Monday, December 18, 2017

How Serious Is That Check Engine Light

 Have you ever been in a rush, on your way to work and your dash suddenly lights up like Christmas? In today's vehicles, there are so many electronic pieces and sensors that we can’t always be prepared for whatever is flagging that check engine light. It’s hard to know if that light indicates a small problem, or a serious issue. Unless your car is smoking, it’s unlikely you’re in any extreme danger, but there could still be something wrong with your vehicle. The check engine light exists to keep you aware of engine irregularities and sensory malfunctions. The engine control unit in your car makes sure that the engine is running properly, but as that’s not always the case, what do you do when that frustrating light turns on?

It’s always best to bring your vehicle in to a professional. Best case scenario, the engine light is on due to a loose gas cap or something easily fixed on your own. If the engine light comes on and you haven’t noticed any extensive differences in how your car drives, you don’t need to seek immediate service. Ignoring the problem can further the issue and create a bigger backlash in the long run, so it’s best to get in to have the vehicle looked at upon your earliest convenience.

You likely don’t need to worry if your car is:
  • Behaving normally
  • Getting the same gas mileage
  • No smoking, no strange smells and no noises

There could be a more serious problem if:
  • You see smoke
  • Experience a huge decline in gas mileage
  • Strange smells or noises coming from the engine
  • There’s a major loss of power

Regardless of how the vehicle is doing, if the sensor has been triggered and you’re unsure at all of why, bringing your car in can give you peace of mind and ensure your safety.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Get That Chip Fixed

Winter is on it’s way, and before it’s here in full force you need to give your car an in depth inventory of potential repairs. Look over your car and make a list of things you might need before salt and grime eat away at your mode of transportation. One of the most overlooked items that should be on your list of repairs before it freezes are rock chips in your windshield. While they may be minimal at first, those chips can quickly turn into large cracks that span your windshield all because it dropped below freezing overnight. They are frustrating and not something to be ignored. Even the smallest of cracks can turn into large unrepairable ones due to the cold temperatures we face.
If the crack is less than six inches in length, it is unlikely you will need a full windshield repair. They have aftermarket kits that are available to patch and repair small kits, but it should be looked at by a professional to verify the crack has not penetrated the plastic shield that prevents the windshield from shattering. In the chance that the damage to your windshield is a shallow crack, they will smooth down the glass and fill the crack with a glue that dries clear. This option does not make the
crack any less visible, but it will keep it from spreading and causing additional damage.
Windshield repair is a simple process, and does not take long. A technician can assess the damage by evaluating the age of the windshield with the length and depth of the crack, as well as where it lies in your line of sight. A technician will almost always recommend full replacement if the crack spans your line of sight, and provided you have glass coverage with your insurance, it should be covered. Full glass replacement is a quick fix, but some sealants require it to sit for 24 hours following the repair.
Both rock chip repair and full windshield replacement are not costly items. If you need a recommendation for a place, please give us a call!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Preparing Your Vehicle for Winter

Winter is on it’s way, and just like with your home or your attire, your car needs to be prepared to survive the cold weather we’re about to face. The snow and cold brings about lots of new challenges for your day to day life, and is about to bring a bit of havoc to your vehicle.Preparation is the key to getting you and your family through this winter safe, warm and happy.
Put together an emergency kit. This is a good tip for year round travel, but should be edited a bit to include items you’ll need to survive in case of a break down mid-winter. Your kit should include these basics: a change of clothes, a first-aid kit, road flares, a flashlight, a bag of sand, an ice scraper, extra pairs of gloves, and some high protein snacks like nuts or jerky. It’s a good idea to keep an insulated poncho and hand warmers in this kit as well, to try and stay warm.

Do a thorough check of your antifreeze and coolant levels. Make sure to look at all the fluid levels in your vehicle, but these especially. Antifreeze does what it’s name says - keeps your engine from freezing in the dead of winter. It’s best to check these before you make trips, and to look at your vehicle's manual to verify you’ve got the proper level and mixture.

If you don’t have them already, switch to an all season or your winter tires to face the icy roads. Regardless of the tires on your vehicle, check to make sure that you have proper tread depth and tire pressure. Tire pressure can be checked with simple tools from auto stores, and if you’re unsure check with someone at your local auto parts clerk to verify where your vehicle should be at. You can test your tread depth by performing the “Lincoln test.” Insert a penny with Lincoln’s head pointed towards your tread, if you can see all of his head it’s time to replace your tires.

