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Category: Car care

A close-up of an illuminated speedometer and check engine light.
A check-engine light can mean a number of things.

If you have ever had the “check engine” light come on in your car, chances are you probably thought, “What is wrong with my car?” If you have ever asked that question, you have one thing correct, there is something wrong with your vehicle. A recent study shows about 10 percent of cars on the road currently have their check engine light on. The light has a variety of meanings and there could be a number of issues wrong with the vehicle.

Onboard diagnostics

A check engine light is one of the many lights on your vehicle’s onboard diagnostics. When the car’s computer system detects a problem, the light comes on, and the computer stores a code. This code can be read with a diagnostic computer at a repair shop to tell them what’s wrong.

What does the check engine light mean?

There are several reasons why a check engine light comes on in a car. In general, the light is an indication there is a problem with your vehicle’s emissions system. More specifically, it could mean there is a loose gas cap or the engine is misfiring. Other reasons include needing to replace the O2 sensor, catalytic converter, mass airflow sensor, or spark plugs.

What to do

If your check engine light illuminates, the vehicle should be checked by an automotive repair technician to determine the problem. If the light is blinking, there could be a serious problem with the vehicle, such as a misfiring engine, and the car should be stopped as soon as possible.

A steady light could be one of the less urgent issues, but the car should still be taken to an automotive repair shop for a diagnostics check. There may be a problem that could further damage your engine or consume excess fuel if not addressed. Either can cause more costs in the long run.

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The interior of a Mercedes, featuring a leather steering wheel and dashboard.
You don’t have to have a luxury or new vehicle to have the features you want.

Have you ever found yourself lusting over luxury car features you know you could never afford? New technology has made cars more comfortable, safe, and connected than ever.

The good news is that many of these features can be added to your older vehicle. We’ve compiled a few of our favorite add-ons that can make your car feel up-to-date.

Seat warmers

A close-up of a front driver's seat with a black pad strapped to the bottom and back of the seat. Red arrows show where the heat goes.
Seat warmers are an easy and affordable addition to any car.

On cold days, seat warmers are the envy of every bum. These seat warmers sit on top of your seat and often have extra cushioning as well. Just slip over your seat and plug into the cigarette lighter and your buns will be toasty in no time.

Backup camera

A close-up of a florida license plate shows a small round black camera at the top middle.
This discreet backup camera fits on top of your license plate.

You don’t have to have a newer car to have a backup camera. Plenty are now available from popular electronic retailers. Just place the camera on your back bumper or license plate and you’ll be able to watch from your in-car screen. No need to be afraid to back into a parking space anymore.

Lane assist and collision warning sensors

Photo of online listing for a Garmin dash camera and description.
This dash cam doubles as a lane-assist device.

Not only are these helpful to give you peace of mind, but crash-prevention sensors are shown to reduce collisions. These are often on the pricey side, but often cheaper to add on your own than buying the car with the features built in at the dealership.

This Garmin camera works as both a dash cam and a lane-assist device. Some devices come with sensors for each corner of your car that improve the accuracy of collision warning.

Bluetooth connectivity

A photo of a small round device with three buttons.
Bluetooth connectors like this are an easy shortcut to hands-free connectivity.

There are several options for connecting audio in your vehicle, but the easiest by far is using a Bluetooth receiver. The receiver sticks to your dash via magnet and plugs into the audio input in your car. It allows you to play music or make hands-free calls through your car speakers.

Bluetooth connection is a gamer changer for both convenience and safety – and in some cities/states making a call is only legal hands-free.

Remote start

Photo of a remote start product in a yellow box labeled Viper. The box shows a phone and parked cars in the background.
Devices like this can start your car with a push of a button.

Though it requires installation, it’s easy and affordable to get a remote start system put into your older vehicle. Starting remotely can help you heat up or cool down the car before you get in. Many also come with a GPS component that can help you locate your car when you forget where your car is in the parking lot.

For more car tips and information, visit AMM on Twitter.

 

With AAA and other emergency roadside services, it may feel unnecessary to know how to change your own tire. But especially on road trips, knowing how to change a flat can save you hours of waiting and worry. Here is your guide to changing a tire, from blowout to back on the road.

Graphics of jack, lug wrench, spare tire, and owner's manual.
To change a flat tire, you’ll need a jack, lug wrench, a spare tire, and your owner’s manual.

Items you’ll need

(Your vehicle should already come with these items check your trunk for them before you go out and buy anything.)

Stop Your Car

When you realize your tire is flat, do not abruptly brake or make sharp turns. Instead, slow your vehicle and try to pull over to a safe location away from heavy traffic.

