April 01, 2009

Tips To Protect Your Vehicle's Finish

With the arrival spring, warmer weather is right around the corner. After a full winter of driving through snow, slush and salt, your vehicle’s appearance is probably suffering. Many of us like to wash our vehicle at home rather than use a carwash. If you fall under this category, the following tips might be helpful to you.

A lot of vehicle owners use a non-automotive product such dish detergent to wash their cars and many never wax their vehicles. Dish detergents contain harsh chemicals that, intended to cut through grease, will strip away the wax finish on your vehicle. Some are difficult to rinse off and will leave streaks in your vehicle’s finish. A formulated automotive wash product is recommended. These products are designed to gently lift the dirt and grime while protecting the finish.

Many people believe they do not have to wax their vehicle because it has a clear-coat finish. Unfortunately, this is not true. A clear-coat finish is only as thick as a piece of paper and can become damaged from the effects of sunlight, UV radiation, acid rain, salt, dirt and air pollution. Using a wax formulated for clear-coat finishes will help protect it from damage.

By washing and waxing your vehicle on a regular basis, you will not only help protect your car’s finish, but its value as well. According to the Kelley Blue Book, a clean, well maintained car can be worth up to 50 percent more than one that is in “fair” condition.

Some other tips to remember when washing your car include; use warm water, wash with a soft terrycloth towel or washing mitt, spray the car often with water, complete one section at a time and rinse repeatedly to prevent soap from drying on the paint, wash in a shady spot to prevent water spots and use a soft terrycloth towel or scratch-free fabric to dry the vehicle.

Why Should I Repair Or Replace A Cracked Windshield?

Many of us have had the following scenario happen. We are driving down the road, when suddenly a rock or other piece of debris hits our windshield. Within hours or days, a crack starts to creep across our field of vision to remind us of our unfortunate encounter. Most of us simply call our insurance company and have our windshield replaced. Others, for a variety of reasons, decide to not to concern themselves with the damage. Those in the latter group could be making a deadly mistake.

Most people may not realize that in addition to protecting us from wind, noise and debris while we drive, our vehicle’s windshield also is a vital part of its safety restraint system (SRS). Your windshield works in conjunction with your vehicle’s airbags and seat belts to help protect you if you’re in an accident. The windshield serves to keep occupants inside the vehicle as well as to help support the roof to prevent it from collapsing should the vehicle roll over. In some vehicles, the windshield helps support the passenger side airbag during deployment. A damaged windshield may not be able to function as it is designed to in the event of an accident.


But what if your windshield is simply scratched, pitted or dinged, do you need to be worried about seemingly minor damage? Even this relatively minor damage can have major consequences if it affects your vision and leads to an accident. The best advice is to have a technician certified by the National Glass Association determine if your windshield can be repaired or if it needs to be replaced. A repair will preserve the factory seal between the windshield and vehicle. If your vehicle’s windshield must be replaced, be sure to use a glass shop that endorses the Auto Glass Replacement Safety Standard (AGRSS) and trains their technicians to that standard.

Protect Your Vehicle Paint and Appearance

With warmer weather and longer days, snow, ice and road salt are all a distant memory. I’m sure many of you have already experienced the long lines at the car wash or have washed your car yourselves. Hopefully, those of you washing your own car are following the advice I offered in last month’s article. Now that your car is finally clean again, you may have noticed some scratches, rock chips or dents in your vehicles finish that you were not aware of. If not taken care of properly, these seemingly minor problems could lead to more severe problems down the road.

Vehicles are now manufactured so that rust is not the problem it used to be. Many body panels are made of fiberglass or plastic and paint is formulated to inhibit rust. Despite these advancements, rust still appears from time to time. One cause is the scratches, rock chips and dents mentioned earlier. Your vehicle’s paint finish forms a barrier that shields the metal from the elements. If the metal is exposed, it will start to rust. In order to prevent this from happening, it is important to cover the paint chip or scratch as quickly as possible. For a temporary fix until you can get some touchup supplies, brush a little clear nail polish on the exposed metal. Touchup paint can be purchased from an auto parts store. In order to buy the correct paint, you will need your vehicle’s paint code number. The location of this code varies depending on the model vehicle you have. The owner’s manual will show where to locate it.

