Exhaust Systems 101

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Your vehicle’s exhaust system is most likely one of those things you don’t think about – or even notice – until something goes wrong.

If your engine was 100% efficient, it would combust every ounce of fuel it’s supplied with and turn all of its gas into power. But because no engine is perfect, leftover fuel is left behind in the form of exhaust.

The exhaust system is made up of your vehicle’s catalytic converter, exhaust manifold, muffler, and pipes – all designed to move the waste from your engine out of the vehicle. Each component in the exhaust system has a specific job and is designed to safely rid dangerous chemicals and fumes from your engine.

Exhaust Components:
Exhaust Manifold – This component connects to the engine and begins the flow of exhaust through the pipes and system components.

Catalytic Converter – Exhaust is, in simplest terms, pollution. The catalytic converter burns off and removes up to 90 percent of the toxins in your engine’s exhaust.

Muffler – The muffler and resonator address engine sound. Most work to reduce the noise to keep your car running as quietly as possible.

Pipes – Once it has journeyed through the above components, exhaust travels through remaining pipes to exit the vehicle. This process also cools the fumes.

Exhaust Maintenance:

Like every system in your vehicle, the pipes and exhaust components undergo wear and tear over time. The harsh chemicals in the exhaust itself can degrade the system’s interior while road debris and corrosion can cause damage to its exterior.

Corrosion or loose connections can sometimes create leaks in your exhaust system. If you have a leak, you’ll likely know right away from warning signs like loud cracking noises or distinct odor emanation.

Be sure to call our team of ASE-certified technicians at 707-725-6321 if you notice any issues with your exhaust system or if you have any other questions/concerns regarding your vehicle’s health!

When Should Spark Plugs be Replaced?

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In order for your gas-powered vehicle to run, it requires proper ignition to start the chain reaction that leads to engine propulsion and the ability to drive. Your ignition system contains several key components, all of which contribute to the process of detonating fuel in order to convert compression into energy and propel your vehicle forward.

One of your ignition system’s most important components is also typically the first to wear out and need to be replaced – spark plugs. Spark plugs are typically comprised of a threaded metal shell and a porcelain insulator which isolates the main body from the central electrode, which may or may not contain a resistor.

During the ignition process, spark plugs collect deposits such as carbon that are detrimental to performing combustion. If gasoline isn’t ignited properly, several negative consequences will come about: your acceleration will be sluggish, your vehicle’s emissions will potentially be environmentally-harmful and your engine can even shut down completely. As such, spark plugs are very important to your vehicle’s health and they should be changed out regularly as part of your vehicle’s maintenance schedule.

On average, spark plugs will need to be changed out every 10,000 miles or so but some can last longer depending upon a variety of factors. Your vehicle’s service manual should have more detailed information on the recommended replacement intervals for your spark plugs.

If you have any questions about your vehicle’s ignition system, be sure to call us at 707-725-6321. If you think it’s time to change out your spark plugs or for your vehicle to be inspected, click HERE to schedule an appointment with our ASE-certified technicians!

How Long Can I Drive on a Spare Tire?

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The experience of getting a flat tire is definitely an unpleasant ordeal. In addition to costing you time, money and maybe even a few hairs, it can also be a dangerous exercise as you change your tire and drive on the spare.

Spare tires are not designed to be driven on for an extended period of time so the longer you keep them on your vehicle the greater your risk of causing problems for your suspension, axel etc. become.

The lifespan of your spare tire is dependent upon a variety of factors. Ordinarily, temporary tires comprise only a single layer of polyester (in the sidewall) and a pair of steel belts (in the thread). This makes them much less durable than regular tires which are more advanced in terms of engineering design and are comprised of sophisticated materials like textile, fibers, etc.

Also known as a “space saver”, the tire more commonly referred to as a “donut” is the most widely-used spare tire in America. Small and light, donuts are easy to both store and install, making them ideal for their intended purpose. Generally, you can drive on these spare tires for between 50 and 70 miles, no faster than 55 MPH. Most of the time, this will be good enough to get you to a garage to pick up a patch or a replacement for your regular tire.

Alternatively, certain larger vehicles are able to accommodate full-sized spare tires which are much more stable and durable than space savers. Full-sized spares are also usually much different than the other three tires on your car however, so handling becomes problematic the longer you drive on them.

Regardless of what type of spare tire you have, they are designed to be short-term solutions to your problem and you need to have a proper replacement installed as soon as possible after you get a flat or suffer a blowout. If you go too long on a spare tire, you risk causing damage to key components of your vehicle.

