What is Examined During a Brake Inspection

We always do a visual inspection on your brakes during routine maintenance tasks such as changing tires or changing oil. This will let you know whether there is sufficient brake pad remaining left to safely operate your vehicle or if anything is obviously visually wrong with your brake system.

Sometimes though, there are reasons to suspect that there might be something amiss with the brakes because of one of the following abnormal observations during use:

  • Vibrations of the car or through the steering wheel during braking
  • Warning lights such as the Brake Light, ABS lights or traction control warnings
  • Unusual sounds during braking

If your vehicle is exhibiting any of those symptoms, we recommend a more thorough diagnostic brake inspection. These inspections are inexpensive (generally in the $80-$90 range at our shop), and will give you a much better idea of any safety concerns for your vehicle, and also give your more information about how expensive any repairs might be. This will allow you to make an informed decision about whether it is more cost-effective to repair or if it’s time to start to consider replacing your vehicle.

Have you ever wondered what a brake inspection involves? Here is what we do at our shop.

Diagnostic Brake Inspections at Access Automotive

  1. Test Drive (Road Test)

Before we even begin inspecting your brakes, we want to make sure that they’re working properly and safely by doing a road test. driving them around for about 10 minutes or so. This lets the service technician confirm any reported symptoms, both under initial starting conditions when the rotors are cold, and also when the rotors have warmed up after use. 

F1 brake rotors heating up under testing

The technician  will look for any brake warning lights illuminating and will listen for any unusual noises coming from your vehicle’s brake system.car when you press down on the brake pedal. We also confirm any warning lights related to the braking system.

2. Brake Fluid inspection Check

Brake Fluid Reservoir

After returning to the shop, we inspect the brake fluid, both for level and condition. Although there are several different tests you can do on the brake fluid (copper assay, moisture test, conductivity tests), we find them to be inconclusive and wasteful. Our process is to look at the Master Cylinder for leaks and check the colour of the fluid against our samples on a drip tray.

We then put the car on a hoist for better access to the wheels and brake components. The technician will then inspect each wheel brake caliper  individually for leaks. If there are no issues found during this step, we move onto the next part of the process.

3. Initial Visual Inspection

As we remove the wheels, although this may not directly affect the brakes, we inspect the wheel bearings, hub and lug nut holes for excessive wear or movement.

Next up, we visually inspect each component in order to determine whether there are any signs of wear or damage. 90% of the vehicles we work with have disc brakes, and the rest of this article will refer to a disc brake inspection. During the inspection we look at:

  1. Brakes pad wear:  We are looking for at least 2 to 3 mm material remaining  in the brake pad for them to be considered safe, but additionally we are looking for uneven wear of the brake pads which might indicate seized callipers  or some other mechanical issue with the brake assembly.
  2. Callipers: We are looking for proper piston function (smooth operation of the brake caliper pistons and sliding pins).
  3. Rotors: Primarily we are examining the rotors for abnormal marks (burn marks or corrosion). We also sometimes measure runout (how warped they are) if we think it’s close to a 0.004 inch deviation (maximum deviation before we find that problems start to occur), but in obvious cases of rotor warping we would skip an exact measurement to save you the diagnostic fee.
  4. Look for cracked rubber brake hoses (long term could use a video)
  5. Undercarriage inspection

Finally, we raise the vehicle higher  to inspect  all the steel brake lines from the Master Cylinder to the rear of the vehicle for leaks and corrosion.

Sometimes the inspection turns out to be a easy repair.   small rock can wedge between the rotor and the caliper in the brakes which does not cost any more than the inspection to fix.

Sometimes though we find that the callipers are seized up, the rotors are warped and the brake pads are unevenly worn and replacement of the full assembly is warranted for safe operation. In that case we can help you to decide whether you’re better off replacing the brakes, or if the overall condition of the vehicle warrants moving on to another vehicle.

Summer Vehicle Maintenance Tips

Summer Car Maintenance Recommended for Edmonton

Now that COVID restrictions are being removed, lots of people are looking to hit the road again. Want to make your summer driving experience hassle free? Here are some suggestions:

Get a vehicle inspection done. 

