Alternative Fuel Vehicles In St. Charles Missouri
Let’s talk about alternative fuel vehicles. In their quest to reduce the use of fossil fuels and harmful exhaust emissions to our St. Charles environment, automakers will have a number of alternatives for us very soon.
For instance, Flex Fuel vehicles are already available in the St. Louis 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 are in using less petroleum and reduced pollution. The drawbacks are that E85 gets lower fuel economy and that when gas prices are low, E85 can be more expensive than straight gasoline.
You should only use E85 if you 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 St. Louis 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 St. Louis 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 of mileage, but they cost 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 St. Louis.
Plug-in electric vehicles are now available in our St. Louis 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 St. Louis 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 city 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 is hydrogen fuel cells. Fuel cell vehicles use hydrogen to generate electricity. Several global car makers 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.
A quick word 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 St. Louis service technician at Sparks Tire & Auto 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.
Are Modern Vehicles Maintenance Free?
In our auto video today we’ll be talking with Alan Peterson about myths surrounding automotive maintenance. You can lump these myths into the statement that “modern cars are so reliable, they are virtually maintenance free”.
Any good myth has some elements of truth. No offense to St. Charles Bigfoot fans, but this maintenance-free myth has more evidence than most. If we look at some isolated areas of auto maintenance, we could conclude that maintenance isn’t so important. But other areas would just as easily lead you to believe that maintenance is more important than ever.
Here are some examples for our friends in St. Charles.
- Some cars in St. Charles no longer require chassis lubrication. They’re made with self-lubricating materials and have sealed joints. There’s literally is no way to grease those joints.
-Chalk one up for the myth.
On the other side, some vehicles come with sophisticated variable valve timing. A lot of complicated parts up in the valve train that didn’t even exist not that many years ago. These parts are very vulnerable to oil sludge.
- So, skipping an oil change here and there could lead to very expensive damage.
-A point to maintenance.
- Electronic ignition has eliminated replacing points.
-Myth gets a point.
- Fuel injectors on direct injection engines are very expensive to replace so one must be sure to get a fuel system cleaning on schedule.
-Point for maintenance.
I think you get the picture. As automotive technology advances, it eliminates or reduces some maintenance requirements. And maintenance becomes more critical for some items. Most others remain very similar to what they’ve always been.
So the maintenance mindset is still important for car owners in St. Charles if we want our vehicles to last a long time. The checklist may change over time, but there’ll always be a check list.
Let me mention a couple of items on modern vehicles that folks need to be aware of. One of the most of the most important is timing belt replacement. Used to be that all engines had timing chains – you know, metal chains. They rarely broke.
It’s cheaper to make engines with timing belts rather than chains, so replacing the timing belt is on most engines’ maintenance list. The money the manufacturer saves by using a belt is more than off-set by what the vehicle owner has to pay to replace the belt. And it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the cost of repairing the damage if the timing belt breaks.
So make sure you know when your timing belt needs to be replaced. You don’t want to miss that. If you have 60,000 miles or more, break out your owner’s manual or ask your St. Charles service advisor at Sparks Tire & Auto to check on the recommendation right away.
Another is sealed wheel bearing assemblies on some vehicles. As you might have guessed, it’s cheaper to make a sealed unit than one that has access to inspect or service the wheel bearings. The problem is that when the bearings fail, you have to replace the entire unit, not just the bearings. That’ll cost 5 or 6 times as much.
For our friends in St. Charles, we hope this has underscored the importance of knowing and following your maintenance schedule. Come in and see us at Sparks Tire & Auto. You’ll find us at 1665 Scherer Parkway in St. Charles, Missouri 63303. Just give us a call at 636-946-5900.
Are There Blind Spots In St. Charles Missouri?
Everyone in St. Charles Missouri has blind spots – and no, I’m not talking about the fact that you really don’t sing like Jessica Simpson. I mean the areas of the road that you can’t see when you’re driving around St. Charles.
First let’s talk about our own blinds spots, and then we can talk about others…
To begin, we can greatly reduce our blind spots by properly adjusting our mirrors to give the widest coverage possible. Make the adjustments in your SUV before you start to drive.
First, adjust your rear view mirror to give the best possible view directly to the rear of your car. You don’t need it to get a better view of either side of the car, the kids in the back seat or your dazzling smile. The rear view mirror should look to the rear.
