Here at AutoNetTV, we have national viewers, like your neighbors in Los Altos, who write to us with questions or feedback. One common question we're asked is: "What is a differential and what does it do?" You may have been told by your Allied Auto Works service specialist that your differential needs service, or seen it as an option up on the service menu. Differential service at Allied Auto Works covers a lot of things, so let's first talk about what a differential does.
As you drive through a turn, your outside wheels and inside wheels turn at different speeds. Kind of like the cars going around a race track - the ones driving in the outside lanes have a greater distance to travel than the cars in the inside lanes. The differential is what allows the outside and inside drive wheels to rotate at slightly different speeds so that the tires don't hop or skip while taking corners, or lose traction in dirt or snow on Los Altos interstates. Differentials have gears in them that transfer the power from the drive train to your wheels - which is why they're often referred to as gear boxes. The gears need to be very strong to do this work, and they need to be properly protected so that they'll last.
All vehicles in Los Altos have some form of differential. If you have a front-wheel drive car, your differential is sometimes called a transaxle and is located in the front. If you have rear-wheel drive, the differential is in the back of the car. If you have a four-wheel drive vehicle, you will have a differential in the front and the back - and in the middle as well. The center differential adjusts for differences in speed between the front and rear wheels.
Differential fluid lubricates and cools the gears. Over time, the fluid can get dirty from bits of the gears grinding off. The additives that keep the fluid clean and protect the differential break down over time. So your auto manufacturer has scheduled intervals for you to have your differential fluid changed.
Differentials are hard working mechanisms, and, along with the gears in a manual transmission, need to be serviced regularly at Allied Auto Works with high-quality, replacement fluid. Your Los Altos service specialist can give you more information as to when your next differential service is recommended. You can also ask if they have a record of when the service was last completed.
As with most service intervals, if you are driving under more severe conditions in the Los Altos area, you will want to service your differential more frequently. "Severe service" conditions are defined in most owners' manuals, and include: frequent starts and stops, short trips, cold CA weather, hot weather and towing. All these factors add to the stress of the vehicle and its parts. Also, off-roading in CA can be especially hard on differentials, especially if you cross streams. Proper service at Allied Auto Works will extend the life of your gears and keep them running more smoothly. If you have never had your differential checked, visit contact-us for more information.
What is a cabin air filter?
- A filter for a house in the middle of the woods?
- A fresh, piney scent?
- 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 Los Altos area have cabin filters. They are fairly new on the scene in CA. About forty 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 Los Altos car owners. Your car can be a haven during CA 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.
Allied Auto Works
2073 Grant Road
Los Altos, CA 94024
Check your owner's manual for recommended replacement intervals. Often, the owner's manual forgets about the cabin air filter, so ask your service technician for a recommendation. It's usually every year or 12,000 miles/ 19,000 kilometers. Change it sooner if you drive in dusty conditions or if you start to notice an odor from your ventilation system.
So 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.
Hey Los Altos! Let's talk about one of our CA summertime must-haves: your car A/C. It's real easy for Los Altos motorists to take their car's air conditioner for granted. Just push the right buttons and out comes cool, dry, clean air. But your air conditioning system needs attention from time to time to help it keep its cool.
Do you hear loud noises under the hood when you turn on your car air conditioner? Do you only get cool air sporadically? If so, it is time to get your air conditioner checked.
When most Los Altos folks hear the words "air conditioning problems", it sends a shiver up their spine. That is because the air conditioning system is fairly complex. It has a lot of parts and when it's broken, it's costly to repair.
What things can Los Altos and Cupertino motorists do to prevent air conditioning breakdowns?
A common cause of air conditioning failure is leaks. Water and air can leak into the system. It doesn't work as well with air in it and water can cause rust that leads to damage of the car A/C components. Also, refrigerant, the stuff that makes the air cold, can leak out, reducing the efficiency of the system, making it work harder to cool the air. Periodicallyevacuating the air conditioning system and recharging it keeps the proper amount of clean refrigerant in the system so it cools better and lasts longer.
