Prepare for Safe Travels Ahead with Our Road Trip Checklist
Whether it’s to visit family for the holidays or to enjoy a school break, a lot of people choose to travel by car, especially during the summer when the road conditions are better.
In order to ensure a smooth road trip experience, it is crucial to conduct a pre-emptive vehicle inspection prior to embarking on extended journeys.
There are many items that should be checked during a car’s pre-trip inspection and the whole process can be a little confusing. That’s why to assist in maintaining your vehicle’s optimal condition, we have developed a comprehensive checklist that covers all the essential aspects to remember before setting off on your journey.
Below are 7 essential car components that should be checked over before traveling!
Check Your Tires’ Conditions
In Victoria, the winter season brings consistent rainfall and occasional snowfall, posing a risk of driving on wet roads and potential hydroplaning for travelers. Conversely, during the summer, the roads are dry and temperatures soar. It is vital to remember that your vehicle’s tires experience diverse conditions throughout the year, underscoring the utmost importance of conducting a thorough inspection before embarking on any extended road trip.
Having “bald” tires is likely the most common issue involving your car’s tires. Driving with bald tires can reduce driving stability since they have less grip on the asphalt. To check whether your tire is bald (i.e., has lost its original characteristics and does not adhere so well to the ground), you need to look at the tread wear indicator. This is a small bulge in the tire, often indicated by the abbreviation “TWI”, which marks the threshold of 1.6 millimeters. If the rubber of the tire is flush or below this marker, your tire is considered ‘bald’ and it’s time for a fresh rubber.
It is also important to remember to check your tire pressure regularly. Ensure that the car’s tire pressure aligns with the specifications provided by the manufacturer. Driving with flat or under-inflated tires can lead to increased instability and longer braking distances, resulting in higher fuel consumption and can ultimately making your trip that much more expensive.
Add ‘Wheels’ to the Road Trip Checklist: People usually remember to check their vehicle’s tires, but forget about the wheels! Having cracks or dents in your wheels is more common than you think, so be sure to include this assessment in your road trip checklist. This way, you are able to avoid damage to your car’s suspension, braking system, and most importantly, you significantly reduce the chances of an accident.
Balancing Your Vehicle’s Wheel Alignment
The wheels also need to be aligned and balanced, but always remember, these are two separate procedures that have complementary functions.
In the process of wheel alignment, the angles of the wheels are adjusted to restore them to the original specifications set by the manufacturer. Have you ever experienced the sensation of your car pulling to one side while driving? This is a common indication of misaligned wheels. Driving a vehicle with misalignment requires the driver to exert more effort, resulting in a more tiring (pun intended) journey. Moreover, it has negative effects on the tires, causing accelerated rubber wear.
The wheel balancing process, on the other hand, is done to distribute the weight equally around the tire’s circumference. When this process is done, it makes the wheels rotate without causing vibrations in the vehicle, making it more comfortable for the passengers, as well as increasing the tires’ life span.
It is recommended to perform these two procedures every ten thousand kilometers driven. However, it is advisable to have a checkup before traveling, even if you haven’t reached this distance yet.
If you are going on a road trip soon, it may be time to book an appointment for a preventive maintenance inspection!
Inspect Your Car’s Brake System
It is important to make sure that your car’s brake system is working properly before driving at high speeds. When inspecting your car prior to a road trip, remember to have the following components of the brake system looked over:
- Brake discs and pads
- Drums, shoes and linings
- Brake fluids
- Wheel cylinders
Following the inspection, it may be necessary to replace the brake pads in the braking system. In such cases, the new components may require a few kilometers to properly integrate with the other parts. During this adjustment period, the braking system may exhibit slight compromises. To account for this, it is advisable to avoid abrupt or sudden braking if possible. Additionally, consider driving the vehicle around the city before embarking on the road trip to ensure the system is functioning smoothly and efficiently.
When dealing with brake fluids, it is important to check both the fluid levels and their effectiveness. It can be challenging since the fluid may appear to be in the correct quantity but could be old and not functioning optimally. Typically, brake fluid has a lifespan of either 2 years or twenty thousand kilometers. If, during an inspection, it is determined that the fluid’s efficiency is compromised, it is advisable to replace it before embarking on your travels.
