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Auto Service Frequently Asked Questions Answered by Serra Traverse City

When it comes to taking care of your vehicle, we understand that you may have questions about the auto service required for the different parts of your vehicle. Below you’ll find many frequently asked auto service questions answered by the expert service technicians at Serra of Traverse City. We want to do everything we can to answer any questions you may have on tires, oil changes, brakes, wiper blades, batteries and more! If you don’t see the answer to your auto service question below, please reach out to us via our online FAQ form or call 866-253-9698 – We’re here to help!


How often should I get my wheels aligned?

Wheel alignments should be performed when you first get new tires and about once a year. Potholes, dirt roads, and regular driving wear can all affect your vehicle’s alignment, but routine alignments will help to improve your tire's performance, lifespan, and fuel-efficiency. If it’s been a while since you last had your wheels aligned, we suggest making an appointment to have them inspected soon at our Traverse City Service Center.

Why do I need wheel alignments?

Wheel alignments are important for your vehicle's efficiency and your tire's life. Your wheels should be parallel to each other and perpendicular to the road, but when their alignment is off it can cause your car to work harder to move forward. Your car might pull to one side or the other and cause uneven wear on your tires. This can lead to you buying new tires sooner than expected and make it harder for you to drive, especially on the highway.

When should my tires be replaced?

There are a number of warning signs to look for that may indicate your tires need to be replaced. Examine your tires for major tread wear, irregular tread wear, abnormal bulges, or cracks in the sidewall. To check your tire tread, you can use the Lincoln “penny test” – if you can see the top of Lincoln’s head when the penny is upside down in the tread, it’s time for new tires! Another important aspect to consider if you think your tires need to be replaced, is the traction you tires provide in snowy and icy conditions. If you feel unsafe driving in these weather conditions, you may find it beneficial to invest in winter tires.

How do I know what type of tires to choose?

If you're replacing one or two tires, it's best to match the size, style, and brand of tire. If you need a completely new set, check your owner's manual for the correct size, or consult our technicians at Serra of Traverse City. We'll help you get a set of Summer tires, Winter tires, or all-season tires that best meet your needs and your budget!

How often should I get my tires rotated?

On average, you should have your tires rotated is every 6,000 miles, or every other oil change. Routinely rotating your tires will allow the tread to wear evenly, extending the life of your tires, which will save you money in the long run.

How much should I inflate my tires?

Each tire size and type is different and will require a certain PSI or pounds per square inch of air pressure. It's important to fill up your tires to their recommended PSI to ensure their best performance, your safety, and overall vehicle efficiency. When you go to fill your tires up, make sure to check the sticker on your driver's side door or your owner's manual for the recommended stock tire PSI level.

How long can I drive on a spare tire?

When you need to drive on a spare tire, it's recommended to stay below 50 mph and below 50 miles in distance. Spare tires are not built the same way regular tires are and they are not able to withstand certain speeds and road conditions. Getting a new tire put on your vehicle is simple at Serra of Traverse City and we'd be happy to help.


How do I know if my wiper blades need to be replaced?

There are a few simple signs that indicate your windshield wipers need to be replaced –

  • Wipers leave streaks on your windshield
  • The rubber on the wiper is cracked or dried out
  • The rubber strip is completely gone
  • Wiper is damaged beyond repair If your wipers are not clearing your windshield clearly for you to see the road properly, they most likely should be replaced. If notice any of the warning signs in the list above, visit our Cherry Capital service center and we’ll replace your wipers for you.

How do I know which windshield washer fluid I should use?

There are two types of windshield washer fluid that can be used in your vehicle. Diluted formula washer fluid is the most common. However, there is also a concentrated formula that requires dilution with water in your washer fluid tank before use. The most important factor to note is the recommended temperature for the solution. Is the temperature that is listed on the label suited to the weather you’re driving in? If you need assistance with refilling your windshield fluid, or you’re having a hard time choosing a formula, visit our service center at Serra Traverse City and we’ll take care of you.


How often should I get my brakes checked?

In general, you should have your brakes checked every 5,000 miles, or every 5 months – whichever comes first. Your brakes are one of the most crucial safety components on your vehicle so it’s important to have them inspected regularly. You should also consider your driving style and how often you drive. If your daily commute is in stop and go rush hour traffic, your brakes could wear faster. On the other hand, if you don’t drive that often, your brakes will wear less quickly.

How do I know if my brakes need to be replaced?

If you experience any of the warning signs below, you should have your brakes inspected and possibly replaced:

  • Weak response during a hard brake
  • Burning smell after a hard stop
  • Your car pulls left or right when stopping
  • High pitched squealing
  • Grinding noises when coming to a stop
  • Increased braking distances
  • Steering wheel vibrates when stopping If any of these warning signs occur you should stop by Serra Traverse City’s Service Center. Our brake experts can inspect the problem and diagnose it quickly.

Why is my steering wheel shaking when I brake?

The most common issue that causes a shaky steering wheel is warped brake rotors or worn brake pads. Your rotors should be smooth and your brake pads should be padded enough to properly stop your vehicle. Brakes are an important part of your safety, so don't hesitate to have them inspected and repaired!


How often should I get my oil changed?

