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Do you know what is the most frequently-asked question I hear? "How can I make my car last longer and still be safe?" That's why I decided to post important information on our website throughout the year. It's all about keeping you and your family safe and on the road. Be sure to check back often for new information, helpful safety tips, and great deals!

 


March 23, 2017
Do ATF Additives Really Work?

As you stroll along the isles of your local auto parts store, you'll stumble across a section dedicated to automatic transmission fluid additives. The labels on these additives offer promises that range from simply making your transmission last longer, all the way up to a rebuild in a can.

The question is: Do these additives really work?

In most cases, unfortunately, the answer is no. In general, the additives that you'll find on the shelves of a consumer-oriented parts store won't really deliver on their extravagent promises. So what do these additives do? In general, they soften and swell the seals in your transmission. Over time, the seals inside an automatic transmission can become hard and brittle; losing their sealing qualities. These additives soften the seals so they begin to work again. The problem is they continue to soften and swell the seals to where they simply fall apart.

So, you have a minor leak or a delayed engagement problem in the morning. You add a can of Super Fix and in a day or so you notice the leak is gone and the transmission works much better. In a couple of months though, your transmission begins acting up and in six-months time it fails completely.

That's not to say all transmission additives are snake oil... far from it. There are some highly effective additives on the market that can significantly extend the life of your transmission. But chances are you won't find them on the shelves of your local auto parts store.

These effective additives are usually only available through your local transmission repair center. They make more realistic claims, such as:

Neutralize acids that build up in the transmission fluid.
Provide additional resistance to the effects of heat.
Prevent or reverse fluid oxidation.
Prevent or reverse fluid sheer.
Modify friction characteristics to improve transmission performance.
Provide additional lubrication to moving parts.
Soften and remove varnish from internal components.

While not as exciting as the claims made by the additives on the consumer shelf, these additives have the advantage of being able to deliver on their promises. Because of this, they can improve transmission operation and increase transmission life.

Check with a Brownies Independent Transmission Shop near you for more information on transmission additives that really work as advertised.

 

February 2, 2017
How Driving Conditions and Habits Affect Your Automatic Transmission

"1986 Chevrolet, 45,000 miles, only driven to the grocery store by elderly woman"

If you were in the market for a used car, this, ad might sound pretty goad. But it may not be as good a deal as it first appears. Vehicles driven occasionally or for short distances are often, subjected to unusual wear and strain. For example, cars that are consistently driven short distances never have the opportunity for the engine to warm up to normal operating temperature. This can cause excessive engine wear.

Low mileage transmissions subjected to city or stop-and-go miles usually experience far more wear than transmissions with the same number of highway miles. The mileage doesn't create as much wear as the number of times the transmission shifts up and down through its gear ranges.

Many other seemingly normal driving conditions can affect transmission life, such as extreme temperatures, mountainous terrain, snowy or icy roadways, and dirty air quality. Under normal driving conditions, vehicle manufacturers recommend servicing your transmission as seldom as every 100,000 miles. But what constitutes normal driving conditions?

If you check through the owner's manuals of the various auto manufacturers, they'll usually include most of these conditions as part of their description of normal driving conditions:

About 12,000 15,000 miles per year.
Engine. and transmission operating at normal operating temperature most of the time.
A mix of about-1/3 city driving, 2/3 highway.
Outside temperature usually moderate; not too hot or too cold.
Road surfaces dry and clear.
Relatively straight and level roadways; occasional, moderate hills or valleys.
Air quality moderate and clean.
No excessive speeds, jackrabbit starts, or hard braking.
Light to moderate loads; one or two passengers.: with very little weight added to the trunk or cargo space.
Tire pressures set properly and all at correct levels and condition.

As you can see, very few cars actually operate under normal driving conditions... which makes the term normal something of a misnomer. And variations in either direction tend to increase wear and damage to the vehicle.

