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P0128 CEL Light Tempe Arizona

Thermostat 3-06-15Here we are at All Tune and Lube Total Car Care with another in our semi-informative series of discussions about CEL codes! Yeah!

Today we’ll be talking about one we see regularly, the P0128 Coolant Temperature Below Regulating Threshold. Doesn’t even sound scary does it? I mean, how can you worry about your engine running too cool? Heck, the problem is when your engine gets too hot isn’t it? Well, yeah, kinda. Overheating an engine is mechanical DEATH! But when an engine runs too cool it presents its’ own set of problems.

What this code is saying is that the computer that controls your engine (the PCM) believes that the coolant temperature isn’t reaching its’ proper level in the amount of time it should, or not getting to that range at all. When an engine is cold it needs a little extra fuel in order to run smoothly so the PCM adjust the fuel trims accordingly. When there is more fuel being supplied to the engine than it optimally needs we call that a rich condition or “running rich.” If your engine is running rich you lose fuel economy, increase exhaust emissions, wear or foul your spark plugs more quickly and accelerate wear of your CATALYTIC CONVERTER! It’s not uncommon for us to see a P0420 cat code within a few months of having repaired a P0128 fault if the cars’ owner let that P0128 go too long.

Usually this code indicates a thermostat that’s suck partially open, but not always. Remember I said that the PCM believes the coolant isn’t warm enough? It gets this information from a device called an Engine Coolant Temperature Sensor, or ECT for those of us who are hip and inside to the lingo. If the ECT is failing it could be sending incorrect information to your ECM like a dam lying liar. Sometimes, not often, it can be a problem with the Intake Air Temperature Sensor (IAT) since the PCM uses a comparison between the ECT and IAT readings. Also, rarely, the cooling fans could be staying on all the time preventing the engine from warming as it should. I’ve heard of instances where incorrect coolant or coolant mix has caused this code but I’ve never seen it.

So there you go. That’s what a P0128 is all about. Simple problem, usually simple fix.

From you Local Mechanic, All Tune and Lube Total Car Care Tempe. Complete Auto Repair and Maintenance.

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Are Extended Warranties on Used Cars Worth It? Tempe

Signing a contract 3-05-15Are extended warranties (Service Contracts) worthwhile on a used car? At All Tune and Lube Total Car Care in Tempe we have to admit that we like it when a customer has a service contract on their vehicle. It makes getting the repair done right an easy decision for the customer. But from the customers’ perspective there are a few things to consider.

I guess the first thing to think about is that the company selling the extended warranty is there to make money and they’ve done their homework. If they’re selling a warranty to you for $2400 you know they’ve looked at the model of your car with the mileage it has and determined that it’s a good bet that it will need substantially less than $2400 worth of repairs over the life of your contract. What I mean by that is that if they’re selling a warranty to you for $2400 they don’t expect to have to pay that much out. That being said there have been a number of situations here at our shop where a major repair was required and the customer was very thankful for having purchased a warranty. The best thing you can do is set aside the money you would have spent on the service contract in the event you have a major break down, but if you can’t leave that much in an account, the peace of mind provided by the warranty might be worth it to you.

Your next consideration should be in regard to what the warranty covers. If you can get a good deal on a service contract the covers the really catastrophic failures, like an engine or transmission, but leaves many of the less expensive items uncovered, maybe that’s worth exploring. For example, a wheel bearing or a water pump might set you back $300-$500 but an engine could be $5000. If you can swing a $500 repair out of pocket but an engine would be out of the question maybe that kind of contract would be worth it to you. Keep in mind though that engines and transmission seldom fail on modern vehicles, water pumps and bearings are more common. Service contracts that cover the vehicle “Bumper to Bumper” are available but they’re more expensive. Once again, peace of mind.

If you decide to buy a service contract make sure it’s one that can be used anywhere rather than just at the dealership where you bought the car. You don’t want to be broke down in Odessa Texas with a warranty that’s only good in Tempe.

Also, while I don’t know this for a fact, it seems to me as though you want to buy the contract directly from the company that issues it. If they’re making money on the deal so is the dealership. At least that makes sense to me.

Lastly, research the warranty company you’re intending to buy the contract from. My experience in dealing with these companies has all been positive but horror stories abound.

Hope this helps!

From your Local Mechanic, All Tune & Lube Total Car Care Tempe. Complete Auto Repair and Maintenance.

