Category Archives: Maintenance
Fall and Spring Checkup In Des Moines
When I was a kid in Des Moines, my dad always made sure he took the cars in for Spring and Fall checkups. I was telling a friend that it’s about time to get into Des Moine BDG for my checkup and he said that he read on the internet that modern cars don’t need seasonal service.
My friend is (technically) right about some things, but from a practical standpoint, a seasonal check up still makes sense.
Back when my dad was teaching me about how to take care of the family minivan, most cars used a different weight of oil in the winter and in the summer. But most of today’s modern engines run the same oil year round. High-tech engines and high-tech motor oils are better able to handle the seasonal changes.
Your owner’s manual or Des Moines service advisor at Des Moine BDG can tell you the right oil to use.
Of course, you’re concerned about the coolant or antifreeze. You don’t want to overheat in the IA summer or freeze up in the winter. Your engine cooling system protects against both of these things. And modern coolant, or as it’s sometimes called; ‘antifreeze’, is up to doing both very well. It’s designed to last for more miles than most people drive in a year or two.
So how does a Spring and Fall check-up fit in? Let’s start with Spring. Summer is coming. That means heat, more miles driven and road trips. It just makes sense to check your fluid levels and do a visual inspection to see that everything is up to snuff.
You may not be scheduled to drain and replace the coolant for some time, but you need to make sure you have enough coolant, and that you don’t have any leaks or hoses that are about to fail.
That’s pretty practical; a check-up to see if there are any problems or emerging conditions that could later become a problem, like a cracked belt.
And the same principle applies for getting ready for winter. Cold weather means lots of failed batteries. It takes more power to crank up a cold engine, and cold also decreases the available cranking power the battery has available.
So a battery test in the Fall could tell you if you’ve got a battery that is running on its last legs. And of course, if you live where winter temperatures get below 45 degrees or you have ice and snow, you’ll want to consider changing to winter tires.
So Spring and Fall auto checkups at Des Moine BDG are practical reminders to get ready for the demands of the hot and cold seasons to come.
And odds are that you have one or more routine services that are due anyway. Like a transmission service, brake or power steering fluid, differential service – stuff like that. Are your wiper blades still good? Are your headlamps starting to dim?
So Spring and Fall: change your clocks, replace the batteries in your smoke detectors – and get a check-up for your cars.
See, dad was right again.
Come and see us at Des Moine BDG for your Spring and Fall automotive checkup.
Des Moine BDG
2222 East Douglas Ave
Des Moines, IA 50313
Budget For Maintenance in Des Moines
Sometimes busy Des Moines residents dream about going back to the “simpler” days of our grandparents. But if you could travel back in time and take a road trip around Altoona in a Model T, you might change your mind. The improved designs and quality of today’s automobiles have significantly reduced the amount of time Des Moines car owners spend at the side of the road during breakdowns. With proper maintenance, today’s vehicles can stay on the road longer than ever before.
Some of those improvements, however, have led to higher repair costs. For example, older cars often broke down from vapor lock. Gas vaporized while traveling from the gas tank to the fuel pump. No gas, no power. The car quits going. The solution was simple — you just sat by the road until the car would start up again. Today’s Des Moines car owners would hardly tolerate that kind of inconvenience; and it’s likely that yesterday’s Des Moines auto owners didn’t care much for it, either. So on today’s vehicles, the fuel pump is actually located inside the gas tank. Problem solved. No more vapor lock. The downside is that now it costs a lot more to repair or replace a fuel pump at Des Moines area auto service centers.
Des Moines car owners should certainly should be grateful for the improvements in auto design that keep us off the side of the road, but it comes at a price. Car care in Des Moines is simply more pricey than it used to be. So if you think about it, IA auto owners can avoid many costly minivan repairs by preventive maintenance. If we plan for maintenance, we can avoid a lot of costly repairs.
Edmunds.com has a great calculator to help you estimate car repair costs. Altoona car owners can enter the year, make and model for your vehicle, and the calculator will give you an estimate of what it will cost to service and repair your vehicle for the next five years. It also estimates the costs for depreciation, financing, insurance, taxes and fuel.
