What is a flex plate in Ann Arbor MI

Broken-flywheel-Ann-ArborBasically a flywheel or flex plate is the round metal disc shaped component that transfers power from the engine to the transmission. A flywheel is usually referenced to a car with a standard transmission,and a “flex plate” is used with automatic transmissions.

The flex plate bolts to the engine crank shaft and to the torque converter of your automatic transmission. When the engine starts and is running the flex plate turns, which turns the torque converter and powers your hydraulic pump in your transmission. They sometimes will crack from just metal fatigue and vibration.

On the outer circumference of the flex plate or flywheel is a “ring gear” The ring gear is what your starter motor uses to crank the engine to start it. A manual transmission uses a “flywheel” A flywheel is much thicker and heavier than a flex plate and stores energy to keep things smooth while shifting gears. It also supply’s a friction surface for the clutch disc. A “flywheel” usually does not crack and fail like a flex plate.

A flywheel can crack on the friction surface from heat caused by a slipping clutch. The ring gear on a flex plate and a flywheel can fail. They can wear from normal wear and tear, but usually fail because the teeth on the gear are ground away or even break off from a bad or week starter motor. The “ring gear on a flywheel can usually be replaced. The ring gear on a flex plate requires replacing the “flex plate assembly”.

Either way your transmission will have to be removed to do the repair which is very labor intensive. If you hear a grinding noise while starting your vehicle, chances are you have a starter motor that is failing. Replacing the starter motor is important to protect the teeth on the flywheel and possibly prevent it from cracking. A cracked flex plate can also turn on your check engine light, cause stalling and poor running symptoms.

Posted in: Automatic Transmission, Flex Plate, Ring Gear

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Ball joint repair Ann Arbor MI

What is a ball joint and what does it do?

We are often asked what happens if I don’t replace my loose ball joint. Your ball joints are a very important piece of your suspension. It is a ball and socket type of joint that allows circular movement but no vertical or side to side movement. Unlike a sway bar link, if your ball joints breaks your car will be dead in its tracks, and it will usually ruin the brake hose, axle shaft, tire and wheel and may even damage the fender. Ron’s Garage inspects your ball joints and suspension every time your car is in for service. Signs of a loose ball joint are abnormal and premature tire wear, a pull in one direction or the other and an unstable feeling while driving at higher speeds. Other signs of a loose or worn ball joint are a clunking noise while hitting bumps or a tire that is sitting at a funny angle compared to the other tires. Also, bear in mind there may be no signs or symptoms at all. That’s why having them inspected with your routine maintenance is very important. Quick stop oil change joints can not check your ball joints because the tires have to be off the ground. Ron’s Garage in Ann Arbor does a digital inspection virtually every time your car is here so you can rest assured that your car is in tip top shape.


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Should I buy a warranty for my used car?

At Ron’s Garage, we are not big fans of used car warranties. Speaking from experience, and mostly bad experiences at that, with many used car warranty companies, we can honestly say no one is ever happy in the end. The warranty companies do not cover diagnoses charges, tear down charges, fluids, hoses, or most gaskets. Most policies say they cover internally lubricated parts only. Period. You have to authorize and pay for the tear down, so an inspector can come and inspect it. You also have to pay for the inspections. The warranty company will only pay a set labor rate, which they set, and you have to cover the difference. On major engine and transmission issues, they will often only patch it, rather than replace it. These warranties usually cost between $1500 and $4000.00 dollars, which are usually rolled into the purchase price of the car and financed, so you will be paying interest on it as well. Putting $20.00 dollars a week in your savings account will net you a little over $1000.00 dollars and that will cover your repairs and maintenance for the year. We don’t recommend “used car warranties”. However, we do recommend a “used car inspection” or a “pre-purchase inspection” by a reputable repair shop. It’s also important to purchase from a reputable dealer. All in all, keep your money and go on vacation, as chances are you will not need the warranty.

Bottom line: used car warranties SUCK. If you’re still unsure, Google it or YouTube “used car warranty complaints” and see for yourself. If you have any other questions, call us and I’ll tell you our horror stories. A little research on the make and model of your car of choice and a “pre-purchase inspection” will go a long way and most likely reveal any issues with the vehicle.

