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Engines

Engines that are driven properly and cared for can last thousands and thousands of miles.

Maintenance and Care:
Proper care includes regular oil and filter changes, checkups of engine performance, and periodic cooling system maintenance. If you notice that the engine is using oil, has problems with oil pressure, the coolant temperature has risen, or engine performance is not up to par, have the problems looked into as soon as possible.

Engine Sensors

Sensors serve a variety of functions for the engine, transmission and other critical systems.

Maintenance and Care:
While sensors do not require maintenance, a sensor operating outside its normal range for long enough will often cause the CHECK ENGINE LIGHT indicator on the dashboard to light. If the CHECK ENGINE LIGHT appears, have its cause checked out as soon as you can.
The trained technicians at AAMCO Centers can help you pinpoint the cause of the malfunction triggering the light.

Ignition / Spark Plugs

The ignition system typically includes spark plugs, ignition wires, the distributor and several other components.

Maintenance and Care:
Spark plugs in today's vehicles are typically replaced anywhere between every 30,000 miles and 100,000 miles, depending on the vehicle and type of spark plugs. Please refer to your owner's manual for factory recommended maintenance intervals for your specific vehicle.
Trouble with the ignition system is typically signified by an engine that surges, runs rough, stalls or gets abnormally poor gas mileage. Another indication is the CHECK ENGINE LIGHT indicator on the dashboard lights. If the CHECK ENGINE LIGHT illuminates, have its cause checked out as soon as you can.
The trained technicians at AAMCO Centers can help you pinpoint the cause of the malfunction triggering the light.

Valve Train

Your vehicle's engine valves allow the engine to "breathe", pulling a mixture of air and fuel into the cylinders and pushing out exhaust.

Maintenance and Care:
Regular maintenance will keep the valve train running properly. This maintenance includes:

  • Regular oil and filter changes.
  • Proper maintenance of the cooling system.
  • Replacement of the timing belt (if so equipped).
  • Use of the proper grade of fuel. Check your owner's manual for the proper fuel grade for your vehicle.

AAMCO Centers can assist you with the appropriate maintenance schedules and can perform the proper maintenance for your vehicle.

Transfer Case

The transfer case is attached to the transmission and connects to both the front and rear axles on a four-wheel drive vehicle.

Maintenance and Care:
The transfer case should be checked at every oil change for adequate lubrication. Many transfer cases require periodic changes of oil or fluid, a service available from your local AAMCO center. Please refer to your owner's manual for factory recommended maintenance intervals for your specific vehicle.

Transfer case problems include complete loss of four-wheel drive operation and the inability to switch between modes. AAMCO center technicians are experts in the service and repair of transfer cases and four wheel drive vehicles.

Bearings

Bearings in the wheels are about the only bearings requiring routine maintenance, common in rear wheel drive vehicles.

Maintenance and Care:
These bearings should be cleaned, inspected and repacked with grease about every two years or 24,000 miles. Please refer to your owner's manual for factory recommended maintenance intervals for your specific vehicle.

Metal-to-metal noise in the wheels, or steering that veers in one direction or the other, are typical symptoms of a malfunctioning wheel bearing. Bring your vehicle to the experts at AAMCO if you notice either of these symptoms.

CV Shafts & Boots

The constant velocity (CV) shaft, boot and joints are used on front wheel-drive and many four wheel-drive vehicles.

Maintenance and Care:
CV boots should be inspected with every oil change and are inspected as part of AAMCO's ProtectCheck. CV boots can be torn or cracked over time, allowing dirt into the joint. Unless discovered quickly, both the boot and joint will need replacement. In this case, a replacement axle may be the best option.

Signs of a bad CV joint include a clicking noise while turning, or a shudder or clunk. Go to the experts at AAMCO if you are experiencing any of these problems, before the problem gets worse.

