Autobahn West

Providing superb car service and repairs to BMW, Mini Cooper, Porsche, Volvo and Mercedes owners since 1976

Autobahn West - Providing superb car service and repairs to BMW, Mini Cooper, Porsche, Volvo and Mercedes owners since 1976

Keeping Your ‘Old Faithful’ Auto Running

At Autobahn West we’ve had a lot of Mission Viejo, Laguna Niguel, and Foothill Ranch clients asking how they can make their vehicles last longer. These questions are actually a reflection of a trend that’s been building for several years. The median age of personal vehicles is now over nine years. And 33 percent of all vehicles on the road have over 75,000 miles on them. It looks like it’s going to keep heading in that direction for a while. With high fuel prices a lot of Irvine folks are putting off buying a new car. Thanks to AutoNetTV, we can provide you with a video answer to this essential question.

So let’s say you’re one of the average people in the Irvine area; you’ve got a nine year old car with 80,000 miles on the odometer. What can you to do make it last another year or two?

Let’s start with the premise that there’s no reason that a modern car can’t run for 200,000 miles with proper care. The engineering and manufacturing quality is there.

Of course, some parts will wear out along the way, but there’s no reason for a catastrophic meltdown if you stay on top of your recommended car maintenance. The maintenance schedule in some owner’s manuals runs out at 60,000 miles or so: how do we know what to do when we’re way past that?

It is a challenge, for example: If a service is recommended every 15,000 miles for the first 60,000 miles you can just keep getting it done at least every 15,000 miles after you hit 60,000 miles. But, it gets more complicated because older engines lose some efficiency, are dirtier inside and are just more stressed. That means it’s very important to not miss any scheduled services. Skipping just one oil change at Autobahn West, for example, leaves an opportunity for harmful sludge to build up.

So all the usual things like oil changes, transmission service, coolant service, brakes, power steering, fuel system cleaning – all that stuff needs to be maintained. People responsible for fleet vehicles around Irvine are sticklers for scheduled maintenance. They know that money spent on maintenance saves them three ways:

  1. it keeps fuel efficiency from decreasing;
  2. it prevents expensive repairs, and;
  3. they can postpone purchasing new vehicles.

Having the oil changed may be the most important thing. A full service oil change means that all of your other fluids get topped off so they are never low enough to cause damage. It also gives your understanding Autobahn West service professional a chance to spot problems in the early stages so that you can fix them before they get expensive. And it gives you a touch point with an automotive professional along the way to remind you of things that aren’t scheduled as often – things like differential service and timing belt replacement.

If you live in the Irvine area and have an older vehicle, you may need to follow the severe service maintenance schedule. Check your owner’s manual and talk with your service advisor at Autobahn West. Conditions inside an older engine, transmission and cooling system can arguably be considered severe – so shorter intervals could well be called for.

And, we would strongly encourage you to consider using high mileage formulation fluids. They’re fluids like engine oil, transmission fluid and coolant that are formulated for older engines. They have special additives to clean deposits, and to condition and restore seals and gaskets that dry out with age. Some Mission Viejo auto owners start using higher mileage formulations at around 50,000 miles as a preventive measure.

Of course you also want to still look marvelous in your older car as you drive around Irvine. Salt and road grime wreak havoc on your paint job and can lead to body rust – so regular washing is very important. Also, a good quality waxing is recommended at least twice a year.

Give us a call for more information:

Autobahn West
25800 Jeronimo Rd. #200
Mission Viejo, CA 92691
949.770.2312

Power Steering Service Near Irvine

Most of us living in the Irvine area are too young to remember life before power steering – cranking those great big steering wheels! It was a pretty good workout. Now power steering is standard. Let’s look at how it works. The heart of any power steering system is its pump. The pump pressurizes the power steering fluid that provides assist for steering. Most pumps are driven by a belt that is run by the engine – a few are electrically powered. A high-pressure hose passes fluid from the pump to the steering gear. A low pressure hose returns the fluid back to the pump.

