Some solid car buying advise

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Yes, I know in posts past I’ve harped on the perils of buy a replacement vehicle.  I’ve driven home the absurd costs associated with purchasing a vehicle, the possibility of buying something that could possibly cost you more to fix than what you already have among the other many many reasons that it’s usually more economical and just plain easier to keep your current car on the road.  HOWEVER, there comes a time in every car’s life, unless it’s some sort of immortal collector car, that it’s no longer cost effective to keep it safely and reliably on the road.  That’s what we are gonna talk about here.

I get asked almost daily “what kind of car should I get?”  “What’s the best car out there?” “Does car brand X have major problems?”  Lets get this out there in the open now.  EVERY brand, EVERY model, EVERY year of vehicle will have some sort of weakness.  EVERY vehicle on the road will have an issue sooner or later.  Unless you plan to buy a brand spanking new vehicle and trade it off on another brand spanking new vehicle before the current warranty expires, you will have to do repairs and maintenance.  Plain and simple.  There are no vehicles out there that don’t ever break down.  Are some seemingly better built than others?  Perhaps.  A lot of that is in the eye of the beholder.  Here’s the advise I give to people when they are in the market for a replacement vehicle.  Find one that you like, one that you feel comfortable in.  One that makes you happy to be sitting in the driver seat.  Then take it to your trusted auto shop and have it inspected.

When you purchase a vehicle that you actually want, that you like and enjoy driving, one important thing has a much better chance of happening:  You will likely take better care of it because you LIKE IT!!  Maybe you had to pay a few more dollars for it, maybe you had to look around a little harder for it.  But if you like it, you’ll take better care of it and it will likely last longer as a result.  I often see people buying cars they don’t even like because it was a good deal, or any number of other reasons.  If a deal is too good to be true, it probably is.  People don’t just give away cars for no reason.  Usually when this happens, those cars don’t last long.  It’s almost as if you end up abusing it so you can get rid of it earlier.

The second most important thing if you are looking at a used vehicle is have the vehicle checked out at your trusted auto shop.  When we talk about a pre-purchase inspection, we are talking about more than just trying to find out what’s wrong.  We are talking about what it’s gonna take to keep this thing on the road for a good long time.  What are the maintenance costs? You can go HERE for a really cool cost to own calculator that will give a good idea of ownership costs by vehicle year, make and model. Are there any open recalls on this vehicle that you can have done for free?  And of course we want to know what if anything is currently in need of repair.  There is nothing like buying a used car just to find out that it needs $3000 worth of work just to pass a safety inspection to get license plates!  Don’t skip this step.  There are a lot of vehicles out there that look great on the outside but once you get to the inside, things aren’t so great.  Often we find some work that needs to be done and if you haven’t done the deed yet this info can often be used to negotiate a lower price with the seller.  It’s very difficult to go back after the fact and try to get money out of the seller for needed repairs.

Armed with this information, you should be able to make an informed decision to buy a vehicle that you will love driving for many many years to come.  And of course Auto Go Automotive is always standing by ready to help you keep that vehicle going strong and to answer any questions you might have about car buying.

 

Car Maintenance.. Throwing Cash Out The Window???

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That’s right, you might as well just open your wallet and while you are driving down the road in your poorly maintained car, let it hang out the window at about 60 mph so everything inside just blows away in the wind.  That’s basically what you are doing when spending that money to maintain your car, right?  I mean, it runs fine now, and still runs fine after the maintenance is done, hard pill to swallow that maintenance stuff is.

Yea, it is.  If that’s the way you wanna look at it.  Anything can be strewn into a bad thing if you try hard enough.  But making an investment in what is quite possibly the most expensive thing you will ever buy to help it last as long as possible so you don’t have to make that huge purchase any more than absolutely necessary make perfect sense to me.  Lets break that last statement down.  I know, it was a mouthful.

Purchasing a new or even a lower mileage used vehicle is going to cost you anywhere from $10,000 to $30,000 or more.  I’d venture to say that most of us don’t have that kinda cash laying around waiting for a rainy day.  So that means that when it’s time for a new car, you’re gonna have to get a loan.  That loan may last anywhere from 3-6 years or longer!  Your payment may be anywhere from $200-$500 per month or more not including the full coverage expensive insurance required when a vehicle has a lien on it.  Keep this info in the back of your mind as we progress.

