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Tire & Auto Tips

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Tire & Auto Tips

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When should I change my car fluids?
How should I diagnose my car problems?
What do the numbers and lettering on the side of my tires mean?
When should I replace my tires?
Two of the most important factors in tire wear are air pressure and rotation.
When should tires be aligned?
When should brakes be replaced?
How important is it to do general maintenance on my car?
How does the air conditioning work in a car?
When should I change my car’s oil and what oil should I use?
What does my motor oil do?
What do the numbers mean like 5w30 or 10w40?
What does it mean when the light comes on in the dash?
How Long Should A Car's Components Last?

When should I change my car fluids?
Fluid changes are becoming more important as our cars last longer. The manufacturer has a recommended schedule for changing each fluid and the proper type of fluid to use. Each fluid, even in a closed system like your brakes, gets moisture and other contaminants in them that interfere with the fluid doing the job it was designed for. Each working part of your car has a different fluid that make it function. Some of the fluids are: transmission, power steering, brake, axel, and coolant (radiator). One fluid that needs to be checked regularly in Arizona is your battery water. Have it checked each time you have your oil changed.

We recommend a lube, oil and filter change every 3,000 to 3,500 miles. After watching a 30 minute program some time ago about various oil manufacturers claims of additives, viscosity, etc., the TV station came to the conclusion that it really doesn’t matter which product you use, as long as you change it “regularly”. It’s a good idea to check your air filter regularly too. We live in harsh desert conditions with dust and heat. A clean filter can help your car breath easier and save you gas.

How should I diagnose my car problems?
Diagnostic honesty! Any time your car has a problem it is usually not just one thing. We recommend that you start with the most obvious and work from there. Sometimes it is just the one problem, but sometimes fixing that one leads to others. Cars have systems that have systems, and some of them are under a great deal of stress and internal pressures, like your air conditioning system. It has pressures that range from 50 to 300 pounds and fixing one problem, will transfer those pressures to the next weakest link. Do the safety items first, then work from there.

What do the numbers and lettering on the side of my tires mean?
Here is an example that may help: tire size P195/65R15 97S

  • P =  Passenger Tire
  • 195 = Tire width in millimeters
  • 65 = Tire height to width ratio (sidewall height is 65% of tread width)
  • R = Radial Ply Construction
  • 15 = Rim diameter (Wheel)
  • 97S = Load and speed index

You will also find the DOT or serial number (when and where the tire was produced in code), the load capacity in pounds, the maximum air pressure, number of plys and material used as well as the tread wear rating with traction and temperature ratings, again in code! Some tires have an H or V or Z in the size and represent speed ratings from 100 mph to over 150 mph.

When should I replace my tires?
Most of us are glad when our tires last a long time, but in Arizona we have to be aware that tires age and loose their oils and elasticity and will dry rot over time. If your tires are over five years old, generally speaking, they should be replaced, even if they look new. Motor Homes too! Sorry, but they will come apart and let you down at the wrong time, Murphy’s Law you know! Check the serial number to see how old your tires are. The serial number is the DOT number and ends with 3 or 4 numbers that tell you the date of manufacture. Example: the last numbers of the serial number 483 means this tire was produced in the 43rd week of 1998 (it could mean 1988 too). The new numbers are 4 digits long; 4302, means it was produced in the 43rd week of 2002. Check to see if you are riding on “old rubber”.

Two of the most important factors in tire wear are air pressure and rotation.
The recommended tire pressure from the car manufacturer is usually located on the inside of the driver’s door. The car manufacturer wants you to have a comfortable ride so their recommendation is usually less than the tire manufacturer recommendation, as they want you to have maximum mileage. Over-inflation or under-inflation can result in poor handling, uneven wear, premature wear out and dangerous driving conditions. We recommend you check your air pressure monthly.

The purpose of regular rotations is to prolong tire life by achieving more uniform wear. If left in one position too long a tire may develop a wear pattern which will shorten its mileage, cause vibration or pulling to one side or another. See your owner’s manual for recommended rotation patterns.