These hoses can develop leaks, so it is a good idea to inspect them at every oil change. Low fluid can damage the power steering pump. That is why fluid level is on the checklist for a full-service oil change. The fluid needs to be compatible with the hoses and seals, so check your owners’ manual for the right type – or just ask your understanding tech at Autobahn West.

The fluid cleans, cools and lubricates the power steering system. It breaks down as the years go by and collects unwanted moisture, so Mission Viejo motorists need to replace it from time to time. Many auto manufacturers specify power steering service intervals. Unfortunately, this important service is sometimes left off the car maintenance schedule for many of us in Irvine. So, when in doubt, every 25,000 miles/40,000 km or two years is a good fallback. Your Autobahn West service specialist will use a detergent to clean the system, flush out the old fluid and replace it with the good stuff.

Here are some warning signs of trouble with your power steering: It’s harder to turn the wheel, there’s erratic power assist, you hear loud whining coming from the pump (which may be difficult to hear over the loud whining coming from the backseat), you have to top-off the fluid frequently, or you hear squealing belts. Remember to never hold the steering wheel to the far right or left for more than a few seconds at a time. That will wear out your power steering pump real fast.

Other steering components can be bent or damaged from wear or hard knocks. Ball-joint, idler-arm, steering-gear, steering-knuckle and tie rod to name a few. Warning signs here are steering play, wandering, uneven tire wear, and off-center steering wheel. An annual alignment check at Autobahn West will reveal bent or damaged steering components.

Most SUV’s, pick-ups and rear-wheel-drive cars need regular front-wheel-bearing service.

The bearings should be cleaned and inspected. If they are excessively worn, they need to be replaced. The bearings are then repacked in clean grease. It’s also recommend the wheel-seal be replaced when the bearings are serviced. Like everything else, check your owners’ manual maintenance schedule. It’s usually required around every two years or 40,000 miles/64,000 km. If you drive through water in the Irvine area, the bearings will need service more often.

Autobahn West
25800 Jeronimo Rd. #200
Mission Viejo, CA 92691
949.770.2312

Suspension Service In Mission Viejo At Autobahn West

When they hear the word ‘suspension‘, Mission Viejo motorists may think back to those energetic days of grade school. Well, your car’s suspension is actually a good thing because it keeps your car up off the road and helps provide a comfy ride around Irvine. Its job is to keep your wheels firmly planted over bumps and through curves. Your suspension system has many parts. If you look under your car, it’s basically everything that connects your wheels to the car’s frame. These are heavy duty parts that do a lot of work. They need to be inspected for damage and excessive wear at least once a year. A good time for this is when you get your annual alignment service.

Here are some warning signs of suspension problems:

  • the car pulls to one side
  • it wanders
  • the steering is erratic
  • you see uneven tire wear
  • you experience a poor ride or handling
  • you see oil leaking from shocks

Basically, you just don’t feel in control when you’re driving.

Some suspension parts just wear out with use. Shocks and struts eventually lose their ability to control your ride. Wheel bearings need to be repacked every couple of years. And some suspension pieces need to be lubricated when you get your oil changed. Your understanding service advisor at Autobahn West can perform an inspection and tell you what problems you may have.

If you’re in an accident, your suspension can be damaged or knocked out of alignment. Even a minor accident, like hitting a curb around Mission Viejo or even a large rock can mess things up. With a minor accident it’s tempting for many Irvine motorists to just get an alignment or wheel balance to correct the problem. But if there’s damage, a simple alignment won’t actually fix the problem, and you’ll just have to align it again after the repairs are made. So if you have an accident, get your suspension system inspected right away. Suspension problems are a major safety issue because they can lead to unsafe handling.

One big cause of suspension damage is potholes – those nasty magnets that form in Irvine roads in freezing weather. They seem to draw our tires right into them. Here are some tips for avoiding damage from potholes: First, keep your tires at their full air pressure. That gives tires their maximum resiliency and will hopefully keep your wheels or other suspension parts from crunching on a big hole. Next, just pay attention. When you see a hole you can’t miss, slow down before you hit it. Driving at a slower speed will limit the damage, and may keep your drink from spilling. But avoid the temptation to brake directly over the pothole. That will cause the car’s weight to shift forward and add to the potential damage.

