Winter Prep Checklist for Your Car

Prepare Your Car for Winter

Do you have a checklist? Here’s one that’s easy and won’t cost a lot.

image of infographic winterize your car checklist - Check and fill fluids, Check battery, Check tires and brakes, Replace windshield wipers, Coolant system flushSeems like autumn just rolled in and now it’s about to roll on out. Winter’s great frozen air horn roars as it rumbles down on us. Start preparing for the long, cold, wet months ahead. One of the most important things – but often the last thing on people’s lists – to prep for winter is your car. Minnesota winters are not for the faint of heart, and Mother Nature will take any chance she gets to remind you who’s boss. The elements and random mishaps can combine to create situations that in winter have the potential to become dangerous or deadly very quickly. Don’t leave things to chance – there are many things you can do to prepare for a Minnesota winter. Here are a few things to check on your car to be sure you’re ready and don’t get stranded on that frozen road less travelled.

  • Check and fill fluids
  • Check battery
  • Check tires and brakes
  • Replace windshield wipers
  • Coolant system flush

✔ Check all fluids and flush the cooling system.

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

Overheating in engine is the most common cause of mechanical breakdown, summer or winter. Coolant (also called anti-freeze) protects your engine from freezing just as much as it protects from overheating. Coolant’s effectiveness can diminish over time, causing the radiator to rust and corrode. The cooling system can also become blocked with crud from oil, grease, scale, material decomposition, and other contaminants. So we highly recommend getting your cooling system serviced and checked at least once a year. What better time than right before winter!

✔ Have your battery checked with professional equipment.

A weak battery will only get worse and die in cold weather, possibly leaving you stranded. AAMCO battery service and diagnostics can determine the status and reliability of your battery. In most cases, the battery does not give warning signs before it fails. A battery three years old or older should be checked – and probably replaced.

✔ Check your tires & brakes.

Tires and brakes don’t last forever. Check your tires for proper inflation, tread depthInsert a penny into the tire tread with Lincoln's head down. If you can see the top part of his head or forehead, your tires are wearing out., and abnormal wear. If your alignment is off or suspension system is worn out or having problems, your tires will wear out faster and unevenly.

Have your brakes checked for wear – rotors, calipers, pads, pistons. Have the whole system checked to avoid any safety issues. Reliable brakes won’t help you stop faster on ice, but will help you maintain control of your car through winter conditions, such as slush or snowpack.

✔ Replace windshield wipers.

Don’t just check your windshield wipers – replace them. Unless you just replaced the blades a month or two ago, just put on new ones and know that you’re ready for whatever the weather or traffic throw at your windshield. Be sure to keep a jug of windshield wiper fluid in your trunk.

✔ Get a tune-up.

A tune-up is a good idea, especially if you haven’t had your car serviced in a while. It’s a cost-effective way to cover the bases and find anything that might cause problems when you least need them. Some basic fixes and maintenance steps can be done in a tune-up that will give you some peace of mind in the winter months.

  • Installation of new spark plugs
  • Idle speed adjustment, timing, choke, throttle linkage, spark plug wires, distributor cap
  • Comprehensive performance check for any drivability issues or computer system trouble codes.
  • 36-point Vehicle Courtesy Check to ensure critical systems are in good working order.

Other Things to Check

✔ Check heater, defroster, and A/C.

A car’s heater core is a radiator-like system that heats the cabin of your car. Hot coolant from the vehicle’s engine is passed through a pipe that winds around the core. Fins attached to the core tube serve to increase surface area to facilitate the transfer of heat to air. The air is forced over the fins by a fan and passed into the passenger compartment, keeping you nice and toasty warm.

Along with this system is the defroster and the air conditioning. Both of these systems are key to keeping the interior of your car fog-free, as well as mitigate ice and frost buildup on the exterior of the windows. If the air conditioning is not functioning properly, it won’t be able to perform one of its key functions – dehumidify the passenger cabin.

✔ Check and replace filters, such as oil, air, fuel, transmission, and positive crankcase ventilation (PCV).

What the heck are all these filters and where did they come from all of a sudden? All of these filters are important and should be checked or replaced as part of a regular maintenance schedule.

