Christensen Automotive | Gardnerville 775.782.2605 , Carson City 775.882.8888, Reno 775.322.8100, South Lake Tahoe 530.544.9940, Fallon 775-423-5455

Deciphering Engine Oil

When purchasing replacement oil for your vehicle the story is short and simple, follow the guidelines provided in your owner’s manual for optimal performance. The rest of the information in this article explains some of the differences you will find in the many types of engine oil available on the shelves today. Engine oil, also known as motor oil has to perform several functions including lubricating moving parts, helping to cool the engine and cleaning dirt and sludge deposits from the engine reducing friction and wear. Because it must do these jobs simultaneously today’s motor oil is made up of a complex chemical formula and should be changed regularly according to the guidelines put forth in your owner’s manual. Quality oils carry up to three certifications from three different organizations. These certifications indicate that the oil met the testing and content requirements of these organizations. The most well-known is the American Petroleum Institute’s (API) “starburst” and “donut.” The outer ring will say “API SERVICE” followed by two letters, for example “SM”.  “SN” is the most current API Service Category available. If the service rating starts with a “C,” it’s for diesel engines. The second is by ILSAC and works with API with the added requirement of fuel economy. The third certification was developed by the Society of Automotive engineers to rate the thickness of the oil. It’s expressed by four or five characters, such as 10W-30. The lower the number before the W (for “winter”), the better it flows in cold temperatures. The number after the dash indicates how well the oil flows when it’s warm. Many manufacturers currently...

SUPER-HUMAN? NO, THAT’S THE WONDER OF POWER-STEERING

Pint-for-pint, the one or two quarts of power steering fluid required by your car is probably some of the least appreciated fluids under the hood. Considering what it does, and how much a motorist depends on it, we’re talking about the lifeblood of your steering system. Yet keeping it clean and doing its job doesn’t require all that much effort. Servicing it involves draining or flushing out your car’s old power-steering fluid and then adding fresh power steering fluid. Mike Bumbeck of Automedia.com explains that the power steering system brings together the strength and power of hydraulic pressure with the mechanical miracle of steering linkages. The power steering pump pressurizes the power steering hydraulic system. The power steering fluid runs through hoses and by way of valves, and plungers or pistons move the mechanics of the steering back and forth as you turn the wheel. Regardless of the vehicles set-up, the power steering system will fail if the pump cannot generate the pressure required to push the steering parts of the suspension back and forth. The fluid is the cheapest component of your power-steering system. Changing it can help to prolong the life of other, more expensive power-steering components such as the power-steering pump and the stratospherically expensive power-steering rack. The function of power-steering fluid is basic: it transmits hydraulic pressure to make steering easy while protecting and lubricating parts at the same time. These demands take their toll on the fluid and break it down, which can lead to inconsistent performance and expensive component failure. You should change the fluid as outlined in your owner’s manual but otherwise...

Benefits of a Rebuilt Engine

Here is a scenario for you. There is a strange “knocking” or pinging coming from the engine, or perhaps your check engine light is flashing, or oil pressure has just suddenly dropped. You have taken it to your mechanic and he has told you that you need to replace the engine. What do you do? Your first reaction may be “how am I going to afford to buy another car?” Your vehicle engine is comprised of a number of moving parts that are subjected to incredible temperatures and pressures on a daily basis, which, not surprisingly after 100,000 miles or more (hopefully) can show signs of wear and tear even if properly maintained, if your vehicle is not regularly maintained or overheats excessively this timeframe can be significantly shortened. When faced with major engine repairs you have a few options: 1. Trade the vehicle. Your trade-in (current vehicle) value is reduced because of the damaged engine. If trading for a used vehicle with a used engine you could be purchasing one with “unknown and potentially costly” maintenance issues. Also, new vehicles are expensive. 2. Patch job. Depending on the type of engine damage, you could consider fixing the specific problem. But, this is usually expensive and there are no guarantees that another engine-related failure won’t occur. 3. Used/Junkyard engine. You could swap your engine for a used engine from another vehicle. The downside is that you don’t know the history of the used engine. Although “used/junkyard” engines may be warranted, the labor to replace one with potential problems can escalate the engine repair bill. 4. Factory Remanufactured. These engines...

