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:
- When the oil is changed regularly, the detergents in the oil effectively break down harmful deposits that attack your engine and cause expensive damage.
- 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.
- 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.
Feature image: 4 PM Production/Shutterstock
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.
Automotive AC Service and Repair Basics
It’s summertime 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 conditioning system:
Refrigerant: The Lifeblood of Your Air Conditioning System
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.
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.
Condenser: The Radiator For Your AC System
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.
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.
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 Vehicle’s AC Need To Be Serviced?
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.
Why Shouldn’t You Use a DIY 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
How Do You Service Your Car’s AC in Mesa, AZ?
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.
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Maintain your vehicle properly and it will last you for years. This article shows how preventative maintenance can keep your Toyota 4Runner running great.
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