Let’s talk about alternative fuel vehicles. In their quest to reduce the use of fossil fuels and harmful exhaust emissions in our Ashland environment, automakers will have a number of alternatives for Ashland car owners very soon.
For instance, Flex Fuel vehicles are already available in the Richmond area. Flex Fuel vehicles can run on gasoline or on E85 fuel. E85 is a mixture of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline. The ethanol is made from corn. The benefits to Ashland car owners are in using less petroleum and reduced pollution. The drawbacks are that E85 gets lower fuel efficiency and that when gas prices are low, E85 can be more pricey than straight gasoline.
Ashland auto owners should only use E85 if they have a Flex Fuel compatible engine. Flex Fuel vehicles have special seals and gaskets that can stand up to the high alcohol content of E85. Using E85 in a regular engine can lead to gas leaks and fires.
Diesel engines have been around the Richmond area for a long, long time. Modern diesels are very refined and fuel efficient. Diesel fuel can be made from renewable sources like vegetable oil, too. Diesel fuel from algae and sunlight is reported to be pretty close to being commercially viable.
There are also a number of natural gas vehicles on our Ashland roads. Gasoline engines are adapted to run on compressed natural gas. It’s less expensive than gasoline and burns very cleanly. You can even refill it with a special pump from your gas line at home.
Natural gas engines don’t make as much power and don’t get as good gas mileage, but they cost Ashland car owners less per mile to run. The big inconvenience is that the tank that holds the compressed natural gas takes up a lot of room; even your whole trunk! And there may not be places to refuel on a road trip from Ashland to Richmond.
Plug-in electric vehicles are now available in our Ashland area. Battery technology is the limiting factor right now. Electric cars have a limited range and are really best for use close to home. As battery technology advances, electric cars will perform closer and closer to conventional power plants.
That brings us to hybrids. There are a bunch of hybrids on our Virginia roads, with more to come. Hybrid technology combines internal combustion engines with electric motors.
A mild hybrid has a regular gas or diesel engine that’s assisted by the electric motor. The electric motor can propel the vehicle by itself up to a certain speed under gentle acceleration. There are mild hybrids in full-sized pickups and SUVs. They deliver fuel economy similar to their highway ratings.
A full hybrid will rely primarily on the electric motor for power. It’ll have a small gas or diesel engine that generates electricity for the batteries.
Another breakthrough technology from auto manufacturers is hydrogen fuel cells. Fuel cell vehicles use hydrogen to generate electricity. Several global auto manufacturers have prototypes on the road. The appeal is that the only thing that comes out of the tail pipe is water vapor. It’ll take some time to build a national infrastructure of hydrogen fueling stations before there’s widespread use in Virginia.
A quick word from Duffy’s Repair Service about safety around hybrid and electric vehicles. Unlike the battery in your current family car, these carry enough voltage to kill you. Never mess around under the hood or with the batteries or electrical wiring. Your Richmond service technician at Duffy’s Repair Service is trained to safely disable the flow of electricity before performing maintenance or repairs on the vehicle.
Hybrids are really not do-it-yourself vehicles unless you’re specifically trained on hybrid systems.
The Duffy’s Repair Service Guide To Caring For Your Transmission
Most cars and trucks have automatic transmissions, yet a lot of Mechanicsville auto owners only have a fuzzy understanding about what a transmission does. Think back to the last time you rode a bike in Mechanicsville. You started out in a lower gear and shifted to higher gears as you went faster. Down shift for hills, stuff like that. Think of your legs as the engine – there’s an ideal speed you can pedal and you change gears to leverage the work you’re doing.
Lower gears for power on hills or for starting out. Higher gears for more speed. That’s what the automatic transmission does – it automatically starts in lower gears and shifts up to higher gears to go faster on Virginia highways. And automatically shifts back down to climb Mechanicsville hills, pass or start up again.
SUV automatic transmissions have certainly gotten more sophisticated in recent years. They have more speeds than before: the base is four speeds, five is very common.
At Duffy’s Repair Service, we routinely service transmissions with six speeds and several have seven or even eight speeds. As you can imagine, this means more parts. Any they all have to fit into roughly the same space.
Transmissions are computer controlled these days, with some high end transmissions having two or three computers. Transmissions are engineered to last. But they are also engineered to tighter tolerances. If a portion of the transmission is starved for lubrication, it can lead to failure.
