MAKING THE GRADE: Which Octane is best for your car?


When most drivers in El Paso County fill up the gas tank, they probably select the cheapest price, paying little or no attention to the octane number. This is, naturally, an understandable course of action but drivers should at least be cognizant of what their options are before making a decision based solely on price.

What do the numbers on the gas pump mean and when does it matter anyway? Most people are aware that there are three grades of fuel offered at most gas stations, but what are the differences? The numbers on the pumps (85, 87, 92, for example) are the octane ratings. Each fuel is rated on how much it can be compressed within the engine before igniting. This means that gasoline with a higher octane can tolerate more pressure than a lower octane fuel can.

In a normal car’s engine, the cylinders combine and compress air and gas. After gas is compressed, a spark plug uses an electric spark to light the fuel. This is the process of combustion and it’s the driving force powering your car.

If, after filling up your tank, you notice any type of knocking sound coming from the engine, you may be using the wrong octane level. Combustion that’s not happening as it should be inside the cylinders is referred to as “knock” or “ping,” and can mean big problems for your engine. Knocking can occur as a result of gassing up with the wrong octane level. If you are concerned that this knocking sound is coming from your engine, it’s important to bring your vehicle to certified technicians at an auto repair shop as soon as possible.

Is there ever a circumstance in which using a high-octane level will help your car run better? The truth is that if your car requires fuel with an octane rating of 87, and you treat it to 92, you won’t really notice any improvement in the way your car runs. Speed and performance are determined by how the engine is constructed, not by the fuel you give it.

So, what’s the most important thing to remember regarding which octane to use? Use the rating that is recommended in your car manual and don’t waiver from it. Your car’s manufacturer has done all the necessary research and has calculated the exact octane rating your car needs.

Regular and preventative maintenance like frequent oil changes, flushing your cooling system, and keeping the fuel injector clean are also important factors in ensuring your vehicle’s health and will ensure your engine runs smoothly for years to come. Be sure to call our technicians at (719) 481-4393 with any questions you may have on the best fuel for your vehicle’s make/model as well as to set up a regular maintenance schedule.

Is Your Car Ready For Back-to-School Season?

Autumn may be a few weeks away, but back-to-school season is already here! Before the back-to-school rush catches up with all of us, now is a great time to plan ahead for the fall season.

When you’re balancing work and school schedules, you rely on your vehicle to get you safely where you need to be every day. A reliable vehicle can make the difference between a chaotic fall and a smooth schedule!

Here are a few tips to keep your family vehicle running smoothly (and save money!) this back-to-school season:

1. Preventative Maintenance.
Take care of your vehicle’s seasonal maintenance now, before busy fall school and activity schedules are in full swing. If you’re not sure what vehicle maintenance you need, look in the owners manual call our team at (719) 481-4393.

2. Tire Pressure.
Back-to-school signals the start of fall. As the temperatures cool down, your tire pressure could be affected. A quick check with a pressure gauge will make sure you can maximize the life of your tires and improve fuel efficiency. Fill up your tires at a gas station or swing by our shop.

3. Battery.
The summer heat can cause problems for your vehicle’s battery. Check for corrosion on the battery terminals. If you see white or green powder at the terminals, bring your vehicle and battery in to our ASE-certified technicians for testing.

If you struggle to find the time for car maintenance, call us at (719) 481-4393. We know how busy this season can be and will work with you to balance your family budget, schedule, and vehicle maintenance needs. Click HERE to request an appointment online!

My Car is on Fire – What Should I Do?

car fire

Seeing smoke pour out from under your hood can be a scary thing to witness. If this happens, it’s important to remember to stay calm and to have a plan of action.

The first thing to do is determine if it’s smoke or steam that is coming from your engine. In either case, you should pull off the road immediately. However, if it is indeed smoke, the next step is to get out of the car and away from it as quickly as possible.

As you pull off the road, unlock your power door locks in case your car’s electricity shuts down. As soon as the car is off the road, immediately turn the ignition off — this will shut off both the fuel pump and the spark plugs, either which may have been cause of the fire. Before you get out of the car, pull the hood release so that firefighters can put out the fire. However, leave the hood closed to starve the fire of oxygen, and be sure to close all windows, doors and the sunroof for the same reason.

After the hood has been released and everyone is out of the car, call the fire department. Do not ever try to fight the fire yourself. Typically, car fires can’t be put out with water because gasoline and electrical fires require a TYPE B or TYPE C extinguisher. If the fire is under the car, stay away from the car, as the gas tank could potentially explode.