Most small dents can be fixed with paint-less dent repair. Many body shops offer this service. This repair procedure involves using a set of specialized tools to massage the dent out of the metal. This method is cheaper than sanding down to the metal, filling the dent and repainting. The result is a quality repair that leaves the original paint finish intact.

How Can I Get Better Gas Mileage?

I hope everyone has had a safe and happy holiday season. The start of a new year often inspires people to adopt a resolution to change a habit they have or behavior they exhibit. Many of us will receive bills this month that will make us wish we had made our resolutions a little earlier. If you fall into this category, then you may find this article of interest as it offers tips on how to save money by improving your car’s fuel economy.

There are many conditions that can affect a car’s fuel economy. Under-inflated tires cause increased rolling resistance that will reduce fuel mileage by one or two miles per gallon. A dirty air filter chokes off the air and creates a rich mixture – too much gas being burned for the amount of air, which wastes gas and causes the engine to lose power. Replacing a clogged air filter can improve gas mileage by as much as 10 percent. Old, worn spark plugs cause inefficient combustion, reducing fuel mileage by as much as two miles per gallon. Almost one in five vehicles has a gas cap that is loose, damaged or missing. This allows fuel to evaporate, costing up to two miles per gallon. A worn O2 sensor is unable to compensate for engine malfunctions and can lower fuel mileage as much as three miles per gallon. Your check engine light will come on if your vehicle has a sensor problem. Finally, dirty or substandard engine oil increases engine friction. Clean engine oil can increase fuel mileage up to a half mile per gallon.

Your driving habits also affect your vehicle’s fuel mileage. Aggressive driving can lower gas mileage by as much as 33 percent on the highway and 5 percent on city streets. Allowing your vehicle to run while sitting idle for too long is also wasteful. Sitting idle gets zero miles per gallon. Letting the vehicle warm up for one to two minutes is sufficient. Finally, observe the speed limit. Gas mileage decreases rapidly at speeds above 60 miles per hour.

Air Conditioning and Battery Maintenance

With the hot, humid weather of summer right around the corner, many of you may notice your air conditioner doesn’t put out cold air like it used to. Some vehicle owners, depending on their make and model, may have to spend a few hundred dollars or more to repair their air conditioning. The reason is that R-12 refrigerant, which goes by the trade name DuPont Freon, has been replaced by R-134a. R-134a has been the industry standard since 1994 and is safer for the environment than R-12.

If you have an older vehicle with an air conditioner in need of major repairs, be prepared to replace refrigerant and the oil in the compressor in addition to the old components. It may also be necessary to install a retrofit conversion. R-134a and R-12 are not inter-changeable. Do not allow anyone to mix the two refrigerants. An air conditioning system with R-12 must be flushed before R-134a is added.

To help prevent expensive repairs, have your vehicle’s air conditioning system inspected annually. It will help keep you comfortable this summer and help protect the environment.

The excessive heat, along with overcharging, will also shorten the life of your battery. Heat causes the fluid in your battery to evaporate. As a result, the internal structure of the battery will be damaged. If a component in the charging system, usually the voltage regulator, is malfunctioning, the battery will charge at too high a rate. Eventually, you will have a dead battery.

In order to avoid the cost of a road service call and a new battery, the following tips might be beneficial.

1. If your battery is the type that needs to be topped off, check regularly, especially in hot weather. Add distilled water when necessary.

2. Keep the top of the battery and the terminals clean. Dirt becomes a conductor, which drains battery power. Corrosion on battery terminals becomes an insulator, inhibiting current flow.

3. Be sure the electrical system is charging at the correct rate; overcharging can damage the battery as quickly as undercharging.

4. Always replace a battery with one that’s rated at least as high as the one originally specified.

When Should I Replace Shocks Or Struts?

It is not always easy to determine when it is time to replace worn shocks and struts. Since it is difficult to see or hear the effects caused by worn shocks, you may wonder how you can determine when it is time to replace them. It is impossible to say how long shocks and struts will last. This is determined by several factors such as road and weather conditions, driving habits, condition of suspension and tires, vehicle load and road contaminants. It is best to have a certified mechanic inspect and test the shocks, struts and suspension system of your vehicle at least once a year or every 12,000 miles. There are also some signs that you may notice yourself.

