Category Archives: maintenance

Battery Facts

I was in an aftermarket parts store the other day and a customer said he wanted the largest battery that would fit in his car. The counter person did his job and sold him one; they are in the business of selling parts and making money not giving advice that would result in a smaller sale, on a rare occasion you may find one who will but not usually. The manufactures spend time and money to find the best battery for your vehicle and they do not cut corners here as the demands on the electrical system of today’s vehicles is high and has little room for error. However they do not exceed the demands as this would raise the cost of the vehicle. There is also a space and heat problem with the cramped engine compartments. My wife’s Bonneville has the battery under the back seat, hard to get to, a great idea don’t know why they don’t put it there on a regular basis. The alternator also has a limited output and a larger battery may never obtain a full charge.When buying a battery there are only 2 things to consider. The first is the group number this will assure you get the correct battery for your vehicle’The second is the CCA or cold cranking amps. The greater the CCA the higher the price of the battery. Where I live we can see temps at -40 or more and wind chills in the -60 and it has hit a -100. Not a place to skimp on a battery. The best battery on the market today is the Optima. They come in 3 grades red, blue and yellow and can run in excess of $200, overkill for the average driver. NAPA sells an Exide that is reasonable. GM vehicles owners should also consider AC Delco and for money saving Ever Start is a good choice. I did not mention Interstate or Die Hard as I feel they are high quality but overpriced.The life span of a battery used to be 3-5 years but this is no longer the case. Today’s batteries have been forced to improve along with the demands of the modern vehicle. Also they are sealed and you no longer have to add mineral containing water which destroyed a battery. 7 years would be about the max where I live then I would consider replacement no matter how it tests and heat will destroy a battery quicker then cold. Testing has also improved and no longer is a load test used they are now tested by impedance which is more accurate. Most aftermarket stores will test a battery for free and often also install it at no charge. With the load test they could cheat but the new test equipment it is computerized.

Ethanol & Water

A number of techs have taken me to task on ethanol and its ability to remove water. Ethanol can hold water in suspension but only .05 percent by volume or about 3.2 ounces or .025 percentage of volume. This works out to a gallon in 200. In other words not much. The major problem comes from the fact that ethanol attracts water and when it reaches the saturation point it drops it to the bottom of the fuel tank where your pump picks it up and you have problems. NASCAR is taking many precautions as they make the switch to ethanol this year to protect it from water contamination. I don’t think it would cause a freezing problem as most fuel systems have too much pressure to freeze but it could easily freeze a injector more so a TBI than multi port. Still it could create a major problem. I have removed several defective injectors that were rusty and the majority of them used ethanol. In hindsight I wish I had asked more owners if they used ethanol or not when I found these injectors.With the cost and less mileage with ethanol being a trade-off I just don’t see any value in using it on a regular basis. I will use a tank now and then to remove any water I may have accumulated and also there are some fields of thought that it aids in keeping your engine free of carbon. As I put a lot of in town miles on in the winter I do think this helps some. No conclusive evidence as of yet but I feel there soon will be. The major drawback to ethanol is that once there is an abundance of water being burned it causes the formation of formic acid which can be very damaging to your engine over time more so with the use of synthetic oil. There is some evidence to support this, and I think more will be forthcoming, as we tear down engines and find problems from formic acid. Of course then it will be too late as the damage will already be done to your engine. I don’t think the damage will be significant more of a shorter engine life span. It may also be hard to prove the source, I am sure many will blame it onto longer oil change intervals when using synthetic oil.GMs new oil is supposed to address many of these problems. They also use the computer to calculate your oil life. I think this is a great idea; I use the oil life indicator on my wife’s Bonneville to figure oil change intervals I just run it through twice. I do change it twice a year, spring and fall and use 5-30 year round. With my pickup I also change it twice a year Spring and Fall. 5-30 in the winter and 10-30 in the summer.

