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How to Budget for Car Maintenance

How to Budget for Car Maintenance

Thousands of car accidents that occur every year in the United States are due to a lack of proper auto maintenance. Even back in 2004, the nonprofit Car Care Council estimated the total cost of collisions resulting from unperformed maintenance was more than $2 billion.


Plus, as we all know, maintenance extends the life of your car.


You may understand as a car owner that maintaining your car is a good idea both from safety and investment perspectives. However, you may also have difficulty budgeting for upkeep costs if you do not have a large income. Here are a few ideas on budgeting for car maintenance. First, we review two options on budgeting. Then we discuss how the maintenance schedule within your owner’s manual is the centerpiece to better understand your maintenance costs years in advance.


Option 1 – Budget using your past payment records


You can build a strong budget using your past spending. You will create a clearer picture and more reasonable idea of how spending will occur by looking at your historical costs. Here is a four-step process to build your budget:


  1. Organize all your car maintenance documents from the past year. Gather your checkbook or credit card statements or receipts, whatever applies to your situation. Note that you are not concerned with payments toward insurance or the car itself but any upkeep (oil, tires, repairs, etc.).
  2. Get a sum of your maintenance costs. Now add up all your maintenance receipts. Then, to get the average monthly cost, divide the figure by 12. You may have spent $720 in the last twelve months on maintenance, in which case you would want to set aside $60 per month for maintenance moving forward (assuming no adjustments).
  3. Modify the budget to reflect the vehicle’s condition. When a car is older, you should expect that major repairs will be a likelier event. That is the tradeoff of an older car: by keeping it, you avoid purchasing a new one but also may incur sizable maintenance costs. If your car is older and you have not had any major replacements lately, add another $50 per month. However, if you had substantial work performed and expect this year to be lighter, you could reduce your per-month budget accordingly.
  4. Divide your car maintenance money from everything else. If you are afraid that you will spend the money that you would like to have saved for car issues, it is a good idea to have it in a different location, such as your savings account rather than checking. For this system to work, you need to transfer in the budgeted amount every month. Then when a big expense arises, you have the money on-hand.


Note that you may find it more helpful to have the money based on your pay cycle. If you are paid weekly or biweekly, divide by 52 or 26 instead of 12, respectively. Fitting the car maintenance amount to your paycheck means that it is simple to take out the amount set within your budget each time immediately after you get paid.


Finally, once the money is there, be aware that it is easy to remove it before it has served its purpose. Try to be religious about not touching this car-maintenance fund.


Option 2 – Budget using a standard monthly figure


If you have a new car for which you do not have a year of receipts, or if you otherwise do not want to put in the time for a specific budgeting amount, you could just use a standard average figure. Citing a mechanic named Sam, FiveCentNickel.com puts the approximate amount that should be allotted for a vehicle’s maintenance each year at $1200 – or $100 per month.


Maintenance schedule as a guide for budgeting


Finance advice writer Nicole Arata says that a key way to protect yourself and keep to your budget is to become familiar with your owner’s manual – and that really is true because it gives you guidelines that fit your car. Your manual will include a car maintenance schedule that gives you an idea when certain services should be performed. Standard services, with common mileage intervals, include:


  • Oil/filter change – 5000-7000 miles
  • Tire rotation – 3000-7000 miles
  • Multipoint inspection – Each visit


Car components will often have a very long life: they “are meant to last and last and last, and they typically don’t fail unless you’ve ignored something downstream,” says CarMD communications director Kristin Brocoff. Even though that’s the case, replacements will often still need to be made for the car to stay in proper working order. Other types of maintenance your car might need are:


  • Brake pad replacement – 30,000-50,000 miles
  • Engine air filter replacement – 20,000-60,000 miles
  • Tire replacement – Interval varies
  • Wiper blade replacement – 6-12 months


Become familiar with proper care of your vehicle


The easiest way to get a grasp of the proper maintenance treatment of your car is to look in the manual. The manual is helpful, as indicated above, because it will give you specific details for when certain services should be performed. For instance, the manual for a 2010 Toyota Corolla states that when you have owned the car for three years or have driven it for 30,000 miles, you should have the following tasks completed:


  • cabin air filter replacement
  • driver-side floor mat installation check
  • engine air filter replacement
  • fluid check and filling
  • oil filter & engine oil replacement
  • tire rotation


The extent to which you will need various replacements and adjustments are directly related to the way you drive your car. Expect to have to get maintenance more often if you live in an extremely hot or cold climate; use the car for towing; or idle regularly. Nonetheless, most car owners will be able to use the standard schedule that is described within the manual, per Edmunds.com vehicle testing director Dan Edmunds.


Knowing the service schedule will help you be prepared for upcoming expenses, but it could also keep money in your pocket. When you are informed about your model’s service schedule, it will be harder for a less-than-transparent mechanic to sell you an automatic transmission flush or similar service that the car does not need.


When a mechanic says that they recommend something that you know is contrary to the standard schedule, you can just let them know you want to stay with the factory-advised schedule (unless there is a legitimate reason to make the replacement immediately).


As indicated above in the discussion of older cars, you should expect to pay more for vehicle maintenance if the car has more than 100,000 miles on it.


An honest mechanic to save on car maintenance


Keeping your budget for auto repair under control starts with making sure you are getting straight talk from your mechanic. According to surveys conducted by RepairTrust, nearly three quarters of car owners (70%) say that they are worried about being excessively charged for a car repair. In fact, two in five consumers (40%) said that they had experienced overcharging from a mechanic in the past!


Are you in need of honest auto repair in Boulder? At Independent Motors, we believe great service starts with open, honest communication. Then, we back up that line of communication with sheer expertise. See our history and beliefs.

14 Top Car Maintenance Myths

Top 14 Car Maintenance Myths

If you want to keep your car operational as long as possible, you must give it proper care. However, it is possible to incur unnecessary expenses or make other mistakes because of persistent maintenance myths. Here are 14 of the most common myths in Boulder and throughout the U.S.:


1.) For optimal fuel efficiency, choose to roll down your windows over the AC.


Having the AC on will make a car consume fuel faster. However, rolling down the windows is also problematic because it increases wind resistance, which counteracts the car’s aerodynamic design. To overcome the resistance, the car will need additional fuel. Approximately the same amount of gas is used if you roll down the windows or use the air conditioner, according to the Automotive Training Center (ATC).


