they warranty, and what type of work or repairs it covers.

Get Details about Diagnostic Testing

In most cases, before any kind of repair is made to your car, a mechanic starts with diagnostic testing to determine, identify, or confirm the problem that needs to be repaired. When you’re looking for a shop, ask if they charge for diagnostic testing. In many cases, basic diagnostic tests are free, while more labor-intensive testing to identify a problem may come with a fee. Some shops will waive the fee if you have them perform the needed repair.

Get a Second Opinion

Even after you’ve found a shop you trust, it’s always a good idea to get a second opinion, especially with an expensive repair. You could take your car to a second shop and have their team give you a quote. Or you could ask your mechanic for the details, and simply call another shop and see what they would do the work for. Either way, getting a second opinion for expensive car repairs can save you time, money, and anxiety in the long run.

Get It In Writing

Reputable shops will gladly give you a quote for work that needs to be performed. It’s important to get this in writing, before you agree to any repairs. That way when it comes time to settle your bill there are no surprises.

If your car needs routine maintenance or a major repair, we can help. We’ve been keeping cars on the roads for Des Moines drivers for more than 30 years. And we’re proud of our reputation for friendly customer service and outstanding work on thousands of cars.

Need a good mechanic? Do your homework, and then click here to schedule a service appointment, contact us at 515-243-8185, send us an email at service@beckleyimports.com, or stop by at 901-8th Street in Des Moines.

3 Common Causes for Poor Emissions

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Even if you don’t drive a diesel-powered Volkswagen, you’ve probably heard about the car maker’s deceptive software designed to manipulate emission testing results. Volkswagen engineers said the cars were designed to meet environmental standards, but when millions of VWs failed state emissions tests, local shops like ours performed the same tests and found emissions much higher than legally allowed.

diesel emissions testing des moines iowaIowa may be one of just 12 states that still don’t require emissions testing for vehicles, but that doesn’t mean driving a car spewing toxic fumes is a non-issue. VW is in the process of working out a plan to correct the emissions problem for 11 million vehicles at a cost of an estimated $7.3 billion. If you own a newer diesel-powered VW, you’ll soon be able to get the emissions problem fixed by an authorized dealer.

And even if you don’t drive a VW, being mindful of your car’s emissions can save you in the long run. Here are three common factors that can have an effect on vehicle emissions:

1. Engine Problems
If the Check Engine Light is on your car, your vehicle won’t pass an emissions test in any state. Mechanical problems can have an impact on engine performance and interfere with emissions. In many cases, we can diagnose the source of a Check Engine Light error by connecting your car to our computer.

2. Low/High Tire Pressure
You might not think about your tires much when you’re headed to the grocery store or cruising through Des Moines on I-35, but your tire pressure can have an impact on emissions. Check your owner’s manual or look on the sidewall of the tire to see how much your tire should be inflated (30 to 40 psi is typical for most cars and light trucks). Use a tire gauge to see if the tires need more/less air. If you’re not sure how to do this, stop by and we’ll check out your tire pressure for you.

3. Failure to Change the Oil
It’s a simple form of preventive maintenance that gets neglected far too often. Going too long without an oil change (5,000 miles or more), can raise the level of hydrocarbons released from the exhaust and negatively impact emissions. Has it been a while since you had the oil changed on your car? We can help, and we’ll do more than just change the oil and filter. Our trained technicians will also perform a 30-point inspection to identify any other safety or maintenance issues your car may have.

Just because Iowa doesn’t require emissions testing, doesn’t mean you should ignore warning signs and maintenance recommendations for your car. You may not have an on-board computer designed to cheat environmental regulations, but your car still needs regular maintenance and upkeep to perform its best.

How does your car measure up to typical emissions standards? Is your car operating at peak performance? Click here to schedule service today. We can help. Check out our 30-point inspection and contact us at 515-243-8185, send us an email at service@beckleyimports.com, or stop by at 901-8th Street in Des Moines, to schedule an appointment.

Pushing Limits Can Damage a Car’s Fuel Pump

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When it comes to performance vehicles like BMW and Mercedes, drivers often push the limits, racing RPM, red-lining, and testing suspension and speeds. But there are some limits set for your car you shouldn’t test. If you’re the kind of driver that pushes the limit on all of your vehicle’s systems, like your fuel pump, you may be in for trouble.

fuel pump replacement des moines iowaAlthough it’s exhilarating to drive withe the fuel gauge on “E” with ten miles to go as your spouse stresses out in the passenger seat, it takes a toll on your car’s fuel system. Save yourself from future problems and visits to the shop by knowing when to draw the line on your gas tank.

Vehicles have fuel level warning lights to give you a warning before your car runs out of gas. It’s simply a buffer to remind you of how far you have until you have no other option but to fill up or walk home.

The gas light also serves as a red flag. It’s telling you you’ve crossed the line. According to most driver manuals, 1/2 tank should be considered low and 1/4 full is the time to consider getting it topped off again. Not only will it prevent you from experiencing that small panic of not making it to the next stop, but your car’s fuel system will also see better life.

By letting your gas tank go lower than suggested, you are in more likely to burn your fuel pump. It’s an expensive price to pay and an inconvenience when you take it into the shop.

