Fueling up

Filling your car with gasoline is a simple routine process, but there are some misconceptions and best practices you should keep in mind to make sure you’re taking sufficient care of your engine and fuel system.

Octane Ratings 

One myth is that putting a higher octane fuel in your vehicle will grant your engine better fuel efficiency and power, but this isn’t necessarily true and is likely to do more harm than good. Octane ratings at the pump, which range from 87 to 93 and labeled regular to premium at most gas stations, actually don’t dictate the quality of the fuel. Quality varies greatly by area and is generally random. The octane rating is an indication of how easily the fuel detonates under compression. Higher octane fuels can withstand more compression in an engine before detonating and are used in engines designed for performance with higher compression ratios.

If a high octane fuel is used in an engine that is designed for a low octane fuel, some fuel may not be detonated, and unburned fuel can cause engine damage and harm catalytic converters, potentially leading to expensive repairs. Alternatively, if the octane is too low, it can detonate early and cause shockwaves, pushing against the natural four stroke rhythm, potentially leading to knocking and engine damage. The proper octane rating for your vehicle can be found under the fuel door and/or in the owner’s manual and should always be followed to prevent premature wear and damage to your vehicle.

Topping Off

Many people have a habit of “topping off” their fuel after the handle automatically stops when it detects a full tank. Overfilling your tank actually sends excessive fuel into the charcoal canister or carbon filter which is strictly designed for vapor only. When fuel gets into this system, it will affect your vehicle’s performance and could damage the engine meaning hefty repair costs. Gas handles have automatic shut offs to protect your engine from overfilling, so don’t add fuel past that point. 

The quarter tank rule 

My father always told me not to let the fuel gauge get below a quarter tank, and while letting your tank fall a little below that won’t damage anything, it is a best practice to make sure you will always at least have enough fuel to get to a gas station and keep yourself out of sticky situations. Running out of gas is bad for your car because fuel pumps can burn up if they start sucking up air instead, so this rule ensures your fuel pump stays submerged and healthy, preventing an expensive and time consuming repair.

Fuel Age 

Fuel age isn’t something most people need to worry about, but if you have multiple vehicles and leave one sitting for long periods, it could affect you. Fuels have shelf lives before they start to degrade and lose their combustion due to oxidation and evaporation. This ranges from up to a year for diesel, 3-6 months for gasoline, and 1-3 months for organic ethanol fuels. Fuel stabilizer and proper storage can extend these time periods, but be wary of running bad gas in your engine to prevent damage and poor efficiency.

Why you should replace parts in pairs

Replacing Parts in Pairs or Groups 

For many wear and tear repairs on a vehicle, like suspension components, tires, and some engine parts, your mechanic will often recommend replacing the part that needs to be replaced immediately as well as its mirror component. Some think this is unnecessary or a method for up-charging customers, but it is actually the most efficient way of maintaining your vehicle’s health and longevity for several reasons.

Equal Mileage

The most obvious example of keeping equal mileage on components is for tires. You should always replace tires in pairs of two, especially if they are on the drive tires. Uneven tire wear side to side can cause instability in low traction scenarios, premature suspension wear, and can make it harder to keep track of when you need to replace your tires. It can also make an alignment impossible or inaccurate because the vehicle won’t be perfectly elevated on each side, and the suspension will behave differently based on tread depth.

This principle applies to shocks/struts, control arms, etc. It is important that all suspension components are behaving in similar ways to ensure the most stable and smooth operation of the whole system. This isn’t to mention that if one side of each of these components has failed, the other is likely not far behind, so it is best to replace both at once and not have to come back to your mechanic multiple times or experience another failure down the line.

Warranty/Reliability

ASG has a 48k mile 4 year warranty on most repairs, so if you perform your repairs in groups or pairs, it will all be covered under one warranty and be equally reliable, granting you peace of mind as a customer and vehicle owner. ASG wants to keep you and your together as much as possible, so staying up to date on maintenance and being proactive in failed component replacement is very important. 

Warming up your car

Basic Engine Warmup Process 

Some people think that warming up your car is something you only need to do in the winter, or that it’s only purpose is to warm up the cabin and melt the ice on your windshield. While it does do that, the most important part of the warmup process is allowing the engine to reach the proper temperature before driving, in both spring in winter.

Blue Coolant Light 

The simplest way to know your car is ready to drive is if it is equipped with a blue coolant temperature light in the instrument cluster. This feature is mostly equipped on subarus and hondas, but most consumer vehicles without a coolant temperature guage have it.

