Modern automatic transmissions can be traced back to 1904 when the Sturtevant brothers of Boston developed a clunky, inefficient, failure-prone centrifugal gearbox. An inauspicious beginning and nothing like today’s transmissions which shift smoothly, deliver great fuel economy and exceptional durability. However, the sophistication of today’s transmissions means repairing or replacing a broken one now costs more than a whole fleet of cars did back in 1904. Transmission repair or replacement can be mind-numbing expensive these days. Read More
FIXING YOUR PRESENT VEHICLE SAVES MONEY
Most of us want to get the most for our motoring dollar. One of the best ways to do this is extending the life of your current vehicle. With new car prices in the United States averaging well over $ 10,000, money invested in keeping your existing vehicle in good shape could save you hundreds–even thousands–of dollars a year. When you consider the true cost of buying a new car (price of the car, sales tax, license, and registration fees, insurance), it is not difficult to justify investing a few hundred dollars to repair your present vehicle. Read More
Disuse is the enemy of all automobiles. In truth, a car driven a thousand miles a week doesn’t need as much maintenance and frequently will require fewer repairs than the car that’s only driven a couple thousand miles in an entire year. On newer cars, seals and gaskets are not the major problem. Modem technology has given us sealing components capable of withstanding long periods of disuse with little or no adverse effects.
The really insidious damage to an engine, be it new, old, or in-between, stems from fluids contaminated by acid and moisture. Controlling acids in the crankcase is easy to do. It amounts to nothing more than changing the oil immediately prior to storage. However, there is a rule which states that engine operation should be limited to a maximum of 15 (fifteen) minutes after the oil change. Running the engine for more than that negates the benefits. Running an engine even for short periods of time will cause minor to major oil contamination from combustion by-products.
The combustion of fuel and air in the cylinders of any engine is relatively inefficient. It leaves carbon, unburned fuel, moisture, and a host of other unfriendly things, which contaminate the oil. In day to day operation those by-products are dissipated through engine heat and evaporation. But, during long-term disuse contaminated oil will remain between the crankshaft and the crankshaft bearings, and the camshaft and the camshaft bearings, etc. Because some of the contaminates will be acidic and because bearing material is very soft, bearing etching is probable. This does not lead to immediate or catastrophic failure, but rather to shortened engine life.
Oil contamination is certainly a problem, but the really bad actor is . . . water. Not just water in the oil either, but water that forms in the cylinders as a result of condensation. As temperatures fluctuate from night to day, the cylinder walls sweat. The resulting moisture trickles down the cylinders to the lower sides of the pistons. Left untreated, condensation causes pitted cylinder walls, and corroded pistons and piston rings, a potentially deadly condition.
Your assignment, should you decide to take it, is to control moisture, control acid, and control corrosion. If the vehicle is going to be stored more than 30 days, in anything less than a temperature controlled garage, you should follow a rigid storage procedure:
Wash your car in detail. Be particularly careful to remove all dirt and other foreign material from under the car, from behind moldings, and especially around the front and rear windshields.
Every interior surface should also be cleaned exceptionally well. Vacuum not only the carpeting and seats, but under the seats and mats. Remove the rear seat cushion and clean this area. All surfaces, door panels, dash, steering wheel, kick panels, etc., should be dust-free and protected with an appropriate chemical.
Apply a heavy coat of high quality wax to the exterior.
Using silicone, spray all rubber items, including bushings and hangers under the car. All weather-stripping should be treated with silicone and don’t forget the weather-strip under the trunk lid.
Spray hinges and latches with white lithium grease. Remember the trunk and hood hinges and their latches.
Test the pH level and visual clarity of the cars’ anti-freeze. The pH should be around 10. If it’s 11 or above, corrosion will occur because the coolant is too alkaline. If the pH is 9 or below, corrosion will occur from the coolant being too acidic. Either way, you lose! The ideal is to flush the cooling system and install fresh anti-freeze of the proper type and quantity. Add a coolant additive to prevent corrosion.
With the engine thoroughly warmed, change the engine oil and oil filter, using oil of the recommended quality and viscosity.
Unless it’s been done in the last 6 to 9 months, flush the brake system, using fresh DOT 4 Brake Fluid from an unsealed container. If the vehicle has a hydraulic clutch, flush this system using appropriate fluid (usually brake fluid).
Change transmission fluid and filter in an automatic transmission, unless it’s been done in the last year.
Here’s the really critical part. Disable the ignition system so no high voltage can be generated. Remove the spark plugs from the cooled engine; spray about two tablespoons of Liquid Wrench or similar product through the spark plug holes. Once that’s done, crank the engine for 15 seconds, the ignition system is still disconnected.
