Larsons Auto Repair


Hours of Operation:

7:30am - 5:30pm

(Monday - Friday)

Located at:

310 South Bay Road Northeast

Suite G

Olympia, WA 98506

Frequently Asked Questions

Below you'll find an ever growing list of frequently asked questions. Although we make every effort to keep this list as current as possible please feel free to call or email us with questions!

FAQs - Air Conditioning

  • Q: My car's air conditioner just isn't doing the job anymore. What could be the problem?

    A: Your cars air conditioner is a fairly complex system. If it's not working well, it could be one or more of several reasons: low or no refrigerant, the compressor or condenser is failing, a loose or worn belt, a fan, leaks in the system, or other issues.

  • Q: What does the compressor do?

    A: The compressor is a refrigerant pump. It pressurizes the refrigerant and circulates it to the condenser. A belt connects the compressor to the crankshaft.

  • Q: How does the condenser work?

    A: The condenser is a flat, rectangular structure made of cooling fins and tubes and mounted ahead of the radiator. In fact, what many car owners think is the car radiator is actually the condenser. As air move through the car, helped by a fan, the condenser removes heat from the refrigerant.

  • Q: How often does my vehicle's air conditioner need to be recharged?

    A: It depends on the amount of refrigerant and whether your system leaks. It's not unusual for a car air conditioner to lose 1-2 ounces of refrigerant per year. Some compact cars require 10 ounces; some SUVs require 40 ounces. We'll diagnose the problem, repair your unit, and recharge the system if necessary.

  • Q: How do you determine whether an air conditioner is leaking?

    A: Our technicians use two methods: an electronic refrigerant leak detector (or "sniffer"), and dye tracing. Hand-held instruments can detect leaks down to 0.1 ounce per year. Slow leaks can be traced by injecting a dye into the refrigerant, using the air conditioner for a week or more, and then shining a special ultraviolet light onto the components and connections. Dye shows up where refrigerant escapes from the system.

  • Q: How does my car air conditioner work?

    A: Air conditioners take advantage of condensation and evaporation. As the refrigerant in your air conditioner changes state, it removes heat from the air in your car.

  • Q: Can you take me through it step by step?

    A: When you turn on the A/C, you engage a belt that drives the compressor. The compressor pressurizes the refrigerant (a gas at this point) and circulates it to the condenser. Under pressure, the gas becomes extremely hot. When the refrigerant reaches the condenser, the air-cooled honeycomb structure removes heat and liquefies the refrigerant. The refrigerant, still warm and under pressure, circulates via a small tube to the receiver-drier, a canister about the size of a soup can, which removes water so that ice does not form and clog the system. The liquid refrigerant then passes through a thermostatic expansion valve. The valve removes pressure and allows the refrigerant to expand. In the evaporator (another tube and fin structure) the refrigerant vaporizes. The change in state (remember your high school physics?) removes heat from the air in the passenger compartment. A blower circulates that cold air throughout the car.

  • Q: Is the refrigerant in my car air conditioner bad for the environment?

    A: The current EPA-approved refrigerant, R-134a, is much safer for the environment than Freon (R-12), which it replaced in 1994. Freon depleted stratospheric ozone and caused global warming. The EPA recently approved a new refrigerant, R-1234yf, with a global warming potential that is 99.7% less even than R-134a. It is expected to be phased in by U.S. car makers by 2017. GM announced that its 2013 Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, and Cadillac models in the U.S. will use the new refrigerant.

  • Q: What can I do to keep my car air conditioner working at peak efficiency?

    A: Stay on schedule with your vehicle's scheduled maintenance, including periodic replacement of the cabin air filter. Dust and debris eventually clog the filter and reduce heating and cooling efficiency. Another place where debris such as leaves and other material collect is between the A/C condenser and the radiator. We'll check your cabin air filter and condenser the next time your car is in for scheduled maintenance.

  • Q: How can I cool my car down faster?

    A: First, open your windows and allow the hot air that built up in your parked car to escape. Close your windows. Then, set your blower to recirculate the air inside the passenger compartment, rather than bring in air from the outside. Once you are comfortable, allow fresh air into the vehicle.

FAQs - Alignment

  • Q: Why is alignment so important?

    A: You get a safer, smoother ride, better gas mileage, and tires that wear evenly and last longer. Your vehicle tracks straight and true only when all four wheels are properly aligned to the manufacturer's specifications.

  • Q: How can I tell whether my car needs an alignment?

    A: The most common symptoms: pulling to one side or the other when driving on a straight, level road; a steering wheel that's askew; or, excessive and uneven tire wear.

  • Q: What causes alignment problems?

    A: Your vehicle can be knocked out of alignment, in an accident with front end damage, for example, or by hitting a pothole or curb. Most of the time however, your vehicle gradually goes out of alignment because of wear, stress, and vibration in the components of your steering and suspension system.

  • Q: My car sometimes veers to the right if I don't firmly hold the steering wheel. Should I schedule an appointment for an alignment?

    A: Most roads have a crown, the pavement is higher at the centerline than at the shoulders, sometimes quite noticeably, so that water drains off for safety. It's normal for your car to track slightly to the right on a crowned road. Brake problems, power steering issues, even a slightly flat tire, can cause pulling. If in doubt, come by and we'll be happy to inspect your vehicle.

  • Q: At highway speeds, I feel a vibration in the steering wheel. Could this be an alignment problem?