If you operate your vehicle under more extreme conditions -- as most people do -- you'll want to reduce the time and mileage between maintenance services. Having your transmission serviced once a year, or at very least every other year, seems to be the consensus among transmission repair professionals.

Under the most extreme conditions, even more often may be advisable and you may want to install an external transmission filter and cooler for additional protection.

 

December 9, 2016
Best Ways of Keeping Your Car on the Road - Part 2

8.

Change Oil and Other Vital Fluids - Your car's fluids will often be changed during regular service intervals, but it's important enough that we wanted to mention it separately. As you drive your car, and even if it just sits in the driveway, your car's fluids degrade. That's a problem because each of the fluids in your car is vital to the long-term health of the engine, transmission, steering or brakes. Simply keeping the fluids topped off isn't enough because over time they lose important properties — like their ability to remove heat and lubricate, as well as the ability to prevent rust and freezing. What fluids are we talking about? Transmission, differential, brake and power-steering fluid; oil; and antifreeze. Windshield washer fluid? Not so important.

Regular transmission and differential fluid changes are often overlooked, but this service is very important. If you really want to keep your car forever, our suggestion is to get these fluids changed every 60,000 miles whether your owner's manual recommends it or not. Fresh, clean transmission fluid assures that your car's drivetrain stays cool and uncontaminated. Some cars, by the way, have two separate differentials. Be sure to ask your mechanic if yours is one, and make sure that both sets of differential oil get changed. It's easy to overlook this particular service, but you do so at your own peril: A cooked differential can cost thousands of dollars to repair. Routine maintenance service is much less expensive; it should cost about $150 to get your transmission fluid flushed and replaced, and another $100 to do both differentials.

9.

Get Problems Checked Out Sooner Rather Than Later - This is like saying "Don't let a cold turn into pneumonia." If you have a small problem with your car, get it checked out sooner rather than later.
For example, a torn CV boot is a common problem and a simple repair. Delay getting it fixed, though, and you'll eventually end up by the side of the road, unable to drive and forced to fork over some additional money for a tow and a whole new axle.

That's just one example. There are many other problems that start small but balloon into something much larger if they're not addressed right away. Don't believe in this theory? Talk to the secretary of the Treasury Department.
Above all, make sure your car is safe to drive. If you have any doubts about such things as brakes, brake lines, ball joints, tie rods, airbags, seat belts or even the structural integrity of your car, get it checked out. Remember: Even though you want your car to last a long time, you still want to outlive your car. 

10.

Find a Repair Shop You Trust - Find a shop you trust intuitively. Think of maintaining your car as a partnership between you and your shop. Or, more precisely, between your bank account and the bank holding the loan on your shop's lease. Money only moves in one direction, and in exchange you get a car that runs reliably.

Having a good working relationship with your shop will enable you to make wise decisions when the time comes — and you won't have nagging doubts about the truthfulness of what you're being told. This is such an important point we wrote an entire feature on how to develop a great relationship with your Shop.

How do you find a great shop? When you find someone you think you like, ask for recommendations from longtime customers. Brownie's has an excellent reputation in the Dayton market and is a shop that you can trust in to be up front and only do what is necessary. All at a very reasonable price.

11.

Discuss Your Plans with your Shop - Not everyone wants a car to last for 200,000 miles. As a result, mechanics don't always have a long-term mindset when they perform routine service. If your shop knows you're in this for the long term, they'll spend a little more time looking things over when you bring in your car.You'll need to remind them regularly that you're hoping for a long, healthy life for your car. Ask them to keep that in mind as they work on your car.

12.

If You Can't Avoid Salt, Wash Your Car Frequently - Living in the Dayton Ohio area, you're probably very familiar with the ravages of road salt. By kick-starting rust, salt wreaks havoc on the body and other components. Our advice is simple: During the winter, when there's salt on the roads, wash your car's undercarriage as often as possible. You'll remove much of the salt that's eating away your car, and that's a good thing.

13.

