Get Your VW Road Trip Ready

It’s the time of year where road trips become a realistic and exciting travel option. Your first concerns may be food, breaks, or entertainment, but before you get carried away it’s also vital that you make sure your Volkswagen is road trip ready. Road trips are, in general easier on your car than day to day driving, but finding yourself stuck miles from home, especially when you’re in an area with unreliable weather conditions, can spell the end of your road trip dreams.

Check your tires
The first thing to check is the pressure of your tires. The recommended pressure level for your particular VW should be located on your manufacturers label, although it’s often possible to find it within your owners’ manual. You should be able to tell if your tires need balancing; if you feel a vibration at high speeds it often caused by uneven pressure. If your tire pressures need checking before or during your journey, many VW’s will also inform you via the tire pressure monitoring system, which will display a light if there is an issue, the color of which indicates the severity of the issue.

Check your fluid levels
Making sure your fluid levels are at the right point is an important part of readying your car for a long journey. You oil levels are available in your manual and should be at the right level before you set off. You need to make sure you top up with an oil that’s suitable for your make of VW, but you still have the option of choosing between regular and synthetic.
If you’re close to the oil change interval recommended by VW in your manual then you should make sure it’s changed before you leave if you want to enjoy the best performance possible. Of course, you can have your engine oil changed completely by a garage if you’re not confident in changing it yourself. Although this may cost a little more it will save any mistakes that you could pay for further down the line.
Your other essential fluids including your transmission fluid, engine and radiator coolant, brake fluid, power steering fluid and windscreen wash should also be checked before you leave. If you decide to have a full service beforehand, you should have these checks included. Many garages will also check your hoses or belts to make sure they do not require replacing before your journey.

Check your brakes, steering and suspension
Brake checks are a vital part of your pre-journey checklist and will often prevent any problems from developing during extended periods of travel. Routine checks that can be completed at home include testing the pedal to see how far it needs to be pushed before it has an effect, as well as brake fluid checks. The sound of your brakes hitting your brake pads should also be considered, as it can be an indicator of a problem. As with all other parts of your car, it’s possible to have the garage check them over beforehand as an individual check or part of a full service, so you can travel with peace of mind.
Whether you’re paying for your holiday using savings, a loan, or you’re being treated by your family, you want to make sure your journey is as comfortable as possible. Suspension plays a large part in the overall comfort level of your drive and can be easily sorted via small adjustments or replacement parts, which can be fitted by a local garage for a small price. If you purchase the correct part for your car online you can also replace suspension elements yourself.
Signs of suspension issues include any feeling of vibration in the steering or the brake pedal, popping sounds during turning and knocking or rattling sounds coming from the suspension when travelling on bumpy roads, which often indicates a loose component. Struts inside the wheel arches should also be checked for signs of moisture, which can indicate a leaking strut or shock absorber.

If, when testing your car, you notice the feeling of the car pulling from one side to the other as you drive straight you could be dealing with an alignment issue. This could lead to a number of further problems including worn tires and suspension problems and as such should be dealt with before your journey begins.

Contributed by Emma Jaynes

Diagnosing Worn Shocks & Struts and Why You Should Care

Most of our customers care enough about the longevity of their vehicle to keep up with common maintenance jobs like transmission flushes, brake replacement, tire changes and timing belt replacements. One important maintenance job that often gets over looked is the replacement of shocks and struts. 84% of junk yard vehicles still have the original shocks on them despite the fact that most auto industry professionals recommend replacing them every 50,000 miles.  We would be honored to consult you on your needs for brake repair in Gainesville and timing belt repair in Gainesville.

Driving on worn shocks and struts is as risky as driving on bald tires or on brakes that are well past their prime. In fact, worn shocks can greatly effect braking and cause your tires to wear unevenly. Most shockingly (no pun intended), a single shock that is 50% degraded can add over 12 feet to the distance you need to stop when traveling at just 50 mph.

The biggest tell-tale signs that you might need to replace your shocks and struts are:

1) Your vehicle nose-dives when braking. – When the shock or strut can not properly absorb the shift of weight in the vehicle this greatly effects your braking.
2) Oil is leaking from the shocks and struts – This means that the seal inside the strut has failed.  We can help fix this problem for your oil change in Gainesville.
3) Uneven tire-wear – A tire that always wears unevenly despite tire rotations and alignment is a good sign that the shock or strut might be bad.
4) Steering Wheel vibrates – Could be a slight wobble at slow speeds or a significant vibration at higher speeds.
5) Side Wind Shifting – Cross winds causes your car to veer significantly. One of the more popular tests for diagnosing worn shocks and struts is the “bounce test”. Simply push down as far as you can on the front end of your vehicle and let go. Your vehicle should rebound into place very quickly. If it bounces up and down a couple of times, it is likely time to replace your shocks and struts.

If you think you are experiencing some of these issues, bring your car into Smitty’s Auto Service in Gainesville, Florida and we’ll diagnose it for you.  We are your superior Gainesville Mechanics!