Now it’s time to inject about two (2) tablespoons of engine oil into each cylinder and once more crank the engine for 10 to 15 seconds. This helps reduce the possibility of moisture forming and it keeps any moisture that does form, from attacking the metal. The spark plugs and spark plug wires can be reinstalled once all this is done, but DO NOT start/run the engine as this will undo all the protection you’ve just provided.
Also I forgot to mention the fuel tank should be full, and the fuel in the tank should be treated with a stabilizer such as Stor-N-Start. Run the car for 10 to 15 minutes so the stabilized fuel will be dispersed throughout the fuel system to prevent gasoline breakdown. Stor-N-Start is available at farm supply stores, and at RV and marine supply outlets.
The friendliest way to treat tires and suspension parts is to place the car in its temporary place, adjust tire pressure to the recommended inflation, and jack the car up. Next, support the car with jack stands placed as close to the inside of each tire as possible. Proper positioning of the jack stands is crucial because the springs must be pre-loaded, not hanging free. It isn’t unusual for spring rates to change when stored for long periods of time without a pre-load.
Best battery life requires that you disconnect the battery and install a 100%-fully-automatic-total-shut-off trickle charger.
A high quality, breathable car cover is essential. If the car is stored indoors there must be no electric motors or other electrical devices that produce ozone. Ozone causes rapid deterioration of rubber items.
And don’t forget your vehicle’s fuzzy neighbors; squirrels, mice, rats, and even an occasional cat. Field mice for instance are extremely classy critters. They love to build a nest in the wire harness or in the front seat of a Corvette. Guess that shows it isn’t just large mammals who appreciate the finer things in the automotive kingdom.
If you’re looking for car covers or a complete enclosure for weather protection or for rodent control, contact:
B & W, Inc.
PO Box 106
Hunt Valley, MN 56219
‘Mid-America Designs’ also offers covers and enclosures, 800-500-VETT.
Tell the Customer Service Rep, at B & W or Mid America, I said Hello.
The possible consequences of not following storage procedures could be horrific.
If you read a popular consumer magazine or talk to many dealer technicians you might get the idea that preventive maintenance is a waste of money. But if you’re the type who values money you should know that statistically, every dollar spent on preventive maintenance will save up to eight dollars in future repairs. Also magazines do not run repair shops and have no real world way to compare vehicles with aggressive maintenance against those receiving factory suggested service. I’ve been fixing cars for a long time so I actually see the difference and it is amazing. Following are some of the benefits of aggressive preventive maintenance. This is predicated on the fact that no automotive fluid can last forever. Read More
Your car’s air conditioner is busted, it’s ninety degrees, traffic is crawling, you’re sweaty, your clothes are wet and sticky and you stink; it really sucks. Sitting there sweating your ass off you probably don’t care that the most common air conditioner problem is refrigerant loss but it is. Refrigerant is what it is but Freon® is what most folks call it, which is wrong because Freon® is actually a DuPont trade name for a specific type of refrigerant. But no matter what you call it refrigerant leaks causing cold air to become cool air and cool air to become hot air! Myth exposed: No matter how many bizarre theories you hear the only possible way for refrigerant to leave an AC system; is through a leak! Refrigerant gone, system has a leak. Read More
My Grandmother was always concerned about the character of the people I hung with. She used to say “remember young man if you sleep with dogs you wake up with fleas.” That sounded pretty silly at the time but through the years I’ve gained an understanding of what she really meant. Read More
WHY PREVENTIVE MAINTENANCE?
Manufacturers know that a properly maintained car will be more dependable, safer, last longer, and increase your satisfaction with their product. Car makers and owners also have a responsibility to make sure emission controls receive regular service and are functioning properly. Regular maintenance helps accomplish these goals by keeping your engine running efficiently and eliminating potential problems that may leave you stranded.
WHAT’S IN IT FOR YOU?
A More Dependable Car
A car that retains the “new car feel”
Less chance of a costly breakdown
A safer car for you and your family
Doing your part for cleaner air
A car worth more at trade in or sale
An intact warranty
When it comes to automobiles, safety and reliability are the two most important factors for most of us. This is especially true now that spring has arrived and we start planning for summer trips. Some preplanning can lead to peaceful, safe trips. Many people, however, have no idea what to check and what to replace on their car to make this happen. So let’s walk through the process.
Winter always takes a toll on our cars but this past winter has been worse than any I can remember. The ice and cold were brutal which means more things need to be checked and to be checked more carefully than usual.
