The Harm in Skipping an Oil Change for Lancaster Drivers
Jun 30, 2010
People in Lancaster have been hearing a lot about higher oil change intervals these days. Maybe you're wondering: What are the key issues?
Some new vehicle manufacturers are now recommending much higher oil change intervals than they have in the past. As much as 5,000 to 8,000 miles (8,000 km to 13,000 km) or more. This practice came under scrutiny when four of the largest new vehicle manufacturers announced that owners like those in Lancaster were experiencing engine damage resulting from these higher oil change intervals.
The manufacturers' standard oil drain service for particular vehicles was scheduled at around 7,500 miles/12,000 km. People following these recommendations were experiencing engine damage. It turns out that oil sludge was building up. This caused small oil passages to clog and engine parts to fail.
What causes oil sludge? It's a factor of time and mileage. There are hot spots in every engine that cause oil burn off that leads to sludge. Also, water from normal condensation can build up in the oil. This water also creates sludge. Severe driving conditions lead to more rapid sludge formation.
Severe driving around Lancaster includes short trips under four miles (six and a half km) or trips under 10 miles/16 km in freezing conditions. The engine just doesn't get warm enough for the water in the oil to evaporate.
Severe conditions are at the heart of the problem. Stop-and-go driving, towing, dusty conditions, heavy loads, very hot or very cold temperatures, a car top carrier – these are all conditions that would suggest that the severe service schedule should be considered.
The severe service schedule has much shorter oil change intervals. People in Lancaster just need to honestly evaluate how they drive to determine if they should change their oil closer to the severe service schedule or to the standard schedule.
Some types of vehicle will give oil change reminders. But it's important to know how that reminder is determined. For some, the reminder simply comes when the standard mileage interval has rolled around. Others use a computer algorithm that takes into consideration the number of cold starts, trip length, engine temperature and so on. It's programmed to approximate where on the standard/severe service spectrum you fall. Some more expensive vehicles actually have sensors that test the cleanliness and effectiveness of the oil.
For the rest of us, better safe than sorry should be the guiding principle. Talk with your Lancaster service advisor at The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley and work it out together. Find out what kind of oil the factory sends out in your vehicle. Sometimes it's a premium grade that costs more than standard oil – but it may be what's needed to meet a higher factory recommended interval.
If you're realistically conservative, standard grades of oil will take care of you year after year. If you want to push the limits, ask for a premium grade oil to give you extra protection.
So, what happened with those manufacturers with the problems from higher oil change intervals? They ended up extending the engine warranty for parts that were affected by oil sludge. But they had a stipulation – they lowered the oil change interval and the vehicle owner had to provide proof of oil changes at the new lower interval to keep the extended warranty.
Modern vehicles in and around Lancaster run on 12 volt electrical systems. 12 volts is enough to get the job done for Lancaster drivers without having so much power that there is danger of electrocution. But today's vehicles have more electrical components and do-dads than ever before. This really strains your electrical system, making it hard for the battery to keep up. Think about it: electric seats, seat heaters, power locks windows and sun roofs. And then us California drivers have all the power outlets for our cell phones, computers and DVD players.
We also have navigation systems and powerful stereos. Plus there are all the engine and transmission computers, traction control, stability control, anti-lock brakes, sensors and on and on. Even the security system is running off the battery while the car is turned off.
Fortunately, battery technology has given Lancaster drivers resilient batteries that are able to meet these strenuous requirements. But the fact is, batteries just wear out over time. Eventually, every battery gets to the point where it cannot hold enough of a charge to start your vehicle. Sometimes batteries need to be replaced because they have just worn out. Or, in other cases, they have developed a leak which makes it even more important to get it replaced.
Special safety precautions are taken when working with batteries at The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley in Lancaster, California. These precautions also apply to anyone who is poking around the battery. Batteries contain sulfuric acid that can damage your eyes and burn your skin, so safety glasses and rubber gloves are a must for any Lancaster resident working with their battery. Be careful to not spill acid on your clothes or the vehicle's paint. Of course, avoid short circuiting the battery as well.
Sometimes there is quite a price range in Lancaster auto part stores for batteries that will work in a particular car. Think of it as "good," "better" and "best." More expensive batteries have a longer warranty and are guaranteed to last longer. As with most things, paying a little more up front saves in the long run for Lancaster drivers.
Power steering is standard on nearly every vehicle in Lancaster, California, these days. Now there are some exotic, new types of power steering systems, but for the most part, the general setup is a pump that's driven by a belt powered by the engine.
Contact the automotive professionals at The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley in Lancaster for questions about your power steering.
The pump generates power that assists drivers as they steer their vehicle around Lancaster, California. Power steering systems use hoses to move pressurized fluid back and forth. These hoses can develop leaks so it's a good idea to have The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley inspect them at every oil change.
A check of the power steering fluid level is on the list for every full service oil change at The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley because low fluid can damage the power steering pump. And the fluid needs to be compatible with the hoses and seals, so it's important to use the correct type – just ask your service advisor at The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley.
In addition to providing a boost, the fluid cleans, cools and lubricates the power steering system. Over time, the lubricants and detergents diminish so Lancaster drivers need to replace their old fluid with clean, fresh fluid periodically.