Consumer Reports has the same basic findings. The consumer advice publication noted that the impact of air conditioning on fuel economy is minimal. Since the difference is negligible and it yields improvements in driver comfort and alertness, the magazine recommends using the AC without reservation.


2.) Use laundry detergent or dishwashing soap for car washes.


Any of the household detergents you use are dangerous to your car because they will wear away the wax finish, notes Machine Design. The soaps that are specifically designed for car washes will keep your wax safe.


3.) You want your tire to have the same pressure that is listed on its sidewall.


On the sidewall of your tire, you will see a pounds-per-square-inch number that represents the most the tire could contain for safe driving; in other words, it is not the PSI that is recommended in order to standardly get the best comfort, fuel economy, and handling. The ideal PSI for the car should be available on your fuel-filler door, within your glove box, or on a doorjamb sticker. If you take the maximum PSI and reduce by 10, you will get a 1 mpg improvement in your efficiency on average, per Consumer Reports tests.


However, the key concern – where the difference in pressure can be even more valuable – is in its impact on tire wear, braking, and handling. To stay on top of pressure, use a tire gauge once per month; the best time to check is when the car has been sitting for several hours.


4.) It is prudent to change oil every 3000 miles, regardless the vehicle.


The traditional model of car could use an oil change every 3000 miles. That truism has been outgrown by developments in engine operation and design. You will not cause damage with additional oil changes, but you may only need one every 5000 or 7500 miles. See your owner’s manual for advice specific to your model.


5.) You will get better fuel economy if you fill up your car each morning.


Often people will advise to get your gas in the morning rather than later, so you can benefit from the greater density of cooler temperatures. This piece of advice fails to take into account that the gas is stored in tanks underground; because of that, you won’t see much temperature fluctuation throughout the day. The fuel will not typically get hot while it comes through the pump as long as business is relatively steady. Simply changing your route to get gas when it could be slightly cooler will outweigh any gains you might see by giving preference to morning fill-ups – so effectively, time is irrelevant. Just get gas whenever you drive by a station.


6.) When you run over a nail, you need a new tire.


An auto repair shop will be able to fix a nail or other small puncture with a patch, rather than having to replace the whole tire.


7.) Don’t ever just replace a single tire.


(Note that the following does not apply to all-wheel-drive cars, for which you must replace all tires at once). Typically the recommendation is to get two tires at a time so that you keep the tread even and the car is not imbalanced. Actually, it is all right to replace a single tire, particularly if the additional tire still has plenty of tread. The key point is that the new tire you get is an identical match (tread pattern, speed rating, brand, and size) to the other half of the pair. Bumper to Bumper Radio co-host Matt Allen says putting on unmatched tires is “like wearing a running shoe and a heel.”


8.) Once you jumpstart your car, you can then recharge the battery in a quick drive.


It actually takes hours of driving for a complete battery recharge, particularly if it is colder. Your alternator can only use extra power that is available to recharge after supplying it to music systems, heated seats, and other auxiliary components. Get a load test at a gas station to make sure that the battery is capable of maintaining a charge. Once you know the battery is still functional, you can use a battery charger for a few hours to give it a full charge.


9.) You will help any car by giving it premium gas.


In most situations, a car will perform just as well on standard, 87 octane gas. Premium-octane fuel will not cause any problems but will typically not improve how it operates. As the octane number rises, you become less likely to experience pre-ignition issues with the gas – for which reasons it is suggested specifically for use with engines that are high-compression and run hot. If you have a car that is not high-compression and that can use any octane of unleaded fuel, the low-grade version will be fine. When the manual recommends a higher octane but does not require its use, standard octane should still work fine. The manual will make it explicit if high-octane gas is needed, in which case you will have to buy it.


10.) Octane ratings do not matter.


While there is no advantage to using premium fuel in a car designed for regular, there is a reason the premium fuel is there: some models do require it. You could cause engine damage if you use standard gas in a premium-fuel car.


11.) Coolant should be flushed every time you change the oil.


Generally, an owner’s manual will advise to switch out the coolant every 60,000 mile or 5 years. If you keep having to refill the coolant reservoir because the level drops, you may have a leak.


12.) It is important to make sure your car is warm before you drive it.


Warming up the car applied to older engines. Today, you will have the most success getting your engine temperature up by driving; once it is warm, you will get stronger performance and efficiency. Be careful about not revving the engine until you have driven the car for a few miles.


13.) The car should be fine if you cannot see or hear a problem.


If there is an issue with your car, it will not always be apparent. Drivers often do not notice problems. Bringing the car in to get it checked by a technician can help uncover any issues.


14.) If you want your warranty to stay active, you need to use the dealership for all maintenance.


You don’t need to have the job completed at a dealership. You simply need to follow the schedule in the owner’s manual to determine that work is performed at the listed intervals.




There are many myths about car maintenance. However, the reality is that you could easily lose 50,000 of the life of a car by not maintaining it properly, according to Edmunds.com senior consumer advice editor Philip Reed.


Are you looking for honest auto maintenance and repair in Boulder? At Independent Motors, 90% of the work we do is repeat business. Meet our staff.


How to Change Your Own Oil (Bottom-Mount Filters)

How to Change Your Oil

More than $8000 was spent by each of us in 2016 on our vehicles, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The purchase of new or used cars accounted for $3634 per consumer; $1909 was spent per person on fuel and motor oil; and $1149 went toward insurance policies. Once those numbers were combined with additional costs such as licensing and maintenance, the total 2016 figure per consumer was a whopping $8427.


Since owning a car is so incredibly expensive, it is easy to start to cut corners. Although skipping routine maintenance such as oil changes is understandable, it certainly comes at its own long-term cost. That is for two primary reasons, per Bankrate:


  1. The total cost of collisions caused by unperformed maintenance on cars is $2 billion, according to 2004 data from the nonprofit Car Care Council.
  2. You will knock down the life of your car if you skip regular maintenance – losing up to 50,000 miles.


Regardless how much you want to save money, you certainly do not want to avoid or delay maintenance. At Independent Motors, we would rather your car stay healthy regardless your immediate situation, so we provide here a four-step plan to change your oil. You will need about a half-hour, but allot at least an hour the first time you try, since there is a bit of a learning curve. Here is a relatively standard nine-step process to change your oil yourself:


Step 1 – Look at your manual.


