Auto Care Blog

Auto Repair and Maintenance Resources.

Cabin Air Filter From Valley Auto Care - Minnesota Car, Truck & SUV Service

Here is a questions for Apple Valley drivers: What is a cabin air filter?

Is it:

  1. A filter for a house in the middle of the woods?
  2. A fresh, piney scent?
  3. A filter for the passenger compartment of your car?

Clever you, it's 3.

A cabin air filter cleans the outside air before it comes into the passenger compartment. It filters out dust, pollen, spores, bacteria, pollutants, sparrows, exhaust gas and odors.

These high tech filters can block particles larger than 3 microns. By contrast, a grain of sand is about 200 microns.

Now not all vehicles in the Apple Valley area have cabin filters. They are fairly new on the scene in Minnesota. About 40 percent of new vehicles come with cabin air filters, but the number is growing every year.

Cabin air filters can make for a very nice driving environment for Apple Valley. Your car can be a haven during Minnesota allergy season with very little dust and pollen getting into the cabin. However, like all filters, your cabin air filter eventually gets clogged. When this happens, your heating and air conditioning flow can become restricted. The filter can even get kind of smelly.

Check your vehicle's owner's manual for recommended replacement intervals. Often, the owner's manual forgets about the cabin air filter, so ask your friendly and knowledgeable Valley Auto Care - Minnesota Car, Truck & SUV Service service advisor for a recommendation. It's usually every year or 12,000 miles/19,000 kilometers. Change it sooner if you drive in dusty Apple Valley conditions or if you start to notice an odor from your ventilation system.

So, Apple Valley drivers, keep your cabin air filter clean. It may not help with your brother-in-law in the backseat, but it will make your driving experience more enjoyable.

Valley Auto Care - Minnesota Car, Truck & SUV Service
7125 151st St. West, Suite 105
Apple Valley, Minnesota 55124
952-431-2700

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Serpentine Belt Service at Valley Auto Care - Minnesota Car, Truck & SUV Service

Most Apple Valley folks occasionally have days when they've got a bunch of errands to run. Yesterday was my day off and I needed to fill the gas tank, pick up some groceries at my Apple Valley market, swing by the ATM and get the kids from school. I could have made four trips . . . but that would have been totally inefficient. Instead I got unusually organized and planned my stops. I hit the ATM first and got gas next. Then I went to the supermarket and picked up the kids on the way home. I was proud of my wise use of time and money.

What does this have to do with your car? Well, back in the day, each of your engine's accessories, like the alternator and air conditioner, were powered by separate belts. A vehicle might have five or six belts. These days, vehicles have a single belt to run all the accessories. It's called the serpentine belt. A pulley attached to the vehicle engine's crank provides the power to turn the serpentine belt. On the engine in the video, the first accessory in line is the power steering pump, which makes it easier to steer your vehicle.

Next comes the alternator which powers the vehicle's electrical system and charges the battery. Then the air conditioning compressor. This helps make cold air to keep you comfortable all summer long in Apple Valley. Finally, we come to the belt tensioner. Its job is to apply pressure on the belt to keep it tight. Then, back home to the crank.

This is a pretty typical setup, but it can vary somewhat. In some vehicles the water pump or radiator fan or the power brakes are also run by the serpentine belt. Some even have two serpentine belts. No matter how your engine is laid out, you're not going far without a serpentine belt. Your vehicle manufacturer has a recommended interval for replacing your belt and your Valley Auto Care - Minnesota Car, Truck & SUV Service service technician can inspect it for damage or wear.

Several years ago, manufacturers started making serpentine belts out of a new material. It's much more durable, but it's harder to tell when the belt needs to be replaced. The old style belts would crack and chunks would fall off so you could easily see when you needed a new one.

On the new style belts, if the ribs wear too deep, it's time to replace. Your Valley Auto Care - Minnesota Car, Truck & SUV Service technician uses a simple gauge to tell when the belt is worn.

