Crystal Lake Auto Repair & Tire (815) 356-0440 123 E Virginia Rd
Crystal Lake, IL 60014
Barrington Auto Repair & Tire (847) 381-0454 417 W. Main Street
Barrington, IL 60010
Fox River Grove Auto Repair & Tire (847) 639-4552 416 Northwest Highway
Fox River Grove, IL 60021


  • Timing is Everything For Timing Belts

    Posted on 31, July, 2017

    ​Q. I have a Nissan Maxima and was told I should replace my timing belt and water pump. I have owned the car since it had about 42,000 miles on it and have been good about keeping the oil changed. Other than tires and brakes it has not needed much service. It has 122,000 miles on it now and runs fantastic; I don't understand why I need to spend $800 to have this work done when I am not having any problems?

    A. I am glad to hear that you have had such good luck with your Maxima. My advice would be to replace the timing belt if you want to keep having good luck. If you wait until you need one (the belt breaks) you most likely will be spending over $2,000 to do the belt and repair the bent valves.

    A timing belt is made out of rubber and over time it deteriorates to the point where it can break. Most manufacturers have a maintenance interval ranging from 60,000 miles to 105,000 miles. Your Nissan is overdue; how overdue depends on the year of the car. The reason you will want to replace the water pump at the same time is to save money. You have to take the timing belt off to replace the water pump so it makes perfect sense to do it while the belt is already off. You are saving almost all the labor and your water pump will most likely not make it until the next timing belt interval.

    We have a car in the shop right now that had this happen. The timing belt broke and when it did, the engine crashed and damaged all of the intake valves. It is an expensive repair and could have been avoided with a little bit of preventive maintenance.

    It is a good thing you have been good with your oil changes but there is more to good maintenance than just changing the oil. I would encourage you to take a look at the owners manual and see what other services should have been done along the way. The big mileage intervals on your Accord will most likely be at 60K, 90K and 105,000 miles.

    I am quite sure Nissan calls for the transmission fluid, engine coolant and brake fluid to be changed somewhere in those intervals. In addition, the spark plugs should be replaced and the valves adjusted. Your Nissan has been good to you and there is no reason why you can't drive it to 200,000 miles or more, but you will need to step up a little on the maintenance. When you do the math you will find that in the long run it is really inexpensive.

    Q. When I'm driving and it's cold outside, I feel cold air on the left side of my head while the heat is on almost at the highest speed. When I turn it down a little, I still feel the cold air on the left side of my head. What do you think the problem is? It's a 2006 Pontiac G6 GT Coupe with 44,000 miles. It does not have dual zone heating, and warm air is not coming out of the vents.

    A. The first thing you want to take note of is the temperature gauge on the dash. If your engine is not heating up to operating temperature then not only will you have poor heat, but you will be using more fuel than you should be.

    Generally on a newer car like this when the engine is not heating up properly you will have a "check engine" light on and a code stored. If the engine is getting up to operating temperature and you don't have proper heat then there must be something wrong with the heating system in the dash.

    Some possibilities are a bad control head, blend doors stuck or broken, plugged heater core or a bad heater control valve. If the air is switching properly between the different modes on the dash and you are just experiencing a temperature problem then I would focus first on the last two items. I expect an experienced technician would get to the bottom of this fairly quickly.

    Tagged: Timing Belts
  • Having Steering Wheel Issues?

    Posted on 27, July, 2017

    ​Q. When I turn my steering wheel right or left it makes noises. What could that problem be? I had it worked on last summer and a steering arm was replaced, but the noise is back again and very irritating. This happens intermittently, but more often than not. The temperature can be hot or cold; it does not seem to matter.

    When I drive down the road I hear this noise around the wheel area. It is very noticeable. Last summer I had the bushings replaced and the noise is back again and very irritating. I feel I am taken to the cleaners by mechanics and would appreciate your help. Suggestions?

    A. I am not sure if you are talking about two different noises or the same noise, but it sounds like you have a dried-out ball joint or tie rod end. These are steering and suspension components that used to be greaseable but in most cases today they do not have fittings that can be greased. You will have to have someone isolate which one it is and most likely it will have to be replaced.

    Occasionally a steering column will make noise and the sound is actually on the inside of the car, but if it's coming from the outside, I would focus on a seized steering or suspension component.

    I would also encourage you to get some recommendations from a co-worker or friend for a good shop where you can start building a relationship. Believe it or not, there are some good shops in our area that are committed to doing a really good job for their customers at a fair price. Once you have that trust relationship, you won't have to live with the feeling of "being taken to the cleaners."

    If you can't find a shop that way, check with your chamber of commerce or the Better Business Bureau. They can help you locate a company that has a good reputation.


  • Best Car Advice Comes From Shop Owners

    Posted on 20, July, 2017

    I've had a lot of calls lately from my clients either looking to buy or sell a car or truck.

    Have you considered speaking to your repair shop when you are in the market to purchase a replacement vehicle or sell your existing one? It's a great place to go for either of these transactions.

    When you are looking to buy, your shop may not only know of a client who is looking to sell, but you will be able to buy with confidence knowing no one will know the car or truck better than those at the shop who serviced it. They will have records for when various services were performed and would most likely pass any service guarantees on to you as the new owner.

