Where Your Neighbors Go For Auto Care


 Albertville 763-497-1677
Tammy Miller Design
Tammy Miller Design

Make Your Car Last 200,000 Miles

How to go the distance and save tens of thousands of dollars

Not long ago, to keep a car running beyond the 200,000-mile mark would have seemed about as likely as driving it to the moon. But big improvements in powertrain technology, rust prevention, lubricants, and more have led to game changing improvements in reliability and durability. Now, almost any car can make it well into six-figure territory with proper care.  
That is good news for drivers, who are keeping their cars longer than ever before; the average age of all cars on the road is more than 11 years, up from about eight years in 1995, according to Polk research. Still, motorists might not realize the long-term financial benefits of keeping a car for 200,000 miles. Our research shows that reaching that milestone (which would take the average motorist about 15 years) could result in savings of $30,000 or more.
Here’s how you can get there:
Buy a Safe, Reliable Model
You can coax any vehicle to 200,000 miles with enough patience and cash, but that doesn’t make doing so a good idea. The best way to minimize visits to the shop is to start with a model that has a reliable track record. And you don’t have to look far for a source; Consumer Reports compiles comprehensive reliability information from our Annual Auto Survey of subscribers. They provide us with data on more than one million vehicles, and we publish the findings across our print publications and online.

In addition to choosing a reliable model, make sure to pick a car you’ll want to keep for a long time. Don’t compromise on the features you want or buy less or more vehicle than you think you’ll need. If this is going to be a long relationship, it may as well be a happy one. So choose a vehicle that will fit your lifestyle and that you’ll enjoy driving.

While you’re out shopping, keep a sharp eye out for cars that have the latest safety features. Electronic stability control is a must, and consider a vehicle with a rear camera and forward collision, lane departure, and blind-spot warnings. Remember to research how well any vehicle you’re interested in performed in government and insurance-industry safety tests.

If you’re buying a used car, be on the lookout for signs of neglect or abuse. Check the car for dents, rust, and mismatched body panels. Look for paint overspray, which is often a sign of repair work. Make sure all interior components are in good condition. A mildew smell, discolored carpeting, and silt in the trunk are indicators of water damage. All components under the hood should be free of corrosion and grease. Check the fluids and watch out for damp areas in the engine compartment and under the vehicle, which might point to leaks.

When you’ve found a vehicle you’re interested in, take it to an independent mechanic for a diagnostic inspection, which costs about $100 to $150. A mechanic can help you spot signs of wear or abuse that you might not see.

Follow the maintenance schedule in your car’s owner’s manual. It spells out when to take care of every service for the life of your car, including routine oil and filter changes, tire rotations, and more major service such as timing-belt replacement. Even missing one oil change can contribute to premature engine wear or cause damage, and reduce the chances of your car remaining reliable for long. (Visit our guide to car maintenance.)

If you’ve neglected following your vehicle’s maintenance schedule, it’s not too late to get with the program. Have a mechanic inspect your vehicle and take care of any apparent problems, no matter how minor. Then introduce yourself to your owner’s manual and start fresh. Even if your vehicle doesn’t make it to 200,000 miles, it will definitely last longer with proper ongoing care.

Stick to the Schedule
Following the maintenance schedule has gotten easier over the years because longer-lasting components and fluids have increased service intervals. Today, it’s common to go 10,000 miles between oil changes, and some spark plugs don’t need replacement for 100,000 miles.

Consider using what is often called the severe-use or extreme-use maintenance schedule in your owner’s manual. Most drivers who need to follow such a schedule do a lot of city driving; live in a very hot or cold climate, in mountain regions, or near the ocean; make a lot of short trips; tow a trailer; or drive in dusty conditions. If that description sounds like it includes a lot of drivers, it does.

The difference between the regular maintenance schedule and the severe-use schedule can be significant, with severe-use oil-change intervals being much shorter, sometimes twice as often. Intervals for other services also change accordingly under severe-use guidelines.

