HOW TO TELL WHEN YOUR CAR’S AC NEEDS A RECHARGE

How to Tell When Your Car’s AC Needs a Recharge

If you live in Gilbert, AZ, it’s nice to have functional air conditioning in your car for all the obvious reasons. We’re not in the business of telling you things you already know, though, we’re in the business of car repairs and keeping your vehicle in the best possible condition. With that said, let’s get straight into what an AC recharge is and how you know when you need one.

What is an AC Recharge?

Simply put, an AC recharge means adding more refrigerant to your vehicle. This process is a very common maintenance requirement for older vehicles that still use Freon as a refrigerant. Most modern cars have started using a refrigerant called R134a instead, which doesn’t need to be topped off quite as often. If you have a new vehicle that commonly needs more refrigerant, there’s a good chance you have an AC leak somewhere in the system. Either way, we’ll get to the root of the problem and help you stay cool on the road. 

How Do I Know if My Air Conditioner Needs Recharging?

Unless you have at least a little bit of experience in engineering or as a mechanic, you won’t always be able to tell the difference between low AC refrigerant and other problems. Don’t worry about that for now. All you need to recognize is that if you have a malfunctioning car air conditioners in the Arizona heat. When you can’t get cool in your car, it’s time to bring it into a Gilbert repair shop that understands your pain.

When you bring your car in, we’ll investigate an AC leak in addition to other problems. An excellent first step is to examine your AC compressor. By watching how the clutch and pulleys engage, we can usually tell quickly if the problem is low refrigerant, electrical malfunction, or something mechanical.

In the case of an AC leak, bad electrical signals, or mechanical failure, the system may call for other small repairs. In many cases, though, there is a good chance that you need more of a refrigerant like R134a in your vehicle. We’ll get you back to an appropriate level of air conditioning refrigerant and send you on your way. Since we have all the required equipment on-site, it’s as easy as that!

How Often Does My Car AC Need to Be Recharged?

There’s no hard and fast rule here. Some new cars that stay cool with R134a may only need to be recharged every seven years or so. Living in a hot place like Gilbert though, there’s a good chance you’ll feel the need for a recharge even more often than that. Older cars (from before 1994) will need an AC recharge much more frequently, but you can’t even find many good shops that work with R12 Freon in the United States anymore for environmental health reasons.

In 2014, some cars started running on R1234YF. 1234YF is an effective coolant, but unfortunately, not many shops service it. It requires specialized equipment, which makes it hard for these car owners to get their AC recharged. Luckily, we at Highline Car Care are one of the few shops with the appropriate equipment to work with R1234YF.

Air Conditioning Recharge near Gilbert, Arizona

If you notice your car blowing warm air from the vents even once it’s been running, we at Highline Car Care want to help. We live in Gilbert and spend a lot of time in vehicles, so car air conditioners are near and dear to our hearts. We’ve built our name by treating every car like it’s our own, and we’re ready to do the same with yours. Contact us today, then keep your cool and let us repair your vehicle.

Image Credit: Shutterstock/daniiD

Shocks vs Struts: How To Tell the Difference

Shock absorbers and struts provide stability to your car, steadying your tires and suspension in order to prevent jolts every time you accelerate or hit a rough patch in the road. Both of these features are vital to smooth steering and acceleration. Their internal structures are similar, but they work differently and take up a different position under vehicles. Below, you can learn the difference between shocks vs struts.

How Do Struts and Shocks Work?

Shock absorbers don’t support the weight of a vehicle, but they do control the movement of your suspension and springs to keep the wheels steady. They do this by taking the suspension’s kinetic energy and turning it into thermal energy that can be absorbed by the hydraulic fluid.

Shock absorbers generate resistance against the piston in response to the speed at which the suspension moves. Some are velocity-sensitive, which means that they adjust to driving conditions, counteracting the following:

  • Swaying
  • Bouncing movements
  •  Vehicle dive
  •  Squatting while accelerating

Struts can be found mostly on vehicles with front wheel drive and are a part of a suspension’s structure. This is one of the main difference between shocks vs struts because shocks are separate from the suspension system. The struts hold tires in place, keeping them aligned and supporting the spring.

Typical suspension systems have an upper ball joint and upper arm, but a strut takes the place of these two components, with the benefit of being more compact. By taking up this position, they allow the suspension assembly to move along with the vehicle as its direction changes. Struts support the weight of your vehicle using the coil spring, and a damping unit controls the movement of the suspension and the spring. The strut housing provides a rigid casing for these two internal parts.

Are Shocks and Struts Interchangeable?

Shocks and struts have some internal similarities and perform a similar function. Both make use of a piston to push against hydraulic fluid, which allows them to stabilize against your vehicle’s movement. Shock absorbers house a piston and piston rod, which push against the hydraulic fluid in the pressure tube. When the suspension moves, hydraulic fluid is pushed through holes in the piston in order to slow it down. Once it slows, the suspension and spring slow down as a result.

