Some Causes of Smells Coming From Your Car

5 Things Your Nose Can Tell You About Your Car

Besides that new car smell, there are fairly few odors you experience in or around your car that are pleasant. Your nose knows when something is foul or amiss. Some smells are pretty telltale of a certain condition, while others might present a little more mystery in need of investigation. Here are five odors that are indicators of potential problems with your car.

Hot or Burned Oil

The smell of hot or burned motor oil could mean that a gasket or seal is failing. This lets engine oil leak onto hot engine parts. Additionally, a leaky transmission seal can cause oil to spray all over the engine, including the manifold. These hot engine parts burn off the oil, creating bluish white smoke that wafts from under the hood.

The first thing you should do is check the oil to make sure it is at the correct level and that it’s clean. Small leaks often become bigger leaks, so check under the car, on the pavement where you park, and around the engine for signs of leaks. If your car is running low on oil, the engine can overheat and burn whatever oil is remaining.

If the burned oil smell is coming from the tailpipe (bluish white smoke), it is a symptom of oil leaking into the combustion chamber, which means it is getting into your exhaust system. The oil is burned in the combustion process with the air and fuel mixture, and pushed out through the exhaust system. The exhaust system is one of the hottest systems in your car, dealing with the noxious byproducts and fumes of the internal combustion engine banging away under the hood. If oil leaks into the either the combustion or exhaust system, it is going to be burned. This is usually a sign of an old, worn out engine in need of some serious repair and regular maintenance.

GasolineAAMCO Minnesota Vehicle Bad Smells

If you smell gasoline, like when it’s pumped at the gas station, inside or outside the car, you should take special care to identify the source. It is likely a sign of a gas leak in the fuel line or fuel injection system (if your car has one). A leak in the fuel tank vent hose oftentimes is the culprit behind gasoline odors inside the car, especially after filling the gas tank. At worst, there could be a leak in the gas tank itself.

In older pre-1980’s cars, the smell of gasoline can occur after the car has been turned off due to fuel afterboil. This is often normal and results when a small amount of gasoline continues to burn in the carburetor after the engine is shut down.

Any persistent smell of gasoline, either in the car or outside of the car such as in the garage, should be taken seriously. Any smell of gas fumes can indicate a fire hazard, so it should be checked immediately.

SyrupAAMCO Minnesota Bad Smelling Car

If you detect the scent of maple syrup, it probably means there is a leak in the cooling system. Cooling fluid is leaking onto hot engine parts and being burned away. If there is a leak in the cooling system, you need to check the coolant fluid level, check for leaks in the engine compartment and on the pavement in the areas you park (such as driveway or garage). Left unchecked and repaired, you will risk overheating the engine and causing major damage.

A syrup smell could also mean the engine coolant is boiling after you have turned off the engine. This is due to the inability of the cooling system to dissipate engine heat, so the engine remains extremely hot for an extended time even after it has stopped. If you decide to investigate, wait until the engine has cooled off! Never remove the radiator cap while the engine is running or is still hot. It will cause a massive blow off of superheated fluid that could cause serious injury.

Rotten Eggs or Sulfur

This wonderful stench means your car is in need of a checkup and that the catalytic converter is having some serious issues. The catalytic converter is in the car’s exhaust system and is supposed to convert noxious hydrogen sulfide to sulfur dioxide in the exhaust fumes before they exit the tailpipe. If this is not happening, it means that your engine needs more than just a tune-up, and the catalytic converter could completely overheat and fail, leading to costly repairs.

Burned PaperBad Smelling Exhaust Fumes

If you smell something like burned paper, it could meant that your clutch is overheating. If you’re riding the clutch pedal, it creates excess friction between the clutch facing and slips. The material between these surfaces is made of a paper compound, which gives it its familiar smell.

The smell of burning paper could also mean your brakes are overheating. Riding your brakes, such as when coming down a hill or mountain, creates unnecessary friction and excess heat on your brake pads. You might also have a seized up brake piston, resulting in a “dragging brake.” Or it could be that you just left your parking brake on. In some cars it is easy to forget and actually drive with the handbrake still engaged.

 

AAMCO Minnesota Can Help Sniff Out and Fix Problems With Your Car

We realize that in order for one to understand some of this, you must know what the “smells like” really smells like. If you’ve never had maple syrup – get thee to a pancake house now – you’ll likely not know what to sniff for. Whatever the smell, if it’s not new car or the scent of that air freshener you just bought to battle the gym socks and mildew in your car’s air filtration and circulation system, then you should come to AAMCO Minnesota for a multi-point diagnostic inspection.

