Archive for the ‘oil change’ Tag

When should you consider synthetic oil?

Many automakers require owners to use synthetic motor oil in their cars’ engines. This is because synthetic oil has some advantages over conventional motor oil. It’s designed to be more effective at:

Resisting break-down, and thus lasts longer than mineral oil

Withstanding high temperatures

Flowing in cold temperatures, thus reducing engine wear during frigid startups.

However, synthetic motor oil can cost two to four times as much as regular oil. So unless your owner’s manual specifies synthetic, you don’t need it. But Consumer Reports’ chief mechanic says there are some situations where synthetic oil’s resistance to breakdown can help prolong the life of an engine.

If you make lots of short trips, standard motor oil may never get warm enough to burn off moisture and impurities. That could hasten the breakdown of conventional oil. Also, if you live in a region with very cold winters or very hot summers, or if you use your vehicle for towing or hauling heavy material, synthetic oil won’t break down as quickly. While synthetic generally holds up better and can serve for more miles, it is important to not extend oil changes beyond the time interval recommended by the manufacturer—typically six months or a year.

Another good use for synthetic oil is as a salve for older engines prone to sludge buildup. This gunky residue can block oil passages and lead to a quick death of an engine. In the early 2000s, several engines from Chrysler, Toyota, and Volkswagen, among others, were especially prone to sludge buildup. This sludge forms when oil breaks down. Synthetic oil would be beneficial in those engines, as it is less likely to form troublesome sludge.

Using synthetic in these situations will prolong your oil life and require fewer changes. That’s a major benefit to the environment, as used motor oil is a major source of toxic waste in water. Your pocketbook will also thank you.

Read more at: http://www.msn.com/en-us/autos/car-tech/when-should-you-consider-synthetic-oil/ar-AAcHX6y

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Five Costly Mistakes Of Car Ownership

Cars are expensive and complex machines that need to be maintained properly so that they don’t break down prematurely. If a modern car is treated with care, it can last for over 200,000 miles without needing major costly repairs. However, neglecting you car’s maintenance needs can leave you with a large bill that could have been avoided.

Here are five commonly-made mistakes to avoid. Doing so will save you loads of money and ensure that your car has a long, healthy and happy life.

1. Putting Off An Oil Change

While oil technology has improved drastically over the past couple of decades, it’s still important to change your oil as recommended by your car’s manufacturer.

Motor oil gradually breaks down as it is circulated through your engine. After a certain number of miles, the oil doesn’t provide adequate lubrication, causing your engine to wear out prematurely. A new or rebuilt engine can cost you thousands of dollars.

2. Changing Tires Without An Alignment

An alignment ensures that the wheels of your car are positioned properly on the road. When a car is out of alignment, the tires wear out prematurely or in places where they’re not supposed to wear.

When you change your tires, always opt for the $75 alignment. Otherwise you could find yourself spending hundreds on a new set of tires.

3. Installing Oversized Aftermarket Wheels

While some aftermarket wheels are carefully designed to be compatible with certain vehicles, getting the wrong wheels can harm your vehicle’s suspension and ride comfort. Also, if you buy wheels that are too large for your car, you can damage your fenders and wheel wells. Replacing a damaged suspension can cost thousands, and body work can be even more expensive.

4. Buying A Cheap Battery

A dead battery is a huge hassle. Often times, it means waiting for a jump start and then having to spend $100 for a replacement. There are many batteries available at your local parts retailer, and it’s important to find the exact match for your car. Springing for an inexpensive substitute can damage your car’s electrical system, requiring extensive repairs that won’t be cheap.

5. Getting Cheap Body Work

If you have a dent on your car, sometimes you can be approached by a “professional” in a shopping mall parking lot, or a friend might offer to take care of the problem. Beware, because sloppy body repair can cost more to correct than the original damage. A dent that can be repaired for $100 by a professional dent repair expert might cost $500 to fix once an amateur has damaged paint and deformed the metal panel.

Read more at: http://www.autoblog.com/photos/costly-mistakes-car-repair/?ncid=edlinkusauto00000016#image-1

Springtime Auto Tips

Spring is one of the prime times for auto maintenance. That first wash-n-wax on a warm Saturday afternoon is liberating. Winter’s gloom (to say nothing of grit and road salt) is literally washed away. Take out the snow shovel, the gloves, and heavy boots and store them ’til next season. Surely summer can’t be far away.

