Car Care Tips
- Save money on repairs
- How do I save on gas?
- How do I prepare for a long trip?
- Do I have to go to the dealership for repairs or scheduled maintenance?
- How often should I change my oil?
- Is my vehicle safe to drive?
- Winter weather automotive tips
- Summer weather automotive tips
- Tips for Safe Driving
- Care Tips to Keep Your RV Running Great
- Tips for Conserving Fuel
Save money on repairs
Automotive technicians are often compared to doctors. This comparison undoubtedly makes some techs smile and others grimace. But in the end, the two professions have a lot in common. It may surprise consumers to find that by choosing these professionals wisely, they can get better care at a better price.
When it comes to choosing a repair shop, many experts praise the virtues of the clean facility, a wall covered with ASE certificates or a coffee pot and some tasty snacks. While these items are important, these four vital questions tell most of the story:
- Will the service advisor or tech take time to listen to your description of the vehicle's problem?
- Can they explain things to you in laymen's terms?
- If necessary, will they test-drive the vehicle with you?
- Do they have the knowledge and equipment to diagnose and repair it the first time?
Back to the doctor/technician comparison. Some doctor's are great diagnosticians. They can pin point a problem when their peers are coming up with empty charts. What's the difference between that doctor and the people wearing white coats? Possibly his/her knowledge and perhaps equipment, but probably it's listening skills that sets the really great docs apart from the good ones.
When choosing a professional, the variety that looks after your vehicle or the variety that looks after your body, ask them the four-questions. In effect, audition them. See how the doctor takes care of your flu and how the tech deals with an oil change before visiting with something more serious.
Watch how they handle their time and be aware of how much time is allotted to you. Are they tuned into your problems and asking relevant questions? Are they providing an objective opinion based on information they've gathered during your discussion? Can they explain the problem and solution to you in laymen's terms?
The bottom line is this, time is money. The less time these people are willing to spend with you often multiplies the amount of time needed on the back end. In the case of both the doctor and tech, the extra time spent having to fix you or your vehicle a second or third time not only is expensive, it can be detrimental to the vehicle or patient's condition.
We only hire the best technicians and service advisors with the ability to handle any situation you have with your vehicle. That's the reason we have built the reputation of being the most knowledgeable shop in the area.
How do I save on gas?
Use regular gasoline
Unless your vehicle requires premium gasoline, filling up your vehicle with high-octane gas is a waste of money. The premium gas doesn't boost your gas mileage or performance. If you're not sure what grade works best for your vehicle, your owner's manual will tell you. You can also ask your mechanic what grade to use. Using regular gasoline over high-octane gasoline could save you hundreds of dollars a year.
Don't top off
Don't top off when filling your vehicle's gas tank. Any additional gas is just going to slop around or seep out. Stop pumping at the first indication that your tank is full when the automatic nozzle clicks off.
Tighten up the gas cap
Gas will evaporate from the gas tank if it has an escape. Loose, missing or damaged gas caps cause 147 million gallons of gas to evaporate each year, according to the Car Care Council. So be sure to tighten up that gas cap each time you fuel up your vehicle.
Go for the shade
The hot summer sun that makes the inside of your vehicle feel like a sauna also zaps fuel from your gas tank. So park your vehicle in the shade of a building or tree whenever possible. And buy a good windshield shade. A windshield shade blocks sunlight and helps to keep heat out of the inside of your vehicle.
Use your garage for your vehicle
Got a garage? Clear it out and make room for your vehicle. Parking in your garage will help your vehicle stay warm in winter and cool in summer, and you won't have to depend as much on your gas-guzzling air-conditioning or defroster when you drive.
Pump up your tires
Don't get caught driving on under inflated tires. Under inflated tires wear down more quickly, and they also lower your vehicle's gas mileage. Your vehicle's gas mileage may plummet by as much as 15 percent. Driving on under inflated tires may also reduce the life of your tires by 15 percent or more.