I don’t wanna get too much into the math here, I mean seriously, lets keep it simple.  We all need to be able to understand this.  So you got this car, maybe it has 150,000 miles on it.  Some good mileage, not too much, but she’s certainly broke in.  You take your car to a new shop, a shop that actually cares about you and your vehicle.  You are there for a simple oil change.  And while you are waiting, the service advisor comes over to you and starts talking about maintenance.  And I don’t mean your every 3-5000 mile oil change (you DO change your oil every 3-5000 miles, don’t you??).  He asks you about your vehicle, how you use it and what your plans for this car are.  He asks you what you depend on this car for?  Do you just drive it every couple weeks to take the trash cans to the end of the driveway? Or do you depend on this thing? Armed with that info, he begins to recommend maintenance to keep this car on the road as long as possible.

“YOU WANT $1500.00 TO DO SOME MAINTENANCE ON MY CAR??????”  Yep.  And here’s why.  During the customer “interview” you said that this vehicle is primarily used to keep your life going.  You take the kids to school and ball practice, you drive it to work every day and it’s used to take your elderly parents to the doctor every week or so, and it’s your only vehicle.  If this one goes down, you don’t have a back up.

Lets look at that $1500 and what it’s going to do for you.  Several systems need maintaining just like the engine oil.  Transmission fluid wears out and needs replaced.  Power steering fluid, spark plugs, and that’s just to name a few.  So you decide to not fix this car and look for something with lower mileage.  You find a decent deal, a car with about 80,000 on it and it only cost $18,000!  nice!  So you go ahead and make your payments, for arguments sake we will say they are about $300 a month and lets say it take 4 years to pay it off.  At an average of 12,000 miles a year, that puts your car at roughly 140,000 miles.  Keep in mind you’ve been making that payment EVERY MONTH and hopefully nothing went wrong with that car during those last 4 years because it’s gonna be tough to foot a repair bill AND make the car payment at the same time… And guess what, now you are right back where you started with your old car.  Except instead of paying that $1500 for the maintenance and repairs needed 4 years ago to keep that car going until now and then some, you paid likely over $25,000 with interest and higher cost insurance!!  Ok, so maybe something went wrong with your old car during that time, and it cost a whopping $3000 to fix, still, only at $4500.  FAAAAAR cry from $25 grand!  And I bet that car would still have some life left in it!

Now I get it, I do, vehicles wear out.  No one likes to drive an old ratty worn out rig.  And there comes a time in every vehicles life that it’s just time to retire it.  It seems to me that people pull that trigger way too soon way too often.  So I urge you to consider making an investment in your current, medium mileage vehicle to keep it going.  It’s almost always more economical to do that than replace it.  And of course we at Auto Go Automotive would love to be the shop that helps you stay on the road safely, reliably, and economically!

 

My check engine light is on and I DON’T CARE!!!

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More often than not we get 2 responses when asking a customer if they would like us to diagnose their warning light problem:

#1:  “Oh yea, I know what that is, it’s been on for about a year and the guys down at the auto parts store put their cracker box on it and told me it just needs a sensor.  I’m not worried about it. Seems to run ok.”

#2: “How much does it cost to diagnose?  OMG!!  I think I’ll just not worry about it right now.”

It seems to be rare that a customer will willingly come in on their own and have their check engine light diagnosed if there are no symptoms associated with it.  Don’t get me wrong, we diagnose and repair lots of check engine lights that don’t produce symptoms, but we get a lot more that do have symptoms such as rough running engine, low fuel mileage, noises, etc.  And I get that, it’s hard to spend money to do nothing other than turn off an annoying light bulb..  right?!

WRONG!  Lets dive into just exactly what it means when the check engine light comes on.  When that little bugger lights up your life, it means that the computer has saw something happen outside of what it expected to see.  The computer is programmed to more or less know what to expect under certain conditions and when that either doesn’t happen or happens in a way that is implausible, then it will log what it saw happen that it didn’t like in the form of a trouble code and turn on the check engine light to alert the driver that something is amiss.