You might notice this light every time you cold start your vehicle, meaning it has been sitting for several hours and the engine and its fluids have cooled to ambient temperature. It indicates that the engine oil hasn’t warmed up enough to properly lubricate and protect the engine, especially under higher rpms. The light should turn off after a minute or two, at which point the vehicle is safe to drive. 

Temperature Guage 

If your car has a regular temperature guage and no blue light, you should watch your tachometer instead to know when you can drive. After a cold start, the engine rpm and sound will elevate for a few seconds. This is because more fuel is sprayed through the injectors to help the engine start, and in colder temperatures, fuel can thicken and the engine compensates by spraying more fuel in. The throttle body then opens to suck in more air and retain the proper air-fuel mixture, thus increasing the engine speed.

The rpms will drop down after a few seconds but still idle higher than a warm engine, to better circulate oil and allow it to heat up. After about a minute the rpms should drop again and the engine will be quieter, indicating that it’s safe to start driving. The rpm range varies depending on the vehicle, but most modern consumer vehicles will idle between 600 and 1,000 rpm when warm.

Dos and Don’ts 

It is important to allow your engine to perform its warmup process because over time, driving with a cold engine can damage the internals due to insufficient lubrication from cold oil. This process can take longer in the winter as your engine tries to bring its fluids from below freezing to over 100 degrees.

You should never floor your vehicle or be anywhere near the top end of the tachometer until your coolant guage is right in the middle, indicating the engine is at operating temperature, where it will stay unless it is being overworked or there is a problem with the cooling system.

While it is tempting to let your vehicle idle for ten, twenty, thirty or more minutes in the morning to allow the defroster to melt the ice on the windshield and warm up the cabin, this can do more harm than good in the long run.

One reason for this is fuel consumption. In general, it has been found that an hour of idling burns between ½ and 1 gallon of fuel per hour, so letting your car warm up for 15 minutes every day can get costly just in terms of paying for the additional gas.

Idling doesn’t produce enough heat for your engine to reach its full operating temperature, meaning it won’t be combusting fuel completely which harms its internals and can cause head gasket, spark plugs, or cylinder rings to deteriorate over time.

 

 

The engine warmup process usually takes less than two minutes, and in the meantime you can use an ice scraper and brush to remove the ice and snow from your vehicle. Following the process outlined above can save your engine from premature costly wear and tear, as well as save fuel and cut back on harmful environmental emissions.

Spring Car Maintenance

Spring maintenance items

Especially in midwest and northern areas, cars are subjected to harsh winter conditions that can speed wear and tear and cause unforeseen and sometimes expensive failures. These are the basic but essential items that should be inspected to  ensure your vehicle is safe and up to date on maintenance after 3-4 months of unforgiving temperatures.

 

Fluids 

Regularly checking up on underhood components goes a long way for preventing and spotting issues early. The vast majority of expensive failures are the result of neglect to smaller, seemingly less severe prior issues. Coolant, brake fluid, power steering fluid, engine oil, and transmission fluid are important components to maintain the primary functions of a vehicle. Harsh temperatures and extreme variations in temperature are threatening to all fluids, as well as the hoses and lines they flow through. Rubber and plastic become brittle, and metal shrinks and expands as it constantly moves from operating temperature to ambient. It is important to monitor these components and repair them when necessary to prevent larger compounding issues.

A splitting rubber coolant hose
Milky, frothy dipstick, an indication of coolant leaking into the engine

Coolant travels through very fine channels and integral parts of an engine to keep it within operating temperature, and maintaining its health is essential to prevent damage to the water pump, radiator, radiator hoses, cylinder gasket, and head gasket. If an engine overheats due to low or bad coolant, the head gasket can be blown, allowing coolant and oil to mix inside the engine and eventually destroy internal components that rely heavily on proper lubrication. This is why a cooling system leak diagnosis is so essential, as well as including flushes in routine maintenance.

Engine oil provides lubrication to every moving part inside an engine, so keeping it full and clean is the easiest and simplest way to maintain its longevity and good running condition. ASG recommends 7,500 miles or one year at minimum in between oil changes for full synthetic oil, 5,000 or 6 months for semi-synthetic, and 3,000 or 6 months for conventional. Poor lubrication and high friction due to neglecting your oil’s health can cause a variety of expensive and complex mechanical failures, like failed cam bearings, broken or bent rods, cylinder wall and head damage, etc. Additionally, in modern engines, oil is also responsible for proper valve timing and optimal efficiency. This is why an oil change with high quality OE compatible oil is necessary to prevent premature wear and failure within your engine.