Posted in: Auto Repair, Used Cars, Warranty

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Everything You Need to Know About Timing Belt Replacement in Ann Arbor, MI

Wondering how much a timing belt costs or when it should be replaced? The actual price of the belt is fairly inexpensive, ranging somewhere between $35.00 and $100.00 dollars. However, on most cars the labor can be expensive. The price varies depending on the year make and model of the vehicle. Also, on many cars, the water pump is driven by the timing belt. The belt also has an automatic hydraulic tensioner that also has a life span and can fail. The timing belt keeps the crank shaft and camshaft timed together so the pistons do not hit the valves while they are in the open position. These shafts have rubber seals that age, they can harden over time and can actually crack and leak oil. At Ron’s Garage, we recommend replacing all these components while replacing the timing belt to ensure you have no future problems. If the water pump starts leaking anti freeze or one of your seals starts leaking oil, the timing belt will have to be replaced again plus the seals ,water pump and tensioners etc. It’s always cheaper in the long run to do the job right the first time than it is to do it over. Additionally your accessory drive belts may also be at the end of their life span and need replacing. Replacing them at the same time would be more cost-effective, as their would be no labor involved. These belts have to be removed to replace the timing belt. Most cars have a replacement interval of approximately 100,000 miles, but this can vary with different conditions. Severe conditions include drastic temperature changes. The travel conditions and age of your car an also shorten the replacement time frame for a timing belt. For example, commercial vehicles that spend a lot of time idling and/or the age of the vehicle will lower the recommended mileage interval. In Michigan, on the first very cold days of winter, it’s not unusual for us to see a couple of broken timing belts. Extreme heat is another enemy of your timing belt.

Posted in: Timing Belt, Timing Belt Replacement

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Head Gasket

If your looking for head gasket repair in Ann Arbor, I’m sorry. Head gasket repair is usually a pretty expensive repair. But on a good note (if that’s possible) it can be repaired. What does a head gasket do? Your engine has 2 major pieces, the cylinder block and the cylinder head. Between the cylinder head and the cylinder block is the “head gasket”. The head gasket’s job is to seal / isolate, the combustion gasses, Anti freeze and engine oil. Sounds simple doesn’t it? It’s not. It has to do this in some pretty extreme environments. When you start your engine cold in Ann Arbor MI. it can be any where from -35 to 100 degrees. At operating temperature the engine is between 195 to 220 degrees. Everything expands when it gets hot and contracts when it cools. To make matters worse the cylinder block is made out of cast iron and the cylinder head is aluminum, these 2 different metals expand and contract at different rates, so the head gasket also has to allow the block and head to slip a minute amount while still retaining a seal. Your anti freeze can and will cause your head gasket to fail if it’s not maintained properly. Your anti freeze/engine coolant not only keeps your engine cool it also protects the metals inside of your engine from corrosion. As the Ph level drops in your anti freeze it becomes acidic, anti freeze with a low Ph can literately “eat” away at the head gasket and metals inside of your engine. Once the corrosion process starts it’s really hard and sometimes impossible to stop. Follow the manufactures recommendations and have your coolant inspected annually. The biggest failure of head gaskets is from overheating your engine. The engine block is a very large heavy piece of iron which can handle excessive heat better than the much smaller aluminum cylinder head. The heads can get so hot if overheated that they will “warp”and when they cool back down they will not return to there normal shape. After this happens the gasket will not hold as tightly in spots as it needs to be and will fail allowing coolant, combustion gasses and oil to leak.

There is an easy way to prevent all this from happening. Let Ron’s Garage in Ann Arbor Repair and Maintain your vehicle. Ron’s Garage’s courtesy inspection is performed on your car virtually every time we service your vehicle. Our courtesy inspection is a 30 plus point electronic inspection that will detect worn out hoses, belts, radiators, brakes etc. Keeping your car in tip top shape and preventing any major catastrophes.