Some preparation now will help ensure that your summer driving plans go as smoothly as you envision then now. ASE offer the following tips on getting your vehicle ready for summer.

– Read the owner’s manual and follow the recommended service schedules.

– Have hard starts, rough idling, stalling, etc. corrected before hot weather sets in.

– Flush and refill the cooling system (radiator) according to the service manual’s recommendations. The level, condition, and concentration of the coolant should be checked periodically.

– If you are not a do-it-yourselfer, look for repair facilities that employ ASE-certified automotive technicians.

– The tightness and condition of belts, clamps, and hoses should be checked by a qualified auto technician.

– Have a marginally operating air conditioner system serviced by a qualified technician to reduce the likelihood of more costly repairs.

– Change the oil and oil filter as specified in owner’s manual. (Properly dispose of used oil.)

– Replace other filters (air, fuel, PCV, etc.) as recommended.

– Check the condition of tires, including the spare. Always check tire pressure when the tires are cold.

– Inspect all lights and bulbs; replace burned out bulbs.

– Replace worn wiper blades and keep plenty of washer solvent on hand to combat summer’s dust and insects.

Read more at: http://www.ase.com/News-Events/Publications/Car-Care-Articles/Springtime-Auto-Care.aspx

Protect Your Auto Investment

If you’ve ever wondered what it takes to be an ASE-certified automotive technician, consider this: In the span of one career, automotive engine technology alone has advanced from purely mechanical devices that need periodic adjustments to sophisticated, computer-controlled systems that can actually compensate for normal wear.

The same can be said for virtually every major system on today’s vehicles, from brakes to transmissions. And the technicians who service and maintain our vehicle fleet have had to learn it all. In fact, to be an ASE-certified automotive technician today is to commit to a lifetime of training just to keep abreast of changing technology.

Maintenance more necessary than ever before

Modern vehicles are wonders of engineering. In just the past decade, maintenance intervals for things like spark plugs, emissions and cooling systems have been stretched out to 100,000 miles in some vehicles.

But the need for periodic maintenance hasn’t changed. In fact, given the longer life expectancy of today’s vehicles, the need for periodic maintenance has never been greater if you expect to get the most from what has become the second biggest investment most individuals will ever make.

To protect this investment and to get the maximum reliability and safety from the vehicle you depend upon daily, you need to establish and follow a maintenance plan. The best place to start a maintenance program is by reading your owner’s manual. In it you will find the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule.

This schedule is based on “normal” driving, but remember that very few of us drive “normally.” The roads are typically dusty and strewn with potholes and speed bumps. Look at the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule as a starting point for your vehicle maintenance plan, not the final authority.

The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), the non-profit organization that tests and certifies the competence of individual automotive repair technicians, knows a few things about vehicle maintenance too. ASE offers some general recommendations, which apply to all types of cars and trucks, to help you build a comprehensive vehicle maintenance plan.

Lube for life

The engine is the heart of your vehicle and probably the most costly to repair when something goes wrong. Modern electronic controls have eliminated a lot of adjustments, and what we used to call a “tune-up” has evolved into something akin to a complete physical, where most of the work involved is designed to verify proper operation of computer control systems.

While it’s true that new cars and trucks run cleaner than ever before, the engine and all its related control systems must be kept operating exactly as designed to prevent increased engine emissions and a host of driveability problems.

The one thing experts agree on that you can do to add many miles to your engine is regular oil and filter changes. Most auto manufacturers recommend oil and filter changes every 7,500 miles or six months under “normal” conditions, but repair experts believe a better interval is every 3,000 miles or three months. By changing the oil regularly, the inside of your engine will stay clean, and you’ll avoid damaging sludge buildup.

Keeping cool

Today’s cars also tend to run hotter than previous models. With the trend to downsize vehicle components to save space and weight, cooling system components are being asked to do more than their older counterparts.

The best thing you can do to maintain the cooling system at peak efficiency during the life of your car is to replace the coolant according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Although some of the newer coolants last longer, antifreeze does wear out. By replacing the coolant periodically, you insure that the corrosion inhibitors are fresh and are helping to eliminate the scale and corrosion that builds up inside the cooling system.