    When you are looking to sell your car, no one knows it better than your shop and staff may just have a buyer looking for a car like yours. Everybody wins and the new owner can drive away with confidence.

    I always encourage my clients who are purchasing a replacement vehicle, if they don't know anything about it, to bring it in for a pre-purchase inspection. Worst case, it can save you from making a really bad decision and, best case, you will have an idea of the maintenance that needs to be done over the next couple years.

    Either way, the investment of time and money to have a thorough inspection is well worth it.

    Don't put off repairs

    When your car is leaking antifreeze, don't put off getting it repaired. We had a client who just tried to deal with a leak by adding coolant here and there to put off spending a few hundred dollars to repair the leak. The problem is that he got caught a few times running low and overheated the engine.

    The engine overheated so bad one time that the head gasket let go and now we need to not only do the work that he put off but he needs to spend a couple thousand on major engine work.

    The moral of the story is, don't put off known problems … they are not going to just magically get better and could lead to a much larger expense. This goes for any part of the car.

    For example, if you hear a brake noise, don't ignore it. By letting it go, you could have to replace a brake rotor instead of just the brake pads. If you ignore a misfiring spark plug, you could actually damage a catalytic converter.

    Sometimes it is hard to part with the cash to get stuff repaired but think of it this way -- you have made a substantial investment to buy your car, so keeping the car maintained protects that investment.

  • Fuel Efficiency Tips For The Summer

    Posted on 13, July, 2017


    Summer is here which means more traveling for you and your whole family. Fuel efficiency is on our minds more when we are driving more. Most of us can't just dash out and buy a new, more economical car. Also, for many of us, a smaller economy car just does not meet the needs of our family or business.

    In reality, replacing a good reliable car just to gain a few miles per gallon may not be the most economical or environmentally friendly move anyway.

    Today I thought I would offer some tips that can help you get the most out of every gallon of gas for the vehicle you drive now.

    Let's start with the basics like tire pressure, since low tires can rob you of several miles per gallon. For every 1-pound drop in pressure on all four tires, you increase your rolling resistance by 1.4 percent. Based on that, you can see how being down several pounds on air pressure can increase rolling resistance by quite a bit. Look on the door sticker of your vehicle for the proper inflation pressure and keep tires inflated to the maximum pressure recommended by the manufacturer.

    For safety and efficiency, make sure your tires are in good shape because tires that are worn out or worn unevenly will also affect the performance of your car. Closely related to tire wear is wheel alignment … a car that is out of alignment will also have increased rolling resistance. Not only will this condition kill your fuel economy, it will wear out a good set of tires prematurely.

    The next easy item on the list would be the extra weight you are carrying in the trunk. I am amazed sometimes by all the stuff people cram into their trunk. If you are not using the golf clubs until next week, you can increase your efficiency by leaving them home in the garage. As the weather warms up you can save on fuel by not using the air conditioning and rolling the windows down, with the following caveat. If you are on the highway and at higher speeds, it may be a wash between running the air conditioning and the loss in aero dynamics from having the windows down. I would opt for comfort.

    The following items are more about keeping up with the maintenance, which if you have been reading me for a while you know I am a proponent. All of the following will positively affect fuel efficiency if properly maintained.

    • Air filter: A dirty air filter will restrict air flow to the engine.

    • Spark plugs and other ignition components.

    • Oxygen sensors.

    • Any time a check engine light is on.

    • Dirty fluids or wrong fluids in differentials, transfer cases and transmissions.

    • The wrong viscosity motor oil.

    • Bug deflectors and roof racks can impact the aero dynamics of your vehicle.

    The last thing you can do to conserve fuel is to adjust your driving habits. Accelerate slowly and control your speed. When approaching a red light, come off the accelerator earlier and coast longer rather than charging up to the light and braking hard. The difference in fuel you will use at 55 mph compared to 70 mph is enormous and you have the added bonus of not having to worry about a ticket. According to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, at 70 mph you lose 17 percent of your fuel economy and at 75 mph it's 25 percent. The numbers get worse from there.

  • Decisions, Decisions Decisions- Ethanol

    Posted on 26, June, 2017

    Q: Hello Doug. Love your column every Sunday in the Daily Herald; it's helped me out a few times so thanks. I have a question regarding grades of gasoline. We travel to Iowa about 1-2 times a month. At one gas station, they sell gas with 10% ethanol and gas without ethanol. The price difference is 40 cents more for ethanol-free. Is there an advantage of using ethanol free as far as performance and mileage, assuming a car gets about 30 mpg?

    A: Thanks for the question. I don't know for sure if you would see a significant enough performance or mileage increase to offset the 40 cents per gallon. You may want to try it once and see if you notice any improvement. Today's cars tolerate the 10% ethanol fine; it is when you put the 15% or higher in where you could start having problems unless it is a flex fuel vehicle. I do not recommend using the E15 in your car or truck unless it is a flex fuel vehicle. Using fuel with 15% or higher ethanol could damage your vehicle and in fact, if you put E85 in a non-flex fuel vehicle it may not even run. So, if your choice is between no ethanol and E15 go with no ethanol. I hope this helps.