    A: Many drivers confuse wheel alignment with wheel balancing. Most steering vibrations are caused by unbalanced wheels. In fact, proper alignment can actually magnify the effect.

  • Q: What is camber?

    A: Camber is the angle between the wheel and the road as viewed from the front of the vehicle. At zero degrees, the wheel is straight up and down and the tread flat on the road. The manufacturer sets camber for optimal control and tire wear. Today, many automakers specify slightly negative camber, the bottom of the tire slightly further out than the top, to improve cornering. Too negative, and camber wear results on the inside tire edge; too positive, wear results on the outside edge. Camber is not adjustable on many front-wheel drive cars and requires replacement parts to correct faulty alignment.

  • Q: What is caster?

    A: Caster is the angle between the steering axis and true vertical. Think of how caster wheels extend from the swivel points on a shopping cart. This setting can affect straight tracking and how "light" or "heavy" your steering feels. As with camber, caster is not adjustable on many front-wheel drive cars. Faulty caster indicates that a part is worn or bent and needs replacement.

  • Q: What is toeing?

    A: When you stand at attention, your feet can "toe in" or "toe out." That's not a problem for walking, but for car wheels it's a big problem. Your wheels actually fight each other to maintain direction, significantly affecting handling and mileage. Toeing causes a saw tooth tread wear pattern. With toe in, the wear points to the inside of the car. With toe out, the wear points to the outside of the car.

  • Q: What happens during a car alignment?

    A: A wheel alignment corrects the angle of the wheels relative to the frame of your car, truck, or van. Alignment of today's high performance vehicles is a complex process that requires precise measurements. As the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration advises, these adjustments require special equipment and should be performed by a qualified technician.

  • Q: How do the technicians at Larsen Auto Repair fix vehicle alignment?

    A: Our experienced technicians clamp a computerized instrument onto each wheel. The device takes exacting measurements and assists in restoring alignment to the original manufacturer's specifications. Our technicians also examine your vehicle's entire suspension and steering system for part wear, corrosion, and damage.

FAQs - Battery & Electrical

  • Q: How long do car batteries last?

    A: Most automobile batteries are rated for five or more years of service.

  • Q: Aren't all batteries the same?

    A: Batteries do look alike, but differ in battery case dimensions, amperage rating, reserve capacity, and "freshness" or date of manufacture. Some batteries are designed specifically for cold or hot climates.

  • Q: What battery do I need for my car, truck or van?

    A: Consult your owner's manual for the battery specifications for your vehicle. The primary consideration is whether the battery will crank your engine in cold weather. For example, if you drive a large SUV you will need a heavy duty battery to start your vehicle in winter. Our technicians will recommend a battery that will meet or exceed your vehicle's specifications, use, and driving conditions based on your preference.

  • Q: Why is it harder to start my car in winter?

    A: It's chemistry. The electrochemical process that produces battery current slows in cold temperatures. Less amperage is achieved (the rate of flow of the electrical current). Also, the motor oil in your engine thickens, making it even harder to crank the engine.

  • Q: What are cold cranking amps (CCA)?

    A: The minimum amperage that your car battery will deliver at 0 degrees F. This rating is an important measure of the ability of a battery to start your engine in cold weather.

  • Q: What is reserve capacity (RC)?

    A: The number of minutes your car lights and other electrical components will run on battery power alone.

  • Q: If my car sits for more than a day, it needs a jump start. Should I replace my battery?

    A: Possibly. Because your car turns over and because the battery holds a charge, at least temporarily, this sounds more like a draw on the battery. Check the light switches and other electrical devices in your car. For example, a dome light can run down your battery overnight. If the problem persists, come in and we'll perform a free battery and electrical system test.

  • Q: What happened to the caps on top of the battery case? How do you test battery strength?

    A: Most lead-acid auto batteries these days are sealed and maintenance free. No need to test them with a hydrometer.

  • Q: How do you test battery strength?

    A: Our technicians use an electric meter that measures amperage and classifies your battery as "good," "weak," or "needs replacement." Drop by and we'll check your battery for free.

  • Q: How does my car battery keep its charge?

    A: An electromagnetic generator, called the alternator, is connected by a serpentine belt to your vehicle's crankshaft. As your motor runs, the alternator generates electricity and recharges your car battery.

  • Q: What are the parts of my car's electrical system?

    A: The battery, alternator, and voltage regulator are the three main parts of your vehicle's electrical charging system. The battery starts your engine and runs the primary and accessory electrical components in your vehicle, the alternator recharges the battery, and the voltage regulator keeps the voltage at a safe level for your car's electrical components. Practically everything in your car runs on electricity, including the starter, on-board computer, power steering, headlights, dashboard instruments, sound system, fans, etc. That's why it's important to invest in a good battery.

  • Q: I need to replace a burned out fuse, what should I do?

    A: Always replace burned-out fuses with ones of the same amperage (printed on the fuse) and note that if a fuse continues to "blow," you should have the circuit checked professionally by one of our technicians for defects.

  • Q: How do I jump start my car?