Check your tire pressure once a month
Buy a digital gauge and keep it in your glove box. Compare the pressure in your tires with the recommended pressure listed in your owner's manual and on the placard located in your vehicle door. Then inflate your tires as needed. Be sure to check tire pressure when your tires are cold. A good time is early in the morning after your vehicle's been idle overnight.
Keep your engine in tune
Fixing a vehicle that is out of tune or has failed an emissions test can boost gas mileage by about 4 percent. So be sure to give your vehicle regular tune-ups. You'll also want to watch out for worn spark plugs. A misfiring spark plug can reduce a vehicle's fuel efficiency by as much as 30 percent. Ensure your mechanic checks for them.
Replace air filters
When the engine air filter clogs with dirt, dust and bugs, it causes your engine to work harder and your vehicle becomes less fuel efficient. Replacing a clogged air filter could improve your gas mileage by as much as 10 percent and save you 15 cents a gallon. It's a good idea to have your engine air filter checked at each oil change. The Car Care Council recommends changing your vehicle's air and oil filters every three months or 3,000 miles or as specified in your owner's manual.
Use the right oil
You can improve your vehicle gas mileage by 1 to 2 percent by using the manufacturer's recommended grade of motor oil. Use motor oil with the words "energy conserving" on the API (American Petroleum Institute) performance label. This oil contains additives to lower the friction.
Don't skimp on maintenance
Your vehicle's performance depends on it being properly maintained. The owner's manual of your vehicle will tell you what maintenance is needed and when. If you have any questions, your repair shop will be able to show you the recommended maintenance for your vehicle. Follow the vehicle care guidelines outlined in your owner's manual. Not only will they improve efficiency, they will also save you money on costly repairs in the long run.
How Do I prepare for a long trip?
Have your regular maintenance done
A week or so before you leave, have regular maintenance done, like oil and filter change, or routine maintenance. Specifically, ask the shop to check the air filter and change it if necessary. Changing the air filter is an inexpensive way to enhance fuel economy and performance. Also have them check the tires again. If the pressure has gone down since the last check, you may have a leak that can be fixed on the spot.
Have your repair shop check the tire pressure and adjust it if necessary
If the pressure is too low, it can cause a blowout at high speed. Also have them check the tread on the tires for excessive wear. (You can also do this yourself by placing the head of a penny into the tread of the tire. If you can see all of Lincoln's head, you probably need new tires.) Be sure to have your repair shop check to see that the spare tire is inflated and the appropriate tools are available to install it if necessary.
Have the repair shop check the coolant
Are you going somewhere with a warmer or colder climate? Let your repair shop know so your mechanic can adjust the mixture of water and antifreeze to ensure the vehicle is protected against temperature extremes.
Buy a road atlas or GPS
If you don't have a current road atlas, get one. Hours and hours of expressway can get boring. Getting off the beaten path can add an entirely new dimension to your trip.
Clean out your vehicle
The day before you leave, thoroughly wash and vacuum the vehicle. It's much nicer to have your trip in a clean vehicle.
Make sure your paperwork is in order
Make sure your license, registration and insurance are all current and accessible.
Fill the gas tank
Might as well get it out of the way now. Besides, gas is often more expensive on the road.
Look at what you've packed
Open your suitcases and take one last look — do you really need all that stuff? Did you forget anything?
Enjoy your trip!
Do I have to go to the dealership for repairs or scheduled maintenance?
No. In fact there are laws that require the factory to honor your warranty as long as you have proper documentation of the appropriate maintenance being done.
Just have any legitimate mechanic do it, and hold onto your records and receipts. If you have a maintenance schedule book, have the mechanic sign it.
How often should I change my oil?
For maximum protection, most oil companies say to change the oil every 3,000 miles or three to six months regardless of what type of driving you do.
A new engine with little or no wear can probably get by on 7,500 mile oil changes. But as an engine accumulates miles, it dumps more unburned fuel into the crankcase which dilutes the oil. This causes the oil to break down. So if the oil isn't changed often enough, you can end up with accelerated wear and all the engine problems that come with it (loss of performance and fuel economy, and increased emissions and oil consumption).
