Air Conditioning Maintenance At Alaska Spring and Performance In Anchorage
Posted March 28, 2012 12:51 PM
Warm weather or cold, Anchorage drivers still need to think about their van’s air conditioning. Most Anchorage people don’t service their air conditioning until after it fails. At Alaska Spring and Performance, we can advise you on your vehicle manufacturer's preventive maintenance schedules for air conditioning service, just as we do for transmission service, oil changes and so on.
Maintaining your air conditioning system means that you always have enough refrigerant to properly do the job. Small leaks in the van's air conditioning system allow the refrigerant to escape and the system can’t cool the air as well. We see that a lot at Alaska Spring and Performance in Anchorage.
The refrigerant also contains a special oil that lubricates air conditioning components, and keeps the seals resilient. Low refrigerant and lubricating oil means that the air conditioning parts will wear out prematurely, and all Anchorage car owners know that air conditioning repairs can be costly. At Alaska Spring and Performance, we recommended that the air conditioner be run regularly, even during winter months, to keep the parts and seals lubricated.
Corrosion is what leads to many air conditioning system failures for Anchorage motorists. The small leaks mentioned earlier also mean that air and water can leak into the air conditioning system. This can lead to rust and dirt in the internal workings of the air conditioning components. This greatly accelerates wear and, ultimately, failure.
Air conditioning service at Alaska Spring and Performance starts with a visual inspection of the components for signs of damage or leaks. The compressor is driven by a belt from the engine, most often the serpentine belt, so it’s inspected for cracks or wear. The air conditioning compressor and other components are checked for proper operation. Then comes the leak test. If a leak is detected, often in a hose or connection, it’s repaired and the system is retested.
Then the old refrigerant is evacuated and the system is recharged with clean, fresh refrigerant. A final test insures that the van's air conditioner is working, and you’re on your way.
How often this should be done varies from vehicle to vehicle. Your van owner’s manual will have the manufacturer’s recommendation and, of course, your Alaska Spring and Performance service advisor can tell you. It’s typically every two years.
If you’re not getting enough cool air you know something’s wrong. Also, if you hear strange sounds when you turn the air on, there might be a problem with the compressor and you should get it checked out at Alaska Spring and Performance. Replacing a bad A/C clutch in a van is cheaper than waiting for it to ruin the compressor.
Anchorage drivers need to be aware that there’s one more thing that isn’t directly related to air conditioning service, but does impact the quality of the air in your van. And that’s your cabin air filter. This filter cleans dust, pollen, pollution and other impurities in the air that comes from the heater and air conditioner. The cabin air filter needs to be replaced when it’s dirty. If you don’t it’ll start to smell. Not all vehicles have one, so ask your Alaska Spring and Performance service advisor to check your cabin air filter at the same time they’re doing your air conditioning service.
Posted in the Air Conditioning category
Power Steering Service At Alaska Spring and Performance In Anchorage
Posted March 23, 2012 11:44 AM
Many Anchorage drivers have been hearing about new advances in power steering technology, specifically, electric power steering. Some very high-end cars have been featuring electric power steering for a few years. An electric motor directly provides the power assist to make steering easier. Undoubtedly we’ll see much more of this in Anchorage as full electric cars and electric hybrids become more common.
The vast majority of cars and trucks serviced at Alaska Spring and Performance in Anchorage use a hydraulic power boost system. With hydraulics, fluid is pressurized by a pump which actuates a hydraulic cylinder to reduce steering effort. Some of these pumps are powered by an electric motor. Most pumps are powered by the serpentine belt driven by the engine.
Power steering fluid has the necessary hydraulic properties and the ability to lubricate the internal parts. The power steering fluid also protects van components from rust and corrosion. Anchorage car owners should be aware that manufacturers recommend that the fluid be replaced on schedule. At Alaska Spring and Performance, the old fluid is drained and the system cleaned thoroughly. Fresh fluid is then installed.
Unfortunately, many Anchorage people don’t realize how important it is to service their power steering, or even that it should be done at all. A neglected power steering system can develop leaks and the pump won’t last as long.
Signs that you may be having problems with your power steering include the need to constantly add power steering fluid, a loud whining from the pump, erratic power assist or high steering effort. If you’re experiencing any of these problems, have your power steering checked out at Alaska Spring and Performance in Anchorage.
In addition to the pump and hydraulic system, there are mechanical parts in the steering system. The rods, arms, joints and knuckles that actually turn the wheels can become worn or damaged. A standard alignment service includes an inspection of steering components.