Visit an AAMCO Minnesota transmission repair and total car care center near you. When issues arise and you need affordable, honest auto repair, schedule an appointment with your locally owned and operated AAMCO Minnesota transmission and auto repair center.

If you have questions about your car’s road readiness, or about car repair and maintenance topics, AAMCO Minnesota is a great resource for expert automotive repair and maintenance information. Feel free to call or visit your local AAMCO Minnesota transmission and total car care center.

Other Articles About Car Maintenance & Repair

Sounds Your Car Makes When It Needs Repairs

My Car Rolls When I Put it in Park

Reasons Your Ride is Bumpy and Rough

Dangerous Driving Habits To Avoid

10. Parking in Illegal Areas

Despite the fact that most parking areas are monitored fairly closely, drivers continue to park where they shouldn’t  This includes handicap parking spaces, red zones, along curbs outside of clearly-marked legal parking hours, and so on. Having your car towed can be expensive, so even if you’ve gotten away with illegal parking in the past, you should resist the urge to park “just for five minutes” in restricted areas.

9. Accelerating Through Yellow Lights

Sure, it might be exhilarating to speed up in order to make it through a light, but often you don’t quite make it, and you end up holding up other drivers who actually have the green light. This is a bad habit to have, as it could lead to major collisions. Some lights are longer than others, so you may think that you have time to make it when you really don’t. Do the responsible thing and slow down when the light turns yellow if you’ve got room to stop. This goes hand in hand with following the speed limit, if you are following the posted speed limits, you won’t need to smash the brake pedal to stop in time for a red light. 

8. Ignoring Traffic Signs

Do you blow through stop signs or fail to yield when it’s required of you?  Those signs are there for a reason, and even if no one’s around, you should obey them. You never know when a car or pedestrian might come out of nowhere, or even a cop. 

7. Not Checking Blind Spots

Blind spots are dangerous, but not even trying to check them is more dangerous. Drivers who don’t look have a tendency to start moving over into other lanes and nearly colliding with other cars; this can cause, at the very least, anxiety and distraction, and at the most, a serious car accident. Always be sure to not only check the appropriate mirror when switching lanes, but to glance over your shoulder too to make sure the coast is clear. 

6. Merging Improperly

How many times have you been on a freeway acceleration ramp and found yourself behind someone who doesn’t understand how to merge? They let car after car zoom past them, thinking they’re being polite, when really, they’re holding up the flow of traffic. On the other hand, There are motorists who don’t know how to be patient. They seem to think that racing to the front of a line of cars getting on the freeway, when they know that the lane merges, is acceptable behavior. This is wrong too, and shouldn’t be put into practice. Accelerate and get up to speed, look for an opportunity, and merge when you get the chance. 

5. Not Using Turn Signals

If you don’t tell other people where you’re going, how can you expect them to know? Changing lanes or turning without signaling throws others off, and it could put you in harm’s way. The worst is when drivers slow down to turn without putting their blinker on: this can catch the cars behind them off guard, and the offending individual could get rear-ended. If you are experiencing issues with your electrical system, schedule an appointment today with your local AAMCO Minnesota Location. 

4. Cutting Other Cars Off

When you’re in a hurry, you often wish that the roads were completely clear so that you could zoom right through. Weaving between lanes without regard for others is extremely hazardous. You run the risk of being hit from behind if the driver you’re cutting off isn’t paying attention, and if you’re going too fast and squeezing between two cars, you could end up slamming into the car ahead of you. Don’t put yourself in this situation. Be sure that you give yourself plenty of time for travel. 

3. Tailgating

Tailgating is irritating to both parties involved. The driver in front is annoyed that the person behind them won’t stay off their bumper, and the driver in back of him is annoyed that he can’t go faster. Why create this tension? Tailgating can lead to car accidents AND it can lead to intentional vindictive actions, like brake checking. If you want to go faster, pass the car ahead of you in another lane if it is safe to do so, but keep a safe distance if it is not. 

2. Speeding

We all do this once in a while. But that doesn’t make it okay! Driving above the speed limit is one of the biggest reasons car accidents happen, and it leads to many of the other behaviors on this list. Just think: how many bad incidents would be prevented if we all adhered to posted speed limits? Not only is speeding dangerous to drivers around you as well as yourself. It wears your vehicles components much quicker. It consumes more fuel, wears brakes, and is tough on your transmission when accelerating quickly. 