Sunnyvale motorists should run their air conditioner regularly, even during CA winter, so that it lubricates itself and keeps the seals from drying out, which leads to leaks. Your owner's manual will have recommendations for how often to service your air conditioner. Of course, if it's not working right, now is the time to get it checked. Allied Auto Works can inspect and test your air conditioning and offer evacuation and recharge services. This helps you avoid major repairs.
New environmental laws have stopped the manufacture of Freon, a refrigerant that was common in cars made before 1993. There is a very limited supply of Freon so the price is very steep. It may not be worth its weight in gold, but it probably is worth its weight in silver. If you have an older vehicle that uses Freon, you may want to consider having it retrofitted to use the new R134-A refrigerant. It will pay for itself in the long run. So, if your A/C is just a lot of hot air, bring it in to Allied Auto Works for an inspection.
Allied Auto Works
2073 Grant Road
Los Altos, CA 94024
Most of us living in the Los Altos area are too young to remember life before power steering - cranking those great big steering wheels! It was a pretty good workout. Now power steering is standard. Let's look at how it works. The heart of any power steering system is its pump. The pump pressurizes the power steering fluid that provides assist for steering. Most pumps are driven by a belt that is run by the engine - a few are electrically powered. A high-pressure hose passes fluid from the pump to the steering gear. A low pressure hose returns the fluid back to the pump.
These hoses can develop leaks, so it is a good idea to inspect them at every oil change. Low fluid can damage the power steering pump. That is why fluid level is on the checklist for a full-service oil change. The fluid needs to be compatible with the hoses and seals, so check your owners' manual for the right type - or just ask your personal service advisor at Allied Auto Works.
The fluid cleans, cools and lubricates the power steering system. It breaks down as the years go by and collects unwanted moisture, so Los Altos auto owners need to replace it from time to time. Many car makers specify power steering service intervals. Unfortunately, this important service is sometimes left off the car maintenance schedule for many of us in Los Altos. So, when in doubt, every 25,000 miles/40,000 km or two years is a good fallback. Your Allied Auto Works service advisor will use a detergent to clean the system, flush out the old fluid and replace it with the good stuff.
Here are some warning signs of trouble with your power steering: It's harder to turn the wheel, there's erratic power assist, you hear loud whining coming from the pump (which may be difficult to hear over the loud whining coming from the backseat), you have to top-off the fluid frequently, or you hear squealing belts. Remember to never hold the steering wheel to the far right or left for more than a few seconds at a time. That will wear out your power steering pump real fast.
Other steering components can be bent or damaged from wear or hard knocks. Ball-joint, idler-arm, steering-gear, steering-knuckle and tie rod to name a few. Warning signs here are steering play, wandering, uneven tire wear, and off-center steering wheel. An annual alignment check at Allied Auto Works will reveal bent or damaged steering components.
Most SUV's, pick-ups and rear-wheel-drive cars need regular front-wheel-bearing service.
The bearings should be cleaned and inspected. If they are excessively worn, they need to be replaced. The bearings are then repacked in clean grease. It's also recommend the wheel-seal be replaced when the bearings are serviced. Like everything else, check your owners' manual maintenance schedule. It's usually required around every two years or 40,000 miles/64,000 km. If you drive through water in the Los Altos area, the bearings will need service more often.
Allied Auto Works
2073 Grant Road
Los Altos, CA 94024
The automotive professionals at Allied Auto Works would like to give Los Altos car owners an update on some of the things happening in automotive fluids. You know, cars are becoming more sophisticated everyday - and fluids such as, oil, coolant and transmission fluid are becoming more specialized at about the same pace.
The Los Altos do-it-yourselfer has to be pretty careful so that they do not actually harm their vehicle with the wrong type of fluid. That is why so many CA car owners rely on the advice of their personal Allied Auto Works technician to not only get the correct family of fluids, but to suggest the formulation that is best for their car and their driving habits.
Let's start with engine oil. Cupertino car owners who have been paying attention, will have noticed a number of new oil weights on the CA scene in the last several years. Modern engines are built to much tighter tolerances and have very complicated valve trains. The oil must be thin enough to lubricate complicated parts when the engine is cold. The weight of an oil is expressed in terms like 20-W-50 or 5-W-30. The auto makers recommend the weight of oil for each vehicle they make. The recommendation is based on engine design. Your Los Altos service center will know what weight your manufacturer recommends - and it's important to follow those recommendations. Your technician at Allied Auto Works can also offer suggestions for special formulations and can tell you all about conventional and synthetic oils.