Don’t Forget About Your Car’s Suspension
The suspension system is another critical component that, if damaged, can have detrimental effects on other parts of your vehicle and lead to unnecessary complications. Additionally, a properly functioning suspension system is vital for ensuring passenger comfort during the journey.
During your road trip car maintenance routine, it is important to inspect the shock absorbers for any signs of damage, check for fluid leaks in the suspension system, and examine the springs for rust, cracks, or unevenness. These checks will help ensure that the suspension components are in good condition and capable of providing a smooth and safe driving experience.
Check Your Car Fluids
Your engine depends on a number of fluids to function properly. When they dry out or lose quality (it might be because they are sitting there for too long), the entire operation of the vehicle can be compromised.
Be sure to check (or have inspected) the following car fluids before your big trip:
- Engine oil
- Power steering fluid
- Brake fluid
- Transmission fluid
Vehicle’s Electrical System
Your car’s electrical system will be working really hard during your trip. Your vehicle’s lights, for example, are a vital way of communicating with other drivers, so it is essential that they are in working condition before hitting the road.
As part of your car maintenance routine, it is essential to check the operation of various lighting components including: turn signals, brake and reverse lights, hazard warning lights, and high and low-beam headlights. Additionally, assess the condition of the battery to ensure it is prepared for high-demand usage.
In addition to the items mentioned, it is also worth inspecting other components such as windshield wipers, an air conditioning system, and your audio system. Functional wipers will ensure clear visibility during adverse weather conditions, a properly working air conditioning system will provide comfort during the trip, and a functional audio system will enhance your road trip experience with your favorite playlist!
Don’t Forget About These Additional Safety Checklist Items
Lastly, it is crucial to include a thorough inspection of your car’s safety items in your travel checklist. Ensure that the rubber on the windshield wipers is not excessively dry, and check the condition of the jack, wheel wrench, and reflective warning triangle/cone. If you carry a fire extinguisher in your vehicle, remember to check its expiration date and replace it if necessary. These safety measures contribute to a safe and well-prepared journey.
Conducting a thorough inspection of your car before embarking on a road trip is of utmost importance, as it directly impacts not only the vehicle’s performance but, more importantly, your safety. Performing preventive maintenance allows you to proactively identify and address potential issues and anticipate risks that may not commonly arise during city driving but could easily occur on the road. Prioritizing these checklist items ensures a safe and secure journey for you and your fellow travelers. For over 30 years, Searle’s Auto Repair has been providing high-quality, honest service to the Greater Victoria region. To book your preventive maintenance prior to your road trip, give us a call at (250) 475-2000 or request an appointment online.
Common Signs That Your Car AC Is Not Working
It is official: spring is here, which means that after a long winter here on Vancouver Island, the heat is on its way. In fact, it may almost be time to start using your car’s air conditioning. With Victoria’s summer months ahead, you want to be sure your AC is operating as efficiently as possible to remain cool and comfortable in your vehicle. Unfortunately, as vehicles age, air conditioning systems can start to malfunction, or fully stop working. If it seems that your AC is not operating at peak efficiency, here are some things you should know:
How Does a Car’s Air Conditioning Work?
When you get in your car and turn on the AC – if you are like most people – you probably don’t think about the whole process that takes place to actually cool the air. Although it seems simple, the operation of a vehicle’s air conditioning system is somewhat complex. For you to understand how the process works, we have first detailed the main components of a basic air conditioning system. The components are:
- Dryer/Filter Dryer
- Expansion valve
- Evaporator coils
- Blower Motor/Fan
Next, here is how a modern auto air conditioning system works step-by-step, starting with your compressor:
- The compressor, which is mounted near the front of the engine and is attached to a pulley that is driven by the serpentine belt, receives cool, low-pressure refrigerant gas and compresses the gas to high pressure and temperature. This gas is then sent to the condenser.
- In the condenser, the gas is cooled, changing to liquid form.
- Then, the fluid passes through the filter dryer, where moisture and impurities are removed.
- In the next stage, the liquid refrigerant is sent through the expansion valve, which reduces pressure and temperature.