    A: In an emergency, it might be necessary to jump start your car. You need a decent set of jumper cables (heavy wire, no frayed or worn insulation) clean, strong clamps tightly connected to the cable ends. As you connect the cables, do not allow the ends to touch. Follow these steps:
    1) Park the booster car as close as possible to the disabled car without the two vehicles touching.
    2) Clamp one end of the positive cable (red) to the positive terminal (+) of the dead battery.
    3) Connect the other end of the positive cable to the positive terminal of the booster battery. You might need to clean the terminals with a wire brush to make good contact.
    4) Connect the negative (black) cable to the negative terminal (-) of the booster battery.
    5) Clamp the other end to an unpainted ground on the disabled car such as a bolt or bracket in the engine compartment. Do not clamp to the negative terminal of the dead battery.
    6) Check your cable-terminal connections: positive to positive on both vehicles, negative to negative on the booster car, and clamp the negative cable to an unpainted ground away from the battery on the disabled vehicle.
    7) Start the booster car and allow it to idle for a few minutes. Do not rev the engine.
    8) Attempt to start the disabled car.
    9) If the car does not start, let the booster car idle for a few more minutes and repeat.
    Please note: jump starting your car poses a potential (but small) risk of explosion of the hydrogen gas that can build up in lead-acid batteries, as well as potential damage to vehicle electrical components. Keep bystanders away. Stand clear of the batteries except when making connections.

FAQs - Brakes

  • Q: When can I expect the brakes on my new vehicle to need servicing?

    A: Trucks and SUVs - 20,000 to 30,000 miles; cars - 25,000 to 45,000 miles. However, everyone's driving habits are unique, should you have any concerns, please bring your vehicle in and we'd be happy to inspect your brake system.

  • Q: How often should I check my brakes?

    A: At least every 6,000 miles. It's best to inspect the brakes anytime the wheels are off your car. If you change your oil every 3,000 miles, have your tires rotated and your brakes checked every other oil change.

  • Q: Does the brake fluid need to be changed periodically?

    A: It is impossible to determine based on color, smell, or touch when your brake fluid has become contaminated, although chemical tests are available. Change the brake fluid at 24,000- to 36,000-mile intervals, anytime you have work done on the brake lines or cylinders.

  • Q: How do I know whether I need new brakes?

    A: If your brakes grab, pulse, make noise, or respond slowly, or if you have any other concerns, bring your vehicle in for a free inspection. No appointment necessary. We'll carefully examine the entire brake system, pads-shoes, calipers, rotors-drums, brake lines and cylinders, and anti-lock controls. You might just need a cleaning and adjustment, but it could be time for new brake parts or other repairs.

  • Q: My brakes are noisy, what do I do?

    A: It might be time for a brake adjustment or cleaning, or it could be something more serious. Bring your vehicle in for a free inspection. We'll check your entire brake system and make recommendations on maintenance or repairs. No appointment necessary.

  • Q: My brake pedal seems mushy, what could be wrong?

    A: Too much play in your brake pedal can mean a number of things, from worn brake pads or shoes to a leak in the brake lines. Drop by, we're happy to look at your brakes for free and without an appointment.

  • Q: When I press the brake pedal, my car shudders. Is this dangerous?

    A: Bring your car in for a free brake check as soon as possible. Potential problems include warping or pitting of your rotors/drums, which we can help correct. Or, there might be air in the brake lines, a sign of more serious trouble.

  • Q: My brake light came on, what do I do?

    A: Your brakes need immediate attention and might not be safe to drive. When in doubt, call a tow truck.

  • Q: What should I do if my brakes fail?

    A: With modern brake designs, total brake failure is extremely rare, but unnerving. Check your rear view mirror, gradually decelerate, downshift if your vehicle has a manual transmission, and when safe, steer to the side of the road. When stopped, turn off your engine and apply the parking brake. Never use your parking brake as an emergency brake. The sudden application of the parking brake can cause you to lose control of your vehicle.

  • Q: My car has an anti-lock brake system (ABS). Do I need to brake differently?

    A: Yes. Instead of pumping your brakes, press the pedal firmly and without letting up. Let the ABS work for you, so that you can concentrate on steering. It is normal to feel or hear vibrations as the ABS adjusts your car's brakes to hazardous situations.

FAQs - Exhaust Systems

  • Q: How long can I expect my original exhaust system to last?

    A: Today's exhaust system components last years longer than in the past. Barring road damage, you can expect your original muffler, exhaust pipes, and catalytic converter to serve you eight to 10 years. Most catalytic converters have an eight-year, 80,000-mile warranty.

  • Q: How often should I have my exhaust system checked?

    A: Follow the schedule in your vehicle owner's manual. We give your vehicle's exhaust system a visual inspection for holes, corrosion, and other damage, as part of our courtesy inspection every time you visit.

  • Q: What is a catalytic converter?

    A: A catalytic converter is a canister-like device that reduces harmful automobile emissions. The catalytic converter was introduced in 1975 following the enactment of federal clean air laws. Most cars today are equipped with a three-way catalytic converter, so called because the device diminishes three harmful exhaust components, nitrogen oxide, nitrogen dioxide, and unburned hydrocarbons including carbon monoxide.

  • Q: How does a catalytic converter work?

    A: Exhaust passes through the catalytic converter before it passes through the muffler and tail pipe. A ceramic honeycomb lines the catalytic converter. Metal catalysts, usually platinum, rhodium, and palladium, coat the structure, which increases surface area for contact with the exhaust. The catalysts speed up the chemical reactions which convert harmful nitric oxide and unburned hydrocarbons into less harmful carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and water vapor.

  • Q: How do I know when I have a problem with my catalytic converter?

    A: You vehicle's onboard computer monitors your vehicle's exhaust emissions, if they fall below accepted levels, a warning light will appear on your dash. Our highly trained technicians can run a diagnostic to determine if it is your catalytic converter.

