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Under the Hood

Identify What Fluid Is Leaking from Your Car by Color

July 10, 2019
car-fluid-leaks

What’s black, white, and red all over? If you said, “my driveway,” then your car may be leaking…something. But what, exactly, is that hideous pool of liquid?

Don’t go dipping your pinky in a puddle of driveway-goo. There’s an easier way to figure out what your car is leaking; unless you’re colorblind, you can probably identify car fluid drips by eye. In fact, you don’t even need a particularly well-trained eye to get to the bottom of a car leak, as there are only a handful of fluids that could be the culprit.

Dark or Black Fluid Leaks

Brown, amber, or black fluids, especially when sludgy or thick, usually indicate an engine oil leak. (The smoking gun is if soaks into the ground and stains it black.)

Cars can leak oil – this is just a fact. Typically, a little drop of engine oil is not serious enough to warrant a trip to your auto mechanic. Your car’s oil may seep out of your oil filter’s gasket or seal if it’s not fastened well enough. Apply some elbow grease and you should be good to go.

However, drips can be a sign that something is awry under your car. If your car continues to leak oil, you could have a punctured oil pan, faulty oil filter, corroded drain plug, or any number of damaged car parts. A visit to your auto service center or a local oil change shop should set you straight.

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Under the Hood

10 Essential Electric Vehicle Maintenance & Service Tips

June 20, 2019
Electric-Vehicle-Maintenance

Electric cars are a rare breed within the auto world. Unlike “normal” cars, EVs don’t require regular oil changes, nor do they need new spark plugs or yearly emissions inspections. Heck, it’s unusual to even change the brakes on an EV thanks to regenerative braking technology and the electric motor’s ability to stop without any mechanically based friction. They truly are works of art that also reduce auto maintenance costs significantly.

While electric car maintenance is easier and costs less than that of gas-powered vehicles, it doesn’t mean EV owners can forego trips to their local auto service center. Electric vehicles have their own list of auto service demands – some of which are shared with conventional vehicles – and if those demands are not met, you can assume a very costly repair will be right around the corner. Here are 10 of the most vital EV maintenance tasks that should never be skipped.

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Money Matters, Under the Hood

How To Avoid Buying A Flood-Damaged Used Car In Kansas City

April 11, 2019
flood-damaged-used-car

It’s already plenty nerve-wracking buying a used car. You might wonder if there’s an underlying mechanical problem or worry about the after-effects of a previous accident. Now, with the recent flooding along the Missouri River, there’s one more thing to worry about: whether or not the car you’re considering has been damaged by a flood. It’s an unfortunate reality for some shoppers, as thousands of cars from all over Kansas City have been damaged by water, then cleaned up for sale. How do you spot one of these vehicles?

Signs of Flood Damage in a Used Car or Truck

A few specific signs can indicate an issue with past water damage:

  • Water lines or condensation in the lights. Unless the lights were completely replaced, you may be able to detect the faint signs of water lines or condensation on the lens or reflector of the front or rear vehicle lights. These are hard to clean completely.
  • Damp, musty carpets & mats (or brand-new carpeting). The carpets can give you a great clue about past water damage. If they were not removed right away and carefully dried, they’ll still smell like dirty water or mold. Check underneath the floor mats for any sign of unusual grime or mud. Obviously, if carpeting was just replaced, you might inquire as to why, as this is not normal.
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Under the Hood

7 Uncommon OBD-II Codes & What They Mean

March 29, 2019
Uncommon-OBD-Codes

Who’s down with OBD? Yeah, you know: Me!

When DIY mechanics troubleshoot a car problem, they rely on experience, their guts, and what their code scanners spit out. But what do all those OBD-II codes mean? With help from some friendly Kansas City service technicians at McCarthy, here are 7 of the most uncommon OBD2 diagnostic errors they’ve encountered, plus a list of symptoms, causes, and potential fixes for each.

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Under the Hood

What’s The Difference Between 87, 89 & 91 Fuel?

March 15, 2019
Fuel-Grades-Explanation

When you pull into a gas station, you probably fill up with the same type of fuel each time. But have you ever wondered which type is best for your car? Have you ever wondered what those numbers meant? Have you ever wondered what the purpose of life is?

Well, a friend of mine tweeted recently, asking what the difference was between these fuel grades. So, after speaking with the friendly technicians at a friendly Kansas City auto service center, I’m ready to give you some answers to two of those three Qs (you can guess which ones). Here are some of the key differences between 87, 89, 91, and other fuel grades.

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Under the Hood

What Happens If You Never Change Your Car’s Oil?

October 15, 2018
change-your-oil
A dealer friend of ours recently recounted a terrifying tale in which the protagonist failed to change his oil over the course of 8 years. We’ll spare you the gory details, but know this: the story didn’t end well for the owner of that poor car.