- Next, the low-pressure liquid refrigerant flows into the evaporator, circulating through coils. This causes the liquid refrigerant to begin to boil, changing it back into a low-pressure gas.
- As the refrigerant turns back into a low-pressure gas, it absorbs heat, which reduces the temperature of the evaporator coils. At this point, a blower motor/fan will blow this cool air through the vents in your car’s dash, cooling the cabin of your vehicle.
The process above repeats continuously.
What signs indicate that your air conditioning is not working?
Now that you understand how a car’s AC works, it’s time to learn how to identify flaws in the system. Here are the most common signs and symptoms of an AC system that is not operating well:
If you notice that your car’s air conditioning is not as powerful as it used to be, the following may be the root cause:
- Accumulation of dirt in the cabin filter
- Accumulation of dirt and debris in the condenser
- Refrigerant gas leakage
- Compressor inefficiency
When it comes to older cars, there is always a higher probability that problems will occur in the air conditioning system. For instance, it is possible that a hose in the system has punctured due to degradation over time, causing the refrigerant gas to leak. Alternatively, an AC compressor will eventually start to lose efficiency. If you notice a sharp drop off in your car’s AC output, it could also be due to a loose or damaged serpentine belt. If you think that your vehicle is experiencing one or multiple of these common AC issues, check out our auto air conditioning repair services today.
Another common symptom of bad AC is the presence of unpleasant smells from the air vents. In most cases, this problem is related to the accumulation of dirt, fungus, or bacteria in the system (this issue is commonly seen here in Victoria BC, where our climate is quite humid).
Luckily, the presence of unpleasant odors in your AC is generally a simple fix; most likely, a thorough cleanup of the vents and replacing the cabin filter will solve the problem.
Presence of moisture inside the cabin
When in perfect working condition, the car’s AC generates cooled air without any kind of moisture or humidity. So, if you notice some water dripping inside the vehicle and your car floor is getting wet, this is possibly an underlying issue with your car’s AC system. Wet floors and excess moisture are typically caused by one of the following:
- A blocked condensate drain, or a condensate drain that is not properly attached to your ventilation system
- Critically low refrigerant levels
Bad air conditioning got you down? Contact Searles Auto Today – we will help you quickly identify and fix your vehicle’s AC issues.
How to take care of your car’s air-conditioning?
Like with most systems in a modern vehicle, preventative maintenance will go a long way toward ensuring the long-term efficiency of your car’s air conditioning system. Here are some tips and basic precautions that will keep your car’s AC in good working condition:
- It is recommended to replace the cabin air filter regularly (about every 20,000-30,000 kilometers), especially if you drive around places that are exposed to dust or pollution
- Cleaning and sanitizing the AC! This not only ensures that the system is working efficiently, but it is also good for your health.
- Turn on the air conditioning from time to time, at least once a week (even in the winter). It will prevent the accumulation of dirt and dust in the system.
Now that you have a basic understanding of how a car’s AC system works, identifying problems in your car’s air conditioning is not such a complicated task. Generally, taking care of your car and performing regular preventative maintenance on your AC system will prevent you from having to spend extra money on AC repairs, which can be an unexpected headache. That said, if you do need car AC repairs or diagnostics, Searles Auto is here to help. Give us a call at 1-250-475-2000 or make an appointment online today!
Goodbye Scheduled Oil Changes – Our Beginners Guide to Maintaining an Electric Vehicle
Electric vehicles (EVs) are rapidly becoming the go-to automobile for new and existing vehicle owners. As you notice more and more Teslas quietly idling around you, perhaps you’ve started wondering if switching over to an electric vehicle is the right choice for you.
Considering that you’ll never have to pay for fuel or an oil change ever again, an EV has many desirable perks to its ownership. Although, don’t be tricked into thinking that electric cars don’t need any maintenance or attention. If you are an EV owner (or soon-to-be), it’s essential for drivers to know the basics of maintaining these eco-friendly vehicles.