Regular oil changes as part of preventative maintenance are cheap insurance against engine wear, and will always save you money in the long run if you keep a vehicle for more than three or four years.
What about the oil filter?
To reduce the costs of vehicle ownership and maintenance, many vehicle makers say the oil filter only needs to be replaced at every other oil change. Most mechanics will tell you this is false economy.
The oil filters on most engines today have been downsized to save weight, cost and space. The "standard" quart-sized filter that was once common on most engines, has been replaced by a pint-sized (or smaller) filter. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that a smaller filter has less total filtering capacity. Even so, the little filters should be adequate for a 3,000 mile oil change intervals — but may run out of capacity long before a second oil change at 6,000 or 15,000 miles.Replacing the oil filter every time the oil is changed, therefore, is highly recommended.
Is my vehicle safe to drive?
This is a very important question. There are several things that could make a vehicle unsafe to drive as well as things that could damage it more if it were driven. The best thing to do if there is any question in your mind is:
Call your repair shop
Your mechanic will be able to assess the situation enough to let you know if it's safe for you to drive or if it needs to be towed.
Don't under any circumstance drive an unsafe vehicle!
If there is any question on the safety of your vehicle, we will help you arrange to get it towed to our shop.
Winter weather automotive tips
When winter is upon us, there are some tips that can help you prepare for the changes in the weather that can surprise any of us. Taking some basic actions to be prepared will make it easier for you to be ready for whatever Mother Nature throws at us.
When using your heating system, there are some tips to help keep you warm and your windows clear. When using your defroster, make sure you are using the fresh air from the outside of the vehicle. Have you ever seen someone driving down the road and all the windows are fogged up? The reason is the vehicle is using the inside air in the vehicle and the system can't get rid of the moisture in the air. And that's why the windows fog up. Also, using the air conditioning in this mode helps too since one of the things the A/C system does is remove the moisture from the air and with the heat on you will keep the inside of the vehicle warm. In fact some of the newer vehicles automatically turn on the A/C and use fresh air in defrost mode. If you don't know about your vehicle, look in your owner's manual, or just drop by and we will be glad to show you how it works.
Your wipers are also key to keeping your windows clean. Making sure you have the proper washer fluid that is ready for the cold weather will also help you do this. Having a snow brush in the vehicle with an ice scraper will keep you prepared for whatever happens.
Keeping your tires inflated properly and make sure you have good tread will help you with traction and control. A lot of the newer vehicles have great things like anti-lock brakes and traction control which help with the bad weather. But these systems work much better when you have the most grip you can with good tires.
All of these things mentioned above are checked every time we service your vehicle because we want you to be safe while driving, especially during this time of year. If you would like to stop by we would be glad to check these things for you
Summer Weather Automotive Tips
Summer can be tough on vehicle, especially during high temperatures when heat can destroy batteries and stress the cooling system and tires. As a precaution, these vehicle components should be checked periodically during summer to help avoid breakdowns and vehicle problems, according to the Car Care Council.
LIFE OF YOUR BATTERY
Excessive heat and overcharging shorten the life of a battery. Heat causes battery fluid to evaporate, which then damages the internal structure of the battery. A malfunctioning component in the charging system, usually the voltage regulator, allows too high a charging rate, which will eventually destroy a battery. To get the most life out of a battery, the council recommends having the electrical system checked to make sure it is charging at the correct rate. If your vehicle's battery is the type that needs to be topped off, check it often, especially in hot weather and add distilled water if necessary. Keep the top of the battery clean. Dirt can become a conductor, which drains battery power. If corrosion accumulates on battery terminals, it becomes an insulator and inhibits the current flow.
THE COOLING SYSTEM
The cooling system also works harder during hot temperatures to prevent overheating of the engine. To keep the cooling system working effectively, the coolant and distilled water mixture for a vehicle's radiator should be 50:50. As a reminder, never open a hot radiator cap when checking the coolant level in the reservoir. As a rule of thumb, the coolant should be changed annually on most vehicles. This will keep the cooling system fresh and clean inside, which helps prevent corrosion and assures that the coolant has the proper boiling point and protection.
