- How often should I “tune up” my car?
- How can I squeeze every mile out of a tank of gas?
- What is a fuel injection service and how will it benefit me?
- My car failed its smog inspection, what do I do now?
- Why do I need to flush my brake fluid?
- How often should I flush my cooling system?
1. How often should I "tune up" my car?
Webster's Dictionary defines a tune up as: a general adjustment to insure operation at peak efficiency; Legal Definition: Restoring a car to new car performance.
With today's modern technologies, there is very little to do in the way of adjustments. Most engines use hydraulic lifters so the valves self adjust. Points have been replaced with electronic ignitions. Carburetors have been replaced with fuel injection. Computers that control the fuel and ignition events are found in every car made these days. These computers make hundreds of minute adjustments every second. This makes cars virtually "self tuning".
From the beginning of the automobile until the mid 70's, gasoline contained lead. This lead combined with the low voltage output of a point ignition system would form deposits on the spark plugs. Plugs required changing every 6 to 12,000 miles. Points would wear and would require changing also at 6 to 12,000 miles. Carburetors would go out of adjustment periodically and required frequent adjustments. Valves would wear and require periodic adjustments. For 70+ years a tune up commonly involved replacing the plugs and points, and adjusting the dwell, timing, carburetor, and valves.
Today we don't have lead in our gas, we don't have points that wear out, our valves self adjust (most cars), and carburetors are a thing of the past. Our ignition voltage has gone from 15,000 volts to 50,000 volts or more. There is almost nothing left to adjust and spark plugs wear out instead of foul out.
What is a "tune up" today?
Today our non-platinum plugs last about 30,000 miles. Our single platinum plugs last about 60,000 miles. Double platinum last about 100,000 miles, and we have seen irridium plugs go 150,000 miles with little to no wear. This is where the idea of "it only needs a tune up every 100,000 miles" comes from. We still need to change our air filters at least twice a year because of the large quantity of dust and dirt in the air. Even if you don't drive your car, your air filter will get dirty if it is in the Antelope Valley. Fuel injected engines run high pressure and volume of fuel. Fuel filters get restricted and plugged rather quickly. A restricted or plugged filter will drastically shorten an electric fuel pump's life due to it over working to deliver fuel. A fuel filter should be replaced every 15 to 30,000 miles in most cases.
A modern tune up can be as simple as replacing worn spark plugs or plugged filters to "scan" checking the sensors that tell the computer how and what to adjust, and replacing the faulty sensors. It could be cleaning dirty fuel injectors or replacing failing ignition or injection components. The truth is that there is no "one size fits all" tune up. A "tune up" should be custom tailored to each automobile based on any symptoms it displays - like loss of power, rough running or loss of fuel economy. Other indicators might be illuminated malfunction indicator lamps like a "check engine" light or difficulty starting. These are only a small amount of things that can indicate the need for a "tune up". It is a good idea to find a service facility that can identify your needs and tailor the "tune up" to your vehicle. At the CARdoctors® of the Antelope Valley we don't believe in changing parts that are still good or not necessary. We custom tailor all of our "tune ups" to each vehicle. We can perform a wide variety of diagnostic procedures to identify your vehicle's needs.
Call us at (661) 949-8484 to set up an appointment and get your automobile "operating at peak efficiency"
How can I squeeze every mile out of a tank of gas?
- Keep your car properly "tuned up".
- Maintain proper air pressure in your tires.
- Eliminate any un-necessary items in your car, the lighter the car the better the mileage!!
- Avoid excessive idling. Turn off engine when waiting for friends or family.
- Avoid "warming up" your car on cold mornings. Modern cars warm up fast and drive well when cold.
- Drive gently. Avoid sudden accelerations and jerky stop and go driving. Use your cruise control when driving open highways. SAFETY NOTE: Do not use cruise control in the rain or any slippery surface.
- Drive the speed limit. Excessive speed uses excessive fuel.
- Do not use premium fuel unless your engine requires it. Premium fuel is harder to burn.
- Run high quality fuel. Low quality fuels contain high quantities of alcohol and get poor fuel economy.
- Keep your wheels properly aligned. Misaligned wheels will cause your tires to drag, the less rolling resistance the better.
What is a fuel injection service and how will it benefit me?
- A complete fuel injection service, when performed correctly, and there are no other problems, will restore lost power, increase fuel mileage and give you a smoother, better running engine. This is achieved by removing power robbing, heat generating, harmful deposits that form in your fuel injectors, air induction system and combustion chambers.
- The first phase of the service is to disable the fuel pump and isolate the fuel injector supply rail so a highly concentrated detergent can be run through the fuel injectors. This detergent is administered under high pressure and contains enough flammable material to make the engine run. This detergent is specially formulated to dissolve the microscopic particles that gasoline leaves behind in the fuel rail and in the fuel injectors. These deposits impede the fuel flow and cause the injectors to spray in a stream instead of a cone shape. When the fuel pattern is not a cone, the gas will not vaporize correctly robbing the engine of power and fuel economy. This detergent will also start softening the hard carbon build up on the pistons and in the combustion chambers. When this procedure is finished, the fuel pump and injector rail are restored to proper operating condition.