1. Using Your Cell Phone While Driving

This is the big one, and unfortunately it’s become common among most drivers out there nowadays. While talking on your cell phone may be legal in some states under certain circumstances, it’s still a bad habit to have. It can be tempting when that ringtone goes off while you’re behind the wheel, but it’s better to resist the urge to answer. Talking while on your cell phone is distracting, and distracted driving is dangerous driving; it puts you and others at risk. Don’t even get us started on texting while driving! 


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How Brakes Work

There are three principles of braking – leverage, hydraulics, and friction – that encompass the eight basic steps of how your car’s brakes work wonders every time you step on the brake pedal. [Read more…]

Anti-Lock Brakes – More Than Just a Better Way to Stop

Anti-lock brakes, also known as anti-lock braking system (ABS), have become a standard feature on cars, but they weren’t even originally invented for cars. They were invented in 1929 in France by Gabriel Voisin to help planes more smoothly apply brakes on landing and shorten the distance needed to come to a stop. Today it is an automobile safety system that is mandatory on all new passenger vehicles. [Read more…]

Reasons Why Your Ride is Bumpy and Rough

Sometimes your car does not ride as smoothly as you like. If the ride gets really bumpy or rough, and you’re not on a dirt road, there are some things that could be mechanically wrong. There are a number of things that can cause a rough, bumpy ride while you’re accelerating, cruising, or coming to a stop. [Read more…]


AAMCO Transmissions & Auto Repair Shops

Locally Owned & Operated

 
AAMCO Minneapolis

5231 West Broadway | Minneapolis, MN, 55429

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Transmission repair and rebuilds are our specialty at AAMCO Minneapolis, MN. From transmissions to brakes, radiators, air conditioning repair, tune ups, check engine light diagnosis and car maintenance, people who know call AAMCO. Our expert technicians use the latest tools and technology to diagnose and repair your vehicle. From automatic and manual transmission repairs, clutch service and replacement, and more, we know all vehicle makes and models. We back our work with the best nationwide warranty. AAMCO of Minneapolis, MN is your one-stop transmission rebuild and total car care center.

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AAMCO West St. Paul

1571 S Robert St | St Paul, MN, 55118

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AAMCO Transmissions West St. Paul is your Twin Cities one-stop shop for transmission repairs, rebuilds, and car maintenance. Our certified technicians can handle any transmission repair or rebuild, as well as auto repair and maintenance service for your vehicle. You can rely on our mechanics for automatic and manual transmission problems and rebuilds, clutch service and replacement, and more. We use modern computer diagnostics to identify transmission and engine issues so we can repair your car quickly and get you back on the road. We work on all makes and models, including 4x4s.

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AAMCO Fridley

940 Osborne Rd NE | Minneapolis, MN, 55432

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At AAMCO Fridley we believe in performing honest and affordable transmission and auto repair services. We do the job right and get you back on the road safely and reliably. From transmission repair and rebuild to brake service, air conditioning repair, tune ups, check engine light and car maintenance, AAMCO Fridley, MN is your one-stop auto mechanic. Trust AAMCO’s expert auto technicians to use the latest tools and technology to diagnose and repair your vehicle, and back it with the best nationwide warranty. At AAMCO of Fridley, Minnesota we know all vehicle makes and models and have the latest in diagnostic tools and technology. We are your total car care specialists.

Convenient payment plans available.

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AAMCO Hopkins

10921 Excelsior Blvd #117 | 10921 Excelsior Blvd #117, MN, 55343

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Call Now Set Appointment

At AAMCO Hopkins, MN we believe in the value of good, honest work and giving you and your family the peace of mind a safe, reliable car provides on a daily basis. From transmission repair and rebuild to brake service, air conditioning repair, auto tune ups, check engine light and car maintenance, AAMCO of Hopkins is your one-stop shop for car repairs and maintenance. Trust the transmission experts at AAMCO of Hopkins transmission repair to diagnose and repair your vehicle right the first time and back it with the best nationwide warranty. At AAMCO Hopkins transmission and car repair we know all vehicle makes and models and have the latest in diagnostic tools and technology. We are your total car care and repair specialists.

Convenient payment plans available.

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AAMCO Maplewood

1905 County Rd D E | Maplewood, MN, 55109

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Call Now Set Appointment

People come to AAMCO of Maplewood, MN because we care about making sure you car is running safely and reliably. You can count on us for all your automotive repairs and maintenance. From transmission repairs and rebuilds to brakes, radiators, air conditioning, check engine light and tune ups. AAMCO Maplewood transmission and auto repair technicians use the latest technology to diagnose and repair your vehicle right the first time - and we back it with the best nationwide warranty. At your local Minnesota AAMCO of Maplewood we know all vehicle makes and models - we're your one-stop total car care specialists.