The next time you take your car in for an oil change, switch to winter grade oil. The colder it is outside, the thinner you want the oil in your vehicle. While you’re at it, switch your windshield wiper fluid to a winter-grade option. It will help keep your fluid from freezing on your windshield when you need to wash off all that road salt.

If you do nothing else on this list, at least make sure to include an emergency kit for the winter. Accidents happen, and it could mean the difference between life or death for you and your loved ones if you’re stranded. Drive save this winter and stay warm!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Flat Tire On The Freeway

Imagine driving down the freeway at a brisk 72 mph, top down, your favorite song blaring on the radio... sounds like a carefree trip, right? Now imagine your tire blows, a loud pop followed by *thudthudthudthud*. What do you do now?

The best reaction to a flat tire on the freeway is no reaction. Keep your steering wheel straight and resist all urge to turn the vehicle in either direction. Your car will try to pull away from you, and because one end of the car will be lower than the other it can be very hard to combat this. Your car will try and spin around the flat, so be aware of which tire has blown. It should be obvious depending on how bad the flat is. You can generally see a tilt in the vehicle to either side.

As counterintuitive as this sounds, give it some gas. Your newly flattened tire is making your vehicle decelerate and you need to keep going at a reasonable speed to maintain a safe distance from the vehicles traveling around you. Once you’ve assessed the situation you’ll need to start to ease off the gas and guide yourself onto a shoulder, or into a residential area if at all possible. Try to let the car lose momentum on it’s own. If you can, avoid using the breaks as it could cause you to spin out and potentially hit other vehicles. If you have blown a rear tire, make sure to be especially careful when slowing down, as they’re a bit more volatile than blown front tires.

Depending on which side of the vehicle your flat is on, ease yourself off of the road and onto a shoulder. If there's available space and no traffic, go to the side where your tire isn’t closest to the freeway. It’s safest for you, your vehicle and for other drivers on the road. Take it easy, and don’t turn your steering wheel too sharply. Slow and precise movements will keep your vehicle under control and allow you to be as safe as possible. Once off the road, call for help or start the process of changing your tire on your own, provided you know how.

Proper tire care can keep you from having a flat, but they do happen to even the best mechanics out there. Make sure you’re checking your tires air pressure regularly, and get them rotated at least every 6 months, or every 6,000 miles. Remember that with the changing of the seasons, you also need to check your tires for low air! Prevention won’t always save you from a flat, but it will minimize the chances. If you have any additional questions about flat tire, stop in today!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Keep Your Feet Down

We’ve all heard those country songs, the ones that tell you to throw your worries out the window, relax and put your feet up on the dash and enjoy the ride. If you’re a routine passenger, that’s likely a position you’ve sat in and enjoyed because it IS more comfortable. Unfortunately, that comfort is not worth the potential pain you could face if presented with an accident. Have you ever considered how unsafe that could be in a collision?

Riding around as a passenger in a vehicle is a common thing we’ve all done, and on long trips it’s normal to face mild discomfort and to try and find a comfortable position. This often includes putting your feet up on the dash, and while it’s comfortable for a moment, the consequences could be detrimental. If you’ve ever been the unpleasant victim of a deployed airbag, you know how painful that is. An airbag takes 1/20th of a second to deploy, and deploys between 100 and 220 mph depending on the make and model of your vehicle. Imagine being in a collision, the airbags deploying, and forcing your knees into your face, or the force of the airbags breaking the bones in your legs. The airbag is in your vehicle for safety reasons, but will only protect you when used properly. 

That horror story is what happened to Audra Tatum in August of 2015. She rode with her feet on the dash of her husband's vehicle, and they were in an accident. Two years later, she’s still facing extreme difficulties. She’s now using her story to caution other people from the severe pain and trauma that she endured by trying to be comfortable on a car ride. No matter how quickly you think you can pull your feet down, the airbag will always be quicker.

While on long drives it may make sense to put your feet up for comfort, or to get in a quick nap before your shift of driving, you’re putting yourself at risk. Even though you haven’t been in an accident in years, or your girlfriend is a wonderful driver, do yourself and your family a favor and keep your feet planted with your seat belt on. 