Probably the best page-turner that you have in your possession is your car manual (right?), so flip it open and look in the index for oil guidelines (type and amount). You will need several standard 1-quart containers of oil to do the job. Edmunds director of vehicle testing Dan Edmunds suggests staying away from 5-gallon jugs of oil despite the lower price since they are bulky and can be difficult to handle – but either way.


Be certain that you know the specific type of oil that suits your engine (from the manual), since getting oil that is at the right viscosity level is critical. The manual also might direct you to use the synthetic variety. Some manufacturers specify their own brand, so make sure you use the correct oil.


Step 2 – Be prepared.


You will want to put together an oil drain pan; a socket or box end wrench for removal of the drain plug; and an oil filter removal wrench. Also purchase or otherwise gather a funnel, latex gloves, oil filter, and… don’t forget the oil. Plus, it may be necessary to elevate your vehicle in order to be able to perform the work, which would mean that you will require steel ramps, or a floor jack and safety stands. Finally, a drain plug washer may also be needed. You can actually make sure that the oil filter is compatible with your wrench in the auto parts store. Be careful about band-type filter wrenches, since they can be annoying if you do not have much space to use it.


Step 3 – Get the car ready.


You want both the engine and its oil to be warm, although not hot, when you begin working. You want to wait a few minutes after the car is turned off to get to work, but you do not want it to be completely cold. How do you get your car to the right temperature? If your car is cold, you want to turn the ignition and keep it on about 5 minutes to introduce a bit of heat. Then, or if you have just been driving it, wait about 30 minutes before you begin.


Raise the car if necessary, as long as you have safety stands in place. If your car was manufactured recently, it may have an undercover that conceals the oil filter and oil drain plug. You may have to take this piece off the car, or you may find that it has a hatch through which you can access these elements.


Step 4 – Figure out where the drain plug and oil filter are.


Almost all cars will have an oil filter that is screw-on and bottom-mounted. Depending on where these two items are located, you may need to move your drain pan once you have drained the oil and are ready to remove the filter. These instructions are for cars with bottom-mount filters, but we will address top-mount filters in a second blog.


Step 5 – Drain your oil.


Now, time to actually get to work on your car! You want the drain pan beneath the drain plug; however, it should not be right under it since the oil will not drain straight down. Move the pan just a few inches to the side so it catches it.


Take off your oil filler cap under your hood. Why? You will typically find oil will drain faster when that cap is not in place.


Now, grab your gloves. You should be able to take off the drain plug with a common end wrench. Do this step gradually, being conscientious that your arm is not in the way when the oil streams from the car.


Step 6 – Put your drain plug back on the car.


You can start this step while the oil is draining. Check the plug and clean it. At this point you can replace the drain plug washer if you need one; however, many cars have permanent O-rings, in which case you won’t have to get a washer. Tighten the drain plug. A combination wrench’s box end will help you tighten the plug appropriately. You do not want to overtighten it since someone will need to remove it at a later point.


Step 7 – Switch out the oil filter.


Making sure the drain pan is in the right place, take off the filter. It may be challenging to remove it because of a swollen sealing gasket (typical). The wrench is only necessary for a moment really. You will be able to get the filter loose relatively quickly. Oil will start draining out at the edges as soon as it is loose, so you will want to switch to loosening by hand almost immediately.


You may end up spilling a bit of oil here; that is not uncommon. Make sure that you have rags available since you may get a slight amount of oil on your arm. Keep hold of your filter tightly once it starts to loosen so it does not fall into the pan. Take the rags and wipe away as much oil as is possible. Take the new oil bottle, and put just a small bit of it on the O-ring of the new filter.


Now it is time to put the new filter on the car. You may want to remove your gloves so your grip is improved. Since this step is often botched, it is a good idea to check your manual or the box for the oil filter, to see how exactly to perform this tightening. Typically an oil filter wrench will not be required; you should be able to use your hands. Also make sure the old filter o/ring comes off with the filter and does not stay on the engine block.


Step 8 – Put in the new oil.


Once you know that the filter and the oil drain bolt are in place and tight, pour in one quart below the amount that is advised in the manual. Put on the cap. Go ahead and start the car, and leave it running for about 30 seconds to ensure that the oil has circulated properly. Turn off the vehicle, and look where you were working to ensure there is no leakage. Bring the car down from the ramps or jack stands.


Step 9 – Verify the oil level.


Once you have the car onto the ground again, it is time to check your work. The oil should come up to the hash mark or upper hole. Add the leftover quart of oil. Finally, proper disposal of the old filter and oil is very important. We can actually take care of that part for you at Independent Motors if you would like. Alternately, you can bring it to the Boulder County Hazardous Materials Management Facility.


Getting help with your car


Does this sound interesting but too complicated, or are their other auto maintenance services you need? Do not put off your oil change because you do not want to be aggressively upsold or treated unethically by an auto shop. At Independent Motors, we treat our customers the way that we want to be treated – fair and honest. Meet our staff.

A Brief Guide to Preventive Car Maintenance

A Brief Guide to Preventive Car Maintenance

Car owners are hesitant to believe what they hear from mechanics in general, but once they form a relationship, they feel extremely trusting at that one-on-one level. To demonstrate that first point about consumers being wary of car repair facilities, a AAA poll released in December found that two-thirds of drivers in the US doubt the straightforwardness of auto mechanics, often because they have been subjected to excessive bills or coaxed into purchasing frivolous services. More positively, the same poll showed that nearly the same percentage of respondents, 64%, have chosen a specific mechanic that they do believe is honest.


It is good that so many people have found mechanics they trust. However, AAA’s managing director of automotive engineering and repair, John Nielsen, points out how sizable that unsure portion of drivers is: “One-third of US drivers — 75 million motorists in total — have yet to find a trusted repair facility,” he reports.


The above data matches up relatively well with findings from a previous Consumer Reports survey, published in 2011. The earlier poll actually revealed significantly stronger confidence, with only 17% answering that they were unsure if they would get work performed fairly at their current shop.


Regardless what else we can make of these numbers, it is certainly true that many people do not feel confident when mechanics make recommendations. That means that legitimate maintenance concerns can often go ignored, leading to faster deterioration of the car.


The fact is that you should not trust everything you hear from a mechanic that you have not properly vetted. It helps to know a bit about basic maintenance yourself so that you can have a better sense whether what the technician is suggesting is a typical, routine concern. Here is a mini-guide on preventive maintenance for your car:


How do you know what needs work? Let’s look at a poll from mechanics of the maintenance problems that are most common. Then we will go through a maintenance schedule, as well as some related advice, so that you have the information you need to handle simple maintenance tasks yourself if desired.


