Tel: +1.850 769-8061

1918 W. 23rd Street Panama City FL 32405 US
​Panama City and the Beaches #1 Source For Quality Auto Repair

Steering Repair & Maintenance
Steering is one of the things we take for granted in our vehicles. Let's break it down into two areas: first, the power assist and second the actual parts that steer the vehicle.

Most people under 40 have never driven a car or truck without power steering. Most vehicles today have a hydraulic power steering pump that provides boost to help you steer. The pump is usually driven by the serpentine belt, but some newer vehicles have an electric pump. Some vehicles even have an electric motor that directly powers the steering.

The important thing to keep in mind is that these pumps and motors will eventually wear out and the hoses will start to leak. You can postpone that day by having a power steering service from time to time. We will drain the old fluid and replace it with fresh fluid. This removes water and contaminants that can corrode power steering parts. Ask your service advisor for the recommended change interval.

What about the mechanical steering parts? Is there anything you can do to maintain them? Yes. If any of the steering parts can be lubed, your technician will take care of that with a lube, oil and filter service. Other than that, just watch for signs that parts are wearing out. Things like loose steering and uneven tire wear.

Worn parts can be replaced to get you back on the road. Now, sometimes parts can be bent or damaged from hitting potholes, curbs or rocks. It's important to take care of these problems early on. If you neglect them, the damaged parts stress other attached components which starts a chain reaction of damage.

Steering maintenance is pretty straight forward: Replace power steering fluid as recommended and fix worn or damaged parts right away. That'll save you money in the long run.

Wheel Bearings Repair & Maintenance

Your wheel bearings may be something you've never given a thought. Wheel bearings are what enable your wheels to spin freely. Since they bear the entire weight of the vehicle, they have to be tough. Wheel bearings can last well over 100,000 miles. They do wear out though and must eventually be replaced.

You might hear a groaning sound from your wheels. The sound might disappear at some speeds and reappear at others. Your service technician can quickly tell if your bearings are bad by raising the vehicle and wiggling the wheel. When you grasp the top and bottom of the tire, it shouldn't move along the vertical axis.

Many vehicles these days have wheel bearing assemblies that cannot be serviced. When the bearings go bad, we simply replace the entire assembly.

For those vehicles with wheel bearings that can be accessed, we can do some preventive maintenance. You may have heard the phrase "pack the bearings". With this procedure we remove the bearings, carefully clean them and inspect for any imperfection or wear. If the bearings can be reused, we reinstall them and pack them with grease. If not, we put in new bearings. Check your owner's manual or ask your service advisor if your bearings can be serviced, and if so, when should it be done.

Now, taking care of bad bearings is extremely important. When bearings go bad, they generate tremendous amounts of heat – enough to lock up the wheel. That's not a good thing at any speed. In some cases the wheel can even fall off. Either of these could cause a serious accident. So have your wheel bearings inspected if you suspect a problem and replace them right away if there is one.

Some of the things that commonly throw a wheel out of alignment are slamming into a pothole, smacking a curb or something like a rock. And it doesn't have to be a big shock, it can just be the regular bumps and bangs of daily driving that add up and eventually take your vehicle out of alignment. That's why your owner's manual or service advisor may suggest having your alignment checked periodically.

With an alignment service, we measure each wheel's alignment and to see where they are relative to factory specifications. While we have the vehicle on the alignment rack, we inspect the tires for wear as well as the suspension and steering components for damage or wear – things that can contribute to alignment problems. With some vehicles you can adjust all four wheels so we bring all wheels into alignment. On those vehicles where you can only adjust the front wheels, we bring the front into alignment relative to the rear.

Cost varies by whether or not it's two or four wheel adjustable. Four-wheel drive vehicles may have an additional charge because they're more difficult to align. At any rate, it's cheaper than having to replace tires every few months.

If it's been a while since you've had your wheels aligned, bring your vehicle for an alignment check.

Alignment Repair & Maintenance

It's no surprise that your vehicle will drive better if all the wheels are pointed in the same direction. That's called wheel alignment. If your wheels are out of alignment you may notice that your vehicle pulls to one side or the other.

Something that you won't notice right away, but you will if you keep driving when you're out of alignment, is that your tires are wearing unevenly and fairly quickly.. That's because when the vehicle is pulling to one side, you have to steer it back straight. The outside of the tire just wears out fast because you're constantly turning, which can be very exhausting on a long road trip – fighting to keep the vehicle going straight down the road.