Drive Shaft & U-Joints

A drive shaft and universal joints (U-joints) connect the transmission to the rear axle on most rear wheel drive vehicles. Four wheel drives also use drive shafts and U-joints.

Maintenance and Care:
U-joints should be inspected at every oil change (and are inspected as part of AAMCO's ProtectCheck). SUVs and light trucks often have drive shaft slip joints that require lubrication. Please refer to your owner's manual for factory recommended maintenance intervals for your specific vehicle.

Bad U-joints often squeak when accelerating from a stop, exhibit a clunking noise when shifting between drive and reverse, or a shuddering when accelerating or driving. Bad U-joints can cause the drive shaft to separate from the vehicle-causing damage to the vehicle and requiring potentially expensive repairs. Bring your vehicle to the experts at AAMCO if you notice any of these symptoms.

Differentials & Axles

An axle connects the two wheels on opposite sides of the vehicle. The differential is gears and bearings either inside the transmission or the housing of the axle.

Maintenance and Care:
The differential lube level should be checked with every oil change. Some differentials require periodic cleaning and repacking of wheel bearings. If you drive an SUV or light truck, and especially if you pull a boat (meaning these components may get submerged in water), axle lube should be changed every year. Please refer to your owner's manual for factory recommended maintenance intervals for your specific vehicle.
AAMCO center technicians are experts in differentials and axles. Differential problems should be checked out as soon as possible. Symptoms include clunking when you accelerate or shift between drive and reverse, or a high-pitched howling type of noise.

Anti-Lock Brakes

Most vehicles today are equipped with anti-lock brake systems (ABS) as standard equipment.


Maintenance and Care:

ABS is designed to improve stopping distances, while helping to maintain control over steering-and is particularly useful on slippery surfaces. ABS basically takes over in a panic stop with computerized sensors, pulsing the brakes on and off repeatedly and rapidly to help prevent the wheels from locking up and your vehicle from skidding. When you start your vehicle, there should be a light on the dashboard reading BRAKE, ANTILOCK or ABS. If the light stays on or flashes, there could be a fault in the ABS system and you should have your car, truck or SUV inspected immediately by a professional. Bring your vehicle to the experts at AAMCO.

Brake Fluid

Brake fluid is a specially formulated liquid used in the brake hydraulic system. Brake fluids absorb moisture over time and can become contaminated.

Maintenance and Care:
Some manufacturers recommend replacing your brake fluid at regular intervals. Your owner's will provide factory recommended maintenance intervals for your specific vehicle. Or bring your vehicle to the experts at AAMCO who will review with you these maintenance schedules for your vehicle.

Brake Pads, Shoes, Drums & Rotors

The brake pads and shoes are the wearable elements of the braking system. Rotors and drums are metal and more expensive to replace.

Maintenance and Care:
Your car's brake system should be inspected annually to ensure everything is in good working order. Brakes over time will wear out, so eventually they will need replacement. Catching brake problems before you reach the metal-to-metal point (likely to mean replacement of rotors or drums) may save you money, so if you have any of the common symptoms of brake trouble, have your brakes checked promptly. Symptoms of brake trouble include squealing brakes, a spongy or hard pedal when you press on the brakes, or grinding brakes. Your local AAMCO center offers a wide array of services for brakes, from inspections to brake fluid changes to complete brake jobs.

Alternator

The alternator generates direct current for recharging the battery and also powers vehicle electrical loads.

Maintenance and Care:
It is a good idea to have your car, truck or SUVs entire starting system tested periodically. This will determine if your car's alternator is putting out the correct amount of current and voltage. A problem alternator could cause a battery to discharge, improper operation of lights and/or accessories, even erratic engine operation. Your local AAMCO center can provide you with a comprehensive starting, charging and battery test.

Battery

Batteries are the backbone of the electrical system and work the hardest in cold weather.

