Important Auto News

Spiteri's Complete Auto Service

"Current" Affairs (Blown Fuses)

You may be driving along and find that suddenly your radio stops working.  There are no numbers on the display.  Then when you get home, you notice the garage door opener doesn't do a thing when you press the button. Hmm, this was working just fine this morning.  Are the two problems somehow related?

 

No, your vehicle doesn't need an exorcism. This has all the signs of an electrical issue, and when you experience symptoms like those, you've probably blown a fuse.  Most vehicles have fuses just like most houses have circuit breakers (some houses still have fuses). They cut the power when it reaches a pre-determined threshold that could cause major damage if it was allowed to continue.  You might say fuses take one for the team.

Most modern automotive fuses are plastic with a thin strip of metal in them designed to melt when a calibrated amount of power passes through.  The philosophy is it's better for an inexpensive fuse to be destroyed than your sound system or your engine's main computer.

It can be tricky to figure out what fuse has blown and why.  Modern vehicles have many computerized electronic components; they can easily be damaged if too much electricity gets to the wrong spot.  At Spiteri's Auto Service in Belmont, we have technicians trained to trace which fuse has blown and why.

While sometimes a simple fuse replacement will fix the problem, other times there may be some other electrical component that has failed, causing the circuit overload.  Our technicians have special equipment to track down where the power problems are, get to the root of the problem and fix it at the source.

Keep in mind, fuses are there to protect your vehicle. And when they shut down your radio, garage door opener, vanity mirror or anything else, just be thankful they're doing their job. They may have saved you from a much more expensive repair. They've sent an important signal to you about your electrical system.  That's why it's good to keep up with "current" affairs.

Spiteri's Auto Service
292 OLD COUNTY RD
Belmont, CA 94002
650-593-4758
http://carsupport.com

Automotive Tips from Spiteri's Auto Service: When to Replace a Damaged Tire

Repair or Replace? That’s a question Belmont drivers ask when they have tire damage. Some punctures cannot be repaired because of their size or location. Punctures larger than a quarter of an inch (6.4 mm) are considered too large to be safely repaired. Punctures in the sidewall or near the shoulders may not be able to be repaired. And sometimes there is internal damage revealed on inspection that indicates the tire should not be repaired.

Run flat tires should not be repaired. Repairing high performance tires may make them unsuitable for motorsports. Your friendly and professional Spiteri's Auto Service service advisor can inspect your damaged tire and tell you if it can be safely repaired or if it should be replaced - and then help you get back on the roads around Belmont.

Give us a call.

Spiteri's Auto Service
292 OLD COUNTY RD
Belmont, CA 94002
650-593-4758
http://carsupport.com

Stay Safe in Belmont by Putting Your Cell Phone on ICE

We don't want to think about it, but each Belmont resident who drives or rides in a vehicle is potentially an accident victim. In the worst-case scenario, those people are unconscious and unable to communicate with CA rescue workers.

Rescue workers and Belmont police are well aware of this difficulty, even if the rest of us don't stop to think about it. They can all recount stories of searching through glove compartments, pockets, wallets, purses and cell phone directories for a person's name and for contact information for someone who can help them get the person the medical care they need.

This contact information is critical in an accident because Belmont medical workers need to know about allergies and potential drug interactions. Also, in CA, some medical treatments can't be provided without authorization or consent, and there can be insurance and billing issues if the person's medical care is not properly arranged.

ICE provides a solution for these concerns. ICE stands for In Case of Emergency and is a way for others to quickly identify emergency contacts in your cell phone.

Bob Brotchie, a paramedic from Cambridge, England, developed the idea for ICE in 2005. It soon spread around the globe. The system is simple, affordable and highly functional. Belmont rescue workers can tell you that they can't always find purses and wallets at the scene of an accident. But these days, almost no one in CA goes anywhere without their phone.

To add ICE to your phone, simply put ICE in front of the names of those people who should be contacted in case you are in an emergency. For example, “ICE-Dad,” or “Ice-Deborah,” or “ICE-Dr. Mitchell.” Belmont rescuers can quickly identify and access this information, saving valuable time. The only thing Belmont drivers have to do after that is to keep their contacts current. Every time you change the batteries in your smoke alarm, it is a good idea to double-check your phone and make sure your ICE cell phone numbers are up-to-date. Of course, we'd rather avoid an accident in the first place. It's good advice to keep up with preventive maintenance (we can help you with that at Spiteri's Auto Service in Belmont) and practice good car care and driving habits. Those can go a long way to keeping you safe on the road. Planning for the unthinkable helps your rescuers find the information they need quickly. Let's put the world on ICE.

 Spiteri's Auto Service
292 OLD COUNTY RD
Belmont, CA 94002
650-593-4758
http://carsupport.com

 

 

Lean Times (Shocks and Springs)

You may have noticed your vehicle going through lean times.  By that, we mean it's literally leaning to one side.  When you notice that, you should get it checked out at your service facility soon because you could have a serious problem.