Next, lean your head until it almost touches the driver’s side window. Adjust your side mirror so that you can just barely see the side of your car.
Sparks Tire & Auto
We’re on 1665 Scherer Parkway in St. Charles, Missouri (63303)
Call us to make an appointment at 636-946-5900.
Now, lean your head to the middle of the car and adjust the outside mirror so that you can barely see the right side of the car.
With your mirrors adjusted this way, you’ll have maximum coverage. Of course driving is a dynamic process – things change every second. So it’s wise to take a quick look to the side when passing to make sure that another vehicle hasn’t moved into an area you couldn’t see in your mirrors.
Depending on the kind of vehicle you drive (SUV?), you may still have some blind spots. All vehicles have an area behind them that’s blind when backing up. The bigger the vehicle, the bigger the blind spot. A pick up or SUV can hide a small child – an RV, bus or tractor-trailer can hide an entire vehicle. So be careful around our St. Charles streets!
As you drive around the St. Louis area, avoid staying in other diver’s blind spots. You can’t count on them to be watching their mirrors and looking out for you.
Let’s talk about safely sharing the road with heavy trucks and buses. In crashes involving a truck and car, the car causes about 40 percent of the accidents. But 78 percent of the fatalities are with the car. The laws of physics are against the smaller vehicle, so it pays to take extra precautions around trucks and buses.
Heavy vehicles have huge blind spots: to the rear, on both sides and up front. They also can’t maneuver like a car. They take twice as long to stop and need twice as much space as you do in your SUV or other type of car. You need to keep wide margins when driving around one of these big rigs.
Here are some tips for passing a heavy vehicle in the St. Louis area:
- Avoid the blind spots. If you can’t see the driver’s face in one of his mirrors or in a window, he cannot see you!
- Don’t follow too close. If you can’t see one of the truck’s mirrors, you’re too close.
- Make sure there is plenty of room to pass. Trucks are long and take time to get around. If you’re on one of our local St. Charles Missouri two way highways, wait for a passing zone.
- Don’t linger when passing. Because the blind spots are so big on the sides, you want to get through them quickly. If you can’t pass quickly, drop back.
- Pass on the left whenever possible. A trucks’ blind spot is much larger on the right.
- Be attentive and wear your seat belts while driving anywhere around St. Charles, even short drives.
- Don’t be aggressive when driving around trucks. Because of their size, they appear to be going slower than they really are. Cutting it short around a truck could be disastrous.
- Use your turn signals when starting to pass. Once you can see the full truck in your rear view mirror, it’s safe to signal and move over. Don’t cut it short or slow quickly when you pull in front of a truck.
- Be careful passing a truck at an intersection. Trucks need to turn wide to maneuver through city streets. Squeezing between a truck and the curb could put your car in the St. Charles body shop. Look for the truck’s turn signals.
We at Sparks Tire & Auto want you to watch those blind spots – but feel free to sing in the shower all you want.
Battery Replacement At Sparks Tire & Auto
Hello, welcome to Sparks Tire & Auto. Today’s topic is batteries. It seems like everything in St. Peters runs on batteries. Of course, the batteries we’re most concerned with here at Sparks Tire & Auto are those in our vehicles. Car batteries wear out just like any other battery and need to be replaced. There are a couple of things St. Peters drivers should know when looking for a new battery.
There are two measurements that come into play: one is cold cranking amps and the other is reserve capacity.
Let’s start with cold cranking amps. This can be thought of as the power output used to start a cold engine. The number of cold cranking amps you need depends on your vehicle and where you live, specifically how cold it is where you live. The two factors are that the colder your SUV’s engine is, the more power it takes to turn the engine over to get it started. It has all that cold, sluggish oil to contend with.
The other factor is that the chemical reaction in the battery that creates electrical energy is less efficient in the cold. We even have a table. Let’s say it’s eighty degrees Fahrenheit out. At that temperature, 100% of the battery’s power is available. At freezing, only 65% of battery power is available, but it requires 155% as much power to start the engine as it did at eighty degrees.
As you can see from the chart, the colder it gets, more power’s needed, but the available power drops.