The mechanical parts of a fuel pump are lubricated by fuel which travel through the pump. When the fuel level is low, air is drawn into the pump. Similar to running an engine without oil, too much air can damage the fuel pump if it isn’t properly lubricated.

Debris is likely to sit at the bottom of a fuel tank but when the fuel level is low, the debris has a better chance of entering the pump and plugging the fuel filters, which in turn, damages the pump.

The flashing and dinging of the gas light should be your ultimate last warning, however it is better to take precautions and fill up sooner rather than later. Pull over when you can and make it a priority to save you time and money by filling up.

For more information on how you can get the performance you need from your car while protecting your finely tuned systems, contact us at 515-243-8185, send us an email at service@beckleyimports.com, or stop by at 901-8th Street in Des Moines.

 

 

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.

Stop. It’s Time for a Brake Inspection

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We hate to hear stories of vehicle accidents, especially when, with a little preventative maintenance, they could have been avoided.

When a car hit a curb near 19th St. and Clarke Ave in Des Moines on Thursday morning, the impact launched the car into the air, then rolled and hit a tree.  Investigators haven’t determined an official cause for the crash, but officers first on the scene reported “minimal skid marks.”

preventative maintenance brake repair des moines iowaWe may never know all the details, but “minimal skid marks” raises some questions that could point to bad brakes a possible contributor to this accident. When you step on the brakes to slow down, the pedal should feel firm under your foot. The harder you press on the pedal, the firmer the brakes should feel. And if you’re in a situation that requires a sudden stop, mashing down on the brake pedal will feel almost as firm as stomping your foot on the ground.

What if your brakes don’t feel firm when you slow down or need to make a sudden stop? If you’re like most people, that sensation can leave you feeling a little anxious. When you press on the brakes, you want to know without a doubt that they’re going to slow your car down.

Getting your brakes checked periodically can be a lifesaver. In many cases, simple and inexpensive repairs and preventive maintenance can keep your brakes in working order for many miles. Check out these three warning signs that suggest a problem with your brake system:

  1. Brake pedal quickly goes to the floor when you press it. This may be a sign that your brake system’s master cylinder is no longer pressurized and could have a leak.
  1. Pressing the brake pedal feels soft or has less resistance than normal. It’s often caused by low levels of brake fluid.
  1. Braking feels rough. Worn brake pads and uneven rotors can make braking feel rough and bumpy. You may even hear screeching or grinding noises coming from the wheel hub where the brakes are located if these parts are worn or warped.

If you’re wondering if your brakes are working properly, don’t wait to find out until you’re faced with making a sudden stop to avoid an accident. And even if you think your brakes are fine, but it’s been 30,000-plus miles since your brakes were inspected, is a good idea to have them checked out.

Need a brake inspection or brake system repairs? We can help. Give us a call at 515-423-8185 or click here to schedule an appointment.

Muffler Repairs & Preventing Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

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Earlier this year one Iowa teen died and a second was hospitalized after an exhaust leak filled their car with poisonous carbon monoxide gas, according to KCCI-8 News. Investigators believe the teens were hanging out with the car running at the close of a Saturday night date and were unaware that the vehicle’s exhaust pipe was broken.

muffler repair downtown des moines iowaCarbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas your car engine releases when running. But it normally travels through the muffler and out the exhaust into open air where it doesn’t pose a serious health risk. In the recent Iowa case, the exhaust pipe was broken directly under the passenger side of the car and toxic fumes filled the interior of the vehicle in a short amount of time.

Accidental carbon monoxide poisoning from a faulty muffler or exhaust system is largely preventable. If you notice changes in the sound of your muffler, a different smell coming from your exhaust, or can visibly see holes in the muffler or exhaust, take action.

Here’s what you can do:

Listen up. You drive your car every day. You should be the first to notice a change in the sound your engine makes as you cruise down the road. If it sounds rougher or louder than normal, your muffler or exhaust system may have a problem, and you should schedule an inspection.

Use your sniffer: You’ve probably been walking or driving down the road when a car passes you spewing nasty-smelling exhaust fumes. No one likes that smell. If you start to notice a similar smell in the cab of your car, don’t ignore this. It’s often a sign of holes or perforations in the muffler or exhaust system allowing carbon monoxide into the cab of the car instead of exiting the tailpipe. If your car starts smelling like exhaust fumes, get it checked out.

Take a look: If you think your muffler or exhaust system might have a problem, take a look. Be sure the muffler is cold before you try this. Look under the car at the muffler and exhaust pipe. You might see obvious holes, rust spots, or splits that could be the source of the problem. Even a problem as small as a pinhole could leak carbon monoxide into your car, and getting it repaired is important.

Muffler and Exhaust Repairs

If your car does have a muffler or exhaust issue, pinhole-sized problems can often be welded closed. For bigger problems, the muffler and all or part of the exhaust system may need to be replaced, which may include the resonator, catalytic converter, and the pipes that carry exhaust to the tailpipe exit.

Need your muffler and exhaust system inspected? We can help. Give us a call at 515-423-8185 or click here to schedule an appointment.