All Vovo's Official Blog
As we’ve mentioned before, we like to put out tips for owners of ANY make of car, but of course we specialize in the service and repair of Volvo automobiles. This information about exhaust smoke and what the color or tone of the smoke may mean, would apply to almost any car or truck. Ultimately, you would want the opinion of your trusted auto mechanic in diagnosing and recommending the proper repairs or servicing needed.White – Remember that a small amount of white smoke is normal and cold weather can make it look worse than it really is. Thicker white smoke though, is usually related to coolant being burned in the combustion chamber of the vehicle. The prognosis can be pretty bad, as this usually occurs with problems in the engine. Blown head gaskets, damaged head gaskets, or problem with the cylinder head, or a block in the engine are usually what causes this symptom.Gray – This gray smoke will usually be an indication of burning oil or possibly the transmission fluid. These two issues will smell quite different (the transmission scent is a bit sweeter). It may also be PCV system damage.Black – If a small amount of black smoke comes out when you first start your car up—no worries, that can be normal. But if the black smoke persists, then the engine is likely burning a large amount of fuel. This can be related to a small issue with your air-filter, or possibly a larger issues with the fuel regulator, injector, or return.Blue – If it looks blue, it can also be from burning oil. You will probably notice that the car is having a difficult time when starting. Burning oil relates to a leak in the combustion chamber of the engine. There are a list of reasons why this happens, from valve seals to damaged cylinder walls. A good mechanic will check these things out on a regular basis and warn you before you have to see this smoke.
- Get your brake system checked regularly. They say to get your tires rotated when you get your oil changed, but you should add a brake check to that list. In general, you want to get them checked every 6 months to a year, and please have it done by a professional (preferably a Volvo specialist mechanic---more on that later).
- If you happen to hear ANY odd noises while braking, then DO NOT wait to get your brakes inspected. Screeching, squealing, and grinding are all pretty clear signs of brake wear or larger brake issues. Don't ignore, and don't wait to get these handled. Getting these fixed in a time-efficient manner will help problems from becoming larger or more expensive.
- Even if you do not hear noises, just know that getting your brake pads replaced on time can really save your braking system from larger repairs. When you brake, there's a ton of friction being handled and dealt with by your brakes. The pads MUST be replaced, since they are meant to wear and protect the rest of the system. Waiting too long to replace pads could make for more costly repairs or the need for brake replacement.
- Watch out and pay attention if your car's brake warning light comes on. The brake light turning on is a signal for issues with the master cylinder or a possible leak of brake fluid. Neither one of these are something you can afford to mess with. Get your car to a professional for a clear diagnosis.
- Lastly, if you own a Volvo, we recommend that you bring your car to a Volvo specialist. Automobile brake systems are not as specific to each vehicle make as other components, but if you're having your car worked on, you want someone who knows the ins, outs, and quirks that may come with your specific make or model. Most importantly, if anything else isn't going right, you'll have a Volvo mechanic there to recommend other actions.
- Whether a mysterious car breakdown or a tire blowout happens, you'll want to safely merge onto the shoulder of the highway or side of the road.
- Set your car's emergency flashers on, and take a second to keep calm.
- A cell phone is obviously a HUGE HELP, so immediately use it to call for roadside assistance or someone else that can safely come to help.
- Stay in your car if you can and keep the doors locked, but if you must get out, make sure and exit from the passenger side---especially on busy roads and at night.
- If someone you don't know stops to help, you can talk to them, but only lower your window two or three inches, so as to keep anyone from reaching through into your car---just to be on the safest side.
- If a mysterious breakdown occurs, there may not be much you can do besides call for roadside assistance or a tow truck. Please, always keep your cell phone charged, and to prepare, you can purchase a keep a cell phone back-up battery or "power block" in your car with proper cell-charging cable for your phone.
- If you're going to fix any roadside issue yourself, make sure you keep old-school flares, LED flares, or triangle reflectors on hand. These are also good if you're simply going to flag down someone for help---but keep your distance from strangers.
- For Tire problems you can purchase a tire inflator and sealant, such as Fix-a-Flat, that can get you driving again to safety. Also, you should have a spare and the tools to change the tire, such as a tire iron and a jack.
- An automatic tire inflator. These pumps use your car battery to inflate your car's tires. If it's a small hole or leak, you can inflate and drive on to a safer place to replace your tire or get it replaced by a pro.
- A tire gauge, if the automatic inflator doesn't already include one.
