BMW Repair Service in Mesa AZ

You know your BMW is different from other cars, and that’s why you purchased it.  Your BMW brings with it a certain prestige, luxury, and exclusivity.  You’ve worked hard to make it here, and deserve a little pampering.  There’s nothing quite like the growl of a turbocharged 335, the torque of the V8 M3, or the pure extravagance of a 7 series.  BMW is German engineering at its finest.  So when it comes time for service or repair in Mesa Arizona, make sure you are trusting your vehicle to a shop that understands your vehicle’s unique needs.

 

BMW-service-mesa-az-highline-car-care

What is a BMW intermediate Oil and Safety Service?

When this message comes up on your information display, it’s time to go see the experts at Highline Car Care.  This is the most common service your BMW will require, and is nothing more than an oil change service and safety inspection.  Depending on the grade of oil used, this service reminder can display every 5,000 to 12,000 miles.  A very important note here – It is your mechanic’s responsibility to tell your car what type of oil is being used, as this will determine when the intermediate service reminder illuminates.  Fully synthetic fluids should always be used on your BMW.  But even in the synthetic category, there are multiple grades of oil.  BMW extended service intervals require your synthetic oil to be SN and ILSAC GF-5 certified.TOTAL-ENEOS-OIL-BMW-intermediate-oil-service-highline-car-care-mesa-az

These are the highest grade fluids available for your BMW, and will ensure your car is safe to operate 10,000 miles between service in Mesa AZ.  If your mechanic is not using a GF-5 certified oil, the service interval must be changed to only 5,000 miles.  Driving more than 5,000 miles on a lower grade synthetic oil will result in increased wear on engine internals and possible oil oxidation and deterioration.

 

 

What is a BMW Inspection 1 or Inspection 2?

Inspection 1 is known as the “Minor Service” and inspection 2 is known as the “Major Service”.  This is the reminder you will see displayed on your dash at 30,000, 60,000, 90,000, and again at 120,000 miles.  Services performed at each interval have been adapted to desert conditions by Highline Car Care, located in Mesa AZ

  • 30,000 miles – Oil service, fuel injection service, engine and cabin air filter replacement, brake fluid replacement, full brake and suspension inspection.
  • 60,000 miles – Same as 30,000 mile Inspection, but we will also replace your spark plugs.
  • 90,000 miles – Same as 30,000 mile Inspection.
  • 120,000 miles – Same as 60,000 mile Inspection.

BMW-Repair-Service-Spark-plug-mesa-az-highline-car-care

What repairs will my BMW need?

A repair is defined as any item in need of replacement that does not have a predetermined service interval.  Common repairs you might expect to make on your BMW over the years are as follows:

  • Oil pan gasket replacement.  Typically seen to fail around 80,000 to 100,000 miles.  You might notice a few oil spots on the driveway when this gasket begins to fail.
  • Valve cover gasket replacement.  Also common to fail at or around 80,000 miles.  The valve cover is located on the very top of your engine, so oil will make its way down the side of the engine when the valve cover gasket begins to leak.
  • Window regulator failure.  Is your BMW window stuck in the down position?  It likely needs a new window regulator.
  • Headlight bulb failure – Pretty self explanatory.
  • Brake pad failure – Your brake pads work hard day and night to keep you safe, and will eventually need replacement.  Keep an eye on the dash for a brake lining light to illuminate sometime after 60,000 miles.

BMW-repair-service-mesa-az-highline-car-care

 

Do I have to take my BMW to the Dealership?

A common misconception is that only the BMW dealership can service your car.  While it is true that your BMW does require special tools and training to work on, it is not mandatory that you only take it to the Dealer.  Many auto repair shops shy away from BMW altogether because they do not have the proper tools or training, and this is OK.  You don’t want someone tinkering on your investment as an experiment.  There are however, a handful of independent repair shops that are capable of servicing your BMW.  Ask lots of questions though, to make certain you are picking the right shop for your particular needs.  Some shops may be OK with standard BMW service and repair, but not capable of advanced diagnostics or major systems overhaul.  The BMW factory scan tool can cost a shop owner $25,000 or more, and many shops cannot justify this purchase.

How much does BMW Factory Scheduled Maintenance and Repair Service Cost?

As we mentioned earlier, your BMW is unique – It cant be generalized or classified.  When it comes to service or repair, there is no clear cut answer to what it will “cost”.  The real question should be, what is the best value for BMW scheduled maintenance?  The best value is going to provide you with a customized recommendation based on historical and regional experience.  At Highline Car Care, we have general practices for maintenance intervals, but we will never recommend a service without first inspecting your vehicle.  This is by far the best value any service shop can offer.

 

 

Ready to Schedule Service?

 

Car Maintenance Service Mesa AZ – Highline Car Care

Car Maintenance Service and Repair in Mesa AZ

If your vehicle could use some maintenance, count on us to give it the service it needs.  We are available Monday through Friday from 8 AM to 5:30 PM (we close at 4 PM on Fridays).  We service all makes and models of vehicles, and we are certain you’ll be delighted with the service you receive.  

car-maintenance-service-Mesa-AZ-Highline-Car-Care

 

Don’t want to wait around while your vehicle is being serviced? We’ve got you covered – Enjoy our complimentary loaner vehicle.  

 

Why More People Choose Highline Car Care –

“People come to us looking for a mechanic that has their best interest at heart. Someone who will take care of them, their car, and provide them with the best overall value”       Wes Hawkins- Owner

 

Our qualifications– We will fix it right the first time, guaranteed. 

Our technology– Advanced equipment helps us service your car faster, saving you time.

20 Years of experience– We know what works and what doesn’t work, specific to the Mesa Gilbert & Phoenix Valley area.

Insured– This protects you and ensures you won’t be paying for accidents.

Highly Rated Online- Know that you are in good hands.

We Care for Your Car– We are not just going to fix your vehicle, we are going to take care of it.  This means always recommending “The right service at the right time”

Our Nationwide Warranty– This means you only pay once for the repair, and leave with peace of mind

 

But don’t just take our word for it – Let our Reviews serve as real life proof that You can Count on Highline Car Care as Your Trusted Mechanic!

 

 

Car-Maintenance-service-repair-mesa-az-highline-car-care

 

What is the Recommended Car Maintenance Schedule?