Chrysler Dropping Dakota

Rumors are traveling around that Chrysler may drop the Dodge Dakota or possibly downsize it to more of a compact commuter or the Baby Ram pickup. The Baby Ram will average 30 MPG and have room for 4. The recent Chrysler meeting on the Fiat line hinted that the Dakota will take a more lifestyle direction. They also announced a 2012 Viper and hinted at a Jeep Gladiator pickup possibly to replace the Dakota. A New luxurious Longhorn model will be introduced with a logo removable belt buckle in the floor mat. They are supposed to introduce a new logo but as a belt buckle in the floor mat, it’s a truck Chrysler not a jewelry counter. On another sad note note Pontiac is only producing the Vibe for 2010. I have owned 4 Pontiac Bonneville’s and my wife is driving one now. In my opinion, discounting a few luxury cars, read spendy; this is one of the finest cars ever built. It has an excellent ride, gets great MPG and has a sporty look. I also own a Dodge Dakota, which I love it is my second Dakota. I had the first one for 15 years, I would have kept it but I needed a quad cab for grandkids. . What does Detroit have against me every time I find a vehicle I like they discontinue it. I know times are tough but they could cut the execs pay and severance packages and continuing producing a number of car lines.

Tire Info

Tires are round usually black and are supposed to hold air. This is the extent of many drivers knowledge about tires. I have to admit my knowledge of tires is not extensive. In all the years I owned shops we never actively pursued tire sales, it never seemed like we could make a profit, they were dirty heavy work, and there was more profit in other areas such as drivability and electrical problems which other shops didn’t want to tackle. Tires come in directional, position numerous wear, traction and speed ratings. It can be confusing and tires are not a frequent purchase so there is not a lot of experience on the buyer’s part. If the shop you frequent sells tires this is the place to go as you already have a history with them, if not ask them co-workers and friends where they go. Understanding the sidewall of a tire is not hard if you break it downSize is simple just copy it down off your old tire there are several tire conversions charts on the net but be careful they can lead you to a wrong tire for your vehicle quite easily. This can also cause speedometer problems, so I recommend you stick with the tire size that was original on your vehicle. Load index and speed ratings should also be close to original unless you have a large truck or a fast sports car. Load index’s go from 71-761 Lbs to 110-1060Lbs. Speed from L-75 MPH to V-140MPH most common is S&T 112-118 MPH. There is also a W&V rating for exotic sport cars. Tire pressure listed on the tire is not the recommended pressure but the maximum pressure allowed. The recommended is either on the drivers or glove box door. This is usually slightly on the low side to improve ride. I usually go a few pounds over but you have to be careful as tire pressure will increase 1# for every 10% of temperature or up to 4# on a hot highway. Tire pressure can change up to 5# as the seasons change and 5# can cause problems with handling, traction and tire life. A tire in the hot sun can reach 135%. Tire size is measured in MM. The width of the tire is the first number measured from sidewall to sidewall, the second the ratio of height to width or a P205/50R17 the ratio would be 50% OF 205 and this would be the tire height. If you have some spare time inflate your tire to this height and that would equate to the proper air pressure. Have tried it with some success but out temperatures here vary too much so I try to hit a happy medium. When you buy new tires check the pressure they are usually set low to provide a better ride. Two other markings on the tire are wear and traction. These are on a sliding scale the better traction the softer the tire and reduced tire life the less traction and improved tread life. Tires should be replaced or checked by a reputable tire dealer every 5 years; storage conditions can change this figure drastically. Sun is a tires worst enemy with heat coming in a close second. One last hint do not use tire dressing as this will increase tire checking and cracking. I do use it but the car I use it on is always stored inside also I do not rotate I know I should but it never seems to get on my priority list and I feel by the time I pay to rotate for the life of the tire I can almost buy new tires.

Goodbye Colorado & Pontiac

As most of you know I have been looking for a newer pickup and one of the models I was considering was a Colorado. Now they are going to discontinue the model along with the GMC Canyon. I had changed my mind about a Colorado after reading they had one of the highest rated warranty in that class of pickup. It never really found its place as the larger brother of the Silverado at nearly the same price with fewer options. It also had a low towing capacity and an interior that was lacking a lot of the goodies of the Silverado. I do like that size pickup however I think I am going to stick with my original choice which is a Dakota. The Ranger has terrible crash ratings and the back is not large enough for car seat which is my reason for trading. If I could find the right S10 I may consider it but it is still a little too small. Why would GM drop Pontiac do they know I own 2 of them a 1986 Sunbird convertible and a 2005 Bonneville, my 4th Bonneville. I don’t think you can find a better road car and the mileage is great also the 3.8 engine is unbeatable. They were the brand of the 442, Judge and the Firebird. With a history like that I would thing they would build on it instead of 2 luxury cars the Caddy and the Buick. Don’t get me wrong the older Rivera was a great car, my wife had one, it had the 3.8 and was also a great road car. I know they must cut the number of models but at least keep the marketing spread among models.