AAMCO Minnesota Can Help You Get Your Car Ready for Any Season

Take it easy and take your car to AAMCO Minnesota. We’ve got easy locations in and around the Twin Cities that will help you get ready for the arrival of big rig Winter.

If you have questions about your car’s road readiness, or about car repair and maintenance topics, AAMCO Minnesota can help. Call, drop by, or book an appointment online with your friendly local Minnesota AAMCO mechanics. We’ve got service centers in

 

 

 
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 Minneapolis

5231 West Broadway | Minneapolis, MN, 55429

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Transmission repair and rebuilds are our specialty. From transmissions to brakes, radiators, air conditioning repair, tune ups, check engine light diagnosis and car maintenance, people who know call AAMCO Minneapolis Transmission Repair and Auto Services. 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 Maplewood

1905 County Rd D E | Maplewood, MN, 55109

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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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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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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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Beware of Flood-Damaged Cars

What’s a Flood-Damaged Car?

Sometimes it’s hard to tell if a car has been in a flood or hurricane.

With all the storms and floods, water-damaged cars will be flooding the used car market.

Resale of water-damaged cars passed off as OK used cars is on the rise.

Learn the warning signs and hazards of buying a flood-damaged car.

image of car submerged in flood water on town street.When you’re shopping for a used car, how do you avoid the ones that have been in floods or hurricanes? Water wrecks cars in many ways. Most vehicles involved in water disasters are declared a total loss by insurance companies. Water-damaged cars are difficult and expensive to repair – some damages can’t be repaired at all. Water damage severely limits a car’s reliability and lifespan, but it’s easy to hide the damage from most people, because who’s really thinking about water damage when they’re looking at a car?

There are expected to be almost a million vehicles damaged as a result of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma. Many of these cars are being resold, either legitimately or not. If you’re in the market for a used car, you need to know what to look for and avoid being suckered into buying a nice looking car that will cost you thousands in repairs because it was under water at some point in the past.

A car damaged by water can cost you more money in the long run.

There are things you can do and look for in your own inspection of the vehicle.

Check the vehicle identification number (VIN).

Even if the paperwork says the car is legit and its history is clean, it might be forged. For a fee you can check the vehicle identification number (VIN) with a service like CarFax. It’s easy and just might save you a lot of trouble and money. The car’s VIN is usually located on an aluminum plate bolted on the dash, or on the inside of the door, secured to the frame of the car. If you can’t find the VIN anywhere, and the seller doesn’t have or know it, it’s a sure sign you should look elsewhere for the used car of your dreams.

A  VIN check report will indicate the car has been suffered damage with terms like “flood”, “salvage”, “rebuilt”, or “loss.” Keep in mind that if the seller or previous owner didn’t have the car insured in the first place – especially at the time the damage was done – then any damage might not have been reported, which means it is not in any records database and the car will appear “clean.” That’s why the next few things you can do are important.

Have a professional mechanic inspect the car.

Sure, the car looks great, the price is right, and the seller is motivated. You want to buy! First things first. Tell the seller you’re going to have the car inspected by a mechanic. If he shows any resistance, protests, or wants his mechanic to look at it, walk away. It’s your money and the seller is probably hiding something about the car.

RelatedAAMCO Used Car Pre-Purchase Inspection

Test drive the car thoroughly.

Take the car for a test drive. Don’t be afraid to not only drive it like you would drive it, but push it a little and test it in as many conditions as you can – city, highway, hills, curves, fast, slow, idling. Listen for strange sounds and be aware of vibrations, steering problems, shaking, squealing, grinding, or any other odd noises and behavior that a solid, well-maintained car should not have. Run the car’s AC and heat full blast. Test everything, especially electrical – radio included. Don’t blow the speakers, but be aware that they sometimes short out, so they can be an indicator of something wrong in the electrical system. One or two odd things might be OK (it’s a used car, after all); but when there are a number of other issues, it could mean water damage. Heck, even if not water damaged, a car with lots of issues should be avoided (unless you’re looking for a fixer upper).

How else can you tell if the car you want is water damaged?

image of graphical rendering car waterEducate yourself. If you’re looking to buy a used car anytime soon, be aware that there will probably be many more flood-damaged cars on the market in the coming months, or even years. There will always be storms, and there are things you can watch for when looking at used cars, especially if you are in or the car is from a storm-ravaged region. Water is a force of nature. It can damage or destroy anything. A water-damaged car exhibits trouble in its main systems, as well as in certain cosmetic areas.