There isn’t one part of the vehicle that is not equally important for summer time as in other seasons. Brakes, battery, engine, cooling system, all ride control components etc. need to be operating as designed.

The best way to maximize your chances of your vehicle making your summer trips hassle free is to do a vehicle inspection ahead of time. We recommend at least two weeks in advance of your trip in case you find some unexpected repairs that need to be performed.

Pay attention to your vehicle’s Air Conditioning

Beat the heat by ensuring your vehicle’s Air Conditioning (A/C) system is working at peak efficiency, especially if you have black leather seats! While A/C systems are built to not leak, they aren’t leak-proof. Here are some of the warning signs of trouble:

  1. The system isn’t cooling to the desired temperatures
  2. The system makes loud or unusual noises when turned on
  3. There are unusual odours coming from the vents
  4. Water appears on the floor mats
  5. The vehicle overheats, stalls or idles roughly when the system is turned on
  6. The blower doesn’t work when the a/c is turned on
  7. The defroster doesn’t work.

If you encounter any of these symptoms bring your vehicle in for an a/c system inspection and analysis.

Complete deferred maintenance items

Be sure to take care of general maintenance items for carefree summer motoring. An example would be the Cabin Filter. Do you really want to have smelly or no air coming from your vents on a long road trip? Just change it before it causes more potential problems. If your oil is due for a change, then getting it done before hitting the road is also highly recommended.

Check on the items you have in your car for convenience, safety and emergencies in the summer

Summer means time to make some changes. Bust out the t-shirts and shorts and enjoy the sun. You should also do a check of what you bring along with you in the car – no need for that snowbrush! Here are the essentials you should keep inside your car during the hot summer months.

  1. Water
  2. Sunglasses
  3. Phone Charger
  4. First Aid Kit
  5. Jumper Cables
  6. Snacks
  7. Flashlight
  8. Emergency Money
  9. Multi-tool Device / Swiss Army Knife
  10. Tow Rope

You may never have an emergency, but in the event that something happens, you will be prepared.

When should you change from Winter Tires to Summer Tires in Edmonton

Summer Tire Tread next to a Winter Tire Tread

A tricky question that I get asked anytime there is unseasonably warm temperatures in   March is whether it’s a good idea to switch over from winter to summer tires yet?

Like many automotive maintenance items, the answer we always give is: “it depends”.

Edmonton weather can be all over the place in spring

The average daily high temperature in Edmonton in March rises from -1 degree Celcius on March 1st to +7 degree Celsius on March 31. Since summer tires start to perform better than winters at +7 degrees, generally we recommend waiting until April. In unseasonably warm years though (such as 2021) in some cases it does make sense to switch over a bit early.

Factors to consider when deciding when to switch your vehicle over to summer tires

Questions we like to ask include:

  • How aggressive a driver are you?
  • Do you have an all-wheel  or 4-wheel drive vehicle
  • Do you often work from home?
  • How often do you go out for groceries or shopping?
  • Do you have other urgent maintenance to do on your vehicle?
  • Do you frequently have to chauffeur kids or family around to activities or appointments
  • Are there known intersections you often drive through that have slippery conditions with new snow
  • Do you have all-season tires to put on for the summer, or true summer tires
  • Do you have 7 mm of tread or more  remaining on your summer tires?
  • Are you going to be driving to BC on major highways such as Highway 3 or Highway 5

In general, the more aggressively you drive, the more often you drive and the more dangerous intersections you drive through, the less we recommend switching over to summer tires early. Also, if you are going to be driving in BC, keep in mind that driving without winter tires can result in a fine before March 31 on certain highways.

On the other hand, if you often work from home, you don’t drive to the store every day and you switch over to an all-season tire, then we can recommend beating the spring crush and switching your tires over a little earlier, especially if you have to drop by the car repair shop to do some maintenance anyway.