Where Are The Convertibles

Whatever happened to the rag top? I have a 1986 Pontiac sunbird that we enjoy driving in the summer. It was a mid life crisis purchase that I bought with the head gasket out and body in tough shape. We repaired the body painted it and repaired the engine, the interior was in perfect shape the top needs a little work but we never drive it with the top up except to store it for the winter. In 1965 the first year of the Mustang there were 500,000 convertibles sold many due to the popularity of the Mustang. Back then many had manual tops and were drafty. Approximately 75,000 will be sold this year and many of them are luxury the BMW Z4, Mazda Miata, Lexus a couple Bentleys and Rolls Royce an Audi. Ford Mustang and Chrysler Sebring are the only two made in the US, GM does not have one as does Toyota and Korea. I am only considering cars with a rear seat no matter how small. The older convertibles were a Sunday drive to enjoy the scenery and the breeze. The newer are pleasant to drive and the hard top German models are like a hardtop. I think the hustle and bustle of today’s society killed the convertible no one takes the time to enjoy a drive anymore. They don’t know what they are missing, of course being retired I have a little more time to stop and smell the roses.

Camero VS Mustang

You would think with all the problems the Big 3 are having they wouldn’t be playing the same old games. Ford and GM are at it however, the 2011 Mustang will produce one more horsepower, 305, then the Camero at 304 it will also have 1 more MPG. You would think they have better things to do then milk another horsepower and MPG just to one up GM. I can’t imagine anyone buying a Camero or Mustang for mileage. The new Duratec all aluminum does sound promising for Ford. Of course this is not new they have been playing this ever since GM introduced the Camero in 1966 to counter the Mustang 2 years earlier, as usual Chrysler brought up the rear with the Challenger in 1970. I still think the AAR Cuda is the coolest muscle car ever built. I was a Service Manager in a Dodge dealership when it came out and it was fast. Of course I was also there through the introduction of Lean Burn the Aspen and the Omni. Which is the reason I have grey hair?Chrysler has been doing a lot of bragging lately about the new Challenger but I don’t see it around here the local dealer must have at least 20 or more in stock, I do have to admit it is a sharp ride. If anyone is thinking Xmas for me I like the red with the black stripe.An afterthought I wonder if the new GM head will boost thinks up a little he is known as a person who shakes thinks up and see who can hang on to keep there job.