Many things can cause a vehicle to lean.  You may have problems with your struts, shocks or springs.  They all work in tandem to make your ride more comfortable.  The struts bear the weight of the vehicle's body, the shock absorbers employ a piston that keeps your tires in contact with the road and controls movement of the vehicle's body.  Springs also absorb impacts from uneven road surfaces.

If these components get stuck, either too high or too low, they cause your vehicle to lean.  That's because that side of the vehicle isn't at the height it is designed to be.  A technician will determine where the problem is.  Outside elements such as moisture plus hard knocks to these components can weaken them, eventually resulting in a failure.  The metal can get so fatigued that it breaks.  Often when one side of a vehicle is too high or too low, your service advisor will advise you to have the other side done as well.  That's because if only one side has new parts installed, it won't be level with the side that has old parts. 

There are a couple of other reasons vehicles can lean.  One is that the suspension can be bent or the chassis twisted, again due to wear and tear by driving on rough roads, over badly maintained railroad tracks or in deep potholes. 

Another reason your vehicle may lean is that the tires and/or wheels aren't all the same size.  Or one side might have drastically over or underinflated tires.  This can be a dangerous condition since the imbalance can affect steering and handling.

Considering what drivers put suspension parts, tires and wheels through, it's not surprising that they can be punished so much that they don't hold up like we want them to.  A level-headed driver will make sure to be driving a level vehicle by making sure these components are maintained in good condition.

Spiteri's Auto Service
292 OLD COUNTY RD
Belmont, CA 94002
650-593-4758
http://carsupport.com

Drivers that "T" Us Off (Bad Driving Practices)

We've all seen drivers who do things that—let's be frank—really irritate us.  They're inconsiderate, can put people in danger and make the road a much less friendly place.  They really "T" us off.  These are the bad drivers who fit their description to a "T." 

  • The Tailgater.  You've seen this terrible driver who follows a few inches off the bumper of the vehicle ahead.  We all know what's going to happen if the driver ahead of the tailgater has to slam on the brakes.  And we've all been that driver followed by the tailgater, whose vehicle fills up your entire rearview mirror.  The tailgater is likely not in a great frame of mind and, thanks to his or her stupid driving practices, the "tailgatee" is getting pretty ticked off as well.  That's a formula for a big problem. Know anybody who respects or likes a tailgater? Didn't think so
  • The Texter. All sorts of people think they are perfectly capable of texting while driving.  It's not hard to spot them.  They're usually going more slowly than other drivers.  They may be weaving in and out of their lane.  They're looking down at their phone, not at the road.  At a stoplight, they're the ones who sit there for 30 seconds after the light has turned green.  Did you know a recent study found that a quarter of all accidents involve someone who is texting and driving?
  • The Trasher.  Their window goes down and the trash flies out.  They treat anything outside their vehicle as their personal garbage dump.  They finish up a cigarette and flick their butt out, leaving dozens a day for the rest of us to "admire." The Trasher has been around for a long time.  It's time for them to clean up their act.
  • The Turn-signal Troublemaker. They don't think they need to use turn signals because THEY know where THEY'RE going and no other driver needs that information.  They change lanes without any warning.  Or they made their move minutes earlier and have "forgotten" to turn off their signal.  Use those turn signals wisely and carefully.  And if you're not using your turn signals because they're not operating correctly? Get 'em fixed!

Spiteri's Auto Service
292 OLD COUNTY RD
Belmont, CA 94002
650-593-4758
http://carsupport.com

Your Vehicle is Talking to YOU (Service Warning Signs)

Your vehicle may be like that famous battery bunny, the one that just keeps going and going.  But while it may seem sometimes like you never need to take your vehicle in to be worked on, there are some things you should keep your eyes, ears and nose out for. They are warning you about something that needs attention at your vehicle service facility.

  • If a warning light is on, don't ignore it; do something about it.  There are warning lights for battery, oil, engine heat, tire pressure… you name it.  And the manufacturer put them there for a reason.  They're telling you something isn't normal. So when one goes on, have it checked out soon, especially the blinking Check Engine light.  The earlier you have any warning light issue diagnosed, the more likely you are to avoid a more serious problem.
  • If your vehicle is vibrating or shaking, it's not only annoying, it could signal trouble.  You can bet your vehicle didn't do that when it came out of the factory! If you can feel a vibration in the seat of your pants or shaking in the steering wheel, head on over to your service facility and have them diagnose what is causing it.
  • Smoke coming out of anywhere in your vehicle is a signal (smoke signal, get it?) that there may be a troubling issue.  Likewise if you can smell something burning (like oil), the nose knows there's something amiss.  Time to find out what.
  • If you aren't getting the distance you used to out of a tank of gas, it may not simply be your lead foot. A lot of vehicles will give you a digital readout of your latest mileage.  If your fuel economy takes a dip, take a trip over to your service facility.  You might have a sticky brake caliper… or it might be something as simple as your tires need more air.
  • Yes, you know the dreaded puddle of something under your vehicle can be a bad sign.  It could smell sweet, it could feel oily.  But it means something is leaking.  Go get it checked.  Sooner is better when it comes to locating the source of a leak.
  • If your brake pedal travels further than it used to while stopping, that could be compromising your ability to stop safely.  Also, if the brakes are making odd sounds, pulsating, grinding or squealing, they're screaming at you for attention.  Proper braking is a must for your safety and those drivers around you.

