People near Alexandria VA often ask Hollin Hall Automotive how often they should have a particular service done. It's a great thing to ask. You can look at your owner's manual, or have your Alexandria VA service advisor at Hollin Hall Automotive look up your vehicle in a service database. What you find is often a surprise to people – there are actually two service schedules.
One is the regular schedule and the other is the severe service schedule. Service intervals are shorter on the severe service schedule. When asked, most folks in Alexandria VA will say that their driving is normal and that the 'regular' schedule probably applies to them. 'Severe service' sounds pretty extreme – 'I don't drive like that'.
Well, here is what the manufacturers say constitutes severe driving conditions; you can draw your own conclusions.
- Most of your trips are less than four miles.
- Most of your trips are less than ten miles and outside temperatures are below freezing.
- The engine is at low speed most of the time – not on the highway. You operate your vehicle in dusty areas.
- You regularly tow a trailer or carry heavy loads.
- Drive with a car-top carrier.
- Stop and go driving.
- Driving in very hot or very cold weather.
If that's severe driving, what constitutes regular driving? Well, it would look something like this: I live somewhere with moderate temperatures all year round – I'm thinking San Diego here. And I live close to a freeway on-ramp. Everywhere I need to go is right off the freeway, at least four miles from my home. I can drive at a steady 60 miles per hour when I'm on the freeway.
I don't know about you, but that doesn't sound like my normal driving. It sounds more like ideal conditions. I live where it gets hot in the summer and cold in the winter. I run short errands around Alexandria. Occasionally we load up for family trips.
For me, normal driving includes elements of severe service driving. So here's what I tell people: think about how you drive, where you live, where you go and what you are expecting to with your vehicle in the near future.
Picture a line with 'regular' on one end and 'severe' on the other, and make a judgment on where you fall. If your regular oil change recommendation is 5,000 miles and the severe service recommendation is 3,000 – when should you change your oil? For me, it's closer to 3,000 miles. For my wife, it's closer to 5,000 miles. Your Alexandria VA auto service advisor at Hollin Hall Automotive will be happy to have this discussion with you and help you sort it out.
Just a quick word on why severe service intervals are shorter. One has to do with heat. That can either be external heat from the weather or engine and transmission heat from stop and go driving or working extra hard moving heavy loads or towing. The heat causes the fluids like oil and transmission fluid to break down more quickly and then they aren't as effective.
Another factor is water. Moisture naturally collects in fluids as they cool. In your motor oil, for example, if you don't drive long enough for the oil to fully heat up, the water won't evaporate. Water in the oil can lead to the buildup of damaging sludge.
If you live where the air is dusty or polluted, fluids will become contaminated and filters will get dirtier more quickly.
So make an honest evaluation of your driving conditions. You've made the commitment to take care of your vehicles, so it only makes sense to follow the right schedule.
Posted in the Service Intervals category
Let's talk about deciphering the auto service menu board. Alexandria, VA service centers like Hollin Hall Automotive have a board that lists the routine services they provide. But some people don't know what these services really are unless they ask. Let's go down a typical list, in alphabetical order, starting with air conditioning service.
Feel free at any time to give Hollin Hall Automotive a call at 703-765-3722 to learn of the many services we offer, or stop by our Alexandria, VA auto center at 7926 Fort Hunt Road 22308.
First remember that all of these services are recommended by vehicle manufacturers. They set how often or at how many miles the service should be done.
Air conditioning service involves purging the old refrigerant and capturing it for proper disposal. Then fresh refrigerant is installed. The fresh refrigerant will lubricate the system and will also help it cool better.
Alignment. Service centers like Hollin Hall Automotive make sure all four wheels are lined up and track with each other. This reduces tire and suspension wear and improves safety and handling.
Battery service. Service centers like Hollin Hall Automotive inspect the battery for corrosion, leaks or damage. Test the battery's ability to hold a charge. If the battery's still strong, clean it up. If not, replace it.
Brake service. This could be two things. A brake inspection to see if the brakes are working well mechanically and to see if the pads are still safe. If not, replace the pads and make any repairs that might be in order.
The other thing is to evacuate the brake fluid, clean out the system and replace it with fresh fluid. This is important, but often over looked.
Cabin air filter. The cabin air filter is the filter that cleans the air that comes into the passenger compartment. It works like the filter on your furnace at home. It gets dirty and needs to be changed often.