What’s that smell?

Flooded cars oftentimes smell musty or moldy.

Water or liquid stains on the upholstery can happen even without a flood, but it’s difficult to dry the entire interior of a car after it’s been blitzed by water. You might have to get close to the carpet or the seats, but if you sniff deeply and get a hint of mildew or some other scent that reminds you of not-so-fresh water, the car has probably been through a few feet of the wet stuff (and who knows how clean that water was to begin with!). There is no air freshener on the planet that will get rid of those smells. Conversely, if the car smells like it was doused in air freshener, there is a good chance the seller is trying to cover up an odor – and probably much more.

Mold and mildew are difficult to detect and remove, especially in a car. If you somehow end up with a car that’s got a mold problem, you’ll most likely end up just having to live with it. It’s an unpleasant odor that might come and go, be less or worse depending on the weather and temperature. Short of tearing out the interior carpeting, seats, upholstery, and heading, you might be stuck with this car for a long time.

Why does the car have rust, yet it’s so new looking?

Rust and corrosion indicate possible deeper issues.

Take the time to get a good look under the car and under the hood. Look closely at things like battery connections, gas caps, inside door frames, and in wheel wells. Dirt, mud, or excess crud in odd places should be red flags. In extreme cases, you might even notice a water stain or line along the doors and panels, inside or out.

The car’s electrical system can tell you a lot, so test it.

Electrical problems are common, and oftentimes difficult to diagnose and fix.

The electrical system is one of the most costly systems to be affected by water. Check the headlights, turn signals, brake lights, reverse and license plate lights – and don’t forget the interior lights like the overhead, glove box, trunk, hood. If any dashboard lights or instruments are not working, there might be a larger electrical issue. If the car has power windows and locks, check every single one on the driver side main console and the individual door controls.

Related: AAMCO Electrical System Service

The car’s performance will show signs of trouble – but when?

Engine, transmission, exhaust, electrical – these systems and more should be checked.

Engine problems will definitely occur in water-damaged cars. Unfortunately, performance issues might not be discovered until you’ve had the car for a little while, but the potential can be detected if a thorough inspection is done prior to purchase. An engine that was once waterlogged will show its true colors eventually. Hard starting, chugging and stalling, shaking and strange noises that no engine should make – it will all come out in the wash. Water in oil lines and gas tanks is difficult and costly to fix, and most likely will cause problems for years to come. There are things that you might not discover until you’ve purchased the car, but a thorough inspection and doing your own due diligence will reduce your risk of buying a soggy lemon.

AAMCO Minnesota Can Help

image of happy female driver leaning out window showing thumbs up.It’s important to pay special attention to anything unusual or that you would not expect as you go through these steps. Take notes and schedule a pre-purchase inspection with your local AAMCO Minnesota certified mechanics to thoroughly check the car you’re interested in buying. If you’ve already bought the car and you need help diagnosing a problem, or need repairs, schedule an appointment online or call your local Minnesota AAMCO.

If you have questions about your car’s road readiness, or about car repair and maintenance topics, AAMCO Minnesota can help. Call, drop by, or book an appointment online with your friendly local Minnesota AAMCO mechanics. We’ve got service centers in Minneapolis, West St. Paul, Fridley, Hopkins, and Maplewood.

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Reasons Your Car Won’t Start

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5 Common But Severe Transmission Problems

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Transmission Problems Caused by Battery Corrosion

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Front-Wheel Drive or Rear-Wheel Drive

Know the Differences Between FWD and RWD

image-shifting-gears-person-driving-stick-shift-hand-on-shifterThe differences between front-wheel drive and rear-wheel drive are important factors to consider when buying a car. If you’re buying a new car, there are all kinds of options these days, including all-wheel drive, four-wheel drive, traction control, full-time, part-time. The advantages and disadvantages between FWD and RWD are well known, but the most important thing for you to consider is which one is best for you? Beyond that, keep in mind the differences and how they affect your maintenance and repair costs. AAMCO Minnesota has the expertise to service your vehicle from transmission to suspension, brakes, radiator, and exhaust, whether front-wheel, rear-wheel, all-wheel, or four-wheel drive.