Struts also include the piston and piston rod to control the movement of the suspension and springs, by pushing the hydraulic fluid. The struts resist the up-and-down movement of the suspension and respond to speed by increasing or decreasing the amount of resistance generated.

Though they are similar, vehicles will only have one of these parts at each wheel, never both on one. Any replacement parts should match the original. Shocks cannot be replaced by struts.

When To Replace Shocks and Struts

For most drivers, failing shocks and struts become apparent when they change how it feels to drive a car. Once your shocks or struts stop effectively providing stability to your car, your ride gets much rougher. Roads suddenly seem much bumpier than before, and steering often becomes more difficult and less precise. Braking can also seem shakier than before. Visible leaking fluid is another sign they are worn out.

Because this feature controls so much about your tires, it can cause unusual patterns of tread or tires that seem to be wearing out faster than usual. Lots of driving can also cause them to wear out faster, and an inspection every 50,000 miles can help you identify old or damaged parts before they cause any issues.

Replacing Your Struts or Shocks in Mesa, AZ

Both shocks and struts are vital to controlling your car’s movement. For a smooth, comfortable ride, it’s important to have them inspected regularly. Make an appointment for a thorough inspection at Highline Car Care today.

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Image: Nixx Photography

Car Tune-Up Checklist for Arizona Drivers

How to Maintain Your Vehicle to Survive the Arizona Summer

Why Is My Car’s Air Conditioner Taking So Long To Cool?

How Often Should You Change Your Oil?

How Long Do Hybrid & Electric Batteries Last?

Problems You Can Avoid with a Routine Oil Change

At Highline Car Care, we believe the informed customer is the happy customer. Do you know what is one of the best ways to keep your automobile in tip-top shape? Make sure your vehicle receives its routine oil change!

Reasons for an Oil Change

If you live in a hot and dusty climate, like in Mesa, Arizona, regular car maintenance is vital. In the often sizzling heat of Mesa, Arizona, performing an oil change can decrease the likelihood of needing expensive car maintenance later on.

Here are a few reasons why oil changes are so important:

  1. When the oil is changed regularly, the detergents in the oil effectively break down harmful deposits that attack your engine and cause expensive damage.
  2. Clean oil successfully lubricates to ensure your engine’s inner components don’t encounter excessive friction. If oil isn’t clean, the lubricant fails and rubbing metal on metal parts can trigger catastrophic engine damage. The dust and grit on many roads in Mesa can also dirty your engine’s oil and lead to major problems.
  3. On busy freeways like I-10 Eastbound near the Phoenix metro area, stop-and-go traffic is detrimental to your engine’s health. Stop-and-go traffic falls under the umbrella of severe driving conditions. In heavy traffic, engines can’t reach the proper temperature to push fluids like oil through. Deposits that are typically flushed out by fresh oil, with unchanged oil cause sludge to clog the inner workings of your engine.

How to Know When To Come In

Can’t remember the last time you got an oil change? Here are some ways you can determine if it’s time to take your vehicle in for service:

  • Check your oil’s color. Dark colored oil that looks almost black has been affected by grit and grime. Clean oil will have light caramel color tones.
  • Listen to the engine. If the engine is making unnatural grinding sounds, this is not a good sign. Oil is a lubricant, so the lower the level of oil or the dirtier it is, the louder troubling engine noise may become.
  • Know your vehicle. Typically, an oil change should be done every 5,000 miles. Harsher climates and car models factor into when routine oil changes should be scheduled.
  • Check your dashboard. Most vehicles with working warning signals have a maintenance or oil service light that appears when your engine is in need of an oil change.

Come into Highline Car Care and let us help you keep your vehicle running smoothly. You’ll soon discover why Highline Car Care is the best oil change service in Mesa!

 

 

Feature image: 4 PM Production/Shutterstock

BMW Repair Service in Mesa AZ

Common Toyota Camry Maintenance & Repairs

If you’re reading this, chances are good you own a Toyota Camry and you already know how awesome it is. The Camry is one of America’s all-time best selling sedans, and one of the most reliable vehicles ever made. As with any machine, it will require maintenance, and occasionally a mechanical repair. We’ve put together a very thorough maintenance schedule to keep your Toyota safe and reliable, so let’s talk about some of the needs that are more specific to your 2002 or newer Toyota Camry.

A Valve Cover Gasket Leak

The engine valve cover is located on the very top of your engine, and covers the camshaft and upper engine components. It is most easily located by finding the engine oil cap, which screws into the valve cover. If you drive a 4-cylinder you will have one valve cover; if you drive a V6 you will have two. The valve cover has a rubber gasket that seals it to the cylinder head, and this gasket will leak over time. When the gasket starts to leak, oil will run down the top of your engine, and in many cases down onto your exhaust manifold. When the oil reaches this very hot exhaust manifold, it will smoke. If you are noticing a burnt smell when parking your Camry in the garage after a long trip, you might have a leaking valve cover.

What does it cost to replace the valve cover gasket on a Toyota Camry? While shops will vary slightly, you might expect to pay $150-$175 to replace the gasket on your 4-cylinder and $400-$450 to replace the gaskets on your V6.

