What’s in a Tune-Up?

Prevent and Detect Problems

Regular tune-ups can help prevent problems, and catch problems earlier before they become big costly repairs.

Taking your car in for tune-ups can make the difference between expensive breakdowns and keeping your car running smoothly for years to come. While a tune-up isn’t a cure-all, it can help you and your mechanic stay on top of any potential problems before they cause permanent damage,

 

What Happens When I Take My Car in for a Tune-Up?

 

Performance Checks

White car cornering in mountain road with speed blurEvery tune-up should include a series of performance tests to get a baseline of how your car’s engine is performing. These performance tests look at:

  • Battery voltage – your batteries ability to charge and hold charge
  • Power balance – identifies mechanical problems like worn rings, bad head gasket, bad cams, and leaky exhaust valves
  • Engine vacuum – detects air leaks and exhaust restrictions
  • Faulty codes – verifies that no fault codes are present
  • Exhaust emissions – tests your car’s ability to meet emission standards
  • Idle speeds – checks how your vehicle idles and what mixture of fuel it is using while it idles
  • Ignition timing – detects possible sensor and computer problems related to your ignition

 

Replacements

While a tune-up could help you find any number of things that need replacement as needed, there are three main areas you should be focusing on.

Spark Plugs

Spark plugs need to be changed periodically as they wear down every time they fire. After about 45,000 miles your spark plugs have fired 60-80 million times and they have begun to erode. Instead of having sharp edges they will become rounded and dull and the distance between spark plugs will have increased, causing potential misfires.

Oxygen Sensors

Underperforming O2 sensors can cause a variety of problems with the drivability of your car. If your vehicle needs new O2 sensors it might not pass emissions. To prevent these problems your mechanic should check if your O2 sensors need to be replaced at your tune-up.

Filters

Fuel filters, air filters, PCV valve and breather filters should all be checked at your tune-up and replaced as needed.

 

Cleaning

While the need to clean your fuel injectors and intake system is not as important as it once was, it is still good to make sure they are cleaned if needed.

Fuel residue deposits on your injectors and this can restrict the amount of fuel delivered to your engine. This can result in misfire and deterioration of engine performance. This residue can also accumulate on the back of your intake valves causing hesitation problems with your engine. Cleaning is suggested if you are noticing performance issues or you have reached over 50,000 miles.

Related: Signs of Bad Fuel Injectors

 

How Often Should You Get a Tune-Up?

Tune-up intervals vary between cars.

image - mechanic working on underside of car on lift in repair shop.If you have an older vehicle with a non-electronic ignition you should consider tune-ups every 10,000 to 15,000 miles. Newer cars that have electronic ignition and fuel injection systems have a much wider range – 25,000 to 100,000 miles. If you do a lot of stop and go driving or are regularly pulling heavy loads then you may need tune-ups more often.

You should always refer to your owner’s manual, or a trusted mechanic to determine your recommended tune-up intervals. It is in your best interest to adhere to these directions in order to keep your car working at its peak efficiency.

 3 Signs You Might Need a Tune-Up

  • Car stalls a lot
  • Engine runs rough when idling or accelerating
  • Car is hard to start

 

Tune-In and Tune-Up with AAMCO Minnesota

A tune-up with your local AAMCO Minnesota location means our mechanics will inspect every system in your vehicle. Our tune-ups include:

  • Installation of new spark plugs
  • Inspection of spark plug wires and distributor cap
  • Idle speed adjustments
  • Comprehensive diagnostic checks to verify that no computer system trouble codes exist
  • Our 36-point ProtectCheck® inspection on all of your car’s critical systems

Schedule an appointment with your local AAMCO Minnesota location for your next tune-up.

Check Engine Lights

A check engine light indicates a problem with your vehicle.

A check engine light is one of the first warning signs of a problem with your car.

Check engine light technology has been included in all cars manufactured in the U.S. since 1996. Your check engine light is part of program in your car’s computer system that is constantly checking your vehicle’s sensors to look for problems.

If your check engine light comes on it could indicate any number of problems and means that it is time to come into AAMCO Minnesota for your free check engine light diagnostic test.

 

What Does a Check Engine Light Mean?

The check engine warning light is there to help you know when there is a problem with your cars engine and other systems. Your check engine light can indicate a huge number of problems, from a serious repair to a loose gas cap.

 

5 Common Causes for a Check Engine Light

While your check engine light can indicate hundreds of problems all with different causes, there are five common reasons why check engine lights turn on.

1) Spark Plug Wiring Problems

Spark plugs wear out over time and this can cause your engine to shake, stall, choke or chug. Your car’s spark plugs are what cause the explosions in your car’s engine that allow the cylinders to move. No sparks means no combustion and no combustion in your engine means you aren’t going anywhere.

