Category Archives: auto repair shops

Is your “Check Engine” light on?

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20141111_145951The check engine light is one of the most common problems—and complaints—from the Wisconsin drivers that come into our shop. “Why is that annoying light on? Is it going to cost a lot of money?” Unfortunately, we can’t tell you if it’s an O2 sensor or faulty spark plugs in a blog post, but we can give you four easy steps to find out and get rid of that dashboard warning light:

  1. Note whether the light is yellow or red. For most warning dashboard lights, there are two colors: red and yellow. Just like stoplights, a yellow light means to take caution, a red light means immediate action is needed. If your car has a red light on the dashboard, call Tire-rifik immediately. You need to get your car checked by a technician. A yellow light indicates that the car needs to be checked, but not at that moment. Don’t wait too long, though, as a yellow light left unchecked is a light that can indicate engine failure soon.
  2. Schedule an appointment. If the light is yellow and your car is due for an oil appointment, ask your mechanic to check your car. If it’s not due for maintenance soon, schedule an appointment so a mechanic can hook your car to a computer and determine the problem.
  3. Ask questions. What exactly is the problem? How long would you recommend before the problem is fixed? What is the cost of repairs? Can this problem damage other parts of my car? We’ll give you an example of this last question: one of our friends had a truck with spark plugs that needed to be replaced (and the check engine light came on). Unfortunately, she waited too long to replace the spark plugs, plugging up the catalytic converter (which had to be replaced) and costing far more than the cost of the initial spark plug replacement.
  4. Get it fixed. Don’t procrastinate and don’t ignore the check engine light. Schedule an appointment. Yes, we’ve all heard stories of drivers who went thousands of miles with a check engine light with no problem. However, that doesn’t mean you will be as lucky. You don’t want to end up waiting for a Tire-rifik tow truck on the side of the road, or stranded at home when you are supposed to be at work.

Are you really busy right now? Schedule an appointment online so you can get a diagnosis and estimate. The initial appointment won’t take long, and there’s good news after the repairs are made. You’ll be back on the road without that “Check Engine” light bothering you.

What to Do If Your Car Is In the Ditch

20150126_115203Found yourself in a precarious, unintentional off-the-road winter adventure? Even the most experienced and careful driver can end up in one of our Dodge or Jefferson County ditches during our Wisconsin winters. And though we’d all like to stay inside during our frequent snow falls, a lot of us don’t have that option. So what do you do when your car leaves the road during our dicey winter weather?

  1. Take a deep breath. Stay calm. Use the shovel your car emergency kit to try to dig your car out. If there is no way you’re going to be able to drive out of that ditch, proceed to step 2.
  2. Call Tire-rifik at 920-261-8111 for a tow truck. Figure out your exact location, and any landmarks that would help a tow truck driver find you. Then call Tire-rifik to get a tow truck to get you out of the ditch as soon as possible.
  3. Assess the damage. Don’t just assume that you can just drive away. Check your car over for damage—not just dents and dings, but ensure that no suspension parts are bent or broken, that your steering wheel stays straight when you try to drive straight and that there are no puddles under your car.
  4. If there is damage, don’t get it towed home. If you can’t fix your car yourself, tow the car to a local repair shop with mechanics you trust to minimize the cost of the tow.
  5. Call Tire-rifik and ask for a quote. Get a quote on the damage before you contact your insurance. If the cost of the repairs is less than your deductible, it doesn’t make sense to contact your insurance company. For example, if the repairs are $500 and you have a $1,000 deductible, you would pay the whole cost of the repair whether your insurance gets involved or not.
  6. Get your car repaired, and look into ways to stay out of the ditch. Once your car is repaired, look into snow tires for your car. While snow tires can’t help on icy roads, they can give you more traction during our frequent Wisconsin snow falls.

Schedule an appointment to get your battery checked so you don’t get stranded on the side of the road. These simple steps will get you back on the road—and keep you on the road—through our long Wisconsin winter.

Don’t Ignore those Common Car Sounds & Noises: Thumps, Bumps & Clunks

engineYou don’t want anyone to drive your baby, but if you can’t hear those common car noises (the thunks, clunk and bumps!) it’s time to let someone else take the wheel. Fact is, those common car noises can cost you thousands of dollars if not repaired quickly. A small “clunk” from the front of your car can cost you thousands of dollars in suspension parts if you don’t get your car to the shop, not to mention the inconvenience of waiting for your car and finding rides while your car gets fixed.

