Car Care Tips
Change your engine oil when it is due, or it will cost you!
The simplest task to increase the life of your engine is to change the oil and filter when recommended, for example, every 3,000 or 5,000 miles. Oil lubricates the engine parts and oil also disperses heat. As oil gets dirty and breaks down, it is burned off by the engine, so it needs to be topped off when the level drops. Keep in mind that an engine runs much hotter with less oil in it. The hotter it runs the more strain, stress that is put on the engine parts. If you run your engine low on oil or do not change your oil as recommended, the engine could be damaged and could either need to be rebuilt or replaced and that’s VERY expensive, sometimes over $7,000 on today’s engines! One last tip on oil is to be sure to use the proper weight oil for your engine, this is critical with the tight tolerances of today’s engines!
Cabin Air filter? Now you're just making stuff up!
A few years ago, if your auto repair shop called you up and said “your cabin air filter has a mouse nest in it and should be replaced” you would accuse them of just making things up! Not today! Most modern cars have a far often overlooked maintenance item called a “cabin air filter”. This filter sits in your vent system for your heating and air conditioning and its job is to filter out all the dirt, pollen, mold, and other contaminants from the outside air that comes through your vents. This filter is also a known hang out for mice and other tiny rodents to build a nest in because of its access through the outside fresh air vent! This filter is recommended to be changed every 20,000 miles or when it becomes discolored. Also recommended when the filter is changed is that a “whole vent system disinfectant” treatment is performed. This is done to kill any bacteria and mold left in the system that can be harmful to the passengers in your car. So yes, a cabin air filter is a thing these days and I cannot make this stuff up!
Timing belt, timing chain, what is that? Sounds expensive!
Your engine has either a timing belt or timing chain. This belt or chain connects the crankshaft to the camshaft, which works with the opening and closing of the engine’s valves. If your car has a timing chain, then little to no maintenance is required. If your car has a timing belt keep in mind that if not changed at the recommended times the belt can break and depending on the engine design this can mean rebuilding or replacing the engine and that is VERY expensive! To avoid this the timing belt should be replaced when recommended by the manufacturer. Some timing belts are replaced in conjunction with the water pump, that is driven by the timing belt. This is usually recommended between 60,000 and 110,000 miles and usually costs $400.00 – $1200.00 depending on your vehicle. Sounds expensive, right? Not near as expensive when it breaks and potentially having to replace a $7000.00 engine!
Flush my power steering fluid? Why? I never did that before!
If you have ever had to replace a power steering pump or rack n pinion then that was probably caused by not flushing the fluid at the recommended time and here is why. Many vehicles have hydraulic power steering and its pump is lubricated by the power steering fluid. If the pump is run low on fluid or the fluid gets dirty then it can burn up the pumps bearings, ruin the seals causing a leak and require the pump to be replaced costing you hundreds of dollars. Dirty fluid can also plug up the rack n pinion causing jerky or no power steering and that can potentially cost you over a thousand dollars to replace it. Flushing the power steering fluid at the recommended times can greatly reduce the possibility of having a major power steering issue. A few symptoms of a power steering problem are squealing noises when turning the steering wheel, jerky steering, or heavy/stiff steering. If you are having any steering issues, make sure to have it checked out right away to avoid costly repairs, because sometimes just flushing the fluid will fix the problem. Keep in mind that some newer vehicles have electric power steering and there is little to no maintenance for these electric systems, so it is important to know what system your car has and how to protect it.
Rotate my tires? Why? Aren't they always rotating?
A set of tires costs how much???? Yes, depending on the size tires can cost more than $1000.00 for a set of 4 nowadays!! Now, that is expensive! Who can afford that every few years, and that is why checking tire air pressure, rotating tires, and checking the alignment of your car on a regular basis can extend the life of that $1000.00 set of tires by many years! As steering and suspension items wear this can cause alignment issues and cause your tires to wear out quickly. Also, some tires spin faster than others, I know what you are thinking “yeah right”! But it is true, when you accelerate hard, turn corners, or hit a patch of sand one tire can slip and spin, that spin causes the tire to wear faster than the others. Also, the front tires can wear faster on the inside and outside because they are the “steering” tires. Rotating the tires position on the car is important so they all wear evenly and last longer. Checking tire air pressure is important because low tire air pressure can cause tires to wear very fast and even ruin a tire by having the tire come off the rim while turning! High tire air pressure can cause the tire to wear in the middle very fast! So, rotating your tires, checking tire pressure often and aligning your car can help extend the life of those expensive tires by many years!
Top off your brake fluid? Why? Where did it go?
We all know that brakes are one of the most important systems on a vehicle. But, did you know that as your brake pads or shoes wear down that it takes more fluid out of the master cylinder to fill the lines, calipers, and wheel cylinders? This results in low brake fluid in the master cylinder. If the fluid gets too low, air can get into the brake system and cause your brakes to be soft and could cause you not to stop in a panic situation. That is why topping off brake fluid is so important! Also, flushing brake fluid on the modern cars is very important! Why you may ask? It is because brake fluid naturally absorbs moisture and moisture creates corrosion like rust. On modern cars with ABS brakes (anti-lock brakes) there are very expensive parts like an ABS pump. These parts encounter brake fluid and if there is moisture in the fluid, the internal parts will begin to corrode, and this will cause the brake system to malfunction. The last thing anyone wants is brakes that do not work when they need them! So, YES, flushing brake fluid is essential on modern cars in keeping the brakes working properly. On most cars a brake fluid flush runs about $140.00, but your safety is priceless!
Change your transmission fluid or buy a transmission, you choose!
transmission fluid? Clean transmission fluid is critical because it cools the transmission, lubricates the moving parts, and smooths the shifts between gears. Keep in mind that the fluid breaks down over time just like engine oil. Having dirty transmission fluid can cause the bearings and other critical parts in the transmission to wear much faster and cause the transmission to fail. Flushing the fluid at the recommended intervals can help you avoid replacing or rebuilding the transmission. Depending on the vehicle, replacing a transmission can cost you over $6,000! But flushing the transmission typically only costs around $200.00 every 50,000 miles depending on the model.
Replace my dirty engine air filter? Can't we just wash it?
Every car has an engine air filter and they are usually made of a paper type material. If you have ever washed your money, then you will know that throwing it in a washing machine is not such a good idea! But luckily, they usually cost less than $30.00 so changing them when they are dirty is a great idea and here is why. Engine air filters are one of the most overlooked reasons for loss of engine performance and getting less miles per gallon. As the filter gets dirty, less clean air gets to the engine. Getting the proper amount of air to the engine is critical for maximum miles per gallon. On average a dirty engine air filter can cost you an extra .15 per gallon until it is changed and at that rate the cost of the new engine air filter is paid for in no time!
Why flush your antifreeze/coolant?
Antifreeze/coolant has rust inhibitors that break down over time. Antifreeze/coolant also needs to be maintained to ensure proper protection for your engine in the freezing winter months. If the antifreeze/coolant has too much water in it, the system will freeze and could ruin the radiator or even the engine block resulting in major repair costs! Rust and corrosion can build up in this system harming the engine, plugging the radiator, or damaging the water pump causing overheating. So, flushing your coolant can help ensure long engine life and avoid costly cooling system repairs.