Survey reveals most common gaps in car maintenance


The nonprofit Car Care Council asked repair shops for the percentage of cars they serviced that had various service issues. The results reveal aspects of an automobile that often do not get sufficient attention:


  • 89% of cars needed some kind of fix or service.
  • 27% of vehicles had dirty or low windshield washer fluid.
  • 25% had contaminated or insufficient engine oil.
  • 18% were in need of a belt replacement.
  • 18% had air filters that needed to be cleaned or replaced.
  • 17% had low coolant.
  • 16% had windshield wipers that required replacement.
  • 13% had insufficient or dirty brake fluid.


The key point from those findings is really the top one – that the vast majority of cars go without maintenance or fixes that could prolong the life of this important investment.


Standard car maintenance schedule


How should you go about routine checks to maintain your car properly? Here is a relatively standard timeline to check if refills or replacements are needed – falling into basic intervals at which you want to assess each item and see if you need to make adjustments:


Often – The parts of your car that will need your attention most regularly are the tires (their condition and air pressure); exterior lights (turn signals, headlights, taillights, additional brake lights, etc.); levels of windshield washer fluid and engine oil; and dashboard warning lights. (These are just checks of course – your tires will typically last about 30,000 to 45,000 miles, for example.)


Every 30,000 miles or 3 months – At this point, beyond the above elements, check two other fluids – power steering and automatic transmission; the engine air filter and exhaust; belts and hoses; and battery and cables. (Typically, a battery will be able to last about five years, while your serpentine belt, timing belt, and hoses will usually need replacement every 60K to 120K miles depending on the year and model.)


Every 60,000 miles or 6 months – Once you hit this interval, you want to add two additional checks –  the chassis lubrication and condition of your wiper blades. (These blades can often go 12 months, depending on quality and impact of the weather.)


Every year – Finally, there are a few things that will only need checking once per year, generally. Those are the antifreeze and cabin air filter, as well as the steering, suspension, and wheel alignment.


Key tips to maintain your car


Here are a few important, central tips for maintenance related to the above tasks:


Conduct a periodic inspection. Related to the “often” category, the elements of the car that you want to check “often” should be reviewed about once per week. For safety, you want to make sure that the lights are functioning correctly. Checking your tire inflation level is simpler if you purchase a “good quality” tire air pressure gauge and store it in your glove compartment. Keeping your tires at the right pressure levels will help them last longer and improves fuel efficiency. When you assess pressure, also check your tread – using either the tire’s built-in wear indicator bars or a quarter. (To use a quarter, adjust it so that George Washington’s head is facing you but upside-down. Put the top of the head into the groove on the tire. Can you still see the top portion of his head? It is time to get your tires replaced.)


The second time will give you a correct oil reading. You want to know if your car is high or low on oil, because either one can be problematic for your engine – so checking oil should be a weekly or at least biweekly event. It’s simple and fast. First, you need to be parked somewhere that is relatively level to gauge the fluid correctly. Also, the car should be cool rather than fresh off the road. Find the dipstick, remove it, and wipe it off on a rag. Now reinsert the clean stick until it is all the way in its original position. Take it out a second time. You can now see the oil level correctly. Why is it necessary to take the stick out twice? Car Maintenance Bibles notes that “[t]he first time you pull the dipstick out, it will have oil all over it and it will be difficult to tell where the level is.” Once it is clean, though, you can get the correct reading.


Pay close attention to your serpentine and timing belts. Looking at the quarterly check, it is key to keep an eye on the belts. Your manual will give you numbers for how long the parts can be expected to last. Although that mileage for when a belt should typically be replaced will be helpful, you still want to watch them to see if they need to be switched out. You do not want to just let them fail. That would leave you on the side of the road. Plus, a belt that is not functioning well can lead to failure of other parts – sometimes creating costly repairs.


Do you need maintenance on your car, or do you want to form a relationship with a Boulder auto repair shop that is honest and community-minded? At Independent Motors, our master technicians and highly experienced staff are experts at what they do, giving us the confidence to earn your trust. See our beliefs.

How to Avoid Costly Engine Trouble with Routine Maintenance

Avoid Costly Engine Trouble

Most of the time when you discover that your car needs some major repair work done, it comes as a shock. “It was running just fine,” you might say as your mechanic returns to tell you that you’re looking at some serious engine work in order to keep your vehicle running. It’s at this point where most people need to make a big decision on the spot. Is it worth getting the engine fixed or would it make sense to just buy a new vehicle? Neither is cheap and it’s a matter of which would hurt less financially. Needless to say, it’s not a great feeling and can seriously alter whatever plans you had for the year.


The thing about expensive auto repair, though, is that it’s often avoidable. While it’s true that vehicle ownership means laying out money for upkeep over time, you can lay out less money if you keep up with your regular maintenance. Does it take up precious time you’d rather spend doing something else? Sure, of course. Does it feel good to pay for that maintenance? No, not really. But, if it means avoiding hearing “You need a new engine if you want to keep this car,” then it’s worth spending that time and money on that maintenance.


It’s at this point you may be wondering “Is it really that big a savings to get all these smaller fixes done every few months or years?” That’s certainly a fair question. People are always skeptical when it’s suggested to them to spend money on things. Let’s look at the typical cost of fixing or replacing the vehicle’s engine, then.


Rebuilding the Engine


Typically speaking, getting a rebuilt engine put in your vehicle can run anywhere from around $2,500 to $5,000. Considering that range is essentially a doubling from least expensive to most expensive, it stands to reason that the type of vehicle you drive will dictate just how expensive a new engine will be. A lot of factors can go into the pricing, including labor costs, so it’s hard to give a firm answer on how much rebuilding your engine will ultimately cost you, but that range is a good place to start. On its face, a rebuilt engine typically costs about 10%-20% of the value of a new vehicle. This is where you need to start asking yourself questions.


Is it worth just using that 20% and making a down payment on a new vehicle? Is it better to just buy a used car to replace it? How much more time with your current vehicle will this rebuilt engine get you? It can be a lot to process. So, why not do what you can to avoid even being faced with this dilemma? While there are no guarantees in life, unfortunately, you can certainly take some steps to hold off engine trouble for as long as possible. Barring some really bad luck, an engine that is well taken care of will undoubtedly last far longer than one that is ignored.