- A rechargeable lithium-ion battery with jumper cables is a great way to stay prepared. But the biggest problem is that people don't keep them charged regularly. If you can, this is much safer than having a stranger with jumper cables help.
- Jumper Cables will do if you find reliable help with your dead battery.
- Carry fluids like a quart of motor oil and a gallon of coolant. Adding coolant to an overheating engine could be all you need to get to help.
- Doing any fixes at night is going to require light. Even if your cell has a light you should pack some flashlights and batteries so you can work in the dark hours.
- A general toolkit could also come in handy with screwdrivers, adjustable wrench and such.
- If your cell phone isn't working or you don't have one, than you'll be glad you packed a "Please Call For Help" windshield banner.
- If you're waiting for help, you'll also want to have flashlights and not use your phone's battery any more than you have to.
- Have some work gloves in your kit.
- Always keep a first aid kit in your car or truck.
- Keep bottled water in your car to stay hydrated in an emergency.
- A rain poncho is really handy if you have to be out in bad weather whether fixing something or walking to get help.
- Fleece blankets are probably one of the most versatile helpers for you. They can be used for warmth, for ground cover, or even shade.
- Pack some food like granola bars or packaged trail mix that can stay in an emergency pack for a long time without going bad.
- Duct Tape is a nice thing to have on-hand in SO many situations.
- An extra winter-coat is a great thing to have in your car. Just put the one you were about to give away in your trunk instead.
How often should any service on your car be performed? Who would you trust to give you that answer?
Many people are uninformed about the basic things and most important parts of maintaining your car or in our special case, your Volvo! Sure, we are a Volvo repair facility and we'd love to have more business, but we feel our first job is to keep folks educated about their cars. If we can help keep your car running well, we've already shown that All Vovo is a company that you can trust!
Here are some of the main things you need to know about the "normal" practices for keeping up things like your belts, hoses, or transmission. There are no "dumb questions", but here are a few things you won't have to wonder about any longer.
- When you approach your vehicle, get in the habit of looking at your tires. Tires that are low should be re-inflated immediately.
- Change your oil every 3,000 miles. (Some say you can go longer, but aim for 3,000 and it gives you a little bit of a grace period)
- Have belts and hoses inspected twice a year. (We are glad to help and usually check them any time you bring your car to us)
- Rotate and balance your tires every 7,000 miles and inspect tread depth.
- We recommend buying "Road Hazard Coverage" when you purchase new tires.
- Align your vehicle twice a year. (Not every auto repair place does this, but it's important for safety and tire wear)
- Change your transmission fluid every 25,000 to 30,000 miles.
- Timing belts need to be changed anywhere from 60,000 to 90,000 miles.
- When you purchase a used vehicle, have a reputable shop (All Vovo, for instance) check the car out BEFORE you make the purchase. Also, buy the extended warranty. Maintenance schedules are SO important to having long lasting vehicles. If you need any consultation on your vehicle at any time (especially if it's a Volvo---our specialty, please feel free to give us a call at 206-789-0736.
We will admit that we are re-running this list from our blog nearly two years ago, but we felt it was important to keep this kind of information current with you all. This leads us to re-racking our Five Easy Steps for Better Fuel Economy!
These days, just about everything in today's cars is computer controlled. The computer takes gets its information from the many "sensors" located on the motor and makes a "calculations" on how much fuel to give the motor. Even with these more "Complex" Fuel Injection systems, the basics of the cars of "yesterday" still apply now, just as they did on the very first cars.
I'd like to share these important tips for improving your gas mileage:
1. Check your vehicle's tire pressure often (at least once a month).
Pretty simple, huh? Remember as a kid trying to push a bike with low tire pressure? Now, think of your 3000 lbs. car with low tire pressure! You can check your owner's manual for the correct settings (If you do not have an owner's manual, I highly suggest you get one because there really is some great information in it that you may need in the future, like how to change a flat tire, etc). Also, remember that auto repair shops, including All Vovo, will check and adjust your tire pressure for free with your oil change or any other Volvo service. Another good reason to bring your car in regularly.
2. Keep your vehicle "basics" properly tuned and maintained.
Believe it or not, under all those shiny plastic parts, wires, and expensive electronic stuff is a motor that still needs the basics. These basics are good fuel flow, spark, and airflow. A dirty air filter, or worn out tune-up parts will wreak havoc with your fuel economy. It can even lead you toward an "involuntarily" ride to the shop on the back of a tow truck one day. I can't tell you how many expensive fuel pumps we have replaced due to a restricted $30 to $45 fuel filter that should have been changed with a "scheduled service."