Fluid facts

Probably the most ignored fluid in the car — and the most important — is the brake fluid. Brake fluid is not a petroleum-based product, so it does absorb moisture from the air. This hygroscopic quality diminishes its effectiveness and lowers braking performance.

Sludge will also build up over a period of time, blocking the valves inside antilock brake (ABS) units and resulting in costly repairs or replacement. In addition, this sludge may cause calipers and wheel cylinders to leak, also resulting in repairs or replacement. Experts recommend having the brake fluid flushed and refilled periodically, although manufacturer recommendations vary as to how often.

The transmission fluid also needs to be changed on a regular basis to help keep the transmission in tip-top shape. Here again, some manufacturers have increased maintenance intervals to 100,000 miles for transmission fluid changes, but these systems still need periodic maintenance. Most transmission failures can be directly traced to a lack of maintenance. When planning your maintenance schedule, consider that even one transmission replacement will probably greatly exceed the cost of all the fluid and filter changes for the entire life of the car.

Power steering is another fluid that is often ignored. It is recommended that it be flushed and refilled at least as often as you replace the brake fluid.

Replacing the differential fluid is something that is most often overlooked. A regular fluid change will help the differential last the life of the vehicle. If your vehicle is four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, change the transfer case fluid as well.

Get out the grit

Filters play a critical part of a regular vehicle maintenance plan. Air and fuel filters keep dirt and abrasive grit out of the engine. Problems arise when these filters get dirty and start to clog up. Many driveability problems, such as hesitation and rough idle, can stem from dirty air and fuel filters. For maximum effectiveness, they should be replaced about every 15,000 miles, but driving in dusty conditions can require more frequent air filter changes.

A filter that is often overlooked is the carbon canister filter. It is an important part of the emission control system and filters the incoming air that this system uses. The canister is an integral part of today’s engine management system, and a clogged canister filter can also result in driveability or emissions problems.

Some cars still have a positive crankcase ventilation (PCV) filter, also called a breather element. This filters the air for the PCV system to ensure clean air enters the engine crankcase. Most cars today draw air for the PCV system from the air cleaner housing so this filter is not needed, but if your engine has one, replace it at 15,000 mile intervals as well.

Speaking of the PCV system, the PCV valve (if equipped) should be replaced on a regular basis, too. When you put the new PCV filter in, replace the PCV valve as well. Many cars now use a metered orifice instead of a PCV valve and this should be checked periodically for free flow.

Today’s ‘tune-up’

Ignition systems have become much more reliable over the years. Many engines don’t even have distributors anymore; they use a DIS or Direct Ignition System. These systems can either mount one ignition coil on each spark plug, or share one coil for two plugs, thus eliminating the need of a distributor.

On engines that still use a distributor, it is a good idea to replace the distributor cap, distributor rotor and ignition wires according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.

The spark plugs need to be replaced on a regular basis as well. Even though some manufacturers have extended those intervals to 100,000 miles, this doesn’t apply to all engines. The best plug to use is the one the manufacturer recommends. This information is usually found on an engine decal located under the hood.

Belt basics

Perhaps the most critical engine component these days is the timing belt. Most manufacturers suggest replacing the timing belt every 60,000 miles.

Not all engines use a timing belt, but on those that do, it’s critical that it be replaced before it breaks. If your car has an interference engine where the valves and pistons occupy the same place in the combustion chamber at different times, serious engine damage can occur if the belt breaks while operating. If your car has a non-interference engine, the worst that will happen is you get stranded somewhere.

Other engine drive belts should be checked on a regular basis — about as often as you change oil. In general, you should look for excessively cracked, glazed or frayed belts. Many accessories — including the alternator, power steering pump and coolant pump — are operated by drive belts. If these belts break or slip, the components they drive will fail to work, leaving you stranded.

One more thing to check while you’re looking at the belts is the battery. Virtually all batteries are maintenance-free these days, except for a periodic terminal cleaning and inspection for cracks or leaks. In addition, ensure the battery is mounted securely.

Tire tips

Tires are one of the most important maintenance items under your car. The best way to get the most out of your tires is by having them rotated and balanced on a regular basis, about every 7,500 miles. This ensures they wear evenly and last as long as possible.