Each vehicle has individual and specific needs, and as we have mentioned before – Simply following the manufacturer’s recommendations is not always the best practice.  Vehicle manufacturers want to show a low cost of ownership so that their vehicle appeals to the masses.  Just because Toyota doesn’t recommend servicing your transmission until 100,000 miles, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.  Click here to see just one example as to why we recommend more frequent maintenance intervals in the Mesa Gilbert area. Our owner Wes is a valley native and has been tending to the maintenance schedule needs of vehicles big and small since the mid 1990’s.  With this “real world” based maintenance practice, we are able to keep your car or truck running strong for years to come – Providing you with the best car maintenance & service value proposition.

  

 

What is the Cost of Car Maintenance in Mesa?

The cost of vehicle maintenance can become a point of contention for many consumers.  In the East Valley alone, consumers have over 500 choices of where to take their vehicle for service.  Some may choose to visit the dealership, some might prefer to visit an independent chain service center, while more yet might prefer a privately owned repair facility.  With all of these choices, how are phoenix area consumers able to discern the best value price for car maintenance?

In our opinion, the best value comes in providing a custom list of recommendations for your specific vehicle.  If you have never been to Highline Car Care before, you might find it odd that we shy away from giving package pricing over the phone based on mileage.  But if you’ll take a few minutes to come down and let us give your vehicle a customized 19 or 34 point digital inspection (free of charge), you’ll quickly see the difference.  We won’t recommend maintenance just because your owner’s manual says so.  We want to visually confirm that you do in fact need that air filter or power steering flush.  We want to see what might have been previously replaced, in addition to any unlisted service needs your specific car might have (such as brake and suspension issues).

If you are looking for the best car maintenance value, it is imperative to let your mechanic inspect  your vehicle first.  Otherwise you are simply making a decision based on a stated cost, which may not always be the best value for you or your vehicle.  

Car Maintenance Schedule by Mileage

We are pretty passionate about car maintenance at Highline Car Care.  If you’ve ever been to our Mesa Gilbert location, you might have noticed the giant “Preventative maintenance” poster we have on the wall in our waiting room.  This is a schedule that we have specifically designed, and based on real life experience.  For example, we know that your BMW will need spark plug replacement at 60,000 miles, while a Toyota will not until 90,000 miles.  We have determined that your fuel injection system can and will benefit by being serviced every 30,000 miles, and so on…  We have invested countless hours in learning what keeps Phoenix area vehicles running their best.  This isn’t based on ideal scenarios contrived by some marketing company across the country, this is based on real life desert wear and tear.  This is the knowledge you need to keep your vehicle safe and reliable!  

We know what your car needs, and we will not recommend anything until it is time to do so.  Hence our Mantra “The right service at the right time”  

Read more about our recommended services by mileage here

 

Does Car Maintenance Help Me Save Money?

Car maintenance absolutely will save you money in the long haul.  If you plan to keep your vehicle for 200,000 miles or more you’re going to have to be proactive, and this means investing in preventative maintenance.  When you come see us for an oil change and we recommend a brake fluid flush, rest assured we have your best interests in mind.  We know that dirty brake fluid will eventually damage much more expensive items in your braking system.  We know that dirty transmission fluid will eventually cause a very expensive transmission failure if left unchecked.  We know that replacing brakes before they start grinding is cheaper than after it’s too late to save your rotors.  So while $100 here and $200 there might feel like a lot of money at the time, this is by far the best practice to be certain your vehicle will be safe and reliable for years to come.  Invest in your car maintenance as you would invest in your personal health.  As the Doctor always said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”  

 

Ready to Schedule Maintenance for Your Vehicle? Contact us now!

 

Toyota Camry Repairs in Mesa, Arizona | Highline Car Care

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 real life Phoenix area Toyotas 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.

Auto AC Service and Repair in Mesa AZ – a Quick Guide to Your Car’s Air Conditioning Basics

Auto AC Service and Repair Basics

It’s summer time here in the valley, and your cars air conditioning has been working overtime for several months now.  If we haven’t heard from you yet, chances are pretty good your AC is doing an OK job.  But let’s talk about the question everyone likes to ask once August rolls around here in Mesa AZ – Does my auto AC need service?  It’s easy for your car’s air conditioner to keep up when it’s below 100 degrees out, but what happens when the thermometer or even the hygrometer (Google this fancy word!) maxes out?

First off, let’s go over some basic terminology so we can better explain how your AC functions. There are five key components to any air conditioner:

auto-car-ac-air-conditioning-kit-compressor-condenser-expansion-valve-evaporator-mesa-az-highline-car-care

Auto AC Refrigerant: The Lifeblood of Your Air Conditioning

Most newer vehicles use R134a which is a relatively safe and easy to handle gas. This gas is the lifeblood of your air conditioning and it is very important to notate here, that newer vehicles are very sensitive to the refrigerant level. Most newer vehicles contain 16 oz or less of R134a, and being even slightly over or undercharged can wreak havoc on your AC.

AC Compressor: Turning Refrigerant Gas Into Liquid

The air compressor is responsible for compressing your refrigerant from a gas into a liquid. It is typically run by your engine via a drive belt or serpentine belt. Many newer vehicles are using electric AC compressors that are not driven by the engine and can be run with the engine off. This is particularly beneficial with hybrid or electric vehicles.

AC Condenser: The Radiator For Your Air Conditioning

The condenser is in the very front of your vehicle (right behind the bumper), and is responsible for dissipating the heat from your refrigerant once it has been compressed into a liquid. A quick chemistry break here – compressing any gas into a liquid results in the production of heat. Heat is obviously the enemy here, so it is the job of the condenser to get rid of it. The condenser can be thought of as the radiator for your air conditioning.

AC Expansion Valve: Converting Refrigerant Liquid Back to Gas

The expansion valve (or orifice tube, as used in some older vehicles) is responsible for converting your liquid refrigerant back into a gaseous state. Going back to our chemistry break, as a liquid is converted back to a gas it cools. Think of how much cooler a freshly watered lawn is than the Phoenix asphalt on a summer day. This temperature difference is caused by the evaporation of water, the same theory holds true with your air conditioning. The expansion valve is no more than a fancy device that forces the liquid to evaporate into a gas and this is where the magic happens.

