Tommy's Car Care Tips

Tips for Ice Cold Air Conditioning

Summer 2009

Florida heat can be tough on cars and drivers.  As we learned in last month’s article, your car’s engine is constantly generating heat which needs to be dissipated to prevent major problems.  That’s what your radiator and cooling system is for.  The driver on the other hand is at the mercy of ice cold air provided by your car’s air conditioning system.  If your air conditioner isn’t blowing as cool as it used to, or if it takes longer than usual to cool off your car, you may need to have your system serviced.  The ASE Certified Air Conditioning Technicians at Tommy’s Auto Service have the tools and training to service all components of your air conditioning system, including the compressor, condenser, dryer and evaporator. 

Freon to the Rescue

Sometimes the remedy for a poor performing AC system is a recharge of Freon or refrigerant.  The life blood of your A/C, Freon and its generic equivalent need to be checked regularly for proper level and make sure pressure levels are with manufacturer’s specifications.  While the refrigerant in your system operates in a closed system, leaks do occur from time to time.  Over time, vibration and normal wear cause connections to loosen and seals to weaken.  A regular AC service will detect these problems before they cause major damage.  “A compressor can operate when Freon is slightly low, but it will fail when the refrigerant is almost completely gone,” says Mark Chisholm, Owner of Tommy’s Auto Service.  “Checking your AC system levels regularly can help you avoid a major repair,” adds Mark.  Like most systems in your car, your A/C system has many moving parts that must work together to perform their function.  As these systems age, adjustments need to be made to assure proper, efficient and maximum use.


Cooling System Maintenance

Spring 2009

A car's engine generates enough heat to destroy itself. It is after all an internal combustion engine. The cooling system is your only line of defense against this “self-destruction.”  By dissipating heat with circulating water, your radiator and the rest of your car’s cooling system keep the engine within the correct operating temperature range. That's why preventative maintenance of the cooling system is essential in helping to ensure your engine's life.

The National Automotive Radiator Service Association (NARSA) recommends that motorists have a seven-point preventative cooling system maintenance check performed at least once every two years. The following seven-point program is designed to delay premature wear and identify any areas that need attention.
1. A radiator pressure cap test to check for the recommended system pressure level.

2. A thermostat check for proper operation.  (Opening and closing properly)

3. A pressure test of all system components (including the radiator, water pump, engine coolant passages, heater core and hoses) to identify any external leaks.

4. An internal leak test to check for combustion gas leakage into the cooling system.

5. A visual inspection of all cooling system components, including belts and hoses.

6. A cooling system power flush and refill with car manufacturers recommended concentration of coolant.

7. An engine fan test for proper operation.

By performing these checks, NARSA approved radiator and cooling system specialists can help motorists prevent problems, emergency repairs and/or replacements.  Chris Dunlop, Service Manager at Tommy’s Auto Service adds, “Caring for your car’s cooling system will effectively save you time, money and trouble.”

Vehicles five years and older are prime candidates for cooling system troubles.  NARSA experts report that cooling system failure is most frequent on vehicles with more than 50,000 miles.   However, the mileage on a vehicle is not as big a factor in the maintenance of a cooling system as is the vehicle's age. An aging vehicle has been exposed over time to environmental factors that can harm a car's cooling system.
The NARSA Cooling System Specialists at Tommy's Auto Service have been keeping cars in St. Petersburg and Clearwater cool since 1951. 

Providing services like flushing out a radiator and cooling systems, checking thermostats and belts is how Tommy’s help its customers prevent emergency car repairs down the road.  When a problem does arise, Tommy’s can do everything to repair your car’s cooling system, including repairing leaks in copper/brass and aluminum/plastic radiators, fixing cracked hoses and replacing broken fans.

Radiator Repair and Care

Winter 2009

At Tommy's Auto Service, we regularly hear from customers that say their car smells sweet when they park it, or there's always a wet spot under the engine. These are both symptoms of a failing cooling system. In today’s vehicles, high-tech plastic is used for many components, including radiator tanks. While inherently strong, fiber reinforced plastic does have its Achilles heal – seams. Wherever parts of plastic are combined to make a component, there is a seam that can fail over time. Depending on a vehicles cooling system design, engine compartment configuration and installation techniques, some cars and trucks are more susceptible to a pattern of failure than others. The Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Chevy Suburban/GMC Yukon and Dodge Ram are the most common victims of premature radiator tank failure.

Luckily, the solution for most of these vehicles is not a complete radiator replacement. Despite what some car dealership service departments are telling customers, these cooling systems can be repaired. "Replacing the entire radiator is such a waste," says Mark Chisholm, Owner of Tommy's Auto Service. "We regularly hear from customers that were told by dealerships that replacing the entire radiator is the only option. Most of these failures happen in the tank of the radiator, which is only a small portion of the unit. The coils are made of aluminum, and usually have plenty of life in them."

"Cooling systems in today’s cars are designed to be serviced," adds Chris Dunlop, Service Manager at Tommy’s Auto Service. "As with most automotive systems, a good service technician can diagnose the problem and replace the faulty component." Some dealerships are "throwing the baby out with the bathwater," Chisholm adds. "We can replace the tanks on a radiator and save car owners hundreds of dollars. Discarding perfectly good metal because a plastic component has failed is wasteful and counterintuitive."

What to look for:

  • Steam coming from the engine compartment when you park your car.
  • Sweet smell coming from your engine.
  • Temperature gauge reading higher than usual.
  • Gurgling sound when engine turned off.
  • Fluid dripping from under car.
  • Discolored areas on plastic radiator tank
  • Leaking seams on plastic radiator tank

Tommy’s Tip #1 – Replace the Coolant in your radiator yearly.

Tommy’s Tip #2 – Have your cooling system checked by an experienced Cooling Specialist when problems arise.

Tommy’s Tip #3 – Get a second opinion when the dealership tells you an expensive repair is your only option.

Car dashboard