2) Mass Airflow Sensor Malfunction

Your mass airflow sensor measures the amount of air flowing into your engine, without this sensor your engine can really suffer. If this sensor is malfunctioning your car may become hard to start, drag, jerk or hesitate when accelerating, you may idle too fast or too flow and your engine can hiccup.

3) 02 Sensor Replacement

Your 02 sensors determine the amount of oxygen (02) that goes into your car’s engine to fire the pistons and power your engine. The 02 sensor reads measurements and is able to make adjustments to the mixture of fuel and oxygen. If your 02 sensors need to be replaced, your engine may not be receiving the right mixture of oxygen and fuel.

5) Loose Gas Cap

While it may sound silly, a loose gas cap is one of the most common culprits for a check engine light. If your check engine light comes on after pulling away from the gas station, pull over, turn off your engine and tighten your gas cap. Once you have tightened it, restart your car and if the light stays off you have fixed the problem. If the light stays on, then it indicates there is something else wrong, but at least you have ruled out one easy cause!

Catalytic Converter Replacement

This is one of the more expensive reasons not to ignore your check engine light. Your catalytic converter is a part of your car’s exhaust system and helps to change harmful pollution into less harmful emissions. If the catalytic converter has gone bad it has to be replaced, or you risk your car not running. If you are experiencing trouble with your exhaust system, schedule an appointment with your local Minnesota AAMCO location for expert muffler and exhaust repair.

Related: Reasons Your Car Won’t Start

 

Flashing Lights vs. Static Lights

Typically there are two types of check engine light alerts, one light that is flashing and one that is not flashing. A non-flashing check engine light typically indicates a less serious problem than a flashing check engine light. While a non-flashing light may indicate a less severe problem, you should still get this checked out as soon as possible.

image - An extreme closeup of an illuminated yellow-orange check engine indicator dashboard light isolated on black background.

While many of today’s cars are smart enough with computer technology to compensate for performance when there is a problem, you still don’t want to drive around for too long with a check engine light. Driving your vehicle with a non-flashing check engine light could increase your car’s emissions and decrease your car’s fuel economy. Ignoring these warnings for too long could lead to a more critical, and expensive issues.

AAMCO Minnesota can help you diagnose your check engine light, flashing or non-flashing, with our free check engine light diagnostic test.

 

What To Do If Your Check Engine Light Is On

It’s important not to simply ignore your check engine light if it comes on.

Even if your car is running fine at the time, leaving the problem could lead to bigger problems down the line.

If your check engine light comes on, look for a problem that requires immediate attention. Is the light flashing, or red? This indicates a serious problem. Also, check for any other warning lights on your dashboard and your dashboard gauges. In some cars, a yellow check engine light means there is a problem that needs to be investigated and a red or flashing light means there is a serious problem and you need to stop right away. Your gauges will help you to determine problems like overheating and low oil pressure. If your car is indicating there is a serious problem you should pull over and turn off your engine as soon as possible.

When your check engine light comes on, you should bring your car to a mechanic as soon as possible to have your check engine light diagnosed. If you check engine light is on, AAMCO Minnesota offers a free check engine light diagnostic test.

Find your local AAMCO Minnesota location or schedule an appointment online today to keep your car on the road.

5 Transmission Problems You Need to Know

How do you know if you have transmission problems?

Here are five ways you can tell if your transmission needs to checked.

Some simple warning signs that the transmission is having problems:

  • Transmission is slow to respond when shifting
  • Grinding, shaking, vibrating
  • Won’t go into gear
  • Slipping between gears
  • Burning smell and transmission overheating

These are symptoms of problems that could cost you a lot of money if you don’t get to a mechanic and have them checked out.

Slow Response or Delay in Shifting

If your car hesitates or does not go into gear, this is a definite sign of trouble in your transmission. If there is a delay when shifting into or out of park, you should make an appointment with your local AAMCO Minnesota transmission repair center. Manual transmissions can have the same lag in response issue, but after shifting into gear the engine will rev to really high RPM’s, but the car won’t move as fast as it sound like it should be going. This could be a clutch problem, or something more serious.

Grinding, Shaking and Other Bad Vibrations

Your car is supposed to run smoothly, without any drama like shaking or jolting, or grinding sounds and vibrating. For manual transmissions, if your car is going into gear with difficulty and making grinding noises, or if it feels like it’s gears are grinding as they engage, it’s a sign that the transmission is in need of some serious attention from a certified AAMCO technician.Image of automatic transmission internals, lots of gears, cogs interlocking.

An automatic transmission is more subtle in its signals, but they are unmistakable. Transitions into gear and between gears will cause some vibration at first; but then, as the problem persists, gear changes become more jarring and cause shaking. You should take your car to an AAMCO shop to be checked and serviced.