- The second phase is to run another liquid chemical through the air intake system. This chemical is specially formulated to dissolve the oily build up that is deposited in the air intake tract from the P.C.V. (Positive Crankcase Ventilation) system. These deposits coat the intake manifold and plenum causing heat retention and impede correct air flow which results in a decrease of performance and economy. This chemical also helps finish removing the carbon deposits on the pistons and combustion chambers, thereby lowering the combustion temperature and pressure. This allows the computer to advance the timing resulting in an increase of power and fuel economy.
- This second chemical used in the second phase, when properly administered, cleans the throttle body, throttle blade, and "idle air" control passages. When these items are clean, the proper "minimum air rate" can be set. This is the amount of air that passes by the throttle blade. The computer "assumes" that the air flow is always the same at idle and adjusts the idle speed on that assumption. When sludge builds up and the throttle shaft wears, the air flow is reduced and the computer is not sure how to make it idle. This results in a rough, unstable, surging or hunting idle. When severe enough, it will cause the engine to stall when your foot is taken off the gas pedal. This is not only annoying but can be dangerous. When the throttle body and blade are clean, the "minimum air rate" procedure can be performed. This will restore a proper idle to your engine.
- The third phase is to add a mild detergent to the gas tank. This insures that any remaining deposits in the combustion chamber, fuel rail and fuel injectors are flushed out and any deposits stuck in the exhaust get cleaned up.
- As you can see, this is a very beneficial service. It is recommended every 30,000 miles. When done correctly and routinely, it will help keep your engine running at peak efficiency. This not only keeps the power and fuel economy up, but will also help your engine live longer by lowering the heat and removing abrasive particles which wear out your engine.
- This is what we call a "true value". You get more power, better fuel economy and a smoother running, longer lasting engine. A bit of advise I would like to give is beware of some of the so called "fuel injection services" out there. If they are not doing all these steps, you are not receiving all the benefits.
- Call us at (661)949-8484 and set your appointment today!
My car failed its smog inspection, what do I do now?
- Smog inspections - what a hassle. It is a price we must pay in order to live in California. We all have to do them and it's not too bad if the vehicle passes, but what do you do if it fails? The simple answer would be: Fix the problem and have is re-inspected. This usually is not that simple or painless. Smog failures can be difficult to diagnose and expensive to repair. This is where the problems begin. Questions come up like: Who do I have fix it? How much is it going to cost? Is there any cost limit? Can I get a waiver? Is there any monetary assistance out there? Then there are the other problems like: I've spent gobs of money and it still won't pass. Boy I'm glad it passed but now it runs horrible. These people said it would fix it but it didn't. This is just the tip of the smog failure iceberg.
- The first thing to do is find an honest, professional that will explain all the options available to you. There are usually several options for any smog dilemma. Then you need to find somebody who can tell you what needs to be done to fix your car. A word of advice on this: For tailpipe emission failures there is always more than one thing that can cause the readings. If someone looks at your test results and tells you what is causing it and how much you must pay to fix it - have them give you the winning lottery numbers because they are psychic! My suggestion is DON'T TRUST THEM! Nobody can tell you what your car really needs without actually checking it. There are just way too many things that can cause tailpipe failures. The proper thing would be to have diagnostic testing done on the car. Once proper diagnostic testing is done, then you should receive an itemized estimate of the needed repairs and what they will cost. Then it is up to you to approve the repairs and have the car fixed.
- Call us at 661-949-8484
- You'll be glad you did!
Why do I need to flush my brake fluid?
- Brake fluid is a water soluble hydraulic fluid that allows the pressure that is applied to your brake pedal to be transferred to the wheels. Two things can go wrong with your brake fluid. The first thing is moisture (water) and the second is particulate contamination. There is a third problem - adding oil substances to the fluid. As this is not a naturally occurring problem, we won't discuss it now except to say that if you have oil in your brake system it will be very expensive to fix properly!
- Let's talk about moisture first. Brake systems operate at a very high temperature, especially disc brakes. It is not uncommon for the disc rotors to glow red under severe conditions. It takes a specially formulated fluid (brake fluid) to be able to maintain its integrity under these high heat conditions. When moisture is introduced into the brake fluid, the boiling point of this fluid is lowered. When this occurs a phenomenon called "brake fade" happens. When this happens, no matter how hard you push on the brake pedal, you can't stop the vehicle. This can be mild to severe and is always dangerous. Now, you might ask how moisture gets into your brake fluid. Brake fluid is "hydroscopic", this means it readily absorbs H2O (water). Brake fluid reservoirs are exposed to air. Air has a relative humidity, that is to say there is H2O in the air, the brake fluid extracts H2O from the air due to its hydroscopic properties - it is an unavoidable natural process. Another side effect of "wet" brake fluid is that it has a greater propensity to corrode and "pit" metal surfaces leading to failure of expensive things like master cylinders, wheel cylinders and calipers, and of course, the very expensive "anti-lock" brake valves.