Car Myths

Myth: Engine oil should be changed every 3,000 miles. Reality: Despite what oil companies and quick-lube shops often claim, it’s usually not necessary. Stick to the service intervals in your car’s owner’s manual. Under normal driving conditions, most vehicles are designed to go 7,500 miles or more between oil changes. Changing oil more often doesn’t hurt the engine, but it can cost you a lot of extra money. Automakers often recommend 3,000-mile intervals for severe driving conditions, such as constant stop-and-go driving, frequent trailer-towing, mountainous terrain, or dusty conditions.Myth: Inflate tires to the pressure shown on the tire’s sidewall. Reality: The pounds-per-square-inch figure on the side of the tire is the maximum pressure that the tire can safely hold, not the automaker’s recommended pressure, which provides the best balance of braking, handling, gas mileage, and ride comfort. That figure is usually found on a doorjamb sticker, in the glove box, or on the fuel-filler door. Perform a monthly pressure check when tires are cold or after the car has been parked for a few hours.Myth: If the brake fluid is low, topping it off will fix the problem.Reality: As brake pads wear, the level in the brake-fluid reservoir drops a bit. That helps you monitor brake wear. If the fluid level drops to or below the Low mark on the reservoir, then either your brakes are worn out or fluid is leaking. Either way, get the brake system serviced immediately. You should also get a routine brake inspection when you rotate the tires, about every 6,000 to 7,000 miles.Myth: If regular-grade fuel is good, premium must be better.Reality: Most vehicles run just fine on regular-grade (87 octane) fuel. Using premium in these cars won’t hurt, but it won’t improve performance, either. A higher-octane number simply means that the fuel is less prone to pre-ignition problems, so it’s often specified for hotter running, high-compression engines. So if your car is designed for 87-octane fuel, don’t waste money on premium.Myth: Flush the coolant with every oil change.Reality: Radiator coolant doesn’t need to be replaced very often. Most owner’s manuals recommend changing the coolant every five years or 60,000 miles. Of course, if the level in the coolant reservoir is chronically low, check for a leak and get service as soon as possible.Myth: After a jump-start, your car will soon recharge the battery.Reality: It could take hours of driving to restore a battery’s full charge, especially in the winter. That’s because power accessories, such as heated seats, draw so much electricity that in some cars the alternator has little left over to recharge a run-down battery. A”load test” at a service station can determine whether the battery can still hold a charge. If so, some hours on a battery charger might be needed to revive the battery to its full potential.Myth: Let your engine warm up for several minutes before driving.Reality: That might have been good advice for yesteryear’s cars but is less so today. Modern engines warm up more quickly when they’re driven. And the sooner they warm up, the sooner they reach maximum efficiency and deliver the best fuel economy and performance. But don’t rev the engine high over the first few miles while it’s warming up.Myth: A dealership must perform regular maintenance to keep your car’s factory warranty valid.Reality: As long as the maintenance items specified in the vehicle owner’s manual are performed on schedule, the work can be done at any auto-repair shop. If you’re knowledgeable, you can even do the work yourself. Just keep accurate records and receipts to back you up in case of a warranty dispute on a future repair.Myth: Dishwashing and laundry detergents make a good car wash.Reality: Detergent can strip off a car’s wax finish. Instead, use a car-wash liquid, which is formulated to clean without removing wax. News source: Autos MSN

Tire Pressures & Choices

With the rapid changes in temperature we experience this time of year it is time to discuss tire temperature and its effect on pressure. Pressure will rise 1 psi for every 10 degrees in temperature. It will also increase by 1 psi for every 5 minutes of driving for the first 20 minutes and hold steady after that if there is no increase in temperature from outside influences such as surface temperature or sun. If you drive a few miles to check your tire pressure it could be off by 1 or 2 psi. More if the outside temperature is high and the sun has warmed up the road surface. A couple of psi doesn’t seem like much but with low profile tires it can be a large percentage of the total volume of the tire with larger tires the effect is less. Gas mileage is affected by tire pressure not a lot but if you combine it with other saving ideas, less weight in trunk, windows up and several others it can add up to quite a savings. There are several sites that explain tire rating so I will not go into it in depth now. Tire ratings are a sliding scale the harder the compound the better it wears, has less traction and a harsher ride. The softer the compound the better the ride and traction but it wears out quicker. I have 3 different tire brands on my vehicles, Toyo, Michelin and Cooper. I have Cooper on my pickup and love them as I do the Toyo on my one Bonneville. The other Bonneville has Michelin and they do ride a bit harsher then I would like but 2 are about in need of replacing. I will probably go with 4 Toyo but I also have a commercial account at the Toyo dealer so the price is less. Tires are another item that every tech has an opinion on such as oil and blondes. But with tires higher price does mean better quality in most cases. Many dealers offer a ride guarantee with new tires also this is another example where having a good relationship with a shop helps.

Winter Wipers

Looking out the window there is just a touch of snow in the air, nothing major just some snowy rain, which will make the leaves harder to rake. So a word about wipers if they look like they are in decent shape but are not doing a good job maybe a good cleaning will help. First the wipers, a blue kitchen sponge along with some window cleaner will do an excellent job of removing the grime and crud. Also bon ami on the windshield will clean off the summer’s grunge. No blue sponge here just a regular one will do. Consider a rain-ex application also it will help with the frost and other frozen junk as winter progresses. If the wipers need replacing consider winter blades I use them on my pickup and they work great just remember to remove them in the summer as the sun is hard on them.