Antifreeze, or engine coolant, is another area that has become more complicated. For a long time, car makers only recommended a couple of different types of coolant. Now, several different formulations are needed because of the high-tech materials that auto makers are using to build the cooling system. Using the wrong type of coolant can actually void your warranty, so you want to get that right.
Transmission fluid is becoming specialized as well. New transmission designs have particular requirements that require specific formulations. Recently, new, somewhat confusing, standards for brake fluid have also been released.
Not too long ago, there was a good chance that all of the vehicles at your Los Altos house would use many of the same fluids. However, as automotive technology advances, the array of basic automotive fluids you need will grow. And, some of the formulations will cost a little more. Fortunately, Allied Auto Works will continue to update their training to keep pace with technology so that you'll get the right fluids your car needs. It's all part of the commitment we make to your driving peace of mind.
The coolant system is a vital part of your vehicle. It is also the second most common cause for vehicle failures. Even though coolant system failure is fairly common in Los Altos, it is easy to prevent.
Allied Auto Works
2073 Grant Road
Los Altos, CA 94024
The most recognizable part of the coolant system to Los Altos drivers is the radiator. It is connected to the engine with hoses and is filled with coolant. The coolant draws heat off the engine and then passes into the radiator. Air passes through cooling fins to reduce the temperature of the coolant and then it's back to the engine again.
There are several ways for the cooling system failure. Most common is with the coolant itself. Coolant is comprised of water and antifreeze. The proper ratio keeps the coolant from either boiling away or freezing. Understandably, either can lead to massive engine damage.
Another essential coolant issue that is often overlooked by Los Altos drivers is the age of the coolant itself. Antifreeze has additives that protect the coolant system from corrosion. As these additives are depleted over time, they can't protect the radiator and other parts from rust, scaling and corrosion. That old container of coolant gathering dust in your garage may still keep your engine cool, but it won't protect it from corrosion.
If get a warning message to check the coolant or if the sedan temperature gauge is in the hot zone, your cooling system needs to be checked. It's OK to add water or antifreeze yourself. But you need to be cautious. Remember four things:
- First, you never want to open the radiator pressure cap. You could be severely burned.
- Second, get to Allied Auto Works in Los Altos immediately if your coolant is low. If that is not possible, follow the directions in your sedan owners manual - it will direct you to only make additions to the coolant overflow bottle.
- Third, remember that you need a proper mixture of water and antifreeze. If you make an emergency addition to your cooling system, follow-up with your Allied Auto Works service center where we can make necessary adjustments.
- Fourth, not all cars use the same type of antifreeze. You need to check your sedan owners manual to make sure you use the right kind. Mixing antifreeze types or using the wrong kind of antifreeze may void the manufacturers warranty on your cooling system. Again, another reason to depend on your Allied Auto Works service center in Los Altos to do things right.
Remember, your Los Altos service center has the equipment to change your coolant quickly and inexpensively.
When they hear the word 'suspension', Los Altos drivers may think back to those energetic days of grade school. Well, your car’s suspension is actually a good thing because it keeps your car up off the road and helps provide a comfy ride around Los Altos. Its job is to keep your wheels firmly planted over bumps and through curves. Your suspension system has many parts. If you look under your car, it’s basically everything that connects your wheels to the car’s frame. These are heavy duty parts that do a lot of work. They need to be inspected for damage and excessive wear at least once a year. A good time for this is when you get your annual alignment service.
Here are some warning signs of suspension problems:
- the car pulls to one side
- it wanders
- the steering is erratic
- you see uneven tire wear
- you experience a poor ride or handling
- you see oil leaking from shocks
Basically, you just don’t feel in control when you’re driving.
Some suspension parts just wear out with use. Shocks and struts eventually lose their ability to control your ride. Wheel bearings need to be repacked every couple of years. And some suspension pieces need to be lubricated when you get your oil changed. Your personal service specialist at Allied Auto Works can perform an automotive analysis and tell you what problems you may have.