Cooling system. This is the cooling system for your engine. Replace the old coolant with fresh to protect your radiator and other cooling system components from corrosion.
Differential service. Every vehicle has at least one differential. They don't require service very often, so people don't think of them much. The differential transfers power from the drive train to your wheels. Drain the old fluid and add fresh lubricant.
Engine air filter. This filters the air that's burned in the engine. It also gets dirty and needs to be replaced often.
Fuel filter. This filter cleans the fuel before it gets to the engine. Like the other filters, it too gets clogged and needs to be replaced in order to maintain good flow.
Contact Hollin Hall Automotive, your Alexandria, VA auto repair center, by calling us at 703-765-3722.
Posted in the Service Intervals category
Everyone in Alexandria VA knows we’re supposed to go to the dentist twice a year. We get our teeth cleaned and have a thorough dental inspection. Once a year, we get x-rays to look for problems that can’t be seen with the naked eye. When the dentist is done, he tells us what he’s found – "Everything’s fine, see you in six months." Or "You’ve got a small cavity starting, let's schedule an appointment to take care of it." By the time you leave, you have a plan for addressing any necessary repairs.
This system works so much better than waiting for a painful problem before going into the dentist. Small problems are fixed before they turn into big problems. And you avoid those huge bills.
If we buy into this way of handling our dental care, why do we resist so much when facing the same system for our car care?
Hollin Hall Automotive
7926 Fort Hunt Road
Alexandria, VA 22308
Following the manufacturer's recommended intervals can be confusing. First there are recommendations for so many things: oil changes, transmission, coolant, air conditioning, power steering, brakes, fuel system, filters, belts, hoses, alignment, rotation, balancing ...you get the point.
Every item has a recommended interval and it's hard to keep it all straight – even if you’re part of the 1% of the population that reads your owners’ manual in Alexandria VA.
And if you have more than one car or SUV, the complexity is multiplied. You'd need a computer to keep track of everything. Well, that's how your Alexandria service center does it. They subscribe to automotive databases that have your vehicle's recommended intervals. You may have wondered how they know what else to recommend when you take your car in for an oil change – it's all in the computer.
Well, it's not all in the computer. There are other variables that can’t be accounted for in the schedule. Things like the weather conditions, altitude, and where and how you drive when you are out in our Alexandria VA area need to be taken into account. Talk about these things with your service advisor at Hollin Hall Automotive and you may decide that the severe service schedule in your owner's manual is more appropriate.
Since anything that's not highway driving in moderate weather is considered severe, most of us do at least some of that around Alexandria VA and it should be taken into consideration.
Let's take your basic oil change as an example – what issues are involved? The oil you put in your car is a blend of base oil and special additives. There are detergents to clean the inside of your engine and corrosion inhibitors. A good quality motor oil will not only lubricate your engine, it will help it stay clean inside and run cooler.
Now, these additives deplete with use and time. That's why most maintenance recommendations include both a time and mileage element – like 3 months or 3,000 miles, whichever comes first.
It's easy to think, "Gee, I've only driven 2,000 miles in the last 3 months. I can wait on that oil change." But you need to remember that the inside of your engine is a harsh environment. The oil is contaminated with combustion by-products that starts degrading its effectiveness even when it's just sitting there.
A lot of people in Alexandria VA don't realize the harm that can be done by just skipping a single oil change. There are a lot of metal parts moving around in your engine. Small bits of metal wear off and are floating around in your oil. They can be carried to more delicate areas of the engine where they cause damage. Your oil filter is designed to trap metal particles and other dirt, but if it's clogged up because you haven't changed it, it can't trap any more.
Oil sludge is another problem. Sludge is oil that has turned to a gunky jelly – think 'Vaseline'. Obviously, sludge doesn't lubricate. It can also clog small oil passages so that all the parts don't get properly protected by the oil. That'll lead to premature wear.
If you've missed some oil changes, don't despair. Just talk with your service advisor at Hollin Hall Automotive. Fess up – you'll feel better. And he can help you get back on track. Following recommended intervals is the key to keeping your car on the road and avoiding major repairs in Alexandria VA.
Take a look at the auto tips video in this post for more information.
Posted in the Service Intervals category
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Cooling System (3)
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