Summer Road Trips!

Road Trip Car Maintenance

It’s the beginning of the busy summer travel season with low gas prices, it’s a great time to head out on a road trip. Whether you’re driving a short distance to the lake or across the country, here are some tips to ensure that your car and your family are prepared for your next adventure.

Road Trip Car Maintenance

Road Trip Car Maintenance

  1. Schedule a checkup at Auto Doctors of West Fargo to Perform basic maintenance on your vehicle before you head out such as checking wipers and fluid levels. Also, schedule any necessary service such as oil changes or tune ups. A vehicle in top shape will have a better chance of staying reliable and efficient.
  2. Stay charged. Check your battery to make sure it’s strong and has clean terminals: A little baking soda and water will do the job. A road trip is no fun if your car won’t start.
  3. Read the rubber. Inspect your tires for any tears or bulges in the side wall. The tires should have a good amount of tread left. The easiest way to measure this, if you don’t have a gauge, is to hold a quarter upside down in the tread. If the top of George Washington’ head is visible, you need new tires to ensure traction in all weather conditions. Make sure the tire pressures are set to the figures that are printed on the placard on the driver’s door jam, or what’s listed in your car’s owner’s manual.
  4. Give it a brake. Have Auto Doctors inspect your car’s brake pads to make sure they aren’t worn or need replacing.
  5. Be prepared. Bring supplies in the event of an accident or medical issue. Stock your car with an emergency kit —especially a flashlight, blanket, first-aid kit, and some basic tools. Also, bring water and extra snacks, just in case.
  6. Pack smart. Check your vehicle’s load capacity to make sure you aren’t putting too much weight in the car. On most new cars, the total weight you can carry is printed on the door placard inside the driver’s door jam. This load rating includes all the passengers and cargo. Be aware that fuel economy is reduced with extra cargo. Roof-top cargo boxes should only be filled with light bulky items. Heavy loads on the roof can make the vehicle more difficult to handle in emergency situations and increase the risk of a roll over. If not in use, remove the roof rack as if can significantly worsen your fuel economy.
  7. Track it. A portable GPS navigation system will help you get where you’re going, making it easy to find gas stations or restaurants along the way. Traffic-enabled devices can warn of roadway congestion, and all units can assist in finding an alternate route. Also, a navigator can help direct emergency services to your location, should something happen./li>
  8. Kid prep. If you’re driving with kids, make sure you pack enough snacks, water, games, videos, and music to keep them comfortable and occupied during your journey.
  9. Be patient. During busy travel times expect to hit traffic. It may make sense to drive late at night or early in the morning to avoid the rush and ensure you get to your destination on time and with minimal stress. Make sure you count on stops for refreshment and restroom breaks, and time your fuel stops to ensure you don’t run low. A GPS device with traffic information and an exit guide can help you navigate around congestion and help find desired pit stop locations.
  10. Be safe. Make sure you are driving safely and follow the rules of the road.

Give us a call or stop in we will help you out.

How the North Dakota Temps effect the Automotive Engine

One of the most challenging aspects of designing and building an internal combustion engine is determining the thermal effects on the components. Being an internal combustion device, it is subject to thermal contraction and expansion of the components. With the ever changing temperatures found in Fargo, North Dakota this creates a challenge.

To complicate matters further, many of these components are dissimilar in composition and react differently where thermal expansion is concerned. The engine’s performance and fuel economy are directly affected by the temperature from the time of startup until the time the engine reaches normal operating temperature.The transmission’s performance and lubrication is also dependent on the proper engine temperature range in which it was designed to operate.

When the engine is cold, all the components are in a contracted state making all of them ‘loose’ in contrast to when they are in an expanded state. At normal operating temperature, the rotating components of the engine have narrowed their clearances to the 0.001 to 0.003, and some engines even closer.

The following scenarios will take you through the engine characteristics from cold startup to overheating:

Cold Engine Start

A cold engine start is the most common in the winter months. When the engine is started, the oil is thick and slower to flow resulting in less lubricating properties at the connecting rods. The looseness in the pistons allows a small amount of the combustion gases to pass the piston rings and enter the oil in the oil pan. This accounts for the change in oil color from clear to dark over time as it becomes contaminated.

The piston’s connecting rods on the crankshaft are contracted and very tight, resulting in a very thin film of oil on the bearings. At the same time, the pistons and rings are very loose in the cylinder bore and create a poor seal to prevent the combustion gases from passing the rings.

Fuel economy and power are significantly lowered. For this reason the thermostat is installed to expedite the warm-up time.

Normal Operating Temperature

As the engine reaches normal operating temperature, the connecting rods achieve their normal operating clearance for the best lubrication. The piston rings expand to make a perfectly tight seal in the cylinder preventing combustion (blow by) from passing the rings and entering the oil pan.

The oil pump is now expanded sufficiently to supply a better flow of oil. The camshaft and valve train have expanded and are opening the valves farther than when they were cold. The fuel mixture has become leaner and fuel economy is restored.

The transmission fluid has expanded as it warmed and transmission operation becomes smoother.


Overheating has catastrophic consequences. Allowing the engine to overheat even for a short period of time (minutes) will cause the pistons and rings to expand to the point that they are now too large and tight in the cylinders. When this happens they seize in the cylinder gouging the cylinder ‘beyond repair’.

The dissimilar metals used in the cylinder head expand differently. The hard carbon steel head bolts expand faster than the aluminum cylinder heads. This results in the cylinder head warping enough to release the compression forces on the cylinder head gasket, allowing it to be compromised. Combustion pressures may blow a hole or pathway through the gasket to the oil or cooling system.

When this happens, either the combustion gases will enter the cooling system, oil may appear in the radiator, water may appear in the oil, a bad engine miss may be noticed and finally, if water enters the cylinder in enough quantity, it will can bend or break the connecting rod since water is non-compressible. The head gasket will need to be replaced and possible engine components. This requires a technician from Auto Doctors to track down the issue.

Not Reaching Operating Temperature

In order to extend the life of the engine the temperature must be kept in the design range. If a thermostat fails in the open position resulting in an engine operating much cooler than normal, it is not as crippling as overheating. Even though this is not as serious, the engine will not be as fuel efficient, the heater will not work as well, the mixture will run rich continuously, carbon will build up rapidly on the valves and the oil will become contaminated quickly.

Overall, the engine’s longevity is significantly reduced. The cooling system is basically the same in all vehicles and not complicated. Contact Auto Doctors of West Fargo and we can help you diagnose the issue.


If your car begins to overheat, shut it down immediately or as fast as humanly possible after safely pulling over. Every minute it’s overheating is increasing your risk of destroying the engine. At this point you should contact Auto Doctors for an diagnosis.