Even if you’re a candidate to switch your tires over a bit earlier, as a rule of thumb, we like to see a full week of warm weather in the forecast in mid-March before we generally recommend swapping tires. If we hit a few hotter days then don’t sweat it – a week of warm weather is not going to appreciably reduce the life of your winter tires.

Access Automotive Recommended Summer Tires

If you need new tires, here are our current top picks:

For trucks I like the Michelin LTX M/S which I recommend as the best value pick, the best performance pick and the best combination of value and performance. It is a great All-Weather tire that I use on my own truck all year round.

For cars I recommend the Michelin Primacy MXV4 for summer tires, both as the best performance and best value tire.

Tips to Prepare for Winter Driving

Edmonton Fuel Saving Tips for Winter Driving Featured Image

Fall will be upon us before you know it, and with that is getting prepared for the challenging driving conditions that come with living in Edmonton!

Fuel Consumption Soars in cold weather – sometimes by as much as 50%. That’s hard on your wallet and hard on the environment

Warm Up By Driving

Once a vehicle is running, the best way to warm it up is to drive it. With computer-controlled, fuel-injected engines, you need no more than 30 seconds of idling on winter days before driving away. Anything more simply wastes fuel.

Besides, more than the engine needs to be warmed up. So do the wheel bearings, steering, transmission and tires, and that can only happen when the vehicle is moving. For a typical vehicle, it takes at least 5 km of driving to warm everything up.

Although it is important to drive away as soon as possible after a cold start (but not before the windows are defrosted), you should avoid high speeds and rapid acceleration for the first 5 kilometres or so. The goal is to bring the whole car up to peak operating temperature as quickly as possible while maximizing fuel economy.

Use an automatic timer to switch on your block heater two hours before you plan to drive your vehicle. This is all the time needed to warm the engine.

Snow and vehicle weight.

You already know that extra weight increases fuel consumption. Snow building up in wheel wells and under bumpers adds weight and rubs against tires, further increasing rolling resistance. And snow piled on top of the vehicle increases drag and vehicle weight. For safety as well as fuel economy, clear snow off your vehicle before you drive away.

To prevent your windows from fogging up, open a window as soon as you enter the vehicle. Clear snow from the air intake on top of the hood. Otherwise, the defroster will draw moisture into the system and fog the windshield.

Tire Inflation

Your tires need special attention during winter. Cold temperatures decrease the air pressure in tires. Each tire that is under-inflated by 2 psi (14kPa) causes a 1% increase in fuel consumption. Check tire pressures regularly, and especially after a sharp drop in temperature. Before adding air to your tires let some air out of each valve and blow some air out of the hose. This prevents moisture from gathering in the valve, where it can freeze and cause the valve to leak. If possible use your own tire gauge, since the gauges built into air pumps are often inaccurate or missing.

Snow Tires vs. All Season Radials

For some Canadian drivers, all-season tires are sufficient for winter driving. Tires that do not have the ‘3 peaked mountain snowflake symbol’  may provide safe performance in most weather conditions, but are not designed for snow or ice-covered roads. If your roads are regularly snow-covered, snow tires will improve traction, reduce slippage and improve safety and save fuel. All-season tires do not provide the same grip below -15° C.

Take It Easy

One last tip for winter driving – take it easy. The more your vehicle slips and slides and spins its wheels, the more fuel you waste and the more you increase the chance of an accident. And we can all do with a little less stress!!

Load up safely for your next road trip

Edmonton road trip packing and preparation tips

Pack your car with safety and convenience

Anyone who has ever packed a car for a road trip knows that loading properly lies somewhere between science and art. As the last item is loaded, you can judge your packing success by how accessible items are as the kids ask them

Loading your car safely doesn’t mean stuffing everything but the kitchen sink into the trunk and hoping for the best. Proper loading requires careful planning and a lot of common sense.

Consider the following:

Can your vehicle handle the load

This is very important to consider, especially when pulling a trailer. If you’re not sure how much your vehicle can handle, ask your automotive technician for advice. Overloading can affect your car’s handling, stability and could damage your suspension.