Maintenance and Care:

If you live in an exceptionally cold climate, you may want to consider upgrading to the largest capacity available for your vehicle. Make sure the battery is securely mounted because vibrations can have an impact on the battery's performance and life. The battery and connections should be checked at every oil change (and are inspected as part of AAMCO's ProtectCheck). Unlike other components in your car or truck, the battery does not give warning signs when it is near failure. However, if it is hard to start, or you experience a delay after turning the key in the ignition, have your battery checked as soon as possible. Please refer to your owner's manual for factory recommended maintenance intervals for your specific vehicle. Your local AAMCO center can provide you with a comprehensive starting, charging and battery test.

 

Lighting, Fuses, Circuits, Switches & Starter

Cars have a variety of lights: headlights, parking lights, brake lights, turn signals, dome lights, and more.

Maintenance and Care:

Lights are a critical safety component in your vehicle and you should be alert for any malfunctions. Fuses, circuits and switches also control many other functions in today's vehicle, from power seats to power windows to just about any accessory or feature in the vehicle. The operation of your critical exterior lights should be checked at every oil change (and are inspected as part of AAMCO's ProtectCheck). Potential causes include bad bulbs, switches, and fuses. Your AAMCO center can assist you with any malfunctions in your lighting system and replacement of circuits, fuses and switches.

 

Shocks

In a conventional suspension system, shock absorbers help hold your tires to the road when going over rough surfaces or stopping suddenly.

Maintenance and Care:
Shocks should be checked about once a year and are inspected as part of AAMCO's ProtectCheck. Shocks generally wear gradually and you may not be able to detect noticeable changes in the vehicle's handling or ride quality; a professional inspection can pinpoint any concerns.

Signs that shocks are worn are the classic bouncing, swaying or rocking back and forth. SUV and light truck owners may want to consider an upgrade in shocks, which can significantly improve quality and handling in these vehicles. Bring your vehicle to the experts at AAMCO.

Struts

Most front wheel drive cars and trucks use a strut suspension system rather than shock absorbers.

Maintenance and Care:


Like conventional shock absorbers, struts help hold your tires to the road when going over rough surfaces or stopping suddenly. Struts are built into the suspension system and can affect vehicle control, wheel alignment, and tire wear. Struts should be checked about once a year (and are inspected as part of AAMCO's ProtectCheck). The shock absorber portion of the strut will typically wear out gradually and you may not be able to detect noticeable changes in the vehicle's handling or ride quality; a professional inspection can pinpoint any concerns. Worn struts can be detected by symptoms such as bottoming out, bouncing, swaying or rocking back and forth. Bring your vehicle to the experts at AAMCO.

Springs

Different springs are used in different suspension systems.

Maintenance and Care:

Many vehicles have coil springs, and leaf springs and air springs are also common. Springs basically support the weight of the vehicle. Struts are built into the suspension system and can affect vehicle control, wheel alignment, and tire wear. Springs should be checked about once a year (and are inspected as part of AAMCO's ProtectCheck). Springs over time can gradually wear and break. Bottoming out, poor handling and wear of other suspension components are signs of a worn spring. Consider an upgrade in the quality level of the springs if your vehicle often carries heavy loads. Bring your vehicle to the experts at AAMCO.

Ball Joints, Idler Arm, Pitman Arm

Ball joints are a suspension component used on the front end of almost all cars and light trucks.

Maintenance and Care:

Ball joints are a suspension component used on the front end of almost all cars and light trucks. The idler arm and pitman arm are used in conventional suspension systems, typically on rear wheel drives and many light trucks. Ball joints, the idler arm and the pitman arm should be lubricated at every oil change, if applicable. All suspension components should be checked about once a year (and are inspected as part of AAMCO's ProtectCheck). Typical signs of these components being worn are a vehicle that wanders or has erratic steering and uneven tire wear. Bring your vehicle to the experts at AAMCO.

Muffler

The muffler is the exhaust system component principally responsible for reducing the sounds made by the engine.