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What’s the Difference Between Cheap Tires and Expensive Tires, Tempe Arizona

Tires 3-05-15We don’t sell tires at All Tune & Lube Total Car Care Tempe but since we take care of our customers’ cars we sure see enough of them and get plenty of questions about them. The most often our customers voice concerns over the expense of new tires and the difference between the economy brands and the quality brands. Typically you get more than what you pay for. There isn’t enough time or space to take on performance tires so all we’re going to talk about here are the everyday tires you’re going to want on your commuter car. I think we all get the fact that you have to have something to keep your car on the road but if you’re looking to get the most out of your investment in the best combination of safety and longevity you’re going to want to tighten your belt and pay the bigger price. It’ll hurt at first but you’ll soon enough be bragging to your friends about the wise investment you made.

Here’s the skinny: Tires are the single most important safety feature on your car. They are the only thing that connects the car to the road, and life-saving technologies like antilock brakes and electronic stability control can’t do their job if the tires don’t have a good grip on the pavement. There are minimum standards required to legally sell a tire in the US but these only really make sure that they won’t blow up when you hit a pot hole. Cheap, poorly-designed tires can make for longer stopping distances and less control in an emergency maneuver. Plus a cheaper tire will never give you the ride quality or longevity that a more expensive tire will give you. More expensive tires balance better and wear more evenly and cheaper tires are hard to get the manufacturer to stand behind.

Now it’s possible to get a cheap tire with a high mileage rating but these tend to provide less grip than a quality tire with the same rating. Even so, while well-known name brands tend to provide a consistently higher level of quality there are lesser-known tire manufacturers that produce excellent products at lower prices but you gotta watch out. Quality control can be spotty, especially in Asian countries that begin with “C”. Recommendations from a tire dealer you trust and the good ol’ internet search are great ways to sort ‘em out.
It’s best to replace all four tires at once since new tires generally grip the road better than tires that have some miles on them, but if you must replace them in pairs, put the new tires on the back (regardless of whether the car is front or rear-wheel drive). This will help the car retain its stability and predictability in a panic swerve. (Older tires on the rear will make the car more likely to spin out.) NEVER replace a single tire — if a tire is damaged and cannot be repaired, replace it as well as its mate on the other side of the car.
Rotating the tires every 5,000 to 7,000 miles will ensure that they wear at the same rate, allowing you to get the most return on your investment and ensure that all four tires will be ready for replacement at the same time.
Hope this helps!

From your local Mechanics, All Tune and Lube Total Car Care Tempe. Complete Auto Repair and Maintenance.

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What Happens when a Timing Belt Breaks? Tempe Arizona

TimingBelt 3-04-15What happens when a timing belt breaks? Let your local mechanic, All Tune and Lube Total Car Care in Tempe clue you in.

I guess the first thing you need to know is what a timing belt is! The timing belt is a flat rubber belt with teeth or gears molded in to it that drives the cams at the top of your cylinder head. It’s not the belts you can see that drive your alternator and power steering but sits behind a cover on that same side. Not every car has a timing belt and they’re getting more uncommon as manufacturers go to the more maintenance free timing chain. If you don’t know whether you have a belt or a chain it’s easy to find out. Take a look at your owner’s manual and if there’s a recommended service for a timing belt then you have one. Duh. If you don’t have your manual you can always do a search on line or ask us. While a chain doesn’t need service very often a timing belt needs to be replaced every 60,000 to 105,000 miles. We often recommend timing belt replacement based on age as well. For example Honda says that timing belts on some engines should be replaced every 6 years regardless of mileage.

When the timing belt breaks the cams stop turning and your car comes to a complete stop. The really bad news is that on some engines there can be major damage to the engine when this belt breaks. In a case like that a new belt won’t fix the problem, you may need a complete engine. The engines that can suffer this kind of problem are known as “Interference Engines” due to the fact that the valves in the cylinder heads can meet with the piston if the belt breaks. These are two parts that are just not supposed to get together. You can Google search your car to find out if you have one of these kinds of engines.

We strongly recommend replacement of the water pump at the same time as the timing belt because in most cases the water pump is driven by the timing belt. If the water pump fails the whole job has to be done again.

OK, hope that helps. Call your Local Mechanics, All Tune and Lube Total Car Care in Tempe. Complete auto repair and maintenance.

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What is a Tune Up? Tempe Arizona

worn spark plugs 3-04-0=15What is a Tune Up?

When a customer asks for a tune up we find that they can sometimes mean something different than what we think they mean. This happened just yesterday and despite our best efforts the customer went away less happy than we like.

A normal tune up on a modern engine consists of replacing the spark plugs and ignition wires (or coil-over-plug boots), cleaning the mass air flow sensor, topping off fluids and inspecting the vehicle. When the customer in question originally called she made the perfectly reasonable request for an estimate for a tune up, accepted our estimate and made the appointment. The work was done and she came in to pick up her vehicle. It was then that we found the customer was under the impression that the tune up included replacing the timing belt and water pump, a transmission service and a cooling system service! No amount of explanation on our part was going to convince her that we shouldn’t have known what it was she wanted. This sort of confusion, thankfully, doesn’t happen often but I made a note to myself to make sure to ask a few more questions going forward in order to be sure of what it is the customer expects.