Sludge buildup from infrequent oil changes

Power steering fluid isn’t essential to an engines health, but a leak can mask a more severe engine oil or transmission fluid leak and should be diagnosed and resolved immediately. 

Healthy vs contaminated brake fluid

Healthy brake fluid is transparent, sometimes with a slight yellow tint. If it has a brown or dark color, it may be time to have your mechanic flush the system. Brake fluid should be changed every 2 years, because over time moisture builds up and contaminates the fluid, lowering its boiling point and exposing the system to rust buildup. This can harm brake performance and cause brake fade under heavy braking, at worst leading to complete brake failure.

Transmission/transfer case fluid is another routine mileage maintenance item that is often neglected, but serves the same purpose as engine oil except within the transmission gears. Transmission and transfer case damage from low or dirty fluid often requires these components to be replaced completely, as there are very specific specifications and fine tolerances for correct operation. 

All of these fluids are closed systems, and if they are below the min line or continue to drop after they are topped off, there is likely a leak somewhere and you should have it diagnosed by your mechanic.

Battery 

Batteries are especially susceptible to the cold. They drain and wear faster in colder temperatures, so you should make sure yours is in good shape to avoid being stranded and having to tow or jump start your vehicle. Corroded terminals, loose cables and improperly secured battery trays and holddowns can also all cause bad connections and voltage shortages. 

Corroded battery terminals

Your mechanic offers battery terminal cleaning services and can properly secure your battery to prevent premature wear or sudden disconnection. Batteries are a maintenance item and usually need to be replaced every 3-4 years, but your mechanic can test it to make sure it is healthy and functioning well after the winter season.

Drive Belt

As previously mentioned, rubber becomes brittle and is more prone to cracking in the cold. Drive belts are constantly under tension and should never be loose, cracked, or off center on the pulleys. If the belt slips off or breaks it can be detrimental to your engine because it is run off of the crankshaft pulley, not to mention the vehicle would be unable to operate until a new belt was installed. Belts are both a mileage and age item and their replacement is vital.

Cracking drive belt

AC System 

An AC system usually fails because moisture is introduced in the lines, which can cause freezing and blown lines in winter temperatures. This could be because of a leak, which pulls air in on the vacuum sealed low side of the system, or because the system was opened at some point and improperly serviced. 

The latter is a large reason why mechanics don’t recommend AC “recharge” kits from auto parts stores. These products plug leaks temporarily, but also use low quality refrigerant and introduce contaminates that clog other components like the AC lines, compressor, condenser, and evaporator. This causes more damage and exacerbates the issue much more than if the system was sealed and filled properly with an AC service machine using OEM style refrigerant by a professional. AC systems are highly susceptible to tampering, so if your AC isn’t working after the winter or you notice buildup near the AC fill caps, have your mechanic diagnose and correct it.

Air filters

Your vehicle has at least one engine air filter, as well as a cabin air filter. The engine air filter cleans dirty air that it pulls from outside to feed into the engine. Dirty and clogged air filters can cause decreased engine power and efficiency, increase fuel consumption, and damage MAF sensors. 

The cabin air filter cleans the air brought through the HVAC system and inside the vehicle. Failing to replace these can harm HVAC performance and introduce contaminates in the cabin for the passengers to inhale. 

These are inexpensive mileage and time maintenance items that should be replaced regularly. The intervals vary by make and model, so ask your mechanic when your vehicle is due for filters.

Dirty cabin air filter vs a new one

Tires

Tire health is always important, especially so after winter when the wet season approaches. If you installed winter tires in the fall, have them changed to al season or summer tires. Winter tires have more pliable rubber to give them more grip in the snow, but that also means they wear quickly in warm temperatures. 

DOT recommendations for tread are minimum of 4/32 on steer tires, and 2/32 on all others. Anything below this is illegal, not to mention extremely unsafe, leading to loss of control and hydroplaning. Bad tires also increase braking distance because the faster your tires lose grip, the faster ABS is engaged to prevent the brakes from locking up, potentially leading to an accident in an emergency braking situation.

 DOT recommends replacing tires when they are 6-10 years old, regardless of tread. Cold, dry conditions will dry rot tires more quickly and cause cracks in the sidewall and tread, which can lead to a blowout if not addressed. Tires are the only thing between you and the road surface, so it is vital for your and others safety to stay up to date with their maintenance. 