Owning a traditional gas-powered car, you would likely be somewhat familiar with the typical maintenance that is required, but maintenance needs for electric vehicles tends to be less common knowledge. Although there are some similar maintenance requirements for gas-powered cars and EVs (such as replacing the cabin filters and occasional fluid top-ups), taking care of an electric car can be a bit different for many reasons:
Electric Vehicles (EVs) Require the Following:
- Less Mechanical Fluids
- High Tech, Lithium-Ion Battery Packs
- Regenerative Braking
- Specialized Electric Car Tires
- Highly Integrated Software Systems
By understanding the basic anatomy and workings of an electric vehicle, you will be better prepared to properly care for your car, which over time, can be a difference-maker in savings on vehicle maintenance (via early detection) and overall longevity of your vehicle.
With that said, continue reading our electric vehicle maintenance and inspection guide to help keep you and your vehicle (or future EV) cruising into an emission-free future.
Do Electric Cars Even Have Fluids?
Say goodbye to oil changes. Although your electric vehicle will never need an oil change, like any car, there are still other fluids that will eventually need top-offs.
Fluids Common to All Electric Vehicles:
- Washer Fluid: Keep tabs on your washer fluid. If you are running low, this can easily be refilled in less than two minutes if you already have a container of windshield washer fluid at home. Or you can pick up a container at your local automotive store.
- Brake Fluid: Depending on the make and model of your vehicle, your brake fluid should be changed roughly every 40,000km (or two/three years). A good rule of thumb is to have your mechanic check the brake fluid while they are servicing your vehicle. They will be able to provide the best feedback on how your brakes are doing.
- Battery Coolant: We know how important the battery is for an EV, so make sure to review your owner’s manual to learn how often you should check and have the battery coolant replaced. These massive batteries need to stay within a certain temperature range for optimal performance, and thus maintaining proper coolant levels will help to ensure the batteries are functioning properly.
How to Extend Your Electric Car’s Battery Life:
Arguably one of the largest and most important components of any electric vehicle is its lithium-ion battery. This is why it’s essential to practice proper battery care to reduce degradation and increase the longevity of your EV’s battery life.
Here are some tried-and-true tips to get the most out of your electric car battery:
Minimize EV Exposure to Abnormal Temperatures While Parked:
To extend the lifespan of your EVs battery, you’ll want to minimize its exposure to extreme temperatures while parked or idling for extended periods of time. Electric batteries can be punished by extreme hot and cold temperatures. In these conditions, the automated temperature control system installed in your electric vehicle will needlessly drain the car battery in order to climate control internal temperatures for operating efficiency.
Unless driving, you should avoid leaving your vehicle in the extreme heat (+30 Celsius) or cold (less than -20 Celsius) for extended periods of time. A simple solution is to park your EV in the garage if you’re expecting extreme weather conditions, park in the shade if it’s a hot day, or plugin so that your vehicle’s thermal management system uses grid power (less strain on the vehicle).
Follow EV Battery Charging Best Practices (20% – 80%):
Think of maintaining your EV battery charge like you might with a smartphone. Maintaining the battery charge between 20% and 80% helps to extend your vehicle’s battery life according to this study from 2020 (batteries that are consistently over-or-under charged do not last as long). So, you should avoid frequently charging the battery above 80% and letting it deplete below 20%.
That being said, if you’re going on a road trip (or know you won’t have access to a charging station for some time), then you can make an exception and charge your EV battery to the maximum – as long as you aren’t doing so all the time. For daily driving, maintaining your battery charge between the 20% to 80% threshold is a smart idea for the overall longevity of an EV’s battery life.
Limit the Use of Fast Charging Where Possible:
A question we often get from customers is if it is best for an EV car battery to slow-charge (rather than fast-charge). The short answer here is yes. While fast-charging stations are a great convenience, the increase in heat stresses the battery, which can decrease the battery’s overall capacity over time. This is similar to cellphones: when you purchase a brand-new phone with a 100% battery life of 12 hours, after some time, that same 100% battery charge may only last 7-9 hours, depending how well you take care of the battery. Fast charging strains your EV battery, reducing its lifespan as it slowly diminishes battery performance.
Keep in mind that different electric vehicles will have different battery voltage limits and fast charging capacities. Therefore, the diminishing returns of battery performance are not parallel across automakers. So, we’d advise that you read your vehicle owner’s manual to review the manufactures battery capabilities and warranty. That said, if the need arises don’t be afraid to fast charge your vehicle from time to time!