Convenient payment plans available.

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Signs Your Battery Needs to Be Replaced

Slow Engine Crank

It takes a lot of power to get your car started, and all that power is produced by the battery. Once the car is started, the alternator keeps the car battery going by replacing the power used to start the engine and run your vehicle’s electronic accessories. When you put the key in your car’s ignition and turn it, the battery alone starts the engine. If the battery is weakening, you may notice that the engine turns over slower than usual. It’s important that you pick up on that warning sign, you may be stranded if it takes more than one crank to get the engine to fire. If the engine does not crank at all, the vehicle will often just make a rapid clicking sound, this indicates that the available power is too low to crank the engine. Bring the battery in and have it check at your Local AAMCO.

Issues with electrical components

In addition to powering the engine, the car battery also needs to produce enough power to operate the other electrical components in your vehicle. Modern cars have many electronic accessories including power windows, power seats, radio, windshield wipers, dashboard lights, headlights and more. All of which require electricity supplied from your vehicle’s battery.

If you start to notice that your electronic components are not operating like they used to, this may be a sign that the battery is wearing out. You may want to check for power loss due to dirty battery terminals. If it appears clean, it might be time for a battery replacement. Pay special attention to when you use more than one component at a time. For example, if you switch on the radio while using the headlights and the headlights go dim, the battery might not be as young as it once was.

Dashboard Warning Light

Most cars have a dashboard warning light, usually in the shape of a battery. This will illuminate if the battery is not being replenished properly or if there is an internal problem with the battery. Like the Check Engine light, the battery warning light might also mean that something is wrong with the alternator or some other part of the electrical system. If the light comes on, the best course of action would be to have your vehicle’s electrical system inspected by your local AAMCO.

Swollen Battery Case

When a car battery is exposed to excessive amounts of heat or cold, the flat sides of the battery case may swell or bulge. If for example the battery sits in a vehicle that is not driven for some time in the winter, the battery may freeze. Freezing and swelling from excess heat often results in an electrically “dead” battery that cannot be recovered and will require replacement.

Old Age

On average, a car battery lasts about five years. This average lifespan will fluctuate depending on extreme temperature exposure, number of deep discharges and whether it goes through full charge cycles. That being said, five years is how much life most batteries have so once you hit the 4-year mark, it might not be a bad idea to get it tested by your local AAMCO to see how much life it has left. If you are not sure how old the battery is, you should be able to find the manufacture date on the battery case.Jumper cables and car battery.

Weird Smell

When a battery has been frozen, overcharged or is shorted internally its case may vent gas. If you happen to detect a rotten egg scent under the hood of your vehicle, have your battery inspected as soon as possible because in addition to possibly needing a replacement battery, the sulfuric acid can eat away at other engine parts, causing corrosion, which is something you want to avoid at all costs.

 

If you are experiencing any of these signs, schedule an appointment with your local AAMCO

CLICK HERE to read more about the battery services that AAMCO offers.

Come to AAMCO Minnesota for All Your Car Repairs & Maintenance

You need an experienced automotive technician who can diagnose the problem and honestly tell you what needs to be done when something is wrong with your car.

If you have questions about your car’s exhaust, engine, transmission, repair or maintenance needs, AAMCO Minnesota can help. Stop by or call a local AAMCO Minnesota repair shop for a Multi Point Vehicle Inspection of your transmission and related systems. We can handle all your scheduled car maintenance and repairs, from brakes and oil changes to factory recommended maintenance and full transmission replacements.

 

Other Articles About Car Maintenance & Repair

Take the Fear Out of Transmission Repair

What is a Torque Converter?

Find a Location Near You

AAMCO Minnesota Transmission shops are locally owned and operated.

 
AAMCO Minneapolis

5231 West Broadway | Minneapolis, MN, 55429

Details Directions

Call Now Set Appointment

Transmission repair and rebuilds are our specialty at AAMCO Minneapolis, MN. From transmissions to brakes, radiators, air conditioning repair, tune ups, check engine light diagnosis and car maintenance, people who know call AAMCO. Our expert technicians use the latest tools and technology to diagnose and repair your vehicle. From automatic and manual transmission repairs, clutch service and replacement, and more, we know all vehicle makes and models. We back our work with the best nationwide warranty. AAMCO of Minneapolis, MN is your one-stop transmission rebuild and total car care center.