Transmission Won’t Go Into Gear

If the car will not shift after engaging the clutch and trying to move the stick, check the transmission fluid level. Also make sure you’re using the right type, or thickness, of fluid. The source of the problem could even be the car’s computer system. If you’ve already inspected the fluid, try resetting the car’s computer by detaching the battery for thirty minutes. After you reattach the battery the system should reset itself. It might take up 30 minutes for the system to reset, so make sure you have plenty of time. If these steps don’t work, then it’s time to take it to AAMCO.

Gears Slipping

If the car slips in and out of gear or pops into neutral while you’re driving, you’re facing a serious safety issue. The transmission should stay in gear until a shift is performed (manually or automatically). When you step on the gas, you need – expect – power to be delivered to the wheels, especially while you’re in motion and facing potentially dangerous situations. If you are experience gears slipping like this, you need to go AAMCO immediately. Do not ignore this issue and hope it goes away. Call or schedule an appointment online today!Image - woman looking at engine overheated and smoking, hood up.

Burning Smell – Hot Transmission

Any smell of something burning from your car is not a good sign. Transmission fluid keeps the parts lubricated and cool so they don’t wear out prematurely and break down, potentially ruining the entire transmission. If the fluid overheats and breaks down, the transmission will run too hot and give off a burning smell. The extreme heat will result in increased friction and buildup of sludge and potential debris. Take heed, because if it goes on too long, the transmission will be damaged and possibly break down completely. Many times this is due to low fluid levels or incorrect fluid types – two other issues which should be self-evident if you are sure to regularly check the transmission fluid as recommended by your owner’s manual.

AAMCO Minnesota Transmission Repair Can Help

image of smiling AAMCO mechanic, symbol of trust, quality.At AAMCO Minnesota we take great care to keep you informed about your car and all its systems, as well as keep your car on the road with scheduled maintenance services and repairs, including full transmission repairs and rebuilds. Here are five common transmission problems you should be aware of. If you experience any of these issues, schedule an appointment with your local AAMCO Minnesota Transmission Repair and Total Car Care center. Come to AAMCO Minnesota for a Transmission Multi Point Vehicle Courtesy Check for your transmission and related systems. We’ll diagnose any issues with your transmission and fix it quickly and correctly to get you back on the road. We can handle all your scheduled car maintenance and repairs, from oil changes to factory recommended maintenance.

See our specials, grab a coupon, and give us a call.

image of transmission in 800 Pieces in midair cool special effects of all the pieces of an engine.Related: 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.

Other Articles About Car Maintenance & Repair

Checklist for Preparing Your Car for Winter

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. Read more…

Take the Fear Out of Transmission Repair

Get to know some transmission basics. If you’re like many drivers, you know some basics about your car’s transmission. Maybe you’ve done some research online for some information on how they work, or what that noise is your car is making. You know that a transmission works with the engine to make the tires rotate (and the car go). You know it’s the system that shifts the car’s gears. You probably even know that a transmission has fluid that needs to be checked and changed regularly. You definitely understand that a transmission is a complex system in their car that costs a lot of money to fix. Read more…

When to Get a Transmission Fluid Flush

Preventative maintenance can prevent costly repairs. It’s a lot cheaper to do some regular maintenance to keep your car running smoothly. Part of your maintenance schedule should include a transmission fluid check and, if needed, a fluid flush. Here’s a handy infographic that tells you what you need to know. Read more…

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 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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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 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 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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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

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… [Read more]

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Transmission Problems Caused by Battery Corrosion

There are a ton of problems that can lead to a vehicle requiring a transmission repair service. When you start to notice problems with the car’s transmission, the battery may be the issue. If the car battery is not clean, causing bigger issues, there can be any easy… [Read more]

 

 

Battery Care and Troubleshooting

Some tips for taking care of your battery.

Image of a mechanic using a multi-meter to check the voltage of a car 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 things is something not so little if it fails – the battery. Because the battery powers all the lights and accessories in your car, you need to make sure it’s ready for the long, hard job of powering through winter. Here is a quick breakdown of tips for you to make sure your battery is good condition as we roll into cold weather.

Related: Minnesota’s Best Car Battery Service

Signs your car battery is about to die.

Car batteries usually last two to five years, depending on quality, operating conditions, and condition of the vehicle.

There are a few simple warning signs that will tell you it’s time for a new battery.
Long crank times in any kind of weather.

If your car takes longer to start than usual, especially if the battery has not been replaced in more than three years, this is a sign that the battery is wearing out. If the engine has to crank excessively in order to start, the battery should be checked. Keep in mind that cold weather affects the battery and its ability to perform, so it’s fairly normal for your car to start with difficulty in the wintertime. Everything slows down in the cold, including electric current. It is also hard to vaporize gasoline, and oil thickens up when it’s cold. Batteries put out only half their normal power when the temperature is freezing – so be patient, but be aware. If your car “cold cranks” in warmer weather, it’s a good time to change the battery.