KEEP THOSE WHEELS SPINNING

First a Happy 4th of July to everyone, and I hope you are all keeping cool out there and enjoying the holiday and maybe even a 4 day weekend. It is the perfect opportunity for those with boats, RV’s, travel trailers etc. to get and enjoy the “warm” weather. A quick question though. When was the last time you had your trailer inspected and wheel bearings checked/serviced? If you do not remember now is a good time. In general, wheel bearings in your car should be checked about every 24,000 miles or 24 months, but you should be inspecting and lubricating your trailer tires at least once a year, especially if it is a boat trailer. Every wheel on every vehicle or trailer spins thanks to smaller wheel bearings. They allow the wheels to spin with minimal friction and they support the vehicles weight. While, all wheels have them, not all of them are serviceable: some are sealed while others are pressed onto the axle-shaft or integrated into the hub assembly. However, many front axles and most trailer axles have removable bearings that must be kept lubricated as part of normal maintenance. Boat trailers are especially susceptible to premature bearing death because the axles are normally submerged while unloading and loading the boat. Most bearings are engineered to last over 100,000 miles, however constant load can take a toll and if a seal is damaged all bets are off.  If a wheel bearing fails prematurely, it is usually a result of maladjustment, contamination or loss of grease. The weak link in the system so to speak is the seal. Once...

Spring Car Care

With a taste of warmer temperatures to come and blossoms appearing around the valley, spring is starting to make an appearance and marks the perfect time to take care of preventative maintenance services for your vehicle. April is also Car Care Month promoted by the Car Council and is the perfect time to take care of the wear and tear issues of winter driving and prevent breakdowns in the heat of summer. The National Association of Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) and the Car Care Council suggest the following tips for Spring Maintenance:   Read your owner’s manual and following the recommended service schedule. To prevent engine overheating, summer’s number-one vehicle problem, make sure your engine’s cooling system is in top shape. Consider having your cooling system flushed and check the level, condition, and concentration of the coolant. If you are doing your own work, make sure the engine has cooled down before removing the radiator cap. Check the condition of belts, hoses and clamps for tightness, wear and tear. Have engine performance problems like hard starts, rough idling, and stalling corrected. You’ll get better gasoline mileage and you can catch minor problems before they grow into more expensive repairs later on. Have a marginally operating air conditioner system serviced, checked for leaks and if needed recharged by a qualified technician. Check the condition of tires, including the spare. Let the tires “cool down” before checking their pressure. Uneven wear, ‘cupping,’ vibrations, or ‘pulling’ to one side indicates problems with your tires or suspension system. If you have been driving on winter tires, it may be time to have them...

Taking Care of those Joints

There are joints all over your vehicle and they provide the same service in your car as they do in your body, allowing parts to pivot and rotate for a greater and smoother range of motion. Joints are commonly found in the under-carriage of the car in suspension and steering systems. While in many new cars these joints are ‘sealed’, meaning that they do not need periodic greasing or maintenance, they should be checked regularly as part of your maintenance program to make sure that there is no excessive wear or movement and that the protective rubber is not torn, cracked or missing altogether. Signs of impending joint failures are a clicking or metallic crackling noise while turning and accelerating or a clunking upon deceleration or after hitting a bump. The Ball Joint can also bind and cause a tight spot in the steering travel. Grinding and any sort of vibration are also clues that there could have an issue. You should have any unusual noises or vibrations checked by a qualified automotive repair technician as soon as possible. Universal Joints (U-Joints)  U-Joint ends are both shaped like “U’s” hence the name and they swivel and bend around each other allowing the driveshaft to follow the motions of the differential and axle as the suspension moves. Most U-joints on newer vehicles are “sealed”, but many replacement U-joints as well as the U-joints on older vehicles do have grease fittings which allows the joint to be lubed periodically. Constant Velocity Joints (CV Joints)  All CV joints are enclosed by a rubber or hard plastic boot. The boot keeps grease in...

Caring for your Automatic Transmission

The transmission is one of the hardest working systems and one of the most expensive to replace if it fails. Symptoms of an issue with your transmission include: slipping, hesitation, bucking, grinding gears and difficulty shifting. According to the Automatic Transmission Rebuilders Association, 90% of ALL transmission failures are caused by overheating. And most of these can be blamed on worn out fluid which should have been replaced. At elevated operating temperatures, Automatic Transmission Fluid (ATF) oxidizes, turns brown and smells like burnt toast. As heat destroys the fluid’s lubricating qualities and friction characteristics, varnish begins to form on internal parts which interfere with the operation of the transmission. At higher temperatures the transmission begins to slip and rubber seals begin to harden, which lead to leaks and pressure losses. Any number of things can push ATF temperatures beyond the system’s ability to maintain safe limits: towing a trailer, mountain driving, driving at sustained high speeds during hot weather, stop-and-go driving in city traffic, “rocking” an automatic transmission from drive to reverse to free a tire from mud or snow, etc. Problems in the cooling system itself such as a low coolant level, thermostat or water pump, an obstructed radiator, etc., will also diminish ATF cooling efficiency. Most vehicle owner’s manuals do not specify a change interval for ATF, unless the vehicle is used for towing. The vehicle manufacturers say their fluids can go upwards of 100,000 miles under normal driving conditions. Yet most transmission experts say regular transmission fluid flushes and filter changes every 25,000 to 30,000 miles or every 2 years can significantly prolong the life of the transmission....

