Author Archive for Auto Shop in Alamogordo

Surprising Insights to Your Engine Thermostat

Several recent repairs at Tierra Del Sol Automotive have been related to thermostat operations and most have ended with service to replace it. 

So, what is an engine thermostat and what does it do, you ask? It’s quite a simple answer and may surprise you as to how it operates. Simply stated, the thermostat is a mechanical blockage in the cooling system designed to keep engine coolant within the passages located in the engine block and cylinder heads and not allowing that coolant to escape and be cooled by the engine radiator. 

That seems silly you say? Why would we want to block the coolant from performing its job of cooling the engine? This answer is not quite as simple as the first, so bear with us here.

All cars manufactured today have to adhere to strict government regulations regarding tail-pipe emissions. So when your car engine is operating it has to produce acceptable levels of exhaust gases as outlined in the emission regulations set for USA operating vehicles. 

Great! But what does that have to do with my thermostat?

A little understanding of your cars engine operation is needed to answer that very question. When a car engine is cold – say after sitting in your garage all night – and you want to start it first thing the next morning, the amount of fuel needed to get and keep a cold engine running is much higher than a warm engine. More fuel being introduced into the engine results in higher fuel emissions coming out of the tailpipe. Higher emissions into the atmosphere is a bad thing because it deteriorates the ozone layer that protects the earth. So, if we block off coolant and keep it in the engine without moving, it heats up quicker – due to lack of movement into the radiator – and reaches engine operating temperature much faster than an engine without a thermostat. 

Once the engine reaches a predetermined coolant temperature (that the engine reads from a sensor in the coolant), fuel control is adopted by the engine computer to burn at a precise mixture to eliminate excessive pollutants entering the atmosphere. 

Automotive engineers have extensive research identifying a maximum time allowed to reach the operating temperature for your particular engine. At first startup, the computer begins counting, in seconds, how long it takes for your automobile to reach that pre-set temperature. If it fails to reach the operating temperature within the allotted timeline (two or more times in a row), the Malfunction Indicator Light (aka, Check Engine or Service Engine Soon Lights) is/are illuminated. 

How exactly does this thermostat operate? You said it is mechanical right? 

That is correct, a thermostat is mechanical Most engines, generally speaking, have a thermostat rated between 180-195 degrees Fahrenheit which is specific to your engine size.

The thermostat is normally located in the “thermostat housing”, normally near the engine block at the upper radiator hose, but not always.

Each vehicle manufacturer will have their own designs and locations. This thermostat operates using spring pressure and wax pellets. Mechanical spring pressure holds the thermostat closed when the engine coolant is below the specified temperature. As the wax pellets, which are designed to melt into a liquid, the wax expands and pushes on a rod that allows the thermostat to open thereby allowing hot coolant to flow out the engine through the hoses and into the radiator to be cooled. 

But we don’t want the cold coolant to cool the engine off again, do we? 

No, we don’t want the engine cooled. Let’s clarify what temperatures we are talking about once the coolant is cooled. Engine coolant that is cooled remains above thermostat opening temperatures and range anywhere from 190-210 degrees or more on a normally operating system. 

That doesn’t seem very cool! 

We want the engine to perform optimally and to be producing as little emissions as allowable. And that seems to be the most desirable engine operating temperature of most automobile engines, thereby producing minimal exhaust emissions. 

Temperatures too low end up producing high emissions and costly fuel consumption while engines running too hot cause excessive emissions and potential damage to your engine. 

Come into Tierra Del Sol Automotive and ask us to inspect or replace your thermostat if you encounter poor fuel mileage, engine overheating, a check engine light on or an engine that doesn’t seem to warm up quickly. (An engine that doesn’t seem to warm up quickly is typically an example of a stuck open thermostat.)

Our ASE Certified Technicians can perform a thermostat health check for you and provide you with graphed images and temperature ranges showing you EXACTLY when and at what temperature your thermostat opens after engine startup. 

Drop by, or give Tierra Del Sol Automotive a call 575-443-1880. Your automobile will thank you!

Free Lifetime BG Protection Plan Through Tierra Del Sol Automotive

Many Tierra Del Sol Automotive Maintenance Services take advantage of using BG Products to ensure your vehicle qualifies for the extra protection that is backed by the free Lifetime BG Protection Plan®.

If you’re not sure if you want to invest in using BG products for your vehicle services, the Lifetime BG Protection Plan® can help make that decision a “no-brainer.”

BG Lifetime BG Protection Plan logo | Lifetime BG Protection Plan®

The Lifetime Protection Plan is unmatched within the automotive industry and covers the major systems of your automobile for life, at no extra charge. There’s no deductible and it is transferable when you sell your vehicle.

Here is only one great example illustrating the benefits of having Tierra Del Sol Automotive use BG products for your vehicle’s Power Steering maintenance repair service.

When Tierra Del Sol performs a BG Power Steering Service, repair of the lubricated parts serviced by BG products in your power steering system will automatically be covered for up to $4,000! How’s that for peace of mind?

To maintain the lifetime protection, all you have to do is stick to the service schedule! But, don’t worry, the Tierra Del Sol Automotive service writers and technicians will help you to remember your vehicle’s maintenance schedule to ensure that you remain compliant.