Not enough fluid can starve the transmission or dirty transmission fluid can clog small passages in the transmission, then the lubricant is blocked and can’t get to all the parts to protect them, so they wear out prematurely. The technicians at Duffy’s Repair Service see far too many transmissions that needlessly failed due to neglect.
And, as you can imagine, repairing one of these new transmissions at any Ashland service center can be quite costly. That’s why auto manufacturers have a schedule for how often you should change the fluid and what type of fluid to use.
It’s really important for Mechanicsville car owners to carefully follow the manufacturer’s transmission service schedule.
At Duffy’s Repair Service in Ashland, we hope you never become shiftless in Mechanicsville because you didn’t take care of your transmission.
Recommended Service Intervals At Duffy’s Repair Service
Most people in the Richmond area are aware that automotive manufacturers have recommended service intervals. Following recommended service intervals is very important. The engineers that design our vehicles have tested the various systems and components to meet durability and safety standards. Some of these standards are self-imposed and others, like those for emissions components, are government mandated for the areas around Mechanicsville, Ashland and Henrico in Virginia.
The maintenance schedules are designed to achieve the standards. Think of the benefits of following recommended intervals as falling into three general categories: Protection, Efficiency and Safety.
Protection. Let’s start with motor oil. First of all, the engineers recommend a particular weight and type of motor oil for your SUV. All of their oil change recommendations assume using the proper motor oil. Motor oil contains detergents and other additives that clean the engine and provide corrosion resistance. Over time, the additives are depleted. The oil also becomes contaminated by water, dirt and combustion gases.
Extending your interval beyond the recommendation means that your SUV engine will be operating without the full protection of fresh motor oil. It also means that sludge can form in contaminated oil and clog up passages in the engine, starving parts from needed lubrication.
Efficiency. Some services are designed to keep automotive systems operating efficiently. For example, the fuel system gets clogged up with gum and varnish from the fuel. Fuel doesn’t flow efficiently which reduces fuel economy. A fuel system cleaning restores the fuel system’s efficiency and increases your gas mileage.
Safety. Your brakes are obviously one of the most important safety systems on your SUV. The manufacturer has scheduled brake pad replacement as well as power brake fluid drain and replacement intervals. Because brakes are so important, a brake inspection is also on the schedule to head off problems before they result in an accident.
Check your owner’s manual for recommended service schedules or talk with your Ashland service advisor at Duffy’s Repair Service by calling 804.798.5922. You’ll find our shop located at 9974 Lickinghole Road in Ashland, Virginia 23005.
You may be surprised to learn that various inspections may be on your list of factory recommendations for your SUV. These inspections are usually at major intervals like fifteen or thirty thousand miles. They’re designed to uncover important parts that may be close to failing.
Your SUV owner’s manual can tell you when to change your oil, but it can’t tell you that you have a radiator hose that’s bulging and about to burst. For that you need a trained auto technician. These scheduled inspections are in addition to the multi-point inspections done with a full-service oil change.
Tire Tread Depth for Ashland, Virginia Drivers
Driving on bald tires is like playing roulette. Though you may be fine today, eventually your luck is going to run out.
The Feds don’t have any laws for tread depth, but 42 of the states, and all of Canada, do have regulations. They consider two-thirty-seconds of an inch to be the minimum legal tread depth. Two other states, including California, consider one-thirty-second to be the minimum and six states have no standards at all. Call us at Duffy’s Repair Service; (just call 804.798.5922) to find out what your requirements are in the Ashland, Virginia area.
Since 1968, U.S. law has required that a raised bar be molded across all tires. When tires are worn enough that this bar becomes visible, there’s just 2/32” of tread left. But does that older standard give Ashland motorists enough safety?
Consider this: Consumer Reports recommends tire replacement when tread reaches 4/32”. And the recommendation is backed by some very compelling studies. Now before we go into the studies, you need to know that the key issue is braking on wet surfaces.
We tend to think of the brakes doing all the stopping, but Ashland car owners also need to have effective tires to actually stop the car. When it’s wet or snowy in Ashland Virginia, the tread of the tire is critical to stopping power.
Picture this: you’re driving in Ashland over a water-covered stretch of road. Your tires actually need to be in contact with the road in order to stop. That means the tire has to channel the water away so the tire is actually contacting the road and not floating on a thin film of water – a detrimental condition known as hydroplaning. When there’s not enough tread depth on a tire, it can’t move the water out of the way and you start to hydroplane.
This is where the studies come in. We think Ashland car owners will be surprised. A section of a test track was flooded with a thin layer of water. If you laid a dime flat on the track, the water would be deep enough to surround the coin, but not enough to submerge it.