AC Evaporator: A Tiny Radiator

The evaporator is a small aluminum box that is typically located under your dash. The freshly evaporated refrigerant travels through the evaporator and is dissipated into the interior of your vehicle. You must also picture your evaporator as a tiny radiator, air is forced over it (by your blower motor) and then through the vents, and onto your happy face.

When Does My Auto’s AC Need To Be Serviced or repaired?

Now that we’ve got the technical jargon down, let’s move on to the original question – when does my auto’s AC need to be serviced? The short answer is simple – If your car is six years old or older, it is likely noticeably low on refrigerant.

Even a properly functioning AC with no visible leaks will lose small amounts of refrigerant. This is due to the fact that your AC may be operating at refrigerant pressures well over 350 psi in the heat of the summer. This pressurized liquid will slowly escape through your air conditioner’s rubber hoses and sealing O rings.

So Why Shouldn’t You Use a Do-it-Yourself Car AC recharge & Service Kit?

The simple answer is that they are an inaccurate and sometimes unsuitable solution to recharge your car’s air conditioner . But here are a few more reasons why:

  1. The only true way to know exactly how much refrigerant is in your system is to completely recover the old refrigerant, and recharge it with the precisely recommended manufacturer’s capacity. When you use the do-it-yourself kit, you are just topping the system off.
  2. By just topping the system off, you are essentially guessing. The do-it-yourself kit relies on a gauge that reads the pressure on the low side of your vehicle’s AC. While this is “close,” it is definitely not precise.Your system’s pressure can vary greatly, depending on the ambient temperature outside, and even the temperature of your vehicle. So by guessing, you can potentially overcharge or undercharge your vehicle’s AC, and either situation can dramatically decrease the life of your air compressor. An overcharged system can cause your compressor to turn on and off excessively, and also potentially damage components due to the sheer pressures we are talking about. I have seen a couple cases where an AC compressor has actually exploded! In the case of an undercharged system, your AC compressor cannot be properly lubricated. You see, it is also the job of your refrigerant to transfer the AC oil through the moving parts of your AC compressor. When this does not happen, your compressor will end it’s life at an undesired time.
  3. Some do-it-yourself kits contain “stop leak.” Now I don’t know who came up with this, but it is absurd. Stop leak is a very nasty substance that will gum up your AC system and eventually stop the compressor from being properly lubricated.
  4. When you recharge an AC system, you must also add the proper amount of oil. Yes, do-it-yourself kits do contain oil, but who knows how much is making it into your system. Too much or too little will damage your compressor.

With all This Said, What is the Proper Way to Perform an Auto Air Conditioning Recharge Service?

Short answer – take it to your mechanic! We invest in state of the art (see very expensive) air conditioning machines, and will recover and properly recharge your system with the precise amount of refrigerant and oil.

This is the only way to do it right with today’s sensitive systems. This will ensure a long lasting, trouble free operation. And remember, most auto AC services are under $200. It can cost upwards of $2,500 to replace a damaged AC compressor. So what are you REALLY saving by doing it yourself?  Let the professionals service your car AC.

Need a FREE AC quick check?

Let the Pros at Highline perform a 5 point AC quick check to pinpoint any issues with your car's air conditioning.

Want to share this?

We’ve put together this very easy to read and understand infographic that you can share on social media or print off for your own reference.

Auto-ac-repair-mesa-az-highline-car-care

The Experience of Owning a Toyota 4Runner

Let me start off by saying that I am a car guy. My entire career has been automotive related. I learned from a young age that if I wanted freedom, I needed wheels! In fact, I saved up and bought my first car, a 1968 Pontiac Firebird, when I was 15, before I was even able to drive!

Since then I’ve owned five different Toyota Supras, an ugly Honda Prelude, a couple Toyota Corollas, two Toyota pickups, a Nissan Frontier, a Nissan Pathfinder, a Lexus SUV and most recently a Toyota 4Runner. Up until the 4Runner, I think I changed vehicles once every year or so.

Well, I’ve had this 2006 Toyota 4Runner Sport 4WD with a V6 engine since 2008. I’ve personally put over 140,000 miles on it (odometer is at 165,000 currently) and it has yet to skip a beat. It has never ONCE broken down on me, and has yet to leak fluid of any sort.

I’ve driven it through dirt, snow, to California, Nevada and Mexico. I’ve hauled trailers and a boat (I’ll have to write about owning a boat another time. Spoiler alert, it’s not nearly as low maintenance as a Toyota). I’ve loaded it up with snowboards, mountain bikes and every type of sporting equipment imaginable. I’ve moved furniture, clothing, Home Depot supplies, animals. You name it – this 4Runner has made short work of every task I’ve thrown at it! To describe it in one word – VERSATILE.

So what have I had to do to it? Well, it would be silly to think that any vehicle could last this long without some preventative maintenance. Everything wears out over time, so let me talk a little bit about the items I have encountered over the years and miles.

Oil Changes for Your Toyota 4Runner

Toyota recommends changing your engine oil and filter every 5,000 miles. At 4,500 miles your maintenance light will flash briefly at startup. At 5,000 miles it will stay on constantly until your oil is changed. The light has to be manually reset (email me for reset instructions). I’ve always used a synthetic blend 5W30 engine oil. I don’t believe that synthetic oil is necessary on vehicles like this, AS LONG as you change it on schedule. I have also always used genuine Toyota oil filters. This is just a personal preference of mine, any good quality filter will do. Engine oil that is driven past its expiration date can cause a variety of premature engine failures. Do yourself a favor and spend the money on regular oil changes if you do nothing else.

Breathe Easier in Your Toyota

Here in Mesa, AZ I have found that engine and cabin air filters get pretty dusty after about 12,000 miles. I have swapped these out at regular intervals (roughly once a year for me).

Spark Plugs Put Juice In Your Engine

Most newer vehicles come equipped with iridium spark plugs which do not require replacement until 90,000 miles. The 4Runner is equipped with a 1GR-FE engine that requires copper spark plugs. The great news is that they are much cheaper than iridium, the bad news is that you will need to replace them every 30,000 miles. I did try using a set of iridium plugs for a while, but the engine just seemed to be lacking a bit of power so I swapped back to the standard copper plugs. I do not know why this engine does not like iridium, but I’m sure it’s got something to do with the design of the ignition system.