Write a Review

AAMCO West St. Paul

1571 S Robert St | St Paul, MN, 55118

Details Directions

Call Now Set Appointment

AAMCO Transmissions West St. Paul is your Twin Cities one-stop shop for transmission repairs, rebuilds, and car maintenance. Our certified technicians can handle any transmission repair or rebuild, as well as auto repair and maintenance service for your vehicle. You can rely on our mechanics for automatic and manual transmission problems and rebuilds, clutch service and replacement, and more. We use modern computer diagnostics to identify transmission and engine issues so we can repair your car quickly and get you back on the road. We work on all makes and models, including 4x4s.

Write a Review

AAMCO Fridley

940 Osborne Rd NE | Minneapolis, MN, 55432

Details Directions

Call Now Set Appointment

At AAMCO Fridley we believe in performing honest and affordable transmission and auto repair services. We do the job right and get you back on the road safely and reliably. From transmission repair and rebuild to brake service, air conditioning repair, tune ups, check engine light and car maintenance, AAMCO Fridley, MN is your one-stop auto mechanic. Trust AAMCO’s expert auto technicians to use the latest tools and technology to diagnose and repair your vehicle, and back it with the best nationwide warranty. At AAMCO of Fridley, Minnesota we know all vehicle makes and models and have the latest in diagnostic tools and technology. We are your total car care specialists.

Convenient payment plans available.

Write a Review

AAMCO Hopkins

10921 Excelsior Blvd #117 | 10921 Excelsior Blvd #117, MN, 55343

Details Directions

Call Now Set Appointment

At AAMCO Hopkins, MN we believe in the value of good, honest work and giving you and your family the peace of mind a safe, reliable car provides on a daily basis. From transmission repair and rebuild to brake service, air conditioning repair, auto tune ups, check engine light and car maintenance, AAMCO of Hopkins is your one-stop shop for car repairs and maintenance. Trust the transmission experts at AAMCO of Hopkins transmission repair to diagnose and repair your vehicle right the first time and back it with the best nationwide warranty. At AAMCO Hopkins transmission and car repair we know all vehicle makes and models and have the latest in diagnostic tools and technology. We are your total car care and repair specialists.

Convenient payment plans available.

Write a Review

AAMCO Maplewood

1905 County Rd D E | Maplewood, MN, 55109

Details Directions

Call Now Set Appointment

People come to AAMCO of Maplewood, MN because we care about making sure you car is running safely and reliably. You can count on us for all your automotive repairs and maintenance. From transmission repairs and rebuilds to brakes, radiators, air conditioning, check engine light and tune ups. AAMCO Maplewood transmission and auto repair technicians use the latest technology to diagnose and repair your vehicle right the first time - and we back it with the best nationwide warranty. At your local Minnesota AAMCO of Maplewood we know all vehicle makes and models - we're your one-stop total car care specialists.

Convenient payment plans available.

Write a Review

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How Brakes Work

Brakes Explained

At AAMCO Minnesota our mission is to fix and maintain your car – from transmissions to electrical systems, oil changes to mufflers. We do it all so you don’t have to. One of our specialties is brakes.

What it Takes to Stop Your Car

Everyone knows that brakes stop your car. But have you ever wondered what it takes to bring your car to a smooth, safe stop just by pushing the brake pedal? There are three principles of braking – leverage, hydraulics, and friction – that encompass the eight basic steps of how your car’s brakes work wonders every time you step on the brake pedal.

Leverage

Your car’s brakes use leverage. The brake pedal is designed to act as a lever in order to magnify the force from your leg before it is transmitted to the brake fluid. When you press on the brake pedal the system transmits and multiplies the force to the wheels using friction. The tires transmit that friction force to the road, which results in your car slowing down. So, with all that leverage, if you stomp on the brake pedal, the whole process happens very quickly and you end up leaving rubber on the road – and risk going into a skid and losing control. Fortunately, modern brake systems have anti-lock mechanisms that pump the brakes faster than any human could and help you maintain control; but skid marks and damage to your tires can still happen.

Hydraulics

A car’s brake system uses hydraulics. Force applied from the pedal pushes a piston into the master cylinder, forcing brake fluid through a pipe. Fluid pressure is distributed evenly throughout the system to the four wheels. The brake fluid flows to slave cylinders at each wheel, forcing pistons down the cylinders at the wheels. The cylinders at the brakes on the wheels are larger than the cylinder at the brake pedal, which means the force is multiplied far beyond the original push of your leg.

Frictionimage - close-up of automobile disc brake

Friction is the key product of the car’s brakes. It is the force that does the stopping. The slave cylinder pistons are forced down through the cylinders to close the calipers. This applies the brake pads to the rotors – or discs – attached to the wheel hub. All of this is designed to create friction and slow the wheels.