If you are interested in reading Audra’s story, you can find it here:

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Don’t Worry, It’s Just A Recall

Last year alone, manufactures issued 927 recalls, that affected 53.2 million vehicles. This is the third year in a row that recalls have broken the all time high record, each year progressively seeing higher numbers. A recall on your vehicle is simply when the manufacturer finds a part on a model or a range of models that does not comply with federal safety standards or is found to be faulty in some way. These recalls are often a free repair, and can be done at your local dealership.
Car manufacturers are required to send out a notice letter letting their customers know if there’s been a recall on their vehicle, but in some situations you won’t receive one. If you bought your vehicle after a recall was issued or just missed the letter in the mail, you can find the necessary information on the NHTSA website. While there usually is not a time limit on when you can get the recall done, it’s best to do it sooner than later. However, if your recall is on your tires you have 60 days to get into the dealer for repairs or replacement.

Once you’ve become aware of a recall on your vehicle, you’ll need to contact your local dealer and set up a repair appointment. You are not required to pay for the repairs tied to a recall if your vehicle is less than 10 years old. In the off chance your dealer tries to charge you for the repairs, request to speak to a manager and explain the situation. If you have one, bring your recall letter in as proof of the recall, though the dealer should already be aware. You can contact the manufacturer if the dealership continues to try and charge you, and if you have no luck there contact NHTSA directly.

A recall is not always an “immediate danger” situation, they are generally issued as a cautionary warning, as an issue has surfaced in various models or within a year range similar to your vehicle. Be patient, as sometimes it takes the manufacturer a few weeks to formulate a plan of action, and don’t worry too much. You will get your vehicle fixed, and it should only be a minor inconvenience.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Traveling With Pets in The Car

Road trips can be tough on all of us, but bringing a pet along? That can be even harder. Unlike traveling with other adults or even children, your pet can't tell you if they're uncomfortable, or if they need to find a bush. There are ways to make the trip comfortable and easy on you, and your pal. So don't leave them behind on a trip to the cabin this year, here's a few tips to help get the whole family there safe and happy!

Consider crating or a carrier. While in certain situations your pup might be too large, or well behaved and you feel it's unnecessary, sometimes confining your animal can help keep them calm. It also can benefit you from becoming distracted on the road. Though, if the crate isn't the route for you and your pet, look into a harness buckle. We belt ourselves in to be safe, why would we allow our loved pets to ride free? An unrestrained 60lb dog becomes a 2,700 pound projectile in a sudden stop or accident at a speed of 35 miles per hour. Buckling your animal in is the safe choice for him, and for you!

Keep those windows up! As fun as it may seem for your dog, sticking his head out the window is actually detrimental to their noses, ears and eyes. Imagine going above 45 miles an hour, and having your head out the window. The dust, dirt and bugs that would come flying into your face would make it a very uncomfortable experience, and it's the same for your dog. The smells are great, but it's not worth the damage that can be done.  

Prep a travel kit. You prep yourself for travel, so why not prep your dogs? Bring the necessary things, such as a leash, water bowl, food, first aid kit, etc. Avoid feeding your dog too close to your departure time, and try to avoid feedings while you're on the road as much as possible. Animals can suffer from motion sickness as humans do, and nobody likes having to clean up barf on the road!

Bring something for your pup to do while in the car! Distractions and stimuli will help keep your dog from growing anxious by sitting in the car for too long. The longer the trip the more toys you should bring. Make sure to take frequent stops so that you and your dog can stretch your legs and get some fresh air!

Road trips are fun for the whole family, your pet included! Don't let long drives and frustration keep you from bringing your loved ones along. A little preparation goes a long way, and can turn a stressful drive into an easy one. Buckle up and have fun this summer, the whole family included!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Photo courtesy of MN Historical Society
One of the best parts of being a licensed driver, is the ability to make the decision you want on when you go... and where! So if you haven't gone on a road trip lately, or you just went last week, I have five stops you should consider before you get back in that driver seat.

Split Rock Lighthouse
If you haven't ventured north of Duluth yet, I highly suggest a spontaneous road trip. About 200 miles south of the cities, Split Rock Lighthouse can be found on the North shore of Lake Superior in Two Harbors, Minnesota. With walking trails, gorgeous views and a bit of history, it's a desirable getaway from the chaos of the cities. There are guided tours available on site, and an adorable gift shop. It can be a romantic stop for two, or a family adventure. Just make sure you wear your walking shoes, and are ready for a decent trek to the shore.