Let’s face it: we Wisconsinites need our cars, and we need our cars quick. So if you want to keep your cars going, minimize time in the shop, and save money, it’s time to turn down the radio and listen for these common car noises:

  • Thumps, clicks or clunks in the front. Ball joints, CV joints and other suspension parts are most commonly the problem—and problems that can get bigger fast. When broken, suspension parts have a tendency to damage other parts because they rub or knock against each other. The result: more than one part that needs to be repaired, a longer repair appointment and a bigger bill.
  • Squealing from around your tires. It sounds like a howling cat. Or a squeaking bird. Or a grinding wheel. Could it be…your brakes? It’s normal for brakes to make occasional squeaking sounds when they get wet. If the squeak doesn’t go away, or if the noise is a grinding noise, your vehicle needs attention. If you don’t get your brakes looked it, and possibly replaced, brake failure is inevitable—leaving you in the midst of an accident you caused or in a ditch waiting for a tow truck. Don’t let your pads wear too low either.  If you wait too long to replace your pads and they get too thin, they can damage the rotors and cost you more.
  • Squealing from under your hood. While there are a lot of culprits that could be the problem, the most common problem is a worn serpentine belt. Schedule an appointment and have the technician check for fraying or damage to this important belt, which charges your battery, is vital for circulating coolant and runs your car’s accessories. A car with a broken serpentine belt is a car heading for disaster—for the driver and their pocketbook. Not only is the car hard to steer with a broken belt, but the engine is on the road to overheating—and thousands of dollars of repairs. Compare that cost versus the low cost of replacement, usually a $100 dollars or less, and you’re clearly saving a mountain of money by getting your car into the auto shop early.
  • Rough starting noise. You’ve probably heard it before: the rar-rar-rar that your car makes when you turn the key. If your car doesn’t start up right away, schedule an appointment to get your car battery check. It may be dying—and there are three clear signs that you can look for. In this case, a dying battery is not going to cost you more money in repairs, but it does cost you money when you are stranded and can’t get to work.

If you hear (or don’t hear) any of these noises, don’t procrastinate. Make an appointment to get that car problem checked right away, before it causes more problems (and costs more money).

Give the gift of…oil changes?

engineWhile an oil change doesn’t sound like the sexiest gift, the gift of an oil change is the gift that keeps giving your car life, and frees up money for other fun things. We all know someone who would benefit from a gift certificate that could cover their oil changes, but here’s a few gift recipients who would REALLY appreciate oil changes this holiday:

  • College students. Your college student is worried about grades, friends and their budget. Free up some money in their budget. Purchase a gift certificate to help them out.
  • Busy moms and dads. Busy parents have a lot on their plate, and oil changes come last on the to do list. But they need a working car to ferry their kids around, and that means they need oil changes. Help them out with the gift of an oil change or a few oil changes.
  • Grandparents & parents. Have a parent or grandparent who has everything? Or do you have a great grandma who loves her van Bessie? Give them the gift of convenience, or help them out by taking their beloved car for an oil change so they don’t have to worry about it.
  • Anyone who doesn’t have a heated garage (or even a garage). No one likes to change the oil during our cold Wisconsin winters, especially in a hard and cold parking lot or on the street. Keep them warm, and their car running through the coldest of Wisconsin winters.
  • Let’s be honest: with the exception of a few car enthusiasts, anyone really busy would enjoy the gift that helps them save time and money. Know a young professional trying to keep up with a busy calendar? Or a workaholic who doesn’t have time for anything else? Give them a gift that gives beyond the holidays.

So how do you give the gift of an oil change? Start by considering location and convenience. If you have a college student who comes home on the weekends, purchase a gift certificate at their hometown auto repair shop in Watertown. Then head over to TireRifik in Watertown to purchase the gift that keeps everyone’s cars going without inconvenient breakdowns—and that’s the gift that everyone can appreciate.

Car Battery 101: What You Didn’t Learn In Driver’s Ed

engineHow many of us learned to drive without any education about the part of our car integral to driving, the battery? However, when we’re stranded on the coldest day of winter, we quickly learn the importance of a working battery that starts our car (shocking, isn’t it?). Luckily, learning about your car battery is not as complicated as your high school chemistry class. It just starts with a few simple questions.

Why do car batteries go dead in the winter?

Ironically, the heat of our Wisconsin summers is harder on our car batteries than the winter. However, many cars do not start in the cold of winter because fluids in the engine turn to the consistency of molasses, meaning it takes maximum battery power that older batteries do not always have.

How do I jumpstart my car?