Skip the Heated Garage - Garages and carports are great things. Do you want to spend 10 minutes every morning during the winter freezing your bolts off, scraping ice and snow off your car? Of course not! A garage allows you to avoid that supreme morning hassle, and it also helps slow the steady deterioration of your car's interior and exterior caused by bright sun and storms. However, there's a big exception to this rule: heated garages.

Our advice is to skip the heated garage, which can accelerate your car's march towards its grave. Here's why: Heat accelerates oxidation, also known as rust. You drive in the garage with snow and ice on your car, it melts, and the water and salt mix in that nice, warm petri dish and, come morning, there's less of your car there. 

14. Be Proud - Owning an older car should be a source of pride. You're showing that you're sensible, not swayed by the latest models and capable of keeping your car well maintained. Who knows? That sort of no-frills common sense can be very appealing to members of the opposite sex. It might even land you a date! After all, who wants somebody who's always got his eye on a new model? Even if it doesn't score you the babe or hunk of your dreams, owning an older car can offer you something else: a truly liberating experience. You no longer care about scratches, dents or bird droppings. And, best of all? It's paid for! So who cares what your neighbors think? Shoot them a broad, smug smile the next time they eye your jalopy puttering down the street.

 

 

November 11, 2016
Best Ways of Keeping Your Car on the Road

Brownie's Independent Transmission wants you to be safe and wants you to have the option of keeping your car longer versus being forced to buy a new car. We've gathered some tips to hep you make your car last longer.

1.

Don't Drive - Want your car to last? Don't use it. That sounds obvious, but it's worth keeping in mind. Chances are there are plenty of times when you currently use your car that you could be walking, biking, using public transportation or carpooling — choices that are better for the environment, your wallet, your health, and the car you won't be driving. It's simple: The less you drive, the longer your car will last. 

2.

Make Fewer Short Trips - Short trips of less than 10 minutes can be particularly hard on a car, resulting in excessive wear and tear. During a short trip, your car's engine never has a chance to reach its full operating temperature. So what? Here's why it matters: One of the byproducts of engine combustion is water. When an engine reaches its operating temperature that water turns to vapor and is expunged, either out the tailpipe or the crankcase ventilation system. On a short trip, however, that water stays inside your car's engine and exhaust. Unfortunately, water is one of only three ingredients necessary to make rust (you've already got the other two, oxygen and metal), and rust kills. Look at any of my brother's cars. A further complication of condensation and water is that it dilutes your oil, which then does a poorer job of lubricating the engine. If you can't avoid taking lots of short trips, we recommend you change your oil frequently, such as every 2,000-3,000 miles.

3.

Drive Gently - When you drive, do your car a favor and drive gently. Think of your car like your own body. What's more likely to land you in a full-body cast: A gentle walk around the park, or a season of rugby? We rest our case. What does "drive gently" mean? It means accelerating slowly, not snapping your head back. It means anticipating your braking so you can brake gently and avoid panic stops. It means not revving your engine in the driveway when it's cold, before the oil is warm and freely circulating. If it's below freezing outside, allow your car a minute or so to warm up before driving it hard. Then drive slowly for another minute or two, until the engine oil has warmed up and started to fully lubricate all the components. Finally, if your car is new, follow the break-in recommendations in your owner's manual. Regardless of the manufacturer's recommendation, we advise changing your car's oil after your inaugural 1,000 miles.

4.

Watch for Engine Warning Signs - It's OK to drive your car short distances with certain warning lights illuminated or gauges out of their normal range, but there are three that you dismiss at your car's peril: the engine oil light, the engine temperature gauge and the brake light. A few minutes of an excessively hot engine or low oil pressure and the groceries you're hauling in the back could suddenly be worth more than your car. A couple of minutes with the brake light on and you might end up playing bumper cars with the Cadillac Escalade ahead of you. The one being driven by Tony Soprano. In a bad mood. Get in the habit of glancing at your engine's temperature gauge and warning lights. If the idiot lights come on, pull over as soon as it's safe to do so and shut off the engine. You might just save yourself an expensive engine rebuild — much to the disappointment of your mechanic.