Timing Belts

There has been more articles written about timing belts on the internet than any other single engine part, yet it continues to be the single most destructive part of engines that use a timing belt.

This week we had a beauty, car came in with a no start condition, after doing the basic checks, we discovered something I have not seen after over 40 years working on cars.  The timing belt had disintegrated so bad, to the point where the debris from the timing belt accumulated at the bottom of the engine where it blocked the crankshaft sensor from being able to produce the signal to get the car started; what a blessing.

This illustration shows what’s left of this timing belt. This customer just arrived in Gainesville for school, and the car had 97,000 miles at this point and the belt had never been changed as per customer. The manufacturer recommends timing belt replacement @ 105,000. We were able to put in a new timing belt, tensioner, seals & water pump and save this car.  Have you had your timing belt looked at lately? We would be happy to check it for you.

Most vehicles that use a timing belt should have them replaced at 75,000 – 85,000 miles period. We think that it is cheap insurance.  You will have to change it anyway if you want to continue to drive that car, so why take a chance?

Timing belt replacement job should always include:

(1) Timing Belt
(2) Timing Belt Tensioner (Some Cars Use (2) Hydraulic & Mechanical)
(3) Timing Belt Roller/Idler’ s
(4) Camshaft, Crankshaft, & Intermediate Shaft Seals Where Necessary
(5) Water Pump
(6) Engine Coolant
(7) Drive Belt/ s
(8) New Timing Belt Sticker, Most OEM Kits Include Them.


Don’t Forget to Brake!

The brakes are an incredibly important part of any vehicle. Due to the laws of physics, objects in motion will stay in motion unless something acts against it. So, without brakes, your car will continue careening along at whatever speed you accelerated up to without any change until something, like a wall or another vehicle, acts against that forward motion to stop it. When that happens, it usually is not pretty.

The best in brake repair Gainesville FL has to offer, Smitty’s Auto Service, will tell you that it is important to maintain brake pads and proper fluid levels. Not only can they enumerate the many reasons why such maintenance is so important, they can also perform it at a reasonable and low cost to you.These guys are the best Gainesville mechanics you will find around, and they don’t jerk you around and try to use nearly unintelligible mechanic-jargon to confuse you into paying more than you should for their auto service Gainesville drivers.

If you do not have them already, it is likely they will suggest ceramic brake pads for the average higher performance vehicle. Just because the pads are made partially of ceramic material does not mean that they will crack and shatter like a poorly made art project. No, ceramic pads are great because they are quieter than metallic pads and they also create less dust from prolonged use. They were initially developed for high-performance vehicles since the ceramic component of the pads allows them to endure higher temperatures than the regular metal ones without any sort of deformation, not to mention the lighter weight.

Higher quality, faster speed, and friendlier brake service Gainesville FL can not offer you. So look no further for any of your Gainesville auto needs. The mechanics at Smitty’s Auto Service will take great care of you and your vehicle.

Keep Your Transmission Healthy

Everyone knows that one of the worst things to have to repair on your vehicle is the transmission, and while Smitty’s mechanics are the best at transmission repair Gainesville FL or anywhere nearby, it can still get expensive. So in order to help you save your time and your wallet, here are several ways to keep your transmission looking spiffy.

First of all, you need to check your transmission fluid regularly. It is best to check it while the vehicle is still hot, or after you have been driving for a little while, in order to get the most accurate reading. Ideally, you want to check all of your fluids, transmission, brake, coolant, and oil, every time you gas up, even if it was not even a full week ago that you did so. Stop-and-go traffic are brutal on the car, especially when it gets hot out, like during Florida summers, for instance. If it has been a particularly hot summer or you have done excessive wear on your vehicle, it may be prudent to change the transmission more than just bi-annually (as is suggested). You must keep in mind that the transmission fluid serves several purposes. It cools, lubricates, and cleans all the parts of the internal transmission system while simultaneously providing the hydraulic pressure needed to make everything work in the first place. When the fluid gets really dirty from extended use it does not perform its many tasks nearly as well.

Second, you want to make sure to have your vehicle brought in for a checkup at least twice a year. The Gainesville mechanics at Smitty’s Auto can have this done for you in a jiffy. It is very important to get a routine checkup on your vehicle because the only way it can tell you something might be wrong with it is to make noise or rattle. Unfortunately, cars cannot yet tell you in plain words that something is wrong, you must interpret that yourself.

Hence the checkup; the Gainesville auto mechanics know how to speak the car’s language and can tell if it needs fixing. Cars are very durable machines, but they are also incredibly complex, so there are many things that could go wrong. Keeping the transmission in check can stop the root of many of those problems before they even develop. This is also largely the third step you can take to ensure a properly functioning machine for as long as possible. As soon as you notice something that feels or sounds out of place, get it checked out. The severity of the blow to the wallet is often directly related to the amount of time you hold off on getting that issue checked out. Ignoring problems does not make them go away, and cars are no exception. So whether you have a domestic vehicle or a foreign car, Smitty’s Auto has you handled, since a better import car mechanic Gainesville cannot find.