Try to find a flat space to park. Do not try to change your tire on an incline. The level ground keeps your car from rolling while you change your tire.

Hazard Lights/ Brakes

A big red button in the middle of the dash.
Your hazard lights should be a prominent red button on the dash, with a white triangle in the middle.

Once you realize you have a flat, turn on your hazard lights. Especially if you’re in fast-moving traffic, four-ways let others know you’re not moving normal speed and they might need to slow down or go around you. Leave them on while you’re changing the tire if you’re parked near moving traffic.

When you park, apply your parking brake. This will minimize the risk of your car rolling away while you’re trying to change your tire.

Wheel Wedges

A rubber wedge set under a car tire.
Place a wedge or something heavy behind your wheels to keep your car from rolling while you change the tire.

Place a heavy object like a brick, wheel wedge or wheel chocks in the front of, or behind, the tires to further ensure the vehicle doesn’t roll while you fix the flat.

If you’re changing a rear tire, put these in front of the front tires. If you’re changing a front tire place them behind the rear tires.

Remove Hubcap or Wheel Cover

If your vehicle has a hubcap covering the lug nuts, it will be easier to remove the hubcap before lifting the vehicle with a jack.

You can use a screwdriver to pry the hubcap off. Just insert the point of the tool where the edge of the cover meets the wheel and apply a little force. The hubcap should pop off.

This works for most cars, but if it does not for yours, refer to your owner’s manual for the specific tool you should be using. You can also take it off with your bare hands if you need to.

Loosen the Lug Nuts

A person in jeans and white work gloves works to loosen the lug nuts on a black vehicle.
Loosen the lug nuts using a lug wrench.

Using the lug wrench, find which measurement fits the lug nuts on your car. Once you’ve gotten the wrench onto a lug nut, use your weight to turn the wrench counter-clockwise.

Do not take the nut all the way off; you’ll want them just loose enough that you can take them off with your hands after you jack the tire.

Jack Up the Vehicle

A jack lifts up a silver car with a flat back tire.
Lift your car using a jack.

Place the jack securely under car. The correct spot on each vehicle may vary, so consult your owner’s manual for the exact spot to place the jack.

Once you have the jack properly placed, pump the jack up and down using even strokes. Your car should start to lift, giving you the opportunity to change the tire.

Removing the Tire

Completely remove the lug nuts by hand and put them in a safe place. Grab each side of the tire and pull it straight toward you until it completely slides off. Place the tire on its side so it doesn’t roll away.

Placing the Spare Tire on the Vehicle

A red car with a small donut spare tire on the back wheel-bed.
This is a donut spare. It’s usually small and not meant for high speeds; if you’re driving with a donut, take care to drive slowly and safely.

Pick up the new tire (it may be heavy), line it up with the rim and place it on the car. Grab the lug nuts and place each one back on, tighten them as much as you can by hand.

Lowering your Vehicle

Use the jack to lower the vehicle so that the spare tire is resting on the ground, but the full weight of the vehicle isn’t on the tire. Take the lug wrench and tighten all the lug nuts as much as you can going clockwise. Put all your body weight into tightening the nuts.

After all the lug nuts are as tight as possible you can remove the jack.

Replace the Hubcap (Optional)

If your spare tire is a full-sized tire (instead of a donut), you can go ahead and put the hubcap on. Put the hubcap in place the same way you removed it initially. If you have a donut spare, it probably won’t fit, or be worth messing with until you get your permanent tire.

Drive Away Safely

Donut spare tires aren’t made to drive long distances, or at high speeds, so drive cautiously until you’re able to get a new tire replacement.

Follow AMM on Instagram for more helpful car tips.

Whether or not you have a spare pool noodle lying around your garage, these foam tubes can be great for more than fun in the pool. We have a couple of ways to use them for your car.

Protect your paint

Photo shows a car door opened against a pool noodle, cut in half and placed on the wall.
Protect your car doors from hitting the garage wall with strategically placed pool noodles.

When you pull your car in the garage, it can sometimes be a tight fit. To prevent hitting your car door on a hard wall, cut the noodles in half and adhere a few horizontally against the wall of your garage. When your door swings open, they’ll provide a soft bumper between your door and the wall.

You can also put some at the front end of your garage, and you’ll never have to worry about accidentally hitting the wall in front of the car.

For the kid’s seat

Do you have a small child who still requires a car seat? If so, this hack is perfect for you.

Photo shows a rear-facing car seat secured in the backseat with pink pool noodles wedged between the seats.
Use a pool noodle or two to fill the gap between baby’s seat and the backseat.