- The second type, particulate contamination, is when solid matter forms in the brake fluid. This solid matter, when concentrated, resembles mud. It starts to form in wheel cylinders and disc brake calipers. It does this when the fluid is repeatedly heated and cooled. This contamination will migrate throughout the system and leave a dark film on surfaces. Brake fluid is naturally very light in color and when it becomes contaminated it gets very dark. This particulate matter is abrasive and will wear components that have moving parts. These components are things like master cylinders, wheel cylinders and calipers, and of course, the very expensive A.B.S. valves.
- The benefits to you to have your brake fluid routinely flushed are tremendous! In my opinion, the most important is safety. You don't always get into "extreme conditions" but when you do, it is comforting to know your brakes will perform at their optimum capabilities if they are in good condition, including the fluid. The second benefit is to your hard earned money. It is always hundreds, if not thousands of dollars to fix a brake system that has failed due to fluid contamination. More and more auto makers are putting a brake fluid flush in their list of required maintenance. At the CARdoctors® of the Antelope Valley we believe that every 12 months the brake fluid should be flushed on vehicles with anti-lock brakes and every 24 months for those vehicles without anti-lock brakes.
- At the CARdoctors® of the Antelope Valley we have the equipment to properly test your brake fluid for both moisture and particulate contamination.
- Call (661) 949-8484 and make you appointment today!
How often should I flush my cooling system?
- A properly operating cooling system removes the heat that is generated when an engine is running. Modern cars with computerized engine controls are designed to run at a very high temperature. Electric cooling fans on some models don't even turn on until 238 degrees Fahrenheit. The reason for this is to walk the tight rope between good fuel economy, adequate power, and lower emissions. At these types of operating temperatures, a minor malfunction can spell major disaster. In the days of old, you could stand in the engine compartment and work on the engine. This allowed plenty of air flow to assist the cooling system. Now you are lucky if you can see even one square inch of asphalt when you look in the engine compartment. So much for air flow! Radiators are smaller to save weight. That means less area to dissipate the heat. They took all the "good stuff" out of coolant/anti-freeze because it is harmful to our environment. (This is good for the earth but not for cars). They make engines out of iron and aluminum. By the way, a battery is made of two dissimilar metals and a conductor. Our engines are made of iron and aluminum with water coursing through its veins. This in itself creates electricity, the cause of "electrolysis". Electrolysis causes corrosion and pitting. It also causes a hard substance, like calcium, to build up creating a flow restriction - most evident in radiators. When left unattended, coolant becomes acidic. With all this stuff (there is more too!) it's a wonder cooling systems work and survive.
- There are basically two categories for coolant. The first is the old stuff - ethylene glycol. It used to be what they call "permanent", but since they took out the "good stuff" it no longer lasts forever. It should be changed at least every two years. There are ways to test it for ph levels and the interval between servicing can be adjusted to each engine.
- The second category is "extended life" coolant. It can be red, orange, pink, yellow, clear, blue, purple and even green! Wow! You have to ask, "what's in my car?" These coolants are said to have a life span of 5 years or 100,000 to 150,000 miles. Most of the vehicles we see do not make it to the mileage mark without having a cooling system problem like leaking gaskets or water pumps. Since we do not see "all" the vehicles out there, we really can not say any percentage rate of failure, but I think it is safe to say that we question the validity of its longevity.
- Another point of consideration that I must mention is thermostats. The thermostats' job is to open and close at certain temperatures to maintain the correct level of heat in an engine. Unfortunately, when it fails to open, your engine overheats. We have seen many failures like these causing thousands of dollars in preventable engine damage.
- With all this in mind, it is our recommendation to drain and fill the green stuff every year, making sure the concentration never exceeds 50%! Too much coolant will make an engine run hot because it retains heat instead of dissipating it. We like to run about a 35% to 40% ratio. Every 5 years or 60,000 miles the cooling system should be reverse power flushed to remove any particulate matter or loose scale. Since the thermostat needs to be removed for this process, it is a great idea to put in a new one at this time. I am writing this on the same day I returned a car to a customer whose thermostat had broken and caused $2300 of damage to her engine. The odometer showed 72,000 miles on it and a thermostat replacement was not part of the "factory required maintenance". What a tragic waste. We have seen this type of thing too many times, and it is our wish to try and prevent this type of thing from occurring.
- We are recommending a reverse flush and thermostat on "extended life" coolant equipped vehicles at 5 yrs/60,000 miles as well. The yearly drain and refill is not necessary.
- Call the CARdoctors® of the Antelope Valley at (661) 949-8484 for your appointment today. Remember - "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure".