Feel free to call or email us to schedule your next appointment.
Monday - Friday
8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Saturday - Sunday
We also accept Checks
Keeping Your ‘Old Faithful’ Auto Running
At Bells Mill AutoCare we’ve had a lot of Chesapeake, Suffolk, and Norfolk clients asking how they can make their vehicles last longer. These questions are actually a reflection of a trend that’s been building for several years in VA. The median age of personal vehicles is now over nine years. And 33 percent of all vehicles on the road have over 75,000 miles on them. It looks like it’s going to keep heading in that direction for a while. With high fuel prices, a lot of Chesapeake folks are putting off buying a new car. Thanks to AutoNetTV, we can provide you with a video answer to this important question.
So let’s say you’re one of the average auto owners in the Chesapeake area; you’ve got a nine year old car with 80,000 miles on the odometer. What can you to do make it last another year or two?
Let’s start with the premise that there’s no reason that a modern car can’t run for 200,000 miles with proper care in Chesapeake. The engineering and manufacturing quality is there.
Of course, some parts will wear out along the way, but there’s no reason for a catastrophic meltdown if quick Chesapeake auto owners stay on top of their recommended car maintenance. The maintenance schedule in some auto maker’s owner’s manuals runs out at 60,000 miles or so: how do Chesapeake drivers know what to do when they’re way past that?
It is a challenge, for example: If a service is recommended every 15,000 miles for the first 60,000 miles you can just keep getting it done at least every 15,000 miles after you hit 60,000 miles. But, it gets more complicated because older engines lose some efficiency, are dirtier inside and are just more stressed. That means it’s very important to not miss any scheduled services. Skipping just one oil change at Bells Mill AutoCare in Chesapeake, for example, leaves an opportunity for detrimental sludge to build up. Talk to your considerate Bells Mill AutoCare tech.
So all the usual things like oil changes, transmission service, coolant service, brakes, power steering, fuel system cleaning – all that stuff needs to be maintained. People responsible for fleet vehicles around Chesapeake are sticklers for scheduled maintenance. They know that money spent on maintenance saves them three ways:
it keeps fuel efficiency from decreasing;
it prevents expensive repairs, and;
they can postpone purchasing new vehicles.
Having the oil changed may be the most vital thing auto owners can do. A full-service oil change at Bells Mill AutoCare means that all of your other fluids get topped off so they are never low enough to cause damage. It also gives your considerate Bells Mill AutoCare service specialist a chance to spot problems in the early stages so that you can fix them before they get pricey. And it gives you a touch point with an automotive professional along the way to remind you of things that aren’t scheduled as often – things like differential service and timing belt replacement.
If you live in the Chesapeake area and have an older vehicle, you may need to follow the severe service maintenance schedule. Check your owner’s manual and talk with your service professional at Bells Mill AutoCare. Conditions inside an older engine, transmission and cooling system can arguably be considered severe – so shorter intervals could well be called for.
And, the team at Bells Mill AutoCare strongly encourages Chesapeake motorists to consider using high mileage formulation fluids. They’re fluids like engine oil, transmission fluid and coolant that are formulated for older engines. They have special additives to clean deposits, and to condition and restore seals and gaskets that dry out with age. Some Chesapeake auto owners start using higher mileage formulations at around 50,000 miles as a preventive measure.
Of course you also want to still look marvelous in your older car as you drive around Chesapeake. Salt and road grime wreak havoc on your paint job and can lead to body rust – so regular washing is very important. Also, a good quality waxing is recommended at least twice a year.
Air Conditioning Maintenance At Bells Mill AutoCare In Chesapeake
Warm weather or cold, Chesapeake drivers still need to think about their vehicle’s air conditioning. Most Chesapeake people don’t service their air conditioning until after it fails. At Bells Mill AutoCare, we can advise you on your ‘s preventive maintenance schedules for air conditiong service, just as we do for transmission service, oil changes and so on.
Maintaining your air conditioning system means that you always have enough refrigerant to properly do the job. Small leaks in the pickup’s air conditioning system allow the refrigerant to escape and the system can’t cool the air as well. We see that a lot at Bells Mill AutoCare in Chesapeake.
The refrigerant also contains a key oil that lubricates air conditioning components, and keeps the seals resilient. Low refrigerant and lubricating oil means that the air conditioning parts will wear out prematurely, and all Chesapeake car owners know that air conditioning repairs can be costly. At Bells Mill AutoCare, we recommended that the air conditioner be run regularly, even during winter months, to keep the parts and seals lubricated.
Corrosion is what leads to many air conditioning system failures for Chesapeake motorists. The small leaks mentioned earlier also mean that air and water can leak into the air conditioning system. This can lead to rust and dirt in the internal workings of the air conditioning components. This greatly accelerates wear and, ultimately, failure.
Air conditioning service at Bells Mill AutoCare starts with a visual inspection of the components for signs of damage or leaks. The compressor is driven by a belt from the engine, most often the serpentine belt, so it’s inspected for cracks or wear. The air conditioning compressor and other components are checked for proper operation. Then comes the leak test. If a leak is detected, often in a hose or connection, it’s repaired and the system is retested.
Then the old refrigerant is evacuated and the system is recharged with clean, fresh refrigerant. A final test insures that the pickup’s air conditioner is working, and you’re on your way.
How often this should be done varies from vehicle to vehicle. Your pickup owner’s manual will have the manufacturer’s recommendation and, of course, your Bells Mill AutoCare service advisor can tell you. It’s typically every two years.
If you’re not getting enough cool air out of your AC you know something’s wrong. Also, if you hear strange sounds when you turn the air on, there might be a problem with the compressor and you should get it checked out at Bells Mill AutoCare. Replacing a bad A/C clutch in a pickup is cheaper than waiting for it to ruin the compressor.
Chesapeake drivers need to be aware that there’s one more thing that isn’t directly related to air conditioning service, but does impact the quality of the air in your pickup. And that’s your cabin air filter. This filter cleans dust, pollen, pollution and other impurities in the air that comes from the heater and air conditioner. The cabin air filter needs to be replaced when it’s dirty. If you don’t it’ll start to smell. Not all vehicles have one, so ask your Bells Mill AutoCare service advisor to check your cabin air filter at the same time they’re doing your air conditioning service.
Cooling System Components
Today we want to talk about a vital system in our cars – the cooling system. It’s one of those things that Chesapeake car owners don’t give much thought to until it fails and then they’re stranded by the side of a road in Chesapeake.
Cooling systems fail more often than any other mechanical system – usually because of neglect. Don’t you hate it when something breaks, and you could have done something to prevent it?
The good news is that if Chesapeake car owners take care of their cooling systems they can keep working for the life of their car.
Here at AutoNetTV and Bells Mill AutoCare in Chesapeake, we emphasize critical preventive maintenance services like replacing your coolant according to the factory schedule. But the various parts that make up the cooling system need attention too. The major components of the cooling system are the water pump, freeze plugs, the thermostat, the radiator, cooling fans, the heater core, the pressure cap, the overflow tank and the hoses.
It sounds complicated, but we Chesapeake car owners don’t have to be experts – we can leave that to our considerate tech at Bells Mill AutoCare. But, having an overview will help us remember how to take care of your car’s cooling system.
Most Chesapeake folks would be surprised to know that burning fuel in your engine produces up to 4,500 degrees of heat. And all that heat has to be dealt with. If the heat can’t be drawn off the engine, the pistons will literally weld themselves to the inside of the cylinders – then you just have to throw the engine away and get a new one. That would cost thousands of dollars.
Now the water pump is what forces the coolant through passages in the pickup engine to absorb heat. The pump is driven by a belt that needs replacement from time to time. And the water pump will eventually wear out and need to be replaced. Spending some cash on replacing the belts and water pump is much less than the cost of repairing the extremely pricey damage that can be done when an engine seizes.