3. Make sure you service the Fuel Injection system at least every 30,000 miles.
I know that most of the manufacturers are now claiming that their vehicle can go 100,000 miles before its first tune-up. In my opinion and from past experience, I feel that this is way too long to extend service. In military terms where the equipment has to be "mission ready", the vehicle must be regularly serviced and inspected consistently. This allows them to prevent potentially disastrous breakdowns from occurring. It is much cheaper to maintain a clean fuel injection system, than it is to replace expensive fuel injection parts.
4. Monitor and, if needed, adjust your driving patterns.
If you are a "lead foot", this is bad news for you. You may have heard that the new fuel injection systems are so fuel-efficient that the new cars "sip" gas. This is only true if you drive the vehicle conservatively and accelerate lightly from stop signs. If you are like 80% of us, this is just not realistic. And, if you are that guy that has a hard time realizing that this is not a NASCAR race, then your fuel economy is even worse. When you really put the accelerator down, the fuel injection system makes power a priority, and fuel economy takes a back seat.
The key is to plan ahead and allow yourself more travel time to get to where you want to go and enjoy more of the drive, rather than just rushing back and forth. It may seem corny, but once you start to drive more conservatively, your gas mileage will go UP and your stress level could go down.
5. Cut down on the amount of driving that you do.
This is a pretty funny answer, but think about it. How often can you put a little more effort into planning ahead and combining trips? Figure out the best route to cover several errands in one trip. Or, better yet, try another transportation option if possible: walk, ride your bike, ride the bus, car pool, or just don't go! Pretty simple stuff, but when you drive less, you see the gas stations and repair stations less, and this will save you money in the long run.
I found a great list of emergency driving tips provided by edmunds.com (you can read the original article at: http://www.edmunds.com/driving-tips/how-to-survive-the-top-10-driving-emergencies.html ). It goes over some scenarios that you don't often get expert training on. Many drivers may know how to handle a slide in the snow and ice, but very few know what to do in Tire malfunction situations. Do you?
The contributor, Mac Demere, mentions that pilots and race car drivers MUST be trained in all emergency situations to be allowed to continue operating, but the drivers we share the road with get little to no such training. We may just go ahead and repost more of their instruction, but for now, I wanted to focus on your tires and what to do to get out of trouble in a surprise scare.
(Most of what is below is taken from the article referenced above. We thank them for their expertise.)
Emergency #1: Tire Blowout
To survive a tire blowout, pretend you're the bad guy in a police chase: Push the gas and drive straight ahead. The shotgun-blast noise of a tire blowout makes most law-abiding drivers do exactly the wrong thing: attempt to slow down quickly and get off the road. With a rear-tire failure, any turning at high speed will likely result in a crash.
I've taught hundreds of drivers how to correctly handle a tire blowout: I sat in the passenger seat and exploded a gaping hole in the tire with plastic explosive. Not one lost control. Here's how they did it.
If a tire blows:
- Squeeze the gas pedal for a couple of seconds. This puts you in control of the car and directs the car straight down the road. It also prevents you from committing the mortal sins of braking and turning. After a couple of seconds, gently and smoothly release the accelerator pedal. The drag force of a completely flat tire is so potent that pushing the gas will not allow the vehicle to go faster.
- Most importantly, drive straight down your lane. Keep your feet away from the brake (or clutch).
- Allow the car to coast down to as slow a speed as is safe (30 mph is good). Engage your turn signal and gently turn toward the shoulder of the road that's on the same side as the blown tire: This lessens your chance of losing control and will make the tire change safer. If the situation requires, you may ever so lightly squeeze the brakes.
Almost all highway blowouts and tread separations occur with the car traveling in a straight line on a very hot day at high speeds with an underinflated tire. The repeated flexing of an underinflated tire causes the failure. Check your tire pressures!
[This is great! We've mentioned the importance of proper tire pressures and checking them often many times. Now you see, it's more than etiquette, and even more than a gas mileage issue. It's a matter of safety for you and your passengers.]
Though the recovery techniques are nearly identical, a tread separation is more dangerous than a blowout. This is where the tread rubber and underlying steel belt partially or completely come off the tire. This creates a giant Weed Eater with a blade of steel-backed rubber spinning around at about 1,000 rpm. It'll scythe through the fuel tank, brake lines, inner fender panels, rear seats, side windows and, of course, flesh and bone.