What kind of maintenance should you be mindful of in order to keep your vehicle running for longer? Here are some of the big ones that you’ll want to stay on top of with some regularity.


Changing the Oil


You probably knew this would be on this list, but it’s always recommended for a reason. Changing your oil is the most important routine maintenance you can get done. Motor oil provides the lubrication required to keep your engine running without overheating. Too little oil or dirty oil with pollutants and dirt in it is a surefire way to cause damage to your engine.


Cooling System


We’ve established keeping the engine from overheating is critical, but it’s not just a job for your oil. The radiator, thermostat, water pump, and coolant are all necessary to make sure the engine runs well. All of these components at one time or another may require service, but the one most likely to require semi-regular attention is making sure you have enough coolant in the system.


Air Filters


While not alive, your engine still needs to breathe (so to speak). What allows your engine to do that is a clean and clear air filter. Your vehicle needs a constant flow of air to function properly. When your filter becomes old and dirty, it can clog up with the material it’s designed to keep out. When that happens, the air can’t properly circulate which can eventually lead to engine problems.


Leaking Hoses


Something needs to transport these fluids through the engine. That’s where hoses come in. While nothing fancy, they do an important job. Rubber hoses will eventually wear down and crack due to constant exposure to intense heat, which can cause oil and antifreeze to leak out. This can damage the engine either by having fluids leak where they shouldn’t be or by cutting off the supply to the engine. Either way, don’t be surprised if you need to replace a hose every so often.


Fuel Filter


Your fuel filter has the important job of keeping sediment and dirt out of your gas so it doesn’t clog up your engine. Much like an air filter, if you keep it around too long it gets clogged up itself and can’t do its job. Circulating debris through your engine is bad for it, so change your fuel filter. Also, don’t drive your vehicle on E too often. When gas levels are low, it can have a tendency to get dirty.




You won’t have to worry about your belts too often, honestly. However, when they do break, it’s game over. Your engine can’t run if a belt breaks and that can be a bad situation. You may want your belts checked on occasion to check for signs of cracks to get out ahead of this troublesome repair.


Spark Plugs


You only need to change your spark plugs every 30,000 miles or so, but it’s important that you do. Old worn out spark plugs can cause the engine to run less efficiently and taxes it more than it needs to be.


What Indicates Trouble?


It should come as no surprise that the “check engine” light on your dashboard is the biggest indicator that something needs to be looked at by your mechanic. But, you can’t always go by the vehicle’s computer, even though it’s usually pretty good at alerting you to things that require your attention. Sounds are a big giveaway. If you start hearing new and unusual sounds after turning your key in the ignition, it could be your engine. The same thing applies to your vehicle suddenly handling differently, like if it seems sluggish and more difficult to get up to speed. While these are vague, it could be one of a number of issues that need to be checked out regardless if it is the engine or not.




Engine repairs are costly. There is no way around that. You can help prevent the need for them though by keeping up with your maintenance. If you suspect your vehicle is suffering from an issue, your check engine light is on, or you know that it’s time for some routine maintenance to prevent engine failure, bring it on in. Contact us today to set up a time to come by. The team at Independent Motors is highly experienced and dedicated to providing you professional repair services at an honest and fair price. Don’t wait until you need to get towed. Take care of your engine.

Why It’s So Important to Make Sure Essential Vehicle Fluids Are Regularly Changed

The Importance of Changing Your Fluids

There’s a lot to remember when it comes to vehicle upkeep. That’s why your mechanic helpfully provides you with windshield stickers to remind you when to get certain things changed or checked out. It can sometimes feel like the entire upper left-hand corner of your windshield could be completely covered up in transparent stickers with hand written markers showing the next mileage milestone you need to keep an eye out for. While that’s a bit of a comical exaggeration, it’s important to keep track of all the regular tune-ups your vehicle needs in order to extend its years of use and maximize its performance. Regular maintenance can help avoid expensive auto repair nightmare scenarios.


There are many different kinds of tune-ups and bits of routine maintenance to be aware of every year or every how many thousands of miles. Much like going to the dentist, many of us put off the routine check-ups and space them out a bit more to our own personal liking. Some of us even wait until something goes seriously wrong before even bothering to see a professional. The irony of that attitude is that if one had stuck to the routine schedule, the serious problem you’re now facing probably could have been avoided. Personally speaking, going to the mechanic is a far less horrible ordeal than going to the dentist. “It’s like pulling teeth” is the famous phrase instead of “it’s like changing my oil,” after all.


However, change your oil you must. You don’t even have to get dirty doing it. Bring it in for service. Your oil isn’t the only thing that needs changing, though. When talking about routine maintenance, tire maintenance is often discussed. While caring for your tires is, of course, very important, they aren’t the only aspect of your vehicle you need to keep a regular eye on. Tires are the easiest thing to check and are the most immediate concern when it comes to daily safety. After all, a malfunctioning tire is a much more immediate pressing concern than popping the hood and checking your dipstick to see that you have low oil. That doesn’t mean you should discount the importance of your vehicle’s fluids, though.


Most people know about the importance of getting their motor oil changed with regularity. But, there are many essential fluids that do their part to make sure that your vehicle runs in top shape. Here are some of the most important vehicle fluids you need to keep an eye on and get checked in order to keep your vehicle running safely for years to come.


Motor Oil


Let’s start with the one everyone is familiar with. It’s hard to call your motor oil “the most important” fluid to keep an eye on because you need all of the ones on this list to operate your vehicle. But, it’s the one you probably have to think about most and requires the most frequent maintenance. There are a few signs to look for when it comes to determining when it’s time to change your oil. If oil is allowed to run too low, become polluted with dirt and debris, or turn into sludge after a long period of not being changed, it could spell disaster for your engine. Nothing can shorten the life of a vehicle quite like leaving low levels of sludgy oil to cycle through the engine over and over again. If you can’t remember the last time you got your oil changed, it’s probably time. If you’re the type of person who is regular with it, getting your oil changed every 4,000 to 5,000 miles is usually a safe bet.


Transmission Fluid


Transmission fluid is an important one that you may not have to think about terribly often over the course of a vehicle’s lifespan, but when the time comes it’s important to get it checked or changed. Keeping your transmission lubricated is important and fluid changes will occur at different points depending on whether you drive a car with a manual or automatic transmission. Manual transmissions require more changes than automatic. Both should get it done every 30,000 miles or so, but manual transmission vehicles can need it as often as every 15,000 miles if they are driven frequently. Much like with motor oil, low levels of fluid or contaminated fluid can cause havoc in your transmission which will lead to expensive repairs.