If you notice any play in the steering wheel, that the steering wheel is off center, or a noise coming from your front wheels, especially when turning, have your Alaska Spring and Performance advisor do an inspection so the problem can be corrected. Waiting too long could cause uneven tire wear and may even lead to steering failure. Call Alaska Spring and Performance today at 907-563-3802.
Posted in the Alignment category
Alaska Spring and Performance And The Maintenance Mindset
Posted March 15, 2012 10:28 AM
When it comes to their vehicles, some Eagle River people don’t have a maintenance mindset. They know they need to take care of their cars, but it just seems really hard to get them to remember to do it. Eagle River drivers generally accept that many things in life require regular maintenance, but just may have not applied it to their vans.
For example: the lawn. You water it and mow it every week. And weed the flower beds and rake the leaves. There are other things that Eagle River people are good about maintaining. Going to the dentist twice a year. Clothes to the dry cleaner. Flu shots. Taking the kids to your Eagle River doctor for a checkup before school starts.
So Eagle River people really are maintenance minded. They just have to learn to apply that mindset to cars. I mean, if you never brush your teeth or go to the dentist, you’ll become painfully aware of your neglect when you get a big cavity. Once the damage is done, we learn our lesson and start to take better care of things.
Unfortunately, Eagle River van owners too often learn the hard automotive lesson when they bring their vehicle to Alaska Spring and Performance on a tow truck. So many times a little routine maintenance would have prevented a breakdown.
So how can Eagle River drivers get into the habit of taking care of their van? It’s so easy to forget. If you skip cutting the grass, you see it every time you pull in the driveway.
Here’s something that will help: The key to good vehicle maintenance starts with the oil change. Think about it – when you go in for a full-service oil change, your Alaska Spring and Performance tech will check all your fluids. If one of them is low, he can look for the reason why. If your serpentine belt is cracked, he’ll see it and let you know. Corroded battery cable – they’ve got you covered. And at Alaska Spring and Performance, we check to see if your van manufacturer has recommended any services at your current mileage. The oil change becomes kind of a focal point, a way to check in to see what needs to be done. The fact is that vehicle inspection surveys consistently reveal that over 80% of vehicles have one or more unperformed repair or maintenance service. Vehicles are generally very reliable and can take a lot of abuse and neglect. But, you’ve got to remember that vans are complicated machines. There are parts and fluids that are critical to their function. Without them, the van won’t run at all.
So when you come in to Alaska Spring and Performance for an oil change, you get a visual inspection from your friendly service advisor and a reminder for recommended services so you can avoid a total failure. And remember that your Alaska Spring and Performance service advisor can help you work out a maintenance and repair plan, prioritizing and scheduling the work to make sure you and your family are safe, and avoid expensive breakdowns.
Posted in the Maintenance category
Alaska Spring and Performance Guide To Using the Correct Fluids in Your Vehicle
Posted March 6, 2012 1:31 PM
Today's Alaska Spring and Performance post focuses on using the proper fluids for your vehicle. Big advances in automotive technology have lead to the development of high-tech fluids to keep pace. Some because of engineering advances and others, advances in the materials used to build van automotive systems.
A simple example of this is the cooling system. For decades it was primarily made out of iron, steel and rubber hoses. There was one kind of coolant that protected these components from corrosion.
Now cooling system components are made with various metal alloys and plastics. These materials require different additives to protect them from corrosion. Since the materials used vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, we now have a number of different kinds of coolant.
And it’s important that Elmendorf Afb car owners use the right coolant. If you pour in the wrong kind, it won’t protect the cooling system and may even void the warranty. Check your van owner’s manual. Of course, your Alaska Spring and Performance advisor will know the proper coolant to use.
Brake fluid is confusing for some Elmendorf Afb drivers. Back when we opened shop 44 years ago, most vehicles used Dot 3 brake fluid. Now we have Dot 4 and Dot 5. Some Elmendorf Afb people mistakenly think the higher numbers are an upgrade. You know, if 3 is good then 4 must be better. That’s not how it works. They are different formulations to meet the demands of differences in brake systems. Only one of them is recommended for your van.
Transmission fluid is the same thing. For decades there were two basic types of tranny fluid used at Alaska Spring and Performance: friction modified or not. With the tremendous engineering advances in van automatic transmissions, there have been several new types of fluids developed to protect and lubricate them.
Nowhere are the advances in automotive fluids more evident to Elmendorf Afb motorists and Alaska Spring and Performance professionals than in motor oil. Many new weights and formulations have been created to meet the demands of today’s modern van engine design. Modern engines have more parts and much tighter tolerances. Every year, engines make more power and get better fuel economy. And with all the complication and sophistication, they still have to be durable.