An impending tread separation is usually announced by a consistent thumping noise, which will increase to a slapping sound, and then a metal-tearing jackhammer pounding. Sometimes this process takes days, other times only seconds. If you hear this, immediately slow down and take the tire to a professional for inspection. If you can see damage, put on the spare before proceeding.
If the tread begins to fly off:
- Squeeze the gas pedal for an instant and gently release it.
- Drive straight down your lane.
- Allow the car to coast down as much as is safely possible. You will likely have to apply the brakes lightly in order to reach a safe turning speed.
- Engage your turn signal and smoothly turn toward the shoulder of the road that's on the same side as the damaged tire.
Another reason why tread separations are more dangerous than blowouts: When the tread leaves the tire, the bad noise stops and some people think the car has magically cured itself. But instead of rolling along on grippy rubber, they're riding on fabric. Polyester will offer little grip when they take that next freeway off-ramp.
This guy really knows his stuff. Both corrections are pretty much the same, but once gain, they also point to the idea that you need to give attention and care to your tires. Our shop provides Volvo Repair Seattle WA recommends and trusts, but it's not just our repair work, it's that we are dedicated to keeping you on the road safely. This is why we check the tire pressure every time you bring your car to us, and we inflate your tires properly.
We found a great article (and a hilarious one at that), that outlines the Top Ten Car Maintenance Mistakes. The author, Tom Wilson, runs through the ins and outs of what folks often ignore in their vehicle's maintenance. (Find it here: http://editorial.autos.msn.com/article.aspx?cp-documentid=463862&page=0 )
I loved the part where Tom reminds us that cars have gotten far easier to maintain, and need about "as much maintenance as a toaster". Funny stuff. The real funny thing is that it seems to have made us all even MORE complacent about what our cars need and how NOT to procrastinate if a real issue is presenting itself.
Please, read over this comprehensive list! I will also add to this information that all of the tire inflation, brake, and air filter concerns are something that your Volvo specialist (like All Vovo) is pleased to handle for you on every oil change. This is a great list to keep you Volvo drivers aware of the kinds of things to look out for, but don't be intimidated, we are glad to keep you knowledgeable about your own car. It does, though, require that you bring your vehicle to us---at least for a regular oil change.
More importantly, there are the regular servicing/maintenance schedule that is designated for your Volvo! This is part of the plan for HOW your Volvo can run so long and strong for you. The catch is that you need to get it in for this regular service ON SCHEDULE! Generally, it's a 30K, 60K, 90K mileage-type plan, but you MUST consult your owners manual. When it's time, get it in to us immediately, regardless of whether you've noticed any problems.
Lastly, we want to assure you that All Vovo can take care of this regular servicing at a reasonable price and there is NO REASON why you have to bring a car back to the dealership to maintain the car's warranty. If, for instance, you have a 100,000-mile warranty, and you come due for your service, the dealership holds no special importance over an independent Volvo shop like ours for Volvo Service. In fact, the only time it makes any difference, is if something brakes that is under warranty. Then you should take it to the dealership and get the warrantied parts fixed for free!
So, don't hesitate! Check your owner's manual right now, and get an idea of when you will need to bring your Volvo to a specialist like us. It will save you a ton of money, just by letting a Seattle Volvo mechanic like us handle the maintenance and get a look at all of the vital systems. You can sit back, relax, and let professionals keep you safe and help you avoid costly repairs.
The folks at Volvo are at it again! We've posted many times about the history and tradition of Volvo being steeped in safety-consciousness and innovation. A recent post on the Autocar website (read it here: http://www.autocar.co.uk/car-news/industry/volvo-reveals-new-life-saving-safety-tech ), refers to recent demonstrations by Volvo on how they can create cars that actually "steer, stop, and avoid obstacles both during the daytime and at night. Volvo is also developing cars that can park themselves and return to an agreed pick-up point at the tap of a smartphone screen."
The article claims that since emission standards in Europe are getting stricter every year, auto-makers have to use lighter and lighter materials for the sake of fuel efficiency. The problem is that lighter materials don't allow for strong protective structures to protect drivers in case of a collision. So, the minds at Volvo decided to "develop cars that are harder to crash, rather than ones that will protect occupants more if you crash," as the article explains.