These estimates can be used to set up a reasonable budget to manage your car repair and maintenance expenses. Of course, they are just estimates. All Ankeny car owners know that life hands out a lot of surprises — some good, some bad, so there’s no way to know exactly what your minivan will need. But a good estimate helps you make a good budget, and a good budget is always helpful when it comes to car repairs.
Let’s look at one example. For a 2003 Toyota Camry, here is Edmunds’ estimate for the cost of repairs and maintenance for the next three years (as of the time of this writing):
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According to this estimate, the owner needs to set aside about $83 a month to defray the costs of car care. That sounds like a lot until you compare it to the payment on a new automobile. And even if car repairs are more expensive than expected, that $83 is going to make the bills a lot less painful.
Just a bit of auto advice from Des Moine BDG: If you like new cars and can afford them, then buy them. But if you are buying a new car every few years because you’re afraid of the higher repair costs for older vehicles, then you ought to take a second look at the numbers. You can save a lot of money on car payments and IA auto insurance with an older Des Moines vehicle, and preventive auto maintenance can help you avoid most car repair bills. And if you budget for critical preventive maintenance in IA, it can become as routine as a car payment — only a whole lot less expensive!
Maintenance for High Mileage Vehicles In Des Moines IA
Before the recession hit, the median age for cars in the Des Moines IA area (zip code: 50313) was over nine years. And two-thirds had over 75,000 miles. At Des Moine BDG we hear reports that those numbers continue to rise.
If you have a high-mileage vehicle in the Altoona area, bring it in for high-mileage maintenance:
Des Moine BDG
2222 East Douglas Ave
Des Moines, IA 50313
Many people in Des Moines are keeping their vehicles longer. The economy has influenced that, but the fact that modern minivans are more durable and reliable means that owning a high mileage vehicle doesn’t have to be a painful experience.
Local car owners in Des Moines with over 100,000 miles on their vehicles often ask which service intervals they should follow. Let’s start with the special needs of the older vehicle…
The reality is that time and mileage will take its toll. The engine and transmission will have more sludge. The fuel, steering and brake systems will have gum and varnish built up. There’ll be more dirt and contaminants in the fuel tank. Corrosion and deposits in the cooling system. And seals and gaskets will start to dry out.
All of this, plus normal wear and tear, means that the engine might not be as strong as new, so it just has to work harder to get the job done.
So we need to compensate. Consider high-mileage formulations for oil changes, transmission service, etc. These special formulations contain additives that condition the seals and gaskets to prevent leaks. They also have more detergents to clean sludge and other deposits. They cost a bit more, but they’re worth it.
In general, if an auto service was recommended every 15,000 miles when the car was new, you should continue to get the service done every 15,000 miles.
Talk with your Des Moines service advisor at Des Moine BDG about the condition of your engine. See if he thinks you should adjust your auto service intervals for oil changes or other auto maintenance to account for the older engine working harder.
Expect the oil filter to get dirty faster. Same goes for the fuel filter. And some leaks are to be expected so you need to keep a closer eye on fluid levels.
If anything, following recommended service intervals for your minivan is more important in a higher mileage vehicle. Skipping oil changes or other services can lead to problems much more quickly than with a newer vehicle.
So, have your Des Moines auto service advisor at Des Moine BDG help you with an assessment of your older car or truck. If you haven’t gotten around to a fuel system cleaning, or replacing power steering or brake fluid, a differential service or transmission service – it’s time to start taking care of those things. It’ll help keep you on the road for many more happy miles.
Gas Savings In Des Moines: Sharpen Your Pencil
High gas prices in Des Moines increase the cost of living for IA car owners. You’ve probably budgeted a certain amount for vehicle related expenses. Increased fuel costs now consume a larger portion of our incomes, causing some Des Moines vehicle owners to skimp in other areas – like scheduled maintenance.
According to IA news reports and automotive industry studies, this is becoming increasingly more common. In fact, nine out of ten personal vehicles on the road have at least one maintenance or repair item that hasn’t been done. Some of these items pose serious safety risks. Others are just more likely to make it more expensive to drive.