How Brakes Work in 8 Easy Steps

In eight steps your car’s brakes go through a process of combined leverage,  hydraulics, and friction to bring your car to a safe, controlled stop.

  1. Brake pedal is pushed.
  2. Piston pushes fluid to master cylinder.
  3. Master cylinder pushes fluid to slave cylinders.
  4. Slave cylinders fill and push pistons out.
  5. Pistons push calipers with brake pads.
  6. Brake pads grip rotors (discs) attached to wheels.
  7. Friction between brake pads and rotors slows wheels.
  8. Car slows down and stops.

The combined pressure, or force, of the slave pistons is greater than that of the piston in the master cylinder. The master piston only has to move a few inches in order to push the slave pistons a fraction of an inch. This whole system creates a lot of force – enough to stop an entire car – even though all the driver has to do is push a pedal.

AAMCO Minnesota for Brake Service and Repairs

Now that you’ve got the basics down, did you know the front brakes do more work in stopping your car than the rear brakes? This is due to simple physics – when you brake, the weight of the car shifts forward. Many cars have disc brakes on the front and drum brakes on the rear because disc brakes are more efficient than drum brakes. Four-wheel disc brakes are usually found on high performance and some AWD drive cars. Whatever you drive, you can count on AAMCO to service and repair your brakes so your car is safe and reliable. If you have questions about your car’s brakes, road readiness, or about car repair and maintenance, AAMCO Minnesota can help. Come to AAMCO Minnesota for a Multi Point Vehicle Courtesy Check for your transmission and related systems. We’ll winterize your car and get you ready for the cold, snowy winter driving months ahead. We can handle all your scheduled car maintenance and repairs, from brakes to factory recommended maintenance.

Other Articles About Car Maintenance & Repair

Checklist for Preparing Your Car for Winter

Take the Fear Out of Transmission Repair

Watch this video and learn why there is only one place to go – AAMCO. We’re the transmission experts with over 50 years of experience rebuilding and replacing transmissions, and all their 800 pieces. We’ve fixed over 40 million transmissions – way more than our competitors. And we offer a lifetime warranty. image - screenshot - still of transmission in midair coming apart into 800 piecesBecause we have the skill to fix an 800-piece transmission, we can easily fix the rest of your car – brakes, shocks, mufflers, even your engine. Lots of things can make your engine light come on. Today it can be hard to tell what’s wrong with your car, especially if it’s your transmission. Our technicians are trained to keep up with the complex engineering of today’s cars. So, next time something goes wrong with your transmission or any other part of your car, bring it to your local AAMCO.

Daydreaming on Your Cell Phone While Rubbernecking

Winter Road Trip Tips

Winter Driving Preparedness Tips

Here at AAMCO Minnesota we understand the importance for winter safety and readiness. That’s why we offer and remind you of so much information on it. We also offer great winter car care specials – just print and bring to your local AAMCO Minnesota transmission and auto repair shop.image - coupon for free winter safety check at AAMCO Minnesota participating locations

Winter is a rough time for driving. Snowstorms, ice, and overall bad weather conditions make an already challenging job even more so – but it doesn’t have to be your worst nightmare. There are many ways to ensure your safety and the safety of others by practicing safe driving habits and staying on top of your car maintenance. Here are some tips to help you smarten up for driving and keeping your car up to spec this winter.

Look Up

Pay attention to the weather before and during your trip, especially if you’re going on a longer trip. If you’re planning on a long drive, let other people know where you’re going and the estimated time of arrival in case anything happens. Conditions can change quickly. Are you driving into the worst blizzard in years? Are you a snow chaser and just have to get out there? Be aware and prepare. If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve got a smartphone. Use a weather app to keep track of the weather in your area and your destination. Up-to-the-minute updates will help you prepare properly for your journey into the great white north, or whatever direction you choose.

Power Up

Speaking of that smartphone, make sure it’s charged and take the car charger with you. Don’t have a car charger? Get one. Another handy gadget to have is a battery pack or mobile power station that can charge your phone in minutes and holds enough power to charge it several times over, or power several devices.

Speaking of batteries, give some thought to the big one – the battery in your car. Here’s an article on winter battery tips – what kills it, what keeps it (and your car) going. There are three primary factors that contribute to the formula for a dead car battery in the wintertime – age, cold, and load. Obviously, if the battery is five or more years old, it’s going to have a harder time putting out power and its ability to accept a charge is going to decrease. Combine that with the heavy cold of Minnesota winters, your car battery deserves some attention before you hit the frozen road. Pack some jumper cables if you don’t replace the battery.