Change Your Transmission Fluid When Needed

Toyota does not recommend servicing your automatic transmission fluid until 100,000 miles. I personally feel this is a bit excessive. The Arizona heat is particularly hard on transmission fluid; on top of that, I have used the 4Runner to tow on several occasions. The fluid was pretty dark at 75,000 miles so I replaced it early. I had it done again at 155,000 miles. Remember, preventative maintenance can and WILL save you money in the long run.

Replace Your Drive Belt Before it Fails

Believe it or not, the original Toyota drive belt will easily last 80,000-90,000 miles. Serpentine belts on newer vehicles typically don’t crack on the inside grooves like most older design V-belts and multi-groove belts. On my newer style serpentine belt, the backing got really dry, to the point where you could scratch your name on it with a fingernail. It probably wouldn’t have fallen off for another 20,000 miles, but it was dried and was making some noise. I opted to replace it before complete failure.

XREAS is a Very Unique Suspension

My 4Runner Sport has a very unique suspension called XREAS. The left front strut is connected to the right rear strut (and right front connected to left rear) via hydraulic lines. This helps the vehicle to be more stable in cornering and handling. The interesting thing about this system is that if you let your struts leak for too long, you must also replace these four hydraulic lines as they are pressurized. If your struts leak for too long, the lines will lose their pressure and become ineffective. It is MUCH more expensive if the lines need to replace, so I opted to replace my shocks and struts at the first sign of leakage which was at approximately 90,000 miles.

Brakes: They Make Your Car Stop

Believe it or not, the 4Runner brake system is very resilient. In 100,000 miles I never had so much as a squeak or brake pedal pulsation. I am a little OCD though, so I ended up replacing my front and rear brake pads and machining the rotors at approximately 100,000 miles. Upon removing the old pads, it looked like I could have probably driven another 20,000 miles or more before I absolutely needed to replace them.

Are Alternators Important?

The alternator was not a scheduled replacement but in true Toyota spirit, the old 4Runner never left me stranded. I was having the engine oil serviced at approximately 130,000 miles and the alternator decided to start making a horrible screeching noise. What better time to fail, right??

Wes Loves His 4Runner! Really Loves It!

As you can see, I’ve had a pretty good relationship with my 4Runner – 165,000 miles and no breakdowns, leaks, clunks or rattles. I really have no reason to get rid of it. I wouldn’t hesitate to drive to Mexico, New York or anywhere else at the drop of a hat. Even if I were to buy a 2017 4Runner, my current vehicle will do everything the new one would.

But of course, I do get a little envious. I occasionally take a ride in a newer vehicle and that new car smell is intoxicating! It’s hard to really explain, but there have been a few occasions that I was tempted to get one of my own. So here’s what I recently did – I gave her a makeover! I installed a 3” lift kit and new 33” BFG All Terrain tires. The lift kit is comprised of Old Man Emu front and rear lift springs and Bilstein adjustable front struts and rear shocks. I have to admit, the truck looks much tougher now. And perhaps someday, I may be tempted to go play in the dirt a bit.

The 4Runner actually rides a bit smoother now than it did with the XREAS suspension. Bumps aren’t as harsh as they used to be. The only downside I have noticed is that it does sway a bit more on turns and it seems to be struggling just a bit with the factory gearing. I’m thinking new front and rear ring and pinions may be my next project.

All that aside, I’m just astounded that these are the only worries I have on a vehicle with so many miles. I fully expect my 4Runner to be reliable for another 100,000 miles or more.

Top 10 Things You Can Do to Keep Your Vehicle Running Smooth Through the Winter

As I’m writing this, it’s a blustery cold 52 degrees out and overcast here in Mesa, AZ. You are probably chuckling, but this is a vast difference from the 120 degree weather your car will be experiencing in six more months. And let’s face it, if you can take the time away from work you may head up to Flagstaff or the White Mountains to have a little fun in the snow where lows can easily drop below freezing.

So what do you need to do to make sure your trusty desert runner can survive these cold temperatures? Here are some items that are commonly taken for granted here in the Phoenix area.

Have Your Battery Tested

Car batteries do not like excessively hot or cold temperatures. If it’s been over two years since you have replaced it, your battery IS working on borrowed time. If you happen to be motoring around the East Valley, swing by Highline. A battery test is always quick, easy and FREE!

Check the Health of Your Engine Coolant

As most of us Mesa residents know, this coolant is responsible for keeping your engine running cool in the summer. But did you know that for most of the nation, it has a second responsibility? Your coolant is also known as antifreeze. That’s right, when temps drop below freezing, antifreeze is used to keep your cooling system from freezing.

Why do we care? Well imagine this – you throw a can of soda (or pop, depending on where you grew up) in the freezer and forget about it. What happens when it freezes? That’s right! That can swells up, and explodes if you don’t catch it in time. A car’s cooling system can do the exact same thing. Vehicles that do not have the proper mixture of antifreeze to water in the radiator can freeze and cause massive failures. Frozen water can actually split your engine block right in half. It can explode radiators, split hoses and otherwise cause massive damage.

So if you are planning to hit the snow and your cooling system has not been serviced in 60,000 miles or more, swing by Highline! A cooling system service is quick, easy and much cheaper than the alternative.

Purchase Cold Weather Windshield Washer Fluid

Much like your antifreeze, this fluid is designed not to freeze in cold weather. If you’ve ever driven to Snowbowl during a snowstorm, I’m sure you can appreciate the benefits of having non frozen windshield washer fluid. Frozen washer fluid can damage your washer bottle, washer pump or just freeze while on your windshield (which coincidentally makes it very difficult to see while driving).

If you plan to take your vehicle up north, make sure to let us know during your next visit. We will be happy to use the correct cold weather washer fluid to keep you and your family safe.

Does It Smell Like Something Is Burning?

There’s a good chance it is! Cooler temperatures can prompt an otherwise healthy gasket to spring a leak. As the temperatures go down, your rubber seals and gaskets have a tendency to shrink which can exacerbate minor leaks. You’d be surprised how many leaking valve cover gaskets we see this time of year!

A leaking valve cover gasket can allow engine oil to run down onto your exhaust system which is very hot, and you guessed it – the result is smoke. Should you experience this, head to Highline. We’d be happy to take a look at no charge.