For rear-facing car seats, most parents struggle with filling that gap between the baby’s seat and the backseat. This gap can cause the seat to wobble which is unsafe for the baby. Some car manuals suggest you use a rolled-up towel, but sometimes the towel does not fill the space tightly enough to secure the seat.

Instead, take two or three pool noodles (depending on the size of your car seats’ gap) and cut them to the width of the base of your car seat. Be sure to reference your baby’s seat manual because some car seats ask specifically ask that you don’t use the noodles.

For more tips like these, follow us on Facebook.

Photo shows the back of a hatchback car open, showing a fully-packed interior.
Before you pack up the car, take the time to do some regular maintenance checks.

Are you planning a weekend getaway, or visiting your family for the holidays? It can get just to load the car up with the family just to go to the movies, let alone a long drive. And when you have a long drive, there are other concerns to address before hitting the road other than music and snacks.

This list is meant to cover all the ordinary checks you’ll want to do before an extended drive, to make sure you and your family are driving safe.

1. Check your dash and lights

Make sure there aren’t any warning lights on your dashboard. If there are, take your car to a mechanic to will check the on-board diagnostics with a scanning device. It works like a computer and reads if there’s anything wrong with the vehicle. This step will help you find out the causes behind the warning lights and how they can be fixed.

Check your headlights too. Turn them on and off to make sure they are all working. If not, head to your local auto parts store to buy some new bulbs. Being visible to other drivers is a key safety issue, and drivers who use their headlights all day have a decreased risk of being in an accident.

Also, if you haven’t driven the car recently, take it for a test drive on the freeway, listen for noises, feel for shakes, and watch for trouble signs in the gauges.

2. Tire Pressure and Tread

One hand holds a pressure dial while the other holds the other end into a car tire.
Tires are a major safety concern. Check tire pressure and tread before taking an extended drive.

Look in your car’s manual for the recommended tire pressure. People often think the numbers on the tire is pressure, but it’s the maximum amount the tire can hold. Overfilling the tire combined with hot weather can lead to a blowout.

Be sure to add the correct amount of air to your tires. Inspect the tread on your tires. Balding tires can increase your chance of a blowout and reduce traction.

3. Engine Oil and Coolant

Check your oil levels and the mileage you’re due for an oil change. If you’re nearing your mileage suggested for an oil change, go ahead and do so before you hit the road.

So be sure to check your coolant levels as well. You don’t want to be stranded with an overheated car.

4. Brakes 

Make sure to check your brake pads. If they squeal, or its been over 50,000 miles since you replaced your brakes, it’s a safe bet to just replace them before you get on the road.

You can also do a little at-home test looking at your brake pads through the spaces between the wheel’s spokes. The outside pad will be pressed against a metal rotor. There should be at least 1/4 inch of pad if you see less than that you may want to go ahead and replace them.

5. Transmission

A transmission is what changes the gear of an engine, and both your transmission and drive axle have their own lubricant. Check them before you get on the road. Look to your owner’s manual for guidance or take it to a local transmission shop for a quick refill.

6. Belt 

Most of cars have features that can’t run without the belt, like the alternator, water pump, power steering and even the air conditioning. You can easily check the belts by turning them sideways and making sure there are no rips or tears or by taking your car to a local auto parts store.

Get your belts changed out if the auto parts store recommends it. If you’re vehicle savvy, watch this video below on how to change them at home.

 

7. Battery

While it can be a bit difficult to spot if you have a good or bad battery, there are steps you can take to make sure there is a strong connection to the car’s electrical system.

Mix two tablespoons of baking soda in a clean container, use a toothbrush to clean your battery then wipe the mixture away.

8. Documents

Make sure your documents are up-to-date. Carry your insurance papers, registration, driver’s license, and any other vehicle information that might be helpful during your trip.

9. Emergency Kit

Image shows emergency kit items in front of yellow background, including a water bottle, gloves, and jumper cables.
An emergency kit can easily help you in what might be an otherwise dire situation. (Photo credit: Geico.com)

Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. Have an emergency kit with some essential items for if you get stranded or have car trouble.

A few things to think about include a few blankets, a bright flashlight, jumper cables, and some basic tools like a screwdriver or wrench.

Family road trips are a great way to bond and see parts of the world you’ve never been before. Make sure your car is ready to safely get you there and back. To find other great road trip tips follow us on Instagram.

A clean white sports car with black leather interior sits with the door open.
Detailing your vehicle doesn’t mean you need fancy solutions or a professional cleaner. Use these simple tips to get it clean in no time.

If you spend time in your car at all, chances are it will get dirty. The good news is that cleaning your car doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming. You don’t need fancy cleaning products or an auto detailing to get your car looking the way you want.