At our Searles Autoshop, we have added a FREE EV charging station (available to all customers) at 517 Kelvin Rd Victoria, BC. If you’re ever in need of a charge, come check out our charging station onsite!
Taking Care of Your EV Brakes (Regenerative Braking):
EVs are unique in that they use what’s known as regenerative braking. This means when the vehicle is braking, the kinetic energy being built actually recharges the vehicle’s battery. In doing so, the pads and rotors can actually last up to twice as long as a conventional system, because the process of regenerative braking actually places less stress on the brakes.
While the technology involved in this process is quite impressive, don’t forget to still have your brakes regularly checked or serviced. Factors considered in determining how soon your brakes will be replaced include your driving style, driving terrain, and the electric vehicle’s regenerative settings.
How to Make Your Brake Pads Last Longer:
Like any vehicle, EV brakes will need maintenance. While there are a few key indicators that will let you know when to get your brakes looked at, there are some simple solutions to get the most out of your EV’s brake pads before heading into the shop.
Here are some of those tips that will help extend your brake pads’ lifespan (and keep more money in your pocket):
- Plan ahead and drive with the flow of traffic. You’ll avoid unnecessary heavy braking behind the car in front of you.
- Follow the three-second rule by providing yourself with ample distance between you and the car in front so you can either coast or gradually come to a stop when needed.
- Remove any unnecessary weight from your vehicle. More weight in the vehicle equals a heavier load on the braking system. Have a 60lb ski box on the roof? Maybe it’s time to take it off for summer.
When washing your car, you can further maintain your brakes by spraying the rotors to remove dust/debris. Keeping them clean reduces the chances of additional wear and tear.
Do Electric Cars Need Special Tires?
The short answer is yes. While electric vehicles can be a ton of fun to drive, the instant torque that comes with these cars has positive and negative attributes. On the one hand, the instant toque means instant acceleration (who doesn’t like that). On the other hand, the instant acceleration places additional strain on the wheels. And don’t forget, thanks to the battery pack, EVs are on average 20-30% heavier than gas-powered cars, placing that much more pressure on electric car tires. Because of this, it can be common for their tire tread to wear more quickly than on combustion engine vehicles.
To extend your EV’s tire lifespan, monitoring for tire maintenance is essential. As with other vehicles, be proactive about checking the air pressure of your electric car’s tires regularly (once a month) and adjusting as necessary. Also, accurate wheel alignment will reduce uneven tire wear and should be checked every 6-12 months, depending on driving style, or sooner if you’ve hit something (ex. pothole, curb, etc).
You can refer to your vehicle manufacturer guidelines for recommended servicing, but you should also take your EV to a reliable wheel and tire mechanic who can check for any issues such as excessive wear. If necessary, an expert will recommend alignment or rotation, when/if required. Remember that properly maintained tires perform better, last longer, and will keep you and your loved ones safe on the road.
How Often to Change Your Cabin Air Filter in an EV:
Electric cars also have cabin air filters to keep the air in your vehicle’s cabin clean. It’s best practice to replace your cabin filter once a year (approx. every 15,000km), or sooner if you’re noticing the air inside is starting to smell musty.
If you’re having any issues with cabin air filters, the expert EV technicians at Searles Auto in Victoria, BC can assist with any cabin filter replacements or air conditioning repairs you need.
EV Software System – Service Updates Required:
If you compare an EV’s operating system to that of a smartphone, then you’ll understand the importance of software updates in electric vehicles. In today’s market, there are a variety of software systems exclusively written for different EV manufacturers.
For older EV models that require you to take them to a dealership for software updates, don’t put this off. Make sure to schedule an appointment sooner than later to have your system updated. Otherwise, if your EV has the option of over-the-air (OTA) software updates, then you don’t have to worry about booking an appointment at the auto shop– your system updates should automatically run for you.
Remember that software updates are released to continuously improve your vehicle’s performance/capabilities. By not updating your system accordingly, you run the risk of experiencing system bugs, and other vulnerabilities that could allow security breaches into your vehicle’s operating system.
Typical EV Maintenance Schedule:
The typical maintenance schedule for EVs is very minimal compared to servicing a gas-powered vehicle. This results in hundreds if not, thousands of dollars in savings throughout the vehicle’s lifetime.
