Why Should I Rotate My Tires?
Ever looked at the bottom of your shoes and noticed that one area of the sole is more worn than another? The way you walk causes a “wear” pattern to occur as you put more weight on certain areas of your feet. The same thing happens with your car tires! Just imagine your tires are the shoe soles of the car. The act of driving throws the auto’s weight around, leaving distinctive erosion patterns on the tires. In order to combat the inevitable uneven wear, you have to rotate your tires to different locations on your vehicle.
What Causes Tire Wear?
Tire wear can become uneven for a number of reasons. A car’s weight dispersion can be a factor, especially if you have a front-wheel drive vehicle. Not only do the tires on these have to endure the steering, braking and accidental bruises from parking but also carry the entire weight of both the engine and the front axle. Incorrect tire pressure and uneven alignment can also result in tire wear. And because of the weight distribution in the car, the front tires can wear out more quickly than the rear ones.
When Should I Rotate My Tires?
Your tires will give you a little warning that the tread is uneven. Considering that there shouldn’t be noise emanating from your tires, listen for a humming sound coming from them on smooth roads. That is a good indication it may be time for a rotation. Car Manufacturers recommend you rotate your tires every 6,000 to 8,000 miles, convenient timing to perform the service roughly at every other oil change, depending on when you change it.
If you drive your car pretty hard, or have a four-wheel drive vehicle, you may want to rotate your tires a little more often than that. In these cases, having your tires rotated at 5,000 miles is a reasonable time-frame.
Why Is Rotating Tires Important?
You may be wondering why you even need to be spending this much time on tire rotation! Well, for one thing, it’s safer. If you have balder tires on the front, you are at risk of losing control of the steering and getting into an accident. By rotating your tires, your vehicle’s braking will be more even, thus more effective; and the handling will be more balanced. Things you’ll notice as soon as those tires get moved around. Evenly worn tires also equate to a smoother ride, with increased traction and better gas mileage.
With all your tires wearing down at the same rate, you’ll be able to purchase a new set of four when the time comes instead of going in for the front tires, followed by another visit to buy new rear tires. Essentially, it makes the buying process a less frequent affair. Combine that with the result of a more efficient ride and tire rotation should sit permanently on your car maintenance checklist.
When Should I Change My Oil?
It seems like every person you ask has a different answer for how often engine oil should be changed. Knowing which factors affect the cleanliness of your oil can help you make an informed choice as to when you’ll need to get around to changing it. Estimates vary as to when you need to change the motor oil in your car. Oil change time intervals rely on a number of mitigating factors that determine when one should get their vehicle’s oil changed.
Where To Start
A good jumping off point would be to look at your owner’s manual, which will probably supply a number between 5,000 and 7,500 miles. The manufacturer actually built the car, and as such should be viewed as the highest order when it comes to maintenance advice. Though, manufacturer recommendations are based on ideal driving conditions – driving short distances, never over the speed limit, that kind of thing – something the average driver would be hard-pressed to accomplish. As such, you’re better off using the “severe conditions” maintenance schedule, which will have you changing your oil roughly every 3,000 miles.
What Affects Oil Change Intervals?
So, once you’ve uncovered the car maker’s estimated oil change mileage, there are a few issues that need to be reviewed to adjust that estimate. Hard driving is a major wear and tear factor in determining the mileage amount for an oil change. If you’re driving in a lot in extreme conditions (both hot and cold), stop-and-go traffic, towing a trailer or hanging out on dusty roads, you must change your oil more frequently.
Conversely, and perhaps obviously, if you’re not driving very much, you’ll be able to get away with longer periods in between oil changes. This is a situation when you wouldn’t need to change your oil as regularly and could stick closer to the manufacturer’s suggestion. But remember, it is good to change the ‘black gold’ in your car even if you don’t drive it that much, and when you do so we also recommend a high-quality oil filter, as this is every bit as important as the quality of oil itself.
If your car has been around the block a couple of times, oil changes should be at increasingly more frequent intervals compared to how often you changed it when your car was new. This is due to “blowby”: compressed fuel and air that has leaked into the engine’s crankcase. Over time, soot and grime builds up on the rings, making them slightly permeable and resulting in contaminated oil that needs to be changed more regularly. Synthetic oil is recommended for longer engine life and better engine performance.