  • Q: Why are catalytic converters so expensive?

    A: They contain the rare metals platinum, rhodium, and palladium, catalysts which reduce harmful auto emissions. Some of the newest catalytic converters use gold, which is cheaper than the other metals!

  • Q: What is an EGR valve?

    A: An exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) valve has two important functions.
    1) It reduces harmful pollutants.
    2) It boosts fuel efficiency.
    The EGR valve recirculates a portion of your exhaust to be burned again in the engine. This results in a cooler, more complete consumption of fuel.

  • Q: What is an oxygen sensor?

    A: The oxygen sensor monitors the amount of oxygen in the exhaust. The engine computer in your vehicle can adjust the fuel-to-air mixture for maximum combustion efficiency, decreasing the amount of harmful exhaust even before it reaches the catalytic converter and muffler.

  • Q: My car is running rough, could it be an exhaust system problem?

    A: Yes. A dirty EGR valve, a faulty or fouled catalytic converter can cause poor acceleration, rough idling, stalling, and even engine failure. If your engine overheats or the exhaust from your engine is too hot, the ceramic inside the catalytic converter can actually melt, choking the engine.

  • Q: How can I extend the life of my exhaust system components?

    A: The cleaner your engine runs, the cleaner the exhaust that travels through your exhaust system. A periodic fuel system cleaning, not only will keep your engine running in top condition, but help prevent your EGR valve and catalytic converter from fouling.

FAQs - Automotive Fluids

  • Q: Besides motor oil, what other lubricants and fluids need to be changed to keep my car running in top condition?

    A: Other essential fluids include: coolant (antifreeze or radiator fluid), transmission, power steering, and brake fluid. Fluid levels should be checked during every oil change, our technicians check the condition and levels of all of your automotive fluids during every service, including oil changes.

  • Q: Why are they important?

    A: They are crucial to the operation of the various systems in your car, truck, or van. Transmission and power steering fluid lubricate, and protect important gears. Coolant regulates engine temperature. Brake fluid multiplies the force you apply to your brake pedal so that you can stop a two ton vehicle traveling at highway speeds.

  • Q: How often should I top off these fluids?

    A: At one time motorists did need to check levels and add antifreeze, transmission fluid, etc. Today, if you need to add any of these fluids, at least between oil changes, something is wrong. They are designed to last tens of thousands of miles before needing replacement.

  • Q: How often do they need to be changed?

    A: Consult your owner's manual or drop by and we'll look up vehicles recommended service intervals for these fluids.

  • Q: Why should I spend time and money changing these fluids? My car runs fine.

    A: Today's lubricants and coolants are designed for long life, but not immortality. Protect the substantial investment that you have in your car by changing the automotive fluids according to the factory maintenance schedule.

  • Q: Why do I need antifreeze?

    A: Automobile engines run hot,between 195 and 220 degrees Fahrenheit. These temperatures test the engine's metal parts, but result in more complete combustion, better fuel economy, and reduced emissions. The water-antifreeze mixture, circulated through the engine by a pump, removes excess heat and disperses it through the radiator. The coolant keeps your vehicle from boiling over and from freezing in winter. Special additives in antifreeze inhibit corrosion inside your cooling system, radiator, and engine, and lubricate the pump and seals.

  • Q: How often should I replace my antifreeze?

    A: Drop by for a free print-out of your manufacturer's required maintenance schedule. Or, check your owner's manual. To extend the life of your engine, radiator, and cooling system, we recommend that you do a cooling system flush and fill roughly every two years or 30,000.

  • Q: Why do I need a cooling system flush and fill?

    A: Over time, the coolant breaks down and collects rust and dirt from inside the engine, radiator, and cooling system hoses. The sediment clogs your cooling system and the coolant fails to protect your vehicle.

  • Q: What kind of antifreeze do I need to get ready for winter?

    A: Today's coolants are engineered for year-round use. Consult your owner's manual for the correct specifications. Any coolant that you add must be the same type as already in your vehicle. Otherwise, a chemical reaction can occur that turns the mixture into sludge. Bring your vehicle in and we'll make sure your cooling system is running in top shape.

  • Q: My temperature warning light is on. What should I do?

    A: Driving with the light on (or temperature gauge in the red) risks serious damage to your engine. If you use AAA or some other roadside service, call for assistance. Or, call us (7:30am-5:30pm Monday-Friday) and well arrange for a tow. Never remove the radiator cap until the engine has cooled completely. You could release a cloud of steam and cause severe scalding.

  • Q: How often should I replace the fluid in my transmission?

    A: Transmission fluid does break down over time and collects dirt, rust, and other contaminants. Fresh transmission fluid ensures smooth and quiet gear changes and maximum transmission life. We would be happy to check the level and condition or your transmission fluid and print out a free copy of the factory maintenance schedule. Transmission fluid specifications and replacement intervals are also listed in your owner's manual.

Power Steering
  • Q: How often should I replace the power steering fluid?

    A: Drop by for a free print-out of your manufacturer's maintenance schedule. Or, check your owner's manual. The standard interval is every three years or 50,000 miles.

  • Q: I hear a squealing sound when I make a sharp turn. Could changing my power steering fluid help?

    A: Fresh power steering fluid keeps your steering operating smoothly and quietly. Power steering fluid degrades over time from heat, air, rust, and other contaminants. That's why your auto maker schedules steering fluid servicing as part of your maintenance. Bring your vehicle in for a diagnosis of your steering issue.