The technology is already in existence and in use in many of their vehicles---camera, radar, night vision, gps, etc. The technology also should remain a low-cost addition to their vehicles. The development and honing for a precise autonomous experience seems to be 5 or 10 years off.
Volvo is striving to innovate once again, and will likely license this technology to other automakers. Incredible how even though the years, Volvo ends up in the same place in creating safer experiences for drivers.
The idea is to take the driver error out of the safety equation, that likely will eliminate the largest portion of auto-safety issues. Some of the specific aims of this technology are: to have strong animal detection and reaction to possible animals in the roadway; to sense road edges and barriers, and steer away or brake as necessary; create car-to-car communication, protecting you from rear-ending cars that are braking; and to protect pedestrians and cyclists in the dark, by sensing them and avoiding them when necessary.
I realize that many of the folks that come to us for Volvo Repair Seattle are old-time Volvo fans, with cars that are as old as our shop (est. 1982), but new Volvos have just as much of a draw today, as they have continued to keep with the times and the needs of the driver. If you've become a fan of how this company has maintained a quality identity and innovative mindset over the years, then this is just one more reason to remain a fan. Models new or old are welcome at our shop, and we're excited to see the history of Volvo's success every day at All Vovo! Cheers to Volvo and Seattle Volvo owners!
Nearly two years ago we spent time blogging some very important tips on the fluids in your Volvo. These tips actually could be applied to most any car. As part of a car care informational course here at the shop, we used to train people on all of the areas of concern for understanding and maintaining your Volvo. We didn't want to repeat the information because we know you can look back at it, BUT we realized that newer followers to our blog, or social media, might want to be refreshed on some of that information.
We thought we'd start by going over two major fluids that keep your car running smoothly: The coolant, and the automatic transmission fluid. You can find the original posts here: http://www.allvovo.com/Vovo-Blog.html?entry=checking-your-car-fluids-engine1 and http://www.allvovo.com/Vovo-Blog.html?entry=checking-your-car-fluids-automatic
Checking your Engine Coolant
Radiator fluid, or coolant, is the most important part of your car's cooling system, which protects your engine from overheating. Low coolant can lead to a breakdown and expensive repairs, so it is important to always keep the coolant level full. A low coolant level will cause engine overheating. We will check this when you bring it in to All Vovo for other services, but this is one area where you have to make sure and keep an eye on it yourself.
Here's how to check the engine fluid level:
Check the level of coolant or antifreeze only when the engine is cold. The coolant level should be between "LOW" and "FULL" marks in the coolant overflow tank. If it's lower, you should add some fluid. If there is no coolant in the overflow tank at all, you should add the coolant into the radiator also. But, you must remember: Never open the radiator cap when the engine is hot!
Another pro tip is that you can check the coolant strength with a coolant test strip. The strips change color to indicate how much life is left in the coolant. IF the coolant is brown or rust-colored, you may need a radiator flush and refill. Most people never consider the effectiveness of the fluid. If you like, we can go ahead and check/test this for you when you bring your car in to All Vovo.
Checking Your Automatic Transmission Fluid
Transmission fluid is not something that most drivers work with, but if you are concerened about something with your car's shifting, you can do a quick check on the fluid. We'll of course, handle this for you if you get the car in to us. If something isn't right, we'll be able to quickly find out what's going on.
Park your car on a level surface. Start the engine. Set the transmission level to the "P" (Parking) position, and let the engine idle (on some cars this process may differ, check the owner's manual for details). Pull the transmission dipstick and dry it with a lint-free clean rag or tissue. Then, set it back carefully all the way down into its place. Pull the dipstick again and check the fluid level. If the engine is cool, it should be at the upper end of the "cold" mark. If the engine is hot, the level should be at the upper end of the "hot" mark. If it reads lower than these respective marks, you should add some automatic transmission fluid.
Check the fluid condition also. If it is too black and has a burnt smell, then your transmission is not going to last. Normally, it should be clean and transparent. Its color may vary from red to brown. Wipe the dipstick with clean white paper and look at the paper. There should be no black deposits, no medal particals, and no dirt left on the paper. If the condition of the fluid looks bad, get your Volvo to us immediately.
This is how to add the transmission fluid: Check the transmission fluid type in the owners manual. For example, some Chrysler transmissions need only a specific type of fluid and regular fluid, like Dexron 3, can even destroy the transmission. Add a little amount of fluid and wait for a minute to let the fluid flow down. Start the engine then check the level again. Add fluid in small amounts as needed.