7 Major Automotive Systems Covered in Protection Plans

Tierra Del Sol Automotive can use BG products for engine, fuel, transmission, driveline, cooling, power steering, and brake services – all backed by the Lifetime BG Protection Plan®.

Simply use BG products during your regular and routine maintenance services and relax with confidence in your investment. Take a closer look at the details for each major system and the value of the BG Protection Plans become evident.

Fuel Systems

The BG Fuel System Service covers gasoline fuel systems.

  • BG 44K® Fuel System Cleaner: BG 44K® Platinum™ is 11 ounces of high-quality detergents that clean a vehicle’s entire fuel system – restoring fuel related performance and optimizing your gas mileage.
  • Service interval: Within 15,000 miles (25,000 km) of the previous service
  • Maximum reimbursement: Plan 1: $4,000 US; Plan 2: $2,000 US*

The BG Platinum™ Fuel System Service covers gasoline fuel systems including intake valves.

  • The BG Platinum™ Fuel System Service is available for the following GDI engines:
    • Volkswagen/Audi 1.8L and 2.0L Turbo engines
    • Ford EcoBoost® 1.6L, 2.0L and 2.3L engines (except Mustang), 2.7L Turbo, 3.5L Turbo
    • Kia/Hyundai 1.6 and 2.0L Turbo engines
    • MINI Cooper 1.5L, 1.6L and 2.0L Turbo engines
    • Subaru 2.0L Turbo engines
    • General Motors 1.4L, 1.5L, 1.6L, 2.0L Second Generation, 2.4L, 2.5L First Generation Turbo engines
    • Volvo 2.0L T5 and T6 engines
  • View the most updated list of vehicles with instructions.
  • Service interval: Within 15,000 miles (25,000 km) of the previous service
  • Maximum reimbursement: Plan 1: $4,000 US; Plan 2: $2,000 US*

The BG Engine & Fuel Service covers gasoline engines and fuel systems.

  • Engine: Pistons and rings, wrist pins and bushings, rods and rod bearings, camshafts and bearings, pushrods, intake valves and guides (grinding adjustments excluded), turbo bearings, crankshaft and bearings, cylinder liners or bores, valve lifters, timing chains (stretched timing chains are excluded) (timing belts and damage to engine parts due to broken timing belts excluded), rocker arms and pivots, oil pump, timing gears or sprockets, distributor drive gear.
  • Fuel: oxygen sensors, PCV, MAF sensor (only if BG 407 is used), injectors (deposit-related malfunctions only).
  • Service interval: Within 10,000 miles (16,000 km) of the previous service for gasoline engines and 7,500 miles (12,000 km) of the previous service for diesel engines
  • Maximum reimbursement: Plan 1: $4,000 US; Plan 2: $2,000 US*

Engine Systems

The BG Engine Service covers gasoline and diesel engines.

  • Engine: Pistons and rings, wrist pins and bushings, rods and rod bearings, camshafts and bearings, pushrods, intake valves and guides (grinding adjustments excluded), turbo bearings, crankshaft and bearings, cylinder liners or bores, valve lifters, timing chains (stretched timing chains are excluded) (timing belts and damage to engine parts due to broken timing belts excluded), rocker arms and pivots, oil pump, timing gears or sprockets, distributor drive gear.
  • Service interval: Within 10,000 miles (16,000 km) of the previous service for gasoline engines and 7,500 miles (12,000 km) of the previous service for diesel engines
  • Maximum reimbursement: Plan 1: $4,000 US; Plan 2: $2,000 US*

The BG Engine Plus Service covers gasoline and diesel engines.

  • Engine: Pistons and rings, wrist pins and bushings, rods and rod bearings, camshafts and bearings, pushrods, intake valves and guides (grinding adjustments excluded), turbo bearings, crankshaft and bearings, cylinder liners or bores, valve lifters, timing chains (stretched timing chains are excluded) (timing belts and damage to engine parts due to broken timing belts excluded), rocker arms and pivots, oil pump, timing gears or sprockets, distributor drive gear.
  • Service interval: Within 10,000 miles (16,000 km) of the previous service
  • Maximum reimbursement: Plan 1: $6,000 US; Plan 2: $3,000 US*

The BG Engine Performance Service covers gasoline and diesel engines and fuel systems.

  • Engine: Pistons and rings, wrist pins and bushings, rods and rod bearings, camshafts and bearings, pushrods, intake valves and guides (grinding adjustments excluded), turbo bearings, crankshaft and bearings, cylinder liners or bores, valve lifters, timing chains (stretched timing chains are excluded) (timing belts and damage to engine parts due to broken timing belts excluded), rocker arms and pivots, oil pump, timing gears or sprockets, distributor drive gear.
  • Fuel: oxygen sensors, PCV, MAF sensor (only if BG 407 is used), injectors (deposit-related malfunctions only).
  • Service interval: Within 10,000 miles (16,000 km) of the previous service
  • Maximum reimbursement: Plan 1: $6,000 US; Plan 2: $3,000 US*

The BG Dynamic Engine Restoration Service covers gasoline engines and fuel systems.