  • Q: Should my differential fluid be drained and replaced. Is this necessary?

    A: Heat, pressure, and contaminants cause the special lubricant in the differential gear box to break down. The differential converts engine power to rear axle motion (in rear-wheel drive vehicles) and connects the two rear axles so that they can turn at different speeds on turns. Fresh fluid protects this expensive component and ensures smoother, quieter operation. We recommend a change approximately every 30,000 miles or on the interval specified by your manufacturer.

  • Q: Does the brake fluid need to be changed periodically?

    A: It is impossible to determine based on color, smell, or touch when your brake fluid has become contaminated, although chemical tests are available. Change the brake fluid at 24,000- to 36,000-mile intervals. Or, anytime you have work done on the brake lines or cylinders.

FAQs - Fuel Economy

  • Q: What can I do to get better gas mileage?

    A: There are several no-cost ways to improve your gas mileage, starting with your driving habits. Make gradual starts and stops, maintain a constant highway speed, have properly inflated tires, keep to 55 miles per hour and you will save tankfuls of gas over the course of a year.

  • Q: How much can I save on gas by driving 55 miles per hour?

    A: A lot. Driving 55 mph is 25% more fuel efficient than driving 70 mph. In other words, if you get 20 mpg driving 70 mph, you get 25 mpg driving 55 mph. Over 1,000 highway miles, you burn 10 less gallons of gas, a savings of $40.

  • Q: How much can I save by cutting out jack rabbit starts and stops?

    A: 10%

  • Q: How much can I boost my fuel efficiency by keeping my tires inflated to the correct air pressure?

    A: 3%, on average.

  • Q: How much difference can scheduled maintenance make?

    A: You can get 2% better gas mileage by using the correct grade of oil. Changing a dirty air filter can boost your mileage 4%.

  • Q: Are there other components that are important to check?

    A: A faulty oxygen sensor can cut your gas mileage by as much as 40%. Our technicians have the diagnostic equipment and the experience to find these and other fuel guzzling problems and keep your vehicle running at peak performance.

  • Q: What about my vehicle's fuel injection system?

    A: In the 1980s, fuel injection largely replaced the carburetor to achieve an optimum air-fuel mixture. This resulted in better fuel efficiency and less air pollution. Your fuel injection system needs to be cleaned periodically to maximize fuel economy and minimize harmful emissions.

  • Q: What else can Larsen Auto Repair do to improve my vehicle's fuel economy?

    A: Have our technicians check your alignment the next time you change or rotate your tires. Think of your wheels as draft horses. You want them pulling in the same direction. Bringing your wheels back into alignment can boost fuel efficiency 0.5-10%.

  • Q: How much difference can an oil change make in my fuel economy?

    A: Using the correct grade of oil can improve fuel economy by 2%. Check your owner's manual or ask our technicians. Regular oil changes are also crucial to the life and health of your engine.

  • Q: Is there anything I can do to get better gas mileage with my older car?

    A: Many vehicles benefit from an engine tune-up, including replacing the air and fuel filters, spark plugs and spark plug wires, and PCV valve (positive crankcase ventilation valve).

  • Q: When should I change my spark plugs?

    A: For maximum fuel economy and peak engine performance, your spark plugs should be replaced every 30 months or 30,000 miles, unless your vehicle is equipped with 100,000-mile platinum tipped spark plugs.

  • Q: When should I replace my car's fuel filter?

    A: To help ensure dependable, trouble-free performance, replace your car's fuel filter approximately every 30,000 miles or as recommended in your vehicle's owner's manual.

FAQs - Oil & Oil Changes

  • Q: How often should I change my oil?

    A: It depends on your driving habits and the make-model of your vehicle and type of oil used. The average is between 3k and 7k miles. Make sure to follow the instructions in your owner's manual. Regular oil changes keep your engine running in top condition, save gas, and help you avoid major repairs. In fact, you can improve your gas economy by 5-6%, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, by keeping your car in shape and using the recommended grade of oil for your engine. We can answer your specific question! Just let us know.

  • Q: My owner's manual recommends an oil change every 5,000 miles. Why might I bring my car in before that?

    A: In the past, many auto makers based their maintenance schedule on normal versus "special operating conditions". For example, if you own a 1999 Ford Explorer, you normally change the oil every 5,000 miles. The Ford Explorer owner's manual recommends an oil change every 3,000 miles under special operating conditions, including towing or carrying heavy loads, extensive idling and/or driving at low speeds for long distances, driving in dusty conditions, and off-road operation. Ask our technicians for a free factory maintenance print out for the make and model of your vehicle or consult your owners manual.

  • Q: How do regular oil changes save me money on gas?

    A: A regular oil change is like a check-up at your doctor, essential to the health of your car or truck. For superior performance and cleaner emissions, today's engines are designed to run at close tolerances and high temperatures. High quality motor oil, whether conventional or synthetic, reduces friction and actually removes heat from the engine. As long as your oil is clean, it prevents wear, maintaining the perfect lubrication between the fast moving parts, such as your pistons, and ensures that you get the maximum miles for every gallon of gasoline that you burn. In fact, you can improve your gas economy by at least 5% by keeping your car properly tuned and using the recommended grade of oil for your engine.

  • Q: What's the best oil for my car or truck?

    A: Follow the oil specifications in your vehicle owner's manual. Our technicians can provide you with the right recommendations based on your driving conditions and vehicle make, model, and mileage.

  • Q: How does high quality motor oil protect my engine?