In this area, we can take a lesson from professional Des Moines vehicle owners. I’m talking about fleet owners and operators. You know, Des Moines folks like the trucking companies and delivery services. Because their livelihood depends on it, they have gotten scheduled maintenance down to a science. And the last thing they skimp on is regular maintenance.
Why is that? Well, for one thing they know that routine maintenance prevents expensive repairs and costly breakdowns. They also know that a well-maintained vehicle uses less fuel. For them, even a small decrease in MPG may put their Altoona business in the red.
So what does this mean to Des Moines drivers? Well, there’s a ninety percent chance that you’re missing some service that would improve your MPG. Here’s a quick reminder list:
Fuel system cleaning, transmission service, differential service, engine air filter, wheel alignment, oil change, tune up.
Ring any bells? Can most Des Moines auto owners honestly say that there isn’t at least one thing on the list that hasn’t been done?
Let’s suppose you chose to spend one hundred and fifty dollars and get caught up on some of these services at Des Moine BDG. Figure that they combine to improve your fuel efficiency by fifteen percent. What would that mean to your pocketbook?
Well, the average personal vehicle in Des Moines is driven about twelve thousand miles a year. If you get twenty miles per gallon in your minivan, over the course of one year you would pay for the hundred and fifty dollars worth of service and save an additional hundred and sixty five dollars if gas is at three dollars and fifty cents. If gas is four fifty, you would save two hundred and fifty-five dollars. And you’d rack up savings of three hundred and forty five dollars with gas at five and a half bucks.
From this you can see that the more fuel costs, the more it pays to keep up on scheduled maintenance. Some of us drive trucks in Des Moines for work or recreation – or want a large SUV for family needs. A fifteen percent improvement in fuel economy can generate huge savings – six hundred and sixty dollars a year if gas is four fifty a gallon in Des Moines. Take a look at this table to see where your savings could lie.
So catch up on those services you’ve been neglecting at Des Moine BDG. Get a couple done now and a couple next time. Chances are you’ll save a lot of money at Des Moines gas pumps this year – and a lot more on repairs in years to come.
Busting Automotive Myths In Des Moines IA
Myths passed around our Des Moines IA community start with a grain of evidence and are then built up with a lot of imagination and very elastic logic. And the internet is a breeding ground for automotive myths. Some bloggers recall the minivans of yesteryear and declare their modern decedents to be virtually maintenance free and that anyone who says otherwise is out to rip you off.
To get the truth about auto myths you hear around the Des Moines area, come over to Des Moine BDG.
You’ll find us at 2222 East Douglas Ave, Des Moines, IA 50313.
Give us a call at 1.800.LET.NAPA to make an appointment for your next auto service.
Let’s examine a couple of the more popular rants and look at the truth behind them.
The first one is that the chassis no longer needs lubrication for suspension, steering and the driveline. They declare that anyone who has charged you for lubrication is a charlatan.
The truth on which this myth is based is that many new cars come from the factory with sealed joints and cannot be greased. However, there are still some grease points on many cars around Des Moines. A grease fitting may have been installed in conjunction with a repair. And most trucks and truck-based SUVs driving in Des Moines still require chassis lubrication. This is because they are more heavy duty and proper greasing is still required to keep them going.
Another common rant you’ll hear around Des Moines is that modern cars don’t need tune-ups. That depends on your definition of a ‘tune-up’, which has changed as technology has progressed. Before engine control computers, electronic ignition and fuel injection, a tune up meant replacing mechanical parts that wore out. Des Moine BDG would manually adjust fuel and air mix and timing. When these adjustments were off, spark plugs would foul and need to be replaced.
This definition just doesn’t apply to modern vehicles. Service centers like Des Moine BDG generally consider a tune-up to be the major service visit, recommended by your manufacturer, every 30,000 miles or so.
Of course you can’t lubricate a sealed joint. Of course you can’t adjust a carburetor if your car doesn’t have one. You probably don’t need to change spark plugs every year if your manufacturer says they can go 30,000 miles. What are these bloggers getting so worked up about?
The danger with these modern-day myths, is that they prevent people in our local Des Moines community from taking care of the routine preventive auto maintenance that manufactures recommend. Check out this partial list of things you still need to do to take care of your car. How many of them are really any different today than they were 20 or 30 years ago?