Many new models from a wide variety of carmakers make it even easier to stay on top of maintenance, with sensors that take into account your mileage and driving habits to determine the optimum time for maintenance. They monitor the miles driven since the last service and record data such as how much stop-and-go driving is done, the engine temperature during each trip, and the time the engine spends operating at higher speeds. The system then calculates how quickly your oil is breaking down and alerts you when service is due, and can even adjust a car’s complete service interval to compensate for the severity of use.

Don’t overmaintain your car; that can be a waste of money. Watch out for dealers or repair shops that add maintenance work not called for in the owner’s manual. That can add hundreds of dollars to a routine service bill.

Do Not Skimp on Parts
Trying to save a couple of bucks on cheap parts and fluids could cost you in the long run. The wrong type of oil or transmission fluid, for example, could cause damage leading to expensive repairs, void your warranty, and diminish long-term reliability. Cheap and no-name belts and hoses might not wear as well as those from a name-brand supplier. To be safe, use only parts and fluids meeting manufacturer specifications.

If your car’s manual says that premium fuel is required, go for the expensive stuff. Some engines won’t perform correctly without higher-octane gasoline, and using regular or even midgrade fuel might cause damage. If premium fuel is recommended (but not required), you’re fine using lower-octane gasoline because the engine-control system has sensors that will compensate for it. Using premium fuel won’t do a thing for a car designed to run on regular gas. You won’t see any improvement in performance, fuel economy, or engine life, so save your money. (For more tips, see our guide to fuel economy.)
Evanowski family, Bloomsbury, N.J. Their 1990 Volvo 240DL was still doing family duty after 300,000 miles. 

Know What to Watch For
Even if you adhere to the schedule, remember that problems can arise unexpectedly. The manual might say how often to inspect belts and hoses, for example, but when to replace them can vary greatly by climate and other factors. So get in the habit of opening the hood to look, listen, and smell for anything unusual. Fraying and cracks in belts are sure signs of trouble, along with cracks and bulges in hoses. Look for evidence of leaks, and check the level and condition of coolant and brake and power-steering fluids. They can give you clues about what’s going on inside components. Gritty-­feeling or burnt-smelling transmission fluid, for example, could indicate the start of internal damage. By catching it early, you could reduce repair costs and increase long-term reliability.

On the road, listen for odd noises from your engine, suspension, and brakes. If you have any doubts about a noise, get it checked out right away by a mechanic. Taking care of a minor repair now could help you avoid an expensive one later.

Consider investing in a vehicle service manual, available at car dealerships and most auto-parts stores. More detailed than your owner’s manual, a service manual can explain in illustrated detail what to look for, and assist with minor repairs that can extend long-term reliability. (Learn more in from our car repair guide and estimator.)

Keep Your Machine Clean
Cleaning inside and out will not only keep your car looking newer but also make it a more pleasant place to be as the miles roll up. Washing and waxing can help preserve the paint and prevent rust, and vacuuming sand and dirt out of carpets and seats can minimize premature wear that leads to tears and holes. And while you clean, you might spot small problems that you wouldn’t notice otherwise, such as scratches that need to be painted over, and loose or broken parts that should be repaired or replaced. (Learn how to make it shine with our car wax advice and ratings.)

The End of the Road
No matter how well you choose and care for a car, someday it will be time to move on because it’s costing too much or is no longer safe. Still, saying goodbye can be a tough decision, especially if you’re attached to your car. Here are signs that it’s probably time to find another vehicle:

It needs a big repair that will cost more to fix than the car is worth.
  • Rust is compromising the structural integrity.
  • It remains unreliable even with frequent repairs.
  • It has been in a flood or a serious accident.

Tammy Miller Design
Tammy Miller Design

Why a clean air filter is important in your vehicle

Air filters need to be changed regularly to maintain the right flow of air into the engine and to protect the engine from debris.

Motorists routinely check their tires for proper inflation, top off engine fluid levels and maintain oil change schedules. But some drivers do not understand the importance of keeping engine air filters clean.

Engine air filters are a relatively inexpensive vehicle part, but they perform a very important job. For every gallon of gas a car burns, it uses the equivalent of 12,000 gallons of air, and that air must be filtered to help keep an engine clean.