When should tires be aligned?
If your vehicle pulls or drifts to the left or the right while driving, check to see if your tires are wearing on the inside or outside edge. It could mean you need a front-end alignment to adjust the cars front-end parts back to the manufacturer’s specifications. Parts wear over time affecting the suspension’s ability to hold your tires squarely on the road, also wearing tires early and abnormally. Take your car to an ASE trained mechanic for inspection. He will check front-end parts for movement of some of those parts and see if they may need replacing to bring the car back to manufacturer’s specifications. Occasionally a tire can cause a pull to the left or right, its called radial drift. You can rotate the tires and see if the “pull” changes. If it pulls the other way, move the “pulling” tire to the rear. If you feel a bump and a pull a tire may need to be replaced.

When should brakes be replaced?
One of the most demanding components on a vehicle today are brakes. They are made to wear out, but if the brake pads are too soft they will wear out too soon and if they are too hard they will squeal and wear out the metal rotors prematurely. The trick is to get the right pads for the right car. Brake pads are made of various materials: organic, semi-metallic and ceramic. Ceramic usually last longer, do not squeal and do not leave brake dust all over your wheels or hubcaps. Some cars can only use the pad material originally used by the manufacturer. Many brakes come with a “squeal indictor” so when the pad gets thin, the brake will squeal while driving and then stop squealing when you apply the brake. This means it is time to change the pad and resurface the rotors. A full inspection should be done to check all components; rotors, calipers, fluids, bearings, backing plate, shims, slider, etc.

How important is it to do general maintenance on my car?
Your owner’s manual may be your best source for information on keeping your car in great shape. Regular maintenance will save you money in the long run. Diesel motors require more service than a gas vehicle but both take some care to get the most mileage and expected performance. Service such as regular oil changes, transmission flushes, coolant flushes, brakes, differential and other maintenance items will keep your car in top shape and keep you happy with its performance. One other service that keeps it running like new is induction maintenance. The induction part is where the gas meets the air and goes into the pistons for combustion. Over time these systems clog with unburned fuel that cakes on as carbon deposits, hampering the efficiency of combustion. This build-up affects injectors and specialized equipment and unique cleaning chemistry, technicians can effectively remove accumulated deposits from the entire fuel system including fuel lines, injector pump, injectors and combustion chambers. This will improve throttle response, power, and performance. Exhaust smoke is reduced and fuel economy will be restored.

How does the air conditioning work in a car?
An automobile heating and air conditioning system having a refrigerant compressor rotated by an automobile engine through an electromagnetic clutch which is controlled by an ambient temperature switch and an air outlet temperature switch downstream from the evaporator. The switches are connected in parallel between the automobile battery and the electromagnetic clutch to independently energize the clutch and initiate operation of the compressor. The ambient switch is set to close at about 65 degrees F, while the air discharge switch closes at about 32 degrees F. This causes the air conditioning system to be inoperative when the ambient temperature is below 32 degrees F, to prevent frost accumulation on the evaporator.

What can I say, its complicated!! Suffice it to say, the parts are interconnected, electronically controlled, pressure controlled and takes a pretty smart person to get it right. The beginning point is to “rotate by an engine” part. This means your serpentine belt (fan belt) starts the whole thing going so you want to make sure the belts are in good shape including pulleys, bearings, clutch, etc. Did you know if your car is overheating that will cause you’re A/C to blow warm as well? You may think you need A/C work but you really need some attention to the radiator or cooling system.

When should I change my car’s oil and what oil should I use?
The standard recommendation for oil and oil filter changes is between 3,000 to 3,5000 miles. There are lots of claims about oil additives, quality, etc but the fact is it almost doesn’t matter what brand you use as long as you change your oil regularly. Most cars do well on 5w30 oil, some require synthetic and diesel use remula which is a special mixture for diesel car and truck motors. Synthetic oil lasts longer and lubricates better so you can go further between oil changes (5,000 to 6,000 miles). All brands of oil have additives but synthetic oil has more additives with fewer contaminates to reduce wear on moving parts. While changing oil it is a good time to check your air filter too. Your air filter is how your motor breathes and determines the quality of air coming into your motor. We live in harsh conditions and need to change our air filters often. A clean filter helps your car breathe easier and can save you gas.