Preparing your vehicle for the road ahead

  1. A tune-up is in order, especially for long excursions. The last thing you want on vacation is a breakdown that could have been prevented by simple maintenance
  2. Make sure your brakes are in good working order. Having that extra load in your trunk or with a trailer, will demand more from your brake system
  3. Make sure your headlights are property adjusted. Loading your trunk can cause the front end of your vehicle to raise slightly. You don’t want to blind oncoming drivers.

Loading up

  1. First and foremost, plan your packing! You don’t want the kids’ toys and travel games underneath the luggage. Ensure that items you will need along the way are easily accessible (this includes the spare tire, jack and first aid kit)!
  2. If you own a vehicle like a station wagon or mini-van, with an open cargo area, make sure none of the items packed could become dangerous projectiles in the event of an abrupt stop.
  3. Visibility is essential – don’t overfill and limit the driver’s ability to see out of the windows.

Checklist

A checklist is extremely valuable before you hit the road. Here are a few items you may want to add to your own personal list

  1. Make sure the spare tire is properly inflated
    1. Extra litre of oil
    2. Spare anti-freeze mixture
    3. First-aid kit
    4. Emergency road kit
    5. Maps and AMA Triptiks
    6. Your AMA membership card

Alternatives

If you have a lot of stuff to pack, a small travel trailer might be a good idea

  1. Consider using a car-top carrier. But remember that loading up top will alter your vehicle’s handling. Be careful around bends in the road and when taking sharper turns. Make sure that you follow the manufacturers instructions. Securely fasten all latches and knobs when transporting. Pack roof top boxes with the concentration of the weight in the middle. Periodically remove the carrier for cleaning, lubrication and inspection.
  2. When transporting anything on top of your vehicle, always be aware of overhead clearance. Make sure all mounting points are securely fastened.
  3. If the 2-door hatchback you own just isn’t going to handle the family, the dog and all the luggage, consider renting a larger vehicle for your trip. It could take a great deal of unnecessary frustration out of your vacation. Contact your local AMA club for great car rental rates.

COVID-19 Policies and Procedures

To our valued clients regarding COVID-19, 

We are OPEN and here to help! 

We are taking precautions to keep our clients safe – picking up and delivering cars from your work/home with repairs, sanitizing high touch areas in cars, sanitizing the office frequently, and asking our clients to use our key-drop so you don’t even need to enter our shop. We take Visa, Mastercard payments over the phone or E-Transfer through email. Give us a call if you have any questions. 

With everything going on, we wanted you to know that we are here to help. We are open and continuing to service vehicles and we are committed to taking precautions to keep our clients safe. You can get your car fixed without ever needing to enter our shop. Here’s how:

  • Vehicle Pick Up and Delivery: Get your car repaired without ever leaving home. Access Automotive will pick up your car from work or home and drop it off to you when it’s done, for no-charge. If time permits. 
  • Pay from Home: Pay from your mobile device or your computer. Give us a call and pay over the phone. No need to come in to pay.
  • No Contact Key Drop: We have a secure Key-Drop beside our front door. You can drop your key inside the Key-drop so you do not need to come in contact with anyone.
  • Disinfecting Keys and Car: Upon receiving your keys, we will wipe all keys down with a disinfecting wipe (as a precaution). While our staff works on your vehicle, they will be wearing safety gloves the entire time. Once the work is done on your vehicle, we will disinfect any high-touch areas, such as the steering wheel, gear shift, and door handles.  Before giving you your key back, we will disinfect the key.
  • Sanitizing the Office: We are sanitizing the office, front counter, door handles, and bathroom very regularly to reduce the spread of germs.
  • Phone and Email Communication: We will be in contact with you via phone and email so that you know exactly what is going on with the service to your vehicle and can approve any work that is done. No need to wait at the shop.

Have questions? Or want to schedule an appointment? Give us a call at 780 484 1194 and we’d be more than happy to help.