The recommended time between oil changes is every 3,000-5,000 miles if you're using conventional oil. This interval can sometimes be longer if you're using synthetic oil. Consult your owner’s manual to learn more about the recommended interval for your vehicle.

What type of oil should I use in my car?

There are many types of conventional and synthetic oils out there, but choosing the right one depends on your vehicle's make and model, and the viscosity your engine requires. You can check your owner's manual for the exact oil recommended, or ask our Certified Technicians at your next oil change at Serra Traverse City!

Should I consider getting synthetic oil?

Synthetic oil doesn't break down as easily as conventional oil and might provide you longer intervals between oil changes. It’s up to you to decide if you'd rather use synthetic oil instead! Synthetic oil can be especially beneficial to high-output, turbocharged, or towing engines.

My engine oil is milky brown looking. Is that normal?

No, having milky brown oil is not normal. This could be a result of a coolant leak, which means a more serious problem under the hood. There are many things that can cause coolant to leak including a blown head gasket, cracking in the radiator hoses, etc. If you see this color oil in your car, come into our Service Center as soon as possible!


How often should my belts and hoses be replaced?

Your vehicle’s belts and hoses should generally be replaced every 30,000-60,000 miles to help you avoid costly damages in the long run that can be caused by worn belts or hoses that need to be replaced. Because your belts and hoses enable your car to run, it's important to have them inspected during any routine maintenance. Our technicians will be happy to take a look at all your belts and hoses at your next service visit!

When should I have my A/C serviced?

Your A/C system is a component that won't often need maintenance; however, if you notice that your car isn't cooling you down as quickly as it used to, or you’re lacking A/C function completely, make sure it gets inspected by a Certified technician as soon as possible. Our team can recharge your A/C or fix any necessary repairs you may need!

How often should I have my battery inspected?

On average, the lifespan of a car battery is about 3-5 years. If your vehicle’s battery is 3 years or older, we encourage you to have it inspected annually. You should also have your battery inspected if your vehicle is having trouble starting; this could be an early warning sign that something is wrong.

When should I have my coolant changed or flushed?

It's recommended to have your coolant changed or flushed every 24,000 miles or every two years. Getting your coolant changed is important because it helps regulate your engine’s heat and allows your A/C and heat to work properly. Not sure when the last time you had your coolant changed? Our technicians would be happy to take a look for you!

How do I know which fuel type is better for my car?

Your vehicle’s recommended fuel type is dependent on the make, model, and trim, and will be outlined in your owner’s manual. Most vehicles simply require regular unleaded fuel, but some high-performance vehicles will recommend Premium fuel because the engine requires a higher-octane level. Note that sometimes Premium fuel is recommended, but not required. However, it is important to remember that you should never mix fuel types because it will damage your engine.

When should I have my vehicle's suspension serviced?

Although this isn't needed often, there are a few telltale signs your suspension needs to be serviced. If your vehicle rides "rough" with excessive bounce, nose dives during stopping, tips excessively during turns, has uneven tire tread, or has leaking shocks, your suspension should be inspected as soon as possible.

How do I know if my car is having transmission problems?

Typically your check engine light will show up on your dashboard if your vehicle is having transmission problems. You might also hear high pitch noises, experience a burning smell, or see fluid leaks. If you're not sure what's going on with your car, bring it into our dealership in the Cherry Capital. Our experienced team will find the source of the issue and be able to properly fix it with Certified OEM parts!

When should I have my spark plugs replaced?

It's recommended to have your spark plugs replaced about every 30,000 miles; however, some newer vehicles come equipped with 100,000 mile platinum-tipped spark plugs. If you're not sure when your spark plugs were last replaced, we'd be happy to inspect and perform the service at Serra Traverse City!

What does it mean if my check engine shows up on the dashboard?

Your vehicle is equipped with a number of sensors that are used to detect potential problems. If any of the components that impact the performance of your vehicle’s engine aren’t working correctly, your check engine light will illuminate to notify you that your vehicle needs to be inspected. If your check engine light turns on, visit our service center right away to have the problem diagnosed before any further damage can be caused.

Serra Traverse City Cadillac, Subaru, Toyota, Audi,
VW, Nissan, Volvo, Car Dealership

The Serra Automotive Group of Traverse City located along S. Garfield Ave. in Traverse City, MI is your destination for your next new or used car, truck, SUV, crossover, or van. With seven different auto brands including Subaru, Toyota, Nissan, VW, Audi, Cadillac, and Volvo, and a vast inventory of pre-owned vehicles, our team of friendly auto professionals can help you find your next vehicle. With such a wide selection of vehicles to choose from, Serra of Traverse City is your destination for your entire vehicle needs in the Cherry Capital area. Not only can we help you find a new or used vehicle, but our experienced Service Team is qualified to take care of any of your auto service needs from routine maintenance to transmission service, and every auto service in between. Feel free to explore our extensive inventory online, or schedule an appointment for any of your vehicle needs – we’re here to help! You can also stop by or give us a call at 231-947-9000 for our Subaru/Cadillac Campus at 1747 S Garfield Ave, Traverse City, MI 49686 or 231-946-5540 for our Toyota/Audi/VW/Nissan/Volvo Campus at 1301 S Garfield Ave, Traverse City, MI 49686.