  • Engine: Pistons and rings, wrist pins and bushings, rods and rod bearings, camshafts and bearings, pushrods, intake valves and guides (grinding adjustments excluded), turbo bearings, crankshaft and bearings, cylinder liners or bores, valve lifters, timing chains (stretched timing chains are excluded) (timing belts and damage to engine parts due to broken timing belts excluded), rocker arms and pivots, oil pump, timing gears or sprockets, distributor drive gear.
  • Fuel: Oxygen sensors, PCV, MAF sensor (only if BG 407 is used), injectors (deposit-related malfunctions only).
  • Service interval: This is an entry service and must be performed at the first service interval. After 10,000 miles (16,000 km), continue coverage with a BG engine service.
  • Maximum reimbursement: Plan 2: $3,000 US*

Transmission Systems

The BG Transmission Service covers automatic transmissions.

  • Service interval: Within 30,000 miles (50,000 km) of the previous service
  • Maximum reimbursement: Plan 1: $2,000 US; Plan 2: $1,000 US
  • Maximum reimbursement with BG transmission fluid: Plan 1: $4,000 US; Plan 2: $2,000 US*

The BG Transmission Service covers continuously variable transmissions (MY 2014 and newer).

  • Service interval: Within 30,000 miles (50,000 km) of the previous service
  • Maximum reimbursement: Plan 1: $4,000 US; Plan 2: $2,000 US*

Drive Line Systems

The BG Drive Line Service covers front or rear differentials, manual transmissions, transaxles or transfer cases.

  • Service interval: Within 30,000 miles (50,000 km) of the previous service
  • Maximum reimbursement: Plan 1: $4,000 US; Plan 2: $2,000 US*

Cooling Systems

The BG Cooling System Service covers cooling systems.

  • Service interval: Within 30,000 miles (50,000 km) of the previous service
  • Maximum reimbursement: Plan 1: $4,000 US; Plan 2: $2,000 US*

Power Steering Systems

The BG Power Steering Service covers power steering systems.

  • Service interval: Within 30,000 miles (50,000 km) of the previous service
  • Maximum reimbursement: Plan 1: $4,000 US; Plan 2: $2,000 US*

Brake Systems

The BG Brake Service covers brake systems.

  • Service interval: Within 30,000 miles (50,000 km) of the previous service
  • Maximum reimbursement: Plan 1: $4,000 US; Plan 2: $2,000 US*

* To file a claim, contact an authorized claims administrator.

Are You Ready for Your Lifetime BG Protection Plan Maintenance Service?

Ask your friendly and helpful Tierra Del Sol Automotive service advisor for details about the lifetime BG protection plan and BG – Be Good for life!

Stop! This Check Engine Light Information Could Save You Thousands of $$

Today I was driving my vehicle and without warning the “Check Engine Light” illuminated. Has this happened to you?

Today’s vehicles have several ways to signal to the driver that a problem exists with the automobile. Some of these warning lights are in the form of yellow “Engine”, or icons, or “SES” or even the “Service Engine Soon” message. This is a warning to the driver that the vehicle has a problem and should be addressed as soon as safety allows.

When this occurs we should check our gauges for problems, pull over to the side of the road as traffic permits and shut off the engine.

A great place to start is by asking yourself did you notice any changes in the vehicle just prior to having the light come on? Examples of some of the question you may ask yourself may be:

  • Did the steering get really stiff?
  • Did you visually observe any possible problems like smoke or steam trailing from the vehicle?
  • Did you hear anything unusual such as a “pop”, “crack”, “snap”, “rattle”, “bang”, “knocking”, “whining” or “hissing” sounds?  
  • Did any other gauge lights illuminate with the engine light?
  • Are there any unusual smells that could be an indication of a problem.

Next, safely exit the vehicle to further evaluate what the problem may be. You can perform a quick inspection under the hood. You don’t need to be a mechanic to check several items in the engine compartment that may have triggered this light.

A basic and general visual inspection of the engine area could identify a problem. A steaming engine could indicate problems in the cooling system. A broken or missing serpentine belt is another.

If all appears normal, you can inspect certain fluids and their levels. Start with the engine oil. Be very careful as fluids are VERY HOT!

NEVER open a radiator or cooling system cap on a hot engine!

This system is under pressure and when that pressure is released unexpectedly those hot fluids can lead to serious injury severely burning you or any other bystanders.

On many vehicles, you can check transmission fluid, power steering fluid, and brake fluid as well. If unfamiliar, you can identify those reservoirs by researching your owners manual, which most people carry in their glove boxes or center console.

Make a quick visual inspection by looking under the car for wet or dripping fluids. Is there a trail of fluid following you to the place where you just pulled the vehicle into?

If at this point all seems to be normal, start the car and see if the engine idles or runs normally.

If you are in the isolated backcountry with no help nearby and provided the vehicle seems to run normally with no drivability issues you could elect to safely drive the vehicle to the nearest town or area of cell phone coverage.

If it doesn’t, or you feel uncertain about the state of the vehicle, call for a tow vehicle and have it taken to a service repair center. If in doubt, always err on the side of caution and call for assistance.

One of the worst things you can do to your vehicle for an extended period of time is to continue to drive it when the check engine light illuminates. A minor inexpensive repair could turn into an extremely expensive repair by doing so. Unfortunately, this happens all too often.

Another routine problem repair facilities face today, is when the driver of the car takes it to the nearest auto repair parts chain store and requests their personal read the trouble codes then asks them to clear these codes.

Clearing the codes erases all the saved history and parameters of the engine components that were stored at the time of the incident. That vital data could save you valuable money spent on diagnosis at a repair facility. Without that data, a technician lacks the necessary information to troubleshoot a failed or failing component.