5.

Unload Extra Weight - Most of us know what it feels like to be hauling a few extra doughnuts around the midriff, so to speak. It places extra demands on our engine, and it creates suspension, braking and even exhaust problems. If you catch our drift. It's no different with your car. Extra weight adds stress to critical systems and causes premature wear. Check your car right now. What's in there that can come out? Toss out the four bowling balls, the barbells and the lead-lined box of plutonium fuel rods. You might even consider removing your mother-in-law — as long as she doesn't have to come inside the house, that is. You should also remove anything that causes additional drag. Creating aerodynamic drag is similar to adding weight in that it increases the demand on your engine, so think about removing the big, flat bug shield that sticks up above your hood. Remove any roof racks you're not actively using, and take the cargo carrier off the top of the minivan. We know it gives you some hope of looking cool, like you do something besides haul kids around, but it's killing your gas mileage and making your engine work harder. 

6.

Do Your Regular Maintenance - Skipping regularly scheduled maintenance intervals is one of the quickest ways to assure your car finds its way to an early grave. Regular oil changes and oil, fuel and air filter changes all help make sure your car has what it needs to run without problems: clean air and clean fuel, plus fresh, uncontaminated oil to prevent wear and tear. An added bonus to regular service? It gives good mechanics an opportunity to spot problems before they balloon into something more serious. If you're wondering how often to do these things, there's a book that explains it all to you. It's called the owner's manual. You'll find it in your glove box, shrink-wrapped in plastic, because — if you're like most of us — you've probably never looked at it. In the back you'll find a list of service intervals, and the services that are recommended during each of them. If intervals in the book stop at 120,000 miles, that doesn't mean you're done with maintenance. Go back to the beginning and start over (so, for instance, do all the services called for in the 7,500-mile service at 127,500). Nice try, though. By the way, if you're fretting over the ongoing cost of routine service, remember our maxim: "It's the stingy man who makes the most boat payments!" 

7. Change Oil and Other Vital Fluids - Your car's fluids will often be changed during regular service intervals, but it's important enough that we wanted to mention it separately. As you drive your car, and even if it just sits in the driveway, your car's fluids degrade. That's a problem because each of the fluids in your car is vital to the long-term health of the engine, transmission, steering or brakes. Simply keeping the fluids topped off isn't enough because over time they lose important properties — like their ability to remove heat and lubricate, as well as the ability to prevent rust and freezing. What fluids are we talking about? Transmission, differential, brake and power-steering fluid; oil; and antifreeze. Windshield washer fluid? Not so important. Regular transmission and differential fluid changes are often overlooked, but this service is very important. If you really want to keep your car forever, our suggestion is to get these fluids changed every 60,000 miles whether your owner's manual recommends it or not. Fresh, clean transmission fluid assures that your car's drivetrain stays cool and uncontaminated. Some cars, by the way, have two separate differentials. Be sure to ask your mechanic if yours is one, and make sure that both sets of differential oil get changed. It's easy to overlook this particular service, but you do so at your own peril: A cooked differential can cost thousands of dollars to repair. Routine maintenance service is much less expensive; it should cost about $150 to get your transmission fluid flushed and replaced, and another $100 to do both differentials. By the way, if your mechanic tries to sell you new blinker fluid, lace up your Pro-Keds and run out of there as fast as you can.

Check Back next month for part 2 of our blog giving you great tips to keep your car on the road!

 

 

September 26, 2016
12 Tips to Get Your Car Ready for Winter

While it may seem a little early to worry about Winter, it's never too early to start preparing. The Farmers Alminac is predicting an early and rougher winter than last year in the Miami-Valley! We want you to be safe and as prepared as possible.