Balancing is important to eliminate vibration at road speeds, and a properly balanced tire reduces the stress and strain on shocks, struts and steering parts. Keeping the tire pressures set to specification will also go a long way in extending tire life and fuel economy.

Seeing clearly

Finally, you should get in the habit of replacing your wiper blades once a year. The Car Care Council recommends replacing them each spring, when you set your clocks forward for Daylight Savings Time.

Wiper refills are the most inexpensive safety feature on your vehicle. And if you doubt having good wipers is a safety feature, try driving with bad ones in a downpour at night.

If you live in an area that suffers cold and snowy winters, you may want to change to winter blades in the fall and go back to regular blades in the spring.

Following a regular vehicle maintenance program is the best insurance you have against unexpected breakdowns and expensive repairs. It also pays dividends by allowing you to get the most out of your transportation investment.

With a little forethought and TLC, that family chariot can reliably deliver a couple of hundred thousand miles of service.

Read more at: http://www.ase.com/News-Events/Publications/Car-Care-Articles/Protect-Your-Auto-Investment.aspx

How to Store Your Vehicle Long Term

If you are headed out for a long trip away from home or need to put your car away in safe storage for an extended amount of time, you’ll need to know that you cannot just park it and walk away. Beyond security concerns, there are several things that need to be taken care of so that your car will run properly when you come back.

Note that it’s possible to park your vehicle for a couple of months at a time without serious consequences, but beyond that, batteries begin to drain, fuel begins to separate and other issues can begin to wreak havoc on your car. From paint to motor oil, here are the things you need to know when storing your car for the long term.

The longer you store your vehicle, the more you’ll need to pay attention to the details in our list. For storage beyond a year, you will need to do a lot more preparation than we’ve given here. It’s best you consult a professional in those cases and consider either selling the vehicle or finding someone who can care for it while you’re away.

To begin with, do the following to ensure that your vehicle is ready for storage, no matter the length:

– Change the oil and filter. Use a good oil at the viscosity recommended for your vehicle or a synthetic of the same caliber.

– Top off the engine coolant. Make sure the coolant mixture is the recommended antifreeze to water ratio.

– Wash the car well, including the undercarriage, and give it a good triple-coat (heavy coating) of wax. This protects the finish and gets rid of the grime and potential road salt that can cause havoc over time.

– Buy a thick, sturdy car cover that will fit your car well.

– Add fuel stabilizer to the tank to keep it from separating.

– Fill the fuel tank (doing this after adding stabilizer better mixes the stabilizer).

– Drive the car for a few miles to circulate the new oil, protected fuel, etc.

– Inflate tires to the proper, recommended pressure.

– Park it under cover, preferably in a garage or storage facility, and use your car cover to completely protect the car’s exterior. A car cover helps keeps dust off of the paint and makes it difficult for thieves to see what is being stored.

– Chock the tires in both directions to prevent movement.

The longer the storage term, the more preparation you should put into protecting your car while you’re away. The above list is good for a 2-3 month storage period where the weather will not fluctuate much (day and evening temperatures remain above freezing). After about six months, though, things get a little more complicated. For very long-term storage, remember that bushings, tie-rod covers and other rubber parts begin to break down from disuse over time. Engine seals can also dry out, eventually leading to serious repairs.

For a three- to 12-month storage period, you’ll need to do a lot more to preserve your vehicle. Start by doing all of the above items. Then add the following before putting the cover on:

– Consider adding a gasket sealer or keeper and circulating it through your engine (by running it) to help prevent gaskets from drying out. This is usually added to the engine oil.

– Remove the battery and store in a safe place away from the car, preferably a temperature-controlled location. Consider selling the battery and just buying a new one when you return. Over time, batteries lose their charge and if the weather becomes very cold, they can freeze or corrode.

– Lift the car and set it on jack stands so that the tires are just off the ground. This keeps the tires from warping and takes pressure off of the suspension system.

– Plug the exhaust with a rag to keep debris from blowing in or rodents from taking up residence.

– Remove the windshield wipers and store indoors or give them away. These will likely become brittle over a long period without use. Carefully wrap the wiper arms in small towels before placing them against the windshield. This keeps them from scratching the windscreen and helps absorb moisture so that the hinges and springs in the arms don’t rust. Alternatively, you can remove the wiper arms themselves and store them inside the car.

