Erin Auto Care • Hartford, WI • (262) 673-9900

State-of-the-Art Expertise • Personal Neighborhood Service

Vehicle inspection

The bedrock of a good preventive maintenance program is a regular series of scheduled inspections.

Regular inspections give our technicians insight into your usage patterns and the maintenance needs of your vehicle. This helps to anticipate when and where maintenance issues may occur and to plan appropriate services to prevent breakdowns and unplanned repairs.

We can work with you to develop a Scheduled Maintenance Plan to get these inspections and appropriate services on our calendar—and yours.

Your vehicle's manufacturer details their inspection recommendations in the vehicle owner's manual. Typical items and criteria include:

Accessory Drive Belts

Driven accessories can include the power steering pump, air-conditioning compressor, coolant pump, alternator, and certain emissions control devices. Most belts in this application can last up to 150,000 miles; however, ozone in the environment, sustained highway driving, and high ambient temperature can shorten the life of these belts.

As a general rule, manufacturers suggest that the belt has 10% of its useful life remaining when cracks or blemishes exceed 3 per inch. Replacement is recommended when belts reach this condition.

A failed accessory drive belt will cause all driven accessories to lose power. In the case of the water pump, the engine will overheat and cause substantial vehicle damage.

Battery and Terminal Condition

Battery life can suffer if 1) it is left in a discharged state, 2) the fluid level is not maintained, or 3) the terminals become excessively corroded. If you leave your lights on overnight, for instance, the battery life may be significantly shortened.

If the battery is not "maintenance-free," electrolyte levels should be inspected and adjusted on a periodic basis to maximize battery life.

As batteries age, corrosion will develop at the terminals. This corrosion can spread to the cables and cable ends causing poor starting and potential safety issues. Periodic inspection and cleaning of the battery terminals and cable ends can ensure safe reliable starting and full utility of the battery.

Drive Train Component Condition

Exposed rotating components of the drive train such as drive shafts, u-joints, and drive axles are subject to exposure and corrosion from the environment. Some of these components include service fittings that allow routine lubrication. All of these components should be regularly inspected for running clearance, smoothness, and mechanical condition, and serviced where applicable.

Deteriorated drive line components can cause noise and vibration, and when very degraded, they can fail—causing serious mechanical damage to the vehicle.

Evaporative Emission Systems Components

Since 1996, environmental regulations have mandated controls on the evaporative emissions from a vehicle's fuel tank. This complex system usually involves an activated carbon filter and a series of valves and pressure sensors to test for pressure leaks. These components are mounted under the vehicle in the vicinity of the fuel tank. Although this system is robust, periodic inspections for mechanical damage and degradation are prudent.

A leak in this system will be detected by your vehicle's onboard computer, and cause a "Check Engine" malfunction lamp. Here in SE Wisconsin, a "Check Engine" lamp means automatic failure of an emissions inspection.

Exhaust System Condition

In the last ten years, manufacturers have upgraded exhaust system materials to become very corrosion-resistant. As a result, exhaust systems have the ability to last for 150,000 miles or more.

Seasonal usage of deicing salt and other environmental conditions can greatly reduce the life expectancy of an exhaust system. Degraded exhausts can develop potentially hazardous leaks, become objectionably noisy, or in some instances become detached from the vehicle and create a driving hazard. For these reasons, periodic inspection of your exhaust system is recommended to ensure a safe and comfortable driving experience.

Air Filter Condition

A clean air filter is a very inexpensive way to ensure longevity, fuel economy, and performance for your vehicle. Here in rural SE Wisconsin, the driving environment is tough on air filters.

On most vehicles, the air filter is easily accessible for inspection and service. An easy way to test an air filter is to hold a lamp behind it and observe the light that passes through. A clogged air filter will not allow any light to pass.

Cabin Air Filter Condition

Later model vehicles are now frequently equipped with high-efficiency cabin air filters. These filters are intended to prevent pollen and other small impurities from entering the cabin ventilation system. This system dramatically improves the air quality inside the passenger compartment, especially for individuals prone to sensitivity to these types of particulates.

Periodic inspection and renewal of this filter is important in maintaining the enjoyment of your vehicle.

Fuel Tank Cap Seal Condition

The fuel tank cap is typically taken for granted; however, the gasket seal will degrade with age and a failure to seal will cause the "Check Engine" lamp to illuminate. This is usually an inexpensive fix, but if it is not accomplished, moisture can enter the fuel tank and cause corrosion issues and potentially expensive repairs.

A leaky fuel cap seal will also cause an automatic failure during emissions inspection for registration in SE Wisconsin.

Hydraulic Fluid Quantity and Condition

Brake and other hydraulic system fluids are designed to operate at high temperatures. These fluids have a chemical characteristic that causes them to absorb moisture from the air.

Over time this moisture can build up and cause internal corrosion of the system components. Excessive moisture content in the brake fluid can also reduce its resistance to high temperatures and cause brake fade.

Regular inspection and testing of these fluids can prevent expensive component or system failures.

Exterior Lighting Operation

Many vehicles in service today still use old-fashioned incandescent light bulbs for exterior lighting, including headlamps, turn signals, brake lamps, and running lamps. Most reputable providers will include courtesy inspections of these lamps during a routine engine lubricant service. A quick and easy service will ensure that these important safety features are working properly.

Here in SE Wisconsin, our law enforcement officers will also note the functioning of these lamps!

Lubricant Quantity and Condition

Everyone understands the importance of maintaining your engine's lubricant. Regular inspections can also yield valuable information about the health of your vehicle's power train. Once your vehicle's usage patterns are established through experience, sudden increases in oil consumption or sudden degradation in oil quality can provide early warning to more expensive and troublesome issues ahead, and allow a plan of action that will ensure the continued reliability of your vehicle.

Steering and Suspension Component Condition

These components are critical to the safe and comfortable operation of your vehicle. Mechanical linkages in the steering system can and will loosen up with age and use. Any detectable looseness is considered a component failure. A routine inspection and prompt repairs when necessary can prevent premature tire wear, insecure handling, and potentially dangerous mechanical failures.

Suspension components such as springs and dampers can also degrade with age. Springs can sag with the accumulation of mileage, and shock absorbers can lose their damping characteristics and/or leak damping fluid.

Vehicles with degraded suspension components will not be able to execute smooth and sure emergency maneuvers and can exhibit uncomfortable ride characteristics.

Tire Inflation Pressure and Tread Condition

Frequently neglected, tire inflation pressure can have a strong influence on your car's operating costs and drivability. Underinflated tires will develop hazardous wear patterns and not develop the traction that the manufacturer intended. Normal air under pressure will diffuse through portions of the tire; pressure losses are typically 0.5 to 1.0 psi per week.

Unusual tread wear patterns can also be caused by wheel misalignment. Early detection of these patterns and prompt wheel re-alignment can prevent costly tire wear.

Under Hood Fluid Leaks

A typical passenger vehicle may have five or more vital fluids in circulation in the engine compartment. A regular program of inspection and monitoring of these fluids can reveal potential problems long before they become a threat to the reliability and safety of your vehicle.

Wiper Blade Condition

Ozone, normal wear, and hot summer temperatures will degrade wiper blades. Blades in poor condition will streak and chatter, hindering visibility in the rain. Wiper blade condition should be assessed regularly and wipers should be replaced yearly. You may choose to switch seasonally to winter-style blades, which have a protective covering around the spring system to protect it from ice buildup and ensure constant pressure on the glass during snowy conditions.


Don't get saddled with a lemon. We can provide a thorough pre-purchase inspection before you buy!