Front-wheel drive vehicles have many advantages for consumers and manufacturers.

Performance in the snow is better on FWD vehicles, but…

Front-wheel drive or FWD means the engine power is going directly to the front wheels. This gives the effect of the car being pulled down the road, instead of pushed from the rear. Front-wheel drive cars have developed a reputation for stability and performance in bad weather conditions, particularly snow. It places the weight of the engine over the front drive wheels, which improves traction and responsiveness.

All of this is great, but from a dry-road, performance driving perspective, FWD cars are considered not as good as RWD. Front-wheel drive cars tend to “over steer”, or push wide, when turns are taken too fast. This is because most of the mechanical weight – steering, suspension, engine, etc. – is in front.

FWD means extra interior space.

The front-wheel drive approach also opens the inside of the vehicle, requiring less space along the floor for the transaxle to pass through. Most FWD cars use transversely  mounted engines (mounted crossways), do the transmission doesn’t intrude into the passenger cabin from underneath the vehicle. The need for a big drive-shaft tunnel to transfer power to the rear wheels is eliminated. More interior space offers more opportunities for automakers to develop innovative uses of the passenger cabin, including safety features.

Manufacturing and maintenance costs for FWD are less.

Because all the major functional parts of the car are concentrated around the front of the vehicle, FWD cars have the added advantage of being less complex, easier to service, and cheaper to maintain. For example, the transmission and axle assembly are one unit in a FWD car. The reduced size, weight, and complexity of FWD vehicles also reduces manufacturing time and costs, savings which can be passed onto the buyer. Front-wheel drive cars usually have lower general maintenance costs and are more fuel efficient.

Front-wheel drive is not as rugged and repairs can cost more.

FWD systems overall involve more complex parts that make them more delicate, as automotive durability goes. Half-shafts and constant velocity (CV) joints are more prone to damage than the more durable solid axle of a RWD vehicle. While a RWD car’s axle might need little service or repair beyond the scheduled checkup and lube, a FWD car will need new CV joints and associated parts on a regular basis (depending on your driving habits). The front brakes might require more frequent servicing, as well, due to the distribution of weight during braking.

Rear-Wheel drive isn’t bad, and it makes sense if you have specific requirements.

Pushing a car through the snow is just more difficult.

Having a rear-wheel drive vehicle means the engine power is on the rear wheels. Trucks and many SUV’s, as well as some cars, use rear-wheel-drive. This means that a driveshaft transmits power from the engine in the front of the vehicle to the wheels at the back which drive, or push, the vehicle. A differential must be used to transfer the power from the driveshaft to the wheels. The differential makes a 90-degree turn so it can get to the wheels. This complexity of two-wheel drive vehicles does not make them any less effective than FWD vehicles – it actually allows for advantages depending on the purpose of the vehicle.

Winter weather can be an issue for RWD vehicles, particularly snow.

image - traffic in winter - slippery, snow-packed road, cars moving slowlyHaving a vehicle with RWD is not the best for winter conditions, as the weight distribution tends to leave them light in the rear, which affects traction. Many modern cars, however, feature stability or traction control that helps overcome slipping and provides added security against loss of traction. Oftentimes you will see pickup trucks with sandbags piled in the cargo beds. This is to add weight over the drive tires to increase traction in winter conditions.

RWD offers better weight distribution for performance and utility needs.

Despite the fact that RWD vehicles are notoriously difficult in inclement weather, particularly in snow or mud, they are usually well-balanced and offer superior acceleration, braking and handling. While a front-wheel drive car has the weight of the engine and transaxle over the front wheels, a rear-wheel drive car distributes the weight of its drivetrain more evenly from front-to-rear. This is a plus for performance oriented driving and drivers. High performance sports cars are predominantly rear-wheel drive and have seen considerable evolution in the technology that makes these RWD systems ideal.

From a utility perspective, a RWD vehicle benefits from having the drive wheels directly under the weight or pressure of a tow connection when towing loads. This enhances the vehicles traction and ability to effectively pull heavy loads, and aids in the distribution of the weight of the load being towed.