Brake Fluid


Brakes are generally checked along with your tires. Ideally, you’re getting this done once a year. When people talk about brakes and the work required, generally the focus is on the brake pads. These have to get switched out with relative regularity, but it’s important not to overlook the importance of the brake fluid as well. Brake fluid pressurizes and puts some power behind your ability to stop your 3,000-pound metal vehicle speeding along at over 60mph. Clearly, making sure your brake fluid is in good shape is important so you can maximize your chances of stopping in time to avoid a collision.


Wiper Fluid


Windshield wiper fluid, or washer fluid, may not be an essential fluid for making sure your car runs properly, but it is important for your safety. There is no real timeline of when you should refill your wiper fluid. Basically, if you notice that when you engage the wiper fluid and little comes out, it’s time for a refill.


Radiator Fluid


Radiator fluid, or antifreeze, is critical to your vehicle’s cooling system and we’re not talking about the air conditioning here, though that particular coolant needs to be topped off on occasion as well. Radiator fluid is what keeps your engine from overheating in the middle of a drive and leaving you stranded. You’re not getting anywhere with an engine pushed beyond its temperature limits. You may not want to think about it often, but your vehicle is essentially powered by controlled explosions. It gets hot in there. You’ll probably want to get your radiator fluid changed every two to three years or 24,000 to 36,000 miles.


Power Steering Fluid


Finally, there is the power steering fluid which is something of an unsung hero when it comes to handling your vehicle. If you’ve ever had a power steering malfunction, you know how difficult it can be to properly control your vehicle. What many people don’t realize is that it’s not just turning the steering wheel alone that gets the tires to turn. That power steering component is crucial to tight handling and responsiveness. It’s time to get your power steering fluid refilled when you start noticing it’s taking much more work to get your vehicle to turn than it normally does.




Everyone loves saving money. Sometimes that means spending a little now to save a whole lot more later on. Nothing proves this point more than vehicle ownership. Avoid expensive auto repairs or being forced to buy a new vehicle entirely. Check your vehicle fluids and get them replaced when recommended. Call us today to schedule a time to bring in your vehicle. At Independent Motors, we’re dedicated to providing you with the repairs you need so you can enjoy many more years on the road with your current vehicle.

What Kinds of Repairs Improve a Vehicle’s Gas Mileage?

Improve Your Gas Mileage

Many modern vehicles are built with efficiency in mind. Some are more efficient than others, obviously, but even traditional “gas guzzling” models guzzle less gas than they have in the past. There are a few reasons for this. For one, it’s often regulatory.  Additionally, it helps the environment which is certainly on the minds of many people. But, if we’re being honest, one of the big motivators for gas mileage efficiency is the monetary savings involved. Less time at the pump means more money in your wallet. So, there are many benefits to having a car with efficient gas mileage.


What many people may not realize is that many different factors can affect a vehicle’s gas mileage. Typically, we think of it as something that’s just part of a vehicle’s design. We shop for fuel efficient cars and that’s all, right? Not quite. Did you know that some types of auto repair can actually improve your gas mileage?


Whether it’s a fuel sipping car or a more gas hungry truck, many vehicles begin to lose some of their relative efficiency over time as wear and tear occur. This includes the innards becoming dirty from use and lack of proper fluid changes. Many factors make up your vehicle’s present day mileage. What this means is, if you’ve been driving your vehicle for a number of years, the efficiency may have diminished if you haven’t kept up with your routine maintenance. The good news is, with some fixes you can improve your gas mileage.


Many of these repairs aren’t even major issues. They are relatively simple and not terribly expensive. You just need to bring your vehicle in for an evaluation to see what exactly could be affecting your gas mileage negatively. You’d be surprised how many different places in your vehicle could be hindering your fuel efficiency. Here are some of the common reasons why your gas mileage might have diminished with time and how to improve it.


Mass Air Flow Sensor


Vehicles are more computerized than at any time before in our history. It’s a pretty convenient thing and there are many benefits to it. However, just like with any computer, it can only process the data it’s given. The computer relies on signals sent by other components of the vehicle and when those components are compromised, the computer may be inaccurate. Case in point, take the mass air flow sensor.


The mass air flow sensor measures air flow into the engine and prompts the computer to regulate fuel injection. If the sensor becomes dirty or damaged, the readings become inaccurate. This can throw off the balance of the vehicle’s fuel economy, causing the engine to “work harder” than it really needs to due to the inaccurate air flow readings. Get that sensor cleaned up, and you can improve engine efficiency.


Oxygen Sensor


Here we have a similar story. This isn’t terribly different from the mass air flow sensor issue. The biggest difference is that the oxygen sensor is even more difficult to get to in order to fix.  The oxygen sensor monitors the exhaust flow before and after the catalytic converter. If the exhaust flow can’t be properly read, then the engine and regulation of fuel injection become affected. Much like with the mass air flow sensor, fuel economy will be altered because of the engine computer being misled by the dirty oxygen sensor. It’s generally recommended that sensors be replaced after 100,000 miles. You may not need to change sensors often, but when the time finally comes years into ownership, it’s something you should do. Your computer does a lot in your vehicle, but you have to help it along by making sure it’s always taking accurate readings to maximize performance.


Spark Plugs


Spark plugs have an important job. They take the electric current from the ignition and deliver it to the engine in order to spark the combustion that makes it work. Basically, without spark plugs, you aren’t going very far. There are varying opinions on when you should change your spark plugs. Some manufacturers boast a 100,000 lifespan for their spark plugs. This is generally not best practice, though. Consider that by 80,000 miles a spark plug is nearly entirely worn out. The typical spark plug more realistically lasts about 60,000 to 70,000 miles. You don’t want to use the same spark plug if it’s hanging on by a thread.


If you swap out your spark plugs when necessary and they don’t get to a point where they’re too worn down, you can keep your gas mileage where it should be. New spark plugs can give your engine efficiency a boost. You may even want to get your spark plugs checked every 30,000 miles.