So, let us ask you: When’s the last time you changed your engine oil? If it was when St Louis still had a pro football team, we’re here to push you into the service center, like, yesterday. You don’t even want to know what happens to an engine when its oil and filters aren’t changed (but we’ll tell you anyway).

When to Change Your Oil

First, you need to know when to change your oil because “never” is not an acceptable length of time.

Although the traditional rule is to change your oil every 3,000 miles or 3 months, modern vehicles are typically a bit more lenient, requiring you to get an oil change after 5,000-plus miles. While that extended maintenance time is nice, it can also cause unintended consequences—namely forgetfulness camouflaged as peace of mind, leading to a missed oil change here and a skipped oil filter replacement there.
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Under the Hood

Headlights How-To

July 25, 2017
Driving without functioning headlights is not only dangerous, but illegal. Most headlight bulbs are estimated to last hundreds, even thousands of hours. So, worrying about your lights burning out is not a thought most drivers stress over. However, when the day comes that one of your lights burn out, I’m here to walk you through this easy fix! Tools you’ll need:
  • New bulb(s). You can’t go out and buy just any new light bulb. Your dealership’s service center or local auto parts store should be able to match a new light bulb to the make and model of your vehicle.
  • Phillips-head screwdriver
  • Supplies to clean and hold the new bulb. Alcohol wipes and tissues/gloves work great.
  1. Locate the headlight holder
  • Find this by opening the hood of your car and locating the headlight in pursuit near the front of your vehicle. You’ll see a bulb holder with a power connector leading to it (this usually looks like a set of three wires). Congratulations, you’ve found the headlight holder.
  1. Remove the power wires
  • The wires you just located should be attached to a plug at the base of the headlight. They are usually held in place by a metal clip, screw cap, or plastic catch. Depending on which device is holding the wires, carefully loosen and remove the wires from it. To do so, you should see either a lever, clip, or device you can unscrew to loosen the power wires and remove the old bulb.
  1. Clean the new bulb
  • Use the supplies you’ve brought to handle the bulb. The gloves or tissues are meant to keep the oils from your skin from getting onto the new bulb. Clean the bulb with the alcohol wipes to ensure any oils, fingerprints, or dust have been wiped away.
  1. Install the new bulb
  • Once the bulb is clean, place it into the base of the plug where you just loosened the power wires and removed the old bulb. When installed correctly, none of the bulb’s rubber gasket should be visible. Now that the bulb is in, put the headlight holder back in place and plug the power wires into the new bulb.
  1. Test the new bulb
  • Simply make sure your newly installed bulb is functioning correctly by turning your headlights on!
Once you’ve followed these five simple steps–voilà! You’ve successfully changed your own headlight and saved yourself a trip to the auto shop!
Under the Hood

Old Car Restoration

March 8, 2017
Restoring an old car is like rebuilding yourself from the ground up. You assess how much time, money, and energy you are willing to invest in the project and you work from the inside out. Here is some information to get you started! Car Restoration Meter: How much are you willing to invest? Low level: Pick a car that still runs but can use a makeover, an upgrade, and some love. Not everyone has the time or enthusiasm to rebuild a vehicle. It is still fun and valuable to gain experience working on your car. These can be people that have next to no experience with cars and require a mechanic to fix a car problem, or just somebody who doesn’t have much time! Medium level: Find yourself a car that could use some loving. Get ready to feel uncomfortable because you may have to fix a thing or two that you’re not familiar with. These are cars that may require a little welding, some elbow grease, and some oil on your clothes. High level: You can be anywhere from a complete beginner to an expert. The thing people coming from all levels have in common is a passion to build something from close to scratch. Pick a vehicle that requires welding, interior and exterior work, and parts to be fixed. These people get the full benefit of making something come to life. Work from the inside out: Before you can actually work on the car you want to ensure that it is something that you can handle. Make a list of all damaged items, including any performance parts, damaged interior, leaks, to any rusted sections. Once you figure out if you can  restore the car then it’s time to go to work. People always want to start with new tires and a fresh paint job, but the inside is what counts at first. Focus on the essentials such as the engine, which is the heart of the car. Move on to hoses and any electrical components. Get to work on the transmission then the exhaust. Put on some tires and THEN you are ready for the interior. Expenses: Car parts are expensive. Try and find what parts you have that only need a cleaning or minor fixes and do those yourself. There are always places you can buy used car parts, such as Ebay, Craigslist, or junkyards. Don’t be so picky with the latest and greatest gear. Tools can be tough to come by. Your best bet is to have a friend that works on cars who can let you borrow what you need. Tips: Learn by reverse engineering. Take a car part off and really look at it, read up on it, and then put it back the same way you found it. This is how you learn about the mechanics of anything. Take advantage of resources such as books, YouTube videos, car forums, and anyone you know that works on vehicles. Car enthusiasts are usually more than happy to help with projects! There are plenty of forums online for people that have the exact same car as you. Google “year, make, model of car + forum” and you’ll find plenty of info. The internet is your friend! Final notes: You will feel discouraged at times but don’t give up. Try and involve some friends and family if you can. If all else fails, blast your favorite tunes on your speakers and you’re good to go.
Under the Hood