Modern vehicles have the ability to lead service technicians in the direction of a problem, provided that information is not erased. The last thing you want to hear at a repair facility is “we can’t find anything wrong at this time” which translates into that light coming back on for you on your next trip and the whole process starts over again.

In closing, let us mention that today’s vehicles are also loaded with electronic modules that operate a multitude of components. The old saying “it’s just emissions related and not a serious problem” are days long gone – it’s no longer ok to just continue to drive your vehicle with the light on.

Our cars, while not self-diagnosing, can provide us with information to current or pending problems that can be repaired quickly and inexpensively if attended to immediately.

Did you know that your modern vehicle, when experiencing a problem, can actually shut down other areas of your car such as “Traction Control” or “Air Conditioning” to self-preserve the engine in times of crisis?

So the next time your “engine” light illuminates, bring it to us at Tierra Del Sol Automotive and ask us to accurately identify and repair the problem. Remember, it’s less expensive to repair a well-maintained vehicle than it is to replace that vehicle at a significantly higher cost and monthly payment.

Simple Steps to Effective Brake Service

New vehicles today cost many tens of thousands of dollars and are most likely one of the highest priced items you may ever purchase. Proper and regular maintenance of your vehicle is too often forgotten about shortly after a new vehicle purchase is made.

At Tierra Del Sol Automotive, our goal is to help you keep your vehicle performing like the day you purchased it. We help you keep track of your vehicle maintenance by sending you reminders and recommendations for servicing in accordance with your vehicle manufacturers recommended change intervals.

One often overlooked, yet very important service is to have your brake fluid tested and replaced every 30,000 miles. Like all other fluids in your vehicle, brake fluid degrades over time depending on your driving habits and the environments that your vehicle is driven in.

Tierra Del Sol Automotive offers the “BG Brake Service” – backed by the Lifetime BG Protection Plan®.

Lifetime BG Protection Plan

Many vehicle owners ensure they maintain their Lifetime BG Protection coverage by scheduling a BG Brake Service every 30,000 miles/50,000 km!

Other vehicle owners observe and report the brake fluid in their brake master cylinder reservoir appears clean and clear in color and elect to decline to service this vital fluid. While this appears to be valid at first glance, in reality, this is not necessarily the case.

Let’s explore why brake fluid that is clean and clear may still need to be replaced.

An Explanation of How the Brake System Functions

Unlike all the other fluids in your vehicle, brake fluid does not circulate out of the reservoir. This means that it does not leave the reservoir, go through the brake system, and then return to the reservoir.

Because the fluid does not cycle it is important to understand that the majority of the reservoir fluid most likely will never enter the critical components of the brake system such as the calipers and brake cylinders. Calipers and brake cylinders are the components located at the brake rotor or brake shoes that hold the brake fluid.

When the brake pedal is not being applied, the fluid that is closest to the calipers and brake cylinders is being cooled through these components by relative air passing over these components. In other words, the air over these components is responsible for cooling the fluid temperature.

Likewise, when the brake pedal is depressed, fluid pressure increases in these components and the brake pads or shoes are applied/pressed against the rotor or drums as a result. This action combined with the wheels rotating action causes heat buildup in the caliper or brake cylinder to several hundred degrees in mere seconds – resulting in constant heating and cooling of the brake fluid in that area of the brake lines.

In hard braking events, this fluid can potentially come to a boil due to high heat transfer. This can result in vapor creation, a by-product of boiling. You may suddenly notice a squishy or soft brake pedal or get the feeling the brakes feel abnormal or not as crisp as they felt in times past.

You may even look under the hood and notice the brake fluid level appears correct and the color normal. And you would likely be correct in your prognosis. But the fluid damage may not be evident in the reservoir. The boiled or burnt brake fluid remains within the calipers and brake cylinders and now also has air bubbles in it.

A quick refresher of elementary science class reminds us that fluids cannot be compressed! But air CAN! This is where the soft or squishy pedal feel comes from.

Brake systems can produce pressure up to 2000 pounds per square inch (psi). This pressure, along with extreme heat from the friction of braking, causes brake fluid to break down. This compromised brake fluid will boil at a lower temperature leaving air pockets and condensation in the brake system. Water in the brake system causes a myriad of problems such as brake deposits and varnish buildup.

Why Tierra del Sol Recommends a BG Brake Service

BG offers a high-quality brake fluid product.

High-Quality BG Brake Fluid

  • Protects the brake system at any temperature
  • Fights moisture
  • Provides excellent rust protection
  • Contains exceptional dryness and heavy duty additives, making this product an effective brake system cleaner

Lifetime BG Protection Plan

Tierra Del Sol Automotive offers the “BG Brake Service” because it is backed by the Lifetime BG Protection Plan® when the initial service is performed within 100,000 miles/160,000 km.

So, next time you have Tierra Del Sol Automotive service your vehicle and we recommend that “past due brake service”, please keep this information in mind. We truly want nothing more than you to allow us to keep you running safe and happily along the roads of Alamogordo, Cloudcroft, Tularosa, or anywhere across America.

Driveline Service Information You Can Benefit From Today

If your Tierra del Automotive Service Advisor has ever advised you that one or more of your driveline components needed servicing or it’s been recommended to have a driveline service performed, you may have wondered, “What is a driveline service and why does it need servicing”?