Air Filter


Sensing a pattern yet? The air flow that goes in and out of your engine has a significant effect on how well your vehicle performs. A dirty air filter is something every mechanic is very familiar with because it’s so common. If you leave the same air filter in your car for too long, you’re causing unnecessary strain and your gas mileage will suffer. Your air filter has an even more detrimental effect on your gas mileage if your vehicle is over ten years old. Manufacturers give different recommendations for when you should switch your air filter. The range is typically between 30,000 and 45,000 miles.


Motor Oil


Your oil and your tires, which we’ll get to next, are two things you should always be keeping an eye on. Making sure are both in proper shape can affect your fuel economy by up to 3% for each. While 3% doesn’t sound like much on paper, it adds up over years certainly. It may be cents on the dollar, but that quickly adds up to many dollars with time. There are two things at play when it comes to your motor oil. For one thing, you need to be using the recommended grade established by your vehicle’s manufacturer. If you use the wrong oil, you affect your vehicle’s efficiency. The second thing is old oil can clog up the system. Dirty oil that turns into sludge is one of the most common ways to kill your engine. Get it changed every 4,000 miles or so.




Finally, there are your tires. It stands to reason that if your tires aren’t properly inflated, the vehicle has to work harder in order to reach speed and maintain control. By keeping your tires inflated to the recommended limit, you relieve some of the strain on your vehicle and improve your vehicle mileage by a couple percentage points.




Auto repair isn’t always a major project. Sometimes even simple maintenance related fixes can have a major effect on your vehicle. When it comes to gas mileage, making sure your vehicle is taken care of can actually save you money in the long run. But, if you haven’t brought your vehicle in for routine maintenance lately, your fuel efficiency could be suffering. Call us today to schedule an appointment to bring your vehicle in. The team at Independent Motors is here to provide you with the auto repair services you need at a fair price to make sure your vehicle is running at its best.

Is Your Vehicle Not Handling Like It Used to? Here Are the Possible Causes

Vehicle Handling

Every vehicle owner is familiar with the feeling that something is a bit off with their vehicle’s handling. It happens to every car, sports utility vehicle, or truck eventually. One of the most common reasons why someone inquires about auto repair services is because they feel like their steering is off. Perhaps the vehicle doesn’t seem as responsive as it used to. Maybe it drifts. You could even feel like your vehicle requires more forceful steering wheel turns in order to get the desired motion. Whatever the specifics are, something seems wrong with how the vehicle is handling.


This is such a common problem that you’d think you could give a definitive answer to what was going wrong right away. Unfortunately, that’s not the case when it comes to vehicle handling issues. For those who aren’t so keen on doing their own auto repairs, think of it this way. Have you ever been sick and Googled your symptoms? You’d think a sore throat means strep or a cold. But it turns out that a sore throat is actually a symptom of a dozen different illnesses. Without going to a doctor, you’d never be able to properly figure out what is actually wrong. While you can guess, only a professional has the tools to give the proper diagnosis. It’s not too different when talking about your car or truck. Sure, you may have an idea of what’s going wrong, but a mechanic can properly identify where the issue with your vehicle’s handling is actually occurring.


The truth is that different parts of your vehicle could be causing that sensation of your vehicle not handling properly. If you’ve reached a point where your vehicle is behaving that way, it’s probably well past time to bring it into a mechanic to check out, anyway. It could be something that would have been caught during a routine maintenance visit several months ago. It’s good to have a general sense of what the issue could be before your appointment, however. While you may not be able to make the determination yourself about what is wrong, you won’t be so surprised when the mechanic comes back from inspecting your vehicle and lets you know what needs to be done. Here are some of the most common reasons why a vehicle can suddenly feel like it’s handling poorly.


Transmission Issues


Getting your transmission looked at is something you need to do a few times (probably) during the life of your vehicle if you keep it for many years. Alternatively, it’s something you need to do if you drive it long distances with regularity. You should at least get your transmission fluid changed when appropriate. It’s hard to give hard numbers on when you should, so consult your owner’s manual. However, keep in mind if you drive under stressful conditions (hard stops, stop and go traffic) often, then your transmission needs to get checked more frequently.


Now, unfortunately, transmission issues can be behind your vehicle’s odd performance. Generally, one of the most feared phrases one can hear come out of a mechanic’s mouth is “It’s the transmission” because it’s often a costly fix. As is usually the case, early intervention when it comes to transmission issues can keep repair costs down.


If it’s just your transmission fluid that’s old, getting it changed may be just the fix you need. However, if the fluid is so old and dirty that it’s causing noticeable performance issues, it could be that there’s damage already from particles in the fluid. If the gear teeth get worn down or break, a vehicle can slip out of gear, causing the handling issue you’re experiencing.


Tire Problem


If it’s not the transmission, and hopefully it isn’t, there’s a good chance that it’s something to do with your tires. In fact, this is probably the most common reason as many people tend to not take care of their tires as often as they should. To be fair, life is busy. Who is going to remember to do the penny test on their treads when the kids have three different practices to get to after school?


A variety of things could be going on with your tires that are causing the vehicle to handle oddly. The first thing you want to check is your air pressure. Whether it’s too low or too high, you’ll feel it. Low tires control poorly and you may hear screeching when making turns. Too much air makes you feel every bump in the road and can even cause a blowout.


Tires can also be misaligned or not secured. If you changed your tire yourself recently, make sure that it’s set firmly against the back disc. If the nuts on the tire aren’t secure, you’ll definitely feel a vibration while you drive. If you notice that one front tire is wearing down faster than the other, that usually signals an alignment issue.


Suspension Is Off


If the issue isn’t the tires themselves, it could be something very close nearby. It could either be something wrong with your suspension or an axle. When something happens to the suspension, the telltale signs are usually obvious. One thing to look for is a dramatic pulling to one side while driving. You may notice a sensation of bouncing up and down when coming to a stop. The vehicle doesn’t just settle into position anymore. An axle can get bent relatively easily. It takes some force, but it can certainly happen if you’re in an accident or hit a particularly deep pothole. A bent axle can alter a vehicle’s handling.


Brakes Need to Get Checked


Another common reason for poor handling is that there is something wrong with the brakes. Brake fixes are one of the most typical kinds of auto repair because often issues aren’t investigated until there are serious problems. There are many indicators that something is amiss with your brakes. You can hear them squeal or grind, feel them grinding, and in some instances even smell them. If it is your brakes that are causing your vehicle to handle oddly, it’s going to be while you’re trying to stop. If you’re just driving along and feeling yourself drift, that’s not going to be your brakes. But, if you’re feeling a pull when braking, you might have your culprit right there. Hopefully, it’s as simple a fix as getting your brake pads replaced. Of course, if you’ve been driving on damaged brake pads for a significant amount of time, you’ve increased the chances of causing damage to the discs or drums. If there are issues at that level, you could be looking at more serious repairs.