Maintenance and Care:
Mufflers and other exhaust system components are often replaced together because of the worn condition of all the components or because sections are welded together. A louder than normal sound from the exhaust or exhaust coming from an unusual place in your vehicle are warning signs of potential exhaust leaks, including odorless carbon monoxide, which poses a serious health hazard. If you suspect any problems with your exhaust system have it checked immediately. Your vehicle's exhaust system should be inspected periodically in any case to maintain your car's safety. Bring your vehicle to the experts at AAMCO.

Exhaust Manifold

The exhaust manifolds are responsible for routing the exhaust gases out of the engine cylinder to the exhaust system.

Maintenance and Care:
Exhaust manifolds should be checked periodically to make sure there are no exhaust leaks and cracks have developed. Mufflers and other exhaust system components are often replaced together because of leaking, rusting and corrosion of the components and often sections are welded together and must be replaced as a complete system when required. Exhaust Manifolds, mufflers, catalytic converters, pipes, clamps, gaskets and hangers t should be inspected periodically to maintain your car's safety. Bring your vehicle to the experts at AAMCO.

Exhaust Pipes

Exhaust Pipes are responsible for routing harmful exhaust gases from the engine, through the mufflers and outside of the vehicle.

Maintenance and Care:
Several exhaust pipes also route the exhaust away from the engine, into the catalytic converter, the muffler, and then out through the tail pipe. Exhaust pipes and other exhaust system components are often replaced together because of the worn condition of all the components or because sections are welded together. Exhaust manifolds should be checked periodically to make sure mounts are secure and no cracks have developed. Exhaust pipes and the vehicle's entire exhaust system should be inspected periodically to maintain your car's safety. Bring your vehicle to the experts at AAMCO.

Catalytic Converter

The purpose of the Catalytic Converter is to convert toxic gases and pollutants from the engine into the exhaust system creating less toxic pollutants and reducing harmful exhaust emissions.

Maintenance and Care:
The catalytic converter takes the gases created by the combustion of the fuel and turns the gases into more harmless emissions that do much less damage to the environment. Today's cars often have more than one catalytic converter. The useful life of a catalytic converter depends principally on proper maintenance of the vehicle. If your vehicle runs rough, there is smoke coming from the tailpipe, or the CHECK ENGINE LIGHT appears on the instrument panel, have your vehicle checked immediately in order to avoid potential expensive damage to the catalytic converter. Have your vehicle's exhaust system inspected periodically to maintain your car's safety. Bring your vehicle to the experts at AAMCO.

Radiator

Today's cars use aluminum radiators to transfer heat from the hot coolant flowing through the radiator to the air blown through it by the fan.

Maintenance and Care:
The radiator and fans serve to keep the engine and the transmission at acceptable temperatures. On most vehicles with automatic transmissions, automatic transmission fluid is routed through an oil cooler inside the radiator. A radiator leak between the coolant and the automatic transmission fluid can contaminate the transmission fluid and cause transmission failure. Red or brown drops of oil in the coolant would be a symptom of such a leak. Because the transmission oil cooler is inside the radiator, the radiator must be replaced in order to eliminate the problem. AAMCO's Multi-Point Check can help to pinpoint problems in the radiator and cooling system.

Antifreeze / Coolant

Antifreeze/coolant, when used properly, serves to prevent freezing, boiling and corrosion in the cooling system.

Maintenance and Care:
Your owner's manual indicates the correct antifreeze/coolant for your specific vehicle. Cooling system failure is the leading cause of mechanical failure on the highway, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. The main issue is corrosion resistance; if the antifreeze/coolant loses its ability to inhibit corrosion, the result can be expensive internal corrosion in the radiator, heater core and engine. The only way to know if the antifreeze/coolant still has adequate corrosion protection is to test it, which can be performed for your vehicle by the trained technicians at AAMCO. Please refer to your owners manual for factory recommended maintenance intervals for your specific vehicle.

Thermostat

The thermostat regulates the cooling systems temperature.