There’s another little but important part of the coolant system that protects the engine. It’s called a freeze plug. If you remember from high school chemistry, water expands when it freezes. In very cold areas, the coolant can actually freeze when the pickup is left sitting.
It is hard to believe, but the expanding frozen coolant is strong enough to actually crack the engine block. The freeze plugs fit into the engine block. They fit tight enough to withstand the pressure of a running engine, but can expand or pop out if the coolant freezes. These little things save a lot of engine blocks.
That brings up a good point. An engine has to work in all kinds of VA temperatures – extremely hot as well as very cold. How does the pickup cooling system adapt to external temperatures as well as varying operating conditions?
Well, it’s much like the way you keep your Chesapeake house at a comfortable temperature all year round – with a thermostat. The thermostat in your pickup controls how much coolant flows through your engine. When the engine is cold, it restricts coolant flow until the engine comes up to an efficient operating temperature. Then it starts opening up to move more coolant to keep the temperature within a specified range.
The thermostat needs to be replaced from time to time as well. It’s easy for your Bells Mill AutoCare technician to diagnose a failed thermostat and is fairly inexpensive to replace. We can do this for you at Bells Mill AutoCare in Chesapeake, just give us a call: 757.436.5950. Now we’ve been talking about all this heat we’ve got to get rid of, but haven’t really talked about where it goes. That’s where the radiator comes in. The hot coolant passes through the radiator. Air flows past the cooling fins and cools the coolant.
The radiator has two tanks that hold coolant: sometimes one at the top and bottom or one on either side. If you have an automatic transmission in your pickup, one of the tanks will also contain a second tank that cools the transmission fluid. Large SUV’s and trucks often have a separate transmission cooler. So when Chesapeake motorists drive around Chesapeake, the air is forced past the radiator. But driving doesn’t produce enough air flow. So the radiator has cooling fans that force fresh air over the radiator. These fans may be powered by a belt or by electric motors.
Chesapeake motorists also have something called a heater core. The heater core is like a mini radiator. A small fan blows air over the heater core and into the passenger compartment of your pickup. That’s how Chesapeake motorists warm their cars when it’s cold out in VA.
Next is the radiator cap. With most newer cars around Chesapeake, you never remove the radiator cap, except to replace it. You add coolant through the overflow tank. The radiator cap is also called a pressure cap, because its essential job is to maintain pressure in the cooling system.
High pressure raises the boiling point of the coolant, so it cools more effectively even in very demanding Chesapeake conditions. That is why Chesapeake motorists need to replace the cap from time to time. The team at Bells Mill AutoCare recommends changing it out every time you replace your coolant.
Coming back to the overflow tank, it is critical because when the coolant gets hot it expands and the overflow holds the extra volume. The tank helps maintain the proper level of coolant and keeps air out of the system. Chesapeake car owners should never open the radiator cap or over flow tank when the engine is hot. This could lead to serious burns.
What else do we Chesapeake drivers need to do to keep our cooling systems working well? Well, there are the hoses that hook all of these pieces together. They’re obviously very tough to deal with the pressure and high temperatures. But they do get worn. Sometimes they get spongy from the heat. Sometimes they lose their connection to the radiator, water pump, etc. It’s a great idea to have your Chesapeake service center or considerate Bells Mill AutoCare technician inspect your hoses at least once a year and replace them, if needed, before they break.
The team at Bells Mill AutoCare can check your cooling system and make any necessary adjustments or repairs. Give us a call at 757.436.5950. Bells Mill AutoCare 964 Bells Mill Rd Chesapeake, VA 23322 757.436.5950
Super Slick at Bells Mill AutoCare in Chesapeake: Synthetic Oil
When you get an oil change, it’s always a safe bet to just use the type of oil the automobile manufacturer recommends. But sometimes we’re asked if we’d like conventional or synthetic motor oil. We glance at the price tags on the two options and choose the cheaper one. But in this case, the more expensive oil might be the better bargain for Chesapeake car owners.