The following list below offers your typical EV maintenance schedule through the first several years of ownership. Keep in mind that every car is different and that these figures can change for various reasons, such as your driving habits and experiencing unforeseen circumstances/accidents.
30-day Intervals (General Upkeep):
- Examine the tires for excess/uneven wear.
- Check all 4 tires’ air pressure.
- Check the windshield washer fluid and top-off if needed.
- Have the tires rotated
- Service inspection that includes the following:
- Looking for any suspension wear
- Inspect the tires, brakes, steering, and chassis components for unusual wear or damage.
- Checking the power inverter, cabin heater, accessory power, and charger modules.
- Check the vehicle’s various light bulbs and replace them if necessary. Make sure that you test that your high and low beams are working properly.
- Checking the battery coolant levels.
- Replace the cabin air filter if not done already (sooner if the cabin is starting to smell ‘funky’).
- Brake Fluid Service
- Cooling System Service
Searles Auto has a team of expert mechanics that specialize in EV and Hybrid repairs. Give us a call at 1-250-475-2000 or schedule an appointment online for any of your EV servicing needs.
Electric vehicles continue to increase in popularity in Canada and around the world, as people are increasingly looking to save money at the pump and are switching to more environmentally friendly options. With the weather getting warmer, and long summer road trips just around the corner, it is important your Electric Vehicle or hybrid is properly maintained and well charged, so that you don’t get stranded in one of Vancouver Island’s beautiful (but remote) locations.
At Searles Auto, we are always looking for ways to improve on our track record of making our customer’s lives’ easier and more convenient, so we have added an EV charging station at our Auto repair shop – 517 Kelvin Rd Victoria, BC. Come check out our charging station today – it is free to use for all customers! And, if you are having issues with your electric vehicle or hybrid vehicle, we’ve got you covered – Searles Auto has a team of professional mechanics specializing in EV and hybrid vehicle repair. If you need assistance with your electric car, call or make an appointment online today.
Instructions for Charging Your Electric Vehicle:
To start charging your vehicle, simply press and hold the black button at the top of charging plug and push it into the inlet on your vehicle. When you are done charging, all you need to do is press the black button again, remove the plug from your car, and re-wrap the charging cord on the wall for the next person to use.
EV Models and Compatibility:
Our Leviton EVR30-B18 electric vehicle (EV) charging station was installed at our shop in 2020, and will provide fast charging on any SAE J1772 compatible vehicles – free for all customers. This standard J1772 electric vehicle plug-in will work with modern EVs and hybrids, including Tesla Model S, Nissan LEAF, Chevrolet Volt, Ford EV models, Kia Soul EV, Fiat 500e, Mercedes-Benz GLC 350e PHEV, electric Toyota Prius models, and more.
Electric Charging Station Specifications:
- Circuit Breaker: 40A
- Intensity: 30A
- Voltage: 208-240 V ac
Searles Auto is open for business again after temporarily closing due to COVID-19. All services for the time being include complementary sanitation of your vehicle, and pick up and delivery of your vehicle for a $30 flat fee. Give us a call at (250) 475-2000 to book an appointment.
Stay safe and stay inside, and we’ll get through this together!
We hope you’ve had a great summer filled with lots of family-fun adventures! Chauffeuring kids here, there and everywhere? You’re not alone. With everyone “Going Back”, why not bring your vehicle back to Searles Auto? We’ll ensure your vehicle’s ready for Victoria’s rainy season, aka Winter. Read More
Congratulations to Bob Heyes, who entered the draw for our Fall-Winter Maintenance Special and won a Nest Learning Thermostat. Enjoy smart thermostat, Bob!
Our Spring-Summer Service Special contest is still on until August 31, 2018. Book now and enter to win one of 75 Toro 22 inch lawn mowers!
While teens may approach their 16th birthday full of excitement, many parents will find themselves feeling the opposite. The thought of one’s precious baby handling an expensive machine that weighs a few thousand pounds can be a terrifying prospect. Fortunately, with a little pre-planning and patience, the task of teaching your teen to drive doesn’t have to be a hair-greying experience