An old 80s TV show called "Knight Rider" featured a talking car.  You already have a vehicle that's telling you things all the time.  Give it a listen and it will keep you going safely down the road for many years to come.

Spiteri's Auto Service
292 OLD COUNTY RD
Belmont, CA 94002
650-593-4758
http://carsupport.com

No Strain, No Gain (The Basics of Oil Filters)

Ever wonder what one of the best things is to ever happen to your vehicle's engine?  It's the little thing that usually looks like a can, the oil filter.

Just like your kitchen sink strainer filters out errant particles of food from clogging your drain, the oil filter cleans out small particles that could cause your engine harm.

Your engine operates in a dirty, hot environment and gathers a lot of tiny contaminants like dirt, dust, little metal shards and unlucky bugs that get sucked in.  Get those things circulating in your engine and those little particles can cause friction, which starts wearing out those finely machined metal parts. 

You know how important it is to change your oil regularly.  It's vital that you change your oil filter at the same time to keep the oil as close to brand new as possible.

Most oil filters look like a metal can with some holes in the bottom.  Inside there are carefully chosen materials that can screen out the contaminants while at the same time allow the lubricating oil to pass through.  Early oil filters had steel wool, metal mesh or actual screens.  Then they tried fabric filters using material such as linen and cotton.  Finally, a less expensive disposable filter using paper and cellulose did the trick.

Cellulose or other synthetic media are used in most oil filters today.  Cellulose is inexpensive and effective.  Fibers filter out particulates and let the oil flow.  The other synthetic media have the ability to screen out even tinier particles while not significantly restricting the oil from getting through.  Engineers continue to work on even more advanced filter material.

Choosing the right oil filter is something our pros at Spiteri's Auto Service can help you with  because there are a lot of them out there.  Factoring into that decision are your driving habits, how far you drive and the temperatures to which your engine will be subjected.  While some filters will cost more than others, they may be worth it to extend the life of your engine. 

But most important is remembering to come have your oil changed at Spiteri's Auto Service regularly at the intervals recommended by the vehicle's manufacturer. Just like you wouldn't want to have a plumber come over to fix a clogged kitchen drain, you certainly wouldn't want to have to pay for major engine repairs if they could be prevented by regular oil and filter changes.


Spiteri's Auto Service
292 OLD COUNTY RD
Belmont, CA 94002
650-593-4758
http://carsupport.com

PCV Valve: What Is It?

Most Belmont 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. Belmont 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 Spiteri's Auto Service.

The PCV system reduces harmful vehicle emissions. The maintenance it requires is simple and inexpensive at Spiteri's Auto Service. A fouled or damaged PCV system can lead to serious engine damage for Belmont drivers.

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

Spiteri's Auto Service
292 OLD COUNTY RD
Belmont, CA 94002
650-593-4758
http://carsupport.com

Engine Air Filter from Spiteri's Auto Service

Many Belmont drivers have found themselves in the following situation: They go to get their oil changed and their friendly service advisor at Spiteri's Auto Service recommends a new engine air filter. They say yes, but don't know what an air filter is or what it does.

If this has happened to you, rest assured that you did the right thing by getting a new one. But you should never be too embarrassed to ask your Spiteri's Auto Service service advisor for more information. It's your vehicle and you have a right to understand what you're paying for.

Let's review: "What does an air filter do?"

Air is the focus of this discussion. What is the air like outside in Belmont right now? Can you see any smog? Is it full of pollen? How about dust? Anyone in CA with hay fever can tell you that there's plenty in the air that you can't see. Well, the engine air filter's job is to clean that air before it goes into your vehicle engine, to mix with the fuel and be burned. Without an engine air filter, the inside of your vehicle engine would be extremely dirty from all the gunk that was burned in the cylinders.

In fact, your engine needs 12,000 times as much air as fuel for it to run. That little filter does a very big job. It's no wonder that the air filter gets dirty and needs to be replaced. Think about a vacuum cleaner. When the bag gets full of dust and dirt, the vacuum doesn't clean as well. It can't move enough air to create good suction. A clogged engine air filter is the same way - the vehicle engine can't get enough air to burn the fuel efficiently. That means less power and reduced fuel economy.

That's why your owner's manual has recommended that you change your filter at regular intervals. Of course the Belmont conditions you drive in will affect how quickly the filter gets dirty. If you drive in CA where it's very dusty or where there's lots of pollen or pollution, you may need to change the filter sooner. The filter is easy to check visually, so your friendly and knowledgeable Spiteri's Auto Service service advisor can quickly make the call. He might recommend immediate replacement or simply let you know that it is getting close and that you'll need to replace it soon - like at your next oil change.

Because a severely dirty vehicle air filter hurts your vehicle, many Belmont residents find that a new air filter pays for itself in better fuel economy before the next oil change. They also make premium air filters that have been proven to increase your horsepower and torque. If more power is important to you, a high performance air filter is some of the cheapest horsepower you can buy.