What does my motor oil do?
Its primary purpose is to stop the metal surfaces in your engine from grinding together. It lubricates moving parts, reduces friction, transfers heat, suspends particulates created by combustion and friction, cleans the engine and reduces exposure to oxygen and oxidation. Engine oil must be able to hold all the nasty by-products of combustion and take those contaminates with it when being drained during your oil changes. That’s why your oil goes from a light caramel color to a dark brown. Some additives adhere to the cylinder walls and other parts of the motor helping reduce wear. Your oil does all these things while under tremendous heat and pressure.

What do the numbers mean like 5w30 or 10w40?
The number before the “w” is the cold viscosity rating and the number after the “w” is the hot viscosity rating. So a 5w30 behaves like a single grade 5-rate oil when cold but doesn’t thin any more than a 30-rated single grade oil when hot. The lower the winter number “w” the easier the engine will turn over when starting in cold climates.

What does it mean when the light comes on in the dash?
When a light comes on in the dash lighting up a small picture of a motor or some other item, your car computer is trying to tell you something. Automobile computers and systems in cars and trucks today require sophisticated electronic equipment to interface with your car computer to get the answer to the problem. Have your car electronically “scanned” by a qualified mechanic. It may be as simple as a loose gas cap or something more important. Being able to scan the computer and get the code for the problem is the easy part. Experience in knowing each vehicle and the inherent problems with each goes a long way in getting to the bottom and fixing the real need. Other unusual noises or changes in your cars performance can be listened to and tested to see what has changed or what needs attention. A hands-on experienced technician will know which direction to take.

How Long Should A Car's Components Last?
Based on his 30 years experience, David Solomon, publisher of Nutz & Boltz, a techinical newsletter for the general public, has assembled this list of expected component lives. He cautions, however, that variables such as operating circumstances and level of maintenance have a major impact on how many mles these parts can actuall last.

Part Life Expectancy Part Life Expectancy
Air Conditioning Compressor 80,000 to 1000,000 miles Muffler and pipes 50,000 to 80,000 miles
Altenator 80,000 to 100,000 miles Oil pump Life of the Vehicle
Automatic Transmission Life of the Vehicle PCV valve 30,000 to 40,000 miles
Battery and cables 3 to 5 years Power-steering pump 80,000 to 100,000 miles
Catalytic converter 100,000 miles Power-window motor 60,000 to 90,000 ,o;es
Control arm, lower (ball joint) 70,000 to 90,000 miles Radiiator 100,000 miles
Clutch 40,000 to 60,000 miles Radiator hoses 40,000 to 60,000 miles
Disc brake calipers 70,000 to 90,000 miles Shock absorbers 5,000 to 35,000 miles
Disc brake pads 30,000 to 40,000 miles Springs 70,000 to 90,000 miles
Drum brake shoes 30,000 to 40,000 miles Starter 80,000 to 100,000 miles
Drum brake wheel cylinders 70,000 to 90,000 miles Thermostat 40,000 to 60,000 miles
Engine accessory drive belts 40,000 to 60,000 miles Tie-rods 70,000 to 90,000 miles
Electronic ignition module 100,000 miles Timing belt 60,000 to 100,000 miles
Front axle shaft 70,000 to 90,000 miles Timing chain 100,000 miles
Fuel filter 30,000 to 40,000 miles Universal/CV joints 70,000 to 90,000 miles
Fuel injectors 100,000 miles Valve lifters Life of the Vehicle
Fuel pump 70,000 to 90,000 miles Voltage regulator 80,000 to 100,000 miles
Heater core 70,000 to 90,000 miles Washer pump 70,000 to 90,000 miles
Horn 100,000 miles Water pump 70,000 to 90,000 miles
MacPherson strutts 40,000 to 60,000 miles Wiper motor 70,000 to 90,000 miles

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