Percent of Power Available Celsius Fahrenheit Power Required 100 27 80 100 65 0 32 155 40 -22 0 210 25 -32 20 350
So if you live where it’s cold, you need a battery with more cold cranking amps than you do where it’s moderate or hot. The battery that originally came with the vehicle was based on averages. At Sparks Tire & Auto, we like to remind St. Peters auto owners that they should always get at least as many cold cranking amps as the manufacturer recommends, but may want to upgrade if they live where it gets real cold.
And the type of engine you have will impact the battery you need: A six-cylinder engine requires more cold cranking amps than a four. An eight cylinder needs even more. And diesel SUVs require more than a gasoline engine with the same number of cylinders.
Now on to reserve capacity: It’s a measurement of the number of minutes of reserve power the battery has at a given load. The number is more important to St. Peters drivers these days because of parasitic drain. Parasitic drain is the battery energy that’s used when the key is off in your SUV. So, the power drawn by the security system, the remote start system, even the power the computers require to maintain their memory.
Reserves are also needed when you make very short trips around St. Peters. You’re not driving long enough for the battery to recover the energy it used to start the engine. So go with the minimum recommended by your manufacturer or Sparks Tire & Auto and upgrade if you need more.
Talk with us at Sparks Tire & Auto about your options. If you need more from your battery, a larger, heavy-duty battery may be called for. At Sparks Tire & Auto, we remind our customers that it’s very important that the new battery fits your SUV: the terminals can’t be touching other parts and stuff.
Batteries are a big ticket item for most St. Peters motorists, so the warranty gives piece of mind. There’re two kinds of car battery warranties: pro-rated and free replacement. With the pro-rated, you get a credit for a portion of the battery if it fails during the warranty period. With a free replacement warranty, you get just that, a free replacement. Be sure to ask us at Sparks Tire & Auto about the warranty so you know what you’re getting.
Before You Leave St. Charles, Get A Trip Inspection
You know, at Sparks Tire & Auto we get a lot of people asking about how to prepare their car for a trip. That’s a big deal. You could be driving through mountains and deserts in some pretty lonely areas outside of St. Charles so you may be anxious to know that the car is up to the task and won’t leave you stranded.
You really do need to plan ahead for a major road trip – there are a lot of things to get ready. Where should you start? You could start with the tires. Look them over for tread wear and check to see that they are properly inflated. Take a quick test drive around St. Charles to see if you can feel any vibrations: are the wheels are in balance? Is the car tracking straight? Is the alignment ok?
Come in and see us for trip inspection.
Sparks Tire & Auto
1665 Scherer Parkway
St. Charles, Missouri 63303
The next thing is a full service oil change to make sure all of your fluids are topped off and you have fresh oil for the trip. And if your car has over 75,000 miles, you may consider putting in the high-mileage formulation to clean harmful sludge deposits in the engine. You may also need a new PCV valve and an engine air filter.
How about your transmission and brakes? Have you had your transmission and brakes inspected in the last six months?
How are your wiper blades? There’s nothing like not being able to get rid of the bug juice on a long road trip away from St. Charles.
Check your owners’ manual for any other recommended service and have Sparks Tire & Auto do the multi-point inspection before you head out.
Consider also having the coolant system serviced – you want to stay within the manufacturer’s recommendations. If you’re towing a trailer you’ll want to be keep in mind that you’ll be going a long way under severe conditions.
A lot of folks overlook severe conditions like towing, or summer heat, or driving on dirt roads. Plan ahead for your next road trip – we want you to get there and back.
Brakes really aren’t optional equipment. And taking care of them isn’t optional either.
A regular brake inspection is on every car’s maintenance schedule. An inspection will check your brake system and let you know if there are any problems. Of course, if you’re having trouble with your brakes, get your car into a St. Charles or St. Charles, service center right away. And watch out for these problems:
- Low or spongy brake pedal
- Hard brake pedal
- A brake warning light that stays on
- Constantly squealing or grinding brakes
- Vibrations or clunking sounds when you apply your brakes
There are two types of brakes: disc and drum. Disc brakes have a rotor that’s attached to the axle. Calipers straddle the rotor, kind of like the brakes on a bicycle. Drum brakes are more common on back wheels. Pads, called shoes, push against the inside of the drum to slow the vehicle.