1. Change your oil - This is something you should be doing when needed, but in the winter months it’s especially important. You may need to change the type of oil you use altogether. Check your owners manual  to find out what viscosity you should be using in freezing temperatures. Generally, you’ll need a thinner oil in the winter.
2. Check the ratio on your engine coolant (antifreeze) - In normal weather you typically wan a 50/50 ratio of coolant to water but in the winter it should be 60/40
3. Check your battery - Cold temperatures mean your engine needs more current from the battery in order to start so you want to make sure the battery is functioning properly. Start by making sure you have enough charge left in your battery. The most simple way to check is by turning on your headlights before you start your engine. Then turn your engine on – if the lights get brighter your battery may be dying. You can test the actual voltage at home with a voltmeter or have Brownie's do a test for you. Some batteries also have a built-in hydrometer that measures the voltage. You’ll also want to check the cables for cracks and brakes. Finally, ask your Brownie's to check the battery fluid.
4. Change your washer fluid and windsheld wipers - Buy a good washer fluid with an antifreeze solution – regular fluids  just won’t cut it in freezing temperatures. You should replace your windshield wipers every 6-12 months depending on wear and tear. If they’re starting to look a little haggard be sure to put new ones on before the first big snow storm of the season hits. For especially harsh climates you may also want to pick up a set of winter wipers that protect the wipers’ mechanism.
5. Get a basic tune-up - You should get a tune-up roughly every 30,000 miles. If that tune-up is likely to happen in the winter you may want to go in a little early just to make sure everything is in good shape. Have Brownie's check your belts and hoses, ignition, brakes, wiring, fan belts, spark plugs, air, fuel  and emission filters and the PCV valve.
6. Check your defroster and heater - These types of repairs can be costly, but you really need your defroster and heater to function properly in order to drive safely in the winter. However, one tip that may save you money on a defroster repair, is to check for air leaks around doors and windows. Leaks can allow in extra moisture that will make it seem like you have a broken defroster.
7. Check your tires - This could mean a couple of different things – you may want to invest in snow tires  or just make sure your current tires aren’t too worn out. If you frequently drive in tough conditions in the winter snow tires are a great choice. For particularly perilous conditions you can buy snow tires with studs. If you don’t buy snow tires, you’ll want to check the air pressure on your current tires. Refer to your owners manual to find out what the pressure should be in the winter. Check your tread for wear and tear as well. Also remember that if you do skid on an icy road don’t slam on your brakes! Take your foot off the gas and turn into the skid until you come to a complete stop.
8. Check your 4-wheel drive and know how to use it - This is pretty self explanatory. You’ll want to know how to use your 4-wheel drive  before winter hits.
9. Keep your gas tank filled - You've probably hear that you shouldn’t let your gas tank get all the way to empty in the winter (or any other time for that matter) but never really knew why until today. Apparently the cold weather can cause condensation to form in an empty or near empty gas tank. That water can drip down into the gas and and sinks to the bottom where it can then travel into your fuel lines. In the winter it can freeze in your fuel lines and block the flow of gas to your engine . Not good! So keep your tank at least a 1/4-1/2 way full at all times.
10. Get your car detailed - This isn’t a completely necessary step but if you’re worried about your car’s paint job it’s a good idea. Don’t forget a car wax that coats the body panels. The wax will help protect the paint from snow and salt damage.
11. Have a de-icer handy at home or in your purse/briefcase - It’s not uncommon for car  doors to freeze shut in the winter. You can use warm water if you have access to some or you can buy glycerin to have on hand in an emergency.
12.

Beef up your car emergency kit - If you don’t already have an emergency kit in your car now is the time to get one! If you do have one you may want to add a few things for the winter. In the winter you’ll also want a soft-bristled snow brush, plastic scrapper, kitty litter or salt, a shovel, flashlight and extra batteries, flares, gloves, a coat, snow boots, a couple of blankets, and tire chains (if you’ll be driving in the mountains).

 

 

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