Oil change, cooling system service, transmission service, tire balancing, tire rotation, wheel alignment, suspension service, power steering service, proper tire inflation, brake service, differential service, battery maintenance, engine air filer, PCV valve, breather element, fuel filter, belts, hoses, timing belt, windshield wipers . . .
You get the picture. Your minivan is still a machine that needs to be maintained. And, hey, your service advisors at Des Moine BDG have always adapted to keep pace with automotive technology. Next time you come across an angry voice about your car care, talk to your Des Moines service advisor at Des Moine BDG, or do some research of your own.
Budgeting for Maintenance In Des Moines, IA
Life’s full of surprises in Des Moines, IA, some of which cost money. A leaky roof, a broken tooth, or an unexpected car repair. Des Moine BDG and AutoNetTV have done some research on how we can budget for proper vehicle care.
Most Des Moines drivers do their best to budget for scheduled vehicle maintenance. What’s hard is unexpected repairs. The truth is that our minivans can stay on the road longer than ever before with proper maintenance. That’s because of improved vehicle design and manufacturing quality. But some of those same improvements also lead to higher repairs costs.
Let’s take the fuel pump. Previous generations were often stranded by the side of the road by vapor lock. This occurred when the gas vaporized between the gas tank and the fuel pump. Fuel just stopped flowing. Des Moines drivers in this situation had to sit and wait until the car would start again. To alleviate the problem, fuel pumps are now located inside the gas tank. This is a great solution, but when the fuel pump fails, it’s a much more pricey to replace it.
Sealed wheel bearing assemblies are another example. These wheel bearings can’t be serviced – you just have to replace the entire assembly when it starts to fail. That costs several times as much as service on non-sealed bearings.
So we all benefit in Des Moines, IA from design improvements, but we need to plan for important repairs down the road.
There’s a tool that can be found on Edmunds.com that Des Moines folks can use to prepare their service and repair budget.
Let’s suppose you have a 2003 Toyota Camry – a very popular car in Des Moines, IA. It’s now paid for and you’d like to keep it running for the next three years. You can go to Edmunds’ True Cost to Own calculator and enter your vehicle’s data. The calculator will provide estimates of what it’ll cost to service and repair your vehicle over the next five years. The estimate is based on where you live in or near Des Moines, IA, your auto manufacturer’s recommendations and repair experience for your particular model.
Of course these are just estimates – there’s no way to predict what’ll actually happen to the car in your driveway, but it’s a good starting point.
The calculator also has estimates for depreciation, financing, insurance, taxes and fuel costs.
Let’s focus on maintenance and repair. This table shows that the average monthly cost of maintenance and repairs is eighty-three dollars. That may sound like a lot, but compare it to a new car payment.
So if you set aside eighty-three dollars a month, you’d go a long ways towards taking care of routine maintenance and being prepared for the unexpected repairs that arise.
Of course, you can’t predict when something will go wrong or how pricey it will be, but at least you have a reasonable target to shoot for.
Some Des Moines motorists are afraid of what can go wrong with their older minivan so they buy a new one. That’s fine if you really want a new minivan, but if you properly maintain your older vehicle, you’ll save a lot of income on new car payments and IA auto insurance. It just makes good economic sense.
Get with your technician at Des Moine BDG and work out a plan for keeping your minivan on the road.
You can visit Des Moine BDG at 2222 East Douglas Ave in Des Moines, IA 50313 or just give us a call at 1.800.LET.NAPA.
Serpentine Belt Service At Des Moine BDG In Des Moines
If you’ve ever heard a squealing sound under your minivan hood, chances are it was your serpentine belt. Your serpentine belt is a long belt that’s driven by your engine. It winds around several accessories that power important automotive systems in your minivan. Let’s go over them.
First, the serpentine belt drives your air conditioning system. It spins the compressor that makes the cool air that takes the edge off the summer heat in Des Moines.
More importantly, the belt powers the alternator. The alternator creates electricity that’s used by your minivan’s electrical systems and also charges your car battery. Without the alternator, the battery will go dead in a few miles.