Well, keep reading and we’ll clarify what these services are and exactly how they aid in extending the longevity of your vehicle’s driveline components.

BG Driveline icon

“Too often overlooked in maintenance programs, driveline products and equipment contribute meaningfully contribute to the overall economy and efficiency of your vehicle’s operation.”

BG Products

What is a driveline service and why does it need servicing?

Let’s take a look at what most vehicle driveline components are. A vehicle’s driveline component list can include, but not be limited to,

  • Front &/or Rear Differential(s)
  • Transfer Case
  • Axles
  • Driveshafts
  • Driveshafts

Each of these components require lubrication to keep them performing optimally.

The most common regular maintenance concern for these items is a fluid exchange. New fluid in these components begins to degrade or breakdown immediately as your car is placed into gear and driven down the road. Just like engine oil, these fluids need to be replaced periodically as all fluids wear with usage.

Benefits to changing these fluids are:

  • Replaces worn out fluid.
  • New fluid cleans bearings and gears.
  • Removes contaminants.
  • Softens and conditions seals.
  • Quieter operation, smoother gear shifting & longer component life.

3 Facts You Need to Know About Driveline Service

Driveline Fluid Exchange Equipment
  1. Most driveline components consist of gears that mesh with one another and the fluid helps to lubricate and cool these components as they heat up from constant contact and engagement. The heat generated by these gears is transferred into the fluids.
  2. A driveline fluid will function properly for thousands of driving miles. However, repeated heating and cooling of this fluid starts a process of degradation and oxidation that eventually breaks down and no longer provides the protection necessary to protect the metal components within.
  3. The end result is noise, heat and smells that trigger the driver into having the vehicle serviced.

Of course, you don’t want to wait until one of these events occur to have your vehicle serviced.

In most cases, metal to metal damage and fatigue will result in expensive components wearing beyond specifications requiring replacement. When it gets to this point, a simple fluid exchange is no longer viable and parts replacement is necessary.

Had the vehicle owner changed the fluids in accordance with the manufacturers recommended change interval, a costly replacement expense might have been altogether avoided.

Common (But Not Always) Driveline Practices

Most driveshaft equipped vehicles are lubricated during your oil change intervals as many are equipped with grease fittings and get lubed every 5,000 miles.

Most front wheel drive vehicles are fitted with a transaxle that has an integral differential and that fluid gets changed regularly with a transmission fluid exchange, normally every 30,000 miles. It is important to know that some front wheel drive vehicles such as Subaru have a separate front differential and that fluid is not the same as the transaxle fluid and requires a separate maintenance interval.

Tierra del Sol Automotive Has What It Takes to Complete a Successful Driveline Service

To understand exactly what driveline components are equipped with your vehicle, please call Tierra del Sol Automotive at 575-443-1880 or stop by and schedule a free fluid inspection. Our friendly Service Advisors will gladly advise you which components you have and what fluids need changing. You can even ask us for a printout of your recommended services by mileage for your particular vehicle.

Don’t forget – Tierra del Sol Automotive is a BG Products Service Center, and for qualifying vehicles, can offer you the BG Lifetime Protection Plan to safeguard your vehicle. Ask one of our friendly Service Advisors about the details and lets get you on the road to savings!

Call Tierra del Sol Automotive in Alamogordo for your FREE Fluid Inspection – 575-443-1880

How often should I change transmission fluid?

Your vehicle has a regularly scheduled maintenance interval for your fluids, and you should ensure these fluid exchanges occur within the timeframes specified. By adhering to a routine maintenance schedule, you will most likely extend the life of your transmission and avoid extensive transmission repair work.

Your transmission is most likely the second most expensive component in your vehicle (sometimes even more expensive than an engine) and simple fluid maintenance can aid in its longevity. One of the least expensive and best possible services you can perform on your transmission is to replace the fluid every 30,000 miles.

One of the least expensive and best possible services you can perform on your transmission is to replace the fluid every 30,000 miles. #TDSAuto Click To Tweet

Many manufacturers state that your fluid is a “lifetime fluid”, or fluid can “last 100,000 miles” or more before changing. Realize that the manufacturers main objective is to get you through their warranty period. Most manufacturers offer a 3 year /36-month powertrain warranty. Aside from engine oil, most fluids can run that duration with little to no side effect. Mileage beyond that is when the problems likely begin.

We at Tierra Del Sol Automotive want to help you keep that automobile performing in tip-top condition so it may last you many more years. We believe it is cheaper to maintain your vehicle regularly than “run it until it breaks, then, trade it in”. Now is a great time to come to Tierra Del Sol Automotive and have your transmission fluid inspected for you.

Is it really necessary to change the ATF every 30,000 miles?

You may have heard that an auto repair shop will only recommend transmission services to make money, however, the benefits of more regular transfusions are in the results. 

We believe in the 30,000-mile change recommendation and here’s why: During a Transmission Service at Tierra Del Sol Automotive, we add a cleaner to your dirty transmission fluid at the start of each service. The cleaner will dissolve and suspend deposits that have formed in all parts of your transmission during the service.

Then, we perform a fluid transfusion which forces out the old fluid holding the contaminants and deposits in suspension, and replaces it with clean and fresh ATF that is fortified with seal conditioners, oxidation inhibitors and shift improvers.