This also brings up another point. We had never seen this car before. The customer said that she usually has a friend work on her car in the driveway and calls around for the cheapest price when it’s something her friend can’t do. This is a great example of what happens when a customer doesn’t have a regular shop to keep track of work that’s been done and what items will be needed going forward. Had she been a regular customer we would have known what it was she needed and there would have been no surprises.

Oh well. Every day is a learning experience. I don’t think she’ll hold a grudge, especially once she calls around and finds out what the services she want actually cost.

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Summer Battery Care, Tempe Arizona

Why is it that people only tend to think about their car battery in the winter? The fact is summer heat can be even more damaging than winter’s cold temperatures when it comes to car batteries. And yet, few people give batteries a thought during the heat of summer. The cold hard truth is that:

  • When the mercury rises, a car battery’s strength goes down.
  • Extreme heat, like 95° F outside combined with high temperatures under the hood, accelerates corrosion of car batteries.
  • Heat causes the water to evaporate out of battery fluid, breaking down the battery grids.
  • Weak batteries can struggle on for months, turning over the engine while it’s easy to start and generate a charge. The real test comes when temperatures drop. A weakened battery has to overcome cold temperatures and a harder-to-crank engine because the cold thickened the engine’s oil. The heat’s attack lowered the battery’s starting power, meaning someone’s going to have to call for a jump-start and a replacement battery — unless you get there first.

The following tips help you keep your battery in shape throughout the hot summer months:

  • Preventive maintenance goes a long way toward prolonging the life of your battery. Take a few minutes to read about your battery in your car’s manual and become familiar with what kind of battery it is, where it is, how to safely clean it and what the indicator lights inside your car might be trying to tell you.
  • When working with your battery, always wear protective eyewear. Remove all jewelry and wear long sleeves to protect your arms from an explosion of battery acid.
  • Do a visual inspection to see if the battery case is bulging, cracked or leaking.If it is, it’s time to replace it.
  • The summer heat can speed up internal corrosion. Clean up the battery connections by removing any corrosion, lead oxidation, paint or rust from the top of the battery with a scouring pad or brass brush. Be sure to brush the corrosion away from you.
  • If your battery has removable filler caps, open the caps and check the water level in each cell.
  • Make sure the plates are covered by the fluid inside. This prevents sulfation and reduces the possibility of an internal battery explosion.
  • If the water level is low, add distilled water until the plates are covered. Don’t use tap water.
  • Avoid overfilling, especially in hot weather, because the heat can cause the solution inside to expand and overflow.
    • Have your battery and electrical system professionally tested every three to six months and especially before heading out on a trip.

      From your Local Mechanics, All Tune & Lube Total Car Care Tempe Arizona. Complete auto repair and maintenance.

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What does an ASE Certification Mean? Tempe Arizona

ase-logo-350What does an auto repair shops ASE Certification mean? Let me start off by saying that All Tune and Lube Total Car Care Tempe is an ASE Certified shop. An ASE Certified mechanic is a mechanic who has fulfilled the voluntary requirements for certification by the US National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence. Mechanics who have ASE certifications are generally viewed as better candidates for employment by companies that hire these workers, such as auto body shops, car dealers, and bus yards and of course auto repair shops like ours. Certification can also be reassuring for individual consumers who want to ensure that their vehicles receive work from competent, highly professional mechanics.

All that being said, an ASE cert doesn’t mean everything. There are plenty of very good techs who have never felt the need for outside certifications and there are plenty of ASE certified master technicians out there that really shouldn’t be working on customers vehicles.

So what does it mean to a customer? Well, the fact that a shop or a tech takes what they do seriously is a consideration. Taken with all the other information available about a shop it’s a valid point in the shops favor.

From your Local Mechanics, All Tune and Lube Total Car Care Tempe. Complete auto repair and maintenance.

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Random Car Thoughts

Check Engine Yup Still There_0Random car thoughts

Honest to goodness truth: When I started writing these articles a couple weeks ago I thought I would never run out of things to say about cars, trucks or Jeeps. Maybe I won’t, but today I find myself at a loss. So, since it’s unlikely that any of this will be read, I’m just going to put down some random thoughts about cars in general.

Jeeps are perfect just the way they are or the way their owners have modified them. Either way they’re a reflection of their owner. Jeeps also have a personality and respond to affection, like a good dog. If you don’t believe me you’re not a Jeeper.