The better your car breathes, the better it runs - kind of like people. And don't worry - if you have a question or don't understand a recommendation just ask your Spiteri's Auto Service service advisor.

Spiteri's Auto Service
292 OLD COUNTY RD
Belmont, CA 94002
650-593-4758
http://carsupport.com

 

Time Out: Suspension Problems in Belmont

Your vehicle's suspension system has two jobs: to prevent the passengers from getting tossed around inside the vehicle every time it hits a bump in the road and to keep the tires firmly planted on the road around every corner and over every bump.

To see your suspension system, you'll have to look under your vehicle. Anything that connects the wheels to the vehicle's frame is part of the suspension system. They're heavy-duty parts that work hard while you're driving and take a lot of wear and tear. Because of this, you should have your technician at Spiteri's Auto Service look at them once a year as part of your preventive maintenance routine. A good time for it is every time you get your alignment checked.

If your suspension is in trouble, you often feel it in how your vehicle drives. You should get a check of your suspension system: if the vehicle pulls to one side or wanders, if the steering is erratic, if your ride isn't as smooth as it should be, or if your vehicle handles poorly. Uneven tire wear can also indicate worn parts in your suspension system. If your shocks are leaking oil then they definitely need to be replaced. All in all, if you don't feel in control when you're driving, go get your suspension inspected.

Shocks and struts wear out. Wheel bearings may need to be repacked every few years. Some parts of your suspension may need to be lubricated whenever you change your oil. Preventive maintenance is the key to keeping your vehicle under control. Good care can prevent accidents for Belmont drivers.

If you are in an accident, even a minor one, it can damage your suspension system or knock your wheels out of alignment. Even hitting a curb, pothole or large rock can damage your suspension. A wheel balancing or alignment won't correct a suspension problem, and after any suspension work, you may need to get an alignment.

At Spiteri's Auto Service, we advise Belmont drivers never to procrastinate on getting their suspension system repaired. A damaged suspension system can lead to loss of control of a vehicle in an emergency situation and serious accidents.

Potholes are unsightly nuisances around Belmont, but they're also a major cause of suspension damage for Belmont vehicles. To avoid this, Belmont drivers should always keep their tires properly inflated. This gives the tires maximum resiliency. When you're driving around the Belmont area, avoid potholes if possible. If you can't avoid one, then slow down before driving over it. Slower speeds limit pothole damage. But if you're a little late detecting a pothole, don't brake on top of it. This will throw the vehicle's weight forward and increase the damage.

The suspension system may not be pretty to look at, but it provides you with a safe, comfortable ride — as long as you maintain it properly. You don't have to show it off, but you should be proud of it.

Spiteri's Auto Service
292 OLD COUNTY RD
Belmont, CA 94002
650-593-4758
http://carsupport.com

 

How Your Check Engine Light Works



Have you ever had an experience like this in Belmont, CA? You drive through the one of those automatic car washes. When you get to the end, where the dryer is blowing, your Check Engine light starts flashing!

You fear the worst, but within a block or two, the light stops flashing, but stays on. By the next day, the light is off.

You wonder; "What was going on?" Well, it's actually a good lesson in how the Check Engine light works.

Your air intake system has a sensor that measures how much air is coming through it. When you went under the high-speed dryer, all that air was blasting past the sensor. Your engine computer was saying, there shouldn't be that much air when the engine is just idling. Something's wrong. Whatever's wrong could cause some serious engine damage.

Warning, warning! It flashes the Check Engine light to alert you to take immediate action.

It stopped flashing because once you were out from under the dryer, the airflow returned to normal. Now the engine control computer says the danger is past, but I'm still concerned, I'll keep this light on for now.

Then the Check Engine light goes off in a day or two.

The condition never did recur, so the computer says whatever it was, it's gone now. The danger is past, I'll turn that light off.

Now a flashing Check Engine light is serious. You need to get it into Spiteri's Auto Service as soon as possible. But if it stops flashing you can wait a few days, so you have time to see if the problem will clear itself or if you need to get it checked. How does the computer know when to clear itself?

Think of it this way. The engine control computer is the brain that can make adjustments to manage the engine. Things like alter the air-to- fuel mix, spark advance and so on. The computer relies on a series of sensors to get the information it needs to make decisions on what to do.

The computer knows what readings are in a normal range for various conditions. Get out of range, and it logs a trouble code and lights up the Check Engine warning.

The computer will then try to make adjustments if it can. If the computer can't compensate for the problem, the Check Engine light stays on.

The computer logs a trouble code. Some people think the code will tell the technician exactly what's wrong.

Actually, the code will tell the technician what sensor reading is out of parameters. It can't really tell him why, because there could be any number of causes.

Let's say you're feeling hot. You get your heat sensor out – a thermometer – put it under our tongue and in a minute or two you learn that you have a fever of 104 degrees F (40 degrees C).

You know your symptom – a fever – but you don't know what's causing it. Is it the flu, a sinus infection or appendicitis?

You need more information than just that one sensor reading. But it does give you a place to start and narrows down the possible problems.

There are reports on the internet telling you that you can just go down to an auto parts store and get them to read your trouble code or buy a cheap scan tool to do it yourself.