A worn belt stresses your vehicle engine's expensive accessories and causes them to wear prematurely. So, change your serpentine belt and belt tensioner according to your manufacturer's recommendations to extend the life of your accessories and to prevent future breakdowns.

Give us a call.

Valley Auto Care - Minnesota Car, Truck & SUV Service
7125 151st St. West, Suite 105
Apple Valley, Minnesota 55124
952-431-2700

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Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Wheel Bearings



Why are wheel bearings for Apple Valley vehicles important? It's simple: your wheel bearings keep the wheels on your vehicle. In today's Valley Auto Care - Minnesota Car, Truck & SUV Service post, we'll discuss more about wheel bearings and how you can make sure they can do their very job while you drive around Apple Valley, Minnesota.

Wheel bearings are pretty simple parts. They're made of high quality steel and are engineered to last 100,000 miles (160,000)  or more if properly cared for. The bearings do two jobs: First, they allow the wheel to freely rotate with as little friction as possible. Second, they support the weight of the vehicle. For example, if your car weighs 3,600 pounds (1600 kilogram), each wheel has to support approximately 900 pounds (400 kilograms). That's a lot of heavy lifting over those long distances.

Even though wheel bearings are pretty straightforward, they need to be in near perfect condition to do their job for Apple Valley vehicles. The bearings are packed with heavy grease to lubricate and protect them. A seal keeps the grease in and water and dirt out. It's when the seal starts to leak that problems begin. The grease can become contaminated, causing the wheel bearings to overheat and ultimately fail.

The first sign that your wheel bearings are in trouble is an unusual noise coming from a wheel. It could be a chirping, growling, rumbling or a cyclic sound. The noise could get louder or even disappear at certain speeds. Your technician at Valley Auto Care - Minnesota Car, Truck & SUV Service can inspect for bearing wear by lifting the vehicle and checking for play in the wheel.

Now some wheel bearing assemblies are factory sealed. That means that they cannot be serviced – they can only be replaced. Those that aren't sealed can be serviced on schedule at Valley Auto Care - Minnesota Car, Truck & SUV Service. The bearings are removed, cleaned and inspected. If the bearings are still good, they're re-installed – if not, they're replaced. They are then packed in grease and a new seal is installed.

If your vehicle has a factory sealed wheel bearing assembly, the entire assembly needs to be replaced when trouble arises. Unfortunately, the parts are pretty costly – but they usually last about 150,000 miles (240,000 kilometers) as long as the seals hold up.

Now, even a good seal cannot keep out water that's exerting pressure on the seal. So if you've driven through hub-deep water, your bearings should be cleaned and repacked if they're serviceable. If you have factory sealed bearings, you just need to watch for signs of premature failure. If your wheel bearings can be serviced, your manufacturer's owner's manual will recommend an interval, usually around 30,000 miles (50,000 kilometers).

If you have any sort of trailer, don't forget its wheel bearings. They probably need to be serviced even more frequently. This is especially true for boat trailers that are used to launch the boat by backing it into the water. These should be serviced every year, usually at the end of the season so that the bearings don't have the opportunity to rust all winter.

So what happens to Apple Valley vehicles if wheel bearings fail? Well, the wheel can literally fall off the vehicle. I don't need to tell you how that could be. So check with your service advisor at Valley Auto Care - Minnesota Car, Truck & SUV Service and see if your vehicle's wheel bearings can be serviced and when it's recommended. Listen for warning signs. If you've been fording streams or puddle surfing after rainstorms, be especially vigilant.

Visit the automotive professionals at Valley Auto Care - Minnesota Car, Truck & SUV Service for a wheel bearing inspection. 

Valley Auto Care - Minnesota Car, Truck & SUV Service
7125 151st St. West, Suite 105
Apple Valley, Minnesota 55124
952-431-2700

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What You Need to Know from Your Valley Auto Care - Minnesota Car, Truck & SUV Service Service Advisor

Apple Valley drivers may feel intimidated when they take their vehicles to a service center. They have questions but aren't sure how to ask. They don't want to feel embarrassed about their lack of knowledge. They don't want to make the service technician feel that they don't trust him.