RWD vehicles are rugged and sometimes cheaper to repair.

RWD vehicles tend to be utilitarian and more durable, built for hard driving, towing, hauling. An advantage of many RWD vehicles is a solid axle design, which can take a lot of abuse without breaking. A simple example is if you hit a curb or a pothole really hard with a front-wheel drive car, you might damage some expensive parts. FWD cars have some complex parts, which are can be more susceptible to damage in extreme conditions. If you accidentally slam into or run over a curb or hole in the road with a solid axle rear-wheel drive car, it will most likely survive and just keep going. This is why police cars and other service or utility oriented vehicles are mostly RWD.

AAMCO Minnesota for All Your Car Repair Needs

Regardless of whether your car is front-wheel or rear-wheel drive, your locally owned and operated Minnesota AAMCO Transmissions and Total Car Care centers can handle all your automotive repair and maintenance needs. See our complete list of services and be sure to get money-saving coupons.

Find Your Locally Owned & Operated AAMCO Minnesota Auto Repair Center

 
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 Minneapolis

5231 West Broadway | Minneapolis, MN, 55429

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Transmission repair and rebuilds are our specialty. From transmissions to brakes, radiators, air conditioning repair, tune ups, check engine light diagnosis and car maintenance, people who know call AAMCO Minneapolis Transmission Repair and Auto Services. 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 Maplewood

1905 County Rd D E | Maplewood, MN, 55109

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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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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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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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If you have any questions, feel free to call and talk with one of our courteous technicians. Or, fill out the form below to reserve your time, date, and location.

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More Automobile Repair & Maintenance Tips & Information

Beware of Flood-Damaged Cars

What’s a Flood-Damaged Car? Sometimes it’s hard to tell if a car has been in a flood or hurricane. With all the storms and floods, water-damaged cars will be flooding the used car market. Resale of water-damaged cars passed off as OK used cars is on the rise. Learn the warning signs and hazards of

Posted in Blog, How-To Tips & Tricks, Practical Information & Advice, Services, Total Car Care | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Battery Care and Troubleshooting

Some tips for taking care of your battery. Fall is upon us and it’s time to think about winter preparations. Among the many things on our lists, making sure our cars are in tip-top shape to handle the tough Minnesota winter is a big item with many little things to be done. Among those little

Posted in Battery, Check Engine, Electrical System, Practical Information & Advice, Services, Total Car Care | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Reasons Your Car Won’t Start

There are many reasons your car won’t start. There are few things worse than the feeling you get when you put your key in the ignition of your car, turn it, and… nothing. Silence. Probably more aggravating is when your car does make sounds like it’s going to start – it’s trying, it’s turning over,

Posted in Battery, Blog, Check Engine, Electrical System, Engine, Total Car Care | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tips for Affordable Car Maintenance

Save Money & Time With These Easy Tips

Maintaining your car so it is safe and reliable doesn’t have to cost a lot of money.

image of car speeding around bend on country road with sun shining through trees.

Having a car can be fun, and it definitely makes life easier, but when it starts to malfunction or break down, it can be a costly hassle and a safety issue. Your car can cost a lot of money if you don’t run a regular maintenance schedule. Making sure that maintenance is affordable and easy is important in our go-go-go world. Luckily, there are some things you can do to ensure your car is running smoothly and safely, without breaking the bank. Here are some handy tips and information on some simple, affordable things you can do to help your car run better and last longer. Grab a coupon and save some money with these local Minnesota AAMCO specials.

Get to know your car – read the owner’s manual.

Read and pay attention to the owner’s manual for your car. Don’t have one? Check with your local dealership or go online – there might be a PDF version you can grab, load to your phone and have with you at all times. No matter what car you drive, the regular maintenance schedule should be spelled out in the manual. Old myths like “Change your oil every 3,000 miles,” will go right out the driver’s side window. Of course, if the manual says you should change the oil every 3,000 miles, then do it – but we bet it doesn’t say that.

You’ll discover how often your manufacturer recommends to change the oil for best performance and reliability, as well as even what kind of oil to use. Your owner’s manual will also enlighten you on many other aspects of your car and the things that should be regularly maintained – such as the all-important transmission fluid, filters, timing belts, hoses, battery, lights, and fuel types. All of this information is available in the car’s owner’s manual.