Excess moisture can collect in the power steering fluid as well. That can lead to rust and corrosion as well as reduce the effectiveness of the fluid. Many outline power steering service intervals in the owner's manual. Unfortunately, this service is sometimes left off the maintenance schedule. For Lancaster drivers who are not sure, every two years is a good rule of thumb.
At The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley, we use a detergent to clean the system, flush out the old fluid and replace it with new fluid.
Now, if you are experiencing high steering effort, erratic power assist or loud whining coming from the pump, you may have a power steering problem. Another sign is having to frequently top off the fluid.
Holding the steering wheel to the far right or left for more than a few seconds at a time can wear your pump out quickly. We want you to be sure to service your power steering system regularly at your service center, or The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley in Lancaster, to keep you headed in the right direction.
Lancaster drivers know that underinflated tires wear out more quickly. Underinflation is also a major cause of tire failure for California auto owners. More flats, blow outs, skids and longer stopping distances are all results of underinflated tires.
It's hard for many Lancaster drivers to tell when a radial tire is underinflated. If your owner’s manual recommends 35 pounds of pressure, your tire is considered significantly under-inflated at 26 pounds. The tire may not look low until it gets below 20 pounds.
Uncle Sam to the rescue! A recent U.S. federal law required vehicle manufacturer’s to include a Tire Pressure Monitoring System - or TPMS system - in all vehicles. Many Canadian vehicles have them as well. The system is a dashboard mounted warning light that goes off if one or more of the tires falls 25% below its pressure recommendations.
Obviously, all of this doesn't come free for Lancaster car owners. Government studies have estimated the net costs. Of course, the TPMS system itself will cost something. Maintaining the system will have a cost, replacement of worn or broken parts and tire repair cost increases. The net cost is estimated to be between $27 and $100.
California service centers have purchased new scanning equipment to work with the TPMS sensors and updated expensive tire change equipment to better service wheels equipped with the new monitoring systems.
The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley service advisors have been trained on many systems and new tire-changing techniques. All of this adds up to significantly increased cost to the service center to perform what was once a very inexpensive service. So if you've noticed the cost of flat repairs, tire changes, and rotations going up, please keep in mind that it's because of government mandated safety equipment. Your Lancaster service center just wants to keep you safely on the road - and it's committed to do so at a fair price. Remember, this change will help you avoid the most common vehicle failure, and possibly a catastrophic accident.
Hey Lancaster Drivers, How Many Miles Are on Your Car?
Jun 04, 2010
Nowadays, Lancaster drivers are paying more at California gas pumps. For some families it adds up to several hundred dollars every month. That's got to come out of the budget somewhere. This is one of the reasons many California drivers are putting off buying a new car. They plan on keeping their old vehicle for a year or two longer than before.
Even now, 2/3 of the personal vehicles on our local Lancaster, California, roads have over 75,000 miles (120,000 kilometers) on them. The average age of vehicles is over nine years. And most people in the Lancaster area can't afford to be stranded or inconvenienced by a breakdown. So following a regular maintenance schedule, like personal diet and exercise plans, is actually critical to preserving your investment.
Determining what to do for a higher-mileage vehicle can be challenging because many owner's manuals don't publish service intervals after 60,000 miles (100,000 kilometers). Thus, Lancaster drivers need to be better at keeping records and planning for preventive maintenance.
You can start by figuring that services with a recommended interval should still be performed on that interval, even after you're past the tables in your service manual. For example, a service might be recommended every 15,000 miles (24,000 kilometers). Well, just keep doing it every 15,000 miles (24,000 kilometers) for as long as you have your car.
Now higher mileage engines operate under more stress. Some California automotive experts suggest that the severe service schedule is more appropriate and that routine service should be performed at shorter intervals. Check with your owners' manual or service advisor at The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley to see if the severe service schedule is right for your vehicle.
And keeping current with your full-service oil change schedule is important for a couple of reasons. First, older engines have had more time to build up oil sludge. Skipping an oil change here and there can really compound the problem for your vehicle.
Another equally important reason is that your other fluids are routinely checked and topped off. Power steering fluid, brake fluid, coolant and transmission fluid can be kept at optimal levels even though the older seals and gaskets are leaking more than when they were new.
And speaking of older seals and gaskets: they start to dry out and become more brittle with age. You may want to consider using high mileage formulation oil and fluids. These products contain additives to condition seals and gaskets to keep them from leaking. The high mileage formulations cost more than standard products, but they are well worth it in terms of preventing serious repair bills down the road.
Older vehicles in the Lancaster, California, area need repairs and replacements that newer ones don't: things like timing belts, radiator hoses, suspension work, anti-lock brakes, air bags, water pumps, alternators and batteries. That may seem like a lot of stuff to have done, but it works out to be cheaper than new car payments.
With a high-mileage vehicle, a couple of relationships will become pretty important to Lancaster drivers. The first is with your service advisor at The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley. You need someone you trust to take care of your car and be mindful of your needs. Ask for help to develop a plan to keep your vehicle road-worthy that works within your budget and for the Lancaster, California, area driving conditions.
The next relationship is with your vehicle itself. We're not talking about naming your car or tucking it in at night. We just mean - pay attention and get to know your vehicle. Notice unusual sounds, smells, vibrations, etc. Then you can describe the changes to your service advisor at The Car Doctors of the Antelope Valley and head off problems. We can't do anything about the price of gas, but we can properly maintain Old Faithful to keep it safely and economically on the local Lancaster roads.