There are two problems with that. First, the computer stores some trouble codes in short term memory and some in permanent memory. Each manufacturer's computer stores generic trouble codes, but they also store codes that are specific to their brand.

A cheap, generic scan tool, like you can buy online or that the auto parts store uses, doesn't have the ability to retrieve long-term storage or manufacturer specific codes. Your Belmont, CA, service center has spent a lot of money on high-end scan tools and software to do a deep retrieval of information from your engine control computer.

The second problem is that once you've got the information, do you know what to do with it? For example, a very common trouble code comes up when the reading on the oxygen sensor is out of whack.

So the common solution is for the auto parts store to sell you a new oxygen sensor — which is not cheap — and send you off on your way. Now your oxygen sensor may indeed have been bad and needed replacing. But the error code could have come from any of a dozen of other problems.

How do you know the right solution? Back to the fever analogy, do you need surgery or an aspirin? Leave it to the pros at Spiteri's Auto Service. Give us a call and let us help you resolve your check engine light issue.

Spiteri's Auto Service
292 OLD COUNTY RD
Belmont, CA 94002
650-593-4758
http://carsupport.com

Too Hot to Handle (Vehicle Overheating)

In the hot weather, seeing steam coming from the engine compartment is something we all dread.  No one wants that to happen to them. But if you know the signs of overheating and how to deal with it, you may be able to reduce the risk of damage to your vehicle, maybe even prevent getting stranded on the road.

Besides the steam coming out of the engine compartment, here are a few signs of overheating.  Your vehicle has a heat gauge that may have a needle that can go into a red zone or up to the "H" (for High) position.  You may smell odors, perhaps a burning (could be hot oil) or a sweet smell (engine coolant leaking). 

When you encounter any of those signs, you know you have to do something to keep the engine as cool as possible to avoid potentially catastrophic damage.  Turn off the air conditioning and turn up the heat.  While that last part may sound odd, it helps draw heat out of the engine. 

If you can do it safely, pull off the road to a spot away from traffic.  Turn off the engine so it can cool down for a few minutes.  You may want to call for help at this point, then switch on the key to "accessory" position to see if the engine has cooled down to the normal range.  You may have to have your car towed to a service facility or, if there's one nearby, you may be able to slowly drive to it.  But keep your eye on the heat gauge and immediately stop if it starts to overheat again. 

The best hedge against engine overheating is regular maintenance.  When the cooling system and other engine components are working like they should, your chances of an overheated engine are drastically reduced.  Your service facility will keep their eyes open for leaking hoses, cracked belts, rusted pipes and other things so they don't fail at the most inopportune time.

Spiteri's Auto Service
292 OLD COUNTY RD
Belmont, CA 94002
650-593-4758
http://carsupport.com

Hey Belmont Drivers, How Many Miles Are on Your Car?



Nowadays, Belmont drivers are paying more at CA gas pumps. For some families it adds up to several hundred dollars every month. That's got to come out of the budget somewhere. This is one of the reasons many CA drivers are putting off buying a new car. They plan on keeping their old vehicle for a year or two longer than before.

Even now, 2/3 of the personal vehicles on our local Belmont, CA, roads have over 75,000 miles (120,000 kilometers) on them. The average age of vehicles is over nine years. And most people in the Belmont area can't afford to be stranded or inconvenienced by a breakdown. So following a regular maintenance schedule, like personal diet and exercise plans, is actually critical to preserving your investment.

Determining what to do for a higher-mileage vehicle can be challenging because many owner's manuals don't publish service intervals after 60,000 miles (100,000 kilometers). Thus, Belmont drivers need to be better at keeping records and planning for preventive maintenance.

You can start by figuring that services with a recommended interval should still be performed on that interval, even after you're past the tables in your service manual. For example, a service might be recommended every 15,000 miles (24,000 kilometers). Well, just keep doing it every 15,000 miles (24,000 kilometers) for as long as you have your car.

Now higher mileage engines operate under more stress. Some CA automotive experts suggest that the severe service schedule is more appropriate and that routine service should be performed at shorter intervals. Check with your owners' manual or service advisor at Spiteri's Auto Service to see if the severe service schedule is right for your vehicle.

And keeping current with your full-service oil change schedule is important for a couple of reasons. First, older engines have had more time to build up oil sludge. Skipping an oil change here and there can really compound the problem for your vehicle.

Another equally important reason is that your other fluids are routinely checked and topped off. Power steering fluid, brake fluid, coolant and transmission fluid can be kept at optimal levels even though the older seals and gaskets are leaking more than when they were new.

And speaking of older seals and gaskets: they start to dry out and become more brittle with age. You may want to consider using high mileage formulation oil and fluids. These products contain  additives to condition seals and gaskets to keep them from leaking. The high mileage formulations cost more than standard products, but they are well worth it in terms of preventing serious repair bills down the road.

Older vehicles in the Belmont, CA, area need repairs and replacements that newer ones don't: things like timing belts, radiator hoses, suspension work, anti-lock brakes, air bags, water pumps, alternators and batteries. That may seem like a lot of stuff to have done, but it works out to be cheaper than new car payments.