A pressure test, thermostat test, a cooling fan test and a visual inspection for leaks and corrosion should also be done annually. Hoses and drive belts should be checked for cracks, bulges or frayed edges. The radiator should be kept clean by periodically using a garden hose and a soft brush to carefully remove bugs, dirt and debris.
Tires also need special care in warmer weather as high temperatures put added stress on them. To maximize tire life and safety, check the tire condition and inflation pressure monthly, and have the tires rotated every 6,000 miles. Summer heat will cause the pressure within a tire to rise, therefore, it's important to check the pressure when tires are cold. The owner's manual includes the recommended air pressure for your vehicle's tires.
“It takes very little time and money to make sure your vehicle runs properly during summer, and although breakdowns happen, they can definitely be minimized by taking a few extra preventive maintenance steps,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council.
Tips for Safe Driving
At Gulf Coast Auto & Truck Repair, we want you to be as safe and comfortable on the road as possible. Here are some tips for avoiding accidents and injuries, and ultimately enjoying a successful career.
- Stay attentive. Do not allow anything or anyone to distract you while you're driving. If driving becomes difficult for any reason (inclement weather, rough road conditions, family emergency...) slow down or stop if necessary. A safe driver maintains full awareness of his surroundings, and concentrates on the road.
- Be extra attentive when turning. An RV's weight, length, and height make it nearly impossible for RV drivers to maneuver tight turns like regular vehicles. But drivers of smaller vehicles don't always give you the room you need to make a turn. Signal well before starting a turn, and make sure you have the distance necessary to safely complete the turn.
- Be extra attentive when backing. Before backing, walk to the rear of your vehicle and look all around for obstructions. Look all the way to the point you plan to stop – there could be something in your path – and walk to that point. Then turn around and visualize the backing maneuver. Don't just rely on spotters. You are the sole person responsible for backing your RV safely.
- Park smartly. Whenever possible, back your trailer against a wall or fence to block easy access to your trailer doors. Something this simple can prevent theft, and if you set your trailer brake and put tension on the fifth wheel pin, a thief can't pull the fifth wheel release.
- Check your tires before getting back on the road. Pay special attention to your tires before starting a job, whether you're driving a long distance or making a short trip. When tread separates from a tire, it creates a dangerous road hazard, and could cause an accident.
- Stay in one lane. It's in your best interest to stay in one lane of travel until you come to a stop. Even if you encounter an incident – such as slowed traffic, getting cut off by another driver, or being struck by an animal – you will likely do less harm to yourself and others and create less property damage if you stay in a single lane of travel.
- Check and recheck your blind spots. Many motorists are unaware of where your blind spots are located, and as a result, unintentionally put themselves in harm's way. Make sure to check and recheck your blind spots before attempting any maneuver.
- Don't let other drivers get under your skin. Motorists with whom you share the road often drive unpredictably – and sometimes downright irresponsibly. Their poor driving may display ignorance of your RV's limitations, or simply their own disregard for safety. Recognize and accept their inexperience and use extra care. Don't let yourself get angry.
- Make sure your cargo is secured properly. Improperly secured cargo can cause your RV to be unstable, and could result in falling debris that may injure you or any people or vehicles around you.
- Follow hours-of-service rules. The Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) have many hours-of-service regulations to help prevent accidents caused by driver fatigue. Do not exceed these limits to try to make more money or meet delivery deadlines. It's not worth it.
Care Tips to Keep Your Rig Running Great
As a RV driver, you know you have to set aside time for RV maintenance and repair. But every minute you're off the road you probably feel like you're losing money. At Gulf Coast Auto & Truck Repair in League City, TX, we understand your concern. Aside from sticking with a routine maintenance schedule – which is the single most important thing you can do for your vehicle – the best way to avoid unscheduled repair stops and unnecessary downtime is to take care of your RV.