BG Products - Quality Auto Repair PartsThis results in no deposit formation, a restored transmission performance, and a potentially longer transmission life. Additionally, because Tierra del Sol Automotive uses BG Products, and if you have your vehicle first serviced prior to reaching 100,000 miles, you’ll be backed by the Lifetime BG Protection Plan.

Why does transmission fluid need to be changed?

Daily driving places high demands on your Automatic Transmission Fluid (ATF). ATF, unlike engine oil, is used not only as a lubricant but also as hydraulic fluid capable of propelling your vehicle forward and reward.

ATF is put under very high pressures, created by your transmission oil pump, in order to squeeze or press plates known as clutches, together creating friction thereby spinning different components. Likewise, those same packs of clutches have bands around them, that when squeezed by hydraulic pressure, prevents them from spinning or turning.

In order to apply this degree of force to rapidly spinning components, the oil pump converts low-pressure fluid to high-pressure fluid which flows through the valve body to engage or disengage these components. As a result of all these processes, the ATF transforms it’s liquid energy into mechanical energy. This results in the ATF getting hot, creating a need for a process to cool it back down. Hot ATF is routed to and runs through a cooler located near your car’s radiator and then returns to the transmission where the cycle begins yet again.

As a result of these continual processes, your transmission fluid will break down, or deteriorate over time.  As the fluid degrades, it thins and loses its viscosity. The detergents in your transmission fluid also degrade over time as well. Automotive technicians often use the color fluid in a vehicle compared to new fluids to assist them in determining the condition of a vehicle’s ATF. Deteriorating fluids are thinner, much darker, and can easily be recognized visually.

Old and New Transmission Fluid

Deteriorating transmission fluids are thinner and much darker when compared to fresh and clean ATF

When one, or all of these degradations occur, your automobile may begin to show symptoms indicating the fluid needs servicing or worse yet, result in major repair expenses.

What are the symptoms of failing transmission fluid?

Symptoms of a failing transmission might include

  • slipping
  • hard shifting

Slipping is a condition where vehicle forward progress slows down even though you’re pressing harder on the accelerator pedal. A quick look at the tachometer confirms the engine is “racing at higher RPM’s” and the car is not reacting accordingly.

Hard shifting is another concern. Does it feel like each shift “bangs” or “slam’s” into or out of gear?

Changing automatic transmission fluid is best left to an auto technician equipped with fluid exchanging equipment which uses the vehicle’s transmission pump to replace the fluid more thoroughly than the “do it yourself” drain and fill method. Give Tierra del Sol Automotive a call today and schedule your complimentary Transmission Fluid inspection. 

When do I need a Coolant Flush?

CoolantAt Tierra del Sol we are often asked. “when do I need a coolant flush”? The simple answer is that any time is at least a good time to consider a coolant flush.

How Do I Know When I need a Coolant Flush?

During the summer months, we rarely think about the coolant in our automobile unless we encounter some sort of problem. Perhaps the temperatures have started to cool and we are starting to need a little heat inside of our vehicle. When you realize that the heater is not blowing as hot as it did in years past or in some cases, you may not have any heat blowing at all – it’s time to consider a coolant flush service.

No heat is an indication there might be a problem in your cooling system. During summer months, we do not open the heater control valve, which is simply an on/off mechanical valve that allows coolant flow through the heater core inside the dash panel of your car. However, coolant still flows through the remaining parts of the coolant system. Due to the fact that coolant no longer flows through the heater hoses, loose dirt and corrosion from within the system tend to migrate to those areas of low flow or activity. Think of it as being similar to a sink drain. Eventually, any contaminants create a partial blockage, total block of that water passage. The result is “no heat” because the coolant isn’t able to move freely through the heater core.

Another important consideration is that coolant, over time, loses its chemical additives and weakens in strength. Many of the chemicals in the coolant are present to help keep the boiling point of the coolant at a strength that provides optimum engine cooling. As leaks develop, a common practice is to “top-off” our coolant level using tap water which in itself, has minerals that actually lead to the deterioration of vital engine components. Adding tap water also dilutes the original formulation and increases development of corrosive acids that eat away at metal parts of the system. Also, over time and under daily usage the corrosion inhibitors within the coolant are depleted.

How to Keep Your Vehicle in Tip-top Cooling Shape

Engine components such as water pumps, radiators, heater cores, water control valves, etc…. are very expensive to replace. A regularly scheduled coolant flush helps keep those components from premature corrosive wear and tear. This ensures you’ll remain warm during cold winter months and the engine will remain cool during the hot summer months.

A Tierra del Sol Automotive cooling system flush provides you with the peace of mind in knowing your vehicle’s cooling system is being maintained at the highest level of performance. Our automotive technicians will use a “BG Products” cooling system chemical package that is included in the price of your vehicle cooling system service.

Before your cooling system is flushed, our technicians add a system cleaning chemical. Next, the vehicle is brought up to operating temperature and allowed to run to give the chemical time to clean the system thoroughly. This cleaner suspends all contaminants in the fluid.

Then, technicians transfuse the system, using pressure, to force the old and dirty fluid from the system and replace the old coolant with new coolant.

Coolant Flush Transfusion

Finally, additional chemicals are added to the system.

Have you ever noticed those tiny annoying leaks that leave a drop or two of coolant on your garage floor monthly? Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for coolant hoses to weep at a clamp around the radiator or thermostat area. 