Air filters catch all of the dust, grime, insects, sap, leaves, and any other debris that may get sucked up past the air intake of the vehicle’s grill and into the engine itself. Without the air filter, those contaminants may compromise the engine, causing corrosion and abrasion. If the air filter in the engine becomes too dirty and is not changed regularly, the engine is starved of air.

Clean air filters allow just the right ratio of air to fuel to enable the engine to function properly. Engines need adequate air for the combustion process to take place. Without the proper combustion levels, vehicles cannot perform properly or efficiently and the engine may burn more gas or get fewer miles to the gallon. A dirty filter also can rob an engine of power. Drivers may notice sluggish acceleration.

Air filters also can get so dirty that the engine stalls completely. But such a problem only develops after considerable neglect.

Air filters may not need to be replaced at each and every oil change service call. Many technicians advise replacing the filter every 8,000 miles. However, drivers who live in particularly dry and dusty regions may need to replace filters more frequently.

Mechanics can often detect when an air filter needs to be replaced. If he or she notices the air filter is particularly dirty, then it’s probably time to replace it. Replacing the filter is a relatively inexpensive repair for the amount of performance and peace of mind a new filter provides.

Tammy Miller Design
Tammy Miller Design

Top 10 Ways To Get Your Car Ready for Spring and Summer

inter sweaters and boots have been packed away in favor of shorts and sandals. Has your vehicle benefited from the same maintenance you've performed on your closets? Warm weather means long weekend getaways and even longer vacation road trips, and taking the time to perform seasonal maintenance today can help avoid trouble later.

Here are 10 tips for spring and summer car care. In some cases, you'll be able to perform these procedures yourself. Others are best done by a mechanic as part of a tune-up. Some will help your vehicle look better. Most will help it perform more efficiently and get better gas mileage.

1. Get rid of road salt on the undercarriage.
Road salt can damage your vehicle by eating away at its undercarriage. Use a garden hose with as much water pressure as your system can muster to loosen winter grime and salt. Or, if you have a movable lawn sprinkler that's low enough, set that under the vehicle to wash away what you can't reach.

2. Check the tires.
Tire pressure changes about 1 pound per square inch for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit change in outside temperature, so it's important to check tire pressure after weather changes. Check your owner's manual for the recommended pressure for your tire, and never exceed that. Always check pressure when the tires are cold, since driving even a couple of miles to the gas station can provide a false reading. Higher pressure generally results in improved steering response and fuel economy, but a stiffer ride, and it wears out the tread in the center. Underinflation generally provides a smoother ride, but it causes tires to wear out at the sides. It also wastes gas because tires need more power to push the vehicle. Learn more about proper tire maintenance by reading "Tires: Traffic Safety Tips.

3. Check wiper blades.
Your wipers work hard all winter removing dirt and debris, including salt spray. Since the life expectancy of a wiper blade is six months to a year, check that the blades are making full contact with the windshield and have not dried out. Don't wait for a heavy spring or summer rainstorm to discover your blades aren't performing properly. Also, refill the wiper fluid reservoir.

4. Rotate the tires.
This is a relatively simple car care procedure that will extend the tread life of your tires, and should be done roughly every 5,000-10,000 miles. Check your owner's manual for exact intervals. A good rule is to rotate tires after every oil change. Learn more about tire rotation by reading "Rotate Your Tires."

5. Change the oil and oil filter.
Some car manufacturers recommend changing to a heavyweight oil to help the engine perform more efficiently during hotter weather. Most cars now have recommended oil grades of 5W-30, 10W-30 or 10W-40, which are all multiviscous grades — your owner's manual will tell you which. Change the oil filter each time you change the oil, since it's obvious that a dirty filter won't keep the new oil clean. Gather insight on how to change your oil yourself by reading "How to Change Your Oil (The Real Down and Dirty).

6. Change the air filter.
The air filter prevents dust and other impurities from getting into the combustion chambers of the cylinders, resulting in wasted gas and weaker engine performance. According to the Car Care Council, replacing a clogged filter can improve mileage by as much as 10 percent. The time-honored way to check for dirt is to hold the filter up to the light, but since many new filters show light when dirty, or show no light when clean, it is more reliable to change the air filter every six months, and more often in dusty locations. Get the knowledge you need to change your car's air filter yourself by reading "How to Change Your Car's Filters."