If your service advisor at Valley Auto Care - Minnesota Car, Truck & SUV Service uses a term you don't understand, just ask him to explain. Remember, they are the auto service experts. If they came to your place of work, they probably wouldn't understand the jargon, either. When you take your vehicle in to be serviced, make sure you understand the financial issues up front. Ask about payment policies, warranties and, of course, the cost of the work being done.

It helps to understand basic services your vehicle needs. Know the difference between a quick check-up and a thorough inspection, which you are getting and which you are asking for. Understand that diagnosing a problem takes time, and time isn't free. If you have concerns about cost, negotiate your limits before service is done. Don't be afraid to ask your service advisor for auto advice on how to keep your vehicle on the road within your budget. He can help you prioritize your vehicle's needs. Some repairs are for the safety and future health of your vehicle. Others can wait. Your Valley Auto Care - Minnesota Car, Truck & SUV Service service advisor can help you set up a plan to get all the work done as you can afford it.

It may be tempting for Apple Valley drivers to save money with budget parts. Your service advisor can help you to sort through the options to work within your budget. High-quality parts are always preferable for any auto repair. Your service advisor will make sure the parts used won't compromise the safety of your vehicle.

Don't leave your Apple Valley service center without your paperwork, either. Ask about warranties for parts and labor. You may need these for claims or if there is a problem in the future. Get detailed explanations of the work done on your vehicle. These records will help you keep track of repairs, service and warranties.

Those records may also help close a deal when it comes time to sell your vehicle. After all, the biggest concern most people in Apple Valley have when buying a used vehicle is that they are inheriting someone else's problems.

Records of repairs and service are a good picture of your vehicle's condition and performance and what problems a new owner can expect. People are always happier to purchase a vehicle they know has been well-maintained. Whenever we climb into a vehicle, we are entrusting our health and safety to it. Perhaps it's time to take our vehicles' health a little more seriously. Open up; ask and learn.

Valley Auto Care - Minnesota Car, Truck & SUV Service
7125 151st St. West, Suite 105
Apple Valley, Minnesota 55124
952-431-2700

 

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Why a Trip Inspection Is a Good Idea

At Valley Auto Care - Minnesota Car, Truck & SUV Service we get a lot of Apple Valley drivers asking about vehicle trip preparation. That's a big deal. You could be driving through mountains and deserts in some pretty lonely areas around Minnesota, so it's important to know that the vehicle is up to the task and won't leave you stranded.

Smart Apple Valley drivers plan ahead for a major road trip – and there are a lot of things to get ready. Where should you start? You could start with the tires. Look them over for tread wear and check to see that they are properly inflated. Take a quick test drive around Apple Valley to see if you can feel any vibrations: Are the wheels in balance? Is the car tracking straight? Is the alignment ok? Come to Valley Auto Care - Minnesota Car, Truck & SUV Service for a peace-of-mind trip inspection.

7125 151st St. West, Suite 105
Apple Valley, Minnesota 55124
952-431-2700

The next thing is a full service oil change to make sure all of your fluids are topped off and you have fresh oil for the trip. And if your car has over 75,000 miles/120,000 km, you may consider putting in the high-mileage formulation to clean harmful sludge deposits in the engine. 

How about your transmission and brakes? Have you had your transmission and brakes inspected in the last six months?

How are your wiper blades? There's nothing like not being able to get rid of the bug juice on a long road trip away from Apple Valley.

Check your owner's manual for any other recommended services, and have Valley Auto Care - Minnesota Car, Truck & SUV Service in Apple Valley do the multi-point inspection before you head out on your trip.

Consider also having the coolant system serviced at Valley Auto Care - Minnesota Car, Truck & SUV Service – you want to stay within the vehicle manufacture’s recommendations. If you're towing a trailer around Minnesota you'll want to be keep in mind that you'll be going a long way under severe conditions.