    A: Heat and friction is the enemy. Slippery motor oil not only reduces friction between the many fast moving parts in your engine, but also actually removes heat from the pistons, shafts, and bearings. Think of your engine as the heart of your vehicle. Oil is the lifeblood. As soon as you turn the ignition key, a gear connected to the crankshaft or camshaft will activate the oil pump and propel oil to all of the moving parts before it returns to the oil pan at the bottom of your engine. High quality motor oil is especially important in today's automobile engines, designed to operate at close tolerances and high temperatures, between 200 and 250 degrees Fahrenheit, for superior performance and cleaner emissions.

  • Q: How do I check the oil level in my vehicle?

    A: You should check the oil every few hundred miles, or every other time you fill your gas tank. Consult your owner's manual for the position of the oil dipstick and engine oil filler opening. The best time to check the oil is when your engine is warm and on level ground. Turn off the vehicle and wait a few minutes. Then pull out the dipstick, wipe it clean with a rag, and reinsert it. Push it all the way in. Pull out the dipstick, again. It will have either two notches or an indent to show the oil level. It's best to keep the oil level at or near the top mark. If the oil is between the top and bottom mark, you may add oil. Below the bottom, add oil. At or above the top, do not add oil. Too much oil in your engine can actually cause problems. If you're low, add oil a little at a time (no more than half a quart to a quart), then re-check. Make sure to use the same type and grade of oil in your engine. Be sure that the dipstick is all the way back in before you close the hood. It's a good idea to keep at least one quart of oil in your garage and one in your trunk. The oil specifications for your make and model are in your owner's manual. Or, stop by we would be happy to check your oil and top it off for free.

  • Q: I've always been told that I should use 10W-40 motor oil. Is this right?

    A: While 10W-40 used to be considered the oil standard, most vehicles today use lighter weight oils, such as 5W-30. In fact, your vehicle warranty may be voided if you use 10W-40 motor oil. Consult your owner's manual or drop by for the best recommendations for your car or truck.

  • Q: I have a high-mileage car. How can I best take care of my engine?

    A: Regular maintenance, including oil changes, is the most cost-effective way to keep an older vehicle on the road. Top grade oils and lubricants can also help extend the life of your engine. If you find that you frequently have to add oil to your car or truck, you might be "burning oil." Drop by and we'd be happy to inspect your vehicle and recommend services if any are needed.

  • Q: I think my vehicle might be burning oil. What should I do?

    A: Drop by for expert advice. You might be able to drive your car or truck as is, with more frequent oil changes, or you might want to invest in engine work, depending on how long you plan to own the vehicle.

  • Q: My oil pressure light is on. What do I do?

    A: First of all, don't ignore it. It could mean that you are dangerously low on oil. Turn off the engine and wait a few minutes. Then check the oil level. If your car is more than two quarts low, even if no oil shows on the dipstick, adding oil might resolve the issue. Low oil pressure also can mean a faulty oil pump, plugged screens or filters, leaking or burning oil, or a failed oil pressure sending unit. If adding oil does not take care of the problem, don't drive your car. Have the vehicle towed to Larsen Auto Repair for expert help.

  • Q: What about synthetic oil for my vehicle?

    A: Today's full synthetic and synthetic-mineral blends are excellent for tough conditions such as stop-and-go driving, frequent trips, and towing. And for engine fills and top-offs, they are considered equivalent or superior to conventional oil. In fact, many newer car and truck models specify synthetic oil. Consult your owner's manual for oil specifications and a maintenance schedule. Or, speak to one of our expert service technicians about the best brand and grade for your car or truck and type of driving.

  • Q: My next oil change is also a major servicing. Can I have the work done at Larsen Auto Repair?

    A: Regular maintenance, including 30,000-60,000-90,000 scheduled maintenance, is essential to maintain your vehicle's health and factory warranty. Your dealer does not need to perform this work. Our technicians are trained and qualified to perform scheduled maintenance, at more convenient times and with faster turn-around, and less than your auto dealer.

  • Q: Why is engine oil milky brown?

    A: Milky brown engine oil is an indication of coolant in the oil. This can be caused by a blown head gasket (or other gasket), a failed transmission cooler, or cracked casings. This condition is very serious and needs to be checked by a professional technician immediately.

  • Q: What should I do if my car starts to overheat?

    A: This is a very serious problem, if your car overheats for too long, you can damage your engine. As soon as possible, find a safe place to pull off the road and shut the engine off! Do not attempt to check the fluid level in the radiator; the hot fluid can cause severe burns.

FAQs - Scheduled Maintenance

  • Q: Why is scheduled maintenance so important?

    A: A well-maintained vehicle keeps you safe and saves you money. Proper maintenance guards against major engine repairs and failure of crucial systems such as brakes and steering. Changing your oil and keeping your tires inflated to correct pressure can help you get up to 5% better gas mileage, that's a savings of $75 per year, based on $3 gas, 30 mpg, and 15,000 miles annually. More importantly, you protect your vehicle warranty by following the manufacturer's maintenance schedule.

  • Q: Do I need to use the dealer's service department in order to keep my warranty in effect?

    A: Any qualified person or service facility can perform the factory scheduled maintenance. Our trained technicians service all makes and models of passenger cars, trucks, and vans.

  • Q: What about the major mileage service intervals? Do you have the right parts?