Spamtown USA
Who doesn't like spam? Austin, Minnesota is home of the Hormel's Corporate Headquarters, and is also home to the Spam Museum. You can learn everything from the makings of Spam to some great recipes on how to use Spam in your home cooked meals. Or in the event that you don't care for canned meats, Austin has also been named "One of the Top Ten Inexpensive Towns You'd Actually Want To Live" in 2015. It lies about 100 miles south of the cities, and is just waiting for a new visitor or three.

Schell's Brewery
Beer is great. Local beer? Even better! 96 miles south west of the metro you'll find one of the oldest locally owned breweries in Minnesota. It’s the second oldest family run brewery in Minnesota, to be exact. After your time touring the brewery and visiting the gift shop, make a weekend of your trip and stop down at the Deutsche Strasse Bed and Breakfast for a German themed stay to match all that German crafted beer you just drank. 

Jeffers Petroglyphs

130 miles out of Minneapolis in Comfrey, you'll find peaceful prairie land, a tiny town and lots of history. Jeffers Petroglyphs are vast expanses of rock covered in the 7000 plus year old artwork and depictions of stories of the way of life of Native Americans. You can find humans, deer, buffalo, turtles and other creatures sketched out on these rocks. There are guided tours available, as well as various classes you can take. Ever wanted to learn to throw atlatl and hunt buffalo? The Native American Survivalist class is the place for you!

Franconia Sculpture Park
A short drive 50 miles out of the metro will land you in a bizarre wonderland, also known as the Franconia Sculpture Park in Franconia, Minnesota. Located on a 43 acre plot of land, Franconia Sculpture Park is an active artist residency working to showcase 40 new artist each year. The park always changes, new sculptures are worked on regularly and you're always in for a fun surprise.

As with any other adventure in a vehicle, make sure you're practicing safe driving techniques. Be aware so you can go on multiple more adventures with your loved ones, or alone. In case of an accident, or any road mishap, think of us at Oakdale Collision. We'll take this stressful situation off your shoulders and get you back in your vehicle in no time!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Distracted Driving

You constantly hear about texting and driving, and how many accidents that causes, but did you know that the biggest cause of accident is purely driving while distracted? Distracted driving of any kind can lead to a devastating accident, all because you wanted a piece of gum or were reaching to change the song on your stereo. 

Even if you are at full attention while driving, on average during the day there are 660,000 drivers using their cellphones while out on their commutes. Imagine how many other drivers are out driving without their full attention at hand. That puts you and your family at risk. Taking your eyes off the road for even a moment can be the split second an irresponsible driver veers into you. 

Before each drive you should be verifying that your mirrors and stereo are preprogrammed to the way you need. The less you have to fix while on the road, the fewer distractions you have to deal with. Your turn signal is a great way to warn other drivers of your intentions, and while it's unnecessary if used miles before your turn, you still want to give ample time for a quick response if needed. Using your turn signal early can help keep other drivers informed and prevent accidents. 

Avoid driving your vehicle late at night, or during hours you're not fully awake. Thousands of car accidents a year are attributed to driving drowsy. Add that to driving at night and you're looking at your chance of being in an accident tripling, simply because your visibility is impaired. If you're on a long road trip pull over for a nap, or find a hotel close by. Make sure to pull completely off the road and give yourself ample space for passing vehicles. Your state of mind is extremely important while operating a vehicle, for your safety and for others. 

Teach your children and loved ones a valuable life lesson – make sure they know how detrimental picking up their phone or any form of distraction during a car ride can be, and make sure they're spreading the word. Being vocal with your peers and adults about their driving habits can be the difference between life and death. In the end, accidents do happen, and are often times unavoidable. We are here for you when life gets in the way. Bring your car down to Oakdale Collision for an estimate in your time of need.

Monday, March 27, 2017

That Bumper Is More Than Just An Eyesore

Car accidents most often occur within 25 miles of your home. That means they’re not from driving on the freeway, or a crazy person ripping through the drive-thru, they’re happening close to home while you or your neighbors are on auto-pilot. Let's say you’re driving down the back roads by your house on your way to pick up the kids from soccer practice and BAM! Just like that. You hit black ice and slide into a guardrail. Now, your bumper looks to have suffered some minor damage, there’s a decent dent and some ugly scratches, but it’s still attached. Safe, right? Wrong.