AMM Collision has you covered with these simple clean car tricks. With simple household supplies, you can get your car cleaned in no time!

1. Bumper Stickers

Do you have faded or peeling bumper stickers? It may be time to peel them off. If you’ve ever tried, you know that it’s not always easy to get them off without damaging your paint or leaving traces.

What does the job? Hair Dryer.

Illustration of a hand holding a black hairdryer, pointed at a red sticker on the back windshield.
Applying heat to a bumper sticker can help it come off easier.

Hold the hair dryer few inches above the center area of the sticker. Slowly start moving the dryer to the corners of the sticker. Heat for about 45 seconds and the corners should peel up easily. Finally, use a credit card to peel it up from the corners. If you still have sticky residue, try spraying with WD-40, wait a minute, then wipe away. Your car will look clean and well-kept without those old pesky stickers.

2. Small Crevices

Not only do the smaller areas in our cars accumulate dust, but it can also get sticky and gross over time. Plus, your car won’t look nice and clean if you have dirty crevices.

What does the job? Q-tips or Flat Screwdriver

Wrap a cloth around the head of a flat screwdriver or use a Q-tip to reach into the tight and small crevices inside your car. You’ll get all the dirt and dust out of these areas in no time!

3. Dusty Interior

Dust causes allergies, and we have enough of them in Central Texas as it is. For the larger areas, you’ll want something more than a Q-tip.

What does the job? Coffee Filter or Sponge Brush

A hand swipes a white coffee filter over a dashboard, then shows the dirt it picked up.
Coffee filters make a great duster in a pinch.

Use the coffee filter to dust out larger areas and use the sponge brush to clean the vents and other tighter areas.

4. Stains

Who hasn’t taken their coffee on the road…in a flimsy to-go cup. We all have taken food or beverages with us when we’re in a rush, and some are messier than others. Getting a stain in your car doesn’t make for a great day. Having a constant reminder lingering in your upholstery is even worse.

What does the job? Hydrogen Peroxide

Illustration shows 2/3rds cup of water and a hydrogen peroxide bottle labeled 1/3 cup.
A mixture of water and hydrogen peroxide can lift upholstery stains.

Not only is it cost effective, this solution is simple. All you need is to fill a bottle with 1/3 hydrogen peroxide and 2/3 water. Spray and scrub away the stain. There’s no better feeling than getting rid of a stain and seeing clean carpet underneath.

**NOTE: If you have dark colored carpet, test an area with the hydrogen peroxide first since it can cause discoloration. If this is a problem, just add more water to dilute the solution.

5. Dashboard Love

Why stop at dusting when you can make your car shine? Dashboards are a visually-prominent part of any car and keeping it from cracking will keep it looking good.

What does the job? Vaseline

Pictures show a hand dabbing a cloth into a container of Vaseline, then rubbing cloth on a dashboard.
Keep your dashboard shiny using a small amount of Vaseline.

Wipe away the dust with Step 3. Once the area is dry, massage a tiny amount Vaseline onto the dashboard using a rag. This will help your dashboard look shiny and new, and prevent cracking.

We hope we saved you time and money with these car cleaning hacks! Comment below with your own car hacks or how these turned out. Keep up with everything AMM by following us on Facebook.

Jumper cable clamps attached to a red battery.
Knowing how to jump a car can save time and get you back on the road.

Jump starting a car is something all car owners have to do at some point in their lives. Whether we left our headlights on overnight, or just need a new battery, it’s important to know how to start your car when it dies.

The good news is that the jumping part is pretty easy. The hard part is (often) finding another car to jump your own. But once you do, just follow these easy steps.

What you need:

The stalled car, a car with a working battery, and jump cables

Directions:

Step 1: Make sure both cars are turned off: So the cables can reach, you want the engines of both cars near each other, but NOT touching.

Step 2: Connect one end of the red (positive) cable to the positive terminal (POS or +) on the car battery stalled. Do the same with the working battery.

Step 3: Connect the end of the black (negative) cable to the negative terminal (NEG or -) of the working battery.

Step 4: Connect the other end of the black (negative) cable to an unpainted metal surface on the car with the bad battery. Do not connect to the negative terminal of the car with the bad battery. This could result in the battery exploding.

Step 5: Start the car that has the good battery. Let the engine run for a few minutes before starting the car with the dead battery. If the car doesn’t start, let it run for a while longer. It may help to rev the engine of the good-battery car a bit to give it a boost.

Step 6: When it starts, remove the cables in reverse order and let the jumped car run for some time to give the battery a chance to properly recharge.

If your car does not start, you likely need a new battery.