    A: Our ASE certified technicians can handle the scheduled maintenance at any mileage interval, including work on the engine, transmission, steering, suspension, brakes, and cooling and exhaust systems. We stock the most common replacement parts, and obtain parts the same day from distributors and dealers.

  • Q: What do I need to do to keep my warranty in effect?

    A: You are responsible for operation and maintenance of your vehicle according to the instructions in your owner's manual.

  • Q: How can I prove that I properly maintain my vehicle?

    A: Keep your maintenance and repair receipts; also, keep the paperwork on any recall notices, modifications, or repairs. This documentation should include your vehicle identification number (VIN), date of service, the mileage at the time of service, a description of the work and replacement parts, and the name and contact information for the repair facility or technician. Keep this information with the vehicle and pass it on to the next owner when you sell or trade it. Here at Larsen Auto Repair, all of your service and repair records are stored electronically and can be printed out for your records!

  • Q: What about OEM versus aftermarket parts?

    A: In most cases, aftermarket parts work as well as, and sometimes even better than, original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts, and are almost always less expensive.

  • Q: Is it really necessary to replace my timing belt at the recommended interval?

    A: YES. The failure of a timing belt in many cars can result in major engine damage. The cost of repairing an engine with a broken timing belt is much greater than the cost of a timing belt replacement.

  • Q: What does it mean if my "check engine" or "service engine soon" light comes on?

    A: There are many sensors and computerized components that manage your vehicle's engine performance and emissions. When one of these fails, the "check engine" light is illuminated. Although your car may seem to run fine, it is important to have the issue addressed to prevent long-term problems.

FAQs - State Inspection

  • Q: Does Washington require auto emissions tests for every vehicle?

    A: Vehicles between five and twenty-five years old require testing every other year.
    If you are new to the state or for licenses that expire in 2012, even model year vehicles 1988 through 1994 and odd model year vehicles 1997 through 2007 need to test before licensing.
    A test is also required to transfer the registered ownership between private parties for 1988 through 2007 model year vehicles unless the vehicle has been tested within the last 365 days. A test is not required to transfer the registered ownership between parents, siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, spouses, legal domestic partners, or present co-owners or to change the legal owner.
    Source:Washington Vehicle Emission Check Program

FAQs - Suspension

  • Q: How do I know when I need suspension work?

    A: Symptoms include heavy leaning or swaying on corners or ramps, rocking or swaying on lane changes, excessive bouncing on dips or bumps, and nose diving at stops.

  • Q: How often should I have my suspension system checked?

    A: Any time you have your vehicle on a lift is an opportunity to inspect your suspension and other under car systems. You should always have your suspension, alignment, and steering inspected before you buy new tires. If problems are not corrected, your tires will wear pre-maturely.

  • Q: I've heard that you can tell whether shocks need to be replaced by pushing down on the front and rear bumpers. If the car takes more than a second or two to stop bouncing, you need new shocks. Is this true?

    A: Not really. Take your car to a trained auto technician with proper diagnostic equipment. Modern auto suspensions are engineered and manufactured to close tolerances and are part of a complex and interrelated system with steering and wheel alignment.

  • Q: How long can I expect my shocks to last?

    A: Most auto experts recommend that shocks be replaced at 50,000 miles. That's about the time, that many drivers also need to replace their tires. If you drive on rough roads, or off road, you may need to replace your shocks earlier.

  • Q: How do shocks work?

    A: Shocks are mounted between the vehicle frame and the wheels. When the bounces, dips, and jolts are transferred from the wheels to the springs, the shocks reduce the bouncing and vibrations. Modern shocks are essentially twin tubes, one inside the other, that are filled with a dampening medium. Most use a combination of hydraulic oil and compressed air or nitrogen. Inside, a piston rides up and down within the oil, eliminating excessive vertical and horizontal motion.

  • Q: Why do I need shocks?

    A: A springs-only suspension system would give you an extremely bouncy ride. Without some type of suspension, you would feel every bump in the road.

  • Q: Why do I need to replace my shocks?

    A: Overtime, shocks wear out. Think about it, they bounce up and down an average of 1,000 times or more per mile. That's 50 million compressions over their expected shock life of 50,000 miles. Sometimes, shocks can go before their time. They can leak the hydraulic oil that cushions your ride. And because shocks are on the underside of the car, they are susceptible to nicks, bends, and other damage. Worn shocks not only compromise the comfort of your ride, but stopping distance, steering, and roll control.

  • Q: How do worn shocks affect braking distance?

    A: When your car nose dives, it takes longer to come to a complete stop. A study by the Royal Automotive Club showed that shocks working at 50% efficiency added 12 feet to the stopping distance of a car traveling 60 miles per hour,117.8 feet versus 104.8. That could be the difference between hitting and missing a hazard in the road.

  • Q: What are the differences between a shock and a strut?

    A: A strut is a heavy-duty shock mounted inside of a coil spring. Struts provide some structural support, not just control excessive weight transfer.

  • Q: What are torsion bars?

    A: Torsion bar suspension systems are common on pick-up trucks and sport utility vehicles. Torsion bars are a type of spring. The vehicle frame attaches to a lever or arm perpendicular to the torsion bar. As the vehicle bounces the bar twists and acts as a spring.

FAQs - Tires

  • Q: When do my tires need rotated?

    A: Every 6,000 miles, or every other oil change, assuming you change your oil every 3,000 miles. Remember, rotated tires last longer.

  • Q: Why do I see so many different prices for the same tire?