With a high-mileage vehicle, a couple of relationships will become pretty important to Belmont drivers. The first is with your service advisor at Spiteri's Auto Service. You need someone you trust to take care of your car and be mindful of your needs. Ask for help to develop a plan to keep your vehicle road-worthy that works within your budget and for the Belmont, CA, area driving conditions. 


The next relationship is with your vehicle itself. We're not talking about naming your car or tucking it in at night. We just mean - pay attention and get to know your vehicle. Notice unusual sounds, smells, vibrations, etc. Then you can describe the changes to your service advisor at Spiteri's Auto Service and head off problems. We can't do anything about the price of gas, but we can properly maintain Old Faithful to keep it safely and economically on the local Belmont roads.

Spiteri's Auto Service
292 OLD COUNTY RD
Belmont, CA 94002
650-593-4758
http://carsupport.com

Defensive Driving in Belmont, CA


 

There was a man in the Belmont area who learned that most car accidents occur within a mile of home – so he moved. (Just kidding!)

When we think of defensive driving, we often focus on our local CA highway situations. The fact of the matter is we need to be just as careful close to home in Belmont, because that's where we do most of our driving. We can't let our familiar surroundings keep us from driving defensively.

Defensive driving begins with the proper attitude. Have in mind that you won't let anyone take your safety away from you. You'll be aware of your surroundings, road conditions, other vehicles and hazards. And the first person to be concerned with is you: start with your own environment.

Don't leave without securing all occupants including children and pets. Watch for loose items that can become projectiles during evasive maneuvers.

Driving too fast or too slow increases the chance of an accident.

Never drive impaired: Alcohol is a factor in half of all fatal crashes. Never drink and drive.

Other impairments include being sleepy, angry, daydreaming or talking. If you suddenly wonder how you got where you are – you're not paying enough attention.

Keep your windows clean and uncluttered. No fuzzy dice and stickers.

Keep your car in good shape so that it handles properly: Maintain tires, lights, brakes, suspension, wheel alignment and steering.

Always use your turn signals while driving around Belmont, CA. Avoid other vehicles' blind spots.

Don't drive faster than your headlights – if you can't stop within the distance you can see, you're going too fast.

Avoid driving over debris in the road. Even harmless looking items can cause damage or an accident.

Keep your wheels straight when waiting to turn at an intersection in Belmont . That way if you're hit from behind, your car won't be pushed into on-coming traffic.

My daddy always said that when you drive, you're actually driving five cars: yours, the one in front, the one behind and the ones on either side. You can't trust that other drivers will do the right thing, so you've got to be aware of what they're doing at all times.

If you see another car driving erratically, weaving, crossing lanes, etc., stay back. Take the next right turn if you're downtown Belmont, or take the next exit on the CA highway. Notify the police if you see someone driving dangerously in our Belmont community.

Never follow too close. The minimum distance is the two second rule. Pick a landmark ahead, like a tree or road marker. When the car in front of you passes it, start counting: 'one-one-thousand, two-one-thousand.' If you pass the landmark before reaching two-one-thousand, you're following too close.

Remember that the two second rule is the minimum – it assumes you're alert and aware. Three seconds is safer. Move out to five seconds or more if it's foggy or rainy.

Someone will inevitably move into your forward safety zone – just drop back and keep a safe distance.

If someone follows you too closely, just move over.

Don't play chicken by contesting your right of way or race to beat someone to a merge. Whoever loses that contest has the potential to lose big and you don't want any part of that. So stay alert, constantly scan around your car and arrive safely.

Spiteri's Auto Service
292 OLD COUNTY RD
Belmont, CA 94002
650-593-4758
http://carsupport.com

If You Drive Like a Maniac (Aggressive Driving is Bad for a Vehicle)

When someone mentions driving like a maniac, they're not talking about you, surely? Besides the safety issues of aggressive driving, you should know that your vehicle will last a lot longer if you'll just mellow out a little.  Here are four traits good drivers follow if they want their vehicles to go the extra distance.

Cool—The driver who can't wait to get to the next stoplight is just shortening the life of his or her vehicle.  Jackrabbit starts and uneven acceleration hurts your engine because the valves and cylinder heads are stressed more.  All of those moving parts will wear out faster as well as other components that are connected.  That means things like the air conditioner, power steering pump… just about anything that attaches by a belt or a pulley.  Oh, and you'll be generating more heat.  Heat is one of a vehicle's worst enemies.

Warm—If you get in your cold vehicle which has been sitting overnight, start it up and rev the engine high, you've just put a lot of stress on your engine.  That's because you didn't let the oil (that's been sitting down in the oil pan at the bottom of the engine) get to the moving parts in order to lubricate them. Some manufacturers advise that you run your vehicle for about 30 seconds before you take off.  And if it's really cold out, you may be wise to let the engine run for a minute or two before putting a load on the engine.  Also, for the first 5-15 minutes, keep your RPMs on the low side and don't jam on the accelerator.