An obvious sign is excessive bouncing as you drive. Test specifically by bouncing each corner of the vehicle. If it bounces more than 1 ½ times after you release, your shocks and struts could be worn.

Tire wear is another sign. Test by running your hand over the tire tread all the way around. Worn shocks, struts or suspension parts will cause a cupped tire wear pattern. Worn suspension parts will cause a random cupping pattern. Worn shocks or struts will cause a repeated cupping pattern.

Shocks and struts should always be replaced in pairs as they are exposed to approximately the same amount of wear and abuse. It is important to replace worn shocks and struts as soon as possible because they are responsible keeping the tires in contact with the road surface. The amount of contact your tires with the road directly affects your vehicles ability to stop, steer and maintain stability.

The Answer to “Where Are We Now?”

Well, another summer has come and gone. Fall is here and school is back in session. For many people, this means sending their kids off to college for the first time. While some students attend a school close to home, others will be moving out of the area. If you haven’t already done so, now may be the perfect time to invest in a vehicle navigation system.

I don’t have kids going to college, but I have encountered situations where a vehicle navigation system came in handy. One that comes to mind occurred about a year ago. My wife and I took a vacation to Sonoma County in California. We rented a car at the airport in San Francisco and were asked by the car rental agent if we would like to rent a vehicle navigation system. While we had brought plenty of road maps, we thought this would be a good idea. After the agent explained how to use it, we took it to our car and hooked it up. The vehicle navigation system projects a map on its screen that continually updates to show you exactly where you are as well as how far you are from your next turn. Our system also featured spoken directions so we could keep our eyes on the road. If you miss a turn or see something along the way that takes you off your route, the system will recalculate your current position and tell you how to continue to your original destination. We could also locate restaurants, gas stations, hotels and other attractions at the push of a button.

As with any product, not all vehicle navigation systems are created equal. Recalculation speeds vary. Some only take a second or so to recalculate while slower models take several seconds. Better systems allow you to select a route based on quickest travel time, shortest distance or type of roads. Map storage capacity varies as well. Some vehicle navigation systems only contain maps for the lower 48 states. Better systems may include Hawaii, Alaska, Canada, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Some systems have a feature that estimates your current position when you’ve temporarily lost GPS reception. Researching different brands is easy as there many sources of information available on the internet or simply visit your local electronics store.

Preventive Maintenance II

Now that fall is here, we all know that winter is right around the corner. That makes now the perfect time to have some preventive maintenance done to your vehicle. Something that is often overlooked is your vehicle’s cooling system. Many of us have our radiators topped off when we have our oil changed. However, the alternating winter cold and summer heat will cause engine coolant to loose it’s effectiveness over time. This could lead to your vehicle overheating, leaving you stranded and facing an expensive engine repair bill. Therefore, have your vehicle’s cooling system tested and, if necessary, drained, flushed and re-filled with new engine coolant once a year.

Your ability to see the road will become hindered as ice, snow and road salt becomes a part of our lives. It is important that you have your windshield wipers replaced and your windshield washer fluid reservoir filled. Windshield wipers have a lifespan of just six months. At this point they will begin to crack and you will be looking through a windshield that is smeared with salt and ice. That same salt and ice will make us use windshield washer fluid more often than we normally would. To avoid running out, check the fluid level often.

Your ability to see the road will become hindered as ice, snow and road salt becomes a part of our lives. It is important that you have your windshield wipers replaced and your windshield washer fluid reservoir filled. Windshield wipers have a lifespan of just six months.At this point they will begin to crack and you will be looking through a windshield that is smeared with salt and ice. That same salt and ice will make us use windshield washer fluid more often than we normally would. To avoid running out, check the fluid level often.

The last topic I would like to discuss is your vehicle’s belts and hoses. Over time, the elements and simple use will cause these items to loose their elasticity, become brittle and break. Depending on driving conditions, your vehicle’s belts and hoses should last for a few years. However, if you’re like a lot of us, you’ve either never had your belts and hoses replaced or, if you have, you cannot remember the last time you had it done. To be on the safe side, it is a simple job to just have your mechanic check to see if you need them replaced.