That’s where the new grades of engine oil come in. They have to be formulated to lubricate, protect and clean all of those van engine parts, big and little. The oil has to be thin enough to get into little passages, yet resistant to vaporization.
At Alaska Spring and Performance, we believe that in some ways modern automotive fluids are just as great feats of engineering as the new engines. Because weights of oil and types of coolant and transmission fluid are so carefully matched to the vehicle, take care to always use the proper fluid if you are topping off at home. Check your van owner’s manual or ask your Elmendorf Afb service advisor. The wrong fluid can cause damage. If you drive a car or truck with 75,000 miles or more, consider high mileage formulations. These fluids contain extra detergent to clean dirtier older engines as well as additives to condition seals and gaskets. That’ll help prevent leaks. Always be sure that the high mileage fluid is the same weight or type of fluid recommended for your vehicle.
Posted in the Fluids category
How to Know When to Change Your Oil At Alaska Spring and Performance
Posted March 2, 2012 2:59 PM
Today in the Alaska Spring and Performance auto care blog, we’re going to talk about oil change intervals. It seems that as engine technology advances, recommended oil change intervals have gotten longer for Alaska Spring and Performance customers. High quality oil in a well-engineered van engine has lead to extended intervals. But it’s also lead to some confusion among Anchorage drivers.
The old mantra “change your oil every three months or three thousand miles, whichever comes first” once applied to every vehicle in your garage. Time and miles take their toll on motor oil. But now, you could have a different oil change recommendation for every car or truck you own.
Anchorage people are like everybody else, they have a tendency to put off all the oil changes to the schedule of the vehicle with the longest interval. Of course, that can lead to problems. For example, recently four of the world’s largest auto manufacturers shortened the published intervals for several of their engines. They originally published intervals that extended out to a much as 8,000 miles.
In real world Anchorage driving, the oil started to sludge up before the recommended change interval. Oil sludge is a thick jelly-like substance. Quite literally petroleum jelly – like Vaseline. This goop was clogging van small engine passages so the oil wouldn’t flow to some parts of the engine. This resulted in engine damage. We see it from time to time at Alaska Spring and Performance.
The manufacturers began to offer an extended warranty to cover sludge damage. But there was a catch: the vehicle owner had to follow a new, lower service interval, and provide proof of oil changes in order to make a warranty claim.
So here’s the problem. With longer oil change intervals, it’s extremely important to follow them closely. Back in the day of 3 months or 3,000 miles, if you went an extra month or an extra thousand miles, your oil was still fresh enough that it didn’t have time to build up much sludge.
But if your recommended interval is 6,500 miles and you go over another thousand, you’re getting into heavy sludge territory. You absolutely need to follow mileage intervals very closely. And don’t forget your severe service schedule. If you do a lot of stop and go driving in AK, short trips, drive in dusty or polluted Anchorage conditions, hot or cold weather, or haul heavy loads, you’re driving in severe service conditions. Your Alaska Spring and Performance advisor can help you evaluate which schedule to follow.
So check your van owner’s manual or talk with your Anchorage service advisor about where and how you drive. Should you be changing your oil closer to the regular schedule, or the severe service schedule? You need to make the call.
Let me give you an example of this. Some newer vans have an oil change indicator. It has a sophisticated computer algorithm that tracks number of cold starts, engine temperature, RPMs, mileage, and many more variables to come up with a recommendation for when to change the oil.
Depending on driving conditions, the indicator in one test vehicle came on at anywhere from 2,500 miles to almost 7,000 miles. It’s typically just over 4,000 miles. What this tells us is that sometimes, we’re driving easy miles that are easy on the van – like a long road trip. Sometimes, we’re driving hard AK miles – like towing a trailer or a lot of around town driving. But, usually, it’s a combination of both.
Once again, it’s up to you to make the call as to when to change your oil at Alaska Spring and Performance to protect your van engine. Another place where AK drivers can go wrong is with the type of oil they use. More and more new cars are coming to Anchorage owners filled with synthetic oil. Without going into a lot of detail right now, let’s just say that synthetic oil lasts longer and is very resistant to oil sludge.
But it also costs quite a bit more, so some Anchorage people are tempted to use conventional oil for their oil changes. Now, it’s always best to use the oil recommended by your manufacturer. Check your owner’s manual see if a conventional oil alternative is allowed.
But getting back to the problem, if your van came from the factory with synthetic oil, the recommended oil change interval is for synthetic oil. If you use conventional oil, you can’t use the synthetic interval. You need to shorten it.