A car and a full-sized pick-up truck were brought up to 70 mph and then made a hard stop in the wet test area. Stopping distance and time were measured for three different tire depths. First, they tested new tires. Then tires worn to legal limits. And finally, tires with 4/32” of tread were tested (the depth suggested by Consumer Reports.)
When the car with the legally worn tires had braked for the distance required to stop the car with new tires, it was still going 55 mph. The stopping distance was nearly doubled. That means if you barely have room to stop with new tires, then you would hit the car in front of you at 55 mph with the worn tires.
Now with the partially worn tires – at the depth recommended by Consumer Reports – the car was still going at 45 mph at the point where new tires brought the car to a halt. That’s a big improvement – you can see why Consumer Reports and others are calling for a new standard.
Now without going into all the details, let us tell you that stopping the truck with worn tires needed almost 1/10 of a mile of clear road ahead to come to a safe stop. How many Ashland motorists follow that far behind the SUV ahead? Obviously, this is an essential safety issue.
The tests were conducted with the same vehicles, but with different sets of tires. The brakes were the same, so the only variable was the tires.
How do Ashland auto owners know when their tires are at 4/32”? Well, it’s pretty easy. Just insert a quarter into the tread. Put it in upside down. If the tread doesn’t cover George Washington’s hairline, it’s time to replace your tires. With a Canadian quarter, the tread should cover the numbers in the year stamp.
Now you may remember doing that with pennies. But a penny gives you 2/32” of an inch to Abraham Lincoln’s head. The quarter is the new standard – 4/32”.
Tires are a big ticket item and most drivers in Ashland, Virginia want to get thousands of miles out of them. Just remember: driving on bald tires is like playing roulette.
Have Mr. Washington look at your tires today. If he recommends a new set, come see us at Duffy’s Repair Service in Ashland.
Duffy’s Repair Service 9974 Lickinghole Road Ashland, Virginia 23005 804.798.5922
Ashland Drivers: Get Fresh Air Inside Your Car
Let’s talk about air quality in Ashland. It’s a global issue, but affects us wherever we are. Many decades ago, Ashland motorists began to become aware of how air pollution negatively affects health. But what about the air inside your vehicle?
Cabin air filters are now coming on most new SUVs in Ashland. These filters clean the air in the passenger compartment. They can filter particles down to three microns, so that’s good enough to clean out dust, pollen and most pollutants. If you suffer from allergies in Ashland, this is very good news. Your car can be a haven during your Ashland commute.
Now, it’s only been in the last few years that cabin air filters have become common in Ashland. You can look in your owner’s manual to see if you have one. If you do, there’ll be a recommendation for replacing it when it gets dirty. If you live in an area of Ashland where there’s a lot of dust, pollen or pollution, you may need to change it more often.
You can also ask your friendly Duffy’s Repair Service service specialist in Ashland. How hard is it to change an air filter on a car? It depends on your vehicle. Some are quite accessible; others take some doing to get to them. They’re usually in the engine compartment or under the dashboard.
Because cabin air filters are so new on the scene, some Ashland people haven’t heard of them – even motorists who have cabin air filters in their SUV. Duffy’s Repair Service service advisors have discovered that many Ashland customers who complained about an unpleasant odor in their SUV simply had a dirty cabin air filter.
We are a NAPA AutoCare Center in Ashland Virginia, providing the following services:
OIL CHANGE & LUBE
VEHICLE PREVENTATIVE MAINTENANCE
FULL BRAKE SERVICE
AIR CONDITIONING SERVICE
VEHICLE CLEANING & DETAILING
TRAILER SERVICE & REPAIR
FULL ELECTRONIC SERVICE
DIESEL SERVICE & REPAIR
FRONT END WORK
ENGINE & TRANSMISSION REPAIR
STABILITY & TRACTION CONTROL SYSTEM
SRS/AIR BAG DIAGNOSIS & REPAIR
COOLING SYSTEM FLUSH
COMPLETE DIAGNOSTIC SERVICE
PCM & MODULE REPROGRAMMING
REPLACEMENT CAR BATTERY
BELT & HOSE REPLACEMENT
SMOG & EMISSION TESTING
SUSPENSION & SHOCK REPAIR
24 HOURS TOWING
MAKE & REPAIR HYDRAULIC HOSE
EQUIPPED TO HANDLE LARGE VEHICLES INCLUDING MOTOR HOMES