The most important thing to remember, however, is not to panic. It is, after all, just a car; let the firefighters and the insurance company worry about how to deal with the fire and worry about the safety of yourself and your family first and foremost.

Summertime Battery Maintenance

If you think the summertime weather is easier on your battery than the frigid winter months, think again.

While warmer temperatures help to increase battery capacity, making it easier to turn over the engine, they also cause an increase in the rate at which the battery deteriorates. When the temperature is warmer, the current conducting grids corrode faster, reducing the lifespan of your battery.

High temperatures also increase the rate of sulfation your battery endures. Lead sulfate naturally forms on both electrodes as the battery discharges. If recharge begins immediately, the lead sulfate is easily recharged. However, if the lead sulfate is not immediately recharged, it will begin to grow into large crystals, which are not easily recharged. This crystal growth is commonly called “sulfation” and occurs faster at high temperatures. Sulfation can eventually lead to battery failure.

Another factor to consider in the summer – and all year-round for that matter – is parasitic loads. Many of the electronic accessories and systems both in and out of the cab can create parasitic loads that will drain the battery to discharge.

Parasitic loads are small currents, typically of a few milliamps (mA) that the battery has to deliver continuously. Although small, they have a large effect. As the battery is slowly discharged without immediate recharge, sulfation is the likely result.

High temperatures, especially when combined with parasitic loads, will shorten the life of the battery. A common scenario is that a battery will fail during the first cold weather of the year, and it’s tempting to blame the cold weather, when in fact, it was the high temperatures of summer which deteriorated the battery to the point that it can’t start the first time it has to work a little harder in winter.

Knowing that the summer heat already speeds up the rate at which the battery deteriorates, and that the rate of deterioration is further accelerated by parasitic loads, it is clear that managing temperature and parasitic loads can increase the reliability of the battery.

To prevent excessive discharge and keep batteries from deteriorating in the summer, follow these tips:

Use a premium AGM battery. Battery failures can be a major source of downtime. Using a high-quality battery is a way to keep a truck running. The latest technology for truck batteries is Absorbent Glass Mat (AGM). High quality AGM batteries require less maintenance and tend to survive high temperatures and parasitic loads better than traditional technologies when those conditions can’t be avoided.

Keep the battery cool. Battery life can be extended by parking in shaded or covered areas like a garage. If the battery is in storage, be sure to follow the battery manufacturer’s recommended specifications for storage temperature.

Turn off the electronics. Electronics, the main source of parasitic loads, play a significant role in draining the battery of its charge. Be sure to shut down all electronics before exiting the vehicle, especially if the engine will remain inactive for long periods. An inactive engine has more time to discharge an otherwise healthy battery.

Keep moving. As mentioned above, parasitic loads will drain the battery if the engine remains inactive long enough, so if possible, keep the vehicle on the road.

Stay charged. Proper charging of the battery is the single most important action in ensuring that the battery will last for its intended life. If needed, use a battery charger, which operates to the battery manufacturer’s charging recommendations to restore the battery to a fully charged state.

Proper maintenance of the battery, both while in use and in storage, will extend its service life. If there are signs that the battery is starting to fail, replace the battery with a premium-quality replacement. Be sure to give our ASE-certified technicians a call at (719) 481-4393 if you have any further questions about summertime maintenance for your vehicle!

Don’t Neglect Your Fluids & Filters!

Does my fluid really have to be flushed? Do I really have to change my oil so often? Can’t these things wait a little longer? Perhaps they can—in fact, you could probably drive a little longer without sustaining any lasting damage to your vehicle. But the truth is, every mile you go without having preventative maintenance performed on your vehicle, the more damage is being done to your vehicle’s components. This could lead to a breakdown and thousands of dollars in repair costs!

Here is some info on two important vehicle elements that you might forget about from time to time:

Filters are part of what help your car run so smoothly. Fuel, transmission, and air filters are the most common on any given vehicle that need to be changed on a regular schedule. These filters are neither time consuming or expensive to replace, yet many drivers still manage to overlook them. By not having them changed at every other scheduled maintenance check, the reduced fluid flow will lead to increased heat, resulting in your engine working much harder than it normally has to. This leads to costly repairs and lower gas mileage.

Fluids are meant to protect the many components at work in your vehicle, including parts in the engine, transmission, steering and brake systems. By keeping the fluids working in these systems clean and fresh, it will prolong the life of your vehicle and all reduce the likelihood of breakdowns. Fluid flushes are inexpensive and don’t take much time at all, so make sure to have this simple process performed at your owner’s manual’s recommended intervals. Oil changes are also relatively inexpensive and should be done every 3,000 miles or so. Other fluid flushes will range, so be sure to check your owner’s manual for these recommended intervals.