    A: When shopping for tires, it's important to compare the total cost, including mounting, balancing, valve stems, TPMS transfer, tire disposal, and an alignment check.

  • Q: How often should I check the air in my tires?

    A: For safety and maximum tire life, check the air pressure in your tires at least once a month. Use an accurate tire pressure gauge. Don't fill your tires by look. Every time you bring your car to Larsen Auto Repair for an oil change, we inspect your tires and show you how they're wearing. We would be happy to check and fill your tires for free anytime you're in the neighborhood.

  • Q: What are run flat tires?

    A: Run-flat tires are designed to resist tire deflation and punctures. They can be driven on, at reduced speeds and distances, after taking on damage that would stop a normal tire.

  • Q: How much air should I put in my tires?

    A: The recommended tire pressure varies widely by tire size and type. Consult your owner's manual. The specifications of your original tires are also listed on a decal on the driver's doorjamb or inside the glove box. If you buy a set of replacement tires, be sure to write down the new specifications. If you are unsure, bring your vehicle in and we'll be happy to lookup the correct air pressure for you!

  • Q: How can I protect against blowouts?

    A: The best protection against blowouts is to properly inflate your tires. Don't let them get too soft; don't overinflate them. Also, make sure you select a tire that is designed for your driving conditions.

  • Q: How can I get more mileage out of my tires?

    A: Check your tire pressure regularly, rotate your tires, and watch for signs of uneven wear, which can mean alignment problems.

  • Q: Why buy winter tires?

    A: Winter tires, also known as snow tires, are designed for superior traction on ice, slush, and snow. The rubber on winter tires is formulated to retain elasticity and grip in temperatures below 45 degrees. Standard radial tires harden at these temperatures and lose some of their hold on the road. Also, winter treads are designed with special snow patterns.

  • Q: How do I know when I need new tires?

    A: When your tread wears down to 4/32 of an inch you start to lose significant traction on wet or snowy roads. A Washington quarter, placed upside down in the tread grooves at several points, is a handy gauge. You're o.k. if the tread covers part of Washington's head. To be legal in most states tires must pass the Lincoln penny test, a minimum tread depth of 2/32 inch. Manufacturer's also place wear bars in the grooves between tire treads. When the tread is nearly flush with the bars, it's time to replace your tires.

  • Q: Why is tire tread depth so important to safety and handling?

    A: On wet pavement, the tread grooves sluice water away from the tire where it makes contact with the road. A typical new passenger tire has a tread depth of 10/32 of an inch. When tread wears to even half that depth, the risk increases that your car will hydroplane, slide on the surface of standing water, especially at highway speeds. On snowy pavement, horizontal treads and small slits in the rubber called "sipes" bite into the snow. The deeper the tread on your tires, the better the grip.

  • Q: How do I find quality replacement tires for my vehicle?

    A: Come to Larsen Auto Repair. We will recommend the right tires, based on wheel size, vehicle make and model, expected load, how you drive, and other factors.

  • Q: What size tires should I buy?

    A: Tire size and other important information are imprinted on the tire sidewall. Check your owner's manual for manufacturer recommendations.

  • Q: What's the speed rating on my tires?

    A: This information is imprinted on the tire sidewall. This rating determines the maximum safe speed the tire will perform at, which is often far in excess of legal speed limits.

  • Q: How do I use the Uniform Tire Quality Grade (UTQG) to make an informed tire purchase?

    A: Tire grade ratings are intended to provide a simple way for you to compare tires. The ratings, imprinted on the tire sidewall, are based on tests under controlled conditions. The federal government specifies the tests, but manufacturers assign the temperature, traction, and temperature ratings. Drop by or call and our expert technicians will be happy to answer any questions you may have.

  • Q: My tire pressure light is on, what should I do?

    A: The Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) warning light means that at least one of your tires is underinflated by 25%. Check your tires with an accurate tire gauge and fill them to the correct inflation pressure. Drop by, our technicians would be happy to do this for you for free. If you identified the TPMS symbol on your dashboard as a tire pressure warning, congratulations! A recent study by TPMS manufacturer Schrader, found that 46% of drivers did not know that symbol,a tire in cross section with an exclamation point inside means low tire pressure. Tire inflation pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) were introduced in luxury cars in the late 1980s and federally-mandated on all new passenger cars and light trucks beginning with the 2008 model year.

  • Q: My ride is quite rough. What can I do?

    A: For a smooth ride, tires must be balanced properly. Also, some tires ride better than others. Every tire is a compromise. Tires with a long tread life have a harder ride. Tires with a softer ride wear faster. Drop by for tire balancing and recommendations on the best replacement tires for your road conditions and the way you drive.

  • Q: My car pulls to one side. Could this be a problem with one of my tires?

    A: Possibly. A very soft tire can cause your car to pull to one side, but this is a very unsafe situation. Your car could also be out of alignment. Drop by Larsen Auto Repair for assistance.

  • Q: Can my flat tire be repaired instead of replaced?

    A: Only punctures in the center treads are repairable.

  • Q: How important is tire pressure to my fuel economy?

    A: You can improve fuel economy by up to 5% by keeping you tires inflated to the correct pressure and using the right grade of motor oil, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. If you drive 12,000 miles per year and gas is $3 per gallon, that's a savings of $72 per year, assuming your car gets 25 miles to the gallon.

  • Q: How often should I rotate my tires?

    A: Your tires should be rotated every other oil change, or every 6000 miles. Neglecting to rotate tires is a major cause of premature tire wear.