If you’re part of the TLDR crowd, then just consider this: you’re throwing away good money by not taking care of your car, and to do things right you have to educate yourself. Most car owners know how important it is to know at least a little about their cars, but even if you’re not interested in how your car works you should know a little about it, otherwise you run the risk of being taken for a ride with some shady mechanic (more on that later). Knowing some simple things, like the right kind of oil to use, for example, can save you trouble in the long run. Even knowing what kind of fuel is best for your car is really important and can save you a lot of headaches – and money – if you just know. Doing the wrong thing or treating your car poorly might run the risk of voiding your warranty or even worse – causing damage that requires expensive repairs.

Sure, these days we can just pick up our smart phones and holler questions at it and get quick answers. Good, solid answers that provide you useful information that helps you make good decisions can be hard to come by, though – even in this day of information access (and overload). If you want to know more about your car or are concerned about its performance, or why it’s making weird noises. why your ride is bumpy even on smooth roads, or if you know you need repairs, call your local Minnesota AAMCO auto maintenance and repair center.

Check and Change Your Oil

Old story, been handed down from campfire to Facebook – but oil is vital to the successful operation and long life of your car’s engine. Checking the oil is a good habit to get into. Even if you think everything is fine, it’s a good idea to check it when you stop to get gas. It’s easier than it sounds. Pop the hood (you do know where the hood release lever in your car is, right?), grab some paper towels (usually found with the windshield squeegee around the gas pump), pull the dipstick, wipe it, put it back in, pull it back out, and see where the oil meets the fill line. If it doesn’t meet the fill line, it’s low. Repeat the steps and check again, but if it’s still low you should take your car in for a checkup to find any potential leaks or areas that might be eating or burning oil.image-hand-of-mechanic-holding-white-rag-with-oil-dipstick

Also pay attention to the color of the oil. It should be golden and clear. If it’s dark brown, a change is in the near future. If it’s black and/or thick and gooey, it should be changed as soon possible – don’t wait! Modern cars will tell you with an electronic warning light when it’s time for that regularly scheduled oil change you read about in the owner’s manual. Keep in mind that checking the oil after the car has been running might not give you the most accurate read on level. You’ll want to double check once the car has had a chance to cool down and sit a while. This gives the oil a chance to recollect in the oil reservoir, which will give you a more accurate read on its level – and you can get a better read on the color, too.

Go beyond oil and learn how to check other important fluids in your car.

Even if you don’t know how to change your antifreeze, power steering, transmission, or even your wiper fluid, you should learn how to check them and which ones to top off, which ones to have changed by a mechanic. Wiper fluid – don’t let someone charge you for this, unless it’s part of a larger package deal. That is so simple, it’s painful to think of paying to have it done.

For many fluids you can see the tank level directly, but most have gauges or dipsticks that help you check the levels. Even if your owner’s manual doesn’t provide much information or guidance about checking things such as your transmission fluid or coolant, don’t be afraid to educate yourself. Go online and find answers, or just open the hood and look around. See if you can find the right tank, cap, or dipstick (they’re usually labeled to some extent). If you’re running low, add more fi you can, or schedule a maintenance appointment with your trusted mechanic. If you notice a leak of some sort, definitely take your car in for diagnosis and repair.

Check the battery and make sure it’s clean and good to go.

Check the battery for signs of corrosion, and generally keep it clean and clear of debris. Make sure any terminal convers are secure and clean, and clean the terminals if necessary. Most batteries these days don’t require much manual maintenance, but you should know where the batter is and check it from time to time, usually along with the oil. This will help you ensure it’s not leaking and there is no corrosion or crud building up on the contacts. If there is, clean them with a battery cleaning brush. The brush doesn’t cost much and it’s a quick, easy thing to do. Also consider getting a simple battery tester or jump starter. Using these, you can monitor your battery and know when it needs to be replaced before it leaves you stranded. You’ll never have to call or wait for roadside assistance.