Maintenance and Care:
When the engine is cold, the thermostat stays closed and allows the coolant to keep flowing within the engine and warms the coolant quickly. As the engine warms, the thermostat opens. Have your thermostat and entire cooling system checked annually (they are inspected as part of AAMCO's ProtectCheck). A bad thermostat can cause a variety of problems, from overheating, knocking, high idle speed, low temperature gauge readings, even an emissions test failure.

Air Conditioning System

There are a variety of different air conditioning systems for cars, trucks and SUVs, but all work basically in the same manner.

Maintenance and Care:

Warm air passes over a refrigerant, the heat is transferred to a refrigerant, which then removes the warmer air from your vehicle cabin. There are a number of reasons why your air conditioning system may not function properly. Corrections range from a relatively simple recharge to service of the compressor, evaporator, condenser and electrical controls.

Your vehicle's system should be checked annually by a trained technician. Symptoms of a low refrigerant charge include poor cooling and the compressor for the air conditioner frequently engaging and disengaging, i.e., the air conditioning is constantly stopping and starting. Using an air conditioner low on refrigerant potentially can cause damage to the system. Please refer to your owner's manual for factory recommended maintenance intervals for your specific vehicle.

Heater Core

The heater core is the source of heat for the interior of your car, truck or SUV. It is technically part of the Cooling System in your vehicle.

Maintenance and Care:
Proper maintenance of your cooling system will help keep the heater in good condition. Depending on the type of coolant used in your vehicle, coolant typically should be changed about every two years or 24,000 miles. Please refer to your owner's manual for factory recommended maintenance intervals for your specific vehicle. Typical signs of a faulty heater core are poor output from the heater, coolant on your vehicle's interior floor, or a strange smell while the heat is on. Problems with a heater core generally get worse with time, so if you notice any of these symptoms, have the system checked by the expert technicians at AAMCO.

Cabin Air Filter

Approximately half of late model vehicles now have a cabin air filter to clean incoming air for the car's heating/ventilation/air conditioning system.

Maintenance and Care:
Please refer to your owner's manual for factory recommended maintenance intervals for your specific vehicle. It should be noted however, that cabin air filter replacement is not always noted in the owner's manual, so a rule of thumb is replacement about every 15,000 miles. Bring your vehicle to the experts at AAMCO.

Check Engine Light

The CHECK ENGINE LIGHT on your instrument panel can light up for a wide variety of reasons. Drivers often ignore the CHECK ENGINE LIGHT when it illuminates.

Maintenance and Care:
According to a national survey, more than one in 10 drivers admit they drive with the CHECK ENGINE LIGHT on - approximately 20 million vehicles per week. A third of these said they operated their cars for more than three months even though they knew the light's dashboard indicator that signals a malfunction in a vehicle's engine, transmission or emissions systems-was illuminated. If your vehicle is equipped with onboard diagnostics, the CHECK ENGINE LIGHT (in some models, the SERVICE ENGINE SOON light) should flash briefly once you turn the ignition to on, then flashes and goes out. It should remain out while you are driving. Do not ignore the light if it remains lit-there could be a simple solution, or it could be a warning sign of a much more severe condition. AAMCO centers can diagnose whatever the problem may be.

 

On-Board Diagnostics

The on-board diagnostics computer system known as OBD II has been mandatory on vehicles built since 1996. It uses a network of computer sensors to monitor the vehicle's o perating conditions.

Maintenance and Care:
Often the CHECK ENGINE LIGHT (in some models, the SERVICE ENGINE SOON light) will light to alert you to problems detected by the computer. The on-board computer stores a diagnostic trouble code when it detects a problem; the trained technicians at AAMCO can access this information using a scanning device connected to the vehicle's computer.

 

Oxygen Sensor

If you have ever driven a vehicle or behind a vehicle with a "rotten egg" smell, it can be due to a faulty oxygen sensor.