Be sure to call us at 707-725-6321 if you have any other tire-related questions or if you’d like to schedule your vehicle’s next inspection!

Transmission Repair Warning Signs

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Your vehicle’s transmission is vital to its ability to run. Both automatic and manual transmissions ensure that power moves from the engine to the wheels, the basic recipe for propulsion.

In addition to making sure the wheels are moving, transmissions also keep the engine’s RPMs in an optimal range to ensure everything is running smoothly. This is accomplished through a complicated combination of gears and parts that recognize and evaluate changes in speed and adjust accordingly to optimize the vehicle’s energy usage.

If your transmission is not shifting gears properly, your car will not run smoothly; it may buck or even stall while grinding noises will be audible from beneath the vehicle. Smoke may even be emitted depending upon the severity of the issue.

In the event that any of these warning signs appear, you should have your vehicle inspected by a technician ASAP.

Fix Minor Transmission Problems Before They Get Worse
As is the case with the vast majority of auto repairs, transmission repair costs can be lessened if minor problems are tended to before they have a chance to worsen.

Some minor transmission issues that can be brought to your mechanic’s attention include:

– Leaks or stains under the car: Transmission fluid is usually reddish in color, which makes it easier to distinguish from other vehicle fluids. In both front and rear while drive vehicles, transmissions are located beneath the rear. Puddles of red fluid towards the back of your car indicate a potential leak somewhere in the system.
– Noises: If you typically drive with the stereo cranked up, turn it down occasionally and listen to your vehicle. Many auto problems start out simply as unusual noises, but if you’re not sure what your vehicle sounds like normally you may not be able to tell the unusual from the usual. If you hear a distinct whining sound beneath your floorboards, there’s a good chance your transmission may be on the verge of having issues.
– Changes in shifting behavior: Your car should move smoothly between gears regardless of whether you have an automatic or a manual transmission. If you feel a jolt of any kind or the vehicle bucks while shifting, your transmission needs to be checked out.

If you have any questions regarding your transmission be sure to give us a call at 707-725-6321!

Talkin’ ‘Bout the Car Wash, Yeah!

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This may come as bad news for drivers who don’t seem to notice when their cars have collected a thick layer of grime, but a clean car is typically a healthy car. Allowing your car to collect dirt for extended periods of time can cause damage to the car’s finish and even lead to dreaded rust.

On the other side of the car-cleanliness spectrum are the drivers who don’t leave home without a sparkly sheen and streak-free windows. They know that cleaning a car is imperative to keeping the car looking – and running – great, but they may assume that they need to do the work themselves.

The good news for both types of car owner is that automatic car washes do the job well, and in a fraction of the time it would take to do it by hand. The average automatic car wash takes only seven minutes from spray down to blow dry. Whether you typically spend hours cleaning your car yourself, or you don’t mind being able to draw a sad face in thick dust, you can appreciate an occasional seven-minute automatic scrub.

Not only are they fast, automatic car washes are also safer and more efficient than the hose-bucket-driveway method. So many aspects of the DIY system can go awry, causing far more problems than all that hassle is worth. The wrong soap/water mix may leave dirt behind as you wash, leading to tiny scratches in the paint. These tiny bits of dirt, if left behind, can also contribute to rusting.

How much time does it take to wash your entire car’s exterior by hand? Rinse, wash, rinse again… Why spend an hour or more of your valuable downtime doing what an automatic car wash can accomplish just in a few minutes?

Automatic car washes won’t harm your car’s finish; they do a thorough job removing all dirt; and they are time/cost efficient. Many modern automatic car washes are touchless – this means no brushes or scrubbers physically touch your car. Brushes are things of the past! During a touchless wash, water and detergents are sprayed through high-pressure hoses. High-pressure water will not harm your car’s finish.

If you plan on going through an automatic car wash that isn’t touchless, it’s best to confirm that all of the brushes that will come in contact with your car are made of cloth. Cloth is perfectly safe and gentle on car paint, but a few outdated car washes may still use abrasive brushes that could put tiny scratches into the paint of some cars.

After driving through high-powered jets in an automatic car wash, your car will still be wet. Leaving with a clean, but wet, car is fine. We recommend that you skip any post-wash drying service that may be offered. You can’t be sure that the towel being used is completely clean and free of dirt/lint that could potentially mar your car’s finish. That same towel may have picked up dirt from dozens of other cars that day, or could have been dropped on the ground at some point.