The last topic I would like to discuss is your vehicle’s belts and hoses. Over time, the elements and simple use will cause these items to loose their elasticity, become brittle and break. Depending on driving conditions, your vehicle’s belts and hoses should last for a few years. However, if you’re like a lot of us, you’ve either never had your belts and hoses replaced or, if you have, you cannot remember the last time you had it done. To be on the safe side, it is a simple job to just have your mechanic check to see if you need them replaced.

Drivetrain and Timing Belt Maintenance

This month I would like to cover a couple of topics that most people never think of. The topics are your vehicle’s drivetrain and timing belt. Generally, the only time someone might give these any thought is if one of them has failed and you are left stranded on the road.

The first item, the drivetrain, is responsible for transmitting power from the engine to the wheels. It has many components, including; the clutch, torque converter, transmission, driveshafts (in front wheel drive vehicles, the axle shaft), U-joints, CV joints, differential and axles. There are several signs that will tell you something is wrong. The worst of course is total failure, but others include leaks, strange noises and/or shifting problems.

There are many reasons why a drivetrain might fail. Chief among them is subjecting your vehicle to strenuous conditions such as a lot of stop and go driving, towing a heavy trailer without adequate cooling (most automatic transmissions are cooled by the engine cooling system.), or excessive rocking out of a snow drift. If you drive your vehicle under the above conditions, have your drivetrain checked regularly. With proper maintenance, you can help prevent bigger problems down the road.

The second item is the timing belt, which is responsible for transferring the rotation of the crankshaft to the camshaft. Some vehicles have a timing chain instead of a belt. Both serve the same purpose. The rotating camshaft activates the valves, which provide air and fuel to the cylinders and expel combustion gases to the exhaust system. The valves and pistons are constantly moving up and down at extremely high speeds and the timing belt ensures that these components do not collide. If a collision does occur, the ensuing damage can result in an expensive repair. The best way to prevent timing belt failure is to have it replaced according to your vehicles owner’s manual maintenance schedule. This is typically every 60,000 to 90,000 miles.

Cabin Air Filters

Since the mid 1980’s, many automobile manufacturers have begun including cabin air filters, also known as passenger compartment filters, interior ventilation filters or dust filters in new vehicle designs. Cabin air filters work by filtering the outside air coming into your vehicle. These filters were initially designed to remove solid contaminants such as soot or dust from the air circulating inside your vehicle. Cabin air filters work to remove nearly 100 percent of air-borne particles like pollen, road dust, soot and other microscopic particles that decrease the quality of the air being emitted from your vehicle’s air vents.

Cabin Air Filters are typically located under your vehicle’s dashboard or attached to the glove box. Others may be located in the engine compartment. Please consult your vehicle owner’s manual to find out if your vehicle has a cabin air filter and its location.

The general guideline for replacing cabin air filters is every 12,000 to 15,000 miles, or at least once a year. In addition to an unpleasant odor, filters not changed after 20,000 miles can result in decreased heating and air conditioning performance caused by restricted airflow through the cabin air filter. Cabin air filters are a great benefit to anyone, especially those with allergy-related problems, that spends a lot of time in their vehicle.

Automatic Transmission Maintenance

Many of today’s vehicles have automatic transmissions that don’t require regular adjustments. The owner’s manual for many of these vehicles even suggest that you may go as high as 100,000 miles before it is necessary to change the transmission fluid. All this makes it sound as though your automatic transmission is almost maintenance free. Unfortunately, this is not entirely true. For best results, have your transmission fluid and filter changed every 2 years or 24,000 miles. Be sure to use the type recommended by your vehicles owner’s manual.

The purpose of automatic transmission fluid is to clean, lubricate, cool and protect your vehicles transmission. It also transmits force and pressure required to keep your transmission operating effectively when you drive. Its final purpose is to prevent varnish build-up in the transmission.

Most transmission failures are heat-related as transmission fluid quickly breaks down when exposed to high temperatures. Several situations could result in enough heat to shorten the life of transmission fluid. A few of the situations include; towing a trailer, driving up and down mountain roads, sudden starts or stops and spinning wheels in slippery road conditions.