Smooth—You're trying to get somewhere in a hurry and have to jam on the brakes while traveling pretty fast.  Just that one time can do more damage to the brakes than you would think.  Lots of hard braking can overheat your brakes and damage your rotors, wearing them out way faster than someone who drives with a smoother touch.  Hard braking also strains suspension parts, tires and engine mounts.

Smart—You know what PRNDL stand for.  Those are the letters in your automatic transmission (Park, Reverse, Neutral, Drive, Low).  Here are another couple of letters: IQ.  A smart shifter never goes into R to D without completely stopping the vehicle, unless, of course, you're anxious to spend some big dollars on your automatic transmission. 

These days, it's common to get 200,000 miles/320,000 kilometers out of a vehicle, no problem.  It just takes regular maintenance (oil changes and regular service) and one other thing.  Showing off: showing off a little moderation in driving habits with a big payoff in the end. 


Spiteri's Auto Service
292 OLD COUNTY RD
Belmont, CA 94002
650-593-4758
http://carsupport.com

No Fountain of Youth (Aging Tires)

Can you think of anyone who enjoys aging?  Wrinkles where you don't want them, gray hair, eyes that won't focus any more, no stamina. 

Believe it or not, your tires age, too, and they don't get better the older they get.  And here's the important thing to know, even if they can still pass a tread depth test, they may simply be too old to be safe 

Here's the best way to understand this.  Have you ever found an old deck of playing cards with a rubber band wrapped around them?  Try stretching the rubber band.  SNAP! It's all cracked and brittle.  And you haven't stressed that rubber one bit since the time you put them in that drawer.

Now you know what's happening to your tires.  Rubber ages.  Just like us, the day we come into the world, we start to go downhill (no pun intended).  Oh, engineers are able to make a tire last longer than ever before.  But that gas that keeps us alive—oxygen—seems to love to chemically mix with some components in rubber.  Oxidation causes rubber to become hard and brittle.  The rubber band test.

Is there an age test that can tell you when a tire is tool old to roll? Well, not really.  They don't all age the same.  Hot climates can make tires wear out more quickly.  Some experts say a tire can last up to 10 years but should be inspected every year after the age of five.  Others say tires should have an expiration date at six years old.

Since no one would ever ask a tire its age, how do you know how old one is? Believe it or not, tires made after the year 2000 have a date code stamped on either the inside or the outside of the sidewall.  It's a four-digit numbers; the first two tell you the week, the second two tell you the year. So if it has the number 1916, it was made in the 21st week of 2016. 

Another way to find out if your tires still have enough life in them is to have your vehicle service facility inspect them.  They look for signs of age, such as developing cracks in the rubber, the condition of the sidewalls and, of course, that old standby: tread.  If it's time to "retire" them, discuss options with your service advisor.


Spiteri's Auto Service
292 OLD COUNTY RD
Belmont, CA 94002
650-593-4758
http://carsupport.com

Emergency Items for Belmont

Safe CA travel starts with preventive maintenance and good vehicle care at Spiteri's Auto Service. But there are other things Belmont residents can do to prepare for emergencies on the road. Here's some auto advice that can help you plan for emergencies, and just may save your life — or someone else's.

First, Belmont auto owners should consider keeping an auto emergency kit in their vehicle. The kit should contain items that will allow you to deal with common emergencies on the road.

Some items you should carry in your vehicle include jumper cables (or a booster box), flares, a flashlight and some basic hand tools. Other useful items include gloves, two quarts of oil, some antifreeze, water and everything you need to change a tire. You might also consider a can of tire inflator, which is a great temporary fix for minor flats.

But taking care of your vehicle is only part of emergency preparedness. It is to take care of the people in the car, too. For this reason, you should carry a first aid kit, drinkable water and blankets. Other items to consider include high-calorie food items (like energy bars), toilet paper, a towel, a hat and boots. And, of course, when you travel in CA and out-of-state you should always have your cell phone, some emergency cash and a credit card.

Depending on where you live, you may need to add other items to this list. For example, sunscreen, sunglasses and extra water would be good to have on hand in a hot climate. For the cold and snowy CA season, some salt, a hand shovelemergency blankets and matches might be in order. Also, if your area is prone to severe weather or earthquakes, you should check with your local Red Cross or disaster preparedness office for their recommendations on what to keep on hand in your vehicle for emergencies.

When you travel away from your Belmont home, you should check the weather forecasts before you leave and pack appropriate emergency supplies. Also, do some research about the areas you will be traveling through so you can be prepared for the climate and terrain. Remember the basics: heat, water, shelter, light and food.

When you travel, it is important to leave your itinerary with a trusted friend or family member. Check in periodically at prearranged checkpoints. That way, if something does happen, someone else will quickly know you are in trouble and will be able to send help. These checkpoints will also help rescuers find you quickly, as they will have a better idea as to where you are.

The automotive professionals at Spiteri's Auto Service want Belmont drivers to be safe. Preventive maintenance, proper planning, smart communication: these are the basics of safe travel.

Spiteri's Auto Service
292 OLD COUNTY RD
Belmont, CA 94002
650-593-4758
http://carsupport.com

Have a Ball! Know your Ball Joints (Ball Joints)

We all have joints in our own skeletal system, but did you know your vehicle has some joints of its own? One of the most important is called a ball joint.