Have Your Thermostat Checked

A malfunctioning thermostat will not allow your engine to get hot enough. The result? Poor fuel economy, and even worse – a weak heater! If your heater feels like it is not functioning as well as it should, there is a good chance you are in need of a new thermostat.

Check Your Tire Pressures and Condition

Cold weather results in low tire pressure. We must see 10 or more vehicles a week this time of year with unsafe tire pressures. Also don’t forget, a worn out tire may be safe to drive up and down the US60, but it can become VERY dangerous in the snow. Have us take a look during your next oil change.

Replace Your Windshield Wipers

If you plan to drive up to the snow make sure to ask for cold weather windshield wipers. Our standard desert wipers work great here in the valley, but can become frozen and useless up north. And attention Phoenix drivers – lift your windshield wipers up if you plan to park your vehicle overnight during a snowstorm. This will prevent them from becoming stuck to your windshield.

Check Your A/C

That’s right, you may need air conditioning in the winter! If your windshield becomes fogged up and you hit the defrost button, it actually sends cold air to clear up the windshield. A malfunctioning A/C can make it difficult to clear things up.

Have Your Struts and Suspension Checked

While worn out struts can be pretty innocuous while driving around the East Valley, they can be very dangerous driving through inclement weather. If your struts have more than 80,000 miles on them, there is a good chance they are worn. A worn out strut can cause your vehicle to handle unpredictably in an emergency situation, causing extended braking distance, excessive vehicle sway and less steering control. Trust me, you’re gonna want all systems functioning at 100% if you get caught driving down the I-17 in the snow.

Check Your Accessory Drive Belt

The cold weather can make a worn out drive belt inflexible, causing cracks and eventually breakage. Ever had a drive belt go out on you? It usually happens in the mountains, between Phoenix and San Diego. You know what I’m talking about. I can’t tell you how many summer vacations I’ve seen ruined by a bad drive belt.

It’s equally important this time of year, and actually MORE prone to fail than in the hot weather. If you hear a chirp, squeal or otherwise unusual noise when you first start your car in the morning, it might be time to take a look at that drive belt.

If you are expecting to be driving up north with colder temperatures than your car is accustomed to, make sure you are prepared. These 10 items are a great start and our shop, Highline Car Care, is the best option to get your car ready for the winter weather.

Everything You Wanted To Know About Brake Pads and Rotors : Service, Replacement & Repair

We’ve all heard the terms “brake pads” and “brake rotors.” To the non-mechanic brake pads and rotors seem to play a pretty important role in stopping your vehicle, but what exactly do they do?

Our shop, Highline Car Care, places a high value on customers having the opportunity to learn about their vehicle as well as what we actually do when they trust us with a repair or service. It’s in this spirit that we want to share the basic function, role and purpose of brake pads and rotors – To keep you in the know when it is time for service, replacement, or repair.

To understand brake pads and rotors we need to start with the basic theory of a brake system operation. Don’t worry, we’ll keep it nice and easy to understand.

You’re cruising down the US60 here in Mesa, Arizona, headed to Highline Car Care for a quick oil change and safety inspection. As you’re belting out the chorus to whatever’s on the radio (we’ll assume completely on key), you realize you’re about to miss your Mesa Drive exit. You hit the brakes to exit the freeway (in a safety conscious manner, of course), and move over to the South exit ramp.

Let’s take a look at what is actually going on inside your car and what the brake pads and rotors are ACTUALLY doing.

“I Hit The Brake Pedal, Now What?”

The Geeky Mechanic Version: As you hit the brake pedal, hydraulic brake fluid (see super soaker anecdote in our Automatic Transmission Fluid article) is pressurized and sent to each of your four wheels. As this fluid reaches each wheel, it forces your brake caliper to squeeze the brake pads together. The applied pressure onto your brake rotor and begins to slow your vehicle.

brake pad rotor caliper service shop Mesa AZ Highline Car Care

The caliper (circled part) has the responsibility of applying pressure to the brake pads and rotors.

This all sounds a little geeky, so let’s break it down a bit for us normal folks.

The Normal Person Version: Let’s picture for a minute that we have a metal disc, maybe a pizza pan, that is magically suspended in mid air and it is spinning really fast. This pizza pan is your brake rotor. We want this pan to stop spinning, so we take our thumb and pointer finger (brake caliper) and squeeze together on both sides to slow it down. As friction is created by our fingers, and your fingerprints (brake pads) begin to disappear, the pizza pan also slows down.

“Why Do My Brakes Wear Out?”

Much like your fingertips would not be happy continuously trying to slow down a magical spinning pizza pan, brake pads become unhappy over time while trying to slow down your brake rotors. Brake pads are made to wear down, they have a friction material that is softer than your brake rotor. This softer material wears down ultimately needing to be replaced. Thus needing to have your brake pads replaced while in the shop.

brake pad rotor caliper service shop Mesa AZ Highline Car Care

The difference between good brake pads and brake pads that need replacement.

What Are Some Other Symptoms For Needing Brake Pad and Rotor work?

As your brake pads and rotors work hard, we can eventually run into other symptoms that may necessitate brake service. While driving, your brake rotors are exposed to very hot temperatures and when you park your car, they begin to cool down. Over time, the constant heating and cooling of your brake rotors cause them to become warped.

Picture a cookie tray that has had years of use – it becomes wavy and deformed. The same thing can happen to your brake rotors. The result of wavy and deformed rotors will be a vibration or pulsation in your brake pedal when you apply your brakes. Even though you might have sufficient life in your brake pads, your brakes still need attention. Warped brake rotors can substantially increase your required stopping distance.  When you feel that telltale pulsation when braking, it’s time to bring the car in for brake service.

brake pad rotor caliper service shop Mesa AZ Highline Car Care

Brake rotor and caliper from a Mercedes Benz.

“Why Do My Brakes Squeak?”

You’re sitting at a red light and the car next to pulls up beside you, coming to a stop and the brakes sound like nails on a chalk board. In this case, the brake rotor has become so smooth and shiny (almost mirror like) that the brake dust created by the brake pads is causing a squeak when braking.

You know the expression “squeaky clean”?

Similar concept here – the surfaces are so smooth that they squeak when they come in contact with brake dust. Squeaky brakes may not require immediate service or repair, although they could be a sign that your brake system is wearing out.

