Corvallis consumers are demanding. We want a safe, reliable vehicle that handles well and is comfortable to ride in. Oh, and we want good fuel economy, too. We also want vehicle repairs that are cheap, fast and easy. Unfortunately, one usually comes at the cost of the other.
Today's vehicles have made significant improvements in reliability and performance over the last few decades. They also deliver more power to Corvallis drivers more efficiently than ever before. For example, some of today's 4-cylinder engines are equal to yesterday's V-8's. Our vehicles also offer an amazing range of features that make them more comfortable and convenient than ever before.
But all of that improvement has come at a price for Corvallis vehicle owners. Our vehicles are more complicated and difficult to repair than ever before. They have numerous mechanical and electrical systems. Fuel systems are so complex they have to be run by a computer. Our vehicles are covered with sensors and high-tech electronic equipment. Our dashboards rival the control panel of the first manned space flight.
With all that complicated equipment, it's no wonder we call mechanics service technicians these days. You can't learn to repair vehicles in the backyard with your dad anymore. Today's Clayton's Auto Service technicians have to go to school. School may come in the form of classroom instruction, online courses or both. Technicians are also trained on-site at the Corvallis service centers where they work (including Clayton's Auto Service) to keep them abreast of constant improvements in vehicle engineering, diagnostic equipment and repair techniques.
Today's technicians need to be certified to work on our vehicles. They can earn a variety of certifications in Oregon, but the highest of these is Master Technician. It's like a graduate degree in auto repair.
Vehicle repair at Clayton's Auto Service in Corvallis requires more than just training and certification, though. It also takes information and creative thought. Corvallis area auto service centers subscribe to data services, technical libraries and online repair communities in order to get the information they need to: work on various makes and models of vehicles, get recommended maintenance schedules, learn about non-standard features and locate hard-to-find parts in an unusual engine. They also use this information to help diagnose rare or difficult vehicle problems. Many auto repair problems also require a bit of creative thinking for the team at Clayton's Auto Service to solve. Corvallis service technicians at Clayton's Auto Service act much like doctors in these situations. They're given a set of symptoms, and they have to come up with a diagnosis and treatment that will fix the problem. This process becomes as much of an art as it is a science.
A proper diagnosis, even by a highly qualified technician, can take time. And a technician's time is going to cost us. It's just the price of progress.
Of course, the best vehicle care for Corvallis vehicle owners is planned preventive auto maintenance. This is also the least costly way to keep your vehicle in good repair. Regular inspections and replacement of worn parts will prevent most repairs from ever being needed in the first place.
And with the amazing complexity of today's automobiles, isn't it good to know there's someone out there with the knowledge, training and skill to give us good auto advice? Whether we need preventive maintenance or repairs, the team of automotive professionals at Clayton's Auto Service can help us keep our vehicles on the road. We just can't do it on our own anymore.
Ask any Corvallis man or woman if they've taken their vehicle in for preventive maintenance lately, and the answer may well be “no.” Surveys indicate that over 80% of vehicles on the road today are in need of some kind of repair or maintenance. Now, ask that same person why he hasn't taken his car in for care. The answer will probably be that he forgot or that he just didn't think about it. Most Corvallis residents seem to have a hard time remembering about scheduled maintenance for their vehicles.
Funny, because most of us in Corvallis have no trouble remembering to wash our clothes, mow our lawns or brush our teeth. It isn't that we can't remember to take our vehicles for service; it's a matter of making it a priority.
When it comes to our vehicles, Corvallis drivers like myself, need to be a little more maintenance-minded. The fact is, we can choose to do it, or we might find ourselves being compelled to do it.
For example, when we consistently forget to brush our teeth, a major consequence usually follows. The pain of that experience usually compels us to be more mindful of our teeth and take better care of them.
The same goes for our vehicles. If we ignore them long enough, a painful experience is sure to follow—painful for our pocketbooks, that is. People in Corvallis who have gone through that experience are usually more conscientious about proper car care.
So, if you're not a fan of the school of hard knocks, at least when it comes to vehicle maintenance, remind yourself to look after your car. Pay attention to the little oil change tag on your windshield. When it's time take your car in, do it. But don't just change the oil. Get a full-service oil change at Clayton's Auto Service. Your technician will then check all of your fluids. He can advise you if any of them need to be changed or if any of them are low.