Autobahn West
Give us a call today at 949.770.2312
Or stop by at 25800 Jeronimo Rd. #200, Mission Viejo, CA 92691

Differential Service At Autobahn West

Here at AutoNetTV, we have national viewers, like your neighbors in Mission Viejo, who write to us with questions or feedback. One common question we’re asked is: “What is a differential and what does it do?” You may have been told by your Autobahn West service professional that your differential needs service, or seen it as an option up on the service menu. Differential service at Autobahn West covers a lot of things, so let’s first talk about what a differential does.

As you drive through a turn, your outside wheels and inside wheels turn at different speeds. Kind of like the cars going around a race track – the ones driving in the outside lanes have a greater distance to travel than the cars in the inside lanes. The differential is what allows the outside and inside drive wheels to rotate at slightly different speeds so that the tires don’t hop or skip while taking corners, or lose traction in dirt or snow on Irvine freeways. Differentials have gears in them that transfer the power from the drive train to your wheels – which is why they’re often referred to as gear boxes. The gears need to be very strong to do this work, and they need to be properly protected so that they’ll last.

All vehicles in Mission Viejo have some form of differential. If you have a front-wheel drive car, your differential is sometimes called a transaxle and is located in the front. If you have rear-wheel drive, the differential is in the back of the car. If you have a four-wheel drive vehicle, you will have a differential in the front and the back – and in the middle as well. The center differential adjusts for differences in speed between the front and rear wheels.

Differential fluid lubricates and cools the gears. Over time, the fluid can get dirty from bits of the gears grinding off. The additives that keep the fluid clean and protect the differential break down over time. So your vehicle manufacturer has scheduled intervals for you to have your differential fluid changed.

Differentials are hard working mechanisms, and, along with the gears in a manual transmission, need to be serviced regularly at Autobahn West with high-quality, replacement fluid. Your Irvine service professional can give you more information as to when your next differential service is recommended. You can also ask if they have a record of when the service was last completed.

As with most service intervals, if you are driving under more severe conditions in the Irvine area, you will want to service your differential more frequently. “Severe service” conditions are defined in most owners’ manuals, and include: frequent starts and stops, short trips, cold CA weather, hot weather and towing. All these factors add to the stress of the vehicle and its parts. Also, off-roading in CA can be especially hard on differentials, especially if you cross streams. Proper service at Autobahn West will extend the life of your gears and keep them running more smoothly. If you have never had your differential checked, visit contact-us for more information.

Cabin Air Filter From Autobahn West

What is a cabin air filter?

Is it:

  1. A filter for a house in the middle of the woods?
  2. A fresh, piney scent?
  3. A filter for the passenger compartment of your car?

Clever you, it’s 3.

A cabin air filter cleans the outside air before it comes into the passenger compartment. It filters out dust, pollen, spores, bacteria, pollutants, sparrows, exhaust gas and odors.

These high tech filters can block particles larger than 3 microns. By contrast, a grain of sand is about 200 microns.

Now not all vehicles in the Irvine area have cabin filters. They are fairly new on the scene in CA. About forty percent of new vehicles come with cabin air filters, but the number is growing every year.

Cabin air filters can make for a very nice driving environment for Mission Viejo drivers. Your car can be a haven during CA allergy season with very little dust and pollen getting into the cabin. However, like all filters, your cabin air filter eventually gets clogged. When this happens, your heating and air conditioning flow can become restricted. The filter can even get kind of smelly.

Autobahn West
25800 Jeronimo Rd. #200
Mission Viejo, CA 92691
949.770.2312

Check your owner’s manual for recommended replacement intervals. Often, the owner’s manual forgets about the cabin air filter, so ask your service technician for a recommendation. It’s usually every year or 12,000 miles/ 19,000 kilometers. Change it sooner if you drive in dusty conditions or if you start to notice an odor from your ventilation system.