The serpentine belt may also run the pumps for both the power steering (some are electric) and power brakes (some use vacuum boost).
And, on most minivans, the serpentine belt powers the water pump. The water pump circulates coolant through the engine to keep it within optimal operating temperatures. On some Des Moines cars, the water pump is powered by the timing belt instead of the serpentine belt.
When they understand what it does, Des Moines drivers realize that if it breaks, it affects a lot of systems. That’s why auto makers outline recommended replacement guidelines in the owners manuals. If this important maintenance component is not included in your owners manual, come see us at Des Moine BDG.
At Des Moine BDG in Des Moines, your service advisor can perform a visual inspection of the belt to see if it has any cracks that signal the belt could fail soon. If the belt has more than three or four cracks every inch, has deep cracks that penetrate half the depth of the belt, is frayed, is missing pieces or has a shiny glazed look, it needs to be replaced regardless of age or mileage.
If it has lost a significant amount of thickness, it also needs to be replaced. There’s a special spring-loaded pulley attached to the engine called the tensioner pulley. Its job is to make sure there’s a constant tension on the serpentine belt so that it doesn’t slip. The spring can become worn and no longer provide the necessary pressure to keep the belt tight. At Des Moine BDG, we recommend that the tensioner be replaced at the same time as the serpentine belt.
As mentioned, a squealing sound could alert you that the serpentine belt needs to be replaced. It may be loose if you hear a slow, slapping sound when idling your minivan.
All in all, the serpentine belt’s is critical to the operation of your minivan. And it’s not that expensive to replace at Des Moine BDG – so it’s good to do so before it fails.
Clean Air for Your Engine: Engine Air Filters In Des Moines
Every Des Moines car owner who has taken their car in for an oil change has been told that their engine air filter’s dirty.
Here’s what goes into the determination of when to change the filter: First, your minivan owner’s manual will have a recommendation of when to change the filter. Second, a visual inspection by your Altoona technician may determine that your filter it is visibly dirty and needs to be changed.
So between your owner’s manual and your Altoona technician’s inspection there’s really no guesswork involved.
Now, most air filters purchased in Ankeny, Berwick, or Grimes don’t cost a lot to replace. It’s just that IA people hate getting caught with an unexpected expense. On the plus side, though, changing a dirty air filter at Des Moine BDG can often save enough on gas to pay for itself before your next oil change in Altoona.
Think about a dirty furnace filter in your Berwick home. When it’s all clogged up, enough clean air can’t get through. In your minivan, that means that your engine can’t get as much air as it needs to burn the fuel efficiently. So it makes do with less air and has to use more expensive IA gas to move your vehicle around Altoona roads.
Your minivan actually needs about 12,000 gallons of air for every gallon of gas it burns. Engine air filters don’t cost much in Des Moines at Des Moine BDG. When it’s time to change yours, just get it done. You’ll buy less fuel, have better performance and protect your engine.
Des Moine BDG: Why Replace Your Engine Air Filter?
Just as our bodies need clean air to function properly, your minivan engine needs clean air to operate efficiently. Let’s go egghead for a minute. For every gallon of gas we burn driving on IA interstates, twenty pounds of carbon dioxide comes out the tailpipe. Question: how can a gallon of gas that weighs a little over six pounds produce twenty pounds of carbon dioxide?
The answer is that the carbon comes from the gasoline, but the oxygen comes from the air. You see, it takes about twelve thousand gallons of air to burn a gallon of gas in your engine. Clearly, your minivan needs a lot of air to keep going in Ankeny. A lot of clean air is best.
You’ve seen the pictures of people in Japan wearing face masks. They want some kind of filter to keep unwanted pollution and germs out of their lungs. Well, your minivan also works better when its internals are clean. When your minivan air filter’s dirty, it simply can’t trap any more dirt, so the pollutants just pass through into your air intake system. From there it can clog your fuel injectors and even get into the motor itself. Not surprisingly, burning dust and pollen in your minivan engine does you no good.
So, we’re talking potential damage for Altoona drivers. But another big thing is wasted fuel. Your minivan engine management computer tries to mix the correct amount of air in with the fuel. If the filter’s clogged, there isn’t enough air for the optimal fuel to air mix and that really messes with fuel economy.