Gear Up

Have proper clothing with you for whatever winter weather might bring. Sweaters and fleece jackets are great, but when temperatures drop below freezing, suddenly the coziest sweater from your grandmother is tissue paper. You’ll wish you had an arctic explorer’s parka. Always keep gloves or mittens (mittens keep your hands warmer) in your car (not your trunk), an extra coat, a thick knit hat, blankets, and even a scarf (scarves are warm and amazingly versatile). If you’re not already wearing them, a pair of boots might come in handy.

If you usually keep this stuff in your trunk, it’s a good idea to move it into your car if you’re venturing out into more-treacherous-than-usual conditions. The last thing you want to do, or the first thing you can’t do because you’re trapped or hurt, is get out and go digging around in your trunk as the snow and ice pile up around you and the wind takes your breath away.

Other Gear

Tire chains are optional, but can really be your best friend when driving on slick, snow-packed roads. A bag of kitty litter can help your car gain traction if you are stuck in a really icy or slick spot. Keep a pointed garden or flat edge coal shovel in your trunk – it’s good for digging in, around, and even under your car if you’re stuck. Flares are good day or night, as they call attention to your position and situation, particularly in bad weather.

Let’s just cut to the chase. That emergency kit you’ve been meaning to put together should include:

  • Ice Scraper
  • First Aid Kit
  • Blanketimage - warning sign on slick snow-packed country road in cold winter weather
  • Hat
  • Gloves
  • Jacket
  • Sand
  • Shovel
  • Jumper Cables/Portable Car Charger
  • Flares
  • Medication
  • Snacks
  • Water
  • Phone Charger

Gas Up

Keep your gas tank full if you can. Don’t let it go below a quarter tank. If you get stuck in traffic, or become stranded, more fuel means more idling & heater time. You’ll be glad you had that extra bit of fuel to get you through the rough times and safely home.

Wake Up

Sleepy? Tired? If all you’d like to do is sleep, try to avoid driving at all when it’s snowy and icy outside. This is just a dangerous combination that could lead to an accident – or worse, you taking the proverbial dirt nap. No amount of coffee and sugar is going to make up for the lack of mental clarity and reaction speed that is needed to effectively drive in adverse weather. Add to that the darkness of night and you’re phenomenally closer to ending up somewhere other than your destination.

image - traffic in winter - slippery, snow-packed road, cars moving slowly

Buckle Up

Do we really have to mention it? Buckle your seat belt. It’s the law. And keep an 8-10 second distance from the vehicle in front of you. You’ll be thankful for that extra space as you slide uncontrollably toward their rear bumper on that patch of ice you ignored. Accelerate and brake slowly. Spinning your wheels and skidding all over the road works your transmission harder than usual and can cause an accident.

Ease Up

If you end up skidding on ice or snow, ease your foot off the gas and carefully turn into the skid until you regain control – point the car in the direction you want to go. If you can’t get up a hill, put on those chains we mentioned earlier. They don’t seem so optional, anymore, do they? It beats taking a running start and using inertia to get you up the hill – potentially messy and dangerous. Just put your car in second gear for more traction while going slower. Put it in low and take it slow around corners, too.

Clean Up

Invest in a good ice scraper and heavy duty snow brush and clean off your car thoroughly. In some states, it’s illegal to drive without having all your windows cleared – scraped, swept, and defogged.

Warm Up

In most newer cars, it’s not necessary to idle to warm up the engine; in fact, it’s more efficient to warm up your car just by driving. This gets your car’s engine and systems up to running temperature faster than sitting in the cold, and helps reduce unnecessary emissions. Plus, if you like to start your car and go back inside while it idles and warms up, you might go back out to find that someone decided to warm it up the right way – and drove off with it. Related: “Warming up your car before driving is a leftover practice from a time when carbureted engines dominated the roads.

If you are experiencing any problems, bring your car to your local AAMCO Minnesota Transmission and Total Car Care center. We’ll help you keep your car running reliably so you won’t have to worry about whether your car will start in the next cold snap, or if you’ll weather the next blizzard.

AAMCO Minnesota for Winter Car Maintenance and Repairs

If you have questions about your car’s road readiness, or about car repair and maintenance, AAMCO Minnesota can help. Come to AAMCO Minnesota for a Transmission Multi-Point Vehicle Courtesy Check for your transmission and related systems. We’ll winterize your car and get you ready for the cold, snowy winter driving months ahead. We can handle all your scheduled car maintenance and repairs, from oil changes to factory recommended maintenance.