If you’re in an accident, your suspension can be damaged or knocked out of alignment. Even a minor accident, like hitting a curb around Los Altos or even a large rock can mess things up. With a minor accident it’s tempting for many Los Altos drivers to just get an alignment or wheel balance to correct the problem. But if there’s damage, a simple alignment won’t actually fix the problem, and you’ll just have to align it again after the repairs are made. So if you have an accident, get your suspension system inspected right away. Suspension problems are a major safety issue because they can lead to unsafe handling.
One big cause of suspension damage is potholes – those nasty magnets that form in Los Altos roads in freezing weather. They seem to draw our tires right into them. Here are some tips for avoiding damage from potholes: First, keep your tires at their full air pressure. That gives tires their maximum resiliency and will hopefully keep your wheels or other suspension parts from crunching on a big hole. Next, just pay attention. When you see a hole you can’t miss, slow down before you hit it. Driving at a slower speed will limit the damage, and may keep your drink from spilling. But avoid the temptation to brake directly over the pothole. That will cause the car’s weight to shift forward and add to the potential damage.
Allied Auto Works
Give us a call today at 650.968.7227
Or stop by at 2073 Grant Road, Los Altos, CA 94024
Los Altos drivers love their cars. And one of the most enjoyable things about them is taking a road trip. Freedom from daily schedules, new sights and the open road – it’s great! But there’s nothing like car trouble to bring the fun to a grinding halt.
Now Los Altos motorists can’t always avoid problems, but you can take steps to reduce the probability of getting sidelined on your trip. The first step is to look at your trip plan from your vehicle’s perspective. What kind of roads will you be traveling – winding byways or freeways? Purple mountain majesties or fruited plains? What weather conditions are you likely to encounter? How many miles will you travel each day? How much weight will you be hauling – passengers and luggage. Pulling a trailer, roof top carrier, or ATVs? Will it be dusty?
Prepared with answers to these questions, you can schedule a trip inspection at Allied Auto Works in Los Altos to help you prepare your vehicle for your big adventure. A lot of our Los Altos customers prefer to go through this exercise with their personal service specialist to get their input and make sure they haven’t overlooked anything.
A great place to start is with the tires. Inspect them for tread wear and proper inflation. Is it time to rotate your tires? Replace them? Are they up to the job – you wouldn’t want to drive regular highway tires on a muddy off-road adventure on Los Altos rock-crawling trails.
Shocks and struts play a major role in both driving comfort and safety. If they need to be replaced, you’ll really be glad you did once you hit the road. Is it time for a wheel alignment? Fighting a car that’s pulling to one side all day can be tiring and dangerous.
And don’t forget your brakes. Any strange noises, grabbing, soft or hard peddle feel? If there is any doubt, get a brake inspection before you leave.
Moving under the hood, have a belts and hoses inspection. If something is excessively worn or near failure, the stress of a long road trip might just be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
Your engine air filter will be important. For every gallon of gas you burn, your car will filter and use 12,000 gallons of air. If the filter needs to be changed, you’ll notice improved fuel efficiency on your trip.
How close are you to your next oil change? Will you be able to complete your trip before it’s due? If not, just get it taken care of before you go so that you don’t need to interrupt your trip. In fact, a full service oil change is a great idea because they will top off all your fluids and check to see if any other maintenance items are due, such as transmission or cooling system service.
Do you notice any unusual odors in your vehicle? If so, it could as harmless as a dirty cabin air filter. But if it’s an exhaust leak it could be fatal on a long trip. Of course you’ll want to be comfortable, so get an air conditioning service if you aren’t getting the cold air you used to.
Are your wiper blades still working well? If not, that is quick and inexpensive to fix. Headlamps are often overlooked when planning for a trip. If you haven’t changed the bulb in six months or so, replacement bulbs will really light up the night on your trip and provide the necessary after-sundown visibility.
All the items mentioned are part of any good vehicle maintenance plan. These are things that you want to take care of anyway, but they all become more urgent as you plan for your trip.
They will always save you money in the long run and may prevent inconvenient and expensive delays on your trip. After all, you wouldn’t want to miss the world’s largest ball of string, would you?