Though having to only change your oil every 7,500 miles is something we would all prefer, 3,000 to 5,000 miles are numbers more representative of actual driving conditions. By erring on the side of caution, you’ll help to extend the life of your car.
Do I Have A Serious Problem?
That little light can mean a lot of things. How do you know if it’s a serious problem or just a small issue? One day, this might happen to you, you glance down at your vehicle’s dashboard only to see the check engine light turned on. You burst into a cold sweat wondering just how badly your car’s engine needs to be checked.
If your car doesn’t sound like there is a monkey swinging a hammer under your hood and your vehicle is not billowing smoke, you’re probably not in immediate danger. The check engine light, or malfunction indication light, as it’s known to the auto elite, is designed to keep the driver informed of any number of sensor failures or engine irregularities.
As automotive environmental standards became stricter throughout the 1980s, onboard engine monitoring became more and more complex. Today, a variety of sensors feed your vehicle’s computer information on everything from ambient air temperature to the amount of oxygen in the car’s exhaust gasses.
The vehicle’s onboard computer, or engine control unit (ECU), then makes adjustments to ensure that the engine is running as efficiently, and cleanly, as possible in the given conditions. When one of those sensors fail, or gets a strange reading, you get the dreaded amber light of doom.
What Should I Do?
First, save the cold sweats for your yearly review with the boss. Second, go ahead and get it checked out. A technician will use a code reader – plugging it into your car’s data port – that will display a numerical code that can be referenced to diagnose your car’s problem. Most times the cross-referenced descriptions are less than helpful to a DIYer. You may get “fuel supply system” as the cause of your troubles. Unfortunately, the fuel supply system on most vehicles is made up of a slew of parts, and choosing to replace each and every one until you hit the trouble spot would be costly. Luckily, an experienced technician can decipher your car’s woes!
Occasionally, there may be a simple solution to your check engine light dilemma, and these are things you can check yourself. Failing to tighten your gas cap all the way, not fully seating your engine oil dipstick or a loose oil fill cap can all cause the check engine light to flash. If you check all of the above and you’re still stuck with a little extra amber on your dash, pay a visit to your mechanic.
If you haven’t noticed any huge drop in performance when the light comes on, you can probably get away with putting off your check up for awhile. Don’t take too long though, as the light may indicate the beginnings of a much more serious problem! Even if that’s not the case, not addressing the issue will inevitably lead to a failed emissions inspection and you bumming a ride from coworkers. Pull that piece of electrical tape off of the light, and get it taken care of as soon as possible!
Five Signs There Is No Serious Problem
- Your car seems to be behaving normally
- There are no strange noises
- You do not see or smell smoke
- No strange smells
- You’re getting the same gas mileage
Five Signs There Could Be A Serious Problem
- A consistent rattle, knock or other unusual noise
- A severe loss of power
- A serious decline in gas mileage
- The vehicle does not start
Learn how to pick the right motor oil for your vehicle.
As the lubricant for the moving parts of your engine, oil is extremely important. It prevents excessive engine wear and tear. It is vital for the continued functioning of your vehicle. And it’s all wrapped up in a one quart plastic bottle!
If you’ve ever stepped foot into your nearest auto parts store, you’ll have noticed the vast number of different motor oils that line the shelves. There are many oil types to choose from. But how do you know which one is best for your car?
The Different Grades
Each type of oil is graded by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). The higher the grade number – up to 70 – the higher the viscosity or thickness. These numbers are often referred to as the weight of the oil, specified by a “W”. In addition to numbering motor oil weight, they also get low temperature requirements after the viscosity grade. Simple enough, right?
Oil types can vary a great deal between cars and the environment in which they operate, but some common weights include 5W-30, 10W-20 and 10W-30. If you look in your owner’s manual, the manufacturer will confirm the type of oil you should use for your car.
As your car ages, it will need slightly thicker oil for added lubrication. The parts of your car’s engine will have worn over time, increasing friction; thicker oil will help condition seals in older cars. An oil’s thickness changes with the outside temperature as well. It will become thinner with warmer temperatures and thicken when it’s cold.