So keep your cabin air filter clean. It may not help with your brother-in-law in the backseat, but it will make your driving experience more enjoyable.

Braking News: Keep Your Stopping Power

Richard Petty once told AutoNetTV, “You’ve gotta have good brakes. If you’ve got good brakes you can keep yourself out of a lotta trouble.”

That’s why a regular brake inspection is on every Mission Viejo car’s maintenance schedule. An inspection at Autobahn West will check your brake system and let you know if there are any problems.

Of course, if you’re having trouble with your brakes, get your car into Autobahn West right away. Here are some symptoms to watch for:

  • Low or spongy brake pedal
  • Hard brake pedal
  • A brake warning light that stays on
  • Constantly squealing or grinding brakes
  • Vibrations or clunking sounds when you apply your brakes

If you are experiencing any of these, it’s time to get your brakes checked.

There are two types of brakes: disc and drum. Disc brakes have a rotor that’s attached to the axle. Calipers straddle the rotor, kind of like the brakes on a bicycle.

Drum brakes are more common on back wheels. Both types have pads or shoes that press against the brakes and slow the vehicle. Brake pads and shoes are made out of very tough material to withstand the heat and force generated when stopping your car. Eventually, they wear out with use, and become too thin and need to be replaced.

If the brake pads wear away completely, you can damage the rotors. The calipers can grind grooves in the rotor. Then the rotor must either be resurfaced or replaced. That’s not only expensive, but also dangerous because your vehicle won’t stop as quickly. Sometimes rotors warp or crack and must be replaced.

Brake service will also include a check of your brake fluid. When the brakes are applied, the pressure in the fluid actives the brake pads or shoes. Not enough fluid means not enough pressure to brake properly. Also, water builds up in the brake fluid over time, which leads to corrosion, leaks and brake damage, and with hard use, the brakes could severely fade or even fail. You should change the brake fluid when your manufacturer recommends to avoid these problems.

There are different grades of brake pads; good, better and best. Higher grades cost more, but give better braking performance and smoother operation. It’s OK to upgrade your brake pads. But, never use a grade that’s lower than what the manufacturer recommends.

So, be sure to properly maintain your brakes, because it’s a lot cheaper than paying the body shop after an accident.

Come in to Autobahn West for an brake inspection before damage occurs. You can call ahead for an appointment by calling 949.770.2312.

What To Do After You Buy a Used Vehicle in Mission Viejo

So you’ve bought a used car in the Mission Viejo area. Do you know what you’re getting? It is hard to know what you’re getting because people in the Mission Viejo area sell cars for different reasons. Think about why you’ve sold cars. Did you just want something new or were there problems that you wanted to run away from. Maybe it was a little of both.

Used cars with 25,000 to 35,000 miles on them are often lease returns, Irvine corporate program cars or rental fleet vehicles. Most Irvine buyers feel pretty confident about these because they’re newer and may still be under warranty. But how well have they been maintained?

If you plan on owning a car for a long time, you’ll keep up on the auto maintenance so that you can avoid expensive repairs down the road. But, if you know you’re only going to have the car for two or three years, you may not be so committed to maintenance. It would be easy to think that skipping an oil change here and there wouldn’t ruin a brand new engine. Then it’ll be someone else’s problem when it comes time to pay for the damage.

It would be very tempting to skip the 30,000 mile service if you knew you’d be turning in your leased vehicle in a couple of months.

If the vehicle didn’t come with maintenance records, you need to assume the worst. Most likely the coolant system and transmission have never been serviced. The cabin air filter has probably not been changed and a fuel system cleaning may be in order.

You’ll want Autobahn West to check the air conditioning, battery, engine air filter, serpentine belt and hoses. A used car inspection at Autobahn West is well worth the cost.

And if your “new” used vehicle has more miles on it, an inspection is even more important. Check your owner’s manual or talk with your understanding Autobahn West service professional (call 949.770.2312) about what should have been done. Please don’t forget the timing belt; that can be very expensive if it fails.