There are several things that need to be serviced on the brake system. First, the brake pads and shoes wear out with use, and become too thin to really help. If the brake pads wear away completely you can damage the rotors. The calipers can grind grooves in the rotor. Then the rotor must either be resurfaced or replaced and that can be expensive. But putting it off is dangerous because your vehicle won’t stop as quickly. Sometimes rotors warp or crack and must be replaced.
Brake fluid is also important. When the brakes are applied, the pressure in the fluid activates the brake pads or shoes. Not enough fluid, not enough pressure to brake properly. Also, water builds up in the brake fluid over time, which leads to corrosion, leaks and brake damage, and with hard use, the brakes could severely fade or even fail. You should change the brake fluid when your manufacturer recommends it.
There are different grades of brake pads. There are regular, metallic and ceramic – higher grades cost more, but give better braking performance and smoother operation. It’s OK to upgrade your brake pads. But, never use a grade that’s lower than what the manufacturer recommends.
Be sure to properly maintain your brakes because it’s a lot cheaper than paying your nearest St. Louis area body shop after an accident.
Breathe Deep With Your Cabin Air Filter
Bad air quality while you’re driving around St. Charles, is nothing to sneeze at. But seriously, more and more vehicles these days come equipped with a cabin air filter. Since they’re fairly new on the scene, a lot of folks don’t know about them yet.
These filters clean the air in the passenger compartment, or cabin, of your car or truck. They do the same job as the furnace filter you have at home. They can filter out particles as small as thee microns. By contrast, a grain of sand is about 200 microns.
So your cabin air filer can clean out dust, pollution, pollen and spores, to keep the air in your car nice and clean. And just like your furnace filter, they need to be replaced when they get dirty. Check your owner’s manual, but they typically need to be replaced at around twelve to fifteen thousand miles.
The filter is usually either under the hood or under the dashboard. Some are a little tricky to get to, so you’ll want to have your St. Charles Missouri service center, Sparks Tire & Auto, take care of replacing them.
As we said, many people don’t realize they have a cabin air filter and go to their shop complaining about a funky smell in the ventilation system. It turned out to be a cabin air filter that was long overdue for replacement – really dirty and starting to smell. A quick replacement and they were on their way and smelling fine.
People who are allergy sensitive can really benefit from a cabin air filter, as it keeps allergens to a minimum. If you’re one of them, you’ll want to stay on top of your filter replacement schedule.
Of course if you do a lot of driving in dusty or polluted conditions, you’ll need to change your cabin air filter more often.
Busted: The Maintenance-Free Myth In St. Charles,
There’s a segment of the St. Charles, population that’s not committed to proper vehicle maintenance. Mistaken perceptions have crept into the Missouri area over time. Many St. Charles, motorists think the root lies in the fact that modern cars are so reliable. Reliability has improved dramatically in recent years. Quality surveys report fewer problems with new cars than ever before.
Back when cars spent more time in the repair shop, St. Charles, drivers were more mindful of routine service. Now, it’s much easier to put it off.
Take tune-ups for example. In the days of mechanical ignition systems, an engine needed to be tuned-up every couple of years. The ignition points had to be replaced, spark plugs and coils replaced and the timing adjusted. If your engine was out of tune, you knew it. It ran poorly and got bad fuel economy.
Now, the ignition system in your SUV is electronic and controlled by the engine management computer. Spark plugs rarely get fouled and will last for as much as a hundred thousand miles. So tune-ups used to force you in to Sparks Tire & Auto for service and while you were there you just took care of whatever else was on the list.
Also, in recent years, a large percentage of new cars in St. Charles, have been leased. These folks plan on turning the car in after two or three years, so they haven’t focused on the maintenance that helps your car last longer.
Given all that, what’s the benefit to keeping up with factory scheduled maintenance? Well, your SUV will perform better and return better fuel economy.
Those benefits pay for themselves as they go along. The big plus is that major repairs are prevented. And these aren’t just repairs that are a long ways off. Modern SUV engines are far more sophisticated and have many parts that are in critical need of proper lubrication. Missing just one oil change can allow oil sludge to start forming. Sludge clogs small engine passages, robbing parts of the lubrication they need. An expensive failure could easily occur within two or three years.
And modern engines require more sophisticated fluids. Because of the different types of materials that are used to make auto parts, things like aluminum, plastics and steel, different types of additives are required to protect automotive components from corrosion. These additives deplete with time as well as with use.