When in doubt about squeaky brakes, call Highline.

“Do My Rotors Really Need Replacement?”

Usually, brake rotors can be machined  rather than replaced (I’ll save sharing what ‘machined’ means for another article). This is assuming that you have not driven your car with bad brakes so long that your rotors have become damaged as well. It is important to remember, brake replacement only gets more expensive if you ignore the signs for too long!

The only exceptions to this are European vehicles. European brake rotors are designed to wear out along with the brake pads. We will always replace brake rotors when performing a brake pad replacement on European vehicles. This is the only way a brake shop can ensure proper braking performance.

“Can’t You Just Put New Brake Pads On?”

This is a simple answer – no. We will never replace your brake pads without first machining or replacing your rotors. This is the only way we can offer a two-year nationwide warranty on our services, and also assure that you will not have brake pulsation or squeaking. Brake shop staff don’t think about your vehicle long term. Many of their staffers are younger kids who won’t see your vehicle for two, five, ten, twenty years. We look at the long term viability of your brakes and our customers appreciate that we do what’s best – not what’s minimum.

You’ll pay a little bit more but we guarantee it will be worth it, and you will be happy with your brake replacement service.

“Why Is Your Brake Replacement So Much More Expensive Than Other Brake Shops?”

This is a question we receive all the time, and the answer is simple. We are not more expensive when comparing apples to apples.

When you have your brakes replaced at Highline Car Care, you will get a complete and accurate fix. We will replace your brake pads and hardware (shims and anti-rattle clips) with premium ceramic brake pads. We will lube your brake calipers, machine your brake rotors and most importantly ONLY replace what is really needed.

Many shops will lure you in with a cheap price and once your tires are off, you are hit with a massive estimate. These shops will sell you brake components you don’t need, install sub par brake pads that will destroy your brake rotors over time and SQUEAK!  Some brake service shops will advertise a cheap price for brake pad replacement, and then tack on additional fees to lube calipers or machine rotors.

At Highline, you will receive an accurate price to fix your brakes the correct way. No bait and switch, we simply do not operate that way.

brake pad rotor caliper service shop Mesa AZ Highline Car Care

Brake pad replacement services at Highline.

“When Should I Have My Brake Pads Checked?”

The short answer – RIGHT NOW! The long answer is that it depends on your vehicle and your specific driving habits. At Highline, we have seen brake systems wear out as early as 30,000 miles and as late as 100,000 miles. Any sign of squeaking, pulsation or increased braking distance is a good reason to book an appointment now.

At Highline Car Care, we feel it is our duty to offer each and every customer a free brake inspection. After all, you ride those brakes a lot!

Our shop, Highline Car Care, is the best option to replace, service, or repair your brake pads and rotors. We have been in business since 2010 and in that time we have cared for and serviced many vehicles. We’re located west of Mesa Drive just south of US60. You can learn more about us here and get directions to our Mesa auto shop here.

 

Need a FREE brake quick check?

Let the Pros at Highline perform a complimentary 6 point brake system inspection to ensure safety and reliability.

Toyota Brake Service – Questions You Should Ask Your Mechanic

When you first start to notice your Toyota’s brakes squealing there is a little voice inside of you telling you, “that’s not going to be cheap to fix.”

Maybe you’ve even gone down on your hands and knees, looking at your wheels, trying to see if there is any scratching or scraping just inside the rims. You’re looking for any sign that you’re not going to have to spend hundreds of dollars fixing your brakes.

When your brakes are the loudest, all of the sudden you see banners and signs along the road for $99 brake replacement with “lifetime” warranty. It’s so tempting to pull into any random brake repair shop and spend $99 after you called the Toyota dealership last week and got a quote for $300 to replace just the front brakes.

So what is the difference between the “brake specialists” and the dealership? What’s the difference between $99 and $300 when it comes to your Toyota brake service?

Here is a list of questions to ask your mechanic when going in for a Toyota brake service.

Toyota Brake Service Question 1: What Type of brake pads are you using?

There are VAST differences in brake pad composition (quality of build).

Brake pads for your Toyota can range from fully organic materials to semi metallic, to fully metallic, to ceramic.

Each material has its own benefits.

  • Organic pads are easy on the rest of your brake system, but they tend to wear out quickly and create a lot of brake dust.
  • Metallic pads will last the longest, but they tend to wear out other brake system components and are prone to squeaking.
  • Semi metallic pads are a good balance of both worlds.
  • Ceramic pads are even better – They have similar properties to semi metallic, yet they perform better in high temperature environments, rarely squeak, and do not create much brake dust.

Each material has its proper application, but for a Toyota that is driven on a “normal” daily basis, we at Highline recommend Ceramic brake pads.

Old brake pads are worn down and show major signs of use.

Old brake pads are worn down and show major signs of use.

New brake pads are easy to spot.

New brake pads are easy to spot.

Toyota Brake Service Question 2: What about my brake rotors?

On most newer Toyotas (with some exception), your brake rotors can be re-used.

You might hear mention of machining, turning, or resurfacing your brake rotors. These all refer to the same common process in which the imperfections and warping are removed from your brake rotor (by removing rotor material on a brake lathe) to make them just as good as new.

Digging deeper into the brake rotor process, there are two different ways to machine a brake rotor. The first way to machine a brake rotor is a bench brake lathe in which your rotor is removed from the car and machined. The other method is an on-car brake lathe in which your brake rotor is machined while mounted on your car.

The on-car method is hands down, THE absolute best way to machine a brake rotor. The reason why is that your car may have inconsistencies that will cause a perfectly machined brake rotor to be off center once mounted on the vehicle. Machining the rotors in their final mounted position ensures perfect alignment.

At Highline, we absolutely will not replace your brake pads without resurfacing your brake rotors. And we have also invested in having our very own on-car brake lathe in our shop.

Our practice of resurfacing your brake rotors when replacing your brake pads is how we can guarantee your brakes will not squeak, pulsate, or wear prematurely and also we offer a month, 24,000 mile nationwide warranty on your services.

Toyota Brake Service Question 3: Do my brake calipers need replacement?

You may not know what brake calipers are, but a mechanic will and knowing if they should be replaced is going to save you money.

It is very unlikely that the brake calipers will need replacement on your Toyota – Toyotas are built to last.