Autobahn West will help you with a plan to take care of vital services and get the rest caught up. If your budget won’t allow you to take care of everything right away, we can help you prioritize your needs and get it taken care of over the next several months. And remember to keep your maintenance records. They’ll help you get top dollar on the CA used car market when it’s time for you to sell.

Autobahn West
25800 Jeronimo Rd. #200
Mission Viejo, CA 92691
949.770.2312

Proper Fluids for Your Vehicle

The automotive professionals at Autobahn West would like to give Mission Viejo drivers an update on some of the things happening in automotive fluids. You know, cars are becoming more sophisticated everyday – and fluids such as, oil, coolant and transmission fluid are becoming more specialized at about the same pace.

The Irvine do-it-yourselfer has to be pretty careful so that they do not actually harm their vehicle with the wrong type of fluid. That is why so many CA car owners rely on the advice of their understanding Autobahn West service specialist to not only get the correct family of fluids, but to suggest the formulation that is best for their car and their driving habits.

Let’s start with engine oil. Laguna Niguel motorists who have been paying attention, will have noticed a number of new oil weights on the CA scene in the last several years. Modern engines are built to much tighter tolerances and have very complicated valve trains. The oil must be thin enough to lubricate complicated parts when the engine is cold. The weight of an oil is expressed in terms like 20-W-50 or 5-W-30. The auto makers recommend the weight of oil for each vehicle they make. The recommendation is based on engine design. Your Mission Viejo service center will know what weight your manufacturer recommends – and it’s important to follow those recommendations. Your service professional at Autobahn West can also offer suggestions for special formulations and can tell you all about conventional and synthetic oils.

Antifreeze,
or engine coolant, is another area that has become more complicated. For a long time, manufacturers only recommended a couple of different types of coolant. Now, several different formulations are needed because of the high-tech materials that automakers are using to build the cooling system. Using the wrong type of coolant can actually void your warranty, so you want to get that right.

Transmission fluid is becoming specialized as well. New transmission designs have particular requirements that require specific formulations. Recently, new, somewhat confusing, standards for brake fluid have also been released.

Not too long ago, there was a good chance that all of the vehicles at your Mission Viejo house would use many of the same fluids. However, as automotive technology advances, the array of basic automotive fluids you need will grow. And, some of the formulations will cost a little more. Fortunately, Autobahn West will continue to update their training to keep pace with technology so that you’ll get the right fluids your car needs. It’s all part of the commitment we make to your driving peace of mind.

PCV Valve Replacement

Hello Mission Viejo motorists, let’s talk about your often-unnoticed but extremely important PCV valve. The energy from exploding fuel is what powers your engine. But some of the vapors from the explosions escape into the lower part of the engine, called the crankcase. The crankcase is where your engine oil hangs out. These gases are about 70% unburned fuel. If the gases were allowed to stay in the crankcase, they would quickly contaminate the oil and turn it to sludge. Irvine folks know that sludge is one of the biggest enemies of your engine, clogging it up, eventually leading to expensive failures. Also, the pressure build up would cause seals and gaskets to blow out. Therefore, these gases need to be vented out.

Pre-1963, gasoline engines had a hose that let the poisonous fumes vent out into the air. In 1963, the federal government required gas engines to have a special one-way valve installed to help reduce dangerous emissions. (Can you imagine how polluted our Irvine air would be if every car had been releasing those poisonous fumes for the last fifty years?) Diesel engines are not required to have these valves.

The positive crankcase ventilation, or PCV, valve routes crankcase gases through a hose and back into the air intake system where they are re-burned in the engine. Fresh, clean air is brought into the crankcase through a breather tube. It’s really a pretty simple system, but it does the job. The re-circulating air removes moisture and combustion waste from the crankcase, preventing sludge. This extends not only the life of your oil, but the engine as well. The PCV relieves pressure in the crankcase, preventing oil leaks.