Conventional oil is made from petroleum. Its molecules form long hydrocarbon chains. Synthetic motor oil is either more highly refined petroleum or completely man-made. Its molecules are more uniform. This provides critical advantages over conventional motor oil.
First of all, the molecular structure of synthetic motor oil makes it more slippery than conventional oil so it lubricates better. This translates to better wear protection for Chesapeake motorists, cooler operating temperatures, more engine power and increased gas mileage.
Further, synthetic oil is more heat-resistant than conventional oil, and it doesn’t vaporize as easily. It provides better protection for severe conditions like stop-and-go driving around Chesapeake and very hot or freezing VA temperatures.
Also, synthetic oil doesn’t generate harmful oil sludge like conventional oil. This prevents small engine passageways from becoming clogged, which can significantly extend the working life of your pickup engine.
Manufacturers are aware of the advantages of synthetic oil, and many of them are using it to fill their pickups before delivering them to be sold. Many automobile manufacturer’s owner’s manuals now come with the recommendation to use only synthetic oil. Because synthetic oil wears better and protects better than conventional motor oil, it can be changed less often. If your pickup came with a recommendation for synthetic oil, you may have noticed that the recommended period between oil changes is longer than what you’re used to. However, if you switch to conventional oil, you need to be aware that you can’t follow this longer service interval. You’ll have to change your oil more often.
On the other hand, if you are using conventional oil and you switch to synthetic oil, you may be able to lengthen the time between oil changes. You can talk to your considerate Bells Mill AutoCare service professional. He can offer you good auto advice about oils and service intervals based on your driving habits and requirements.
Oil changes are the hallmark of vital preventive maintenance at Bells Mill AutoCare. All Chesapeake auto owners need them. So we should get excited about a product that reduces how often we need them. Synthetic oil is more costly, yes, but it can pay for itself by lasting longer than conventional oil. And when you add in the hidden savings of an extended engine life and improved fuel economy, not to mention increased engine power, there’s a good chance that synthetic oil actually saves in the long run. All Chesapeake auto owners pay for car care. But understanding what we’re paying for can make us more savvy shoppers.
Fuel Filter Replacement
Hello Chesapeake motorists! You would never like to drink a glass of mud, right? Well, your pickup feels the same way. It needs a steady supply of clean fuel in order to run well and deliver good fuel economy. The fuel filter’s job is to clean dirt and rust out of the fuel before it gets to your engine. A clogged fuel filter can actually choke off the engine so that it won’t start or run. Some fuel filters have a bypass valve that allows fuel to go around the clogged filter so your car will still run. But, then the contaminated fuel can clog your fuel injectors and allow harmful particles into your engine.
A car with a partially clogged fuel filter might run well around Chesapeake, but sputter and strain on the highway because it’s starving for gas. There are two things that affect how often you need to replace the filter. They are: where you drive in VA and the gas you buy. If you drive a lot on dirt or gravel roads in rural VA, your fuel filter will have a harder time keeping the fuel clean.
And, we hate to say it, but buying the cheapest gas from bargain Chesapeake area stations sometimes means dirtier fuel that’ll clog the filter sooner. Major brands tend to be cleaner and certainly have higher levels of detergent additives.
Of course, vehicle manufacturers recommend intervals for changing the fuel filter. But, it’s a little more complicated than that for Chesapeake car owners. Some manufacturers stopped listing recommended intervals for fuel filter replacement or have very long intervals like every five years or eighty thousand miles. So you may need to look to other sources for recommendations. Cars older than six or seven years are especially at risk because they have had time for dirt and rust to build up in the fuel tank. A clean fuel filter keeps the gas flowing. Even a partially clogged filter puts added strain on the pickup fuel pump. That can shorten its life and result in a significant repair.
As is often the case, spending a little money now on something as inexpensive as a fuel filter can save money for Chesapeake car owners down the road by improving fuel efficiency and preventing costly repairs. At Bells Mill AutoCare in Chesapeake, we can check your fuel filter. It is better than fixing a burned-out pickup fuel pump or ruined fuel injectors.