Stay safe and wash your hands – we’ll get through this together! 😊

*Some restrictions apply to the no-charge vehicle pickup. Call for more details.*

Wishing you health and happiness,

Rob Music
Access Automotive
780 484 1194

Don’t Make Compost on Your Vehicle

unsplash-logoMihai Surdu

Leaves, twigs and other organic matter can cause havoc with gutters on your house—and the same on your vehicle. Quite often when we open and hoods on vehicles, we see the air plenum (or called air cowl) below your windshield built up with this debris. This can cause all sorts of concerns. First, this will eventually plug your Heating / Air Conditioning drain tube. The drain tube vents all the moisture and condensation in the HVAC system. Also, you will receive less air movement from your air vents because of the clogged air plenum. So, open your hood and check the vents under the windshield. It only takes a few minutes to clean.

5 Tips for Car Spring Maintenance

Edmonton Car Maintenance Spring Tips

Spring is in full swing and summer is just around the corner. Here are a few things that we like to do to make sure your vehicle is in the best shape possible.

1. Find out if you need an oil change and check your fluids

Your engine in your vehicle does the same job as the muscles in your body. You wouldn’t think to starve your muscles. How would you get anywhere? Well, that goes the same for the engine in your vehicle – and the rest of the systems that need fluids!  Don’t starve it of clean oil! If you don’t know how to check the fluids, we’ll show you!

2. Change or rotate your tires

Your front tires do all the steering and cornering. This adds tremendous wear to the edges of the tires. You could have plenty of tread in the middle and nothing on the edges. If you don’t want to buy 2 tires every 2 years, you should be rotating them front to back every 10,000 to 12,000 km.

3. Clean Your Car Interior

Okay, winter is now over and you haven’t cleaned the interior. Trust me, I know it’s harder to clean it when it’s -20c. I now will provide you with three reasons to get it done pronto.

  1. Prevent Excess Wear and Tear. When you neglect to clean the inside of your car, your vehicle’s interior surfaces could start to develop excess wear and tear.
  2. Avoid Health Issues. Whenever you get behind the wheel of your car, you will enter a closed environment. If your vehicle is filled with dust and dirt, these particles could create poor air quality in the interior of your vehicle. Keeping the interior of your car clean will help you avoid allergies and other problems that can be associated with poor indoor air quality. By reducing stress, a clean car interior can also promote your mental health, as well.
  3. Increase Driving Safety. If your car’s windshield, windows, and side mirrors are covered in grime or debris, they will affect your ability to see your surroundings as you drive.       

4. Inspect Your Wiper Blades

There is nothing more dangerous than trying to drive a vehicle in the rain, and the wiper blades are smearing, streaking or chattering. In this country, they don’t last long. Get your visibility back to 100%.

5. Inspect Your Brakes

You really don’t want to find out that your vehicles’ brake system isn’t working 100% on your first road trip or vacation. The hot weather could cause a new set of problems than winter. I recommend you enjoy the open road and hot weather stress-free. The cost of missing a vacation or trip could be huge!

At Access Automotive we do a 50-point spring inspection along with your oil change to keep your car from developing any unexpected concerns, keeping your long-term repair bills lower and helping to prevent the inconvenience of a break-down on your summer road trip.

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Raised Wiper Arms…What’s the Point?

Raised Windshield Wipers in Winter in Edmonton

In the last few years you may have noticed a trend of vehicles with the wiper arms flipped up when freezing weather is expected.

Every time I see a vehicle with the arms up, I ask myself “What’s the point?”. The basic premise is that by lifting your wiper arms, you are preventing the wiper blade from freezing to the windshield.

But the vehicle has a defrost mode to heat the windshield with. Maybe it’s easier to clean the snow/ice of the wiper blades. Okay valid point. But here is my view on this.

1. The manufacturer never intended for the arms to stay up for a long period of time. So eventually the springs will weaken. Check your vehicles manual….nada.

2. Damaged windshield. Ever see a wiper snap back to the windshield? Scary. It’s just dangerous because, on a windy day, the arm can snap down with enough force to crack your windshield.

3. It just looks silly….