No matter what specifically is causing your vehicle to handle poorly, it’s important you get it fixed as soon as possible. It’s dangerous to drive for long with a vehicle that doesn’t respond properly to your control. Depending on the root cause, you could be driving on what’s shaping up to be a major repair. Come get it fixed before it turns into one. Contact us today to schedule a time to bring your vehicle in. At Independent Motors, we’re dedicated to doing right by our customers. We’ll be honest about the work your vehicle needs and we’ll provide the service at a fair price.

Why It’s Important Not to Overlook Tire Conditions

Why It’s Important Not to Overlook Tire Conditions

When it comes to our vehicles, safety and handling are top concerns. The two, of course, go hand in hand. But, some people make the mistake of focusing on the various parts of a vehicle as if they are their own entities rather than how they all work together to keep things going. This really isn’t the best approach.


Ask anyone what frustrates them the most about owning a vehicle. Barring the price of automobile insurance (maybe), the answer is probably how expensive the typical auto repair can be. Why do repairs end up being so pricey? Can’t this be done for less? The answer is yes, it probably could have been repaired for less. But, the opportunity for that was months ago before the perfect storm of multiple connected components failing occurred. That’s not meant to be chiding. Rather, in order to save money, it’s important to know that nearly everything is interconnected when it comes to your vehicle’s safety and handling.


This is all to say, “Hey, have you checked on your tires lately?” If it’s been longer than six months since your last tire inspection, you’re going to want to schedule an appointment to have your mechanic take a look.


Yes, in all of the talk of staying on top of your vehicle to make sure it’s handling fine, you need to be diligent about taking the proper care of your tires. Too often, we focus on the really glaring issues like grinding brakes or pulling to one side when driving when there are other things that should be checked before you get to that point.


What we hope to do is here is to stress how important it is to be mindful of your tires and how your tires relate to the other parts of your vehicle that are often the focus when it comes to auto repairs.


Why Tires Get Overlooked


Believe it or not, there have been studies done on people’s attitudes towards their vehicle’s tires and how many of the common dangerous conditions they could identify. Most respondents could identify at least one risk factor for tire failure, but only 4% could identify a major one: the age of your tires. It’s no secret that vehicle accidents cause a significant number of fatalities every year. What you may not know is that about 6,000 of those fatalities are tied to improper vehicle maintenance and tire failure.


Most people can identify worn treads and improper air pressure as major contributors to tire failure and accidents. That’s because you can feel those things to varying degrees while you’re driving. Improper air pressure can cause audible screeching or imperfect steering and handling. If your car isn’t stopping as quickly as it used to, one could suspect the tread has been worn down. It could also be your brakes. Which brings us to the next point about how all of these things are actually connected.


How Tires Relate to Brake and Steering Safety


The condition of your tires has a direct effect on how your braking and steering responds. It’s true that the condition of your brakes themselves are very important to how well your vehicle stops and responds to depressing the pedal. But, your tires are an equally important part of the equation.


Worn tires with low tread can be just as concerning as brakes that are on their way out. That’s because your vehicle will lose a great amount of its ability to “grip” the road as you try to stop. This can mean inaccurate steering where you can more easily lose control. The vehicle won’t be as responsive when trying to stop short. This is especially true if you’re driving in wet conditions. Rainy days can make having worn tread exceptionally dangerous because your ability to control your vehicle diminishes more than it normally would with properly inflated and treaded tires. When your vehicle’s handling begins to feel different, don’t automatically assume there’s something seriously wrong with your brakes or alignment. It could be something as simple as your tires being old, worn out, or not properly inflated. At this early stage, it could be a simple fix that helps solve your problems before they become more serious and expensive.


What to Look for When Evaluating Tires


So, you’ve seen how critical the status of your tires are to the safety and handling of your vehicle. You know that staying on top of their maintenance is not only important for the tires themselves but also your braking and steering. What should you look for then?


You should give your tires a once over every month or so. Sudden variations in temperature may prompt you to check your tire pressure more often because they will respond differently to hotter and colder temperatures. Tread can be checked with the good old penny method. For those who don’t know, you put a penny in the tread of your tires upside down. If Lincoln’s head is still visible, then your tread is too worn and you need to change your tires.


To circle back to the topic of aged tires being a silent danger, you should really consider changing tires that are over five or six years old. Ask your mechanic what would be best, but generally, after that point, you’re running a greater risk of sudden blowouts because the rubber is too worn down.


The Proper Maintenance


You should really be having your tires checked once a year by a professional to ensure that you’re driving safely. That’s because there may be issues that you’re not aware of that need to be addressed relatively soon. While checking your own pressure often is good practice, and even spot checking your tread, nothing can beat a mechanic with experience inspecting your vehicle. You may have cracks in the tire that could lead to an incident. Maybe the alignment of your tires is off. Perhaps the rim of the hub is in danger of tearing through the rubber. These are all things your mechanic will alert you to.


As part of your yearly inspection, you’ll also find out about the other possible issues with your braking and steering. Also, keep in mind that there are different tires for different seasons. There is a noticeable performance difference between summer, winter, and all year tires. Depending on the climate you live in, it’s important to know which tires would be best for you.


Easy way to save money


One of the easiest ways to save money is to rotate your tires every 5,000 to 6,000 miles. Tires wear unevenly depending on where they are located on your vehicle and where you drive. Rotating them routinely helps to even out the wear and prolong the tires life. Anyone who has purchased ties knows they aren’t cheap. So any means to protect your tire investment is money in the bank!




Making sure your vehicle is up to safety standards takes work. Auto repairs can be pricey, but they don’t need to be if you perform the proper maintenance. Many people don’t worry about their tires until it’s too late and there are real issues that need to be addressed in the immediate future. Combined with their effect on braking and steering, it would be unwise to overlook the importance of staying on top of proper tire maintenance. If you’re unsure if your tires are appropriate for the current season, if they are in acceptable condition, or if it’s time for new ones, call us today. The team at Independent Motors is dedicated to providing you with the best service at a fair price. Don’t take chances when it comes to your tires. Get them inspected soon.