Low fluid levels can indicate leaks or a worn hose or seal, so they can check those for you as well. Other signs of wear are also immediately evident when you get a full-service oil change, such as a cracked serpentine belt or corroded battery cable. Your Clayton's Auto Service technician will also check the vehicle manufacturer's service recommendations for your vehicle and advise you of any other routine service that is coming due.
It's like a one-stop shop for auto advice that will keep you on top of your vehicle's maintenance.
If there is more to be done than the budget allows, you can get a picture of what needs to be done. Then, create a plan with your Clayton's Auto Service service advisor and budget for it during the coming months. It's a whole lot less painful than unexpected car repairs.
Vehicles are more reliable than they ever have been. They can take a lot of abuse and neglect. But they're also expensive and complicated machines. Corvallis drivers can't expect them to run forever without proper fluids and filters. Preventive maintenance at Clayton's Auto Service in Corvallis will improve the reliability and life expectancy of your vehicle, as well as ensuring your safety on the road in Oregon.
Most Corvallis folks occasionally have days when they've got a bunch of errands to run. Yesterday was my day off and I needed to fill the gas tank, pick up some groceries at my Corvallis market, swing by the ATM and get the kids from school. I could have made four trips . . . but that would have been totally inefficient. Instead I got unusually organized and planned my stops. I hit the ATM first and got gas next. Then I went to the supermarket and picked up the kids on the way home. I was proud of my wise use of time and money.
What does this have to do with your car? Well, back in the day, each of your engine's accessories, like the alternator and air conditioner, were powered by separate belts. A vehicle might have five or six belts. These days, vehicles have a single belt to run all the accessories. It's called the serpentine belt. A pulley attached to the vehicle engine's crank provides the power to turn the serpentine belt. On the engine in the video, the first accessory in line is the power steering pump, which makes it easier to steer your vehicle.
Next comes the alternator which powers the vehicle's electrical system and charges the battery. Then the air conditioning compressor. This helps make cold air to keep you comfortable all summer long in Corvallis. Finally, we come to the belt tensioner. Its job is to apply pressure on the belt to keep it tight. Then, back home to the crank.
This is a pretty typical setup, but it can vary somewhat. In some vehicles the water pump or radiator fan or the power brakes are also run by the serpentine belt. Some even have two serpentine belts. No matter how your engine is laid out, you're not going far without a serpentine belt. Your vehicle manufacturer has a recommended interval for replacing your belt and your Clayton's Auto Service service technician can inspect it for damage or wear.
Several years ago, manufacturers started making serpentine belts out of a new material. It's much more durable, but it's harder to tell when the belt needs to be replaced. The old style belts would crack and chunks would fall off so you could easily see when you needed a new one.
On the new style belts, if the ribs wear too deep, it's time to replace. Your Clayton's Auto Service technician uses a simple gauge to tell when the belt is worn.
A worn belt stresses your vehicle engine's expensive accessories and causes them to wear prematurely. So, change your serpentine belt and belt tensioner according to your manufacturer's recommendations to extend the life of your accessories and to prevent future breakdowns.
A lot of Corvallis drivers have asked whether or not they should use their severe service maintenance schedule, which is listed in their vehicle's owner's manual. It can be somewhat confusing, so we decided to consult an expert. Cricket Killingsworth is from QMI/Heartland, a manufacturer of automotive products and fluids. She's been in the automotive business for over 30 years and is a speaker, a trainer and a writer.
Cricket says there's so much confusion on this topic because, "Most owner's manuals actually have two maintenance schedules. Sometimes these are called 'regular service' and 'severe service.' Sometimes they're simply called Schedule 1 and Schedule 2. A severe service schedule recommends that things like an oil change, air filter replacement and transmission service be done more often: either in fewer miles or in less time."
Foreign and domestic vehicle manufacturers create a specific schedule for each vehicle they manufacture. So there isn't one generic schedule that applies to all vehicles. In addition to your owner's manual, Corvallis automotive repair centers (including Clayton's Auto Service) subscribe to information services that provide the auto maintenance schedules for every vehicle - so they can help Corvallis drivers know when to take care of needed services. Below is a typical definition for severe service.