Suspension Repair & Maintenance

Let's talk about your suspension – you know, the system that connects your wheels to your vehicle, controls your handling and delivers a good ride. Your suspension is critical for proper steering, stopping and stability.

Hey, it's a rough world out there – every time you hit a pothole, a bump or an object in the road, your suspension system has to absorb the impact and maintain control.

As you can imagine, your suspension has a lot of joints and pivot points that allow your wheels to move up and down over bumps and to turn as you steer. These parts include ball joints, tie rod ends, the pitman, idler arms and the control arm bushing. They simply wear out over time. When a joint or other part is worn the suspension parts don't fit together as tightly as they should. Handling and steering has a loose feel and you may hear strange noises. Your tires will wear unevenly because they're bouncing down the road a little off kilter.

A loose joint has the effect of stressing other suspension components so they wear out faster than they should. Sometimes a suspension part can be bent from hitting a rock or curb or by slamming into a big pothole.

When your service advisor inspects your vehicle, he'll look for signs of suspension problems: things like uneven tire wear, excessive play in suspension components and other visible damage. He can replace the worn or damaged parts and restore safe handling.

It's a great idea to take care of these problems right away before they become more expensive to repair. And nobody likes to see a tire that should last for several years get worn out in a matter of months because of a bad suspension part.

Let us help you keep your vehicle operating safely. And saving some money on repairs and tire replacement is a good thing too.

MAD HATTER AUTOMOTIVE CENTER

Tire Pressure Monitoring System Repair & Maintenance

All new cars and light trucks since 2008 have come equipped with a tire pressure monitoring system. The TPMS system detects when a tire becomes under-inflated and lights up a warning light on the dash.

So what's the big deal? Well, under-inflated tires can be a real safety concern. First of all, they don't handle properly and that can lead to an accident. Second, under-inflated tires can overheat and cause the tire to come apart, which can also lead to an accident.

Government regulations requiring TPMS systems aim to reduce accidents and save lives: A very worthy goal. There are also positive environmental effects because under-inflated tires are fuel wasters – you lose 1% of your fuel economy for every 3 pounds of pressure below ideal. So proper tire inflation can save you a tank of gas a year. And your tires last longer so you won't have to replace them as often.

There are two kinds of TPMS systems. So-called direct systems have a battery powered sensor in each wheel that measures tire pressure. The sensor sends a signal to a receiver that illuminates the warning light if pressure is low on a tire.

Indirect systems use a computer program to detect under-inflation by measuring wheel rotation speeds and other data.

You'll have to replace TPMS parts as they wear out. Obviously, the batteries in the sensors will die someday. Road salt and grime can damage sensors too. The system needs to be reset when you rotate or change your tires.

Because the TPMS system is so important to your safety, you should make the necessary repairs when needed. And remember, TPMS is no substitute for regularly checking your tire pressure– at least once a month.

Shocks & Struts Repair & Maintenance

Let's talk shocks and struts. Shock absorbers and struts last a long time and wear out pretty slowly. They're easy to take for granted, but your shocks and struts do a very important job so you need to pay attention to them. They keep your tires on the road; and your tires are what connect your vehicle to the road and allow you to safely handle your car through turns, over bumps and even stop in time.

When your shocks and struts are worn, your tires bounce excessively over bumps. Your vehicle will wallow through corners; your front-end will dive when you stop; and your rear-end will squat when you accelerate. All this hurts your ability to control your vehicle. And your ride just isn't as comfortable.

Worn shocks or struts cause excessive tire wear so you'll have to replace your tires sooner than you should. Worn shocks and struts also stresses other suspension and steering parts causing them to wear prematurely. Struts are actually a major structural component of the suspension system – there's a lot riding on them.

Replacing worn shocks and struts saves money in the long run – and of course you can't really put a price on your safety and that of your passengers. We generally recommend replacing shocks and struts at 50,000 miles.

When it's time for new shocks or struts, we've got you covered. We can give you back the ride and handling of a new vehicle. And if you have special needs we can help you there too. We have premium shocks and struts that'll improve your performance. We can even help you with upgraded, heavy-duty shocks that'll give you the confidence you need to handle those big towing or hauling jobs.

Experts recommend replacing all four shocks at the same time so that handling is even at each wheel.

If you need new shocks or struts, let us help you take care of this important safety service. You'll feel better, and you'll save money on tires and other suspension repairs down the road.