The bumper on your vehicle is aptly named because it’s main purpose is to keep you safe in the account that you hit or “bump” into something in your travels. The original bumper was essentially a hunk of wood bolted onto the front and rear of a vehicle. That wood was meant to cushion the impact of various accidents. New vehicles have beautifully sculpted metal and in some cases plastic covers to hide the extremely important internal pieces of a bumper. 

The main internal piece of your bumper is called an impact bar, or in some cases an absorber, depending on the make of your car. That impact bar/absorber is specifically designed as a (generally) one time use part that will absorb the impact of your hit. Underneath that plastic or metal shield is an entire slew of parts that when shifted from even a minor accident can mean the difference from experiencing a stiff neck, to serious injuries.

Now, with that being said, you’re likely not driving around with a bunch of worthless junk in the car. You’re driving around with your loved ones, your friends, and other precious cargo that you wouldn’t want harmed in the event of another collision. The best way to prevent injury in an accident is to maintain your vehicle at it’s top operating condition. Let us take a look at your car and potentially save you and your loved ones from more damage than is necessary. Our estimates are free and have no obligation of repairs. It’s better safe than sorry, so bring in your scrapes and bruises today!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

City Driving Tips

Even if you don’t work in the city, chances are you may drive there from time to time. Navigating one-way streets and finding a place to park can be a nightmare, especially if you are unfamiliar with where you are going. Here are a few tips to help the next time you find yourself driving to a Vikings Game or checking out the latest Brewery that just popped up in St Paul:
  1. Watch Out for People on Bicycles: You may not be used to seeing them as much in the suburbs, but a lot of people use bicycles in the city. Make sure you keep an eye out as they change lanes or you do!
  2. Brush Up On Your Parallel Parking: We know you don’t have to parallel park at Hy-Vee or most places you may be use to going. Chances are if you’re downtown, you may have to parallel park. 
  3. Find a Spot Your Car Fits In: If you’ve got a big SUV, make sure you find a spot that your vehicle fits in. You don’t want to anger your parking mates by trying to fit into a “compact” space.
  4. ALWAYS CARRY CHANGE: Want to park on the street and save a few bucks? You may not be able to if you don’t have change. While many of the new parking meters are equipped to take credit cards, not all of them do. 
  5. Map Out The One Way Streets: If you’re driving to a new area, do you know which streets are one-ways in Minneapolis? It can be important to figure out which major streets are one-ways prior to departing so you don't end up going the wrong way!

Friday, January 27, 2017

4 Reasons Referrals and Online Reviews are Important For Our Business

In the collision repair industry, taking your business from a frustrating stop in a customer’s day to a helpful experience in an unfortunate time is extremely important. Referrals can set you apart from the competition. When a customer gives you a referral they’ve taken the time out of their day to spread news that your shop has exceeded their needs to thousands of potential customers. For many shops this can mean a huge increase in door traffic and billed repair time.

Referrals are much more than word of mouth, these days you have to leave a review online which essentially gives your “seal of approval” to thousands of people in your area. More than 90% of consumers say that their buying decisions are influenced by online reviews! 90%! So if you’ve been given exceptional service, wouldn’t you want to tell the whole world about it?

Here’s why Reviews and Referrals matter so much:
  1. About 88% of consumers read online reviews to determine if a local business is a “good” business or not. If the business doesn’t have any reviews, it can hurt. If a business has a lot of quality reviews, consumers feel it represents what type of business they are and are more likely to trust your company. 
  2. A personal recommendation is the only other referral process that people trust more than online reviews. If a business has a proven track record, you may get several recommendations for the same business. 
  3. Reviews have a dramatic effect on the businesses search engine position! Yup, that’s right. The more reviews you have, the better your ranking will be with Google, Yahoo!, Bing, Yelp and any of the other search engine directories out there. Now you’ve helped us in more ways than one!
  4. With a referral or even sometimes a review, it builds the trust in to the job. Trust can be hard to come by with a cold call, but with a referral or a review, you’ve already got an established base of trust to work from.