7. Flush and fill your cooling system.
This is cheap insurance against engine failure. The Car Care Council recommends flushing every two years, or 24,000 miles for most vehicles. Simply draining your radiator is not enough; you need to flush the system with a radiator flush product, not just plain water, to remove stubborn rust, grease and sediment. Then, refill with a 50/50 mixture of coolant and water. (If you live in a more severe climate, increase the percentage of coolant to about 70.) Find out more by reading "How to Maintain Your Vehicle's Cooling System."

8. Check the radiator and gas caps.
A snug radiator cap helps raise the cooling system pressure, giving added protection against boil-overs. Radiator caps don't last forever, so replace yours whenever you flush the cooling system. Pressure recommendations vary, so get the right cap for your vehicle model. With gas at record prices, be sure there's a tight seal on the gas cap, too, to prevent that high-priced octane from vaporizing. Nearly 20 percent of vehicles have gas caps that are damaged, loose or missing altogether, wasting some 147 million gallons of gas every year.

9. Check the battery and spark plugs.
Make sure battery posts and connections are secure and free of corrosion. Spark plugs fire as many as 3 million times every 1,000 miles. That's a lot of heat and wear and tear in the form of electrical and chemical erosion. Dirty spark plugs cause misfiring, which wastes fuel. If you're planning a long trip, consider replacing the battery and spark plugs if they are more than two years old.

10. Clean the cabin.
Appearances are important, no matter what the season. Discard the debris that's been hibernating under the seats all winter, then attack the cabin with the most powerful vacuum cleaner you can find. Remove the floor mats to vacuum or wash outside the car. Open the trunk, remove the spare tire and jack and vacuum here, too. Before returning the spare, check its pressure. Most likely it will need air, so remember to do that the next you time you fill the tank. Road dust, coffee stains and fingerprints have no appeal any time of the year, so after vacuuming, use a spray vinyl cleaner and a soft cloth on the dashboard, steering wheel, door panels and seats. That also helps protect against cracking, sun damage and fading. A good household upholstery cleaner is fine for fabric seats; for leather seats, follow manufacturer's recommendations. Next is an aerosol silicone spray to treat the weather stripping around the outside of doors, windows and the trunk. Be sure to wipe away the excess. Learn more about organizing your car's cabin by reading "Is Your Car a Mess? Organize Your Car in Five Steps."

Whew — all done! Finally, you're ready to wash and wax. Ordinary dishwashing liquid in a bucket of water and a clean, soft sponge will do nicely for the washing, using a different sponge for the body and the tire rims. Then buff dry to a sparkle worthy of spring sunshine, apply a protective coat of wax if necessary and treat yourself to a leisurely ride. You've earned it!

Tammy Miller Design
Tammy Miller Design

Today weather looks like SNOW. Are you READY?

Tips for driving in the snow:
  1. Is your windshield wiper fluid full?
  2. Make certain your tires are properly inflated.
  3. Keep your gas tank at least half full.
  4. If possible, avoid using your parking brake in cold, rainy and snowy weather.
  5. Do not use cruise control when driving on any slippery surface (wet, ice, sand).
  6. Always look and steer where you want to go.
  7. Use your seat belt every time you get into your vehicle.
  8. Accelerate and decelerate slowly. ...
  9. Drive slowly. ...
  10. The normal dry pavement following distance of three to four seconds should be increased to eight to ten seconds. ...
  11. Know your brakes. ...
  12. Don't stop if you can avoid it. ...
  13. Don't power up hills. ...
  14. Don't stop going up a hill. ...
  15. Stay home.
Be sure you check our our blog from October 31, where we gave you way to get your car ready fro winter.

DRIVE SAFE TODAY! Call if you need anything  763-497-1677.