– Do not set the parking brake. The brake pads/shoes can stick to the rotors and cause problems when you attempt to drive again.

Storing your car for the long term can be a chore, but coming home to your well-preserved car makes it worth it. If you can, have a trusted friend or relative check on the vehicle once in a while to make sure it hasn’t been broken into, stolen, or otherwise bothered. You may also consider loaning it to a friend or relative you trust while you’re away so that they can maintain it for you and keep it running while you’re gone.

Whatever you do, don’t just park your car and forget it until you return. A little bit of preventative maintenance will go a long way when you get back behind the wheel.

Read more at: http://www.carfax.com/blog/store-your-vehicle?utm_source=Facebook&utm_medium=Social&utm_campaign=Storage

5 spring cleaning tips for your car

Winter can do a number on your car.

Slush, salt and cold temperatures take a toll on everything from the tires to the wiper blades. So, with spring around the corner, it’s a good idea to give your car a thorough once-over to undo winter’s damage.

It won’t cost a lot. You can do the work yourself or visit a car wash and service department to get all these services permormed.

Here are five things you can do to shake off winter and get your car in shape for spring:

1. Wash the underbody

Wintertime driving will coat the bottom of your car with salt, sand and other grime that can cause corrosion. Corrosion can lead to rust problems, which can make your car much harder to resell or even dangerous to drive.

Spend a few extra dollars for the undercarriage power wash at the local car wash or spray the car’s bottom with your own hose. There’s no need to use soap or any other cleaner.

While you’re at it, open the hood and wipe down the engine with a soft mitt and soapy water. And remove all the leaves and debris that can find their way into the car. And remove any crusty white residue off the battery with a toothbrush, baking soda and water. The residue — caused by corrosion — can eventually prevent your car from starting. The cleaning also helps prepare the battery for the stress of warmer temperatures.

2. Scrub inside and out

Salt can damage the car’s paint. Give your car a thorough cleaning and wax it.

Scrub the bottoms of doors, which can get coated with grime. Clean the window channels, also apply a silicone spray, which repels dirt and lubricates the surfaces so the windows will operate smoothly.

Use a steam cleaner — you can rent one for $20 at Home Depot — or apply a rug-cleaning spray to remove all the salt from the car’s inside. Salt can break down some fabrics and cause rips or tears when feet grind against them.

And don’t forget to take bags of salt and ice scrapers out of the trunk.

3. Replace wiper blades

Wiper blades get a workout during the winter months. Changing them each spring and fall insures you have good working blades when you need them.

4. Check tires

Check your tire pressure and rotate and align them when neccessary based on your maintenace schedule and how hard the roads were on them over the winter. Cold weather can cause tires to be underinflated and the onset of warm weather can overinflate them. Also, visually inspect your tires to make sure they’re wearing evenly and have plenty of tread for the rainy spring weather ahead.

Driving on properly inflated tires can save you money. It can cost anywhere from $50 to $250 to replace a blown tire, depending on the kind of tire you need. Your vehicle is also more fuel efficient when you drive on properly inflated tires.

5. Check your fluids

Winter weather can deplete some fluids — especially windshield wiper fluid — more quickly, so top them off yourself if they’re too low. A service station can also do the job. You should change your oil around based on your vehicles maintenance schedule regardless of season. Brake and transmission fluids should be checked as well.

When Should I Change My Oil?

An engine oil change is a relatively simple service. It’s widely touted as the single most important part of your car’s maintenance schedule. There is a good reason for this. Nothing will shorten engine life faster than missed oil changes. But how can you tell when you should change your oil?  Advances in technology and increased consumer awareness have created some confusion to how often this needs to happen.

The Easy Answer

For most of us, all we need to do is follow the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule for oil change intervals. Their guidelines are designed to keep your car in good running condition for a long time. Where can you find your car’s service schedule for oil changes and other recommended maintenance? You can check the owner’s manual that hopefully you have kept in a handy place like your car’s glove box. You might also visit the manufacturer’s website and do a search to download it.