To assure safe operation start by checking the brake system. This will include having a technician test the brake fluid for moisture content. The test is performed with a tester, which is immersed in the brake fluid at the master cylinder. Using electronic circuitry it measures the percent of moisture in the fluid. If the fluid fails, it will be necessary to flush the brake hydraulic system and install new brake fluid. This operation is vital to safety because excessive moisture can boil during a panic stop leading to momentary brake loss. If you really want the best for your car and yourself, have the brake system flushed once every year.
Next is the physical measurement of the brake pads and shoes as well as a thorough check of the hydraulic parts. Have your technician pay particular attention to the steel brake lines and rubber brake hoses which may have been damaged as a result of the extreme quantities of salt used this winter.
The tires need to be carefully checked for proper wear and pressure. Check the tire sidewalls and tread for signs of cuts that may be the result of ice damage. If the tires haven’t been rotated for a while now is a good time. Have the tires rotated every 6,000 miles to get the best tire wear.
Constant velocity joint boots should be carefully inspected for damage. I’m seeing many damaged boots this year as a result of the ice.
Axle and wheel bearings need to be looked at; again ice and salt may have taken a toll.
Inspection of the exhaust system is definitely recommended. It’s a common misconception that you need to be more careful of exhaust fumes in the winter than in the summer. That was correct before the advent of auto air conditioning because we used to drive with the windows rolled down for ventilation. Today most of us ride with the windows rolled up and the air conditioning turned on which means an exhaust leak can be deadly in the summer too.
Check all lights for proper operation. You should get in the habit of turning the lights on and walking around the car before driving. Only under safe conditions of course!
The car should be run over a “scuff’ gauge to determine if the front end is out of alignment. This is the quickest least expensive way to check alignment.
Fuel lines, hoses and filters need to be looked at. Many late model cars use metal or plastic fuel lines and fuel line fittings which can he damaged by ice and road salt.
The cooling system should be pressure tested for leaks. Check the condition of the radiator hoses, heater hoses and fan belts. These rubber parts typically have a usable safe life expectancy of four years or fifty thousand miles. Have your technician check the pH level of the coolant in your radiator too. The pH should be no lower than 9 if it is have the cooling system flushed and new coolant installed immediately. I recommend yearly flushing of the cooling system to prevent expensive damage.
The battery is another area of concern during hot weather. I recommend you have a heavy load test performed on the battery, which will give you a good idea as to its general condition. Be sure the battery cable connections are clean and tight and are coated with a corrosion preventer. If your battery is at or very near the end of its warranty period, replace it! Most battery manufacturers have a good idea how long their product will last and guess what? It’s usually about to the end of the warranty.
Check the items related to performance. This is best done by having a good technician hook up a diagnostic tester and run the full test on your engine. This will disclose the condition of parts like spark plugs, spark plug wires, distributor cap, distributor rotor, fuel injectors or carburetor plus many other important parts. Look for a highly qualified technician or the results may be marginal. Always select technicians who are ASE certified. In this case the technician should have an ASE engine performance certificate.
A scan of your cars computer system is also a good idea. The scan is easy and inexpensive and will tell the technician if there are any fault codes stored in the computer’s memory. The scan procedure will also let the technician know about the operating condition of the computer sensors. Critical: there is no such thing as a fault code that tells what part is defective it only tells the technician what diagnostic procedure to follow.
Last is a general check of small items such as windshield wiper blades, washer fluid, transmission fluid, etc.
Lubrication of the door weather-stripping will make your car much more enjoyable to drive. It does away with those annoying squeaks that emanate from dry rubber. Use high quality spray silicone from your auto parts store.
By following a good preventive maintenance schedule you will avoid most of those annoying highway problems.
Copyright 05/94 Pat Goss all rights reserved
1. “My car died” isn’t the most helpful explanation you can provide.
While auto technicians are always happy to diagnose your car’s problems, giving them as many details as possible is the key to an efficient repair. “The more details a car owner can provide about a particular problem, the less they’ll pay in diagnostic time,” says Tony Molla, a technician who is certified by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). He encourages car owners to have answers to the following questions when they drop off their car: When does the problem occur? Are any dashboard lights illuminated? Can you describe what the car is doing or not doing when the problem occurs? Is the problem intermittent? Are there any unusual noises, odors or vibrations when the problem occurs?