Get your timing and serpentine belts replaced when necessary.

image of engine with serpentine belt

The engine timing belt is usually replaced every 60,000 miles or so, and the serpentine belt about every 40,000 miles. Again, your owner’s manual is the authority on this. These are really important parts that can make or break the engine. If you don’t have the owner’s manual, look online to get this important information, or call your local Minnesota AAMCO. If you’re just not sure, or know that it’s been a long time (or never) since you last even thought about that serpent timey belt or whatever it’s called, schedule an appointment and ask your mechanic to inspect all belts and hoses and replace them if necessary. You just don’t want to let them fail. It is not only a matter of having a safe and reliable car, but if you wait and those belts do fail, your car will break down, possibly leave you stranded or in an unsafe place – and leave you with costly towing (if your mechanic doesn’t do it for free within a certain mile radius). It can also damage other engine parts and systems, making repairs even more expensive.

Rotate and balance your tires, check the alignment.

Tire rotation and balancing is often overlooked by drivers. It does take time, you always have to battle a long line, and it’s just never convenient (when is any car-related maintenance or repair convenient?). Once again, your trusty owner’s manual will tell you how often to rotate the tires. It’s important to make sure your tires wear evenly and your car drives smoothly, not only because your fuel efficiency is directly affected by these factors, but your safety is, too. The saying that you’ve got a lot riding on your tires is true! You can make your tires last a lot longer by having them rotated and balanced. Along with that, your alignment is just as important. If you’re fighting to keep your car driving straight or having trouble safely navigating curves and turns, it’s time for an alignment. Alignment also affects the wear of your tires. Bad alignment will cause serious wear and tear on your tires, risking flats and, even worse, blow outs which can be dangerous or deadly high speed.

Change the spark plugs.

If the spark plugs are worn out or covered in crud, your engine is not running efficiently. This alone can cost you a lot of money in fuel, and it can lead to a breakdown. This might be a little more technical than you’re comfortable with, but in many cases checking and replacing the spark plugs is not that difficult. If it’s something you just don’t want to do – especially if it’s complicated for your vehicle, just follow the recommendation in the owner’s guide. Take your car to your trusted mechanic and get those spark plugs changed on time – usually around 30,000 miles for standard copper spark plugs, but it can vary.

Find a Reputable Repair Shop with Certified Mechanics

Finding a mechanic you trust is important, and sometimes not easy. It can take time, and might involve some trial and error, as well as, unfortunately, some money in the process. If you’re lucky, you’ll find a mechanic who is honest, trustworthy, tells you like it is, and doesn’t do any repair work that is unnecessary – and definitely not until you give the OK.image of smiling AAMCO mechanic tipping his hat.

AAMCO Minnesota is your one-stop for affordable local auto maintenance and repair.

AAMCO represents a national family of trust and expertise with over 50 years of transmission repair and automotive repair and maintenance experience. At AAMCO Minnesota, our mission is to provide the best auto repair and maintenance in Minnesota. With several locations to serve you, including the Twin Cities, we are your go-to locally owned and operated automotive repair shops. Our certified mechanics have years of knowledge and experience to provide expert diagnosis, repairs and maintenance on nearly all makes and models of cars. With nearly 50 years in business, you can count on your local Minnesota AAMCO center to provide expert transmission repair, brake service, tune-ups, oil and filter changes, electrical system repair, battery service, fluid services and much more for your car, truck, or SUV.

Find Your Locally Owned & Operated AAMCO Minnesota Auto Repair Center

 
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 Minneapolis

5231 West Broadway | Minneapolis, MN, 55429

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Transmission repair and rebuilds are our specialty. From transmissions to brakes, radiators, air conditioning repair, tune ups, check engine light diagnosis and car maintenance, people who know call AAMCO Minneapolis Transmission Repair and Auto Services. 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 Maplewood

1905 County Rd D E | Maplewood, MN, 55109

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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.

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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.

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AAMCO Hopkins

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

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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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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

Car Stuck in the Snow? Tips on Getting Unstuck

Getting Stuck in the Snow

Winter brings with it all sorts of fun and headaches. Driving on slick, snowy roads is not fun. Getting stuck in the snow is even worse – whether you skidded off the road into a snowbank or ditch, or if your car got snowed in while parked. It’s frustrating and it can be difficult to figure out the best way get unstuck, especially without causing any damage to your car.