Computers are very good at compensating.  The computer’s goal in life believe it or not is NOT to keep the car running smooth.  Smooth and proper operation is simply a byproduct of its real job which is to keep harmful emissions within limits set by good old Uncle Sam.  When something goes wrong, it’s the computer’s job to try to compensate for it to keep emissions as low as possible and often masking any symptoms that might have been present had there been no compensation. The government isn’t gonna put the smack down on a car manufacturer if it doesn’t make all the power it possibly can but you can bet law suits all around if the emissions aren’t within check (think Volkswagen)!  Modern engines could make TONS more power if they weren’t forced to meet the strict emissions requirement the EPA has set forth and its a good thing.  Have you ever been driving behind an older vehicle and smell exhaust fumes?  I bet you have.  But you won’t if you are behind a vehicle produced within the last 15-20 years thanks to strict emissions requirements as long as nothing’s wrong that is.

So if the computer compensates for the problem and I don’t feel anything different in the way the car runs, why worry about it?  Glad you asked!  There are several reasons.

Scenario #1: Check engine light is on.  No symptoms.  The problem the computer saw was an incorrect up stream oxygen sensor signal.  Upstream oxygen sensors are responsible for telling the computer whether or not it’s getting the amount of fuel it’s putting through the fuel injectors right.  The computer has complete control over the amount of fuel that it injects into the engine through the fuel injectors and it decides how much by looking at several other sensors and then coming to a conclusion based on those sensors.  The Oxygen sensor tells the computer if it got it right.  Usually it does, the check engine light is off and everyone is happy.

But what if it’s not getting it right?  Lets say we have developed a vacuum leak.  The O2 sensor says HEY!!! WHAT IS GOING ON!!  NOT ENOUGH FUEL FOR THE AMOUNT OF AIR COMING THROUGH!!!  Computer says, well look Mr. O2… the air flow sensor says this is how much air I’m getting, so this is how much fuel I’m putting in.  O2 says sorry bud, but it’s not right.  Computer says ok fine and makes the compensation to keep the O2 sensor happy and the driver is none the wiser except for the check engine light that has recently illuminated.  A vacuum or air leak is air that is getting into the engine that the airflow sensor can’t sense.  All air entering the engine must go through this sensor.  If it gets in elsewhere, we have a problem.  So now the computer is having to add more fuel than it normally would to compensate for this extra air entering the engine somewhere.  The computer is no longer in complete control of the fuel system.  Reduced fuel mileage, higher emissions, and undue stress on the engine can and likely will result if this problem is left unchecked.  There is also a limit to which the computer can compensate and if the air leak becomes large enough, the engine will begin to run bad and/or not at all.  Why not get this fixed for less money BEFORE you are stranded?  Makes sense to me!

Scenerio #2:  This time we will use a different warning light, the Antilock Brake System (ABS) light.  The ABS system is designed to prevent the wheels from locking up during hard braking.  When the wheels are locked up and the car is still moving, you have absolutely NO control over where that vehicle goes.  If we can prevent the wheels from locking up, then at least you can still maintain some control over the vehicle and possibly avoid hitting something.  ABS does not really help you stop sooner.  Just with more control.  WITH THAT SAID…  ABS light is on.  Brakes still work, car stops when the brake pedal is pressed.  It’s just an ABS light, why worry about it?  It’s not like I’ll be left stranded over an ABS light.  It has nothing to do with the engine.  All true statements.

In this situation the reason the ABS light is on is that the ABS computer is not receiving a signal from the left front wheel speed sensor.  The wheel speed sensors are critical for the proper and SAFE operation of the ABS system.  I mean, the system needs to know if a wheel is locking up and if the wheel speed sensor isn’t working, how’s it gonna know that?  It won’t.  So at that point the ABS system is largely disabled as the computer has determined that it no longer can accurately determine when the wheels lock up so rather than activate the ABS when it’s not needed (which could be potentially catastrophic) it just disables the entire system and turns on the warning light to alert the driver that there is a problem.

Ok, big deal.  I can still stop..  Yea you can but your driving along one day and your neighbor’s dog runs out in front of you.  You slam on the brakes and turn the wheel hard to miss him, but your ABS isn’t working and the front wheels lock up.  Even though you have the steering wheel cranked as far as it will go, the wheels are just sliding so it doesn’t matter which way you WANT to go, the car plows on straight ahead and… well…  I think you know the rest.  Had the ABS been working, the wheels wouldn’t have locked up therefore the car would respond to your request for a direction change and likely the collision could have been avoidable.  Thankfully it was a dog and not a person.  Would the repair have been worth it?  Yep.

