Q: What if I never changed the oil in my car?
A: Oil is an essential lubricant in your engine. It lets metal press against metal without damage. For example, it lubricates the pistons as they move up and down in the cylinders. Without oil, the metal-on-metal friction creates so much heat that eventually the surfaces weld themselves together and the engine seizes. Which is not good if you’re trying to get somewhere. On the other hand, if you want someone else not to get somewhere, then draining the oil out of his or her engine is an effective roadblock!
Let’s say that your engine has plenty of oil, but you never change it. Two things will definitely happen:
Dirt will accumulate in the oil. The filter will remove the dirt for a while, but eventually the filter will clog and the dirty oil will automatically bypass the filter through a relief valve. Dirty oil is thick and abrasive, so it causes more wear. Additives in the oil like detergents, dispersants, rust-fighters and friction reducers will wear out, so the oil won’t lubricate as well as it should.
Eventually, as the oil gets dirtier and dirtier, it will stop lubricating and the engine will quickly wear and fail. Don’t worry, this isn’t going to happen if you forget to change your oil one month and it goes over the recommended change interval by 500 miles. You would have to run the same oil through the engine for a long time — many thousands of miles — before it caused catastrophic failure.
Q: What car care can I do myself?
A: Basic car care can be simple and take only a short time to complete if you know what to do and what to inspect.
Refer to your owners manual for specific directions for your vehicle.
Check your oil every week. The most accurate way of testing is by starting the vehicle and letting it run for at least 30 seconds. This allows the oil to fill the oil filter and will give you a proper reading on your dipstick. Shut the engine off wait 2-5 min to allow the oil to settle. Pull the oil dipstick, wipe it clean and replace it in the dip stick tube. Pull it out a second time and check the level. Fill if needed, but do not over fill, and it’s best to use the same weight of oil last used. The need to add oil is an indication of an eminent mechanical failure somewhere in the system. Consult your trusted repair center.
Check your transmission every month.
Start your vehicle and run it through the gears ending in the recommended gear, set the parking brake and pull the dipstick, clean it off and recheck it for a proper reading. Remember that transmission fluid expands when it gets to normal operating temperature. If the fluid is in the checked area do not add any additional fluid. If you do need to add fluid be sure to use the correct type recommended for your vehicle and again do not overfill. Again, the need to add transmission fluid is an indication of an eminent mechanical failure somewhere in the system. Consult your trusted repair center.
Check your tire pressure frequently.
Although there are many things that can cause tire damage, improper inflation is the main problem. Always keep a tire pressure gauge in your vehicle and frequently check the pressure of all tires. The optimum tire pressure specification is imprinted on the side of the tire.
Brake Fluid Caution!We recommend never pulling the cap off your brake fluid reservoir. The brake system can be easily contaminated. If you think there is a problem with your brakes, have them checked by a certified brake specialist. You should not need any fluid added to your brakes unless you have a problem such as a leak or the brakes need to be replaced. Both issues should be handled by a trained technician. Many vehicles have a sensor built into the brake system that lets you know if you need brake maintenance. This is activated by the amount of fluid and pressure in the reservoir or within the brake calipers.
Q: How should you prepare your car for winter?
A: Here are some tips for how to prepare your automobile for winter. This is often referred to as “winterize” or “winterizing your car.”
Some of these tips can be performed by any do-it-yourselfer; others should be performed by an automotive technician. Please refer to your owners manual for vehicle specific information.
Engine Performance – Engine driveability problems: slow starts, rough idling, stalling, diminished power, delayed heat control, etc. Issues of this type should be corrected at a qualified repair shop. Cold weather makes existing problems worse.Fuel – Put a bottle of fuel de-icer in your tank once a month to help keep moisture from freezing in the fuel line. Note that a gas tank which is kept filled helps keep moisture from forming. Consult your owners manual prior to using any additives.
Oil – Change your oil and oil filter more often, especially if your driving is mostly stop-and-go or your travel consists of frequent short trips.
Windshield Wipers – Replace old blades. If your climate is harsh, purchase rubber-clad (winter) blades to fight ice build-up. Stock up on windshield washer solvent-you’ll be surprised how much you use. Carry an ice-scraper.
Heater/Defroster – The heater and defroster must be in good working condition for passenger comfort and driver visibility.
Battery – The only accurate way to detect a weak battery is with professional equipment.
Routine Battery Care: Scrape away corrosion from posts and cable connections; clean all surfaces; re-tighten all connections. If battery caps are removable, check fluid level monthly. Avoid contact with corrosive deposits and battery acid. Wear eye protection and rubber gloves.
Lights – Inspect all lights and bulbs; replace burned out bulbs; periodically clean road grime from all lenses. To prevent scratching, never use a dry rag.
Exhaust System – Your vehicle should be placed on a lift and the exhaust system examined for leaks. The trunk and floor boards should be inspected for small holes. Exhaust fumes can be deadly.