Posted in: Auto Repair, Auto Repair Columbus, Head Gasket

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Batteries / Battery

How do you know when your battery needs to be replaced?. Good question. If you live in Michigan, the average life of a battery is about 5 years. Some batteries last a little longer and some are no so lucky. Here are a few tips from Ron’s Garage to maximize the life of your battery. First, these are a few things that will shorten the life of a battery, one of the big killers of battery life is to drain your battery completely dead. If you drain your battery to that point you can expect to take up to a year off the life of your battery. The more jump starts you need the shorter your battery will live. So make sure your lights are off and no warning chimes are ringing when you exit your vehicle. Another big killer of battery life if vibration, we see a lot of batteries with missing hardware that holds the battery down and in place. Not only is this dangerous it shortens the life of your battery, make sure your battery is fastened down properly and not moving and bouncing around. Battery capacity (how many amp-hours it can hold) is what actually determines if you have the power to start your can at any given time. The capacity is reduced as the temperature goes down. and increases as the temp. goes up. This is why your car would not start on that 1st cold winter morning, but seemed to work fine the day before the temperature dropped. A battery in perfect condition will loose approx. 50% of it’s capacity at -22 degrees F, at 32 degrees F capacity is reduced by 20 percent. So if your battery capacity is only at 50% or so you need a new one. (or a good set of jumper cables). If it were 70 degrees here everyday and your battery was properly installed and you never left your headlights, on your battery could last 10 years or more. Ron’s Garage in Ann Arbor sells and installs the Napa Legend Batteries as well as batteries from Exide Technologies. Ron’s Garage will also check your charging system to assure your new battery will last.

Posted in: Auto Repair, Batteries, Battery, Columbus Green Business

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How does my the heating system in my car work?

Ever wonder where the heat in your car comes from or how it works or who can repair your heat in Ann Arbor?. The heat in your car comes from the coolant that keeps your engine cool. As the engine warms up the coolant gets hot , typically between 195-210 degrees Fahrenheit .The hot antifreeze is pushed by the water pump through a thing called the heater core ( a small radiator/ heater exchange inside your dashboard). The heater core is inside the heating/ ventilation /air conditioning box also known as HVAC box. Inside of that box is an electric fan that draws fresh air from the outside of the vehicle and blows the air through the heater core. The hot air that exits the heater core can be mixed with cold air by adjustable doors called “blend doors” to adjust the temperature of the air if desired. Then the air is directed to the windshield, center vents or the floor by “distribution doors”. Late model cars use little electric actuator motors to adjust the “flappers/distribution”. If you hear a clicking noise in your dashboard while adjusting your heater temperature or switching from defrost to floor mode, most likely you have a bad actuator/blend door motor. If your heat seems to be not as hot as it should be, or just blows cold there are a few different things that could be wrong. First is the coolant level could be low, or your engine thermostat could be stuck in the open position, the heater core can be plugged or the temp/ blend door actuator motors may be broken.

Call Ron’s Garage we can repair all your heating problems. Are your windows always fogged up or frozen on the inside? Make sure your re-circulation button is not illuminated. (This is a very common problem) If you can smell antifreeze inside the vehicle you most likely have a leaking heater core. (This is an extensive job on most vehicles) Not all cars work exactly the same way, some cars have very basic manual controls while higher end vehicles may have fully automatic climate control systems that can be complicated to repair. Ron’s Garage has the experience and factory diagnostic tools to quickly diagnose any heating problem you may have . If you have any questions about the heater in your car call please call Ron’s Garage at 734-662-8379.

Posted in: Heating System, HVAC

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Winterizing Your Vehicle in Ann Arbor, MI

There are a few “must do’s” if you want your car to be prepared for the cold and snowy winter in Ann Arbor MI

First and foremost is the battery. The average life of a battery in Ann Arbor is only 5 years, and just because your car still starts today does not mean your battery is in tip top shape. Have your Battery tested in Ann Arbor to make sure your car will start when the temperature drops. Next, Engine coolant/Anti freeze is also very important, It not only keeps your engine cool in the hot summer months but it protects the inside of you engine,radiator, heater core ect. from corrosion.