I’m not trying to scare anyone here.  But as cars get more and more complicated and people become more and more unaware of what is going on behind the scenes in the modern vehicle, we all have sort of an obligation to keep not only ourselves but those around us safe by not polluting the air we all have to breathe and by not running over our neighbors dog (or worse).  Accidents happen.  That’s a given. By keeping your vehicle repaired and well maintained we can drastically reduce the amount and severity of vehicle related safety concerns not to mention save tons of money in the long run!

Call us or visit us online today and schedule that warning light diagnostic and repair.  Your kid’s and grandkid’s lungs and your neighbor’s dog will thank you for it!

417-272-0091

Why do batteries die in the cold?

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It was cold this morning!  I recorded -4F at about 7 am!  I drive a diesel truck with 2 batteries and even then my truck cranked over slower than normal.  But why does cold affect batteries?  Why is it that when I have to replace my battery, it’s usually cold out?

Cold affects the chemical magic that happens inside a battery.  When the battery temperature drops, the chemical reaction that takes place inside your battery can’t work as efficiently.  This causes your battery’s electrical output to be as much as 1/2 the output it would be if the battery is warm.  This also answers another question I hear from my customers a lot. It deals with the cranking amp rating of the battery.

The average car only requires about 150 amps give or take to operate the starter.  So why on earth would we need to install a battery capable of producing over 600 amps?  For one thing, what we talked about earlier.  In very frigid temperatures and brand new battery rated at 600 amps may only be able to produce 300 amps.  So there is 1/2 the capacity right there.  The second thing is as batteries age, their ability to produce power declines.  In order for your battery to give acceptable starting power in all temp ranges and last more than a few months, they have to be able to produce many times the amount of electricity required by your car when they are new as this number will only drop as time goes on and temps go down.

So what are some ways a battery can fail and what can be done to maximize the life of a battery?  Glad you asked!  First and foremost, don’t let the battery die.  Batteries are made up internally of lots of lead plates placed in close proximity to each other submerged in an electrolyte.  It is critical that these plates do not physically touch each other.  When they do, the battery becomes weaker and weaker the more of them that touch.  When the battery dies, this allows sediment and corrosion to form inside the battery and this can actually cause the plates to bridge together accelerating the demise of the battery.  If your battery dies for any reason, charge it back up asap.

Don’t let the electrolyte level get low.  Batteries depend on electrolyte for the chemical magic to occur.  Some batteries have removable caps on the top that can be removed for electrolyte inspection and level adjustment.  If electrolyte must be added, use clean distilled water.  Some batteries do not have these caps and are sealed for life.

Keep the battery terminals clean and tight.  Loose terminals and poor connections create heat.  This heat easily transfers to the battery terminal and can cause the plastic battery case to distort around the terminal and allow electrolyte to leak.  This is what causes that blue or white fuzz to grow on your battery cable connections.  If this happens, it’s best to replace both the battery and the cable terminals.

Have your battery tested at LEAST once a year and better yet at every service interval.  We have equipment that can detect a weak battery before it leaves you stranded.

If the cold got your battery, we have top quality Interstate batteries in stock and ready to install!  Visit our website for more information!  You can also find us on facebook!

Premium Fuel… What you need to know!

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I get people coming into the shop and talking with me all the time about their cars.  One of the things that honestly doesn’t come up very often is fuel.  I’d venture to say that most people think that premium fuel is simply better.  In a way I suppose it is but maybe not in the way you would think.  I’m here today to debunk the premium fuel myth and maybe confirm some suspicions that you might have about it.

So lets first get into the difference between regular (87 octane), premium (90-93 octane) and we will even cover a bit about E85 (yuk…). The main differences between premium and regular fuels are their resistance to self ignite and the additive package that the fuel manufacturer adds.  Regular fuel usually has very few if any additives that help to keep your fuel system and engine clean while most premium fuels will have detergent additives that honestly in my opinion are just marketing ploys to get you to spend the extra money on it.  Gasoline in itself is a great cleaner!