Some Easy Tips for Getting Your Car Unstuck

Clear the Tailpipe

First, make sure the tailpipe is not covered by snow. Clear any snow away that might interfere with the exhaust from getting out. You don’t want exhaust building up inside the car, plus it could cause the engine to stall if the fumes can’t escape.

Clear Away Snowimage - car buried in snow

If you keep that shovel in your trunk like we’ve advised you to in other articles about preparing your car for winter, you’ll be able to easily dig away all the snow and ice buildup from in front of and behind all four tires. Also be sure to clear snow out from under the car as much as possible. If you can, clear some extra space in front of the car to make a path to drive into. Once your car becomes unstuck and starts moving forward, having a good clearing for your car to move into will help you keep forward momentum and avoid getting stuck again.

Create Traction With Sand, Kitty Litter, or Car Mats

Again, if you’re really prepared you probably have some sand or kitty litter in the trunk for just such a situation as being stuck. Put some under the drive wheels first. If you don’t have sand or kitty litter, you can use car mats – anything rough (or just not as slick as snow and ice) will help the tires get some traction and start moving your car. Car mats also serve to flatten out the snow more evenly, and prevent it from hugging directly around the tires, as the car slowly moves over them. This helps the tires to not sink so easily into the snow. Make sure that the drive wheels are getting as much equal traction as possible. Be careful to apply the gas slowly, gently. Otherwise whatever you put under the drive wheels – sand, gravel, car mats, tree branches – will just shoot out from under them.

Braking and Rocking

If one wheel is spinning more than the other because it has less to traction, try pushing the brakes lightly. This increases the minimum torque that is needed to turn each wheel and transfers some of the power to the other non-spinning wheel so that both are working to pull (or push) the car out of the snow. Be careful not to do this for too long, as the brakes can overheat and end up damaged.

You can also try rocking your car. This method is up for debate, because it can damage your transmission if done improperly or too much. Shifting momentum so quickly is just not good for the transmission and all of its intricate parts and subsystems. Rocking the car should only be done in the most desperate situations. Steadily alternate between first gear, or drive, and reverse as you gently apply gas in each direction. Don’t spin the wheels and make sure you only apply the gas once you are in gear. To help stop from rolling back into the holes your tires dug, apply the brakes between first and reverse as you shift. Ideally, you will build up enough momentum to power out of the ruts and move forward onto better ground where you can get traction again and keep moving. Again, use the rocking method only as a last resort.

Let Some Air Out of the Tiresimage - frozen car stuck in snow.

This should be done with extreme care. By letting some air out of the drive tires, they gain a little more surface area, and are a little softer and more sticky than a hard, inflated tire, which means they have a better chance of gaining traction. But do not let out so much air that they look flat, because that means they probably are, and then you’ve got another problem to deal with. Air shrinks when it’s cold, so be careful with this tactic. The rule is that your tires should already be inflated per manufacturer’s recommendations for the operating conditions.

Turn the Wheels

If you have a front-wheel drive car, turn the wheels in either direction as you gently push the gas. This might expose the tires to that much needed unseen patch of pavement or dirt, or provide just the right angle to gain that little bit of traction needed to get out. Remember that key to all of these methods is to accelerate slowly. Do not spin the wheels, or you’ll just dig yourself deeper.

A Good Old Fashioned Push

If you are not alone, or if you can get someone nearby to help, have them give your car a push as you gently apply the gas. Pushing the car forward with each shift into first as you are rocking the car can also help a lot. It provides an extra surge of momentum forward, if you do have to use the rocking method to get unstuck. Always make sure the person pushing is on stable footing and clear of the drive tires. Debris and ice might fly out from under the tires, which can be dangerous to anyone standing behind the tires or in the path of anything shooting out from under them.

AAMCO Minnesota for a Quick Car Checkup

Now that you’ve gotten unstuck, it’s probably a good idea to come by your locally owned and operated AAMCO Minnesota Transmission and Car Repair Center for a transmission check or multi-point inspection. Whatever you drive, and however you get unstuck, you can count on AAMCO to service and repair your car.

If you have questions about your car’s condition after being stuck or about car repair and maintenance, AAMCO Minnesota can help. Stop by or call a local AAMCO Minnesota repair shop 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

Daydreaming on Your Cell Phone While Rubbernecking