Servicing a manual transmission

The manual transmission system is pretty simple in comparison to its automatic cousin. Their gears are located along parallel shafts inside the transmission housing. Power flows when gears are meshed. During gear changes, or when the car is stationary and the engine is idling, a clutch is used to interrupt the flow of power from the engine to the transmission. However, if you are experiencing issues the symptoms are similar to the automatic, and include: slipping, hesitation, bucking, grinding gears and difficulty shifting. Unlike the automatic however, where you actually have to flush the fluids with a machine for preventative maintenance. The manual requires a simple, in comparison, drain and fill of the transmission fluid. Most manufacturers recommend that manual transmission fluid be changed every 30,000 to 60,000 miles. Under heavy-duty use, such as towing or stop-and-go traffic, some manufacturers suggest changing transmission fluid every 15,000 miles. This is because the transmission fluid provides lubrication to gears, bearings, shafts, and other internal components. Heat, pressure and friction can slowly breakdown the additives in the manual transmission fluid and contamination occurs over time as the synchronizers, bearings and gears in the transmission wear out. The resulting metal particles then float around in the lubricant. And we all know that oil with microscopic particles of metal in it does not lubricate as well as clean oil. So if these contaminants are not drained out, they will shorten the life of your transmission. Checking the transmission fluid in a manual transmission can be difficult. A few thoughtful manufacturers have included a dipstick, but that’s the exception rather than the rule. If you...

Clearing the Air – Vehicle Emission System

Taking good care of your exhaust and emission system is not only good for the environment but for your car’s and your own well-being. Many new vehicles are coming equipped with a host of sensors and regulators to measure the emissions your vehicle puts into the atmosphere. The emission system monitors the exhaust using an array of sensors and computerized engine controls to substantially reduce harmful gases such as carbon monoxide, unburned hydrocarbons and oxides of nitrogen, and prevents harmful fuel vapors from escaping at the fuel tank. Other functions include routing dangerous exhaust gas away from the car and help to reduce engine noise. The catalytic converter is also part of the emissions system as it reduces the level of harmful pollutants in the exhaust. Oxygen sensors mounted in the exhaust system monitor the level of oxygen in the exhaust gases to maintain efficient engine operation and monitor the converter’s operation. The Emission system is subject to typical wear and tear due to driving and atmospheric conditions, mileage and vehicle age, type of spark plug, maintenance history, bad fuel, poor spark and/or damaged or worn sensors. The system should be inspected for leaks, damage and broken supports or hangers if there is an unusual noise, or when rattling is starting. Leaks can be extremely dangerous as it can allow carbon monoxide into the passenger compartment. Often mufflers and other exhaust systems components are replaced together as they will generally wear at the same rate or because sections are welded together. Another clue you may need your emission system inspected is if the exhaust has an acrid smell almost...

Show Your Car Some Love

Thursday is Valentine’s Day and your car does not want Candy or Balloons. Instead it will appreciate some love in the form of any preventative maintenance services that may be due or simply checking vital fluids, filters and tire pressure. It is a simple fact that vehicles wear out with use. The good news is they take much longer to wear out if they are shown some love and are properly maintained, ultimately leading to fewer expensive break-downs. Regular oil changes are a good place to start. It is true that many manufacturers say that it’s all right to go up to 7,500 miles between oil changes, but that’s recommended only under ideal conditions. They also describe “severe conditions” in which the oil has to be changed more frequently. Many people might be surprised to learn that the conditions they drive under would qualify as “severe.” These include frequent stop-and-go driving (includes rush hour on most freeway/expressway routes), driving in high ambient temperatures, driving frequently over hilly terrain, driving in dusty conditions, or frequent high speed or loading conditions. Under such conditions, the oil change interval is lowered to around three months/3,000 miles. Using the red “oil pressure warning” light (not to be confused with the oil change interval light) as a signal to change the oil is a bad idea. By the time the light comes on, severe damage to your engine may have already occurred. The best starting point for establishing routine maintenance intervals and procedures for your particular vehicle is your owner’s manual. You’ll notice that it usually specifies a lot of “inspection” procedures. That is...