Suspension Health

Potholes and road obstacles can be especially hard to spot and avoid in the winter, and that can cause suspension damage. Damaged or worn suspension can lead to excessive tire wear, damaged wheel bearings, poor ride quality, and a generally unstable vehicle. If you notice any leaking shocks, pulls, vibrations, or noises from your undercarriage, you should have your suspension inspected. 

Leaking shock absorber

Lighting

Exterior lights are the only way for drivers to communicate with each other on the road, so it’s obvious why the laws regarding keeping them operational are so stringent. ASG installs most standard halogen bulbs free of charge. The last thing you want is to be pulled over for a simple exterior light out, so you should never hesitate to take care of any headlight, turn signal, tail or brake light issues. 

Streaky wiper

Wipers

Wiper blades take a lot of abuse in the winter, especially if you use them to clear snow and ice off of your windshield rather than a brush or scraper. Freezing and thawing can break down the rubber on the wiper blades, causing streaks. Scraping over ice and pushing snow around can also warp and bend the blades and arms, harming their ability to seal to the windshield and move water. Always test your wiper blades and refill your washer fluid regularly so you don’t have to worry about visibility in wet weather conditions. 

Body Wash 

In areas with heavy snow, salt is normally used to melt the ice on the roads, but salt and slush deposits can build up on and underneath your vehicle and speed corrosion processes if not addressed. Giving your vehicle a thorough body and underbody was is a good idea to get rid of any remaining debris from the winter roads and prevent excessive rust buildup. 

Salt and road debris buildup

Winter Tires

The cold temperatures and wet, snowy, or icy roads you drive on in winter ask a lot of your tires. Are they up to the task?  The tires that worked fine last winter have seen many miles and lots of potholes since then. When was the last time you had them inspected? Your tires are one of the most important things keeping your car moving safely. They affect how well the car stops, turns, and accelerates. They keep your antilock brakes and traction control functioning. Having a blow-out while driving can be a harrowing experience and coming out to your car in the morning only to find a flat tire can be a rough start to your day!

There are 3 main types of car tires: All-Season tires, Summer tires, and Winter tires.

The vast majority of tires on the roads in Indiana are of the All-Season variety. All-Season tires use a rubber compound that is a compromise between long lasting and grippy, resistant to overheating on hot pavement and soft enough to maintain some degree of traction on snowy or icy roads. But, they are just that- a compromise!  With ASG servicing your vehicles you don’t have to compromise anymore.

According to the University of Michigan, Winter tires are not just for snow and ice. Winter tires have better acceleration, braking, and cornering adhesion than all season tires in all conditions below 45°F.  And, on snow and ice, the difference isn’t just noticeable, it is borderline magical. The main benefit of winter tires is in cornering and braking which is why ASG recommends winter tires for your vehicle even if it has front or all wheel drive.


Switching back and forth between winter and summer tires on your factory wheels twice a year may seem like a big hassle, not to mention having to store your unused tires somewhere…  With ASG it’s not! With our winter tire and wheel packages, we will mount your winter tires on less expensive wheels and store them at our shop. When the weather starts to change, give us a call and we can install your winter wheels and tires in just a few minutes while you wait and store your original wheels and tires until Spring. Keep the salt, slush and potholes away from your beautiful factory wheels, and have the peace of mind that winter tires bring, with the ASG winter wheel and tire service. 

The Holidays are here!

Make winter travel safe and problem free with a visit to ASG. Having a breakdown or accident can really put a damper on Holiday travel. Let ASG perform a trip inspection on your ride to make sure it will get you where you need to go this winter. Many small issues can easily be remedied before they become something major that can get you stuck, become dangerous, or cost a ton! 

-We have diagnostic equipment that can tell if your battery is getting weak before it leaves you stranded

-Worn tires that work fine on warm, dry pavement may cause all kinds of traction issues when the weather turns.

-That check engine light that has been on forever could be masking a new, more serious issue which could reduce your vehicle’s reliability.

We all know that money tends to be tight around the Holidays. Remember that on average, it costs over 40% less to maintain your vehicle than to wait until something breaks to get it repaired- not to mention that it is easier to take your car to the shop when YOU want to instead of when your broken car forces the issue!

Call or text us to schedule your winter travel inspection today to help ensure you get where you need to be this winter trouble free!

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