Carrying a set of jumper cables is essential for anyone who does not want to be stranded (ever left your lights on? You know what we mean). When the day comes when you need those jumper cables, park another car near the front of your car and turn the cars off. Make sure the cars are secured, and use your parking brake if necessary for safety. Then:

  1. BE CAREFUL! Remember, you are touching an electrical system, and you could get hurt. Be cautious.
  2. Locate the positive and negative terminals on your battery. A “+” means positive and a “-“ means negative.
  3. Attach the positive clamp of the jumper cable to the positive terminal on the dead battery.
  4. Attach the other positive clamp of the jumper cable to the positive terminal on the live battery.
  5. Attach the negative clamp of the jumper cable to the negative terminal of the dead battery.
  6. Attach the other negative clamp of the jumper cable to a non-moving metal part of the engine. Do not reach into any areas with moving belts or parts.
  7. Turn on the car that starts for a few minutes. Lightly rev the engine by pressing the gas pedal.
  8. Start the car with the (formerly) dead battery.
  9. Remove the jumper cables.
  10. Enjoy a car that starts.
  11. Get your battery check and replace if necessary.

How long do car batteries last?

The average life of a car battery is 3-5 years. Unfortunately, you can’t always tell when your battery is about to die, as battery testers do not always detect the signs of battery death.

What other questions do you have about your car’s battery? Contact us with your questions!

5 Signs You Need New Tires

michelin_tires_watertown_tire_shopThere’s a huge hole in your tire. Obviously, that’s a sign that you need new tires. But did you know that there are smaller, more subtle signs you need new tires? Regular driving (even without squealing your tires) and cold Wisconsin conditions are hard on tires, wearing them down and compromising their performance during slick conditions. Tires with no tread, or very hard tires, do not perform as well, putting you, your passengers, and the cars around you at risk. If you want to catch your tires before you cause an accident, ask your technician to check the tires periodically when they change the oil. If you don’t take your car in, and you’re not a car geek, you can still spot the warning signs with regular tire inspections:

  • Hardness. Did you know that even if you don’t drive frequently or on long trips, you may still need new tires? Tires don’t always wear down to replacement; they often harden over time, making them a lot harder to drive in slick weather. Any mechanic can tell you if your tires are hard and ready for replacement.
  • Doesn’t hold air. If you have to add air to your tires regularly, or your tire sporadically goes flat, an alarm should be going off in your head. Adding air to your tires is not normal, and eventually you’re going to be stranded somewhere with a flat tire.
  • Very little tire tread left. Not sure if you have enough tread? Use the old coin trick. Put a penny into the tread of your tire. If you can completely see Abraham Lincoln’s head, you need new tires. Make sure you try this trick in a few different places on the tire. Tires can wear differently, leaving some tires with uneven tread depth.
  • Excessive cracking or blistering. If you have cracks or blisters on the sidewall of your tire, you need to get your tires checked as soon as possible. Excessive cracking or blisters are tire injuries that can lead to a blow out, leaving you stranded by the side of the road or at home not able to get to work or school.
  • Tread wear indicator bars show. You won’t see tread wear indicator bars when your tire is new. As the tread of your tire starts to wear down, you will notice bars in the bottom of the groove in several locations around your tire. Just as the name implies, tread wear indicator bars are a clear sign you need to get those tires to a repair shop for inspection, and possible replacement.

Replacing your tires doesn’t mean you have to take out a second mortgage; watch for specials and discounts at local repair shops to get the best deals on tires. Your investment in new tires has an extra advantage as well. Not only are you lessening your chance of an accident from bald tires, but your excellent driving record means lower insurance premiums. That means you won’t be stranded, or put yourself and everyone else at risk for accidents, plus you can save money in the long run—all while you enjoy the quiet, excellent performance of your new tires.

Why You Shouldn’t Ignore Those Squealing Brakes

brake_repair_watertownYou’re driving down the street. In anticipation of a stop sign, you start to press your brake pedal down. Suddenly, you hear it.

What?? What in the world was that???

It sounded like a howling cat. Or a squeaking bird. Or a grinding wheel.

Could it be…your brakes?

Take your vehicle into a local repair shop to find out. Most repair shops offer free estimates and inspections before they start working on your car. A technician can determine the wear of pads and rotors, and recommend replacement if needed. Brake rotors do not need to be changed as often as pads.

It’s normal for brakes to make occasional squeaking sounds when they get wet.  If the squeak doesn’t go away, or if the noise is a grinding noise, your vehicle needs attention. If you don’t get your brakes looked it, and possibly replaced, brake failure is inevitable—leaving you in the midst of an accident you caused or in a ditch waiting for a tow truck.

Don’t let your pads wear too low either.  If you wait too long to replace your pads and they get too thin, they can damage the rotors. Replacing rotors is a more costly repair.

If you know well in advance (before they start making noise) it’s time to change your brake pads, watch for specials or discounts at your local repair shop. Don’t wait until it’s too late, and that squealing, squeaking or grinding turns into a safety hazard. Your health, the health of those around you and costly auto body repairs are the ultimate reason to get your brakes checked, and brake pads replaced, on a regular basis.