Eventually, the PCV valve can get gummed up
. Then it can’t move enough air through the engine to keep it working properly. If the PCV valve is sticking enough, you could have oil leaks, excess oil consumption and a fouled intake system. If you experience hesitation or surging or an oil leak, it may be a sign of PCV valve problems. Your owners’ manual may give a recommendation for when the PCV valve should be replaced – usually between 20,000 mi/32,000 km and 50,000 mi/80,000 km. Unfortunately, some auto makers don’t list a recommendation in the manual, so it can be easy to overlook.

Many PCV system problems can be diagnosed with an inspection by your understanding Autobahn West technician. Fortunately, PCV valve replacement is both quick and inexpensive at Autobahn West. Proper oil changes will greatly extend the life of the PCV valve. Skipping a few recommended oil changes can allow varnish and gum to build up in the valve, reducing its efficiency. So now when your Mission Viejo service technician tells you its time to replace your PCV valve, you will know what he’s talking about. If you have had your car for a while and this is the first you’ve ever heard of a PCV value, ask your service professional to check yours out or call Autobahn West at 949.770.2312.

Trip Inspection at Autobahn West in Mission Viejo

Irvine drivers love their cars. And one of the most enjoyable things about them is taking a road trip. Freedom from daily schedules, new sights and the open road – it’s great! But there’s nothing like car trouble to bring the fun to a grinding halt.

Now Mission Viejo drivers can’t always avoid problems, but you can take steps to reduce the probability of getting sidelined on your trip. The first step is to look at your trip plan from your vehicle’s perspective. What kind of roads will you be traveling – winding byways or freeways? Purple mountain majesties or fruited plains? What weather conditions are you likely to encounter? How many miles will you travel each day? How much weight will you be hauling – passengers and luggage. Pulling a trailer, roof top carrier, or ATVs? Will it be dusty?

Prepared with answers to these questions, you can schedule a trip inspection at Autobahn West in Mission Viejo to help you prepare your vehicle for your big adventure. A lot of our Mission Viejo customers prefer to go through this exercise with their understanding  service professional to get their input and make sure they haven’t overlooked anything.

A great place to start is with the tires. Inspect them for tread wear and proper inflation. Is it time to rotate your tires? Replace them? Are they up to the job – you wouldn’t want to drive regular highway tires on a muddy off-road adventure on Mission Viejo rock-crawling trails.

Shocks and struts play a major role in both driving comfort and safety. If they need to be replaced, you’ll really be glad you did once you hit the road. Is it time for a wheel alignment? Fighting a car that’s pulling to one side all day can be tiring and dangerous.

And don’t forget your brakes. Any strange noises, grabbing, soft or hard peddle feel? If there is any doubt, get a brake inspection before you leave.

Moving under the hood, have a belts and hoses inspection. If something is excessively worn or near failure, the stress of a long road trip might just be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

Your engine air filter will be important. For every gallon of gas you burn, your car will filter and use 12,000 gallons of air. If the filter needs to be changed, you’ll notice improved gas mileage on your trip.

How close are you to your next oil change? Will you be able to complete your trip before it’s due? If not, just get it taken care of before you go so that you don’t need to interrupt your trip. In fact, a full service oil change is a great idea because they will top off all your fluids and check to see if any other maintenance items are due, such as transmission or cooling system service.

Do you notice any unusual odors in your vehicle? If so, it could as harmless as a dirty cabin air filter. But if it’s an exhaust leak it could be fatal on a long trip. Of course you’ll want to be comfortable, so get an air conditioning service if you aren’t getting the cold air you used to.

Are your wiper blades still working well? If not, that is quick and inexpensive to fix. Headlamps are often overlooked when planning for a trip. If you haven’t changed the bulb in six months or so, replacement bulbs will really light up the night on your trip and provide the necessary after-sundown visibility.

All the items mentioned are part of any good vehicle maintenance plan. These are things that you want to take care of anyway, but they all become more urgent as you plan for your trip.

They will always save you money in the long run and may prevent inconvenient and expensive delays on your trip. After all, you wouldn’t want to miss the world’s largest ball of string, would you?