Viscosity of oil is an important factor in determining which type is right for your car. Too thin, and it won’t lubricate the engine parts well enough when it heats up. The climate you normally drive in is an important factor to consider.
Thankfully, most of us can use multi-viscosity oil in our cars. This oil has passed SAE specifications for thin oils at low temperatures, as well as for thicker oils at higher temperatures. They’re like the all-purpose flour for the automotive engine, and they actually flow easier at cold temperatures.
Which Type Is Best?
There are three overarching types of oil – conventional, synthetic and synthetic blend. Conventional oil is organic and limited in its capabilities when compared to the synthetic oils, which have fewer imperfections in their chemical buildup. Conventional oil is highly reactive to temperatures, which isn’t true for synthetics; also, synthetics give you better engine performance, as they are more slippery.
This doesn’t come cheap though, as synthetic oil can cost up to three times as much as the regular stuff; but on the bright side, you don’t have to change your oil as often!
A combination of conventional and synthetic oils – are a nice compromise between the two; they’re less expensive, but provide some of the performance enhancement you get from a synthetic.
When buying oil for your car, the best thing to do is follow your manufacturer’s recommendations. However, if you’re driving an older car, you can always try a thicker oil. Consult your mechanic or dealership for the final say if you’re still unsure – they’ll know what’s right for your vehicle.
What are the Differences Between the Gas Grades you Put in Your Car?
With gas prices reaching for the clouds, you may be tempted to go for the lower grade when it’s time to top off the tank. For most of the motoring world, that’s not a problem. But what about the rest of the cars out there whose owner’s manuals call for mid grade or high test gasoline? While you may see an immediate savings at the pump, running your engine off of a fuel other than what the manufacturer recommends will end up hurting you in the long run.
Everyone knows that gasoline is made from crude oil. The ‘Texas Tea’ is pumped out of the ground and sent through a refinery where it gets cracked into everything from natural gas to road tar. Gasoline sits somewhere in between those two extremes. In its first state, what’s called straight-run gasoline, has an octane rating of about 70.
Gasoline is given a grade by the American Society for Testing Materials (ASTM) based on how much it can be compressed before it explodes. Technically, this called the “anti-knock index” and is displayed on huge yellow stickers next to the pump handle. The lower the grade, the lower the pressure it has to be under before it goes pop.
The number on your gas pump is the average of two different tests. The first test is a laboratory-based test called the Research Octane Number (RON). The second test are the results culled from actual road conditions called the Motor Octane Number (MON). If you are an observant consumer, you may have noticed the (RON+MON)/2 formula below your gas rating.
The grade, 87 for example, sits on a scale from zero to 100. Zero is the equivalent of a crude oil product called heptane, which auto-ignites under very little pressure. On the opposite end of the scale, isooctane represents 100 and takes considerably more pressure before exploding. For instance, low grade gasoline has the same octane rating as 87 percent isooctane and 13 percent heptane.
Since straight-run gasoline has such a low octane rating, petroleum engineers incorporate a number of additives and other agents raise the fuel’s anti-knock index. The fuel that you find at your local station is actually a mixture of several different chemical compounds and may include everything from gasoline to detergents and what are referred to as oxygenates to clean your engine and reduce knock.
So Why Should You Care How Much Fuel You Can Compress Into a Smaller Space?
Engineers discovered a long time ago that an easy way to boost a vehicle’s power is to increase the engine’s compression ratio. In other words, how much pressure the engine’s internals place on the air and fuel inside before igniting it. Cars that require mid grade or high test gasoline put higher pressure on the air and fuel mix inside of their engines than vehicles that only require low grade.
‘Ping’ or ‘Knock’
By now, you’re probably getting an idea of what happens when you run low grade gasoline in a vehicle that calls for high grade. As the engine compresses and the air and fuel mix, it explodes before it’s supposed to. This is typically referred to as “ping” or “knock”. It can lead to problems like premature spark plug failure, loss of engine power, low mileage and/or engine damage, leading to excess oil consumption. These are just a few of the things that can go wrong when repeatedly using the wrong fuel.