A lot of Apple Valley drivers overlook severe conditions like towing, Minnesota summer heat or driving on dirt roads. Plan ahead for your next road trip – Valley Auto Care - Minnesota Car, Truck & SUV Service wants you to get there and back.

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Positive Crankcase Ventilation – PCV Valve Service at Valley Auto Care - Minnesota Car, Truck & SUV Service

Hello Apple Valley! Did you know that the first federally-mandated emissions control device was introduced in the 1960's? The Positive Crankcase Ventilation valve, or PCV valve, has been installed in Minnesota vehicles since 1964 and represents the first legislation by the United States government to regulate harmful emissions as well as to improve performance in the country's vehicles.

The PCV valve, as you can probably guess, is located on the crankcase. The crankcase is the lowest part of a vehicle's engine. It houses the crankshaft and the engine oil. The crankshaft connects to the pistons that power the engine.

Pistons are pushed down when fuel is burned in an engine. This causes the crankshaft to rotate, which sends power to the transmission.  It ultimately turns the axles and causes the vehicle to move. Some of the gases released by the burning fuel squeeze around the pistons and down into the crankcase.

If the escaped gases mix with the engine oil in the crankcase, oil sludge develops. This sludge has the consistency of petroleum jelly and can cause damage by clogging up passageways in the engine. Further, escaped gases can build up pressure inside the crankcase that can blow out seals and gaskets.

Before 1964, a hose was attached to the crankcase that vented escaped gases out into the air. These gases contained about 70% unburned fuel as well as harmful emissions. The PCV valve was designed to curb these harmful emissions as well as recapture unburned fuel.

The PCV valve is a small, one-way valve that allows escaped gases to exit the crankcase. The gases are then routed into the intake system so they can be re-burned in the engine. Fresh air enters the crankcase through a breather tube to facilitate this circulation and keep the air in the crankcase clean.

The PCV valve, like most working parts on a vehicle, will wear out over time. Usually it simply gets gummed up. Preventive maintenance, including routine oil changes at Valley Auto Care - Minnesota Car, Truck & SUV Service in Apple Valley, will extend the life of the valve, but eventually it will have to be replaced. A sticking PCV valve won't allow gases to circulate properly, which can increase pressure in the crankcase. Over time, that pressure will lead to oil leaks.

Your vehicle manufacturer recommends that a PCV valve be replaced every 20,000 to 50,000 miles (32,000 to 80,000 kilometers), depending on the vehicle and Apple Valley driving conditions. It's an inexpensive repair but may not be included in the maintenance schedule in your owner's manual.  So if you're looking for auto advice about the PCV valve, you may have to ask our pros at Valley Auto Care - Minnesota Car, Truck & SUV Service.

Taking care of our PCV valve protects the environment in Minnesota and improves vehicle performance. It's just part of good vehicle care for Apple Valley drivers and a way all of us can do our part to improve the world we live in.

Valley Auto Care - Minnesota Car, Truck & SUV Service
7125 151st St. West, Suite 105
Apple Valley, Minnesota 55124
952-431-2700

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Automotive Tips from Valley Auto Care - Minnesota Car, Truck & SUV Service: Making a Battery Last Longer

One thing all Apple Valley drivers can do to extend the life of their battery is to keep it clean. A greasy, dirty battery holds in damaging heat. Same goes for removing corrosion from the terminals. Valley Auto Care - Minnesota Car, Truck & SUV Service can help maintain your battery.

Allowing your battery to be deeply depleted – like from using your headlights when the engine is off – is very harmful to your battery. Most automotive batteries can only take that about 10 times before they are ruined.

Also, making sure you have a full charge every month or so extends battery life. Either an extended drive at freeway speeds around the Apple Valley are or using a battery charger will preserve your battery’s ability to hold a full charge.

Give us a call.

Valley Auto Care - Minnesota Car, Truck & SUV Service
7125 151st St. West, Suite 105
Apple Valley, Minnesota 55124
952-431-2700

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PCV Valve: What Is It?