2. Leave the diagnosing to us.
Doing your research and coming to the repair shop with all the details about your car is great. But don’t be so informed that you distrust your mechanic. “Sometimes a little knowledge is dangerous,” says Gus De Ipola, owner of APA Automotive Center in Woodland Hills, California. “It’s especially frustrating when a customer comes in having incorrectly diagnosed a problem and orders a specific repair. He may be wrong, but he doesn’t want us to argue with him.”
3. If you don’t have an appointment, be prepared to wait.
Minor repairs or safety checks can be performed while you wait, but according to Molla, it’s best to have a scheduled appointment. “It allows the shop to prepare in advance and allows enough time to do the job properly. If you drop by unannounced, you’re probably going to have to either leave the vehicle or wait while they work your repair into the day’s schedule.” Can’t wait to make an appointment? Molla recommends avoiding repair shops’ two busiest times: first thing in the morning, when everyone drops their car off, and around 5 p.m., when they pick it back up.
4. Pay attention to your warning lights.
“They’re called warning lights for a reason,” says Michael Anderson, proprietor of Wagonwork Collision Center & Consultants in Alexandria, Virginia, and member of the Automotive Service Association (ASA), an organization for auto business owners. Letting your car deteriorate because you don’t want to take the time to handle the problem when it first appears will only make things more difficult down the road. If you get your car serviced regularly (consult your owner’s manual for a recommended service timeline) and bring it in right away if you see a light come on, you can prevent larger repairs later on.
5. You may actually be the one to blame for certain car problems.
Worn-out brakes? Troubled transmission? You may actually be the one at fault when it comes to some automotive issues. Thanks to the way we drive, we often unknowingly inflict damage upon our vehicles. De Ipola notes that hill driving can wear down brakes, stop-and-go traffic can cause overheating and flooring it as soon as the light turns green can wreck a transmission. To prevent future problems, pay attention to road conditions, slow down for speed bumps and keep clear of the curb when parking—knocking into it can really mess up your car’s alignment, says Molla.
6. We wish you knew more about your warranty.
“It would be helpful if the customer would read their warranty to understand the limits of what is covered and who must do the service,” says Howard Fleischman, owner of Community Tire and Auto Services in Arizona and member of the Neighborhood Auto Repair Professionals Network (NARPRO), an organization for family-owned auto repair shops. He adds that many people leave the dealership believing they can only go there for services covered by the warranty, but often “that’s simply not true.” According to Fleischman, a qualified repair facility can perform all manufacturer maintenance to support warranty requirements. One thing to note: Most warranties cover breakage, not wear, so if your brakes are worn out from overuse, you might not be covered.
7. We like coming in under our estimate!
Think all auto technicians are out to swindle you? An honest repair shop aims to give you the best deal possible. “We shop the competition to be sure we’re in the right ballpark for maintenance costs,” says Fleischman. “For repair estimates we make an educated guess, but if we miss the mark and cut ourselves short, we just live with it. If it’s the other way around, we love the expression on our clients’ faces when we come in under estimate!” And don’t expect a very accurate estimate online or over the phone. “Oftentimes the vehicle owner just doesn’t have enough information, so an accurate estimate can’t usually be given on the Internet or over the phone,” says David Kusa, owner of Autotrend Diagnostic in Campbell, California, and an ASA member. The bottom line: Feel free to use the Web or call your shop to get a ballpark estimate for your repairs, but don’t expect to nail down an exact figure until you bring in your car.
8. Do your homework—it will pay off.
To be sure you’re seeing a trusted auto technician, look for credentials, such as Better Business Bureau ratings, ASE certification and AskPatty.com or NARPRO approval, says Fleischman. He also recommends checking out the shop you’re considering on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Look for positive comments, but also note how the shop responds to negative ones. “If they don’t reply to social media, they may not respond to customer concerns at their counter,” he says.
9. It’s best to have an exclusive relationship with your mechanic.
Once you’ve found a mechanic you trust, stick with him. “Auto repair is very much a relationship business,” says Molla. “Having a vehicle history with one repair shop will allow them to keep track of what work is done, and as mileage builds, they can recommend various periodic maintenance services that will keep your car running efficiently.” Plus, the more familiar your mechanic is with your car, the more likely he or she will notice when something seems off—which could prevent a major headache down the line.
10. Not every shop can accommodate your problem.
Don’t get frustrated if you bring your vehicle to get serviced only to be told the facility can’t help you. “Some repair shops only offer a limited menu of services. Some specialize in certain types of service, while others only service certain makes and models,” says Molla. “Full-service shops do exist, but it’s not unusual for them to refer a specific problem to a specialist, just like doctors do.” When considering a new repair shop, be sure to ask the service desk what types of repairs they typically handle so you don’t show up only to be turned away.