So what does this all mean and how does it apply to you and your vehicle?

I thought you’d never ask!!  You see, engines run by burning a compressed air and fuel mixture.  Air is drawn into the engine by pistons moving downward within a cylinder, similar to how one of those tube style water guns draw in water as you dip the tip in the water source and pull back the handle. While this air is being drawn in, a small mist of fuel is sprayed into air stream through the fuel injector and drawn into the cylinder with the air.  Once the piston is at the bottom of it’s stroke and it’s drawn in all the air and fuel that it can, the valve that let the air and fuel in closes and the piston heads back up in the cylinder squeezing (compressing) the air and fuel because the valve is now closed and nothing can escape.  This squeezing and compressing (known in the field as “compression”) creates a lot of heat and if enough heat is created, the air and fuel could ignite without the aid of the spark plug and before the piston gets near the top of its travel.  That’s where the fuel quality comes into play.

The fuel absolutely cannot ignite before the spark plug ignites it.  If it does this will cause a condition known as spark knock, or engine ping and that condition can be very damaging to an engine if left to continue.  Higher performance engines create more compression.  In other words to get more power they squeeze the air and fuel more.  Some production engines can have a compression ratio as high as 10:1!  That means if you start with 10 units worth of volume it will get squeezed down to just 1. It’s that extreme amount of compression and therefore heat creation that requires the use of premium or higher octane fuel so that spark knock doesn’t happen and tear up the engine.  Premium fuel resists that urge to ignite under high compression and heat better than regular.   For most gas engines on the road today, regular fuel is just fine and honestly using premium fuel will give you almost no benefit.  However, if you have a performance vehicle, and on your fuel door you see a sticker warning you to use premium fuel, you should.  That’s really it!  There isn’t any other reason to run it!

So the bottom line is this:  If the engine in your vehicle requires high octane fuel, use it.  It’ll run on regular, but you might unknowingly be doing damage to your engine.  If your vehicle doesn’t require it, don’t use it.  It’s not worth the extra cost as it will not provide any noticeable performance gains or power.  It MIGHT help keep things a little cleaner in there, but it is certainly no substitute for professional fuel and induction cleaning services that should be performed regardless of fuel type used at least every 20,000-30,000 miles and even sooner on a GDI equipped engine as there are places inside your engine that will suffer from carbon build up that do not come in contact with fuel to keep them clean, but that’s a topic for another day!  One more thing I should mention, if I don’t someone else will, some premium grade fuels do not have the “up to 10% ethanol” in them that pretty much all regular grade fuels do.  Honestly, I haven’t seen that much problem caused by the 10% ethanol in regular so I wouldn’t be worried about it.

Oh yea, I almost forgot… E85….  My professional opinion?  Stay away from it!  Especially if your vehicle is not a “Flex Fuel” vehicle. It’s tempting to use as it’s usually quite a bit cheaper, but I can’t tell you how many vehicles over the years have been towed to my shop after filling up with E85.  That’s right, some cars won’t even run on it!  And the ones that are designed to run on it see anywhere from a 3-7 MPG drop versus using regular.  E85 fuels can contain up to 80% ethanol which does not burn anywhere near the same rate as gasoline.  Flex fuel vehicles are equipped to handle this difference with extra sensors and programming to make the adjustments to the engine when this fuel is detected but fuel mileage will still suffer.

Till next time thanks for reading and as always you can find more info about my shop Auto Go Automotive Here!

Tires. The Round, The Black and the Misunderstood

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Tires.  You might think you know all there is to know, or you might not know anything at all except that they are on your vehicle.  How do you know what tires to buy?  How do you know when to buy tires?  There are so many questions surrounding tires these days and I’ll try to clear up some of this confusion.

First of all, your tires are your vehicle’s link to the pavement, or the dirt, or mud or whatever it is that your vehicle is riding on.  Without them, you basically go nowhere, or at least not that far.  Your tires are tough, taking a literal beating with 1000s of pounds of weight on them every time you drive your car.  And honestly, they ask very little of you to do their job right.  Here is what you need to do to make sure your tires go the distance.