When it’s time to repair your car you have a couple choices. Deal with it the way it is, get rid of it or fix it. If you’re going to fix it then buck up and get the repair done right. If you need economize I get it but you’ll be leaving work left undone that will cause you trouble down the road.

Why is it that so many cars on the road have turn signals that don’t work but so few of the vehicles that come in to the shop have that problem? Must be bad maintenance.

60’s muscle cars look great but if I never have to drive one again that’ll be just fine. Engines, fuel management systems, chassis and brakes have come so far.

The sixties are no longer the era of the muscle car. Right now baby you can go out and buy a 700 horsepower coupe or sedan that stops and turns as well as it goes in a straight line. And they’ll last longer too. A 70 Chevelle SS is a nice ride but you wouldn’t want to be on the same track as a new Hellcat with it.

Modern European cars are beautiful and fragile as butterfly wings.

A 10,000 mile oil change interval is nuts. Stick to 5-7,000 miles with synthetic motor oil and your car will live long and prosper.

If you want to buy a car that will maintain its value that’s exactly the same as saying you want a car that will maintain a high level of desirability. Buy a Jeep, a sports car or whatever the kids are hot-rodding today. They may not be practical but there’ll always be somebody who wants it.

Why have the auto manufacturers never built a true sequential gear box for a production car? They’ve been in motorcycles almost since day one and handle ridiculous revs and horsepower. Are they concerned that the driver couldn’t keep track of what gear they’re in? Is it that important to have neutral between every gear?

I’m not convinced that all the electronic devices that come on new cars are good ideas. I’m an old guy but all I see are future repair issues. They also provide a lot of distractions it seems to me.

Do people really want a car that drives itself?

If you read this let me know and I’ll give you a half price oil change. I’ll probably faint dead away too!

From your Local Mechanics. All Tune and Lube Total Car Care. Complete auto repair and maintenance.

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How Long Can a Car Last Tempe Arizona

Car on a calculator 3-03-15So, how long can a car last?

When I was a younger man, a vehicle that had 100,000 miles on it was probably about done. Trying to keep a car on the road with that kind of mileage in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s is what led to me learning one end of a wrench from another. Oil changes every 2000 miles, tune ups every 14,000 miles, greasing the suspension and steering, constantly replacing belts, hoses, dealing with drum brakes that never seemed to work just right and don’t even get me started on carburetors. Those 60’s cars had a look but they were a pain.

Let me tell you a little story. A few years ago my wife told me she wanted a little red sports car as a birthday/anniversary gift. I found a sweet red (The color she insisted on) 1990 Miata with 130,000 miles. Home run! She loves that little car and I like it too. My wife normally drives a Corolla in her 110 mile per day commute so I get to drive the Miata since it gets much better mileage than my Jeep. Even though I keep up on the maintenance pretty diligently I’m a little rough on cars in that I like to drive them hard. Once the car got close to the 200,000 mile mark, still running like new, I figured that pretty soon I was going to need another engine so I went out a bought one. That was 2 years and 50,000 miles ago and that Miata still runs great and the spare engine is gathering dust. My wifes’ Corolla, which we bought new in 2006, has 238,000 miles on it and is nearly perfect. When I change the oil it still comes out looking like honey. I have a customer that used a Kia Sedona for deliveries between Phoenix and Las Vegas and when he finally traded it in it had well over 500,000 miles. All this got me thinking about how long you can reasonably expect a car to last here in Tempe.

People are keeping their cars longer than ever. Here at All Tune and Lube Total Car Care in Tempe we regularly see vehicles with way over 100,000 miles and 200,000 miles plus is not even noteworthy. I read someplace that the average age of cars on the road in the U.S. was 10.8 years. My guess is that cars in the Arizona desert beat that average since we don’t have to deal with the rust that eats cars alive in the northeast. With regular maintenance and staying on top of the normal sorts of repairs a car sees a vehicle can last a very long time indeed. Some of that maintenance can get a little pricey. For example, the Sedona I mentioned went through several sets of tires, a few axle shafts and a pair of catalytic converters that set him back over $3500. But that little van still ran great, had no major leaks and used no oil when he finally got rid of it for a car that got better fuel economy.

Before I started writing this I got on line to see if there were any studies that had a handle on how long a car would last with proper maintenance and what I found was a ton of, well, crap. Plenty of anecdotes about cars going a million miles, articles saying that a transmission or a timing chain would only last about 125,000 miles and car forums where you might read anything.

Well, I guess I’m not really going to be able to add anything useful to the discussion. But my personal experience and what I’ve observed as an auto repair shop owner is that there is no reason why a modern car shouldn’t see 300,000 miles if properly cared for.

From your Local Mechanics, All Tune and Lube Total Car Care Tempe. Complete auto repair and maintenance.

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