For example, your SUV engine coolant could actually become so corrosive that it eats holes in your radiator or other cooling system parts. Of course, that could lead to massive engine damage, all for the want of replacing the coolant on schedule.
Taking care of the little things now prevents big problems later. At Sparks Tire & Auto, we have been taking care of all those little things for 27 years. Your SUV still needs to be taken care of – it’s just that some of those points of care have changed with automotive advancements. The need for proper maintenance in St. Charles, did not go away.
Busting Automotive Myths In St. Charles Missouri
Myths passed around our St. Charles Missouri community start with a grain of evidence and are then built up with a lot of imagination and very elastic logic. And the internet is a breeding ground for automotive myths. Some bloggers recall the SUVs of yesteryear and declare their modern decedents to be virtually maintenance free and that anyone who says otherwise is out to rip you off.
To get the truth about auto myths you hear around the St. Charles area, come over to Sparks Tire & Auto.
You’ll find us at 1665 Scherer Parkway, St. Charles, Missouri 63303.
Give us a call at 636-946-5900 to make an appointment for your next auto service.
Let’s examine a couple of the more popular rants and look at the truth behind them.
The first one is that the chassis no longer needs lubrication for suspension, steering and the driveline. They declare that anyone who has charged you for lubrication is a charlatan.
The truth on which this myth is based is that many new cars come from the factory with sealed joints and cannot be greased. However, there are still some grease points on many cars around St. Charles. A grease fitting may have been installed in conjunction with a repair. And most trucks and truck-based SUVs driving in St. Charles still require chassis lubrication. This is because they are more heavy duty and proper greasing is still required to keep them going.
Another common rant you’ll hear around St. Charles is that modern cars don’t need tune-ups. That depends on your definition of a ‘tune-up’, which has changed as technology has progressed. Before engine control computers, electronic ignition and fuel injection, a tune up meant replacing mechanical parts that wore out. Sparks Tire & Auto would manually adjust fuel and air mix and timing. When these adjustments were off, spark plugs would foul and need to be replaced.
This definition just doesn’t apply to modern vehicles. Service centers like Sparks Tire & Auto generally consider a tune-up to be the major service visit, recommended by your manufacturer, every 30,000 miles or so.
Of course you can’t lubricate a sealed joint. Of course you can’t adjust a carburetor if your car doesn’t have one. You probably don’t need to change spark plugs every year if your manufacturer says they can go 30,000 miles. What are these bloggers getting so worked up about?
The danger with these modern-day myths, is that they prevent people in our local St. Charles community from taking care of the routine preventive auto maintenance that manufactures recommend. Check out this partial list of things you still need to do to take care of your car. How many of them are really any different today than they were 20 or 30 years ago?
Oil change, cooling system service, transmission service, tire balancing, tire rotation, wheel alignment, suspension service, power steering service, proper tire inflation, brake service, differential service, battery maintenance, engine air filer, PCV valve, breather element, fuel filter, belts, hoses, timing belt, windshield wipers . . .
You get the picture. Your SUV is still a machine that needs to be maintained. And, hey, your service advisors at Sparks Tire & Auto have always adapted to keep pace with automotive technology. Next time you come across an angry voice about your car care, talk to your St. Charles service advisor at Sparks Tire & Auto, or do some research of your own.
Clean Fuel Makes a Happy Engine In St. Charles Missouri
If the fuel system in your SUV is dirty, you will be wasting gas and losing performance as you drive around St. Charles Missouri.
Unless you drive a vintage car, you have fuel injectors. They need to be properly maintained. That is why your owner’s manual has a schedule for cleaning your fuel injectors and other parts of your fuel system.
Your service technician at Sparks Tire & Auto has the tools and chemicals to do the job right. Sparks Tire & Auto uses a process that gives your car a deep, professional fuel system cleaning. The particles, gum and varnish that build up in your fuel system are removed so that it can run cleanly and efficiently.
After a professional fuel system cleaning, you’ll notice more power, better gas mileage and reduced exhaust emissions. AutoNetTV strongly recommends you follow your manufacturer’s fuel system cleaning service recommendations to keep your vehicle running strong.
It’s expensive to replace a fuel injector that’s been damaged by neglect. Check with your service technician at Sparks Tire & Auto and see when your car is scheduled for a fuel system cleaning.