  1. Make sure the air pressure is set properly.  This is so easy to do.  A cheap tire pressure gauge can be purchased at just about any store these days.  Check the placard in the driver front door jamb for information on what the tire pressure should be.  Set the tire pressure to the recommended pressure and that’s it.  Of course if you don’t have an air compressor, it can take a long time using a bicycle pump so come see us at Auto Go Automotive and we will check and properly inflate all your tires to the correct pressure at NO CHARGE!  Please do not rely on on your tire pressure monitoring systems to set your tire pressures or depend on them to warn you when you need to add air.  These systems are great for warning you if a tire looses pressure quickly but you should still check your tire pressures at least once a week as only 3-5 psi difference can begin to affect tire wear and fuel mileage!
  2. Rotate and balance your tires every 5000-6000 miles.  Rotating helps your tires wear more evenly.  It is a fact of life that the front tires usually wear faster than the rear tires, as the front tires do all the steering, constantly changing direction and that increased friction with the road surface accelerates the wear on the front tires.  Rotating your tires will help to even out and distribute that wear among all 4 tires allowing you to greatly extend the time frame between which you have to purchase tires.  This also allows a trained technician to inspect the tires for any possible problems and check and adjust the air pressure.
  3. Have the alignment checked annually at minimum.  Misaligned tires will cause irregular and accelerated tire wear, such as when the outer or inner edge of the tread is all worn off and the center of the tread has good tread remaining.  Alignment problems can also cause the vehicle to pull or drift one way or the other and can cause the steering wheel to be off center when the vehicle is driving straight.  Regularly having the alignment checked and adjusted will ensure that your tires will have a long life and deliver a smooth comfortable ride.
  4. Check for and replace worn steering and suspension parts.  Worn steering and suspension parts will allow for these systems to move on their own too much changing critical alignment angles resulting in accelerated tire wear, reduced control of the vehicle, or in extreme cases loss of control of the vehicle should one of these components completely break.  It’s very important that every time the vehicle is in for service that a complete steering and suspension inspection be done.  More often than not a worn component can be identified and replaced well before it poses a safety or tire wear risk.

These are the most important things you can do to help your tires deliver many 10s of 1000s of miles of great and comfortable service.  As always, if you are in need of tires or need anything else we are standing by waiting to serve you.  You can reach us at 417-272-0091 or CLICK HERE!

How do I get my car ready for winter?

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Winter time is here!  If you haven’t already you should have had your car checked out for winter.  I field a lot of phone calls from my customers asking about what they need to do to get their car ready for the winter season or if there is an actual winterizing procedure.  In this post I’ll talk about the key things you need to make sure you have done to ensure your car or truck will be good to go this winter.
  1. Check your engine coolant level and freeze point.  This is perhaps one of the most costly yet easiest to detect issues you could encounter if this is a problem.  The coolant in your engine is a liquid, it’s purpose to keep your engine cool when its running by transferring the heat away from the engine to the radiator where the heat is then given off to the air.  If the coolant does not have the proper mix of antifreeze and water, the temperature at which the coolant could freeze can be much higher.  Typically, your coolant should test at a -35°F or less (as in -40 or -50) for proper freeze up protection.  If the coolant freezes, it will try to expand in the engine breaking the engine and causing catastrophic damage that usually ends up in replacing the entire engine.  Of course we have the knowledge and tools needed to check your coolant and help you avoid very costly repairs down the road.

  2. Check your tires.  Ice and snow demand tires that have good tread to minimize slippage and maximize grip.  We have been luck the last few years with minimal snow fall, but it will come.  It’s just a matter of time and bald tires are not going to be a good thing when it does.

  3. Check your vehicle’s heater.  Nothing is worse than the heater not working on a cold morning.  Lots of things can cause the heater to blow cold air or no air at all and we are experts at finding those types of problems.

  4. Have an emergency kit in your car.  Things like extra water, flashlights, blankets, a first aid kit among other things.  Make sure you know how to put on your spare tire should the need arise.

There really isn’t any specific winterizing procedure for your car and this is a short lost of the items that should be checked.  As long as all systems are functioning properly, you should be good to go.  It’s very important to make sure that all those systems are in fact functioning properly because if they aren’t the winter cold will surely let you know!  Contact us or schedule your check up appointment today and weather the winter season with peace of mind!.