Tires – Worn tires will be of little use in winter weather. Examine tires for remaining tread life, uneven wearing, and cupping; check the sidewalls for cuts and nicks. Check tire pressures once a month. Let the tires “cool down” before checking the pressure. Rotate your tires as recommended. Don’t forget to inspect your spare tire. Be sure that you are familiar with your tire changing system and that it is complete and in working order.
Anti freeze – Get your coolant mixture right. It may be a good idea to have your radiator flushed out and add a 50/50 mix of water and coolant. If you are planning extended winter travel, some parts of the county call for a significantly different ratio depending on how cool the area gets.
Carry Emergency Gear: gloves, boots, blankets, flares, a small shovel, sand or kitty litter, tire chains, energy snacks and a flash light.
Q: How do you choose an automotive repair shop?
A: Here are some tips to consider before you start, when you’re at the car repair shop, and after the car repair. Read your owner’s manual to become familiar with your vehicle and follow the manufacturer’s suggested service schedule. Keep in mind that your vehicles maintenance schedule does not compensate for the operators particular driving habits and localized environmental conditions.
Start shopping for a repair facility before you need one; you can make better decisions when you are not rushed or in a panic. Ask friends and associates for their recommendations. Even in this high-tech era, old-fashioned word-of-mouth reputation is still valuable. If possible, arrange for alternate transportation in advance so you will not feel forced to choose a facility solely on the basis of location or preselect a service facility that has rentals or loaners on site.
Once you have chosen a repair shop, start off with a minor job; if you are pleased, trust them with more complicated repairs later. Look for a neat, well-organized facility, with vehicles in the parking lot equal in value to your own and modern equipment in the service bays. Professionally run establishments will have a courteous, helpful staff ready and able to answer your questions.
The service manager should be willing to answer all of your questions. All policies, labor rates, guarantees, methods of payment, etc. should be explained to your satisfaction. Ask if the shop customarily handles your vehicle make and model. Some facilities specialize. Ask if the shop usually does your type of repair, especially if you need major work.
Look for signs of professionalism in the customer service area: civic and community service awards, membership in the Better Business Bureau, Local Chambers Of Commerce, AAA-Approved Auto Repair status, customer service awards. Look for evidence of qualified technicians, such as trade school diplomas and certificates of advanced course work. The backbone of any shop is the competence of the technicians.
Keep good records; keep all paperwork. Confirm that the shop will have every service and repair on file. An efficient shop will have records of all warranted parts used in all repairs.
Reward good service with repeat business and referrals. It is mutually beneficial to you and the shop owner to establish a relationship. If the service was not what you expected, don’t rush to another shop. Discuss the problem with the service manager or owner. Give the business a chance to resolve the problem. Reputable shops value customer feedback and will make a sincere effort to keep your business.
Q: Will it hurt my engine if I drive my car when the check engine light is on?
A: It is possible. It depends on the make and model that you drive. Some engine lights come on after a certain periodic mileage point is reached and mean nothing other than you are due for an oil change. Others come on when the engine is about to seize. Be familiar with your cars warning light definitions found in your manual. If you are unsure, call your trusted automotive service provider. You do need to get your vehicle checked out as soon as possible. You may see a decrease in performance or worse.
Q: What is the primary cause of tire damage?
A: Although there are many things that can cause tire damage, improper inflation is the main problem. Always keep a tire pressure gauge in your vehicle and frequently check the pressure of all tires. The optimum tire pressure specification is imprinted on the side of the tire.
Have you ever gotten a great price on new tires and wondered how can this tire be new? Well the answer might be that you just purchased old but UNUSED tires. The problem is that tires, like any rubber product, degrade over time and could present a significant yet hidden safety risk regardless of tread depth.
Q: How do I know when my car needs a tune up?
A: You may see your gas mileage decrease. Your vehicle may start running rough. If your check engine light comes on that could also be an indicator that your vehicle needs a tune up. The owners manual that came with your vehicle often suggests a tune up at a certain mileage. Depending on the vehicle, a timing belt needs to be replaced between 60,000 and 120,000 miles. Timing belts can have premature failure. If you can see cracks in your belts, it is time to have them replaced. We recommend replacing your belts and hoses at least every three to four years. If your hoses look swollen or soft that could be an indicator that they need to be replaced. However, hoses can deteriorate on the inside and if this happens there is no visual evidence that the hose needs to be changed.
When should I have my timing belt changed?
When do I need toreplace my belts and hoses?
Q: Why do I need to have my engine oil changed every 3,000 miles?
A: The additives in the oil starts to break down as soon as it heats up to high temperatures. The engine in your vehicle will reach over 200 degrees almost every time you drive it. History has proven that the 3,000 mile mark is a good interval to have your non-synthetic engine oil replaced. You never want to just drain your engine oil out and put new oil in without changing the oil filter. The oil filter will hold about a quart of oil. If you do not change the oil filter when changing the engine oil in your vehicle,you are combining your clean oil with deteriorated engine oil. This will significantly lessen the effectiveness of the new oil and progressively increase the contamination of your lubrication system.