It really doesn't take much to make a huge difference in how your vehicle performs, and often the smartest and safest habits are simply common sense. Here are 10 tips to keep your RV running great between service visits:
- Make sure your tires are properly inflated. Every week (or more if you're on a long trip), check your tire pressure. Underinflated tires can lower your fuel mileage and make steering difficult, and overinflated tires are more prone to punctures and pothole damage. It's also important to keep in mind that tire pressure can fluctuate with weather changes and from driving at high speeds, so definitely monitor your tires in these situations.
- Regularly check your fluid levels. Before a long haul, make sure to check all of your fluids, especially your oil. Big diesel engines need lots of oil to run well, and if you don't check your oil often, you could eventually harm your engine, leading to high repair costs.
- Regularly check your radiator. Prior to long trips, it's also important to check your radiator. Look at the radiator itself as well as the overflow bottle. If necessary, top off the fluid, and if you see any leaks (even if they're small), deal with them quickly before they cause overheating and do any damage to your engine.
- Make sure to use the correct fluids. You may think this goes without saying, but it's all too easy to use the wrong fluid when you're in a hurry. Make sure to double-check container labels before you top off your fluids.
- Check your fuel vent if you've been sitting for a few days. After a few days off, check your fuel vent before getting back on the road. Insects, such as wasps, are known to build nests in RV fuel vents, creating blockages and causing RVs to appear to be out of fuel.
- Check your brakes often. Do you hear squealing or feel vibration when you apply your brakes? If so, it's probably time for a checkup. Dealing with the issue sooner rather than later will likely save you money and downtime in the long run.
- Drive properly. Drive at the posted speed limit and avoid slamming on the brakes. Simply following state and federal regulations can save your vehicle a lot of wear and tear, prolong its life, and keep you out of the repair shop.
- Park properly. Avoid parking sideways on a hill and causing one side of your RV to be higher than the other. This can cause fuel from the higher tank to flow into the lower tank, and then when you start your RV, the uneven tanks will cause the fuel uptake system to draw in air instead of fuel.
- Allow your engine to cool before turning off your vehicle. Before you cut the key off, allow your engine to cool so that your exhaust gas temperature is below 300 degrees.
- Avoid harsh weather conditions. We know it's an inconvenience to stop for inclement weather, but you can avoid significant damage to your RV by getting off the road when bad weather strikes.
Tips for Conserving Fuel
You may not realize it, but of all the variable costs for a RV owner – such as maintenance, insurance, licenses – fuel is your most controllable expense, but also the easiest to waste. So how do you accomplish good fuel economy? Your vehicle must overcome three things: air resistance, rolling resistance, and gravity. Here are some driving tips to address these issues and avoid wasting fuel.
- Don't speed. Did you know it takes about 40-50 more horsepower to drive at 75 mph than at 65 mph? Higher speed requires more horsepower, which in turn requires more fuel. Experts agree that every mile per hour driven over 60 mph reduces fuel economy by one-tenth of a mile per gallon.
- Perform regular preventative maintenance. Along with sticking to your preventative maintenance schedule, check your miles per gallon each time you fill your tank. If it ever falls, determine the reason.
- Check your tire pressure. Once a week, check the air pressure in all 18 of your tires and air them up to the manufacturer's specifications.
- Accelerate slowly. Slower acceleration consumes less fuel and is easier on your equipment. Quick acceleration may get you a few extra seconds, but it creates premature wear on your engine, driveline, and tires, in addition to increasing your fuel costs.
- De-accelerate slowly. Slow braking avoids precious fuel from being converted to wasted energy. With hard braking, a lot of the fuel you've used to get up to speed is wasted when you apply the brakes. Watch ahead a distance of 12 seconds, and you should rarely have to react at the last split second.
- Limit your idle time. Idling requires about a gallon of fuel per hour. That's about $80 a week if your RV idles for eight hours a day. An extra blanket for when it's cold outside and window screens.