Maintenance and Care:
The oxygen sensor is in the exhaust system, and in part provides information to the on-board computer to help calculate fuel delivery to the engine. The oxygen sensor should be replaced at the interval indicated in your owner's manual, or if there are signs of a faulty oxygen sensor. The signs include that rotten egg smell from the exhaust, poor gas mileage, failing an emissions test, and poor acceleration.

Some vehicles also have an oxygen sensor light that appears when the sensor needs replacement, or it can also cause the CHECK ENGINE LIGHT (in some models, the SERVICE ENGINE SOON light) to come on. If the light remains lit, do not ignore it. There could be a simple solution, or it could be a warning sign of a much more severe condition. AAMCO centers can diagnose whatever the problem may be.

Coolant / Radiator Hoses

These hoses allow coolant to flow between the engine and the radiator.

Maintenance and Care:
Coolant and radiator hoses should be checked twice a year (and are inspected as part of AAMCO's ProtectCheck ). Hoses should be changed at least every four years, or more often as needed to prevent leaks and bursts. Please refer to your owners manual for factory recommended maintenance intervals for your specific vehicle. Bring your vehicle to the experts at AAMCO.

Drive Belt, Fan Belt, Serpentine Belt

Drive Belts, Fan Belts, and Serpentine or Multi Groove drive belts are exposed to heat, cold, dirt, grit, salt and water.

When worn, the belt will slip, accelerating heat and wear even more and therefore experience belt hydroplaning when wet. Under hood noise, banging, squealing, a persistent check engine light, reduced engine cooling, inconsistent power steering performance or poor A/C system performance are all signs of belt slip caused by wear. Check your OE Maintenance time and mileage guidelines for belt replacement and also change that belt and tensioner during other related component replacement to avoid future problems. The best practice is to begin checking belts at 50,000 miles to ensure that the belt ribs and structure are in good shape and are not showing wear. As little as 5% rib material loss can create slipping and performance issues. Even the smallest amount material loss in drive belts means more to your car's performance than you might think. 

Timing Belt

The majority of today's vehicles have timing belts, although some still use timing chains. The timing belt drives and synchronizes important components of the engine.

Maintenance and Care:
Please refer to your owner's manual for timing belt maintenance information for your specific vehicle; there is likely a specified mileage interval where replacement is required. If you have any questions or concerns, a trained technician at your local AAMCO center can pinpoint any potential problems, potentially saving you money and the inconvenience of a breakdown.

Engine Oil & Filter

Engine oil cools, lubricates and cleans critical components in your vehicle's engine. The oil filter serves to sift out contaminants in the oil.

Maintenance and Care:
Please refer to your owner's manual for correct oil and interval guidelines recommended by your manufacturer for your specific vehicle. Some manufacturers now recommend extended periods between oil changes, if you are a driver who drives under "normal" conditions. All of the following are considered "extreme" or "severe" driving conditions, which would require more frequent oil changes:

  • You drive often in heavy stop and go traffic
  • You frequently make short trips in your car
  • The air conditions you drive in are often dusty or dirty
  • You live in a cold weather region
  • You tow a trailer, both, or other item

Air Filter

Air filters catch dirt particles that can damage engine components.

Maintenance and Care:
The air filter should be checked every time you have the oil and filter changed (and is included in the AAMCO's Multi-point Check ). Driving with a dirty filter may lower your gas mileage and impact your vehicle's performance. Please refer to your owner's manual for the air filter change interval guideline recommended by your manufacturer for your specific vehicle.
Bring your vehicle to the experts at AAMCO.

Power Steering Fluid

Power steering fluid, much like transmission fluid, is a specially formulated oil, in this case for use in power steering systems.

Maintenance and Care:
The power steering fluid should be checked every time you have the oil and filter changed (and is included in the AAMCO's Multi-point Check). Please refer to your owner's manual for the power steering fluid recommended by your manufacturer for your specific vehicle.

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