Tammy Miller Design
Tammy Miller Design

Getting Your Vehicle Ready For Winter

Car Care Tips from the Pros Prepare You for Fall and Winter Driving
It’s foolhardy to head out in a poorly maintained vehicle in the dead of winter, of course, but even vehicle owners in temperate zones need a car care check as the days grow shorter, note the pros with the nonprofit National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), an independent group that tests and certifies the competence of auto technicians.

“Regular, routine maintenance can help improve your gasoline mileage, reduce pollution, and catch minor problems before they become big headaches,” says Tony Molla, vice president of communications at ASE. ASE offers these car care tips to give you peace of mind during fall and winter driving:

  • Before you do anything else, read your owner’s manual and follow the manufacturer’s recommended service schedules.
  • Get engine performance and driveability problems — hard starts, rough idling, stalling, diminished power, etc. — corrected at a reputable repair shop that employs ASE-certified repair professionals. Cold weather makes existing problems worse.
  • Replace dirty filters, such as air, fuel, and PCV. A poorly running engine is less efficient and burns more gasoline.
  • As the temperature drops below freezing, add a bottle of fuel deicer in your tank once a month to help keep moisture from freezing in the fuel line. Keeping the gas tank filled also helps prevent moisture from forming.
  • Change your oil and oil filter as specified in your manual — more often if your driving is mostly stop-and-go or consists of frequent short trips. A poll of ASE Master Auto Technicians revealed that regular oil and filter changes is one of the most frequently neglected services, yet one that is essential to protect your engine.
  • The cooling system should be flushed and refilled as recommended. The level, condition, and concentration of the coolant should be checked periodically. A 50/50 mix of antifreeze and water is usually recommended. Do-It-Yourselfers: Never remove the radiator cap until the engine has thoroughly cooled! The tightness and condition of drive belts, clamps, and hoses also should be checked regularly by a professional technician.
  • The heater and defroster must be in good working condition for passenger comfort and driver visibility.
  • Replace old blades regularly. If your climate is harsh, purchase rubber-clad (winter) blades to fight ice build-up. Stock up on windshield washer solvent — you’ll be surprised how much you use during the winter months. And don’t forget to always carry an ice scraper.
  • Have your battery checked. The only accurate way to detect a weak battery is with professional equipment. However, most motorists can perform routine care: Wear eye protection and protective rubber gloves. Scrape away corrosion from posts and cable connections; clean all surfaces; retighten all connections. If battery caps are removable, check fluid level monthly. A word of caution: Removal of cables can cause damage or loss of data/codes on some newer vehicles, so always check your owner’s manual first. Be sure to avoid contact with corrosive deposits and battery acid.
  • Inspect all lights and bulbs. Replace burned out bulbs; periodically clean road grime from all lenses. To prevent scratching, never use a dry rag. Clouded lenses can be refinished by many service outlets or by using a DIY kit found in major auto parts outlets.
  • Exhaust fumes inside your vehicle’s cabin can be deadly. Have the exhaust system examined for leaks and problems while the vehicle is on a lift. The trunk and floorboards should also be inspected for small holes.
  • Worn tires are dangerous in winter weather. Examine tires for remaining tread life, uneven wearing, and cupping; check the sidewalls for cuts and nicks. Check tire pressure once a month, letting the tires “cool down” before checking the pressure. Rotate as recommended. Don’t forget to check your spare, and be sure the jack is in good working condition. Under-inflated tires or poorly aligned wheels makes your engine work harder and thus use excess gasoline.
  • Have your brakes checked periodically for safety and to prevent costly repairs that can be caused by neglect.
  • The transmission is often neglected until a major failure. Routine checks and fluid changes at prescribed intervals can prevent very costly repairs down the line.
  • Always carry an emergency kit with you: extra gloves, boots and blankets; flares; a small shovel and sand or kitty litter; tire chains; a flashlight and extra batteries; and a cell phone and extra car charger. Put a few “high-energy” snacks in your glove box.

The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) was founded in 1972 as a nonprofit, independent organization dedicated to improving the quality of automotive service and repair through the voluntary testing and certification of automotive technicians. ASE-certified technicians wear blue and white ASE shoulder insignia and carry credentials listing their exact area(s) of certification. Their employers often display the blue and white ASE sign.