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Take the Fear Out of Transmission Repair

Watch this video and learn why there is only one place to go – AAMCO. We’re the transmission experts with over 50 years of experience rebuilding and replacing transmissions, and all their 800 pieces. We’ve fixed over 40 million transmissions – way more than our competitors. And we offer a lifetime warranty. Because we have the skill to fix an 800-piece transmission, we can easily fix the rest of your car – brakes, shocks, mufflers, even your engine. Lots of things can make your engine light come on. Today it can be hard to tell what’s wrong with your car, especially if it’s your transmission. Our technicians are trained to keep up with the complex engineering of today’s cars. So, next time something goes wrong with your transmission or any other part of your car, bring it to your local AAMCO.

Daydreaming on Your Cell Phone While Rubbernecking

Prepare Your Car for Winter Checklist

Winter is Here – Is Your Car Ready?

Image of traffic struggling through snow and ice in freezing winter weather, slick, snowy roads.As winter descends it’s not too late to think about preparing your car if you haven’t already. At AAMCO Minnesota we know the importance of thinking and planning ahead for winter. There are many things you should consider before the first big freeze or snowfall, and we’ve compiled an easy checklist. Come to AAMCO Minnesota for a Courtesy Vehicle Check to make sure your car is in good shape for the coming cold.

Prepare Your Car for Winter Checklist

✔ First and foremost, check your car owner’s manual for recommended services and schedules. If you’re up to date on your maintenance checklist, the following list of items should be relatively easy to cover. Bring your car to a nearby AAMCO Minnesota location for help in winterizing your car!

✔ Get those nagging issues you’ve been putting up with all summer looked at and fixed. Things such as hard starts, rough idling, stalling, lack of power, bumpy or vibrating driving are all made worse by cold winter weather.

✔ You’ve heard it before, and you’ll hear it again – change your oil and filter. As mentioned above, if you’re up to date on your scheduled maintenance items, then this is probably already checked off.

Check and replace filters, such as oil, air, fuel, transmission, and positive crankcase ventilation (PCV). That last one is inexpensive and often overlooked, but can cause oil leaks and other problems. Generally, a poorly running engine is not efficient and uses more gas.

Flush the cooling system. The level, condition, and concentration of the coolant should be checked occasionally. A 50/50 mix of antifreeze and water is usually recommended, but check your car owner’s manual for specific recommendations.

Belts, hoses, and clamps should be checked for tightness and wear and tear. If their condition is questionable, it’s best to have them replaced, as cold temperatures has adverse effects on rubber and other materials, jeopardizing their performance. If a hose or belt is already worn, cold temperatures will increase the likelihood that they’ll break.

✔ Have your battery checked with professional equipment. A weak battery will only get worse and die in cold weather, possibly leaving you stranded. AAMCO diagnostics can determine the status and reliability of your battery.

✔ Something you might not think about until the first cold snap is the heater and defroster. Make sure they are in good working condition – not only for the sake of comfort, but for the sake of being able to see through the windows and drive safely. If you can’t defog and defrost your windows, you’re not going far.

Inspect all exterior and interior lights. Always keep exterior lights clean and replace any burned out bulbs.

Get new wiper blades. If you’ve had those wiper blades all summer, just replace them and give yourself the peace of mind that you’re all set for the snow, slush, and mess of winter driving. And while you’re at it, fill the windshield wiper fluid and keep a jug in the trunk.

✔ Moisture and rust from previous seasons might have created weaknesses or holes in your exhaust system. Have it inspected and avoid the risk of fumes coming into the car or other problems that might affect your car’s performance.

Check your tires for remaining tread life, as well as uneven wear. Refer the manufacturer’s recommendations for proper inflation. The old myth that tire pressure should be reduced in the winter time to maximize traction is just that – a myth.

✔ Have your brakes checked for wear – rotors, calipers, pads, pistons. Have the whole system checked to avoid any safety issues. Reliable brakes won’t really help you stop faster on ice, but will help you maintain control of your car in other winter driving conditions, such as slush or snowpack, as well as in a lot of situations in all seasons.

✔ Last, but not least, schedule an appointment with your local AAMCO Minnesota shop to have your car’s transmission checked. Though you might not think of it, and nothing may seem wrong with your transmission or with the way your car is driving, a pre-winter transmission checkup can help prevent costly breakdowns and repairs in the freezing months.

AAMCO Minnesota Can Help You Prepare Your Car for Winter

Avoid having your car in the shop for lengthy repairs during the bitter winter months. It’s already hard to get around in the cold weather, but even worse without your own trusty car. AAMCO Minnesota can help make sure that doesn’t happen – make an appointment today!

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Watch this video – see a transmission explode in slow motion.