Most Apple Valley drivers know something about preventive maintenance on a vehicle. We know we should routinely replace the oil and wiper blades and other fluids. But have you heard of a PCV valve ? This little car part needs to be replaced regularly or it can cause some serious problems in your vehicle engine.

PCV stands for Positive Crankcase Ventilation. The crankcase holds your motor oil and is located at the bottom of your engine.

When fuel is burned in your engine, it produces waste gases that are mostly vented out through your exhaust system. But some of these gases push their way past the pistons and into the crankcase. There, these gases can mix with motor oil to produce oil sludge, which can damage vehicle engine parts through corrosion and by clogging engine passages. Apple Valley vehicle owners should be advised that if the engine is running at high speeds, these gases can also cause pressure inside the crankcase to build up. This pressure, in turn, can blow gaskets and damage seals, leading to oil leaks.

The waste gases that leave the engine are comprised of about 70% unburned fuel. They used to be vented off the crankcase into the atmosphere. But starting in 1964, laws mandated that these gases be recaptured. Manufacturers began installing PCV systems, which recycled the gases into the air intake system where they could be mixed with fuel and sent to the engine to be burned.

The PCV valve is a one-way valve attached to the crankcase. Waste gases exit the crankcase through the valve but cannot enter.

Over time, the waste gases leave deposits on the PCV valve that can gum it up. So it needs to be replaced occasionally. This is an inexpensive part of preventive maintenance that is often overlooked, but which can have very expensive consequences. It's good auto advice to keep this little valve clean and working well.

In order to maintain efficient circulation, the PCV system also has a breather tube that allows clean air to enter the crankcase. This air is usually filtered through the engine air filter. But some vehicles have a separate air filter for the breather tube called the breather element. If this is the case with your vehicle, proper maintenance of the PCV will include replacing this element. To find out whether your vehicle has this type of PCV system, check your owner's manual or ask your service advisor at Valley Auto Care - Minnesota Car, Truck & SUV Service.

The PCV system reduces harmful vehicle emissions. The maintenance it requires is simple and inexpensive at Valley Auto Care - Minnesota Car, Truck & SUV Service. A fouled or damaged PCV system can lead to serious engine damage for Apple Valley drivers.

Let's all learn to practice good car care. It's good for our wallets, and it's good for our Minnesota environment.

Valley Auto Care - Minnesota Car, Truck & SUV Service
7125 151st St. West, Suite 105
Apple Valley, Minnesota 55124
952-431-2700

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The Maintenance Free Myth

Sometimes we hear people in Apple Valley say, "What's up with all this maintenance stuff? Modern cars just don't break down." While it is true that today's vehicles are extremely reliable, they are also becoming increasingly complicated and use more exotic materials than ever before. All that complexity demands higher tolerances for everything. For example, most Apple Valley drivers don't realize how high tech automotive fluids have become,  fluids such as engine oil, transmission fluid, coolant and brake fluid.

Did you know that a modern engine would not run for more than a few months using motor oil formulas from 30 years ago? Today's automotive fluids contain a much higher percentage of additives to protect your vehicle's components from premature wear and corrosion. Time and distances march on for all of our cars. Please don't think we're using scare tactics to get you to take care of your maintenance - but here are some personal stories we've heard to emphasize and show how important it is to get things done when they are due. Names are withheld to avoid embarrassment to those who should know better. Even though they should know better, it usually comes down to real life: time and money. But they are tales of a stitch in time saves nine.

The first comes from someone who bought a used pick-up truck for his son. The oil was clean and all the fluids were topped off. A short time later, the truck overheated on a highway in Minnesota and shut down. The repair shop diagnosed the problem: the radiator pan was corroded and dumped the coolant. Even though the coolant level was correct, it was clear that the coolant had never been completely replaced - just topped off from time to time. While this kept the engine cool, all of the anti-corrosion additives had worn out; the coolant became acidic and ate through the radiator pan. The cost: hundreds of dollars and four days in the shop. This demonstrates the need to get your coolant exchanged on schedule.