  • A “SYSTEM SEALER” to aid in the prevention of leaks.

This “SYSTEM SEALER” additive helps to keep the coolant at bay, within the system, and not on your floor.

  • A “SUPER-COOL” additive that prolongs the corrosion inhibitors in the system and keeping operating temperatures at a lower temperature.

Adding the Coolant Sealers and Inhibitor Additives

Tierra del Sol Recommends…

The best way to keep a healthy cooling system is to replace your coolant at regularly scheduled maintenance intervals. Many coolant manufacturers boast their coolant as lasting “150,000 miles”. This may be true, mileage wise, however, Tierra del Sol recommends that the depleted corrosion inhibitors be replenished more frequently – every 30,000 to 60,000 miles.

Stop by Tierra del Sol Automotive or contact one of our friendly Service Advisors and inquire about our cooling system service. Your automobile will “Thank You” for it!

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What Every Driver Ought To Know About Their Vehicle’s Battery

Patrons of Tierra Del Sol Automotive know that car batteries wear out just like any other battery and need to be replaced. But a dead battery doesn’t always mean that your vehicle’s battery needs to be replaced.

A dead battery can be the result of any number of things besides the battery itself – like a worn serpentine belt, a worn belt tensioner, or a bad alternator.

If you don’t check the serpentine belt, belt tensioner, and alternator, you may just end up replacing batteries that are still good.

Even knowing this, the logical place to start is to test the battery first to see if it’s actually bad. The problem could be that your battery is not being properly charged or able to maintain a charge due to a parasitic drain or a bad alternator.

An interesting side note here is that there is a surprisingly high percentage of requests for new alternators brought into Tierra Del Sol Automotive that result in the alternator working as designed. The real culprit of the problem turns out to be a worn serpentine belt and/or belt tensioner. If the belt is slipping, it’s not spinning the alternator properly so it can’t fully charge your battery.

Let’s get back to the battery.

How does a car battery work?

Lead Acid BatteryIt’s all about the flow of electrical power.

Your battery is discharged each time you start your vehicle and then, it is recharged by the alternator as you drive.

When you start your vehicle, the battery uses power to get your engine running. As your engine runs, your alternator generates electricity to run all your electrical systems:

  • lights,
  • a half dozen computers,
  • anti-lock brake system,
  • traction control,
  • power windows,
  • electronic fuel injectors,
  • stability control,
  • air conditioning,
  • transmission servos – the list goes on.

Any leftover electricity goes to recharge your vehicle battery.

As any normal driver would, you turn on your radio, your seat heaters/coolers, maybe plug in your cell phone or the kids start watching their DVD and pretty soon, and unbeknownst to you, there isn’t much extra electricity to go back into the battery.

Keep in mind, if you were on a long New Mexico road trip you’d have plenty of time to fully recharge your battery. But not if you’re making frequent stops around Alamogordo while running errands. If all you make are short trips around town, it may mean that your battery never actually has the time to fully recharge.

Every time you start your vehicle engine, your battery is completely discharged. Multiple starts – multiple discharges. By the time you get home, you can have less than a fully charged battery.

When the battery is continuously in a discharged state, it loses its ability to fully recharge. Parts of the battery harden. As these parts harden they are no longer able to function properly and are unable to build up and store electricity. As this continues over time, more and more of your battery is hardened. Eventually, your battery simply doesn’t have enough charge to supply the power needed to start your vehicle and you end up with a dead battery.

This repetitive cycle of not fully recharging your battery starts a downward spiral in your battery’s life. This demand for power that is needed for your vehicle to start and run, ends up placing additional strain on your alternator. Your alternator works overtime trying to keep your battery charged – which causes the alternator to wear out prematurely.

Most standard batteries are “wet-cell,” meaning they are filled with liquid battery acid. There’s a chemical cycle that takes place inside your vehicle’s battery.

New Absorbed Gas Mat (AGM) batteries are “non-spillable” which makes them safer for the environment as well as vehicle operators in Alamogordo. They also have a longer lifespan and greater cycle life than wet-cell batteries.

An example of a "non-spillable" auto battery.

Off-roaders like the AGM batteries because their performance is not affected by steep inclines and odd angles. They are also well suited for RV and boat owners.

Overall, batteries last longer in cooler climates but wear out faster in extreme cold or hot climates. On average, 70% of batteries fail within four years and the average life expectancy of a battery ranges from 3-5 years. Even if your battery hasn’t failed after 5 years, many experienced Alamogordo technicians will suggest replacing your battery as a maintenance item to extend the life of your alternator.

4 Battery Life Extending Maintenance Tips

Eventually, your car battery will fail and you will need to replace it. However, there are some things Alamogordo drivers can do to make their batteries last longer.

Extend Your Battery Life

Keep Your Battery Clean

Check your battery and its connections to ensuring that the connections are secure. Be sure to remove anything that might be mucking things up, like corrosion, dust, dirt, and grime.

Reduce Battery Power Usage During Startup

Turn off any accessories before starting your vehicle, particularly in cold weather. If you can control your car remotely, ensure the accessories are off before starting it.

Use a Battery Charger

By using a battery charger once a month in the summer and every three months in winter you can ensure your vehicle’s battery has a full charge. You can do this less often in the winter because the electrochemical process slows down when it’s colder and less damage is done when your battery is weak. Computerized battery chargers are really easy to use. They will also monitor and control the charging rate to keep the battery from overheating while it’s charging.