If you have any questions regarding your vehicle’s fluids or filters, talk to an ASE-Certified technician at JJ Tracks! You can call us at (719) 481-4393 or click HERE to schedule your next appointment!

Tire Maintenance Tips

For your own safety, you should make tire maintenance and repair a priority. Bald tires, unevenly worn tires, and tire blowouts contribute to countless accidents nationwide. Poor tire conditions make driving difficult and can even adversely affect gas mileage. Use the following five tips to ensure your tires are in great condition and perform optimally:

1. Inspect your tires frequently. Get into the habit of walking around your vehicle and taking a look at your tires every time you stop for fuel. Look for bumps and bulges along the outer surface as well as patterns of wear – especially uneven wear. If you find an embedded nail, screw or another piece of debris, get your vehicle to a service station immediately to have it professionally removed and the tire fixed or replaced.

2. Check air pressure monthly. Look in your vehicle’s manual for the correct inflation pressure settings and check your vehicle’s tires monthly. If you notice a tire that continually loses air pressure, get your vehicle to a service station. The tire should be removed and inspected by a professional to find the source of the air leak. Also check for the wear on the tires. If the outer edge is worn down, chances are the tires are under inflated. If the center looks worn, you may need to let air out of the tires; they could be overly inflated.

3. Have uneven tire wear checked by a professional. Unevenly worn tires can be a sign that the vehicle’s alignment is off. Uneven alignment can lead to poor gas mileage and driver fatigue as well as cause premature wear and tear on your tires. An alignment check and balance can correct the problem. Use the “penny test” to check the treads: simply grab a penny and insert it into the groove of the tire tread with President Lincoln’s head facing you and upside down. If you can see all of Lincoln’s head after sliding the penny into the groove, your tire tread is worn and the tire should be replaced.

4. Have tires balanced if you add a new tire to a wheel. A new tire can upset the balance among the remaining tires. Have the tires balanced to ensure even wear and proper handling. If you feel your vehicle pulling to one side or another, that may also be an indication that the tires need to be re-balanced.

5. Don’t forget to check the spare. Whenever you inspect and check your tires, check the spare tire too. Make sure your spare tire is properly inflated according to the manufacturer’s specifications. Also check to make sure your jack, lug wrench and safety cones/flares are in the trunk and that you have everything you need to ensure your safety in the event you do need to change a tire on the road.

Call us at (719) 481-4393 if you have any questions/concerns regarding your vehicle’s tires!

Five Car Services you Need this Spring

Spring is here with beautiful sunny days and unpredictable rain storms. Hopefully the harsh winter weather is over, but has it taken a toll on your vehicle? Consider these five maintenance services to keep your family safe in the changing El Paso County weather.

Alignment. If your vehicle is pulling to one side or another, your tires may be out of alignment. All four tires should hit the road at precisely the same direction and angle for optimum performance. Pay attention for signs that your vehicle is veering off to one side. If so, come by JJ Tracks for an alignment inspection.

Tires. Winter roads, spring potholes, and rising temperatures can affect your vehicle’s tires. First check tire pressure – a change in temperature can affect your tire pressure, so test to make sure the tires are filled to the optimum level. Use the penny test to check for tire tread – if you can see Lincoln’s head, you need new tires! Check for uneven wear and stop by for a tire rotation to get the longest life out of your tires.

Brakes. After a season of snow and ice, make sure your brakes haven’t been pushed to their limits. A brake inspection will make sure that the brake lines, brake fluid, brake pads and rotors are all working together optimally and free from water and ice damage suffered during the winter months.

Oil Change. Spring means more opportunities for exploring and road trips! But it also means it’s time for a full-service oil change. Our skilled technicians perform an inspection as part of your full-service oil change. We’ll make sure you’re up to date on preventative maintenance, check all of your vehicle’s fluids, and recommend any services needed to keep your vehicle safe all season!

Hoses and Belts. Cold weather can be especially tough on the rubber, plastic, and fragile parts that keep your vehicle moving. Checking hoses and belts for any cracks, tears, and damage can mean the difference between a small replacement and large engine damage. Follow your maintenance schedule and have our ASE-Certified technicians inspect your vehicle regularly.

We hope you’re enjoying this beautiful weather in Monument! To keep your vehicle ready for any adventure along the way this spring, stop by JJ Tracks for a safety inspection or the maintenance services your vehicle needs. Call us at (719) 481-4393 or request an appointment online.