Replacing Your Timing Chain Tensioner

If you drive a 2002 or newer Toyota Camry 4-cylinder, the chances are good that you may eventually need to replace the timing chain tensioner and/or tensioner gasket. The tensioner is located on the rear of your engine, and is a bit tricky to reach. It is sealed with a rubber O-ring that will dry up over time, and eventually leak oil down the backside of your engine. This will not cause your tensioner to fail, but can make a pretty nice mess in your garage.

Toyota Camry timing chain tensioner and/or gasket replacement will cost you anywhere from $125 to $200.

A Failed Alternator

Many years ago (maybe 2004-2005), Toyota decided to reengineer their alternator. They added a clutch in the alternator pulley that engages and disengages as needed. This means that when your battery is fully charged, the alternator can disengage and thus cause less draw on your engine, resulting in better fuel economy.

This system works pretty well in theory, but we have seen these alternators fail prematurely and with no heads up. You might be headed to work one morning, sipping your Starbucks (or Dutch Brothers if you’re like me), and BAM! Your battery light and brake light illuminate on the dash.

Side note, these two lights illuminating simultaneously nearly ALWAYS mean your alternator is not functioning properly. Turn off your radio, air conditioning and lights (if safe to do so) and find a safe place to park very quickly. When your alternator stops charging, your car will run off of the battery for a short period of time (1-10 miles). Your car will eventually die once the battery’s reserves are depleted.

What does it cost to replace the alternator on a Toyota Camry? It will vary based on your engine size, but you might expect $375-$575 as a ballpark.

Power Steering Rack & Pinion, Power Steering Pump, Power Steering Hoses

There are several common failures to be found in the Toyota Camry power steering. First is the rack & pinion (or steering gear). This steering gear is responsible for translating your input on the steering wheel to both of the front tires – it is constantly working to keep your vehicle pointed the direction you want to go. It is powered by your power steering pump. The power steering pump sends pressurized fluid through lines and hoses which assist your rack & pinion to help you steer your 3600 lb vehicle nearly effortlessly.

There are three types of power steering lines/hoses: a power steering feed hose (or suction hose), a high-pressure hose (pressurized hose from the pump to steering gear) and a return hose (used fluid, returning from the steering gear and to the pump to be reused). When any one of these items wear out, you will have a power steering leak. This leak is most often noticed by a whining noise under your hood, and also sometimes by a jerky steering wheel.

If you didn’t notice the puddle of power steering fluid on your garage floor and your power steering begins to whine, pop the hood and check the fluid level. You don’t want to run out of power steering fluid as it can damage the pump, and also make your vehicle very difficult to steer.

What does it cost to repair the power steering system on a Toyota Camry? This is a very open-ended question, which depends on which item has failed. For an exact price, we recommend you stop by and let us take a quick peek.

Your Cylinder Head Bolts Failed

This issue is not quite as common, but is definitely worth mentioning if you drive a 4-cylinder 2AZ-FE Camry. Your cylinder block is made of aluminum which is a fairly soft material (compared to steel). You have 12 bolts that hold your cylinder head to the cylinder block, and are under extreme pressure. In some situations, these bolts can pull the threads right out of your cylinder block. This is BAD, as these bolts are holding the top part of your engine (cylinder head) to the lower part of your engine (cylinder block).

The first sign these bolts have failed is a massive oil leak. If you catch it soon enough, your engine is likely repairable. At Highline Car Care, we have invested in the tools to repair your cylinder block and make it stronger than new. We will remove your cylinder head and enlarge the 12 bolt holes. We then insert 12 hardened time-serts into your cylinder block that have new threads for your bolts to lock into. This process is not cheap, but it beats the alternative – replacing your engine.

You might expect to pay $1,600-$2,200 to have your 2AZ-FE cylinder block repaired.

Rattle From Your Strut Mounting Plates

Your Camry has a very nice riding suspension, and can normally cushion you from potholes, speed bumps and the like. But on some occasions, the strut mounting plates (or strut mounts) will fail. You’ll notice a failed strut mount by its telltale rattle that is heard when riding down a choppy road.

In beginning stages, a failed strut mount is not much more than an audible nuisance, but it will eventually become a safety concern. Your strut mount holds your struts to the body of your car via a rubber cushion. This cushion will crack and fail over time, and in a severe situation will allow your strut to separate from your vehicle. You don’t want your strut to separate from your vehicle – trust me.

Try to schedule a time to have your car looked at if you suspect the strut mounts are failing. Your mechanic will most likely recommend replacing your struts at the same time, as there is no additional labor to do so. Prices can vary, depending on the condition of your suspension. But remember, this is a pretty labor intensive job and will likely cost you $500 or more.

And lastly, make sure to ask for an alignment at the same time. Any time your suspension is worked on, parts will get shifted around, and your alignment will need to be dialed back in.

These are just a few common issues I have encountered over the years. Some of them may seem pretty extreme, but remember you are driving one of America’s most reliable vehicles. Yes, it will need some attention from time to time, but with a little love it WILL live to see 200,000 or more miles.