One of the interesting things is that it's somewhat similar to the ball and socket joints we have in our hips and shoulders.  A ball joint allows two parts it joins together to move in more than one direction at the same time.

Think about your wheels.  They have to move up and down when there are bumps in the road but in sideways directions when you are making a turn. As you can see, the ball joints are important for your steering and handling to work correctly.

Since ball joints do so much, they can wear out and become loose.  When the ball wears down or the socket gets worn, there can be too much play in them.  It can get so bad that the ball can come out of the socket and your wheel can fall off, a dangerous situation.  Ball joints can also seize up.  Some of them are sealed and never require maintenance; others require periodic lubrication.

Here are some signs that your ball joints are going bad:

  • Your vehicle pulls to one side
  • You can hear a clunking noise coming from a wheel area
  • Your tires are wearing unevenly, especially on the inside

The earlier a failing ball joint is discovered, the better. The best way is to have regular inspections by a technician.  Your service facility will periodically check ball joints at intervals recommended by the manufacturer. The cost to replace them can vary widely depending on whether you have a vehicle with a 2-ball or 4-ball configuration.  Also, sometimes just the joints can be replaced, but other times they are part of a larger control arm assembly that has to have all the parts replaced at the same time. 

Your vehicle's proper steering, handling and tire wear all contribute to a better, safer driving experience.  Make sure your ball joints are up to the job.

Spiteri's Auto Service
292 OLD COUNTY RD
Belmont, CA 94002
650-593-4758
http://carsupport.com

To Fix or Not To Fix: That Is the Question.

No matter what vehicle you drive, when certain things break, you have to make a decision.  Should I get it fixed now, later or never?  Air conditioning is one of those things.  You can certainly live without air conditioning, but it sure is nice to have on a sweltering day.

Let's say your air conditioning breaks in the fall and you live in a climate where it gets quite cold in the winter.  Should you get it fixed now, wait until spring since it won't get warm until then or maybe not get it fixed at all?

That can be a tough decision.  There are several reasons air conditioning in vehicles break.  One is fairly simple: It could be an electrical problem, perhaps a relay or solenoid is not turning on the system.  It's also a fairly inexpensive repair and doesn't require hours of labor.

Or, the problem is that the coolant has leaked out.  Your service facility can find the leak and replace the parts that are leaking.  With a refrigerant recharge, you're back in business.  The repair costs vary, depending on the reason for the leak.

When air conditioning malfunctions involve a compressor, evaporator or condenser, the costs can be significant since parts and labor add up.  Depending on the age and value of your vehicle, you may choose to simply roll down the windows and live with it. 

Keep in mind that many vehicles in cold climates use air conditioning in winter.  Many vehicles automatically turn on the A/C when you use the defroster.  The A/C dries the heated air it blows on the windshield and side windows to eliminate fogging more quickly.  Outside conditions such as snow and ice can severely hamper visibility.  Add to that fogging on the inside and it can present very challenging conditions for the driver.

In order for all systems to be functioning optimally, a vehicle owner might feel it's worth it for safety reasons to get a broken air conditioner fixed, even if it is done right before the approach of cold weather.  Discuss these options with your service advisor so you can make the best decision for your situation.

Spiteri's Auto Service
292 OLD COUNTY RD
Belmont, CA 94002
650-593-4758
http://carsupport.com

 

QUIET TIME (Listening for Vehicle Problems)

Everybody's got friends like this.  You know, the kind who, the minute they get in their vehicle and turn the key, the sound system is deafening.  They just love to hear that music, sports, news… anything but the sound of the vehicle itself.

And maybe you're that person, too.  Here's something to consider: your sound system might be drowning out some valuable clues that could help you diagnose problems with your vehicle, problems that need to be dealt with. So, turn down the volume and listen for these things:

  • A clicking sound when you're braking or turning—You could be missing some parts in your braking system, or it could be damaged. That sound could also signal that components are just plain worn out.
  • Rattling under the hood—If it sounds like metal clanking against metal, you could have something serious going on, maybe an overheating engine or your timing needs adjusting. That knocking sound could also be as simple as you've been using lower octane gasoline than is recommended for your engine.  Time to get that checked out.
  • A squealing or high-pitched sound coming from the engine compartment. Could be a belt is loose, wearing out, dried out or cracked. A pulley might be failing or a bearing might be on its last legs.  Better to have that fixed now than be stranded somewhere later.

Here’s our Spiteri's Auto Service suggestion - set a regular weekly alarm in your smartphone alerting you to listen to your vehicle once a week for five minutes.  Just five minutes without the music or the sports show or public radio… whatever your taste is. You can even use your smartphone to record any noise you might be hearing.  Between that and your description to your service advisor, a Spiteri's Auto Service technician should be able to diagnose the source of the noise and get your vehicle sounding healthy again. Do it before that noise turns into the sound of a serious problem. 

Who knew a little quiet time could be so useful?

Spiteri's Auto Service
292 OLD COUNTY RD
Belmont, CA 94002
650-593-4758
http://carsupport.com