Most trips are less than four miles/six and a half kilometers
Most trips are less than 10 miles/16 km and outside temperatures are below freezing
You drive regularly in very hot Oregon weather
The engine is at low speed most of the time (not on the freeway)
Stop and go driving
You drive in in dusty or muddy conditions
You routinely tow a trailer, haul heavy loads or carry a car-top carrier around Corvallis
It's common sense for Corvallis drivers: Just a few minutes at higher speeds allows the moisture in the oil to evaporate. Very short trips, or trips of less than 10 miles when it's very cold, don't allow the engine to heat up enough to get rid of the water. And water in the oil leads to damaging sludge. Also, towing and heavy loads raise operating temperatures and cause fluids to break down faster. Dusty and muddy driving around Corvallis means that more dirt will get past the air filter to contaminate the fuel system and engine oil.
The bottom line is that you need to decide for yourself if the regular or severe service schedule is right for you, based on your driving habits. Look at your owner's manual or talk with your Clayton's Auto Service service advisor who can help you know which schedule to follow.
Here is what a fleet manager said recently: "Since city miles are generally tougher on vehicles than highway miles, we use the manufacturer's severe service schedule as the basis for our preventative maintenance program. We massage those schedules over time, increasing or decreasing the service intervals so that they make the most sense. There is a little bit of art to go along with the science."
Make an honest evaluation of your driving habits. Unless you do mostly Oregon highway driving in moderate weather, you'll likely have a fairly good amount of severe service mixed in. Some Corvallis drivers just want to play it safe and follow the severe service recommendations, rather than analyzing how they drive each month.
Ask us for help evaluating your driving and service needs.
When autumn comes around in Corvallis, leaves fall, nights get longer and there's a definite nip in the air. Time to unpack the boots and gloves and fold some extra blankets onto the beds. It's also time for Corvallis drivers to winterize their vehicles.
Here is some expert auto advice for Corvallis drivers on what vehicles need to keep everyone safe and rolling throughout the Oregon winter months.
1. Check your antifreeze. Top it off or change it if necessary. You don't want your radiator, engine or hoses freezing up. If your vehicle isn't generating enough heat to keep you warm, your antifreeze might be low, or you might have a thermostat problem. Either way, you should get it checked out before the full force of Oregon winter sets in. If you are due for a cooling system service at Clayton's Auto Service in Corvallis, get that done as well.
2. Check your brakes. The slushy wet conditions of winter increase stopping distances. Ice exacerbates the problem. Your first concern, of course, is to make sure you adapt your driving habits to winter weather: slow down, and give yourself plenty of room to stop. Get your brakes checked at Clayton's Auto Service and replace any worn pads or other parts. Check your brake fluid. It can accumulate moisture and decrease your stopping power.
3. Test your battery. A battery's cranking power drops in the cold, so if your battery is already weak, the onset of winter will do it in. The last thing you want is to be on a snowy Oregon road in the dark and cold with a dead battery.
4. Pack emergency supplies. Toss a blanket into the trunk. If you do find yourself stranded, your first concern will be to stay warm. If you're traveling away from Oregon population centers, then pack some emergency food and water as well. Also, it's a good idea to top off your tank in winter. That way, if you get stuck, you'll have some fuel to burn to stay warm, and it'll keep your gas lines from freezing up.
5. Check your wiper blades. They may be able to handle a light Corvallis summer rain shower, but they might not be up to the ice and snow that collect on a windshield in winter. If you experience particularly harsh winters or really wet ones, you can purchase special blades that resist freezing. And don't forget to top off your wiper fluid.
6. Check your tires. Tires lose pressure over time, but they lose pressure fast when it's cold outside in Corvallis. Tires lose about one pound of pressure every six to eight weeks; they also lose one pound of pressure for every 10°F/5.6°C drop in temperature. If the last time you checked your tires it was 80°F/26.7°C outside and it's 40°F/4.4°C now, your tires could be down five pounds in pressure — and that's serious. It's a safety issue and cuts down on your fuel economy.
7. Driving conditions in the Corvallis area may warrant special winter tires. Check with your friendly and knowledgeable Clayton's Auto Service tire professional to get the right tires for your area and for your driving habits. If you are getting winter tires, it's always best to get them for all four wheels. But if you're only going to get two, put them on the rear wheels, even if you drive a front-wheel or four-wheel drive vehicle. Traction is more important on the rear of a vehicle if you want to prevent sliding or fish-tailing on slick surfaces.
So there you have it: a quick checklist to winterize your car in Oregon. When it comes to car care, preventive maintenance is always the best practice for Corvallis drivers, especially when it comes to winter weather. None of us want to be caught out in the winter cold.