Signs It’s Time for a Transmission Flush

November 12, 2016
First of all—do you even know what a transmission flush is? The importance of this service often goes unnoticed or underrated, but it can prove to be very important to the maintenance, health, and performance of your car! If done correctly, it is a superb preventative measure for more serious issues that could arise in your vehicle later on. A transmission flush is a procedure used to remove debris and sludge found in your transmission, replacing the used oil with clean and fresh oil. Specifically, the oil in your transmission is removed, new oil (or sometimes cleaning solutions) are then run (flushed) through it with a professional grade machine to push out grit, grime, and gunk residue that can build up over time. Then, your transmission is filled up with new oil, and you’re 100% clean! Sound simple? It can be, but it is important to make sure that this procedure is done correctly for your car. Sometimes transmission flushes can cause more harm than good. Typically, it is important to get your transmission serviced every 30,000 to 45,000 miles (depending on your workload and type of fluid used.) But, if your vehicle has not been serviced in these intervals, or your service history is unknown, flushing could dislodge debris elsewhere in the fluid and cause more damage/increase the deterioration rate of your transmission. So for these reasons, you want to ensure that you are having the transmission fluid checked by a reputable and reliable source. But, if done right and regularly, transmission flushes help to prolong the overall life of your transmission, and are more in depth and beneficial than just a flush change. Here are some signs that you might need a transmission flush:
  • You hear strange noises coming from your car. If you hear grinding like noises, get your transmission checked.
  • You are checking your transmission fluid, and it is brown or black. *ALERT* Your transmission fluid should be bright red, so this is a red flag that you could need this serviced.
  • You are having shifting troubles. A dirty transmission can cause shifting issues and concerns, so a flush can keep your transmission running smoothly.
  • You’re gear slipping. Clean transmissions apply pressure to keep shifting properly, so a dirty one can impede the flow of fluid needed for this pressure, causing slipping. Gears need a clean and consistent flow to operate smoothly.
  • Your car is surging forward or falling back unexpectedly. Observe your RPM and see if it is consistent.  Dirty transmission fluid contains buildup that can cause inconsistent handling of your car. It might definitely be time for a transmission flush if you notice surges or inconsistency!
  • Your car stalls or delays when put into gear. Especially if you drive automatic, your vehicle should be able to move along as soon as it’s put into gear. If it stalls or delays, this can be a sign you have a serious transmission problem.
Look out for all of the above signs in your own vehicle. If you notice any of these happening, go in for a maintenance check and have them specifically check your transmission! More often than not, these are signs leading to transmission issues, but there still could be other causes—so it’s best to have it checked just to make sure. A transmission flush is not the answer for everyone, but it is important to be informed on and aware of if the need ever arises! If you are considering having one done, examine your owner’s manual first, and make sure it is something recommended for your specific make and model. A typical price range for having a transmission flush performed can range anywhere from $100 to $300, so it is not something to take lightly. It has many more factors than regular services, and you can usually expect to pay twice as much as a fluid change, due to the additional fluid required to completely service your transmission. Don’t let this scare you though! This procedure can be an easy and low cost maintenance option for your car when performed correctly. It also gives you peace of mind knowing the internal health of your vehicle is running smoothly, and can prevent and save you costly damages over time.
Under the Hood

Why Are You Getting Bad Gas Mileage?

September 16, 2016

If you’ve noticed that you aren’t getting as far on a tank as usual, there might be a few key reasons to consider. If you’re getting bad gas milage, it means your car is not running as efficiently as it could. Take a look at some of the reasons why you might be guzzling gas, and learn how to get more bang for your buck.

Highway driving. If there isn’t traffic, I find myself charging down the highway. Experts say that most cars get the best gas mileage around 40 to 60 mph. Anything more than that decreases your fuel efficiency. Slow down and keep the gas in your tank!

Idling. It’s not good for your car, and it’s not good for the environment. Whether you’re picking up your kids from school or pulling up at the ATM, turn off the engine. The A/C might be nice at the moment, but it’s killing your gas mileage.

Gasoline type. If you’re using E85 ethanol, it can seriously hurt your gas mileage. Also, if you’re pumping your expensive sports car full of regular gas when it calls for premium, you’re not going to get the fuel economy that the car is supposed to deliver.

Maintenance. A clogged air filter or a malfunctioning oxygen sensor are both killers of fuel economy. Other factors to consider are under-inflated tires and/or suspension that is out of alignment. Keep up with regular maintenance and your gas bill with thank you!