Save Time and Money – Don’t Skip Car Maintenance

Almost everyone is trying to save money these days. But avoiding having your vehicle inspected, especially when there are signs of a problem, can be a costly mistake!

Many of the extensive car repairs that our experienced technicians at JJ Tracks perform could have been avoided! We see many cars that shouldn’t have needed to come here. We want to help you take care of your vehicle and avoid those expensive repairs, which is why we recommend preventative maintenance.

When you bring your vehicle to JJ Tracks, our ASE-Certified technicians will review the recommended maintenance schedule for your vehicle to make sure it is up-to-date with these services.

Ignoring maintenance can be costly!

• A small oil leak, which could be caught as part of a routine oil change or inspection, has led to a radiator replacement! When the oil cooler was replaced after an oil leak, the radiator was not inspected and problems ensued.

• A dirty fuel filter can take out a fuel pump. When the filter gets clogged, it can prevent fuel from going through the pump, causing the pump to fail. A simple fix could have prevented a major repair that costs several hundred dollars!

• Worn brake pads, if ignored for too long, can damage the brake rotor. Without the protection of the break pad, the steel itself can begin to dig into the rotor. That damage is completely preventable, if you keep up with brake maintenance!

Auto repair is a lot like going to the dentist. Brushing your teeth and flossing is the preventative maintenance. But if you ignore a toothache, it can turn into a broken tooth or a root canal! If you don’t take the time to find out what’s going on with your vehicle, you may face a much bigger expense and it’s likely to be painful.

Avoid the pain of extensive repairs by keeping up with preventative maintenance. With routine inspections by experienced, ASE-Certified technicians, it pays to go to a professional!

To take care of your vehicle with an inspection and vehicle maintenance, call our auto repair shop in Monument at (719) 481-4393 or request an appointment online.

Why Brake Fluid is Critical

Your vehicle’s braking system is a complex assortment of sophisticated components and elements all working together to ensure you can stop when you need to and stay safely on the road. For this important system to work properly, it requires each and every one of its parts to be working in sync and running smoothly – a feat which is dependent upon your brake fluid being healthy and being able to perform its job.

Braking systems are hydraulic, meaning that they’re reliant upon liquids moving in a confined space under pressure to operate. Your brake fluid is ultimately what is responsible for your vehicle being able to come to a stop when you push down on the pedal next to the gas and bring a heavy machine moving at a quick rate to a halt.

Given the heavy workload and important task brake fluid is assigned, it’s not a surprise that it needs to be changed out periodically. Newer brake fluid both lubricates and protects your brake system’s components while aging/old fluid can become corrosive and pose a threat to various components. Typically, brake fluid becomes darker in shade as it ages but it’s best to consult an ASE-certified technician if you’re not sure what state your fluid is in to ensure your system is able to operate at an optimal level and prevent your brakes from failing.

At JJ Tracks Tire & Auto Center, we’re able to provide a thorough inspection of your braking system and determine if your fluid needs to be flushed. You should bring your vehicle in to our location on Beacon Lite Road ASAP if you notice any issues whatsoever with your brakes, including a loss of pressure, grinding sounds of any kind, difficulty in stopping or a noticeable change in your brake pedal’s strength.

Be sure to give us a call at (719) 481-4393 if you have any questions whatsoever regarding your vehicle’s health!

Timing Belts – Keeping Your Engine In Sync

The motor in your vehicle is a mechanical marvel, with dozens of moving parts performing intricate tasks in a perfectly-sequenced manner. If any component in your engine is out of sync, your car won’t be able to run.

It’s an incredible feat of engineering made possible by one part that keeps everything in sync – the timing belt.

In order for propulsion to be produced by your motor, a series of small, controlled explosions take place. Fuel injectors spray gasoline and air, spark plugs ignite the mixture and pistons are resultantly shot down shafts due to the explosion. After this, valves open up in order to release fumes and then the cycle begins anew with turnover occurring at an extremely quick rate.

Your timing belt performs the incredibly-important task of making sure that the valves open up at precisely the right time. If the timing is off by so much as a nanosecond, pistons will not work properly and your engine will fail.

Since your timing belt performs such an important task, it’s very important to make sure it’s in good shape and is replaced in proper intervals.

Your owners’ manual will typically recommend your timing belt be replaced every 100,000 miles or so but it’s not a bad idea to have it inspected before you reach that milestone.

Call us at (719) 481-4393 or stop by our auto repair shop in Monument! Our ASE-Certified Technicians can answer any questions you might have regarding your vehicle’s health, including timing belts!