Anti freeze should be mixed at 60% anti freeze to 40% water to assure it doesn’t freeze. Tires in Ann Arbor during the winter are your lifeline, driving on ice and snow can be dangerous. One trip into the ditch or a day off work can also be very expensive. Most cars on the road today have an all season tread meaning they work in the summer as well as the winter so you can run them all year long. A specialized winter tire works much better. It has a softer rubber compound so it works in lower temps and actually grips on ice. it’s almost like driving on “Velcro”. The only disadvantage to a winter tires is you have remove them in the spring, and the disadvantage to all season tires is you don’t get the great features and benefits of a seasonal/winter tire.

Also during the winter month we will be driving a lot more in the dark, so check all your bulbs, and if your head light lenses are cloudy have them polished, it makes a huge difference at night. Ron’s Garage in Ann Arbor can recondition your head lights and make them like new again with a lifetime guarantee. Now is a good time to replace your wiper blades with a “winter wiper blade” they resist freezing and work much better than conventional blades, make sure your washer solvent is good for at least 20 degrees below zero, the summer washer solvent is good to only about 20 degrees and then it will freeze. We all know driving without washers on a wet salty road is miserable. It’s also a good idea to have a warm pair of boots, a warm blanket, flashlight, flares and a extra bottle of washer solvent in case an emergency arises. Ron’s Garage in Ann Arbor has a courtesy inspection that will reveal any issues you may need to resolve to have safe and happy winter travels.

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Winter Tires

What do winter tires and your insurance deductible have in common?. Actually nothing, except they are very similar in cost. With the cost of auto insurance premiums today most people have a $1000.00 dollar deductible. A new set of 4 winter tires on wheels cost about $1000.00 dollars. (It’s not safe to run only 2 winter tires because the significant difference it traction). Winter tires should last between 4-5 years if installed and removed at the proper times of the year, so it’s really only about $250.00 to $300.00 a year and your summer tires will also last considerably longer. I have had customers call me personally to thank me after their first drive in the snow with their new winter tires. One customer said it was like driving on “Velcro”. Another said she looked forward to it snowing now so she can go out and “Play in the snow” with her car. They really do work that well! One trip into a ditch or sliding into a curb will you cost way more than a set of winter tires, and how much does a day off work cost? Winter tires sell out quick and once they are gone they are gone. Google: “winter tire test” to see just how amazing they really are. Ron’s Garage in Ann Arbor sells and installs Goodyear, Kelly and Dunlop winter tires and even stores your off season tires hear at the garage, so you don’t have to trip over them all year long. Call and make an appointment today!

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Why do brakes cost so much? Are some brakes better that others?

First there is really no such thing as a $79.99 “brake job.” Ron’s Garage has been repairing brakes in Ann Arbor for over 35 years and we have repaired the damage caused from a lot of $79.95 brake jobs. A lot of repair shops think a “brake job” is what we call at Ron’s Garage a “pad slap.” They remove the wheels, slap some pads on and sometimes replace the brake rotors and 15 minutes later they are done. And 20,000 miles later you need new brakes again. Unfortunately in Michigan and other rust belt states “pad slaps” do not last. Why ? Because of the rust this climate creates. Your brake pads and calipers must be free of rust so all the parts can “float” after the brake pedal is released. Rust holds the brake pads against the rotors after releasing the brake pedal, causing premature failure, squeaks, vibration, and other noises.

Second… let’s address the quality of parts. I know for a fact that a lot of shops charge you for the best parts and install the “cheapo” parts. Robbing you blind. 20,000 miles later after they fail you are “S.O.L.”… Ron’s Garage only installs Premium brake parts to protect you from this type of scenario. These parts are as good or better than what came on your car when it was new.

Third… we then disassemble the brakes, measure the rotors, clean and lube the calipers slides, check the caliper boots and seals, Remove and sandblast the rust off the brake pad cradles, paint the cradles with a rust resistant paint. After the paint dries everything is reassembled. The car is the test driven to seat the new brake pads and rotors together. This is done to prevent any squeaks and noises and is a very important step. this step alone take on average 20 minutes. 4th Our Free courtesy shuttle picks you up, we relieve you of some of your hard earned money, give you a 3 year 36,000 mile parts and labor warranty. And thank you like you have never been thanked before!

Posted in: Auto Repair, Brake Repair, Brakes, Tires

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