A small portable battery charger with a cassette-sized battery and two small clamps.
Some portable battery jumpers are extremely compact.

For safety on the highway, we recommend you using a portable battery jumper. The process typically the same as mentioned above, except you won’t have to rely on another car for battery recharge power. This way, even if there is not another car available, or a safe place for another car to stop and help, you can get back on the road quickly.

For more helpful content, follow us on Facebook.

Picture shows a dark road with only the pavement, reflective lane stripes and curve markers.
Limited visibility also comes with a shorter reaction time to prevent a crash. Avoid driving in the dark, if possible.

You’re driving home and tired. To keep yourself awake, you’re jamming to your favorite rock station, but not really paying attention to your surroundings.

All of a sudden, a deer pops out of nowhere, and you to swerve around him.

Does any of this sound familiar?

It is important for drivers to revisit night driving safety and avoid accidents in situations like this. Did you know that along with the increase of drunk drivers, the chances of an accident are three times greater at night than the daytime? Whether it is rush hour or a clear road, driving safely takes a lot more effort at night.

Check out these tips to help you drive through the night safely.

Graphic explains statistics of night driving.
We can all take steps to be safer drivers, especially at night.

1. Headlight control

Turn your headlights on at least an hour before sunset. Not only does it make it easier to see in the dark, it also helps other drivers see you in the dark. Be considerate to other drivers around you and avoid using your high beams when approaching or behind another vehicle.

2. Clean headlights

A before and after photo of a foggy-looking headlight and a clear one.
Cleaning your headlights regularly can make a big difference in night visibility.

Always keep your headlights clean. Make sure they work properly; otherwise replace the bulbs as soon as possible. Without working, clear headlights, there is a greater risk of getting into an accident as someone might not see you on the road.

3. Avoid distractions

It is already difficult to see in the dark, so we want to limit as many distractions as possible. Stay off your phone and pay attention to the road and surroundings. Avoid listening to loud music to hear the approaching traffic. Since it is harder to see at night, we must rely on our other senses for a safer drive.

4. Speed control

Road sign on the side of a flat Texas road shows a normal speed limit of 80mph and a night limit of 65mph.
Slowing down at night gives you more time to react to dangers on the road.

It is harder to see where we are driving in the night than the daytime, especially in the areas without street lamps. Always keep a safe distance from the car in front of you and avoid getting too close! Slowing down will also give you a better chance of stopping safely if a deer runs onto the road.

5. Stay up, be alert!

Continuously check all mirrors when driving for blind spots and any movements. Not only is it hard to see other motorists, it’s as difficult to see animals on the road. Avoid eating a heavy meal before driving to avoid drowsiness, and stay hydrated. If you need to take a break from driving, stop by a hospital. This is a safe area for a stop.

6. Beat the darkness

Try to leave earlier than later. When it is lighter, we are more awake and attentive to our surroundings than when we drive at night. Our vision is not compromised, and we avoid the greater risks of night driving. This will accommodate the possibility of city traffic and slow-downs as well, which may set us back to arriving several hours after dark.

We all have scary stories of driving at night. These tips can help avoid future situations and keep you safe. For more driving tips and car care, follow us on Twitter @ammcollisionctr.

A bald, torn-up tire sits on a rusty vehicle.
Maintaining tires can prevent accidents on the road.

Tire quality is a serious safety issue. Insufficient tread or air pressure leads to more than just a flat tire. In 2017, tire-related crashes resulted in 738 fatalities nationwide. While the number of tire-related crashes has dropped in the past decade, maintaining tires and preventing a blowout will help drivers avoid serious collisions and a trip to the auto body shop.

Every car owner should take a few routine steps to check and maintain the quality of the tires on a vehicle.

Maintain air pressure

Experts recommend that you check your air pressure at least once a month, and always before a long road trip. If you own a vehicle that was made within the past ten to 15 years, it likely has tire monitors that alert the driver if a tire has low air pressure, but it is best to manually check the air pressure to see exactly how the air pressure is in the tire.

The recommended air pressure can be found on the tire, the inside of the door frame, or in your owner’s manual. Under-inflated tires can lead to tire damage, but over-inflated tires can lead to a blowout.

Measure tire tread

Good tread is necessary for traction and to maintain the durability of a tire. When tires look smooth, they need to be replaced.

A simple way to measure the tread on a tire is to insert a quarter with George Washington’s head facing down into the tread. If the top of his head shows, the tire is worn and should be replaced.

Having tires rotated regularly helps them wear more evenly and not as quickly.

Alignment and balance tires

Maintaining proper alignment and balance on a vehicle can prevent a tire from wearing excessively and prevent a blowout.

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