Quick lube shops have their own recommendations. One thing to remember is that these shops are speaking to a wide audience, addressing cars of every age, every mileage, and some with different needs. While there is no harm done by too frequent oil changes, if your car doesn’t need them, that money could be better spent on other maintenance needs.

Don’t Put It Off

If you have ever put off a trip to the grocery store or waited a couple of weeks longer between haircuts, don’t do that with oil changes. Never put it off.  Your oil’s primary function is to cut friction. Over time, oil accumulates contaminants and loses viscosity (the ability to flow into every nook and cranny). Contaminants cause friction as parts rub together. Friction wears out those parts faster. The damage caused by these conditions is largely irreversible without an engine overhaul or replacement.

Waiting for the low oil light to come on can be the worst thing you can do to your engine. You shouldn’t see that light unless your oil level is low. So you don’t want to see it. Whatever amount of oil you do have left almost certainly has lost its ability to function properly. The good news is that your service schedule is written to have this service done long before disaster is on the horizon.

Cars are Smarter Now

For a very long time the gold standard for oil changes was 3,000 to 3,500 miles. There are still many adherents to this philosophy, but it may not be necessary. Advances in engineering to both engine mechanical parts and especially to oil itself have extended the oil life cycle by more than double the old number.

Do you use synthetic oil?  Automakers recommend it for some models. It cost a little more than regular oil, but it has had the biggest impact on oil life. The life cycle for synthetics is typically 7,000 to 10,000 miles, a big change from conventional oil. The type of driving we do also affects our oil change needs. Frequent cold starts, extreme heat, and towing, are all examples of types of driving that can shorten our oil life. Also, repeated short trips (under 4 miles) is one of the most overlooked enemies of oil life. Any of these driving conditions can create the need to shorten your service interval by 25-40 percent depending on the severity.

If your car is equipped with a maintenance reminder on the dash some the guesswork is eliminated for you. Can you trust it? For the most part, yes. In the early days of automobiles the only way we had to track our vehicle’s aging was the odometer. But miles traveled is not always a good indicator of actual use for many urban environments. With the inclusion of computers in the modern automobile we now have a way for the car to track time AND mileage. Time is important to this discussion because running time affects oil life.

But not all maintenance indicators work the same way. Some use an electronic sensor to measure the oil quality, while others use an algorithm based on driving metrics to determine life expectancy. If your car is not equipped with maintenance light or gauge, the owner’s manual should still be your guide.

Don’t Buy Cheap Oil

All of these scenarios assume you are using the factory-recommended lubricant. If you have opted for something inferior you may be adversely affecting the recommendation. It’s not worth a few dollars to shortcut on the oil.

Track Your Maintenance

Because time is important as well as mileage, it’s nice to try and plan our service visits. The little sticker in the corner of the windshield was a small, important innovation to help us plan. Before that, many people kept a paper record in their glove box as well. But now, with many of us carrying smart phones and having home computers, it’s gotten even easier. MyCarfax is a website and a free smart phone app that will track all of your car’s maintenance needs, making it even easier to keep track of, and plan, your next service.

Read more at: http://www.carfax.com/blog/when-to-change-oil/

Is Your Car Road Ready?

If your vacation plans include a road trip, the last thing you want is to have unexpected car trouble to leave you stranded at the side of the road, ruining all the fun. A pre-trip vehicle check is the best way to be car care aware and ensure that your car is ready to get you to your destination, says the non-profit Car Care Council.

The Car Care Council recommends the following pre-trip checklist before hitting the road this summer:

–         Check the brake system and make sure the battery connection is clean, tight and corrosion-free.

–         Check filters and fluids, including engine oil, power steering and brake and transmission, as well as windshield washer solvent and antifreeze/coolant. Dirty air filters can waste gas and cause the engine to lose power.

–         Check the hoses and belts that can become cracked, brittle, frayed, loose or show signs of excessive wear. These are critical to the proper functioning of the electrical system, air conditioning, power steering and the cooling system.

–         Check the tires, including tire pressure and tread. Underinflated tires reduce a vehicle’s fuel economy and uneven wear indicates a need for wheel alignment. Tires should also be checked for bulges and bald spots.

–         Check that the gas cap is not damaged, loose or missing to prevent gas from spilling or evaporating.

Read more at: http://www.carcare.org/2014/05/is-your-car-road-ready-for-summer/