Unfortunately, there is no magic number that determines what compression ratio needs what octane level. It depends on a huge number of factors figured out by engineering interns for car manufacturers everywhere.
High-grade or High-test
As for running high grade or ‘high test’ in a vehicle that only requires 87 octane, the impacts are mostly monetary. The car will merrily chug along, bleeding your bank account dry. According to most sources, higher octane is no cleaner for your engine than the low grade stuff. That said, if your 87 sipper seems to be knocking more than usual, stepping up a grade may solve the problem.
You may have noticed a few gas stations now proclaim a portion of their fuel is made up of ethanol. Right now, most vehicles can run up to 10 percent ethanol in their fuel without voiding the warranty. That percentage usually replaces the standard anti-knock additive portion of your gasoline mix, working as a cleaning agent inside of your engine as well. As an added bonus, most ethanol is produced here in the U.S. by sweat-of-their brow farmers, so you can feel a little better about yourself when the pump reads $50.
While jumping down a few grades may save you a buck or two at the station, the loss of fuel economy and potential damage to your engine isn’t worth it. Bite the bullet, reach for what your car calls for and squeeze the trigger. If you don’t, you’ll be sentencing your ride to a slow death one tank at a time.
Whether you are going for a day trip or taking a week long vacation, DriverSide is here to help make your road trip memorable and fun.
The weather’s warming and the birds are chirping. Make no mistake about it, it’s time to get your car ready for the first road trip of the season. Whether you’re headed north for some last-minute skiing or toward the coast for some fun in the sun, service your car first. It will make your trip worry free! They might even save you some cash by keeping you off of the side of the road, too.
Whether your trip is 100 miles or 1,000, it’ll pay to get your car’s regular maintenance taken care of first. That includes topping off fluids that may have been neglected over the winter. Can’t remember the last time you checked, changed or topped off your oil, coolant, brake or transmission fluid? Go ahead and swap them out for brand-new! In the case of your oil or automatic transmission, make sure you get a high-quality filter, too. It may seem like overkill to take care of all of your fluids at once, but think of it as cheap insurance. Which is better? A $30 oil change or a new engine? At Andy’s Valero we can do it all!
Go ahead and have your tires rotated and inspected, too. The last thing you need is to head off into the sunset on bald or dry rotted tires. A blowout at interstate speeds can be both frightening and dangerous. And there’s no guarantee that you’ll make it to the side of the road. Err on the side of caution and replace any tires that look suspect. It may seem expensive now, but we guarantee it’ll be cheaper than having to get someone to tow your vehicle. Once you’ve made sure everything looks good, take a look at your tire pressure. With everything up to spec, you’ll get better gas mileage and your vehicle will handle and stop better.
Brakes and Rotors
With the vehicle’s wheels off, it’s a good time to take a look at the car’s brakes too! Are your rotors warped or cracked? Do they have deep grooves or are your pads warn close to their minimum clearance? Your vehicle will be experiencing harsh conditions for much longer than your daily commute to and from work. It will pay to nip any potential problems in the bud now!
With all the major vehicle checks taken care of, you can focus on the easy-to-do items. Have a friend help you check all of your vehicle lights. A burnt-out bulb is a great way to get pulled over by the police. New bulbs only cost a few dollars and are easy to install. Some parts locations like Advanced Auto Parts or Autozone may even help you install them for free!
The same goes for windshield wipers! If your blades are more than six months old, odds are it’s time to swap them out for new ones. Bad windshield wipers can make driving in the rain in a foreign land a nightmare. New wipers are cheap compared to getting into a fender bender just because you can’t see properly in bad weather.
And last but not least, give your car a good top to bottom cleaning. Pull out any and all unnecessary items from the trunk and backseat. Doing so will this help with your vehicle’s fuel economy, freeing up more cash for other things. Making sure your windows are clean will also improve your visibility and reduce the likelihood of steamy glass. Remember, greater visibility reduces your chance of bumping into someone in traffic. Nothing ruins a vacation quicker than an accident!
Simple preventative maintenance can go a long way toward keeping everyone smiling as you head on down the road. You may never know if what you’ve done has actually kept you out of trouble. But in this case, it’s better not to test your luck!