Test Your Battery Routinely

We recommend that you ask the professionals at Tierra Del Sol Automotive to test your charging system. They will perform a load test on the system that will provide you with the State of Charge (SOC) of your battery, the output of your Alternator in volts and amps, the condition of the battery terminals, cable ends, and of any deterioration of the batteries cables – both power and ground.

If the battery tests good but requires a maintenance service, they’ll clean any corrosion, or electrolyte (battery acid) spillage on the battery case, as well as the battery terminals. They’ll ensure the connections and cables are in secure working order and corrosion free. Finally, an application of anti-corrosion sealant is applied to aid in the prevention of further corrosion.

Should the battery fail the load test, they’ll select the proper battery, that’s correct for your vehicle, install it, then retest the charging system to verify all is in proper working order.

What should I look for in a new car battery?

Owner's Manual

Tierra del Sol Automotive recommends you first, get a replacement battery that meets or exceeds your vehicle’s specifications. But, that may not always be the case. You may have some special needs. When manufacturers first put the battery into your vehicle at the factory, they had no idea where it would end up over its life or how YOU would use it when you drive in New Mexico. That battery was chosen to meet the needs of a wide range of motorists.

Determining your recommended battery replacement interval is a great conversation to have with your Tierra Del Sol Auto service advisor. Share with them how you use your vehicle so you can be assured to get the correct battery for your specific needs.

In general, the experts at Tierra Del Sol Automotive recommend replacing your battery every five years. Changing your battery every five years can reduce your chances of being stranded on a local street with a dead battery – as well as prevent undue wear on your alternator.

Other than knowing when to check and change your battery, there are a couple of things you should pay particular attention to when you are choosing a new battery. One is cold cranking amps and the other is reserve capacity.

Cold Cranking Amps

Cold cranking amps can be thought of as the power used to start a cold engine. The colder an engine is, the more power will be needed to start the vehicle. The number of cold cranking amps you need is determined by two main factors – the type of vehicle you drive and the temperatures the battery is starting from.

Cold outside temperatures affect the way the battery can perform with the systems in your vehicle.

  • Fluids, like oil, inside the engine are thicker and don’t flow easily.
  • The chemical reaction that creates the electrical energy within the battery itself is less efficient in cold temperatures.
  • Cold temperatures tend to drain any power the battery has stored.

Essentially, cold reduces the available battery power so, less power is available when more power is needed.

Understanding how cold temperatures affect your battery can help you to decide which type of battery specifications are the best for your driving environment. If you live (or drive) where it is cold, a battery that provides more cold cranking amps is needed than if you are living in mild or hot driving conditions.

When purchasing a new battery, be sure that your new battery meets your vehicle’s recommended cold cranking amps. Consider a higher cold cranking amp battery if you live up in Cloudcroft where the temperatures can be colder.

Batteries often list or label their cold cranking amps as a number, so when comparing batteries, you can use the cold cranking amps numbers (CA or CCA).

The Cold Crank Amp Rating on an Auto Battery

This battery has a CCA of 775 amps and a reserve charge of 120 amps.

Interestingly, living in Alamogordo and the Tularosa Basin presents another challenge for our car batteries because heat is the real enemy of a long battery life. More often than not, the damage that is done during our hot summer months, rears its ugly head in winter as our weather gets cold.

Extremely hot weather is a primary reason for shortened battery life. The heat during our hot summer months causes the liquid that is contained in our batteries to evaporate. And, low fluid levels damage the internal structure of the battery.

Southern New Mexico vehicle batteries are especially challenged between the summer’s damage and the winter’s increased demand for power.

Reserve Capacity

Reserve capacity is the number of minutes of stored power that the battery has at a particular load. Reserve capacity is more important in modern cars than in days gone by. This is due to what is referred to as a parasitic drain. Parasitic drain is the energy that is still needed for use when your vehicle is NOT running. Even though your vehicle is not running, power is still needed by some of your vehicle’s accessories – especially when it comes to memory.

Modern vehicles have a lot of “always-on” systems that draw power from the battery:

  • Vehicle security system
  • Remote start systems
  • Different vehicle computers
  • Radio and audio systems
  • Bluetooth
  • Seat positions
  • Heated/Cooled seats
  • Phone and device chargers
  • Clock

Remember, you are often using reserve power when you are only making those short trips and running errands around Alamogordo because you are not driving long enough to recover the power you used simply by starting the car.

Service WriterWhen it comes time to purchase a new battery for your vehicle, your service advisor at Tierra Del Sol Automotive can give you advice on what you might need and any options you might have with your new battery purchase.

Premium batteries typically come with a longer warranty. Warranties vary from full-replacement – where the battery is replaced if it fails within the warranty period to pro-rated – where you are given a partial credit for the failed battery depending on how much of the warranty period has passed.

It is also nice to be aware that when the battery in a newer vehicle is replaced, your auto technician at Tierra Del Sol Automotive may need to register the battery into the engine computer or make some calibrations for some accessories such as power windows and sunroofs.

Your service advisor at Tierra Del Sol Automotive will be able to advise whether or not you may need more from your battery and require a high capacity battery, help you know how to decide which battery is right for you and your vehicle, and provide you with any warranty information. Call Tierra Del Sol Automotive today and schedule an appointment.