The same reasons that may shorten the life of your vehicle’s transmission fluid will do the same to your transmission filter. This filter prevents contaminants such as metal chips from gears and bushings and fine material from normal wear from entering the hydraulic system where they can cause increased wear and tear.

When changing the transmission fluid, it is a good idea to flush the transmission. This will remove more contaminants than just draining the fluid. If you’re doing this or having someone do it, be sure the transmission pan is removed in order to change the filter before refilling it with new fluid. If a new filter is not installed, any contaminants from the old fluid or those removed from the transmission during the flushing process could impede flow through the filter and lead to transmission problems.

Poor Visibility Could be Caused by Headlights

With the change of seasons, many of us are spending a lot more time driving while it’s dark outside. Some of you may have noticed that your vehicle’s headlights are not lighting the road ahead as well as they should. There are several reasons why this could be happening.

One reason may be as simple as a burnt out bulb. Make it a point to regularly check headlights, turn signals, brake lights, back up lights, side marker and license plate lights. Most bulbs are available at your local auto parts store and are easy to change. Others may need to be purchased through an independent repair shop or dealer.

Another reason for poor visibility is a misaligned headlight. As you’re driving, you may notice that one or both headlights are lighting up the ditch or the tops of trees. A trip to your local repair shop will remedy this situation.

The final reason is the condition of the headlight lens. During the last twenty years, headlight lenses have been made with a plastic material called polycarbonate instead of glass. This material is lighter and easier to mold into the aerodynamic shapes needed to fit today’s vehicles. The problem is that polycarbonate is slightly porous. The pores in the plastic open because of the heat of the turned on headlight or from sunshine. The pores close when the headlights are off or the sky is overcast. When the pores are open, dirt and road debris is trapped inside. This causes the headlights to become discolored. In addition, heat and ultraviolet rays oxidizes the surface of the lens. As a result, less light gets through. One solution to this is to replace the headlight lens. This however, can be expensive. Another, less expensive answer, is to purchase a headlight restoration kit. As with anything, some products are better than others. These products work by polishing away the old oxidized and discolored layer. The renewed clarity of the lens will allow more light to get through.

Preventative Maintenance

As busy as we all are during this time of year, most of us don’t have time to think about our vehicles. But some preventive maintenance now could help avoid some big problems later. The topics I want to discuss this month concern items we tend to take for granted.

The first topic is automatic transmission fluid. It is important maintain the proper fluid level. Check the fluid level with the engine running and transmission in park. If low, add the type of automatic transmission fluid specified in the owner’s manual and/or on dipstick. For maximum performance, change every two years or 24,000 miles, or as directed in owner’s manual.The second topic is your vehicle’s battery and cables. The battery should be securely mounted. The battery connection should be clean, tight and corrosion free. If the battery is three years old or more, have it tested and replaced if necessary.

In the event you should become stranded while driving, it is important to have the following items in your vehicle. Be sure to keep a flashlight with fresh batteries, blanket, extra clothes, ice scraper, whisk broom, first aid kit, windshield de-icer, snacks and bottled water. Before you stock your vehicle, check the air pressure of your vehicle’s spare tire. Many people find their spare is flat when they need it most. While you have the air pressure gauge out, check all the tires. Tires lose about a pound of pressure a month and should be checked regularly. Low tire pressure will lower your gas mileage and could contribute to an accident.

The last tip I would like to offer is to keep you gas tank at least half full during the winter months. Not only will you be able to run your car longer should you become stranded, but the chances of moisture forming in the gas lines and freezing will decrease.

Written by: Michael Cecil Jr.

C & W Body Shop, Inc.  1415 E 500 S, Greenfield, Indiana 46140   317-861-5746



March 26, 2009

Our New Blog!

C & W Body Shop welcomes you to our new blog! 

We will publish useful articles and information periodically on this blog.  C & W Body Shop is located in Greenfield Indiana and is known for its outstanding performance and quality work - at affordable rates!  C & W Body Shop is not just a body shop, we offer a full auto service for all of your auto needs!  Please visit our website for more details!