Engine cranks, but won’t start.

The engine cranks, but won’t turn over. This a pretty solid sign that the battery is dying or already dead. You could get a jump start, but you’ll just need another one when you turn off the car. Driving around town, going from jump to jump might be a unique way to meet people, but let’s face it – it’s no way to spend a weekend. Get a jump and get a new battery.

image of jumper cables attached to car battery terminals.Too many jump starts will kill a battery.

Jump starting a battery too much will kill it. It’s hard on a battery when you basically shock back into action. If you have to jump start your car more than three times in a week, it’s time to replace the battery. One thing you can try that will get you through the interim is get the jump, then let the engine run for 30 minutes so the alternator can recharge the battery. Once this is done, shut off the car, wait two or three minutes, then try to start the car again. If it starts, turn it off, wait another couple minutes, then start it again. If it consistently starts, you probably won’t be stranded wherever you go next – but that doesn’t mean your battery is good to go. Your next stop really should be to get a new battery.

Engine won’t crank, won’t start, and there are no lights.

This is a pretty sure sign the battery is dead. Again, you could get a jump, but the battery has left the building – or the engine compartment, as it were. Something to consider in this situation is there might be a combined issue with the alternator, because that’s the part that keeps the battery charged. If the engine won’t crank, but you do have lights and other functions, then there could be other problems in the car’s electrical system or other areas of the engine. Some issues might be a bad ignition switch, a failed starter or solenoid (which usually causes a check engine light), or a poor electrical connection somewhere in the ignition system. Electrical problems should be properly diagnosed and fixed by a mechanic.

Your car starts fine one day, then does not start at all the next day.

There two battery-related issues that might cause your car to start intermittently or unreliably.

Battery terminals are loose, broken, or corroded.

A visual check usually will reveal if there is any corrosion or other problems with the battery terminals. You should check for tightness of cables, as well. If there is corrosion or the terminals are damaged, the battery will not perform at its best.

Parasitic draw on the battery is slowly draining its power.

Sometimes there is a condition somewhere in the electrical system called a “parasitic draw” that drains the battery of its power slowly, usually overnight. A certified mechanic can help diagnose, find, and fix this problem. If you decide to do it yourself, you’ll need a multimeter with amp capabilities up to 20 amps (A) and down to 200 milliamps (mA), and a fuse checker.

Simple battery maintenance will save you a lot of trouble.

  • Visual inspection to check for corrosion around the battery terminals. Look for a white powdery chalk-like substance. Corrosion affects electrical conduction. Clean the terminal with a wire brush. Never ever put baking soda on a battery to clean it. Coat it with grease before reconnecting the battery. The grease prevents further corrosion and improves electrical conduction.
  • Check the battery cables, as they are usually a prime cause of battery issues and are easy to check.
  • Make sure the cables are attached securely to the terminals and are not frayed, damaged, or falling apart. They should not wiggle or move around if they are properly tightened.
  • On older batteries with access to the cells, you can add distilled water to help the battery keep a charge.
  • Keeping a clean engine compartment in general prevents a lot of dirt and crud from covering the battery and collecting around the battery terminals, and possibly compromising its performance. It also makes overall engine maintenance and troubleshooting easier and less messy – and mechanic’s job a little easier if you have to bring your car in for a diagnosis.

SAFETY NOTES: Proceed with caution when performing maintenance on a battery. The sulfuric acid in batteries is highly corrosive and can burn your skin and eat holes in your clothes. There is even a slight danger of explosion. Always work in a well-ventilated area. Wear gloves and eye protection. Never lean over the battery when charging or testing it, or when jump-starting the engine. Keep a solution of water and baking soda handy in case battery acid gets on your clothes or skin. This mixture can neutralize the acid.

Related: Tips for Affordable Car Maintenance

image with text - Car Battery DiagnosticsAAMCO Minnesota Can Diagnose & Fix Battery Problems  

AAMCO Minnesota locations in Minneapolis, West St. Paul, Fridley, Hopkins, and Maplewood provide expert battery services that include diagnostics and testing. Based on the diagnosis, your Minnesota AAMCO mechanic will recommend the battery service that’s right for you, replacing only the components that are needed. If your car won’t start and you want help figuring out what’s wrong and having it fixed right, it’s time to call a mechanic and have it inspected and repaired. If you notice any of the symptoms mentioned in this article, or suspect that there could be issues with your electrical system, engine or other systems that are causing your car to not start, stall, or perform poorly, schedule an appointment with a professional mechanic to diagnose the problem and recommend next steps for repair.

Visit Your Local Minnesota AAMCO Auto Repair & Transmission Center

If you have any questions, feel free to call and talk with one of our courteous technicians. Or, book an appointment online to reserve your time, date, and location.