When it comes to drying, let the jets do the work. Modern automatic car washes usually finish with powerful, heated air jets. These blow most water off the car – the small amount of water left behind is completely fine.

If you have gone through a car wash that used harsh brushes and later noticed any damage to your car’s finish, come by and our certified specialists can assess the damage, and inspect your vehicle for any other auto repair services you may need. Stop by any time or call us with questions at 707-725-6321.

What Can I Do About A Leaky Car

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Most cars experience leaks and oil loss at some point in their lifetime. While many small leaks can be prevented, sometimes these leaks need to be checked out by an certified technician at an auto repair shop immediately.

One of the most common causes of oil leaking is an improperly sealed drain bolt. When you have your oil changed, the oil pan is drained. Usually a new washer is placed around the drain bolt when it is replaced, however, sometimes cheaper oil change services may not include a new washer, so new leaks may arise after your oil is changed. If there is a leak that continues more than a day or two after your oil is changed, then the washer may be the culprit.

Older cars often have small oil leaks as well. Often times seals in these vehicles become deformed over time due to temperature changes and other normal mechanical vibrations in the car. It is extremely important to check your oil level in your vehicle frequently in these kinds of vehicles.

The worst case scenario is that your vehicle has a sudden loss of oil. Most vehicles today have some kind of warning indicator or light that will show that you have lost oil pressure. If this is the case, make sure to stop your car right away and turn it off. Without oil, your car will have friction build up which can destroy internal engine components, potentially causing permanent damage to your car.

If when you check your oil you notice oil loss, but no stains underneath or an oily engine, this may indicate that your vehicle is burning oil . This could indicate a very serious problem and could lead to a loss of power and lowered fuel efficiency. If this is the case, make sure to have your vehicle checked over by an ASE certified technician right away.

If you’d like to have your car checked for oil leaks or any other issue it may have contact us online or call us at 707.725.6321

How To Avoid Being Caught In A Brake Repair Rip Off

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While you may be unaware of it, many self-advertised “cheap brake shops” sell parts and/or services that simply aren’t needed. Fortunately, there several steps that you can take to protect yourself from these kinds of scams.

Brake Inspections

Every time you take your car in to have your tires rotated and balanced (every 6000 miles, or every other oil change), have your brakes inspected and measured. A great shop will have an ASE Certified Technician do this for you automatically while your tires are already off; however, be sure to ask for a record of tire and brake pad measurements that you can keep for your own records. This will allow you to track regular wear patterns versus potential problems.

Install Premium Brake Parts

Also, it’s good practice to always install premium parts. There are two things you always want your car to do — go and stop – therefore, it’s never a good idea to buy generic parts for one of the most important systems in your car.

Periodic Brake Maintenance

Outside of regularly scheduled visits to your repair shop, remember that other components of your brake system need periodic maintenance as well. ABS (anti-lock brake system) fluid needs to be flushed annually, and non-ABS brake fluid needs to be flushed every two years. This is because brake fluid absorbs water from the atmosphere causing a reduction in its ability to transfer force (stop the car).

As mentioned, the best way to avoid being ripped off is to find a trustworthy repair shop that will teach you about brakes before you need them and answer any questions you might have. By taking your vehicle to a reputable shop, you can be sure that your car is receiving the proper scheduled maintenance from highly trained technicians and that you aren’t digging into your pockets deeper than needed to care for your vehicle.

Sandera’s Auto Works goal is to educate our customers, so they can make the best decisions regarding their brakes and other vehicle systems to keep them on the road, safely. If you have any questions or would like to bring your car in to be inspected or fixed, please contact us online or call us at 707.725.6321

Allergens and Air Filters

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Spring means allergy season in Fortuna. As you stock up on antihistamines and tissues, don’t forget about your vehicle!

What does my car have to do with allergies?

Surprisingly, one simple maintenance task can help you breathe easy in your car:

Air Filters

The cabin air filter traps dust, pollen, and allergens from the outside and prevents it from entering the inside of your vehicle. Over time, the air filter becomes full of debris and cannot continue to do its job.

If the cabin air filter is too full, you may notice reduced air flow from the vents inside your vehicle. The air conditioning may not work as well. Place your hand in front of the vent – if you cannot feel air flow, bring your vehicle in for an inspection.