Richard Petty once told AutoNetTV, “You’ve gotta have good brakes. If you’ve got good brakes you can keep yourself out of a lotta trouble.”
That’s why a regular brake inspection is on every Los Altos car’s maintenance schedule. An inspection at Allied Auto Works will check your brake system and let you know if there are any problems.
Of course, if you’re having trouble with your brakes, get your car into Allied Auto Works right away. Here are some symptoms to watch for:
- Low or spongy brake pedal
- Hard brake pedal
- A brake warning light that stays on
- Constantly squealing or grinding brakes
- Vibrations or clunking sounds when you apply your brakes
If you are experiencing any of these, it’s time to get your brakes checked.
There are two types of brakes: disc and drum. Disc brakes have a rotor that’s attached to the axle. Calipers straddle the rotor, kind of like the brakes on a bicycle.
Drum brakes are more common on back wheels. Both types have pads or shoes that press against the brakes and slow the vehicle. Brake pads and shoes are made out of very tough material to withstand the heat and force generated when stopping your car. Eventually, they wear out with use, and become too thin and need to be replaced.
If the brake pads wear away completely, you can damage the rotors. The calipers can grind grooves in the rotor. Then the rotor must either be resurfaced or replaced. That’s not only expensive, but also dangerous because your vehicle won’t stop as quickly. Sometimes rotors warp or crack and must be replaced.
Brake service will also include a check of your brake fluid. When the brakes are applied, the pressure in the fluid actives the brake pads or shoes. Not enough fluid means not enough pressure to brake properly. Also, water builds up in the brake fluid over time, which leads to corrosion, leaks and brake damage, and with hard use, the brakes could severely fade or even fail. You should change the brake fluid when your manufacturer recommends to avoid these problems.
There are different grades of brake pads; good, better and best. Higher grades cost more, but give better braking performance and smoother operation. It’s OK to upgrade your brake pads. But, never use a grade that’s lower than what the manufacturer recommends.
So, be sure to properly maintain your brakes, because it’s a lot cheaper than paying the body shop after an accident.
Come in to Allied Auto Works for an brake inspection before damage occurs. You can call ahead for an appointment by calling 650.968.7227.
So you’ve bought a used car in the Los Altos area. Do you know what you’re getting? It is hard to know what you’re getting because people in the Los Altos area sell cars for different reasons. Think about why you’ve sold cars. Did you just want something new or were there problems that you wanted to run away from. Maybe it was a little of both.
Used cars with 25,000 to 35,000 miles on them are often lease returns, Los Altos corporate program cars or rental fleet vehicles. Most Los Altos buyers feel pretty confident about these because they’re newer and may still be under warranty. But how well have they been maintained?
If you plan on owning a car for a long time, you’ll keep up on the auto maintenance so that you can avoid pricey repairs down the road. But, if you know you’re only going to have the car for two or three years, you may not be so committed to maintenance. It would be easy to think that skipping an oil change here and there wouldn’t ruin a brand new engine. Then it’ll be someone else’s problem when it comes time to pay for the damage.
It would be very tempting to skip the 30,000 mile service if you knew you’d be turning in your leased vehicle in a couple of months.
If the vehicle didn’t come with maintenance records, you need to assume the worst. Most likely the coolant system and transmission have never been serviced. The cabin air filter has probably not been changed and a fuel system cleaning may be in order.
You’ll want Allied Auto Works to check the air conditioning, battery, engine air filter, serpentine belt and hoses. A used car inspection at Allied Auto Works is well worth the cost.
And if your “new” used vehicle has more miles on it, an inspection is even more important. Check your owner’s manual or talk with your personal Allied Auto Works service advisor (call 650.968.7227) about what should have been done. Please don’t forget the timing belt; that can be very pricey if it fails.
Allied Auto Works will help you with a plan to take care of key services and get the rest caught up. If your budget won’t allow you to take care of everything right away, we can help you prioritize your needs and get it taken care of over the next several months. And remember to keep your maintenance records. They’ll help you get top dollar on the CA used car market when it’s time for you to sell.
Allied Auto Works
2073 Grant Road
Los Altos, CA 94024