Another story involves the true cost of skipping an annual inspection. This guy took his SUV in for the Minnesota safety inspection to renew his registration. At the Apple Valley inspection station, he learned that the law had changed and that his newer rig only required an inspection every two years. He was very happy to save the money. The problem was, his rear brake pads were very worn. Two months later, it was bad enough that he could hear the grind - over the radio, DVD player and the kids. He took it in to get the bad news. Both of the rear brake rotors were damaged. The left one could be resurfaced. The right had to be replaced. So saving a little on his safety inspection turned into an extra $500 over what brake pad replacement would have been. Moral of the story for Apple Valley drivers: don't skip your annual inspections. The irony is that many Apple Valley service centers would have done a brake inspection for free.

Next: a teenage daughter and a curb. Daddy's little princess smacked a curb when she turned into a shopping center and popped the tire. The problem came when Dad didn't get an alignment. The impact was hard enough to ruin the tire - so it was enough wreck the alignment. But instead of an alignment after the first tire, Papa ended up buying a second tire a few months later - and then an alignment.

Situation: son and wife with cars from the same vehicle manufacturer with essentially the same engine. Our staffer checked the son's maintenance schedule and saw that it needed a timing belt replacement at 90,000 miles/145,000 km. He had it done - it cost several hundred dollars. His wife's car had about 60,000 miles/97,000 km, so it should be ok for a while. Right? Wrong. The problem was that the wife had the turbo charged version. Its belt was scheduled for replacement at 60,000 mi/97,000 km. At 63,000 mi./101,000 km, the belt snapped on the interstate. The valves all crashed down into the cylinders at high speed, the entire head was shredded and it had to be replaced. The cost: several thousand dollars. Does he wish he had checked the vehicle manufacturer’s maintenance schedule? You bet he does - every time he passes a big-screen TV.

The team at Valley Auto Care - Minnesota Car, Truck & SUV Service in Apple Valley recommends taking care of little things before they become big things. And when you take care of the little things, you can make your car run better.  Plus, it is more economical to operate in Minnesota. Remember to save those maintenance records. It'll show potential buyers that you've taken care of your vehicle and it will help you get a better price. Or when you buy a used car, check those records. If there aren't any, assume that the maintenance hasn't been done and take it to Valley Auto Care - Minnesota Car, Truck & SUV Service in Apple Valley for an inspection. Take care of unperformed routine maintenance sooner rather than later.

Valley Auto Care - Minnesota Car, Truck & SUV Service
7125 151st St. West, Suite 105
Apple Valley, Minnesota 55124
952-431-2700

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Breathe Deep in Apple Valley With a New Cabin Air Filter

Poor interior air quality is nothing to sneeze at, and Apple Valley auto owners might be interested to know that more and more new cars are coming equipped with a cabin air filter. Check your vehicle owner's manual, but they typically need to be replaced at around 12,000 to 15,000 miles (19,000 to 24,000 kilometers).

The filter is usually under the vehicle hood or under the dashboard. Some are a little tricky to get to, so you'll want to have your friendly and knowledgeable Valley Auto Care - Minnesota Car, Truck & SUV Service service advisor take care of replacing them.

As we said, many Apple Valley people don't realize they have a cabin air filter and come to Valley Auto Care - Minnesota Car, Truck & SUV Service saying "my vents are smelling bad." It usually turns out to be a dirty cabin air filter. A switch out and they're on their way, smelling sweet.

Apple Valley residents who suffer from allergies can really benefit from a cabin air filter as it keeps irritants to a minimum. If you're one of them, you'll want to replace your filter regularly.

If you do a lot of driving in dusty or polluted Apple Valley conditions, you'll need to change your cabin air filter more often.

Give us a call.

Valley Auto Care - Minnesota Car, Truck & SUV Service
7125 151st St. West, Suite 105
Apple Valley, Minnesota 55124
952-431-2700

 

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