While a brake caliper is a crucial component of your brake system, it does not typically wear out (over the course of ordinary use – although there are always exceptions). At Highline, we will service your calipers with every brake pad replacement to ensure proper function. This means we will lube them and replace any required hardware while replacing your brake pads.

Toyota Brake Service Question 4: Should I replace front and rear brakes at the same time?

Replacing front and rear brakes at the same time isn’t necessarily recommended. While you absolutely should replace left and right brakes at the same time, you do not necessarily need to replace rear at the same time as fronts – and vice versa.

While each vehicle has its own characteristics, we at Highline have typically found that front and rear brakes tend to wear out on different schedules. Replacing them separately will not diminish your Toyota’s brake function.

Toyota Brake Service Question 5: What about my brake fluid?

Any question about brake fluid is a good question – and the answer of whether or not it needs to be replaced will vary.

While you do not necessarily have to perform a brake fluid flush during a Toyota brake service, Highline does recommend performing a brake fluid flush service every 30,000 miles. Your brake fluid will become contaminated over normal use (constantly heating up and cooling off causes it to absorb moisture), and can damage more expensive components if it is not replaced regularly.

Ask Highline if you are unsure of your brake fluid condition.

The Real Difference Between $99 and $300 Toyota Brake Service

As you can see, there are many factors that go into a Toyota brake service. At Highline Car Care, we will monitor our customer’s entire brake system from visit to visit and only suggest maintenance, repairs and replacement when necessary.

We make it a policy to use quality parts that will have your vehicle braking as good as (sometimes even better than) new.

We will machine your brake rotors with our on-car brake lathe whenever possible, we will always use quality brake pads, and we will always service your calipers and replace all required hardware.

This is the only way to do it right.

The 5 Most Important Toyota Maintenance Items for Owners

Here’s a question I often get: “My Toyota has 100,000 miles, what are the top 5 things I can do to keep it running like new?”

Here at Highline, I’ve seen it dozens of times. A new client walks in the door with their Toyota Camry, 4Runner, or Corolla because the “Maint” light is flashing on their dash.

First off, don’t fret! Newer Toyotas are so smart, they know when it’s time to change the oil.

This “Maint” light will start flashing at 4,500 miles upon start up and go away. At 5,000 miles since your last service, that “Maint” light will stay illuminated while driving. At this point, you know it is time to get it in for service.

Toyota Maintenance

If you bought yours brand new, you already know how easy Toyota maintenance is.

  • Oil change every 5,000 miles.
  • Tire rotation every 10,000 miles
  • Engine and cabin air filters every 15,000 miles
  • Repeat.

New Toyota maintenance is quick and easy on the pocketbook.

As your Toyota adds miles, there are more intensive preventative maintenance items professionals recommend. The individual services won’t be unfamiliar. Owners have heard of each of them over time. Our team only recommends these services when necessary and our customers have come to appreciate that we begin mentioning the services as “something you’ll want to have done in the future” so they can prepare.

Here is a list of the top 5 most important (and commonly overlooked Toyota maintenance items).

Automatic Transmission Fluid Replacement

Check out our article on transmission fluid HERE for more specifics. But the bottom line is that here in the East Valley, Highline Car Care recommends servicing your Toyota transmission fluid every 60,000 miles.

Drive Belt Replacement

In Arizona, we have seen Toyota engine drive belts (or serpentine belt) dry out and eventually crack at 60,000-80,000 miles. If you are way over this mileage, there is a good chance your belt may have ideas of “packing up and quitting its job.”

In other words, that belt could crack at any moment.

Your car relies on this engine drive belt to keep your power steering, air conditioning, alternator, and water pump turning and doing their jobs. This is something we begin monitoring prior to 60,000 miles and keep our customers up to speed on.

Spark Plug Replacement

Toyota spark plugs have a very tedious job and extreme working conditions. We recommend replacement every 90,000 miles to keep your Toyota running at top efficiency and performing as it was meant to. Check out our article HERE if you’d like to learn a bit more about spark plugs.

Engine Coolant Replacement

Recommended Toyota maintenance and the Highline maintenance schedule* agree on this – your coolant should be replaced at 100,000 miles. This is crucial to keeping your cooling system free of debris and corrosion. On a case by case basis, we will recommend replacing your radiator hoses at the same time.

*Arizona driving conditions, Phoenix in particular, are much more extreme than many other states in the US. Every vehicle manufacturer has a recommended maintenance schedule that provides general maintenance milestones. After working on vehicles in the East Valley since the 90’s we have developed our own maintenance schedule that better reflects the needs of a vehicle in the Phoenix area. You can see this maintenance schedule here.

Struts, Struts, Struts!

This is probably the most overlooked maintenance item on your Toyota. They are hard at work, day in and day out, keeping your vehicle’s tires in contact with the pavement. A good strut will keep your vehicle riding and handling like a new car. A worn out strut might make your ride feel more like that of a cruise ship. Excessive swaying and your car will continue to bounce long after you have hit that dip in the road or speed bump in the parking lot.  

Toyota struts don’t commonly leak when they fail (many manufacturers struts do), so it is sometimes overlooked upon inspection. At Highline, we have patented the “bounce test” (see what I’m talking about in this video) to determine if you are due for strut replacement. Trust me when I say this – you WILL notice a huge difference in the way your vehicle drives after we replace those worn struts!

Staying On Top of Toyota Maintenance Will Keep Your Vehicle Running “Forever”

These are just a few of the commonly overlooked items I can think about while sitting in front of the computer.  If you haven’t been in to see us yet, give us a call, (480) 336-2889.  Our 33 point inspection is always free, and what’s more is we will put together a list of maintenance and repair items you need to be aware of so you can begin planning on future care for your Toyota.

Our shop, Highline Car Care, is the best option for your Toyota maintenance needs. We have been in business since 2000 and in that time we have cared for and serviced thousands vehicles, a great deal of them being Toyotas. We’ve seen it all.

We’re located west of Mesa Drive just south of US 60. You can learn more about us here and get directions to our Mesa auto shop here.

Wes Hawkins

Owner of Highline Car Care

Wes Hawkins, Owner of Highline Car Care

Wes Hawkins is the Owner of Highline Car Care in Mesa, Arizona. Highline works on all makes and models with a special emphasis placed on Toyota, Honda, Acura and other Japanese designed and manufactured vehicles.