Replace your vehicle’s cabin air filter regularly for best results. The technicians at Sandera’s Auto Works can inspect your air filters every time your vehicle is in for an oil change. The cabin air filter is inexpensive to replace and can keep your car comfortable and free from irritants in the air.

In addition to the cabin air filter, the engine air filter should also be replaced periodically. Imagine trying to breathe with a dirty rag over your mouth — that’s how your engine feels with a dirty air filter. The engine air filter ensures fresh air enters the engine without any road debris or dust.

Both of these air filters should be replaced regularly to keep your engine and your passengers breathing easier! As we head into peak allergy season, replace the cabin air filter to get some extra relief inside your vehicle this spring.

To schedule your next oil change and filter service, request an appointment online. If you have any questions about air filters or maintenance for your vehicle, call our Fortuna auto repair shop at 707.725.6321

Drive Safely in the Rain

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Spring time means rain in California, rain means wet roads, and wet roads mean new challenges for drivers! From slippery brakes to hydroplaning, don’t let this season’s rain storms catch you off guard! This month, we’re offering tips for safe driving in the rain:

First, slow down! Take your time and decrease your speed to keep in control of your vehicle in wet conditions. Slowing down is the most reliable method to prevent your vehicle from hydroplaning. Plan extra time for your regular commutes so you don’t find yourself rushing to your destination.

Check your windshield wipers. Most heavy rain is accompanied by poor visibility. Make sure your windshield wiper blades are up to the task! If they leave behind streaks of water that compromise your vision, replace the wiper blades right away.

Turn your lights on. Wet roads can lead to splashing water and mist rising from the surface of the road. Your headlights can help other drivers see your vehicle. Even in broad daylight, turning your headlights on can make your vehicle more visible on wet and foggy roads.

Leave space between vehicles. Because wet conditions can slow down your vehicle’s reaction time, give the cars around you more space. Add 1-2 extra seconds of following time or an extra car length between vehicles.

Avoid puddles. Whenever possible, avoid driving through standing water. Puddles can be hiding other hazards, like potholes, which can damage your vehicle. Avoid the outer lanes and low areas where water tends to accumulate. Following in the tire tracks from other cars can help you stay in a safe path.

This season, follow these tips for driving in the rain. Stay safe on the roads in Fortuna with a spring safety inspection. Our experienced technicians will make sure your vehicle can handle the wet conditions by checking tires, brakes, and key safety systems. Request an appointment online.

Braking Bad: Five Signs of Brake Failure

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In a common driving scenario, you are driving down the highway at 60+ miles per hour and you suddenly have to stop. At that speed, your vehicle could take 100 yards or the length of a football field to come to a standstill. And that is only if you’ve kept one of the most critical systems maintained – your brakes.

Two of the most obvious signs of a brake problem are the appearance of the brake light on the dashboard or the feeling your car is taking longer to stop than it should. Both of these are areas of concern and need to be addressed as soon as possible.

Visualize a 10-speed bike. In the simplest terms, your car brakes operate in much the same way. A hydraulic system filled with brake fluid triggers a set of padded clamps, also known as calipers, causing them to squeeze together on a disc known as a rotor. The friction that occurs between the pads and the rotor eventually stops the car.

Here are five brake issues to keep in mind:

  • Worn Pads – over time pads will begin to wear thin, meaning there is a lot more distance between the pads and the rotor. When this happens, they are less effective at slowing and stopping your car.
  • Strange Sounds – a high-pitched squeal may indicate your pads need replacing. You might also hear a harsh grinding sound. This means you are damaging your rotors – the brake pads are gone.
  • Pulling – pulling might indicate a stuck caliper or a collapsed brake hose. Pulling doesn’t always indicate a problem with the brakes, it could be uneven tire wear or alignment issues.
  • Vibrations – generally speaking a vibrating brake pedal indicates warped rotors. The rotors may have become warped if they were under extreme stress for an extended period by towing something unusually heavy or driving down steep mountainsides. This is also referred to as pulsation.
  • Temperamental Pedal – there are two extremes with pedals. A mushy pedal is one that feels like you are almost pushing the pedal to the floor. This loss in pedal pressure could be a brake leak (either internal or external) or air in the brake lines. A hard brake pedal means you are losing the vacuum assist to your power brakes.

On the road, paying attention to the warning signs that indicate a need for service can mean the difference between life and death. At the first sign of one of these brake issues, bring your vehicle to Sandera’s Auto Works or call our Fortuna auto repair shop at 707.725.6321.