In fact, replacing a dirty air filter at Des Moine BDG in Des Moines can improve your fuel economy by up to ten percent. At today’s Ankeny fuel prices, you should be able to pay for a new air filter before your next oil change.
The verdict: When your minivan engine air filter needs to be replaced; it needs to be replaced. How often depends entirely on the level of air pollution where you drive in IA. A simple visual inspection at Des Moine BDG will tell you when you need a new engine air filter.
When you look at the air filter on your furnace at home and see it’s all clogged up with dust and dirt, you don’t hesitate to replace it. When your Des Moine BDG service advisor shows you your nasty engine air filter, you now know why you should go ahead and replace it.
Des Moine BDG On Your Serpentine Belt
Today we’re going to be talking about serpentine belts for our Des Moines, IA customers. Let’s start by talking about the accessories that are driven by the serpentine belt. First is the alternator. That’s the device that makes electricity to power the minivan and recharge the battery. Then there’s the air conditioning compressor that makes cool air for you while you’re driving around IA in the summer.
The power steering and power brake pumps are driven by the serpentine belt in most vehicles. Those pumps provide pressure that assists your steering and braking.
In many minivans, the water pump is driven by the serpentine belt. The water pump is what circulates the coolant that protects your engine. In some cars around Des Moines, IA, the water pump is driven by the timing belt.
The radiator cooling fans on some minivans are also driven by the serpentine belt. Some have separate electric motors. That’s really a lot of work for one belt.
But modern engine design has a single belt that snakes around the front of the engine and drives most if not all of these accessories. Serpentine belts do a lot of work, but they’re tough and can last for thousands of miles.
Just how long will they last? That’ll vary for each individual car in the Des Moines, IA area. Your car maker will have a recommendation for when it should be changed, but it could need it sooner. The good news is that a visual inspection at Des Moine BDG can detect a belt that’s getting close to failing.
Your helpful Des Moine BDG service specialist can look at the belt: if it has more than three or four cracks per inch, it needs to be replaced. A deep crack that’s more than half the depth of the belt – replace. Frayed, missing pieces, a shiny glazed look? Toss it.
What’s involved in replacing the belt at Des Moine BDG? First the old belt is removed. Then a new one is fitted around all the pulleys for the accessories and the drive. There’s a special pulley called a tensioner.
This pulley is mounted to the engine block with a spring loaded arm. Its job is to apply the correct amount of tension to the belt to keep it from getting loose and maybe slipping off. Because the spring in the tensioner pulley wears out, AutoNetTV and the automotive professionals at Des Moine BDG recommend replacing them at the same time as the belt. It just makes sense.
What are the warning signs that there’s a problem with the serpentine belt? You may hear a squealing sound from under the hood when accelerating around our Des Moines streets. A loose belt might give you a slow, slapping sound.
What do you do if your belt breaks? If you’ve actually had that happen on a busy Altoona interstate, it can be a little scary. The first thing Des Moines auto owners usually notice is that they have no power steering or power brakes. Don’t panic – you can still steer and brake, but you’ll have to do the work. It’ll be harder to steer and you’ll need more time and effort to stop, so plan accordingly.
Your dashboard will light up will all kinds of warnings. You’ll see a warning about your cooling system if you have a water pump that’s driven by the serpentine belt. This is very critical because without your cooling system working, your engine will overheat. If you don’t stop you’ll have massive engine damage, maybe to the point that you need a new engine. Open your windows and turn the heater on full blast to provide a little engine cooling. Pull over as quickly as you safely can!
The battery light will come on because the alternator isn’t working. If your car’s water pump isn’t driven by the serpentine belt, you’re not in danger of overheating so you can drive a little further if necessary. But the battery will run down to the point where the car will just shut off. You don’t want that to happen while you’re driving in our local Des Moines, IA traffic.
Remember, you can avoid this stressful scenario if you replace your minivan serpentine belt on schedule. Ask your helpful Des Moine BDG service specialist to check your belts and hoses from time to time so you can take care of them if they need to be replaced prematurely.
Des Moine BDG
2222 East Douglas Ave
Des Moines, IA 50313