Highline has grown from Wes in his garage doing repair and maintenance work for family and friends to their current shop located in Mesa, Arizona.


 

The Non-Mechanic’s Guide to Understanding the Transmission Fluid Change

Automatic transmission fluid is that mysterious fluid that sounds like it must reside in your vehicle’s transmission. It is red in color, smells kind of sweet (trust us… you don’t want to actually taste it) and, for those truly interested, is a petroleum-based fluid.

But what does transmission fluid actually do, why do you need to have a transmission fluid change and why does any of this matter? The short answer is simple – transmission fluid is the lifeblood of your transmission.

But the long answer is a bit more drawn out and technical – and that’s precisely what we’re about to get into! There are plenty of less than reputable and knowledgeable oil and lube shops that will blindly recommend a transmission fluid change. Truthfully, you DO need aperiodic transmission fluid change. However, understanding how it all works together will help you know you really need that change and when someone’s looking at your wallet as an easy target.

The Non-Mechanic’s Guide to Understanding Transmission Fluid Using Super Soaker Water Guns

An automatic transmission operates through the use of hydraulic fluid – We will shorten this to ATF (automatic transmission fluid).

To simplify the definition of a hydraulic fluid, let’s picture a super soaker squirt gun – You fill it with water, and apply pressure to it by pumping it up. When you pull the trigger, a powerful blast of water is emitted that travels 15-20 feet, and hopefully, hit the desired target.

Highline Car Care Transmission Flush - Mesa, Arizona

A transmission is operated by the same concept.

Fluid is pressurized, and then a trigger (or electronic switch) directs the ATF to its intended target. This ATF then runs through a handful of different hydraulic circuits, switches, valves, and clutches in order to make your transmission shift correctly.

If you were to look at a diagram of the path your ATF takes just to get your vehicle up to speed on a freeway on ramp, it would look like one of those mazes we used to solve as children.

Moving A 4,000 Pound Vehicle Forward at 70 Miles Per Hour

The result of all of these mechanical components operating together to propel a 4,000 lb vehicle 70 miles per hour down the freeway is HEAT (which is something we’re not short of here in Mesa, Arizona).

Without going too far into Isaac Newton’s laws of physics (mechanics deal with a bit more than you thought, yes?), let’s say this – it takes a lot of effort to keep an object this heavy in motion, which results in heat which must be dissipated.

Highline Car Care Transmission Flush – Mesa, ArizonaIt is the responsibility of your ATF to keep these components at a safe temperature by both lubricating and cooling the transmission.

Your ATF is pressurized, goes through the transmission to do it’s job and is then sent out of the transmission and into your radiator to be cooled. Once it is cooled, it is pulled right backinto the transmission and put back to work. This cycle goes on and on AND on, every time you drive your vehicle.

Transmission Fluid Change – Why It Has to Be Done

So to recap, what we have here in ATF is a fluid that is responsible for the function and also the lubrication and cooling of your vehicle’s transmission.

Sounds like a pretty busy little fluid, right?

Well, over time, this ATF will become contaminated in two manners. First, it will become contaminated with metal and friction material that is shed from your transmission through normal usage.

Second, it will be contaminated with moisture (as a fluid constantly heats up and cools off, it will collect small amounts of water through condensation).

The first is obvious, and doesn’t demand much explanation – a fluid that is contaminated with debris cannot properly lubricate.

Even though we are a Mesa auto repair shop, we want to take you to the beach for a moment.

Highline Car Care Transmission Flush – Mesa, ArizonaPicture putting on sunscreen at the beach, but you have a little sand on your arm. That sunscreen doesn’t feel very nice, does it? The sand is scratching your skin as you rub the sunscreen in. Similarly, contaminated ATF will scratch the internals of your transmission and can cause parts to fail over time.

The second might demand a bit more explanation. When ATF becomes contaminated with moisture, better known as water – A chemical reaction will occur on a microscopic level (breaking out the big guns of science now). Water and oil will create acid. Once we have acid in your ATF, it can corrode your transmission’s metal internals. Transmission fluid changes are necessary.

How much should a transmission fluid change service cost?

This is a very subjective question, as many shops will offer different types of services.

Some will simply drain and fill your transmission which only replaces maybe 40% of your transmissions fluids. Others will do a transmission filter service, which replaces your transmission’s filter and approximately 40% of its fluids. Others yet will offer a transmission flush which incorporates a flush machine and will exchange approximately 90% of your fluids. Some shops will do a fluid flush AND a filter change.

On top of that, different manufactures require different types of fluid, that vastly vary in price. All of this aside, the short answer is that a transmission fluid service may run you anywhere from $99, all the way to $400.

Transmission Repair at Highline Car Care

Should you have a question as to which service is best for your vehicle and what it will cost, we recommend calling Highline Car Care for advice.

Highline Car Care, Mesa Arizona, Transmission Change and Flush

Everything described above is true of every car across the globe with an automatic transmission across.

In Arizona, the contamination of your transmission fluid is exacerbated. A reputable Mesa auto repair shop will recommend an transmission fluid change, also know as a  flush or “exchange”, every 60,000 miles.

Any recommendation at a significantly lower milage interval and you may want to get a second opinion. A recommendation at a significantly higher mileage interval and a mechanic is not doing their job.

We’re located in the heart of Mesa which puts us in the heart of the summer heat and a 60,000-mile interval is what we recommend for Arizona drivers (see our entire maintenance schedule here).

This will keep it fresh and ready to handle its extensive job.

And you thought ATF was insignificant, didn’t you?

Our shop, Highline Car Care, is the best option for automatic transmission flush. We have been in business since 2000 and in that time we have cared for and serviced many vehicles. We’re located west of Mesa Drive just south of US 60. You can learn more about us here and get directions to our Mesa auto shop here.

Wes Hawkins

Owner of Highline Car Care

Wes Hawkins, Owner of Highline Car Care

Wes Hawkins is the Owner of Highline Car Care in Mesa, Arizona. Highline works on all makes and models with a special emphasis placed on Toyota, Honda, Acura and other Japanese designed and manufactured vehicles.

Highline has grown from Wes in his garage doing repair and maintenance work for family and friends to their current shop located in Mesa, Arizona.